Piazza della Repubblica in Florence
Ancient Roman colony Florentia has reemerged from beneath the 18th century stone pavement in Piazza della Repubblica (Republic Square). The digging for resurfacing the square, part of the City council’s redevelopment plan, opened a window onto the square’s long history as the ancient heart of the city. Palazzo Vecchio (City Hall), in cooperation with the Archaeological Authority, gave citizens and tourists the possibility to visit the archeological remains that surfaced with an archeology guide from the Cooperativa Archeologia (Archaeology Cooperative). It is possible to learn a little more about the history of one of the most frequented places in the city center.
Forum of Florentia
Piazza della Repubblica in Florence has always been the “square” of the city, from its establishment in Roman times to today. Here in Roman times rose the Forum of Florentia, ancient name of the city. There was a temple dedicated to the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Minerva, and Juno). This is where the cardo crossed the decumanus maximus, the major roads from north to south and east to west. Today the Colonna dell’Abbondanza stands where they intersected. In the medieval ages, it was the location of the Mercato Vecchio (The Old Market). It was surrounded by the towers of some of the most important Florentine families. In the 1500s the area was occupied by the Jewish Ghetto as Granduke Cosimo I. He ordered all Jews to reside here. It was so populated that there were two synagogues with ceremonies in Italian and in Spanish. In the late 1800s, in occasion of the city’s transformation as capital, a discussion arose about the need to “restore” the Ghetto area.
XIX century’s destructions
Unfortunately, the demolition proposal prevailed. It started from the area of the market and covered a good part of the city center, eliminating the city’s ancient medieval fabric. The ancient medieval walls were also destroyed and only a trace of them has remained. In 1888 demolition began in the area north of the Piazza della Repubblica. After the Mercato Vecchio, the medieval towers, churches, seats of the arts and crafts guilds, workshops and housing were also demolished to build the square as we see it today. Almost nothing remains of all of this, except for fragments and testimonies by journalists and artists of that time.
Her Majesty, the Florentine steak (bistecca alla fiorentina)
What is the Florentine steak?
The Florentine steak comes from the loin of the Chianina bovine. It’s the part near the lumbar vertebra, mid-way up the back from the tail. The “t-shaped” bone is in the middle. This is why we also call it the t-bone steak, with a tenderloin on one part and a sirloin on the other. The meat – initially hung for at least two weeks in a cooler room – has to be room temperature when cooked. The cut is about 1 – 1.5 kg and 5-6 cm thick.
How is the Florentine steak cooked?
A lot of wood embers are used to heat the grill, most preferably oak, holly oak or olive. You need burning embers underneath a thin layer of ash and no flame. The meat is put on the grill with no seasoning, which is fundamental until it gets tougher. It has to be turned over once and cooked for no more than 3-5 minutes. Finally, it’s cooked “standing up” on the side of the bone for 5-7 minutes until there is no trace of blood outside. The Florentine steak has to be thick enough to stand on its edge. It should not be cooked using griddles, gas or electric grills, with firebricks, etc. First the meat has to be placed close to the coals so it quickly forms an aromatic crust. After one minute it has to be moved further away from the fire. Good cooking time is the key to this dish’s flavor. The meat has to have color on the outside and be red, tender and succulent on the inside. It should be hot, but not over-cooked.
The history of the Florentine steak
The history of the Florentine steak is as ancient as the city from which it gets its name and traces of it have gotten lost over time. Its name most likely goes back to the celebration of the San Lorenzo holiday and the Medici family. In occasion of San Lorenzo on August 10, the city lit up from the light of the big bonfires. Large amounts of beef were roasted and handed out to the people. The story goes that some fire-roasted beef was offered to some English horsemen at the San Lorenzo celebrations. They called it beefsteak. From this came bistecca, a translation in the language of that time that we still use today. In the next post I’ll tell you which restaurants in Florence serve the best Florentine steak! See you soon!
