Sunday, 5 December 2021

Medioevo a Pistoia - the Middle Ages in Pistoia - an art exhibition not to be missed

From 27 November, 2021 until 8 May 8, 2022, an excellent art exhibition is taking place in Pistoia: Medioevo a Pistoia - the Middle Ages in Pistoia.

In 1140 at the behest of Bishop Atto, the relic of San Jacopo arrived in Pistoia, placing this Tuscan town onto one of the most important European pilgrimage routes, and eventually making it an international economic and artistic centre. This art exhibition features 60 Pistoian masterpieces from the Romanesque and Gothic periods, illustrating for the first time the extraordinary panorama of the arts in Pistoia from the 12 C to the beginning of the 15 C. Many of these works have been restored especially for this exhibition and they are absolutely worth seeing.


 Altarpiece by Taddeo Gaddi on show in Pistoia at Medioevo a Pistoia.

During the period covered by the exhibition, Pistoia was well provided with enlightened patrons who attracted artists such as the sculptors Guglielmo, Guido da Como, and Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. At the end of the 12 C, two great though anonymous artists were in the Pistoia: the Master of the Crucifix (n. 434 of the Uffizi) and the Master of Santa Maria Primerana. Not only sculptors and painters were attracted to Pistoia but, as in other Tuscan cities of the time, also goldsmiths, resulting in works like the Silver Altar of San Jacopo. There were also highly skilled miniaturists active during this period, especially in the workshop of the Master of Sant’Alessio in Bigiano, and the elegant illustrations by the Master of the Bracciolini Chapel in the Divine Comedy preserved in the National Library of Naples were produced in Pistoia during the 15 C.

Pistoia exhibition manuscript with miniatures

Pistoia exhibition manuscript with miniatures

During the 14 C, Pistoia was the home of artists of the calibre of Lippo di Benivieni, Taddeo Gaddi and Niccolò di Tommaso, who place Pistoia among the leading art cities of Tuscany - not to mention the Majesty and Angels by Pietro Lorenzetti. The latter is on loan from the Uffizi, and was restored for this exhibition.

Romolo di Senuccio Salvi, Reliquary of the Cross (1379-1383)

 Romolo di Senuccio Salvi, Reliquary of the Cross (1379-1383)

The works of art displayed at the "Middle Ages in Pistoia" exhibition are all the more interesting for their web of relationships with the masterpieces preserved in the churches and museums of Pistoia. The exhibition provides its visitors with a route by which they may discover mediaeval Pistoia via the churches of Sant'Andrea and San Giovanni Fuorcivitas (free admission with the exhibition ticket), the cathedral of San Zeno (see the Silver Altar of San Jacopo), and the churches of San Bartolomeo in Pantano, San Paolo, San Domenico, San Francesco, the church of Tau and the Baptistery.

Medioevo a Pistoia is an opportunity to spend an entire day exploring beautiful art works in a relatively concentrated area of a town that is often unjustly neglected by visitors. Don't miss it!

Medioevo a Pistoia takes place in the Antico Palazzo dei Vescovi piazza del Duomo, 3 and in the Museo Civico Piazza del Duomo, 1. Reservations and covid Green Passes (or equivalent) are required and tickets can be bought online at https://www.fondazionepistoiamusei.it/biglietteria/en/.

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Saturday, 13 November 2021

The Medicean Villa dell'Ambrogiana might become part of the "Uffizi Diffusi" project

A new and interesting possibility has arisen recently as part of the "Uffizi Diffusi" project in which works stored at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence will be displayed at other locations throughout the Province. The idea is to make more works of art easily accessible to the public as well as to enhance the touristic attractiveness of the new sites. The Villa Medicea dell'Ambrogiana, which is a splendid Renaissance villa located near Montelupo Fiorentino, might become a major location forming part of the project. Historically, the land and farm buildings, presumably including a villa, belonged to the Ambrogi family (hence the name) and were acquired by the Medici family prior to 1574. The latter built a huge hunting lodge on the site and this later became one of Cosimo III's favourite rural retreats. However, in the 19th Century, the Grand Duke Leopoldo II decided to transform the already crumbling villa into a remand home and then into a psychiatric prison, and this contributed substantially to its decline.

Villa Medicea dell'Ambrogiana

Villa Medicea dell'Ambrogiana

During November 2021, a government minister visited the villa and appeared to support the idea of central government funding to restore the Villa dell'Ambrogiana in order to house there paintings currently mostly in storage at the Uffizi, including some of those recently removed from the Vasari Corridor. The minister noted that "There are at least 100 works that today lie in the deposits and were historically here in the Medici villa dell'Ambrogiana, from the still lifes by Bindi, to the religious paintings by Cinqui that decorated that 'brother' of the Corridor Vasariano that we have right here at the Ambrogiana." There was even a suggestion that restoration could begin as early as 2022. The gardens are already in good condition and the building needs basically to be earthquake-proofed and given a coat of paint.

