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Verso: Moving Towards Contemporary Art in Siena

October 9, 2015 by Donna Scharnagl

Logo Siena 2015

Siena is dedicating the month of October to the contemporary expression of art, music and dance with a long list of international participants who will invade the urban spaces of Siena and fill them with interpretations of their vision for a movement towards the future.

It is an immense challenge to transform a stage like that of Siena, which is so steeped in history, and show that it can be a setting for the inspiration and expression of today’s artistic community. Yet #SienaContemporanea with over 50 events planned throughout the city, will use its historical monuments and urban spaces to diffuse sculptures, performance, concerts and more in an effort to share this “movement” with the community.

Clet Abrahams, one of the featured artists in Siena Contemporanea, has been sending messages to the community for years about “moving forward”. It may have started as “fun” to encourage the onlooker to re-interpret their surroundings yet, he told Discover Tuscany his message is very clear: “Italy – even Europe – and their cities of art need to start moving towards a more contemporary use of their space and urban areas.”

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The Question: What’s Prato Italy?

September 30, 2015 by Donna Scharnagl

With the normal cynical approach one develops towards government run programs (free ones at that!), this is not the type of tour that I would have normally ventured upon. However, my friends and family will confirm, I am an eternal optimist. So I ventured forth.


That’s Prato” has earned its place as a well run, efficient and entertaining exception to the above stated cynicism. From the first email for a reservation to the final goodbye from our very personable tour guide, the day played out exactly as they said it would and I “discovered a Prato that I did not expect.”

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Who’s Behind Our Fabulous Photos of Florence?

September 29, 2015 by Lourdes Flores


To answer the question above: YOU!

If you follow us on our Instagram accounts for Florence and Tuscany, then you get to see a lot of awesome views from all over our beloved city of the Renaissance (and of Tuscany)! If you don’t follow us yet, make sure to start following us at @visit_florence and @discovertuscany! 😉 While we share our own pictures of Florence and Tuscany, we also reshare photos everyone shares and tagged with #visitflorence and #discovertuscany.

This Saturday, October 3, the Instagram community will have a worldwide “Instameet” (the 12th, to explain the hashtag a bit better): a chance to actually go out and meet others who post and share photos on the popular social photo platform.

Saturday, October 3, 3pm
Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Florence‬

Because we love Florence and taking photos of the city, we will also be there! If you’re in Florence on this first Saturday of October, come and join us! You’ll meet our team as well as other locals who share their love of Florence with the rest of the world through their photos.

Since we’re pushing the “social” side of this meetup, we’re using the tag #todayImet to seek out other wonderful people we might only know virtually up to now and make new friends. Then we’ll set off together to explore and discover new corners of the city. There are definitely many waiting to be explored.

So where? Meet us at 3pm in Piazza Santa Maria Novella on October 3 for the #wwim12firenze! No sign-ups, no registrations needed – just show up!

Theater in Florence: The History of Florence in 60 Minutes

September 25, 2015 by Donna Scharnagl

Silly, surprising and entertaining best sums up this rendition of 60 minutes of history. Not that you could even seriously begin to tell the story of Florence in one hour. And yet. The History of Florence in 60 Minutes has created a memorable comedy / musical / sometime serious play, giving the more important highlights of last 2000 years in this part of the Italian peninsula a breath of fresh air.

The show starts with sassy professoressa Celeste Bueno bursting into the theater, a room carved out of a genuine “palazzo” from the 1500’s.  She begins with a no nonsense presentation which makes you question if you really did sign up for a course of three months.  The humour begins subtly as you watch her deal with several obstacles – which turn out to be just all part of the ‘Italian’ experience. With a creative mix of fact, culture and laughter, she grudgingly makes use of her unplanned assistants (Roberto Andrioli and Fabrizio Checcacci) and proceeds to present Dante, Lorenzo, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci using an odd assortment of props and … a bit of song and dance.

It’s not like I can give the ending away (any tour guide or book can tell you how history plays out) … but then this production isn’t really about the story, rather it is about the delivery.  But I hesitate to say too much and take away the fun of the humor.