Museum of the week: Santa Croce Church in Florence
The origins of the Santa Croce Church in Florence
The Santa Croce Church is a must-see, for its size and its big number of illustrious tombs, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. It is the second largest in the city and the largest Franciscan church in Italy (larger than Assisi). In 1217 Saint Francis of Assisi arrived in Florence. The city was fascinated by his personality. He preached the church’s return to holy poverty and he, the son of a wealthy merchant, abandoned his riches to live among the humble. A small church was first built to welcome his brothers in a swampy, rundown part of the city near the river. In time, the church got bigger, as did the city itself. In fact, in the XIII century, Florence experienced exceptional economical and demographic growth, followed by the expansion of the city walls that also included the Franciscan church. In 1294 the great architect Arnolfo di Cambio was called to begin work on a new project to reconstruct the Santa Croce Church in gothic style.
The tombs of Santa Croce Church in Florence
The money was donated by the families of the neighborhood who wanted to be buried in the church. They were willing to pay large amounts of money. This is why Santa Croce Church is rich with chapels, where hundreds of people are buried. In Medieval times worshippers were buried in the ground and in the church there are 276 gravestones. Only in the Renaissance did they begin to create beautiful funerary monuments. Santa Croce Church hosts none other than the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. Michelangelo is the greatest artist of the Renaissance. He is famous for his statue of David and the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Galileo is the creator of the modern scientific method. This method is based on experiments that make it possible to demonstrate the laws of science. Machiavelli was the first to separate political action and Christian morality. He laid the foundation for the modern political mindset. In 1897 the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo, inspired by his visit to the tombs of such illustrious characters, wrote his best-known poem, The Sepulchres. Seeing those majestic funerary monuments caused him to fall into deep thought. They represented examples to follow for the living, models of civilization, passion, and talent. For this reason they inspired Foscolo to define Santa Croce as “the pantheon of Italian glory”.
The Leather School in Santa Croce Church
The Santa Croce Church also houses the Scuola del Cuoio (leather school). Here students from all over the world study artisan leather processing techniques. The school is a historical part of the church. During the second postwar period, Marcello Gori founded a school for war orphans to teach them the leather trade. 70 years later the school is still active and is the pride of Made in Italy. The ticket to Santa Croce costs €8. It includes entrance to the church, museum, the Pazzi Chapel, the cloister, and the Leather School. The Santa Croce Church is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 2 p.m. after Holy Mass.
San Marco Convent is one of the most important destinations for Renaissance lovers and for Fra’Angelico’s devotees in particular. The large number of frescos and their specific function (to celebrate the Dominican Order and create comfortable spaces apt to friars’meditation), together with the fact that every artwork was made for this same place, makes this museum really unique.
Since the 1200s San Marco Convent was held by the Silvestrine monks. In 1436, Pope Eugene IV assigned the convent to the Dominicans of San Domenico di Fiesole. This followed the donation of a lavish sum of money to refund the convent by the rich Florentine banker Cosimo the Elder. He also gave consistent funds to sustain the friars’community, bound by the vow of poverty. The Florentine architect Michelozzo was in charge of the renovation, which was concluded by Epiphany in 1443, year of the consecration by the same pope.
Saint Dominique of Guzman was born in 1170 in Castilla (Spain). He distinguished himself for poverty and charity and he was convinced of the necessity of bringing the church back to its austerity. He founded the Order of Preaching Friars, based on beggars life, traveling preachers and in-depth study of religion. He died in Bologna in 1221 and his was canonized shortly after in 1234 by Pope Gregory XI, a fact which demonstrates how popular this friar was amongst the people.
San Marco is tightly linked to the name of Beato Angelico (or Fra’Angelico). He was baptized Guido di Piero and he was born in the countryside around Florence towards the end of the XIV century. Angelico is the epithet given to him after his death for his religiosity and humility. He was a dominican friar who tried to join together the new Renaissance principles, such as the perspective and the attention on the human figure, with old medieval aspects, like the educational function of art and the mystic value of light.