Montelupo Fiorentino is already well-know for the production and sale of Italian majolica, and is anyway well worth a visit for that reason.

More about Montelupo Fiorentino.


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Thursday, 11 November 2021

A preliminary drawing and a final painting by Filippo Lippi in Florence

I want to present here an example of how a bit of enjoyable homework can help art-lovers gain some extra insight into how a masterpieces were created by Renaissance artists. Before a recent visit to the Palatine Gallery at Palazzo Pitti in Florence, I was idly looking through a book of Renaissance drawings held in the Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe at the Uffizi Gallery. Among them was a very delicate, three quarters sketch of a female head, surely intended to be a Madonna, depicting an absorbed and very sweet expression, and, among other features, a refined hairstyle embellished with veils. At the same time, I had a look at a catalogue of the holdings at the Palatine Gallery, and - lo and behold! - the Madonna in the wonderful Tondo Bartolini turned out to be the final version of the Uffizi sketch.

Both the preliminary drawing and the final painting are by Filippo Lippi. The Tondo has long been thought to have been commissioned from Filippo, who was Carmelite friar, by the ambitious and wealthy Florentine merchant, Leonardo di Bartolomeo Bartolini. More recent investigation by Jeffrey Ruda interprets the coat of arms on the reverse of the Tondo as that of a member of the Martelli family and re-dates the painting to between 1465 and 1470 based on similarities to Filippo's final frescoes in the Capella Maggiore at Prato Cathedral.

By looking at a good reproduction of the drawing, one can see that Filippo used first a silver point on paper prepared with a warm, yellow ochre ground, and then refined the silver point outline with thin and light lines of white lead applied with a brush, giving the physiognomy and hairstyle a lovely softness.

The preliminary sketch matches the painted figure down to the most minute folds of the cap and in the ribbon that holds and twists the hair at the top under the veil. One can also see that Filippo was experimenting on the ochre paper with the effects of the light coming from the left, by applying a white wash. 

However, my aim here is not to argue the fine details of art history and connoisseurship, but rather to encourage visitors to Florence who plan to tour the galleries, to spend some time with some art books as a preparation to seeing the works themselves. You never can tell what serendipitous insights will strike you!

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Chiesa di San Leolino at Panzano in Chianti

One of the many gems of the Chianti countryside is the Chiesa di San Leolino at Panzano in Chianti, a parish church and cloister dating from mediaeval times. The church is documented from the year 985 and has undergone two major restorations since that time.

During the late middle ages in Tuscany there was a burst of church construction that coincided with - indeed, was caused by - an increase in population and a rapid rural economic improvement. The latter was interrupted more than once by the Plague, but in essence both derived from and drove urban economic expansion - the rise of the rich city states such as Florence itself. The Pieve di San Leolino is not only beautiful in architectural and artistic terms, but enjoys magnificent views out over the Chianti countryside, with spectacular lighting at sunset.

Chiesa di San Leolino at Panzano in Chianti

The fine exterior consists of a Renaissance facade preceded by an imposing five-arched sandstone portico. The stone-framed portal leads to the extraordinary interior which is divided into three naves which house a number of splendid works of art, notably a beautiful triptych depicting the Madonna and Child flanked by saints, some wonderful glazed terracotta tabernacles near the altar and a beautiful plaster reliquary bust of Sant'Eufrosino in the left aisle. A portal in the right aisle leads to the small but charming cloister with a well, with a portico supported by brick columns and a wooden roof.


More about Romanesque parish churches of Chianti

More about Panzano in Chianti.

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Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Florence bus tickets - tickets for the ATAF buses in Firenze


STOP PRESS! As of 1 November 2021, ATAF as such disappears and re-incarnates under the auspices of Autolinee Toscane.

ATAF, or Azienda Tranviaria Automobilistica e Filoviaria, was established on October 25, 1945 to provide public transport in and around Florence. Now the signage has been taken down at the depot in viale dei Mille and the branding is being removed from the buses. On 31 October 2021, management of Florence’s bus service will shift to Autolinee Toscane, which will be in charge of bus services throughout Tuscany.