I had a few minutes to speak with actors, directors and play-writers Roberto Andrioli & Fabrizio Checcacci: “The difficulty was creating a story that would speak to many nationalities. We had to take into consideration that what’s funny in English, isn’t the same thing that’s funny in French.” And yet with my mixed cultural background, I can honestly say that I enjoyed each sparkling minute of the production.  A creative mix of corny one liners combined with musical games and play on words are spot on, delivering an evening of laughter.


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Opera del Duomo Museum Prepares for Grand Re-Opening

September 22, 2015 by Lourdes Flores

There is a lot of excitement in Florence as the grand re-opening of the Museum of the Opera del Duomo approaches on October 29th! Think works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Luca della Robbia, Andrea del Verrocchio and many others to admire once again, with 130 of them being restored for the new museum. I am super excited for the museum to reopen and to share several photos as the works of art start finding their new home within the museum this month!

Donatello’s Jeremiah still in his box

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European Heritage Days: Special Openings at Florence’s Museums

September 18, 2015 by Lourdes Flores

This weekend is a special one for anyone who loves art and culture and wants to spend some time at the museums! This Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 20, the “European Heritage Days” return to State museums in Florence. In addition to the usually longer opening hours (from 7pm to 11pm) of the Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi Gallery, entrance will only be a symbolic 1 euro!! Let’s take a look at the other proposals for the weekend at some of the other museums in Florence.

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The Uffizi Gallery reopens Halls 26-32 with late 15th century artworks

September 16, 2015 by Cristina Romeo


Starting Tuesday, September 15, visitors to the Uffizi Gallery will appreciate the new set-up of Halls 25 through 32, finally reopened to the public after several years of renovation works.

The rearrangement of these rooms has been made possible thanks to a substantial donation by the Salvadore Ferragamo company, which was founded in Florence, and has permitted the recovery of this section which is one of the oldest parts of the Uffizi, where the Medici foundry and the arsenal were once located in the 16th century. Read the rest of this entry »

The Chianti Classico Expo Wine Tasting

September 12, 2015 by Donna Scharnagl

Now is the time to grab a glass and stroll the Chianti Classico stands in the main square of Greve in Chianti where you can enjoy a bit of local color, bilingual wine presentations and 7 wine tastings for the cost of only 10 Euro. This year hosting over 60 select Chianti producers, the Chianti Classico Expo 2015 is in it’s 45th Edition!

Be sure to stop by and enjoy a day (or evening) of tasting and a delicious meal in the town square with Chianti Classico, Gran Selezione, Riserva, Vin Santo and more in a picture perfect setting among the vineyards of Chianti.


As you wander around this little town you will find not only wine but also food to taste and savour:  cheese, breads salami…even a tempting dark chocolate cream made with extra virgin olive oil!!

Take the time to stop and listen as each producer explains their production technique while you appreciate a glass (or two). All day (11am until 8 pm) Saturday 12th and (11am until 9 pm) Sunday 13th of September in the main square in the heart of wine land — Greve in Chianti.


Friday night was crisp and cool and the stands were full, celebrating with smiles, tastings and stories about their wine production, cantinas and their vineyards.


Absolutely the best way to discover the true meaning of Chianti Classio.

A Show to Inspire You About Florence & its Treasures

September 9, 2015 by Lourdes Flores

Whether you’re planning a trip to Florence or just looking around at what to see, you will very soon run into the name “Medici”. You’ll find phrases that indicate “the Medici did this” or “the Medici did that” or run into palaces that carry the Medici name. You’ll very quickly realize the Medici was an important family in Florence but it wasn’t any family: it was the Medici that made Florence what it is even today. That is not much of an overstatement, either.

While I have been living in Florence for years and know how important the Medici was to Florence, I still cannot get most of the clan straight in my head. So when we were recently invited to go to see the new “Medici Dynasty Show“, I was quite excited at the idea of seeing what it was all about. Since I know everyone who visits Florence runs into the Medici crest (with six round balls) all over the city and hears over and over the family name without fully understanding how everything is connected, I was hoping the show could help even me make better sense of the family and it’s history – and it does that and more!