Fra’ Angelico was called from Fiesole to Florence to supervise the fresco decorations of the entire convent. In particular, the decoration consisted in episodes of the New Testament or Crucifixions in every cell, where Saint Dominique or other dominican saints were portrayed: the friars had to follow their examples and their virtues (compassion, prayer, meditation, prostration, etc). His frescoes in San Marco Convent are a real milestone of Renaissance art. Their force derives from their absolute harmony and simplicity which tend to evoke in the friars a devoted contemplation. These are the masterpieces of Angelico’s maturity, characterized by formal rigor, desert backgrounds, ethereal figures, a metaphysical light and a very delicate palette of colors, creating a sensation of real abstraction. Dominican saints are depicted in these scenes to update the holy episode to the real life of the Dominican congregation.
The years of the realization are still debated, as well as the authorship of Angelico of every fresco. It appears certain that he conceived and drew all the frescoes, but it’s still open if he was flanked by collaborators and how much he painted. He supervised the entire work, and, due to the big amount of frescoes painted in a relatively short period, we can be sure that he had apprentices and co-workers. One of Fra’ Angelico’s masterpieces in San Marco is the Crucifixion in the main cloister. The symbolic abstraction, the figures who are extrapolated into a space without time, the surreal intense blue color of the azurite background, represent one of the highest moments of this painter. Another great work is the famous Fra’Angelico’s Annunciation on the upper floor. This is the first thing that you see arriving from the stairs. The Virgin Mary sits down on a simple stool that represents her simplicity, in her house, that could be a Renaissance loggia, and the angel suddenly arrives to bring her the message of the Incarnation. On the background a garden with luxuriant trees, representing the world’s temptations. Both figures are portrayed in a attitude fully subdued to a greater will. Mary is the model for charity, humility and love, virtues of the Dominicans. Every descriptive detail that could distract the view from reflecting on the mystery of faith has been eliminated by the painter. The result is a very ethereal and rarefied atmosphere.
But San Marco is not only Renaissance painting. It’s strictly bound to the historical and political figure of Girolamo Savonarola. Born in Ferrara in 1452, Savonarola was ordained Dominican friar in 1475. In 1482 he arrived to Florence, as a lector at San Marco Convent, with the duty of recounting the Holy Scriptures from the pulpits of the Florentine churches. He was assigned the pulpit of San Lorenzo, the Medici’s church, on Easter of 1484. His reception was bad, due to his Ferrarese accent that might sound barbarian to the refined ears of the Florentines. He was a vehement preacher, he announced that humanity was going to be flagellated by catastrophes like pests, hungers and the Anti Christ, because of all the human vices. After a period spent in northern Italy, he came back to Florence, this time called by Lorenzo il Magnifico (what a bad trick of fate!). The main member of the Medici family wanted the friar in Florence because he understood his potential and his charm on people. He might have been a good ally. But Lorenzo’s previsions were wrong. Savonarola proclaimed that the good and the evil of a city come from its rulers, but they were corrupted and superb, they exploited the poor imposing high taxes. In the meantime he became Prior of San Marco Convent. Lorenzo il Magnifico couldn’t contrast Savonarola’s popularity. He died in 1492 in his villa: Savonarola denied him the last rites. In 1497 Savonarola even organized a bonfire of vanities in Piazza della Signoria, giving to the flames artworks, pagan paintings, lavish dresses, precious vases, which provoked an uncountable damage for the Florentine Renaissance. e was excommunicated by Pope Alexandre VI in 1497; he was burnt at the stake with the condemnation of heresy one year later, where his famous bonfire of the vanities took place.
When it comes to talk about LGBTI community in Italy we usually think of cities like Rome and Milan, certainly more populated. But honestly talking, Florence is probably the gayest city in Italy. Think about it. What’s in Florence? Art is everywhere. Fashion with Pitti events, the high couture stores in the city center, the Polimoda Fashion School near the Arno river and the textile tradition. The antiques and the historical markets, theaters, museums and of course the great art masterpieces of the past. Artistic expressions are always related to gay culture history. More than any other community gay people enhance and renew the forms of art communications. In this article we want to guide you in all the aspects of this love for beauty and for expressing ideas, with events and social initiatives created and supported by the Florentine LGBTI community.