From 1 November, all times and services are expected to remain unchanged. Tickets may be purchased digitally by sending a SMS stating “Firenze” to 488.01.05 or by using the Tabnet app downloadable from the App Store or Google Play. Passengers will still be able to purchase tickets from official ticket offices, machines and authorised retailers that display the Autolinee Toscane sticker. Existing tickets will no longer be valid after 31 October, but refunds can be requested at Desks 8 and 9 at the Santa Maria Novella bus station ticket office.

STOP PRESS! As of 18th July 2019, Florence's ATAF buses allow contactless payment, meaning credit card touch technology. The system is installed on 355 buses within the city plus the airport bus, and currently accepts MasterCard, VISA, Maestro and V Pay. The ticket price of 1.50 euros and the validity duration of 90 minutes remain unchanged. When asked to produce your ticket by an inspector, simply tell him give the last four digits of the card with which you made the payment.This is an enormous time-saver and obviates the need to validate and manage paper tickets which tend to accumulate in the pockets of busy tourists. We await news on when the system will be installed on the trams.


There are a few simple but important things to know about using the city buses in Florence, Italy.


ATAF bus ticket
ATAF 90 minute bus ticket

ATAF bus tickets should be bought BEFORE you board the bus. They are available from any kiosk (news stand) and from many cafés (bars), and at tobacconists. There are also two ATAF offices very near the SMN railway station where you can buy tickets. The most useful ATAF office is the one at via Alamanni 20r. You can get to it from inside the station by going down the steps leaving the station on the right (when facing away from the platforms), turn right again at the bottom of the steps, go past the very useful Conad supermarket, a florist shop and a post office. The ATAF office is the next place and is open Monday through Saturday 7.15am to 7pm.

In extremity, you can buy a ticket from the driver. Note that he's not obliged to provide change and sales are suspended if an inspector is on board.

how to buy an ATAF bus ticket in Florence
Etiquette indicating that ATAF tickets are sold inside.
Sign indicating a tobacconist - they usually also sell bus tickets
Sign indicating a tobacconist - they usually also sell bus tickets

IMPORTANT Florence ATAF bus tickets must be validated as you enter the bus. You do this by inserting the ticket into the franking machine located beside or just behind the driver, and another near the rear entrance to the bus. Insert the pink strip uppermost and first into the machine. Check your ticket to make sure it was stamped with the date and time. Inspectors have no mercy on those without a ticket or with an unvalidated ticket or with an expired ticket - the fine is on-the-spot and painful (50 euros). If one machine is not working, try the other one. You only escape a fine if both machines are inoperative.

There is a good range of tickets available. Most commonly used is the 90 minute ticket. Using this you can get on and off as many buses as you like in any direction for the 90 minutes from when you validated the ticket.

Other tickets are good for four 90 minute rides. These tickets can be shared as long as they are validated the requisite number of times. For example, two people taking the number 7 bus to Fiesole could frank such a ticket twice to go and again twice to come back later in the day. These tickets have four strips for validation. Be sure not to overwrite your validation.

There are also 24 hours tickets and tickets for several days. Since these tickets are not meant to be passed from one person to another, YOU MUST WRITE YOUR NAME ON LONG DURATION ATAF TICKETS, such as 24 hour and three day tickets.

ATAF tickets are good for the small, electric buses that follow routes mainly through otherwise traffic-free lanes, and also for the trams. They are NOT valid for the bus that runs to and from SMN railway station and the airport. You can buy those tickets on the bus. Note that a taxi from the airport costs a fixed price of 20 euros plus baggage and late hours fees.

Last but not least, there are pickpockets on the buses and trams in Florence, especially when they are crowded and on routes favoured by tourists. Please read this article on pickpockets in Italy to understand what you can do to protect your valuables from these thieves. It's not as bad as in Rome, but they are here in Florence for sure.


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Monday, 25 October 2021

When will Italy be open to visitors again?

UPDATE 25 October 2021: Tourists from outside Italy are free to enter and travel around the country if they are in possession of certification that they have been fully vaccinated against covid19. The same certificate will allow entry into museums and other public spaces.

UPDATE 16 May 2021: Delta Airlines COVID-tested flights between the U.S. and Italy will open to all customers effective today, May 16, following the Italian government's lifting of entry restrictions enabling American leisure travelers to visit Italy again. My recommendation is that you should be vaccinated against covid19 before coming to Italy on vacation. I would even expect that to become Italian government policy.

UPDATE 9 May 2021: The latest hint from the Prime Minister is that Italy will welcome vaccinated visitors from Europe and America starting 15 May 2021. However, let's wait for the official announcement and rules.

