Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Mercantia at Certaldo, Tuscany, one of the best street theatre festivals in Europe

Mercantia, one of the best street theatre festivals in Europe, takes place this year, 2019, from 10 to 14 July in the attractive mediaeval walled town of Certaldo, Tuscany. Certaldo consists of the ancient Certalo Alto, on its hilltop, and Certaldo Basso, the modern part of the town in the valley below. Certaldo is very likely the place where Boccaccio was born and he certainly lived there towards the end of his life and regarded it as his hometown. It's therefore appropriate that Certaldo should provide popular entertainment today in the form of Mercantia, its famous street theatre festival.

Mercatia Certaldo 2019
Mercatia Certaldo 2019

Mercantia at Certaldo 2016
Mercantia at Certaldo 2016

The festival takes place in Certaldo Alto, the ancient upper town which can be accessed easily by funicular or on foot. Within the walls, there will be dozens of performers along the few streets of the town and also inside the courtyards, where stages are set up to host clowns and comedians, contortionists and acrobats, puppeteers and ventriloquists, magicians and illusionists, fire-eaters and dancers, actors and street musicians.

Mercantia street theatre festival at Certaldo, Tuscany
Mercantia street theatre festival at Certaldo, Tuscany

Tickets cost roughly €10.00 on Wednesday and Thursday, €12.00 on Friday and Sunday, €18.00 on Saturday. If you are planning to visit Mercantia more than once, you can buy the 5-day pass for about €30.00. I haven't seen the exact 2017 prices yet.

Certaldo street theatre festival
Certaldo street theatre festival
In addition to the street theatrical performances in Certaldo Alto, Certaldo Basso is packed for the duration of the festival with street stalls selling hand-made jewellery, clothing, masks, various kinds of art, herbal remedies and beauty products, hand-crafted leatherware and shoes, and a wide range of other arts and crafts, all of varying quality and price. No ticket is required for Certaldo Basso. There are also some stalls in Certaldo Alto.

www.chianti.info

More about Certaldo.

Map of the main sights of Chianti.


Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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Saturday, 13 April 2019

Villas of Florence and the 19th century photographer Longworth Powers

When I have a free hour or two - an increasingly rare event - I like to wander the byways of Florence in search of less known corners of beauty and history. Viale Poggio Imperiale, starting at Porta Romana and running uphill all the way to Arcetri is one productive hunting ground, lined as it is with beautiful villas, each with a story to tell. The avenue leads to the Medicean Villa del Poggio Imperiale which belonged to the Medici Grand Ducal family from 1565 until 1738, but which reached its architectural peak under the Habsburg Lorraines, the successors to the Ducal Medici as rulers of Florence and owners of the villa. It later became, and still is, an exclusive girls' boarding school, the Istituto Statale della Ss. Annunziata, but the magnificent imperial rooms are open to the public one day a week.

Villa Poggio Imperiale in Florence, Italy
One of the imperial rooms of Villa Poggio Imperiale in Florence, Italy

A more modest but in some ways much more attractive villa on Poggio Imperiale belonged to Longworth Powers, a sculptor and photographer. Longworth was the son of Hiram Powers (1805 - 1873) who was an extremely successful American neoclassical sculptor, Swedenborgian and spiritualist, who moved to Florence in 1837 and settled on the Via Fornace, where he had access to good supplies of marble and to traditions of stone-cutting and bronze casting. He remained in Florence until his death, turning out marble busts and statues that were often reproduced in large numbers by his workmen and which sometimes fetched thousands of dollars. His studio was a fashionable stop on any American's grand tour. One of Longworth's brothers, Preston Powers, followed in his father's footsteps, first in America and then in Florence, but without success, and he died penniless in Florence in 1931.


The Longworth family in Florence
The Longworth family in Florence - Hiram top centre.

Longworth Powers was eventually more successful than his brother Preston. He was the eldest son of Hiram and in his early life he struggled to establish a career, failing to persevere at any task for long, a fact that continually frustrated his successful father. Longworth enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where his family hoped that the education and discipline would would have beneficial effects, but he was "asked to leave" after only one semester. He then attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York, but failed to stay long enough to earn a degree. His father thought Longworth might do better in Florence and so put him to work as bookkeeper in his studio while teaching him the basics of sculpture. Longworth created portrait busts and idealised pieces in a softer more romantic neoclassical style than his father, but his interest soon waned, and Hiram sent him back to America.

