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.


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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.



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Wednesday, 19 May 2021

When will Italy be open to visitors again?

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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Friday, 7 May 2021

Bargello Museum in Florence re-opens: Sala degli Avori (Room of the Ivories) re-organised

To me, the Bargello Museum of Florence is one of the most under-appreciated art collections in the world. There are bigger museums without a doubt but many of them require a pair of roller blades to visit. The Bargello is intimate and human in scale, and stuffed with masterpieces, both Florentine and especially pieces collected by Florentines from elsewhere. On no account miss it when you visit Florence.

After being closed for several months on account of the corvid pandemic, the Bargello is open once again and with a completely re-organised Sala degli Avori (Room of the Ivories), now completed after six years of work. 

Bargello Museum room of the ivories

 The Room of the Ivories in the Bargello Museum, Florence

The exhibition layout has been completely re-organised and includes the display of works that were previously kept in the archives, among them a valuable Baroque crucifix that is back on display after almost a century in dark obscurity. The collection of works in ivory covers 15 centuries, ranging from rare Etruscan and Roman objects to 19 C artefacts. There are about 250 works on display, in a wide variety of styles and from both Eastern and Western civilisations. The displayed works of art now have labels in English in addition to Italian. 

Byzantine ivories in the Bargello Museum, Florence

 Byzantine ivories in the Bargello Museum, Florence

The Sala degli Avori is located on the first floor of the Bargello and exhibits precious and historic ivories such as a diptych with scenes from the life of Saint Paul and Adam in the earthly paradise and a plaque with the Byzantine Empress. Other works include the rare Carolingian Flabellum from the abbey of Tournus, the Olifante of Sainte-Chapelle, donated to the king of France in 1274, as well as mediaeval paintings, mosaics and sculptures.

Ivory mirror in the Bargello Sala degli Avori

Ivory mirror in the Bargello Sala degli Avori

Many of the art works that comprise the Bargello's ivory collection are the legacy of the Lyonnaise antique dealer Louis Carrand who, on his death in 1888, gifted to the Bargello almost 2,600 works, including sculptures, jewels, paintings and fabrics. Other ivories in the collection come from 19 C purchases and from historic Florentine Grand-Ducal collections.


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Travel Guide!

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Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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