STOP PRESS 5 May 2021: Italy is gearing up to welcome back European travellers in the second half of June, says Italian PM Mario Draghi. “We will have to provide clear and simple rules to ensure that tourists can come to Italy safely,” the Prime Minister remarked in his closing remarks at the G20 tourism ministerial meeting held today in Rome. “The European ‘green pass’ will be ready in the second half of June. In the meantime, the Italian government has introduced a nationwide ‘green pass’, which will enter into effect in the second half of May.”

26 April 2021: American tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to visit the European Union over the summer, according to the head of the EU’s executive body, more than a year after shutting down nonessential travel from most countries to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The fast pace of vaccination in the United States and advanced talks between US authorities and the European Union over how to make vaccine certificates acceptable as proof of immunity for visitors will enable the European Commission to recommend a change in policy that would see trans-Atlantic leisure travel restored by summer 2021.

I'm guessing that many of my readers are looking forward to coming to Italy again soon and are naturally pondering the question: "When will Italy be open to visitors again?" Before I give my opinion on that, let's divert ourselves with a brief look at a similar interruption that took place just as mass tourism was beginning.

In England at the beginning of the 19 C, one of the more frustrating aspects of the Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815) was the ban on foreign travel. The English were the continent's greatest travellers. Among the wealthy, the Grand Tour of the 18 C was still a living tradition. Both the classical curriculum at school and the training of manners at home confidently looked to the Grand Tour to complete their work, while the artist fretted to be back in the mellow light of the Campagna and the budding author to add his impressions to an already over-stocked market for Italian travel memoirs. For the ordinary tourist - the "Thomas Cook traveller" avant la lettre - the Peace of Amiens was the first chance to go abroad since the beginning of the war. When war broke out again 14 months later, most tourists on the Continent rushed for home. Only American citizens could travel freely. There was a brief sense of relief in 1814 when Napoleon was sent into exile on Elba, only to escape in February 1815 and rule France again for the 100 Days. His defeat by the British at Waterloo in June 1815 followed by exile to St Helena ended the wars definitively and the tourist trade jumped back into its full stride.

Visitors to Italy - the Uffizi in the 19th century

"Back into its full stride" - that's what we're all hoping for. But when? My best guess is that vaccination against the covid-19 virus will be sufficiently comprehensive in Italy and in the English-speaking countries by mid to late August this year, 2021, that travel to Italy will become possible and increase rapidly. I'm assuming, perhaps optimistically, that new virus mutants will not be resistant to current vaccines.

This might be helped by the introduction of what has been called a "covid passport" confirming that the traveller has been inoculated This kind of thing has been around since WW II in the form of a document confirming inoculation for diseases such as Yellow Fever, compulsory for the issue of a visa to travel to countries where that disease is prevalent. Visa-free travel calls for a slightly different administrative procedure, presumably involving airlines and/or immigration officers, but the principle is the same.

So that's my best guess right now. I will update that as events unfold, but my feeling is that you can book your accommodation for August onwards and flights as soon as the airlines start to offer normal schedules. As in 1815, there's huge pent up demand. I look forward to a good tourism season during the second half of 2021.


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Thursday, 21 October 2021

Did the Etruscans really originate in Anatolia?

A September 2021 genetic study carried out on Etruscan skeletal remains throws new light on the question of whether the Etruscans really originated in Anatolia, during the 8th to 6th centuries BC, as first proposed by Herodotus and Hellanicus of Lesbos, and supported by later genetic studies of modern individuals living in and near Murlo, central Tuscany. Click the following link for a good summary of the facts and theories until now about who the Etruscan were and where they came from.

Origin of the Etruscans

In summary, present-day Tuscan mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) demonstrate a relationship with current Anatolian populations that has been interpreted as evidence for a recent Near Eastern (Lydian) origin of the Etruscans, as proposed as early as Herodotus. This was supported by early studies on mtDNA from Etruscan-associated individuals that did not find any evidence of genetic continuity between Etruscans and present-day populations from the same region, except for some isolated locations in Tuscany

However, the study recently published in Science Advances based on genomic analyses of 82 ancient individuals from Tuscany, Lazio, and Basilicata spanning ca. 2000 years of Italian history, have revealed major episodes of genetic transformation. Across the first interval of the study's central Italian temporal transect (800 to 1 BC), most individuals form a homogenous genetic cluster (designated C.Italy_Etruscan), indicating that the sporadic presence of individuals with ancestry tracing back to other regions did not leave a substantial local genetic legacy. In particular, in agreement with the "local origin" proposal of the historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the first century BC, the Etruscan-related gene pool does not seem to have originated from bronze-age (800 to 600 BC) population movements from the Near East. Etruscans carry a local genetic profile shared with other neighboring populations such as the Latins from Rome and its environs despite the cultural and linguistic differences between the two neighboring groups. Furthermore, according to this new study, a large proportion of the C.Italy_Etruscan genetic profile can be attributed to Iron Age steppe-related ancestry (i.e. not Anatolian), confirming a trend observed in most other European regions.