TO HAVE FUN
The most famous Florence LGBTI night event of all. It exists since 1992, it’s only once a month from September to May and in recent years it has been re-named Necessariamente, because people feel the urgency, the necessity of this party.
The venue is always at Flog “Fondazione Lavoratori Officine Galileo” and it is a real gathering of people from all cities of Tuscany coming to Florence because they know they will really enjoy as if they were going to visit some friends who organized the most massive of house parties. During the evening, always a different show: musical, plays, cabaret, live music or special moments of social propaganda on issues the community care about.
Then music stops at 4am. You’ll came back to reality with the Sirtaki, which is danced by everybody while the security bodyguards expect the last survivors of the evening to recompose and go back home…
Flog is located just outside the center; we suggest you to reach it in 10 minutes with a cab. If you have your own car you can park in the pine garden parking for just two euros. Do not arrive after 11 p.m. because you will not find easily parking, (not even inside).
But here’s the solution: come for dinner. Il Giardino del Poggetto , the pizzeria in front of the Flog has become a real tradition of the community: first pizza, then fun and dance.
It’s the historic gay bar in the center of Florence, near Piazza Santa croce. This year Piccolo celebrates its 21st birthday and changes its interiors every 6 months offering always new fantastic looks. On Thursday evening the most important DJs of the Florentine nightlife play here to entertain tourists and citizens. On Fridays and Saturdays there are so many people that you can just take your drink inside and drink it outside in the crowd, that street we can be considered the small “Florentine gay street”.
It’s the newest and coolest party of the city. Five brilliant Florentine girls, Margherita, Andrea, Costanza, Sofia and Vezia created this special night, the real rising of gay & friends parties in town. DJ sets, live music, colors, one of the best vocalists of Italy: Jenny Jackson.
It’s a new bar restaurant in Calenzano. Patrizia with its karaoke night and its PATlive music festival delights all those who participate during the happy hour, every Friday and Sunday. You can find here the most disparate audience: a place where you talk with LGBTI families of Florence and always have fun. Cocktails, DJ nights and tango dance events.
LGBTI ASSOCIATIONS OF FLORENCE
Located in Via Pisana 32, Azione exists since 1989 and organizes the Flog night Necessariamente. The association has always answered about gay events of Florence to the youngest people. They also organize Ciackline, a retrospective of gay-themed movies accompanied with debates, every week. Azione hosts book presentation events and debates. All the guys who work here are volunteers. They have also a stocked library of gay-themed books that you can always consult.
A group of young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (and others) of Florence. They meet every week and the themes of each meeting are always different: self-training, confrontation, self- awareness and knowledge. To participate you can write to email@example.com or consult their Facebbok page.
Ireos address is Via dei Serragli 3, just near the Arno river. You can always find a counseling of psychologists to talk about sex problems and you can do here, for free, HIV tests (just write to firstname.lastname@example.org). The test is anonymous and accompanied with an interview that will give information on risk behavior, ways of transmission, treatments. Datas collected during the last years show that about half of the people doing the HIV test at Ireos are heterosexual. IREOS also organizes training courses on discrimination, meetings and educational projects in the schools of Florence to encourage debate and discussions on issues like homophobia, transphobia, gender stereotypes, human rights and other related issues.
Also held presentations of books, meetings with authors, happy hours and parties.
But the most important event organized by Ireos is the Florence Queer festival.
It’s one of the most important Italian exhibitions dedicated to queer culture. Arrived at its thirteenth edition, the festival takes place every November during the 50 Days of Cinema in Florence at the Odeon Cinema, perhaps the most beautiful and old theatre in Florence. Odeon is situated in the centre of the city, next Repubblica Square and proposes movies in their original versions with Italian subtitles. The festival not only presents retrospective of important movies from all over the world but also photo exhibitions, video art, theater, music, books presentations, debates and parties.
Do you really think that gay guys and sport are two separate worlds? You’re wrong.
In Florence we have gay football teams and sport fans getting together organizing tournaments to promote not only love for sport but integration without prejudice.
