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Archive for the ‘Day Trips from Florence Italy’ Category

Santa Maria Nuova Facade

As of December 15, 2015, those who seek an opportunity to discover an incredible collection of art in Florence now have a wonderful option: the Ospedale Santa Maria Nuova. This, the oldest hospital in Florence, now offers guided visits to some of is vast collection of treasures.

Arcispedale_di_santa_maria_nuova,_affreschi_di_antonio_pomarancio,_1614,_strage_degli_innocenti

Fresco by Antonio Pomarancio – 1614

The hospital was founded in 1288 by the father of Dante’s beloved Beatrice, Folco Portinari. He was asked to build the edifice after being approached by the matriarch of the founder’s family, Monna Tessa.

 

Over the centuries, donations have been made to the hospital in thanks for the care and service provided to various families.The rich variety of art  include works by Pietro di Niccolò Gerini, Andrea del Castagno, Della Robbia, Bernardo Buontalenti, and Pomarancio. Visits to this complex offer visitors rare glimpses of an invaluable, little-known, collection of renaissance treasures.

213-483px-Del_Castagno_Andrea_Crucifixion_and_Saints

Andrea del Castango, Crucifixion with Saints

Architecturally, the beauty of the structures, interior arches and various vast superb rooms with ceilings covered in frescoes, add yet another dimension to your visit.

Your visit to Santa Maria Nuova takes you through  many places of historical and artistic interest; the entrance to the area dedicated to Spedalinghi Hospital and the ” Hall of Crosses “, the cloisters of the ” Medicherie ” and ” Bones ” as well as the Church of Sant’Egidio , with its adjoining women’s gallery which once was the area reserved for nuns to attend religious services

In order to visit the Osepdale, you will need to contact them directly through the links below. Tours are organized with no more than twenty in a group, and are always lead by a guide so that the privacy of patients is observed and the size of groups well controlled.

To arrange your visit, here are details:

Address: Piazza Santa Maria Nuova, 1, 50122 Firenze, Italy

Visits last 40 to 50 minutes and groups can be no larger than 20. A professional guide always accompanies the group.

Reservation number, exclusively for these tours:  055 20.01.586
Tours are available to schedule from 9.00 – 13.00 / 14.00 – 18.00
Saturday, 9.00 – 13.00
Email: info@exclusiveconnection.it

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Palazzo dell Archiginassio BolognaYes, it is a tongue twister, this gorgeous palazzo in the center of Bologna – Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio (Arkey-je-nah’-see-oh).

This was once the main building of the University of Bologna, Italy’s oldest university.

With the Cathedral of San Petronio, once a church well on its way to outsize St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Fountain of Neptune and the food of Bologna to temp you, why visit? Read on.

The University was founded in 1088. It was not until 1563, when Pope Pius IV commissioned the construction of the Palazzo, that all university classes were consolidated.  Until then. classes were housed in various locations across the city. The facade of the Palazzo provides only a hint at the beauty within.

What draws many visitors to this fascinating and historic structure is the Anatomical Theater located on the second level of the palazzo.

Gli Spellati, Teatro Anatomico Archiginassio Bologna

Gli Spellati, Teatro Anatomico
Archiginassio Bologna

In 1637, Antonio Levanti was given the commission to build the theater, first of its kind in Italy. Constructed in both cedar and cypress wood, the theater was used for the first student human dissections permitted in Italy. The “Doctor” as the professor was called, sat on a special seat above the operating area. A large baldaquin rose above him,  upheld by carved figures of men with no skin on their bodies – called ‘gli spellati’ in Italian – created by Ercole Lelli. As morose as it may sound, the figures are beautifully carved, as are the busts and other figures in the theater.

Curiosity follows curiosity in this historic room. Statues of the most prominent physicians of Greece and Rome, Hippocrates and Galen, grace the front corners of the room. Directly across from the Doctors seat, above the theater seats, is a small door (often unnoticed by visitors). It was during the twenty-four hour dissections that members of the Dominican Inquisition would open the panel, observe and judge whether or not the teachings were heretical.

Under the watchful gaze of those judging eyes, the Doctor’s three meter pointer would be used to instruct the students in various important details about anatomy. If any of the teachings were judged inappropriate, the Doctor would have to pause instruction, then debate and defend his position.

Seat of the Doctor Archiginassio Bologna

Anatomical Theater, Archiginassio
Antonio Levante, 1637

Travelers have wondered why cedar and cypress were used to construct the theater. One only need imagine twenty four hour dissections, conducted with no break (and no opportunity to leave the room), to imagine why fragrant and odor absorptive woods were used.

In 1838, the gorgeous open rooms that once housed the University library became the home of the Communal Library for the city of Bologna. See IF YOU GO below for details about visiting the library.

This is certainly a unique and unusual corner of Bologna.