Flora a sculpture by Longworth Powers
Flora (1880) is clearly indebted to Hiram Powers's allegorical busts but in a more romantic style

By 1860, Longworth was back in Florence and began working as a photographer. He was a great success, creating portraits of the prominent men and women in the city, as well as selling photographs of Florentine landmarks and works of art. He created a great many plaster busts of the famous and not so famous visitors and residents in Florence and bought himself a villino on Viale Poggio Imperiale, with an annex which he turned into a photographic studio.

The villa of Longworth Powers on Viale Poggio Imperiale
The villa and studio of Longworth Powers on Viale Poggio Imperiale


The Powers Villa in Florence - living room
The living room of the Powers villa in Florence - high Victorian!
Photographs and plaster busts by Longworth Powers still come up on the market. His photographic  his portfolio in preserved in the Gabinetto Vieusseux. Alas, a search of the Florence white pages suggests that the Powers family is extinct here.

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Sunday, 7 April 2019

Exhibition of drawings at the Museum Horne, Florence

A wonderful exhibition of drawings at the Museum Horne, Florence under the title "Souvenir d'Italie" has just opened and will continue to be on show until 30 July, 2019. These drawings, selected around the theme of travels in Italy, are from the collection of Herbert Horne.

exhibition of drawings at the Museum Horne, Florence
An exhibition of drawings at the Museum Horne, Florence until 30 July 2019

Herbert Percy Horne was born in London in 1864. He was an amazing man who crammed a huge amount into a tragically short life (he was only 52 years old when he passed away in Florence in 1916). Horne was an architect and a man of many interests in the fields of art, including font design, literature and music. He was an associate of the Rhymers' Club in London and he edited the magazines The Century Guild Hobby Horse and The Hobby Horse for the Century Guild of Artists.

Herbert Percy Horne
Herbert Percy Horne
Horne first visited Italy in 1889 and kept an illustrated journal of his travels, and art and architectural research. His monograph on Sandro Botticelli from 1908 is still recognised as of exceptional quality and thoroughness. Later in life, he settled in Florence, restoring a Renaissance palazzo into which he eventually moved. He donated his collection of arts and handicrafts of the 14 C and 15 C to create the Museo della Fondazione Horne in Florence.

A room in the Museo Horne, Florence
A room in the Museo Horne, Florence
The museum is housed in the Palazzo Corsi. The Palazzo, the seat of the Museo Horne since 1921, was built on the site of a 13 C building belonging to the Alberti family. It owes its current appearance to a plan for renovation and enlargement commissioned by the brothers Luigi and Simone Corsi from Simone del Pollaiolo, nicknamed ‘il Cronaca’, between 1495 and 1502. The Palazzo Corsi was the property of the Corsi for three centuries, until it passed to the Nencini family in 1812, then to the Fossi family, and in 1896 to the Burgisser family who sold it to Herbert Horne. Horne bought this 15 C “palagetto”, or small palace, in via de’ Benci in 1911 and proceeded to restore it with the aim of creating not so much a museum as a perfect example of the kind of house in which a wealthy Renaissance noble or merchant would have lived. The furnishing of the rooms was completed after his death in 1916 by Count Carlo Gamba and Giovanni Poggi.

A watercolour of the Arno at Firenze looking towards the Ponte alla Carraia, by John Thomas Serres 1790.
Detail of a watercolour of the Arno at Firenze looking towards the Ponte alla Carraia,by John Thomas Serres 1790.

"St. Stephen" by Giotto in the Horne Museum, Florence
"St. Stephen" by Giotto in the Horne Museum, Florence
The museum houses a unique and extremely valuable collection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, goldsmith’s work and other artefacts, furniture, plaquettes, seals, fabrics, cutlery and a variety of household and kitchen utensils dating back for the most part from the 14 C to 16 C. The Horne Museum should not be missed during a visit to Florence, and the current exhibition of drawings from Horne's collection makes a visit all the more worthwhile.