Do you like football? There’s Revolution Soccer Team. With great irony these guys propose the Finocchiona Cup (finocchiona is the typical Tuscan salami with fennel but also a term used to refer to a gay person in the Florentine slang).
A football tournament called MSP sees the girls of the team sponsored by GULP.
You can go to cheer the girls and be updated about matches visiting the official Facebook page of Gulp. Do you prefer volleyball? Consult the Facebook page Ore d’aria.
Or what about a hike? In Florence Altri Passi organizes informal tours to guide people in the fantastic world of trekking. The target is always meeting new people during wonderful trips that alternate historical-artistic interest, landscapes and nature.
Visit Florence and have fun. Our city is not “just art”.
If you are part of the LGBTI community or friends, here you will never get bored!
Hi there! Today I want to give you some tips about the 5 places where you can enjoy the best views of Florence.
BRUNELLESCHI’S DOME. 463 steps, tiny corridors, people sweating in summertime: this is the dome, “cupola” in Italian. A little precaution: if you don’t like claustrophobic places, don’t go up! Built by Filippo Brunelleschi between 1420 and 1436, payed by the Florentines with their taxes, it was the biggest dome ever built and it was the pride of the city (it still is!). It’s a self structure of two domes placed on each other, creating a double shell. The climbing is hard and steep, but at the end there is an amazing reward. Thanks to the fundamental relevance that Brunelleschi’s dome played on the development of modern architecture, this huge construction is the most important architectonical work built in Europe from the Roman antiquity. You have to walk through the two domes from the inside to get to the top. You go up a spiral staircase, seeing also the frescoes of the dome with its marvellous Last Judgment by Giorgio Vasari (1572-79) from an unusual and very close point of view. There’s a breathtaking panorama waiting for you at the top, with all Florence around you. Isn’t it exciting? It’s like a carpet of colourful roofs at your feet. Ready to climb to the top?
RINASCENTE’S TERRACE. One of my favourite spots to meet my friends for a cup of tea or a cappuccino is the cafe on top of the department store called Rinascente, in Piazza della Repubblica. The first Rinascente department store was opened in Milan in 1865, shortly after the unification of Italy in 1861. Few years after it was inaugurated in Rome, Genoa, Venice, Turin, Naples, Palermo, Bologna and Florence. So this department store is one of the oldest ones in Florence. You can have a delicious and creamy cappuccino on this terrace while chatting with a friend enjoying a great view on the square: the triumphal arch, the column with the Statue of Abundance, the top of Orsanmichele Church, the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the peak of Giotto’s Bell Tower. It’s all around you! This will be definitely the best cappuccino of your life!
ARNOLFO’S TOWER. This is the tower of Palazzo Vecchio, the public palace built to house the government in 1299. Today Palazzo Vecchio is still the town hall of Florence. The tower is named after the architect Arnolfo di Cambio, who likely designed it. The palace was first the headquarters of the Republic and then the Medici family’s house, when they eventually took the power in the XVI century. The structure is strictly medieval, with its buttresses and crenellations. However, inside the palace was completely renovated by the Gran Duke Cosimo I, who transformed the sober and imposing Middle Ages architecture into a sumptuous and magnificent Renaissance residence: frescos, statues, geographical maps, all with the purpose to extoll the high lineage of the family. On top of the building there is the camminamento di ronda, the rampart used by the patrol sentinels to watch over the square. The overlook is really beautiful, you can dominate the entire Signoria Square. Can you imagine the soldiers throwing down pitch and boiling oil on the enemies’ heads? Just out of curiosity, facing the stairs, you will pass by a little cell called by the Florentines “alberghetto“, that means little hotel. You don’t have to think that it was a cozy little hotel room, but it was rather a prison cell whose “guests” were, among others, Cosimo the Elder de’Medici, accused in 1433 of plotting against the Republic, and the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, accused in 1498 of heresy and then burnt in the square… Cosimo had a better luck: he was only exiled for one year out of Florence.
