Wednesday 23 October 2013

Harry Brewster, the last of the Florentine cosmopolitans

A few years back, I read and greatly enjoyed The Cosmopolites, a book by Harry Brewster who was among the very last of the Florentine cosmopolitans. Discovering Harry Brewster and his family and learning about their life at their home, the former convent of San Francesco di Paola, located in Florence below the Torre di Bellosguardo, expanded my appreciation of the expatriate culture of Florence. I had hitherto approached these "romantic exiles" mainly via my (and their) enthusiasm for Tuscan villa gardens. Since then I've read two more of Harry Brewster's books, namely A Cosmopolite's Journey: episodes from a life and Out of Florence: From the World of San Francesco di Paola. Of the three books, A Cosmopolite's Journey is the wittiest and lightest read, and probably his best book.

Harry Brewster, the last of the Florentine cosmopolitans
The view from Bellosguardo out over Florence, with San Francesco di Paola hidden among the trees below the crest.
Foreigners flocked to Florence from the 18th century onwards and, by the late 19th century, 30,000 of the 200,000 residents of Florence were Anglo-Florentines who had adopted the city as their home. It's often said that Sir Harold Acton was the last survivor of pre-war Anglo-Florentine culture but Harry Brewster outlasted Acton by five years, passing away in 1999.

Harry Brewster was born in Rome in 1910. One of his grandfathers, descended from William Brewster of the Mayflower, was a friend of Henry James, who reportedly used him as the model for Gilbert Osmond in The Portrait of a Lady. His maternal grandfather was the German sculptor Adolf von Hildebrandt, whose studio occupied part of San Francesco di Paola. Harry, with his brother Ralph and sister Clotilde, grew up behind the high walls of what was essentially a rambling Tuscan farm that happened to be only a ten minute walk from the centre of Florence. The Brewsters were American through and through, but, because of their long residence in Europe, no longer qualified for US citizenship. However, when Harry married an English actress, Elizabeth Home, he took on British citizenship and served as a police officer in Kenya throughout the war.

Villa San Francesco di Paola
Statue of San Francesco di Paola at the entrance to the villa

After working for several years as part of the Allied commission administering Berlin and as an attaché at the British Embassy in Rome, he returned to Florence to devote the rest of his life to enjoying his beautiful home, San Francesco di Paola.

His main occupations during the post-war decades were writing and photography. Aside from his autobiographical volumes, he wrote Classical Anatolia and River Gods of Greece, based on numerous visits to classical sites, especially in Turkey and the Middle East, both books being illustrated with his own excellent photographs.

Harry Brewster had three sons. His second marriage was to Fiona Warnant- Peterich and his travelling companion in his later years was the immensely cultured Barbara Emo di Capodilista (née Barbara Steven) who herself passed away in 2003.

If you're able to borrow or buy any of Harry Brewster's books about his life in and around Florence, I recommend them highly.  They open a window onto a world of immensely interesting individuals who style of life, although not that far in the past, has more or less disappeared completely.

My recommended Tuscan vacation accommodations:

Greve in Chianti accommodation.

Panzano in Chianti accommodation.

Villa hotels.

Tuscany Toscana
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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

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Wednesday 16 October 2013

One of the best agriturismi in Chianti

Agriturismo Patrizia Falciani is not only one of the best agriturismi in Chianti but also one of the longest established. Sig.ra Falciani, who still owns and manages the agriturismo, opened her vacation apartments to the public almost 20 years ago. Her vineyards are located in the Chianti hills about 1 km from the ever-popular Chianti market town of Greve in Chianti.

one of the best agriturismi in Chianti
Agriturismo Patrizia Falciani, one of the best agriturismi in Chianti
For those not familiar with the term, an agriturismo is a working agricultural property that offers vacation accommodation, and in Tuscany, especially in Chianti, these are almost always wineries and/or olive oil producers, as is the case with Agriturismo Patrizia Falciani.

Sig.ra Falciani's agriturismo consists of 7 self-catering holiday apartments, each with its own outdoor space - terrace and/or gazebo - with table and chairs) plus access to a beautiful swimming pool. The grounds are set amidst the vineyards and have panoramic views over the Val di Greve, with Montefioralle in the distance.

If you're planning a vacation in Tuscany, especially with children, you can't do much better than this classic agriturismo.

More about Agriturismo Patrizia Falciani vacation apartments in Chianti.

Tuscany Toscana
Don't forget to visit Elena Spolaor's
Travel Guide!

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

Chianti Travel Guide

Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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