So, when you visit the city and have completed your time at the Duomo and the food market areas of the city, I highly recommend a visit to both the library of Bologna as well as the Teatro Anatomico in the Palazzo dell’Archiginassio.

IF YOU GO:

Palazzo dell’Archiginassio:

Both the Palace (including the library) and the Teatro Anatomico are open Monday through  Friday from 09:00AM to 18:45 (6:45PM). On Saturday, hours are 09:00AM to 13:45 (1:45PM). On Sundays and Holy/Festival days the building is closed to the public.

NOTE: From 1 to 24 August, the building is open only between the hours of 09:00AM and 14:00 (2:00PM) Monday through Saturday. Sundays and Holy Days/Festivals the building is closed.

Library

Over 38,000 manuscripts and incunabula, along with other objects, are now housed in the library. It is open to the public. However, you must leave your backpacks and books behind in a secure area when you register at the front desk. The only exception to allowing computers and other items in the library is if you present a letter of research from a college or university.

Teatro Anatomico:

The Anatomical Theater can be visited at any time during the palazzo’s open hours.

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Mantua?Palazzo Te View

Yes, Mantua.

Yet another of Italy’s surprises await those willing to get off the beaten path and visit one of the country’s little-known treasures, the Palazzo Te. The city is only eighteen miles south of Verona, easily reached by way of the E45 Autostrada.

Mantua was established on the banks of the Mincio River, a tributary of the Po River. At that time, the town was surrounded by mosquito infested marsh and swamp.

During the 12th Century, the river was widened and the flow controlled so that four lakes were created. Three of those original lakes remain to this day.

The Gonzaga Family began their rise to political leadership of the city during the latter part of the 15th Century. Fortunes of the family improved as a result of visits by popes and the raising of a family member to the papacy. The family’s male leadership were famous condottieri – paid soldier/leaders. It was one of the desires of the first Grand Duke of Mantua, Duke Federigo II Gonzaga, to build a villa suburbana, on the scale of an ancient roman emperor’s, on a location just outside the city proper. He commissioned Giulio Romano to design and construct the Palazzo Te.

Vault, Sala dei Giganti Palazzo Te, Mantua

Vault, Sala dei Giganti
Palazzo Te, Mantua

Romano, a student of Raphael, designed and supervised the construction of the Palazzo over the course of only eighteen months. It was between 1524 and 1534, after the shell of the structure was completed, that a veritable army of plasterers, frescoists, artists and designers began the ten year task of covering nearly every interior inch of the building in the highest quality flooring, furnishings and paintings.

Sala dei Psychie Palazzo Te, Mantua

Sala dei Psychie
Palazzo Te, Mantua

The most famous of the fresco covered rooms in the Palazzo are the “Sala de Psychie”, a fresco covered room dedicated to the story of Psyche and Cupid and the “Sala dei Giganti”, the Room of the Giants. The frescoes are gorgeous, intricate. In the case of the Sala dei Giganti, the scale of the figures creates a strange and intended effect; you seem smaller once you stand in the chamber. In the vault, The Assembly of Gods cavort and frolic around the throne of Jupiter. Vasari, in one of his numerous writings, referred to this chamber as an ‘oven’ and, in summer, the word seems wholly appropriate.

This is a destination for visitors not to be missed. So, plan a visit off the typical ‘grand tour’ of Italy and discover the treasures of this splendid Palazzo in Manuta!

Sala dei Giganti View Palazzo Te, Manuta

Sala dei Giganti
View
Palazzo Te, Manuta

IF YOU GO:

The best time to visit the Palazzo is in the cooler months of November through March. Summer months are very warm in Mantua and on the Veneto plain, so comfortable clothing is a necessity if you go during those months.

Train Service

Mantua is served by Trenitalia with easy connections from Bologna, Venice and – for a full day’s excursion – from Florence.

Refer to the Trenitalia web site below for routings, times and pricing:

Web: Trenitalia

Palazzo Te, Manuta

Entrance tickets: Euro 8.00 per person

Web: Palazzo Te

Hours:

Hours:
Monday 1:00PM to 6:00PM
 
Tuesday – Sunday, 9:00 am–6:00 pm
Phone: +39 0376 323266
Address: Viale Te, 13, 46100 Mantova, Italy
 
 

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The Hills of Tuscany

 

We are very pleased to announce a substantial reduction in the price for photography workshop participants. After renegotiating with vendors in Italy, and with Private Italy’s Italian support team, we are now offering this exceptional workshop for $2950.00 per person, land only. This is a nearly $1000.00 per participant reduction from our prior announced price and in no way affects the quality or itinerary of the workshop.

If you book before January 31, 2013, there is an additional $100.00 per person discount applied to the workshop price.

JOIN US!

There are few words on earth that evoke a sense of place more than “Tuscany.”