PONTE SANTA TRINITA. One of the highlights of Florence is undoubtedly Ponte Vecchio, the former bridge of the butchers and fishermen, later replaced by Medici order with jewellers and goldsmiths. It’s the only one still original of the Middle Ages, because all the others were destroyed during the war by the German troops during their retreat. But where is the best place to take a picture of this famous bridge? In my opinion it’s Ponte Santa Trinita, the bridge next to Ponte Vecchio. It was built in 1252 in wood, financed by the Frescobaldi family, taking the name from the church near it. In 1259 it collapsed under the weight of the people who were there to see a show on the Arno river. It was later destroyed again by the flood of 1333 and rebuilt once more. But the bad luck wasn’t over: another flood in 1557 made it fall down. The bridge we see today dates back to that time when Cosimo I de’Medici appointed the Florentine architect Bartolomeo Ammannati to rebuild it, following a design by Michelangelo. In 1608 the statues of the four seasons were placed at the four sides to celebrate the wedding of Cosimo II with Maria Maddalena of Austria. This unlucky bridge was blown up by the Germans on August 4, 1944. The new bridge was eventually inaugurated in 1957. The statues came back to its original location much later, because one of them, the Primavera (Spring) had lost her head. An antique dealer of Florence even put a reward on her head: $ 5,000 to who could find it. It was found only in 1961 by some sand diggers in the Arno. The American film director Spike Lee took inspiration from this to make his movie Miracle of St. Anna (very beautiful, you should watch it). Today, hundereds of people take pictures from Ponte Santa Trinita. So at sunset, take your camera, your selfie stick (or better just ask someone else to take you a picture!) and go to this bridge to catch the best light!
PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO. This is definitely the place where you will enjoy the best view of Florence. It doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter time, at dawn or dusk, the thing is that here the panorama is absolutely unique. Generations of Florentines have chosen this place for a first date, the romanticism is guaranteed! You can see from this overlooking terrace all the monuments of Florence: Santa Croce Church with the National Library, the Duomo with Brunelleschi’s imposing dome and the Bell Tower, the Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, the beautiful green dome of the Synagogue. This breathtaking landscape is framed by the hill of Fiesole and the Apennines in the background. Why the name of this terrace? Because a replica in bronze of Michelangelo’s David is standing in the centre of the square watching us! The statue is a perfect mould of the original, which stood in Signoria Square until 1873 and then was moved inside the Accademia Gallery. At the feet of the copy of David, there are other four sculptures reproducing another Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the characters he created for the tombs in the Medici Chapels (the statues of Dawn, Dusk, Night and Day). This spectacular square was designed in 1869 by the architect Giuseppe Poggi on a hill on the south side of the river, completing the works of the so-called Risanamento (restoration) when Florence was proclaimed capital city of the Reign of Italy. The restoration plan included the creation of the lungarni (boulevards along the river), the destruction of the medieval city walls, the demolition of a big part of the historic centre and the making of a panoramic avenue called Viale Dei Colli (avenue of the hills) that brought to the new Michelangelo Square, possibly the most enigmatic result of Florence’s renovation. You can reach the square on foot in about 30 minutes starting from San Niccolò neighbourhood (across Ponte Vecchio) or taking the bus n. 12 or 13. The walk is very nice. You can also go to San Miniato, few meters from the square, a magnificent Romanesque style church, where you have another wonderful view of the city. You will see many people sitting down on the stairs, with a bottle of wine, two glasses, a camera, and maybe a guitar, waiting for an amazing show: one of the most spectacular sunsets of your life!
There’s a strong link between the past history of Florence and its present life: the people. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Florence was known all over the world for its skilled craftsmen: weavers, shoemakers, silk embroiderers, wool workers, leather tanners. All this history made up of people is still reflected in the name of some streets (Via dell’Arte della Lana, Corso Tintori, Via Pellicceria,… – these are all names of professions: wool workers, dyers, fur makers). Taking the Tour of the Artisans of Florence we can discover this more popular face of the city (interwoven with the history of the city itself).