So what about the Etruscan language? Although Etruscan is a non-Indo-European relict language, which survived in central Italy until the Imperial Period, it was not completely isolated. Instead, Etruscan seems to be linked to both Rhaetic, a language documented in the eastern Alps in a population that ancient historians claim to have migrated from the Po valley, and to Lemnian, a language putatively spoken on ancient Lemnos in the Aegean Sea. The relationship with Rhaetic is hard to account for, but the Anatolian-origin theory proposed that Lemnos was a stepping stone in the migratory path from nearby Lydia in Anatolia to Tuscany. However, the new model proposes that while the Etruscan language remained in place, eastern Mediterranean ancestries replaced a large portion of the native Etruscan-related genetic profile during the Roman Imperial period and not between 800 and 600 BC. This seems exceptionally odd since in almost every other historical example of replacement of a local population by Indo-European invaders, the local language as well as the genes were replaced.

This new study is sure to generate plenty of discussion. For example, the authors do not consider the possibility put forward by some historians that the Etruscans did not replace the native Umbrian population when they arrived from Anatolia but formed a ruling class, as did the Longobards much later, which left genetic markers only rarely (e.g. in the current population around Murlo in Tuscany).

The Volterra Estruscan Museum

The Gods, Goddesses and Mythology of the Etruscans


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Thursday, 14 October 2021

How to visit the Vasari Corridor in Florence

Update 14 October 2021: Visiting of the Vasari Corridor.

In an interview published by Corriere della Sera on 21 October 2021, the director of the Uffizi, Eike Schmidt, expounded on his vision of the "contemporary" Uffizi. One question that interests me and probably a lot of my readers was:"There's been a long wait for the reopening (of the Vasari Corridor) but isn't 45 euros for a ticket to visit the Corridor too much?", Schmidt explained that the price is much lower than the one demanded by the private agencies (essentially ticket scalpers) who routinely snatched up the few tickets available before the corridor closed in 2016. In essence, his reply continued to the effect that the price is determined by the market. 

I'm not all that convinced by the Director's neo-con economics response.The Vasari Corridor, with 125 admissions at a time, will obviously have more demand than supply during high season, and therefore can impose high prices (even much more than 45 euros). In low season, the price will drop to 20 euros to be competitive. And it is clear that these prices make both the museum's accountants and the ticket scalpers, who will ask for a large share of tickets, happy. It is a pity, however, that the Uffizi, as a public service, does not work more for the benefit of the tax payers who have invested 10 million euros into renovation of the Corridor, rather than for the bank balances of the museum and the scalpers. The taxpayers have invested rightly, given that citizens must be able to benefit from the heritage that belongs to them, but wouldn't it be reasonable that they don't have to pay a lot of money all over again to enjoy this heritage?

Update 18 March 2021: Tours of the Vasari Corridor.

IMPORTANT: there are no legitimate tours of the Vasari Corridor being offered currently but it looks like that the Vasari Corridor will re-open on 27 May, 2022, and will be accessible by ticket. Apparently it will not be necessary to be part of a tour group.

Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Gallery, has announced that the Vasari Corridor will officially become a part of the Uffizi after reopening in 2022. Visitors will then be able to enter the Uffizi, stroll through the Vasari Corridor and then explore the Boboli Gardens or the Pitti Palace. Tickets will cost €45 in high season, €20 in low season and will be free for students.

Route of the Vasari Corridor in Florence
Route of the Vasari Corridor in Florence

One disappointing aspect is that the many excellent self-portraits currently hanging in the Vasari Corridor will be removed because it won't be possible to climate control the corridor suitable for paintings on canvas and wood.

The Vasari Corridor from above
The Vasari Corridor from above
According to the official Uffizi website, no tours of the Vasari Corridor are now available, and anybody who offers such a tour is committing a fraud:

"False information concerning nocturnal visits of the Uffizi and Vasari Corridor
The Administration of the Uffizi Galleries confirms that these promotional contents are totally unfounded. From 1 December 2016 until further notice the Corridor remains closed for works of safety regulatory compliance. Consequently no bookings will be accepted.
False information is spreading on Facebook about nocturnal openings of the Uffizi and Vasari Corridor on various dates with visits organized by associations/groups which are unknown to us, such as Firenze Vista di Notte. The Administration of the Uffizi Galleries has already filed a lawsuit against the fraudsters and confirms that these promotional contents are totally unfounded."