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Fun in Lucca includes Wine Tasting

September 8, 2015 by Donna Scharnagl


Nothing like a bit of necessity to help you discover a new surprise in Tuscany! A dear friend from high school drops in with his (entire) family…and where am I going to take them?

His brother-in-law wants Pisa, his parents prefer not to walk too much, his sister loves small towns, his nephew is curious to do some (serious) wine tasting and my friend…he just wants to relax and not be responsible for … anything.

Is it even possible to satisfy them all in one afternoon?

The challenge was on – and I do love a good challenge!!


When in Florence Don’t Forget the Piazzale

I couldn’t have them start this day off without have a look at one of the most perfect sites in Florence.  Therefore first things first, when we left Florence we took in an early morning view of the skyline, including Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo at the still quiet Piazzale Michelangelo.  And since it is a personal favorite on mine, I had the driver (wonderfully patient man!!) take us up to San Minato to enjoy the view from there and admire the incredibly beautiful facade from the car.

Next Stop, Lean to the South

My objective was to get in and out of Pisa early in the morning to avoid long lines and ensure the best photo opportunities. For those with just a little more time and let’s face it stamina for all 296 steps and 6° slant to the south, it is highly suggested to book tickets in advance for the tower so that you don’t have to wait for your entrance and lose the time just “hanging”.


You can easily plan an hour just enjoying the incredible views in Piazza dei Miracoli and why not, lots of wonderful photo opportunities (yes that would include the typical “holding the tower up” – too silly for words). Even with two wheelchairs in tow, the Square was easy to navigate with several ramps up and down the external marble steps bordering the Cathedral, the Baptistry and the Camposanto walls. It definitely helped that we had a private driver – who parked the car practically in the shadow of the Tower; this authorized only parking made it a breeze to unload, walk around and pop out all under an hour.


Easy on the Eye and the Wheelchair

Next stop was Lucca, a panoramic 30 minute trip in the car climbing the “hill” that separates Pisa and Lucca to quickly slide right into Piazza Napoleone.  Again, the wheelchairs were (fairly) easy to use here. Yes, there are several cobbled stone streets but they are in good condition and maneuvering the streets was no stress – especially nice were the availability of public bathrooms – clean and accommodating for those with mobility issues. Our time here included a stroll thru the almost sleepy streets of Lucca, to see the Duomo, the shops, picturesque cafes and even bit of the walls. Perhaps we were a bit fast but it didn’t diminish the pleasure of being surprised at every corner with yet another architectural beauty. We enjoyed a leisurely pace and were able to appreciate the atmosphere of Lucca – warm, friendly and authentic.

Once again our driver, Simone, proved to be worth his weight in gold; a private driver was the key to a prime spot for us to load and unload without wasting any of our precious time.

Now We Need Something that Goes Down Easy

We resisted the urge to pick out one of the delicious looking restaurants and proceeded to meet up with Samanta at Fattoria del Teso for a special wine tasting lunch. The romantic entrance to the Fattoria started with a Mediterranean pine tree lined driveway with the vineyards stretching out on either side (which even impressed our driver – who has seen quite bit of Tuscany!)


Immediately we were caught up in the excitement of discovering the flavours of Montecarlo, the wine region of Lucca. Samanta invited us to sit down in a huge cantina surrounded by more than 50 wooden “botte” , where we had the opportunity to appreciate the aromatic extra virgin olive oil, the rich and subtle flavors of 4 wines, vin santo (and for the more courageous a grappa). She took her time to carefully explain the characteristics of each wine and the selection of exceptional local suppliers of salumi, cheese and pasta.

Among the explanations of how, why and what we were eating (and of course drinking!) we settled into the fun of the experience, unwinding a bit from the time on the road and the early morning wake-up call. By the end of the meal we had selected our favorite bottles to take home, made friends with the newlyweds at the table next to ours and made new friends with Samanta and Laura, our hostesses.


At the end of the day the vote was definitely all thumbs up! We covered everything and didn’t leave anyone behind.  A special thanks to my travelling companions who made it all the more fun!