There’s Giuliano, curved over his work with his reading glasses on, shakes his head when I ask: “and what will happen to your bottega (workshop) when you want to retire? Who will continue all this marvel?”. He says: “It will finish with me unfortunately, there’s nobody who wants to do this job anymore, it’s complicated”. It’s so sad, I think, years of experience and tradition will be lost and we will never see his beautiful pill holders made and decorated by him with great precision and passion. Giuliano has been working in his brass engraving workshop in Santo Spirito for 50 years. He learned from his maestro this delicate art when he was a little boy. Now he sells his products (little objects in silver plated brass, like brooches, pins, pill holders, Christmas decorations, etc) mainly to the United States. He’s proud to show us a picture of Bill Clinton buying one of his post-it cases in Philadelphia.
Then there’s Silvia, a perfect host who shows us the marvels of her jewelry laboratory near Ponte Vecchio. She works at Nerdi with her sister Daniela (the jewels’ designer), Luca (the goldsmith) and Paolo, who runs this little worksop since 1948. “We have been here since the end of the Second World War, we have seen the reconstruction of the city after the dynamite of the Nazis, the terrible flood of 1966, the Georgofili bomb of 1993 (a mafia attack at the Uffizi Gallery), but we have survived all this. We do the jewels following the Florentine tradition, we haven’t changed a single thing. We design, we produce, we make our clients’ dreams come true, they tell us what they have in mind, we give a shape to the idea and we make the jewel for them, on commission, like the Medici family did with great goldsmiths, like Cellini or Ghiberti”.
The young Leonardo is 25 years old, works at Mannina and shows a great passion for shoe-making, greets us at the shoe workshop. He’s making a pair of shoes that will go to Japan. During Christmas time they were very busy, with many deliveries to ship through out the world. “The shoes start from the design of the foot, we make it only once, so we keep it in case the client want to do another pair in the future. Then you have to decide the kind of leather and color, together with the model. Our feet are different, what’s good for me cannot also be good for you, and our painful calluses are caused by bad shoes”. Suddenly Salvatore Ferragamo’s autobiography comes to my mind.
He wrote a very beautiful book about his thrilling life called ‘The shoemaker of dreams’, where he explains exactly the same thing. The industrially-made shoes have ruined generations of feet, he said. It makes sense, I think, and I have a secret wish: one day I will buy my own hand-made shoes too!
One of the many talents of the Florentine artisans is the stone inlay. Florence is the place where an amazing craftsmanship saw its birth in the XVI century thanks to the Medici family: the commesso fiorentino. It’s a very ancient job to transform the mosaic made up of tesseras into something more refined, that had to be closer to a painting out of stone. Renzo is the founder of Scarpelli Mosaici and he is one of the very few masters of this art, that requires a strong attitude to painting and design, a profound knowledge of materials, and a longsightedness to see the final work from the very first stage. It’s a “puzzle” of colourful stones, made following the pattern of the design, so carefully that you don’t see the union of thousands of pieces. Renzo looks for the stones on the river banks, in the country or in the mountains and he cuts them into big slices. The big slices are then cut into many small pieces using a cherry bow and a clamp, in the same way the stone cutters did for centuries. Nothing has changed. The results are spectacular masterpieces, each is a unique piece, since it’s impossible to replicate them: paintings, table tops, little jewels. Every piece a different story. Renzo loves his creations so much that some of them are not even on sale: a piece of his heart cannot be sold.
This is an exciting way to get to know Florence and its craftsmen’s workshops, talking to the Maestros to discover their secrets. These people are the pride of Florence, they are the descendants of the ancient Arti e Corporazioni, the Guilds of Florence established in the Middle Ages to develop the trade and the economy of the city. The magic of creation is still alive in the modern artisans workshops. Should we call them artisans or artists?
