Tuesday, 6 April 2021

When will Italy be open to visitors again?

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 just 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 July 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, 1 April 2021

Tuscany celebrates the 700th anniversary of Dante's death

The year 2021 is the 700th anniversary of Dante's death. Throughout the year there will be events and celebrations of the great poet. If I were asked whose life marks the boundary in literature between the Mediaeval world and the Modern world, I would be hard put to choose between Shakespeare and Dante, even though Shakespeare died 300 years after Dante.

In any case, I will be posting here items about Dante that appeal to me, starting today with the report of the discovery of two triplets from the Divine Comedy that are not present in the current canonical text

In the holdings of the National Library in Florence, an incunabulum, printed in Venice on 1 April 1493, has been found containing one of the very first printed editions of the Divine Comedy, which, in addition to showing interesting variations to the currently known text, presents two triplets totally unknown until today. The verses refer to Canto VI of Purgatory, in which Dante has a vision of the future - or so the Comune of Florence would have us believe, according to their Instagram page (where else?).

Quando si parte il gioco della Viola,
Colui che perde si riman dolente
E il tristo colpo gli rimane in gola:
Ben lo imparò la bianconera gente,
La qual, credendo andare innanzi,
ratto lo gol in sua rete si trova.

HOWEVER, please note that this announcement was made on 1 April!

Here's my rough translation:

When the game of the Viola begins,
He who loses remains sore
And the sad blow stays stuck in his throat:
The Black and White people learned it well,
Those who, thinking to advance,
Find a rat has placed a goal in their net.

Here's what lies behind this joke:

The ancient aversion of Fiorentina (Viola - Florence) to Juventus (Black and White - Turin) dates back to 1928, the first competitive fixture between the two clubs. On 7 October of that year, in fact, in Turin, the Bianconeri defeated the Viola team, winning 11-0. The next day a Turin newspaper headlined: "Firenze, un…dici nulla?" "Florence, uh ... are you not saying anything?", a pun on 11 (undici) to 0 (nulla), the final score in favour of Turin - an affront never forgotten by the Viola fans.

Oh - and here's the manuscript - strange that in Venice in 1493 they embossed ACF and the Fleur de Lis of Florence on the cover!

See you here in Tuscany soon!

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Monday, 4 January 2021

Visit Tuscany in winter

Visit Tuscany in winter
Winter in Tuscany - it's not always this snowy!
Now seems an appropriate moment to discuss the question of whether to visit Tuscany in winter. The final answer will be a strong 'yes', but let's look at the details. Cons first. Days are short, meaning that you're likely to set out and return from a day of sightseeing in the dark. Weather can be very cold so gloves, scarves and warm coats are necessary. Could be snowy roads at higher altitudes. The larger vacation villas will be closed because of the cost of heating them, and you will need to take care about who pays the heating costs wherever you stay. Pros. Often brilliantly clear days with magnificent views into the distance. No tourist crowds. Despite fewer offerings, accommodation will be easy to find and might have low season prices or heating included. South-facing terraces can be quite warm in the middle of a clear day - definitely warm enough to sit out and enjoy the view. The opportunity to enjoy major features of 'the real Tuscany' such as meals based around the hunting and truffle seasons, enjoying the evening at home or in a restaurant in front of a roaring fire. And of course plenty of Christmas and New Years celebrations, private and public. New Year's Eve in Florence is well worth a visit. So yes - it's well worth spending some time in Tuscany during winter.

Florence in winter
The Duomo of Florence during winter 2013

There's plenty of winter accommodation listed on the Greve in Chianti web site. These are all owner direct offerings, so you're getting the best prices, and Greve is the centre and market town of the Chianti Classico wine zone between Florence and Sienna.

Abbey of Sant'Antimo near Montalcino

And this is the beautiful Abbey of Sant'Antimo during January 2021.

And there are no mosquitoes in winter!

Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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Tuscany vacation accommodations with handicapped access

Tuscany is high on the list of travel destinations that are friendly to the elderly and those with mobility limitations, especially since laws were introduced several years ago regarding provision of suitable facilities for the physically handicapped. I'm often asked for information about Tuscany vacation accommodations with handicapped access. One important piece of information everyone should take account of is that Tuscan farmhouses ("villas") and sometimes genuine villas are characterised by numerous steps and steep staircases. For this reason, if your mobility is impaired, read the descriptions of rural vacation accommodations in Tuscany with care and feel free to ask the owners detailed questions. This is one of the several reasons to rent owner-direct, by the way. Agencies rarely have the kind of information you need.

Tuscan vacation accommodation handicapped accessibility
A fairly frequent sight in Tuscany - this you don't want if moving around isn't all that easy for you.
Step-free or almost step-free agriturismi and other rural holiday homes are definitely available. Today I want to describe one of them which has recently been renovated and which enjoys one of the most beautiful locations in Tuscany. This is Agriturismo Felciano, a cottage with two large double rooms and a large living-dining room, situated on a winery near Panzano, in the famous Conca d'Oro.

Accommodation in Tuscany for mobility impaired visitors
Agriturismo Felciani - an ideal Tuscan vacation location for anyone with mobility problems.
Agriturismo Felciano has a large terrace in front of the entry and flat ground round about, including the location of the gazebo. There is one very slight step at the large entrance and none at all inside the cottage. Of the two modern bathrooms, one is fully-equipped for handicapped accessibility. You can bring your car right up to the terrace.

In addition to being able to buy your Chianti Classico wine directly from the cask and extravergine olive oil by the bottle, you can buy Tuscan saffron grown on the Felciano farm.

Click here to visit the Agriturismo Felciano website.

More about Panzano in Chianti.

Vacation accommodation in Tuscany
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Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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