 
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Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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Thursday, 4 April 2019

Where to rent an e-bike in Tuscany?

As more and better models of e-bike (electric bike) become widely available in Tuscany, we are lucky enough to have access to a new and wonderful way to explore the Tuscan countryside. Standard bikes are already hugely popular in Tuscany, especially among male Tuscans of all ages as well as with many visitors. On weekends from Spring through Autumn, you can see them zooming along in their thousands over the scenic routes, especially the Chiantigiana highway that traverses Chianti between Florence and Sienna. The one adjective that applies to all of these riders is "fit".

cycling in Tuscany
White road cycling in Tuscany

Then there are the rest of us . . . keen on enjoying the outdoors and getting a bit of exercise but not quite up to tackling the Tuscan hills on racing bikes. Fear not, Dear Reader, the answer is nigh. The electric or assisted bicycle, commonly known as the e-bike or ebike, is a bicycle with pedals like an ordinary bike but with, in addition, a generator and an electric motor powered by accumulators (rechargeable batteries) which are recharged by the generator on downhill or easy, flat stretches. I tested one of these recently during a brief warmish spell and I can say that they're incredible. You can tackle the Chianti hill roads, including the unpaved strade bianche without breaking into a sweat (or perspiring, in the case of ladies). This really puts at your disposal the most attractive way to explore Tuscany outside the big art cities. Very little sound, fresh air blowing through your hair and the option to stop for a "photo opp" or a rest or lunch whenever the spirit moves you. Riding an e-bike really does bring you effortlessly into close contact with rural Tuscany.

Where to rent an e-bike in Tuscany?
E-bike in Tuscany

This brings us to the question of where to rent an e-bike in Tuscany. I have personal experience so far of just one e-bike rental agency in Chianti, namely Tuscany Limousine who are located in the pretty village of Gaiole in Chianti and can be recommended for anyone staying in the Chianti Classico wine area between Florence and Sienna. Tuscany e-Bike Rental snce rent e-bikes and you can arrange a guided e-bike tour with them. For a small fee, they will also bring your e-bikes to any location within a reasonable distance of Gaiole. Their service is very friendly and helpful, and you can rent or buy things like gloves, helmets, GPS systems etc. from them.

Their sister company, Tuscany Limousine, rent cars, with and without driver - one of the few car rental places outside of the big cities.

More about Tuscany e-bike rentals.

My post about self-guided bike tours in Tuscany.

Tuscany e-bike rentals


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 2017 - 2019. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Cooking lessons at our accommodation in Tuscany

Food definitely has to be one of the reasons to spend some time in Tuscany, and second to enjoying Tuscan cuisine comes the desire to know how to prepare a Tuscan meal. No doubt that's why I often receive enquiries about arranging "cooking lessons at our accommodation in Tuscany". Usually, my answer is first to try Le Cetinelle, Simonetta Landati's B&B in the Chianti hills above Greve in Chianti.

cooking lessons at our accommodation in Tuscany
Agriturismo Le Cetinelle Bed and Breakfast offers Tuscan cooking lessons to vacationers.
At Le Cetinelle, the Tuscan cooking classes are hands-on. When participating in a cooking lesson, you prepare and cook yourself under Simonetta's expert guidance in a very friendly and informal atmosphere. Whenever possible, fresh produce from the Le Cetinelle vegetable garden and orchard are used, plus, of course, their own Chianti Classico wine and extra virgin olive oil. Cooking classes can be arranged over 1, 2, 3 or more days and they usually start at 10 am for a lunch cooking lesson and 4 pm for a dinner lesson. This allows plenty of time for the lesson before you sit down to enjoy the products of your labours.
A Tuscan cookery class with Simonetta
A Tuscan cookery class with Simonetta
For those more interested in dining that cooking, Simonetta also prepares evening meals for those who are interested.

So if you're seeking very attractive and economical vacation accommodations with the opportunity to learn Tuscan cookery, Le Cetinelle is the place for you!

More about Tuscan cooking lessons at Le Cetinelle.




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