Divina Bellezza (Devine Beauty) was one the most interesting exhibits of the year organized by Palazzo Strozzi Foundation. The subject of the exhibition, as the title says, was sacred art between XIXth and XXth century: Van Gogh, Chagall, Fontana, Guttuso, Picasso, and may others. Sacred art in that period, that was much less religious than before (think of Napoleon and the abolition of the Church’s privileges for example) interested many artists, who decided to show their religious feeling in various ways. Never forget that sacred art gave the possibility to these artists to paint nudes and investigate the human body with no embarrassment. The Biblical tales got combined with the birth of Freud’s psychoanalysis (Edvard Munch), with the condemn of Nazism (Otto Dix), the pain for the Jewish persecution (Marc Chagall) or the personal tragedy leading to suicide (Vincent Van Gogh).
Palazzo Strozzi Foundation is the most active institution in Florence taking care of the city’s cultural life. We are really eager now to see the next one, about Kandinsky and Pollock, in collaboration with the Guggenheim Foundations of New York and Venice. Stay tuned!
We lost a genius.
A genius in music, such as Michelangelo and Leonardo in art.
David Bowie died but he lives through the art he left, like great artists always do.
The Thin White Duke had an important relationship with Florence, a city he loved very much.
On June 6th 1992 he married the statuary Somalian model Iman in our city at the American Episcopal Church of St. James, a beautiful neo-gothic church erected in 1906 in Via degli Orti Oricellari in Florence.
The ceremony was strictly private and heavily guarded. Imam was extremely elegant in a dress by Hervé Leger, while David wore a tight by Thierry Mugler. Both fashion designers are invited at the ceremony. Very few friends and relatives took part to it, 68 people all together. In order to mislead paparazzi and curios people, David and Iman announced they were going to get married in Mustique, a Caribbean island. They even wrote it on the wedding announcements! In Florence only few good friends were invited: Brian Eno, Bono Vox (who missed the flight but arrived on time for the photos and the reception) and Yoko Ono.
A little curiosity: instead of the traditional ‘Here Comes The Bride’ for the entrance of Iman, the couple chose a Bulgarian folk song called ‘Kalimankou Denkou’ (The Evening Gathering). Why this bizarre choice is not surprising me? The reception was at Villa La Massa, a luxurious resort in Bagno a Ripoli, in the country of Florence (a place often chosen by stars, such as Madonna). The menu included ribollita (bread soup, typically Tuscan) and game. David Bowie often visited Florence during the years. As art and fashion lover how many times have we seen David at the Stazione Leopolda during Pitti fashion events (the fashion week of Florence, which is taking place right now).
But why did he decide to say yes in Italy? David and Iman had sailed down the coast of Italy on a six-weeks cruise the year before and both had a particular fondness for Italy. He always said that he was in love with Italian Renaissance art, but what he liked the most of our country was a quality of life impossible to be found anywhere else. Here, he said in an interview, life itself is much more important than working and get ahead. David and Iman, with their hectic carriers, said they loved this aspect of Italy: a more relaxed approach to life. Furthermore, Iman is from Somalia, for years an Italian colony, and she learned Italian at school when she was a little girl, that’s also the reason why Italy was so familiar to her.
Florence will always remember David Bowie; starting from Thursday January 14.
We can now announce that the Florentine DJ Giulia Presley will be at the Piccolo Cafè, via Borgo S. Croce 23r, for an evening tribute to David.
We’ll love to think of you David, with your music, in a nice club, singing and dancing.
Goodbye Alien, see you Thin White Duke.
Fantastic Florence nominated by Luxury Travel Guide as a potential winner in the 2016 Holiday & Tour Specialist Awards
The Luxury Travel Guide is pleased to announce the Fantastic Florence has been nominated as a potential winner in the 2016 Holiday & Tour Specialist Awards.
Over the past 12 months the Luxury Travel Guide has been receiving votes for individuals and companies throughout Europe, with theirs subscribers, hotel guests, travel agencies and industry experts all voting on who they feel is most deserving. Celebrating & rewarding excellence in many areas, these awards recognize companies regardless of size or location across categories including:
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Over the last 12 months Luxury Travel Guide has invited and encouraged their affluent subscriber base to cast their vote on whom they believe have excelled. Additionally, the Luxury Travel Guide’s extensive research team has put forward a selection of companies & individuals have excelled within their region.
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