Visions of villas gold flecked in long afternoon light, hillsides of patterned olive trees, vines bearing luscious Sangiovese grape and hilltop villages whose towers pierce cerulean blue skies are all yours to capture during this photography workshop.

Our first few days are spent within, or close to, the Renaissance city of Florence. The workshop venues balance the well-known with some surprising corners of a city whose narrow lanes and quiet corners offer keen insights into Italy’s elusive beauty.

During the second part of this workshop, we move to a quiet retreat in the hills of central Tuscany. Villas, medieval abbeys, the pattern of cobble-stoned streets and the glory of Italy’s elusive, special luminance await your discerning and creative vision.

Classic Italia – Florence

This is a limited opportunity to join a group of like-minded, passionate, photographers who will learn from world-renowned photographer and teacher, David Simchock. With time for expert critique both during and after days of work ‘in the field’, this workshop will inspire you and expand your creative comfort zone. The texture of earth, the subtle play of light on stucco and stone, luxuriant gardens and the natural palette of one of the most beautiful places on earth are waiting for you.

For full details about this rewarding workshop, including our itinerary and pricing, visit 2013 Photography Workshop in Florence & Tuscany

We look forward to your joining us in bella Italia!

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Ponte Santa Trinita Florence

Ponte Santa Trinita Florence

We walk across them everyday, these beautiful bridge of Florence, yet rarely if ever do we take the time to reflect on their history and beauty. I wanted to create a post about one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, the Ponte Santa Trinita.

She has been destroyed by the Arno River’s fury three times in her history. Near the end of World War II, she was destroyed by man’s hands in the name of war. Yet, she survives. Her sunrise golden spans arching across her purpose, and her sunset shimmering reflection reason for pause.

As the city of Florence has grown, so has the number of bridges that span the Arno River. Once a heavily used source of commerce, the river has remained as unpredictable and temperamental as she has ever been. During the early 13th Century, a wooden bridge that stood for nearly fifty years was swept away in a flood. Replaced based on a design by Renaissance architect Taddeo Gaddi (his design offered a total of five arches across the river), the river again claimed it in a flood in the mid-16th Century.

A promising architect by the name of Bartolomeo Ammannati, who was born in Settignano, a town well known to Michelangelo, was commissioned in 1569 to create a bridge that would, with all of that time’s engineering knowledge, withstand future floods. Ammannati studied under Jacopo Sansovino , a passionate student of Michelangelo’s structural designs.  Bartolomeo proposed a design of three wide and shallow arches, graceful and strong, to cross the river.

Architect plan Ponte Santa Trinita
Ammannati designed prow-like supports for the bridge. These have been the saving graces for all of the floods that have followed the bridge’s construction. Water, fast moving or slow, is directed away from the supports and directs the strongest currents and all of the detritus that floods bring between the arches and away from further damage to the structure.
Over the course of the next four hundred years, the bridge remained strong. It took the hand of man, in August 1944, to destroy the bridge. As the German’s retreated north along the Italian peninsula, one of their primary goals was to slow the allied advances. On August 8th of 1944, the Germans blew up all of the bridges across the Arno, yet thankfully saved the Ponte Vecchio. It was not until 1958, after excavations retrieved most of the original stones (some additional stones required were quarried from the same quarry used by the Renaissance builders), from the riverbed.
Primavera Ponte Santa Trinita Florence

Pimavera-Spring
Ponte Santa Trinita
Pietro Francavilla

What happened to the head? An interesting mystery.

As part of the celebrations for the marriage of Grand Duke Ferdinand I de Medici and Christine of Lorraine, four statues the represented Roman Gods were placed at each corner of the bridge. The four statues were temporary and, after the festivities concluded, sculptors were named to carve four marble statues representing the four seasons to replace those temporary pieces: Fall (Giovanni Caccini) and Winter (Taddeo Landini) on the Otrarno (south) side, with Spring (Pietro Francavilla) and Summer (Giovanni Caccini) on the Santa Trinita (north) side of the bridge.
The only piece missing, after the German destruction and the 1958 restoration, was the head of the statue of Spring.
If there is a group of art experts in the world who can locate and restore missing pieces of art, it is the Italians. The search continued until 1961 when an excavator discovered the missing head, deeply buried in the centuries old mud beneath the bridge. To much pomp and ceremony, the head was re-attached and celebrated. A mystery solved.
IF YOU GO:
The Ponte Santa Trinita connects the north side of the city, near the church which gave its name to the span-Chiesa Santa Trinita-with the Oltrarno, the south side neighborhood of the river.
Best views are at sunrise from the mid-span of the Ponte Vecchio and at sunset from the next bridge west of the Ponte Santa Trinita, the Ponte alla Carraia.
Take a moment, the next time you are in Florence, to give a few minutes pause to the history that supports us as we cross the ever-unpredictable River Arno.
Evening View-Ponte Santa Trinita

Evening View-Ponte Santa Trinita

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Monterosso al Mare View

Fragrance of lemon blossoms, the taste of salt-tainted breezes and the wash of persistent sea greet me when I descended to Monterosso al Mare, the northernmost village on the Cinque Terre.