The official website for the Uffizi tickets is https://www.uffizi.it/en/tickets - once again note that many other official-looking web sites offer Uffizi tickets at enormous markups.

Vasari corridor Uffizi Florence
Interior of the Vasari Corridor in Florence as it was until closed in 2016.
The corridor was lined with paintings, the more interesting ones being an amazing series of self-portraits by famous and not so famous artists, including a surprising number of the Pre-Raphaelites - for example, a very fine self-portrait of William Holman Hunt. These pictures will now be displayed elsewhere in the Uffizi and will be replaced by thirty ancient sculptures along with a space dedicated to 16th century frescoes. 

Empty interior of the Vasari Corridor

The corridor had a doorway and still has a window opening into a balcony high up in the church of Santa Felicita so that the Medici family could attend mass privately, without being seen or subject to attack. The especially large windows overlooking the Ponte Vecchio were specially created for a visit by Mussolini in the late 30's. Part of the corridor snakes around the Torre Mannelli which belonged to the only family that Cosimo I was unable to buy out. Instead of building through the tower, Vasari built around it using a system of supporting brackets. Cosimo was quite sanguine about this - every man is king in his own house, he reportedly observed. The meat market on Ponte Vecchio was moved to avoid its smell permeating the passage, its place being taken by the goldsmith shops that still occupy the bridge.

More about the Vasari Corridor in the 19th and 20th centuries.

More about what to see and do in Florence.

More about Florence Museum Cards and Florence Museum Passes.




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Sunday, 25 July 2021

Romanesque Parish Churches of Chianti

A one day driving tour of the Romanesque parish churches (Pievi) of Chianti is a great way to introduce yourself to the highways and byways of Chianti Italy as well as, of course, to see some of the oldest and most evocative architecture and works of art in Tuscany. One good route is simply to follow the Via Chiantigiana and make the appropriate detours.

Romanesque Parish Churches of Chianti
Pieve di San Cresci - a romanesque parish church in Chianti


The historic pievi (singular: pieve) are for the most part mediaeval although the Pieve di San Vincenti near Castelnuovo Berardenga dates from the Dark Age - it was a Basilica in the 7 C. They range from the magnificent (e.g. San Polo in Rosso) to the simple, single nave structures such as the Pieve di Santa Maria a Pacina, dating from the 8 C and characterised by a highly unusual cylindrical campanile (bell tower). 

If you are a Tuscan wine lover, you can combine visiting what is probably the oldest extant parish church in Chianti with a visit to a winery that takes its name from the church - namely, the Pieve di San Cresci winery. This wine producer belongs to the Ballini family who have been making wine here for almost two hundred years. Their wines are personal favorites of mine and I recommend them highly, especially the three Chianti Classicos. The winery has a wine tasting facility just in front of the church.

Author: Anna Maria Baldini


Saturday, 17 July 2021

The most beautiful villages in Tuscany

 "La Bandiera Arancione" - the Orange Flag - of the Touring Club Italia is one of the most sought after accolades among the villages of Italy and nearby areas. To win a place on the Orange Flag list means that the Touring Club and its members have assessed your village to be one of the most attractive villages in Italy in terms of beauty and livability, and with a great artistic and cultural heritage. The list is renewed every three years with only about 8% of 3,200 candidates making the grade. This year, 38 villages in Tuscany found a place on the list.

 The 38 most beautiful villages in Tuscany

Anghiari, Province of Arezzo

I have one quibble with their list, namely that they have selected mostly not villages but towns, some of them quite considerable. I guess that's a consequence of their voting system since obviously more of their members visit towns than small villages. I would have included both Montefioralle and Panzano in Chianti on my list of the most beautiful villages in Tuscany.

Anyway, here are the 38 most beautiful villages in Tuscany, according to Touring Club Italia, the Province of Sienna receiving the most awards:

 
San Gimignano

There are 16 awarded villages in the Province of Sienna: Casole d'Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Cetona, Chiusi, Montalcino, Montefollonico, Montepulciano, Monteriggioni, Murlo, Pienza, Radda in Chianti, Radicofani, San Casciano dei Bagni, San Gimignano, Sarteano and Trequanda.

If you are in the Province of Pisa: Casale Marittimo, Casciana Terme Lari, Castelnuovo di Val di Cecina, Peccioli, Pomarance and Volterra.

Four in the Province of Grosseto: Massa Marittima, Pitigliano, Santa Fiora and Sorano;

Three in the Province of Arezzo: Anghiari, Castiglion Fiorentino and Lucignano.

Three villages in the Province of Firenze: Barberino Tavarnelle, Certaldo and Vinci.

