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InContrada, A Chance to Go Inside the Contradas in Siena

November 25, 2014 by Lourdes Flores
Palio in Costume

The Palio in Historical Costumes - Photo credit Giulia Brogi

One of the first things that comes to mind when one thinks of Siena is the Palio.

The Palio horse race is run twice every year, on July 2nd and August 16th, around the Piazza del Campo.
All of Siena comes out to participate and celebrate on those days, hoping for a victory to show off and rub at their “enemy” contrada for the rest of the year. There are many tourists that come to see and experience the atmosphere in Siena on the days of the Palio, and visitors are welcome. But one of the most important things to remember about the Palio is that it is NOT a tourist event and that it is not a show put on for outsiders. It is an event around which Sienese build their entire life around, year in and year out. A Siena citizen is born into and baptized into a Contrada and they are members for life! There are rival Contradas as well as alliances between Contradas (something we will try to explain further in an upcoming article) and these influence your life – if you’re a citizen of Siena, of course!

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Waiting for a tasty weekend in Florence

November 21, 2014 by Cristina Romeo

The Biennale Enogastronomica Fiorentina is certainly one of the more interesting events taking place this November in Florence, as wehad already written in this article about the main initiatives of the month but this weekend of the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of November seems to be particularly intriguing.

Aromas and flavors are going to invade two wonderful locations, Piazza Santa Maria Novella and the Tepidarium Roster in the Horticultural Garden with two foodie events that I strongly recommend you experience!

The Market of Flavors and Crafts

Starting today and continuing this Saturday and Sunday, from 9am to 9pm in Piazza Santa Maria Novella you will find the “Market of the Flavors and Crafts” (Mercato dei sapori e dei mestieri) that will offer visitors and Florentines alike a selection of food delicacies and excellent crafts made in Tuscany and beyond. Admission is free.
Perfect for starting your Christmas shopping, right?
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Crazy for the Pazzi in Santa Croce

November 18, 2014 by Lourdes Flores

I love the Franciscan Basilica of Santa Croce, every time I go back I have a chance to remind myself of why this is so: from the wonderfully colorful frescoes in the Cappella Maggiore by Agnolo Gaddi to those in the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels by Giotto (which don’t seem to have been painted over 600 years ago) to the inspiring monuments and tombs of some of the greatest Italians of our past – including Michelangelo! The last 10 years have seen lots of renovations and changes within the museum; every visit to Santa Croce just keeps getting better as you can enjoy works you’ve seen before but in a new light, including the new placement of Giotto’s heavily 1966 flood-damaged Crucifix in the Sacristy.

The next restoration project

Continuing with renovation works, the 15th century Loggia of the Pazzi Chapel designed by Brunelleschi is next in line and truly innovative is the way public support is being called to help raise the remaining funds missing for the project. Yesterday, the Opera di Santa Croce launched a truly unique crowdfunding project called #CrazyforPazzi on Kickstarter, the largest platform for crowdfunding on the Internet today. Anyone can thus pledge any amount over a dollar although there are set amounts that will get you rewards, such as family tickets, lithographs, commemorative medals, private visits to the restoration site and an invitation to the inaugural event for sponsors when restoration is complete.

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Several Tuscan restaurants enter into the new Michelin guide 2015

November 6, 2014 by Cristina Romeo

On Tuesday, November 4, the new Italian edition of the Michelin Guide for 2015 was presented, one of the most cited food reference guides in the world. The famous red guide dedicated to the best Italian restaurants this year celebrates 60 years and moves with the times, becoming even an APP that will be launched soon.

The Michelin guide takes a look at a number of Italian restaurants, awarding the most deserving of the coveted Michelin “stars” (stars can be from one to three). Among more than 6000 restaurants rated by the reviewers of the guide, just over 300 this year have received valuable recognition, which identifies the true gastronomic delights in our beautiful country.

There are great news, or more correctly “yummy good” news for Tuscan restaurants that will have foodies looking for new destinations during their time in Tuscany.
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Urban Trekking: Getting to Know the Towns through City Walks

October 23, 2014 by Lourdes Flores

In it’s 11th edition, “Trekking Urbano” is a national day when several towns across all of Italy organize guided walking visits of their town to explore their town, including known and off-the-beaten-path areas of town. Siena in Tuscany was one of the first cities in Italy to adopt this initiative, and has developed several itineraries every year to explore the beautiful medieval town, each with a slightly different theme.

This fall, the Urban Trekking National Day falls on Friday, October 31st. In Tuscany, three towns are participating: Manciano, Pistoia and Siena. This edition’s theme is a day of remembrance of the history and impact of the Great War (as World War 1 is remembered) on these towns, 100 years since it first began. Each of the towns was touched in a different way and thus each itinerary is quite unique.

