Archive for March, 2014

March 25, 2014

Pisa Cathedral turns 950

Pisa duomo2014 marks a milestone anniversary for Pisa Cathedral: 950 years have passed since its first stone was laid. One of the more significant projects is the restoration of the cathedral’s apse. Pisa’s department of cultural heritage and Rome’s institute of restoration and conservation will oversee the project, which is expected to be completed by December 2014.  The Piazza dei Miracoli  is recognized as an important center of European medieval art and one of the finest architectural complexes in the world.

 The square is dominated by four great sacred edifices: the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery). Partly paved and partly grassed, the Piazza dei Miracoli is also the site of the Ospedale Nuovo di Santo Spirito (New Hospital of the Holy Spirit), which houses the Sinopias Museum and the Cathedral Museum (Museo dell’Opera del Duomo). The square is sometimes called the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles). In 1987 the whole square was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other monuments scheduled to undergo restoration: through October 2014, the façade of the Museo delle Sinopie will be restored. The Museo dell’Opera will be renovated.

As Pierfrancesco Pacini, president of the Primaziale Pisana, the association that manages the monuments in Pisa’s famous piazza, explained, the project will ‘bring the piazza back to completion — in this piazza we have a great metaphor for Christian life: from the birth symbolism associated with the baptistery to the life represented by the cathedral with its bell tower, from the suffering implicit in the new hospital nearby to the idea of death in the monumental graveyard.’


March 7, 2014

March 8th – International Women’s Day

mimose-donne2International Women’s Day is this Saturday.   In Italy, Festa della Donna.  DONNA means woman. The plural is donne – women. If you want to celebrate Women’s Day the Italian way, give the women in your life a small bouquet of mimosa flowers.

To celebrate the 8th of March, International Women’s Day, women will be offered free entry to museums, villas, monuments, archeological sites, archives and libraries across Italy. This initiative seeks not only to increase  public interest towards art, but above all strives to honor the women who have contributed and continue to contribute to the world of art. Dozens of towns and cities throughout Italy will be celebrating Giorno Donna with special events.

 See more at:

March 6, 2014

New Class of Chianti Introduced

Raising the bar on Chianti wines – Chianti Classico Gran Selezione was just established  at the leading wine event Chianti Classico Collection, recently held at the Stazione Leopolda in Florence.  The new label will be awarded to only the best of Chianti Classico wines, judged to represent the pinnacle of Tuscan wine-making.

The difference lies in the time required to age the wine: vintage wines go on sale as few as 12 months after the grape harvest, Riserva wines must be refined for twice that time, whereas Gran Selezione wines may only be sold after 30 months, 3 of which the wine are in the bottle.

 Head of the Chianti Classico Consortium Giuseppe Liberatore said, ‘It is the uppermost echelon, which must adhere to strict rules and regulations, using the best grapes, which means that they cannot be purchased and put together if they come from different vineyards.’ He continued, ‘The presentation of the Gran Selezione brand gives a strong signal as far as quality is concerned.’     I’ll drink to that !

SALUTI !chianti_1

March 4, 2014

Florence’s less visited treasures..

Donatello at BargelloBargelloFlorence always surprises. Each visit offers you something new and special while the changing seasons offer different sights, colors, and flavorful foods. Florence’s major attractions always appeal but hidden treasures await your discovery, starting from lightly traveled side streets and charming squares to many lesser-known,  unfairly labeled “minor” museums. Include a few of these intimate museums right in the heart of the city on your next visit. All are within walking distance of its highlights such as Piazza della Signoria –the  Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia with it’s David, and the Duomo.  

Heading towards the San Lorenzo Market, with its folksy vendor stalls, we arrive at the Central Market, a haven for foodies.  Its 19th century ornamental metal framework makes for a fascinating food hall. At the rear of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, an especially beautiful church with an unfinished façade, you will find the entrance to the Medici Chapels, the family’s personal cemetery. Included is a beautiful crypt with the tombs of Dukes, the sumptuously decorated Chapel of the Princes with rich carvings dominated by the second largest dome in Florence. The New Sacristy, designed by Michelangelo, added more complex shapes and triumphal arches to Brunelleschi’s Old Sacristy creating tombs dedicated to Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, and his nephew Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino. It is a not-to-be-missed masterpiece!   Prebook entry to avoid lines.

A longtime favorite of mine, the Bargello Museum, an ancient fortified palace that was once the seat of the Council of Justice and a prison. It has an amazing interior courtyard with an impressive staircase leading to the first floor that hosts a significant art collection, including the David bronze statue by Donatello – a striking masterpiece of sculpture and first male nude from the Roman era – plus Bacchus by Michelangelo, as well as pottery, antique weapons, and jewelry.

The Galileo Museum, not far from the Uffizi,  formerly Museum for the History of Science, it has recently been completely renovated and illustrates the evolution of knowledge and scientific instruments from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. The collection includes extraordinary pieces such as Galileo’s telescopes, historic world maps and globes and a series of surprising amusements such as machines that create optical illusions.

Casa Buonarroti, Michelangelo’s family house that features the artist’s early works including the fine bas-relief of the Madonna della Scala (his first documented work) and especially the Centauromachy sculpted when he was just 16 years old. The museum also has an extensive gallery of sketches by Michelangelo, such as the facade of San Lorenzo, whose construction was left unfinished.

And just a stone’s throw from the Central Train Station, the Church of Santa Maria Novella,  with exceptional frescoes.   Always so many options when visiting Florence, that even if you’ve been a dozen times before, there’s still more to take in.

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