Two in the Province of Lucca: Barga and Montecarlo.

Two in the Province of Pistoia: Abetone Cutigliano and Collodi.

One in the Province of Livorno: Suvereto.

One in the Province of Massa-Carrara: Fosdinovo.

 

Tuscany Toscana
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Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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Monday, 5 July 2021

Upcoming Chianti wine festivals

On 4 and 5 September 2021, there is a wine tasting event taking place in the attractive village of Radda in Chianti - Radda nel Bichiere. Earlier in the year, on the first weekend of June 2021, there is another one in Lamole in Chianti, I Profumi di Lamole. And the Chianti wine festival takes place in Montespertoli from 10 to 12 September 2021. To take in some or all of these wine tasting occasions, you could find a place to stay on the Panzano in Chianti website.and for the Montespertoli Chianti wine festival on the Montespertoli website.

Radda nel Bichiere
At Radda nel Bichiere

For September, there are two upcoming Chianti wine festivals to note in your agenda.

Chronologically, the first is the Chianti Classico wine fair taking place in Greve in Chianti, 45-60 minutes south of Florence and reachable by bus from Florence. The official name is the XLVI Rassegna del Chianti Classico (46th Expo of Chianti Classico wines). In 2021, this wine festival takes place from the 10th to the 12th September 2021 in Piazza Matteotti, the main piazza of Greve in Chianti. Note that you might have to park some distance from the venue due to heavy traffic - this fair is very popular. If you also plan to drink some wine, that's just one more reason to take the bus.

Rassegna del Chianti Classico
The Terre di Melazzano booth at the Rassegna del Chianti Classico
 
The way it works is that you buy a wine glass from the Cassa and Informazioni booth and this allows you to try a certain number of the wines displayed. You can both buy and order wine and olive oil at the booths. In addition to the wine tasting, a variety of events is offered during the four days, but I wouldn't over estimate their intrinsic interest. Click here for the 2021 programme. The Greve Chianti wine fair has a good number of Tuscan wineries represented, each offering all of the wines that they produce - mainly Chianti Classico, of course. My only objection to this fair is that when the weather is hot, few of the exhibitors take any steps to keep their wines cool. Some of them are left in direct sunlight and are distinctly warm when you taste them.

The second wine tasting event is Vino al Vino, taking place one week later in Panzano in Chianti, 10 minutes drive in the direction of Sienna from Greve and also accessible by bus from Florence. Vino al Vino takes place from the 16th to the 19th of September 2021. To some extent, I prefer Vino al Vino over the Chianti Classico Expo if only because it is smaller, with about 21 wineries presenting their wines and olive oil, and has a more intimate atmosphere. I also find the food on sale better than in Greve. There's live Jazz on Saturday & Sunday from 6 until 8 pm.

Vino al Vino Panzano Chianti wine festival
Vino al Vino Panzano Chianti wine festival

For accommodation nearby the venues:

Greve in Chianti accommodation.

Panzano in Chianti accommodation.

Villa hotels.

Chianti wine festivals on Facebook.

Tuscany Toscana
Don't forget to visit my Tuscany
Travel Guide!

Up-to-date news on what to see and where to stay in Chianti and all of Tuscany.

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Author: Anna Maria Baldini

All content copyright © ammonet Italian Web Site Promotion 2013 - 2021. All rights reserved.

Friday, 28 May 2021

An exquisite reliquary bust at the Diocesan Museum of Florence

My attentive readers will know that from time to time I like to draw attention to works of art in small museums that are unjustly negrlected by visitors to Tuscany. Today I want to describe a beautiful reliquary bust commissioned by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III and created in 1703. The bust is silver cast using the lost wax method and finished by chisel, with gilded copper details. It was intended for the Pieve di San Cresci located on the slopes of Monte Giovi (province of Florence). San Cresci lived during the 3C and is considered to be the evangeliser of the Mugello where he was martyred around the year 250.

For the execution of this splendid reliquary, the Grand Duke turned to his court artist, the sculptor, architect and great draftsman Giovanni Battista Foggini who executed the design, leaving the execution of the work to another great artist of the Medici court, the German silversmith Bernard Holzman who performed the work in silver, clothing the saint in finely decorated and chiseled Roman armour. The youthful face of the saint, bearded and with thick hair, is slightly turned to the right. On the base runs the inscription: Sancti Crescij Xp Martyris Caput.

From a stylistic point of view, you can see the high quality in the accuracy of the finishing of the details and in the pride of the figure, clearly derived from the classical models, already used in the Middle Ages by the Arezzo goldsmiths Pietro and Paolo and then again in the Renaissance also by Donatello when he made the reliquary bust of San Rossore in Pisa.