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Picasso and Spanish Modernity at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence

October 20, 2014 by Cristina Romeo

One of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, Pablo Picasso, is the protagonist of an interesting exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence.
The exhibition, entitled “Picasso and Spanish Modernity”, offers the opportunity to see up close some significant works of Picasso and other Spanish contemporary artists associated with him, mostly from the famous Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.

I had the opportunity to participate in a guided visit of the exhibition on the occasion of the blog tour #PabloalMercato and I must say that being in front of the works of Picasso cannot leave you indifferent, especially if you can set them into the historical, social and personal context where they were created.
Visiting the exhibition with a guide certainly allowed me to appreciate it at its best, but thanks to the descriptions (in several languages, I might add) that accompany the various works you can understand all of the works even on your own, giving you more space to space out your visit according to your personal tastes and to the emotions they might evoke.

In particular, two versions of “The Painter and the Model” (which you can see one above) open and close the show, which is a perfect way to express in a metaphor the creative process, which for Picasso was inspired by the love he also felt for them.
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General Strikes in October and November 2014

October 18, 2014 by Lourdes Flores

Unfortunately for us and visitors to Italy and Tuscany, fall and winter is when Italian unions decide to show their strength and political clout by announcing general strikes that paralyze the country. These impact all sectors of transport: the airports, ferries, trains and buses. Fortunately, the “hot” days are not that many; we’re sharing what has been communicated so far so that you can check whether it affects your travel days and thus plan accordingly around them.

The first one has been called for October 24th, as a general strike involving all public and private transport. The second one falls between November 14-15th and will involve airlines, trains and maritime transports. Here’s a bit more details on the days of strikes.

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The Giant of the Apennines returns to dominate the Medicean Park of Pratolino

October 17, 2014 by Cristina Romeo

After a long restoration, a magnificent work of art will once again be finally visible to the public at the Medicean Park of Pratolino found just to the north of Florence: the imposing Giant Apennine created by Giambologna between 1579 and 1580.

The official presentation of the Colossus of the Apennines will be this Sunday, October 19th and for the occasion, the Park is organizing several free initiatives open to everyone.

On Sunday morning at 10:30am in front of the Giant Apennine some experts will tell us more about the work of restoration of the statue and highlight several new itineraries just opened to the public inside the Park.

From 12pm to 6pm there will be a series of excursions and guided tours conducted by environmental guides. To participate in these activities, you just need to book them at the Locanda (Inn) of the Park upon your arrival. I do believe all of the guided activities are in Italian only; however it would still be interesting to join in if you can.
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Travel by Slow Steam Train to a Local Festival near Siena

October 10, 2014 by Helle D. Rasmussen

Do you want to experience Tuscany in the fall in a very special, unique way? How about taking a steam train?! Not even many locals have experienced this way of enjoying Tuscany, as times have changed and many prefer to drive. But a day trip in this manner allows you to slow down, enjoy the scents of the countryside and enjoy a local festival in a way that reminds us of a time long-past.

The steam train takes you slowly through the Tuscan landscape, letting you enjoy every part of it arriving at a village where you will join a local festival. This will of course offer local food and drink (wine) before taking you back again in the afternoon.

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Following Picasso in Florence: from the Mercato Centrale to Palazzo Strozzi

September 25, 2014 by Cristina Romeo

Those who follow us on Facebook and Instagram have already seen a preview of #pabloalmercato, a tour held last Friday in Florence which led us to Palazzo Strozzi, where a wonderful exhibition dedicated to Picasso and other leading Spanish artists has just opened and to the Mercato Centrale (Central Market), a recently renovated Florentine historical market that has become one of the most innovative gastronomic spaces in the city since this late spring.

For the exhibition “Picasso and Spanish Modernity” which just opened on Saturday September 20th, Palazzo Strozzi and the Mercato Centrale have formed a special partnership that will surely be greatly appreciated by visitors to both spaces. With “Pablo al Mercato” (Pablo at the Market), the exhibition of Picasso enters directly inside the Mercato Centrale. On the first floor, visitors will be able to admire special posters and drawings that reinterpret the market and its artisans in the style of Picasso – we found them very cool!

The collaboration between the museum and the Central Market is not accidental. It actually seems that Picasso was very attracted by the colors and scents of the market (built in 1874 in iron, glass and stone) and that during his visit to Florence in 1949, he was literally fascinated by the stalls of the fishmongers and by the rich shades of color found in their fish.
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