This reliquary is one of the many masterpieces exhibited in the all too neglected Diocesan Museum of Florence in Santo Stefano al Ponte. If you can spare the time during your visit to Florence, I strongly recommend spending a couple of hours there.


Tuscany Toscana
Don't forget to visit my Tuscany
Travel Guide!

Up-to-date news on what to see and where to stay in Chianti and all of Tuscany.

Tuscany Travel Guide

vacation accommodations in Tuscany


Author: Anna Maria Baldini

All content copyright © ammonet Italian Web Site Promotion 2021. All rights reserved.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Getting married in Tuscany: great wedding venues in Tuscany

If you're planning on getting married in Tuscany, a wonderful wedding venue will be at or near the top of the list of "musts" to make the your wedding a super-special occasion. There's an enormous range of great wedding venues in Tuscany at your disposal so I want to mention some wedding locations of which I have personal experience.

Getting married in Tuscany
Wedding dinner at Villa Felceto

For a do-it-yourself wedding in Tuscany, I can strongly recommend Villa Felceto, located on the Podere Felceto olive farm near Panzano in Chianti, halfway between Florence and Sienna. The villa, in ancient times a monastery, and the nearby dependencies provide accommodation for 20 people while the nearby agriturismi plus hotel and apartment accommodation in Panzano offer a good range of additional places to stay for your guests. The villa and its grounds provide beautiful settings for your wedding ceremony and wedding dinner. And very importantly, the owners, Roberto and Jussara, who speak excellent English, can and will provide lots of assistance with your arrangements, especially catering, so that you can organise everything without the assistance of a wedding planner.

More about Villa Felceto wedding venue in Tuscany.


Do it yourself wedding location in Tuscany
Wedding feast at La Ghiandaia in Tuscany

Another great do-it-yourself wedding venue in Tuscany is Agriturismo La Ghiandaia which is located near the tiny village of Lucolena in central Chianti, 30 km from Florence. The agriturismo is an ideal location for a wedding of up to 30 - 35 guests all of whom will be able to stay on site. For your wedding buffet you can take advantage of the beautiful veranda with its panoramic view, ideal for dancing, or a splendid converted wine cellar for inside dining in case of rain.

Silvia, the gracious owner of La Ghiandaia, is ready and able to organise everything for your wedding. She is experienced in organising complete, customised weddings at her house, including accommodation, finding a church or town hall, reserving a suitable restaurant if required, organising the buffet and party at her house with musicians and waiters, flower decorations, rental vans and wedding car and in general everything that is necessary to make your wedding day happy and memorable for you and your wedding party.

Review on Trip Advisor: "A perfect Wedding" at La Ghiandaia in Tuscany.

More about La Ghiandaia wedding location in Tuscany.

great wedding venues in Tuscany
Wedding reception at Villa Gamberaia


If you prefer to celebrate your wedding at one of the most famous villas in Tuscany, then Villa Gamberaia is the place for you. This magnificent villa is located in Settignano just a few km from central Florence, and its formal Tuscan garden is probably the most famous in Tuscany, if not all of Italy. The views from the garden are spectacular. Villa Gamberaia is not only its garden: within the villa there are magnificent salons and an interior colonnaded courtyard which may be rented for weddings. There is sufficient accommodation in the villa dependencies for your wedding party, and of course a huge range of accommodation around Settignano and Fiesole, and in Florence for your guests.

More about Villa Gamberaia.

More about accommodation at Villa Gamberaia.


Wedding in Tuscany - Villa Vitigliano
Villa Vitigliano dining al fresco

Last but not least, the height of luxury and sophistication in Tuscany is to be found at Vitigliano , a recently restored rural "borgo" located between Panzano and Greve in Chianti, 45 minutes south of Florence. I have already praised this uniquely beautiful Tuscan boutique hotel, and I want to add that Vitigliano is surely the most luxurious wedding venue in all of Tuscany, with its own Turkish bath, whirlpool and professional kitchens. The Bridal Suite in the Tower offers an unforgettable ambiance for your wedding night, and the other luxury suites are ready for the bridal couple and their families. Accommodation for the wedding guests is readily available within a ten minute drive. Vitigliano has its own ancient chapel for a traditional wedding ceremony.

More about Vitigliano wedding venue.



Tuscany Toscana
Don't forget to visit my Tuscany
Travel Guide!

Up-to-date news on what to see and where to stay in Chianti and all of Tuscany.

Tuscany Travel Guide

Author: Anna Maria Baldini

All content copyright © ammonet Italian Web Site Promotion 2015 - 2021. All rights reserved.