Lane, Monterosso al Mare

This is the largest of the five villages and I find that what the local’s refer to as Old Town and New Town are not substantially different. As I walked through the tunnel which now links the two areas of town, the arc of a sandy beach stretches before me from the breakwater to the small peninsula which juts into the sea on the southern end of the village.

Unlike the other towns along this stretch of coastline, Monterosso is easily reached by car. From the A12 autostrada that connects Pisa with Genoa, and beyond, there are well-marked exits that will lead you to the largest of the villages on the coast.

Please read the “IF YOU GO” section below regarding driving to Monterosso as well as parking challenges near the village.

Historically, the story of Monterosso is not dissimilar to those of the other Cinque Terre Village. Genoa subjugated the residents along the stretch of sea for centuries.

Long on the Italian summer holiday list of popular places to get to the sea, the narrow streets and beaches are always busy in the ‘high season’.

Monterosso Umbrellas

It seemed appropriate that my articles about the Cinque Terre would end in town with two huge statues.

In 1910 the sculptor, Arrigo Minerbi of Ferrara created a nearly 45 foot tall statue of Neptune, complete with Trident and Nautilus. As a result of  bombings during World War II, the “Gigante” was heavily damaged. Still, it stands at the southern limit of the beach, looking over the sea from whence he came.

Neptune of Monterosso

In 1962, Silvio Monfrini, a sculptor who was born in Milan, created a large bronze statue of St. Francis petting a dog. The statue occupies a gorgeous terrace high above the village near the Conventi del Cappuccine. While the steep stairs may tax your muscles, the view from the terrace is breathtaking. Well worth the effort!

Statue of Saint Francis above Monterosso al Mare

As I departed the village on my way north to Genoa, those two statues haunted me. Neptune, who no longer holds his Trident nor Nautilus, hunches armless over the cerulean blue Mediterranean. The five villages that cling to the shores of the Cinque Terre were for many decades falling in to disrepair, nearly forgotten save for the thousands of tourists who descended before and after the war.

Monfrini’s 20th Century work stands high above the village, an ever present reminder of the role of faith and church in the lives of the men and women who have, for centuries, survived on the richness of soil and sea.

The villagers have created bountiful lives through the gifts of faith, sea and soil. Statues may suffer, even disappear, yet the beauty of this precipitous coastline remains to be enjoyed and shared by visitors in years to come.

IF YOU GO:

Driving to Monterosso al Mare:

From the A12 Autostrada, heading either north of south, the exits for Monterosso al Mare are well marked. Follow the signs toward Levanto and, from there, to Monterosso. The road between the Autostrada and the village is treacherous and narrow, so I advise extreme caution especially if you are driving a large rental car or van. Parking in the village is challenging. There are a few public garages, most notable above the ‘new town” , where you enter the village.

Some hotels offer temporary parking for registration and/or departure. Do NOT park if  you are not sure you are allowed to. The local police do ticket and, believe it or not, the tickets always catch up with you.

Diversions:

Angelo’s Boat Tours

My first experience with Angelo and his lovely wife, Paula, a few years ago. Clients I was traveling with were just leaving the port on Angelo’s boat and Paula invited me up to her incredible hillside garden where, from time to time, she leads small group cooking classes. The roses, the oleander, the lemons all conspired to make me want to sit and never leave.

The tours are available through pre-booking on their web site – see below. For information on Paul’s cooking classes, you can contact her directly, via email, on angelosboattours@yahoo.com.

Angelo’s Boat Tours, Monterosso

These are incredible journey’s along the coast and I highly recommend, as part of your visit to the Cinque Terre, to enjoy one of their unforgettable boat tours.

Hotels Monterosso al Mare

A brief word about the Hotel Porta Roca. This would be the splurge of your time on the coast – but the views from the sea-facing rooms, the level of service and the comfort are simply unmatched in any other hotel on the Cinque Terre. This is one gorgeous hotel!

Hotel Porta Roca 

Località Corone, 1  19016 Monterosso Al Mare

Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.817.502

Hotel Pasquale 

Via Fegina, 4  19016 Monterosso Al Mare Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.817.477

Hotel Villa Steno   http://www.villasteno.com/

Via Roma, 109  19016 Monterosso Al Mare Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.817.028

Restaurants Monterosso al Mare

Given the size of the village of Monterosso, your options are varied and numerous. These are only a few where the food and fair pricing have brought me back numerous times. Enjoy!

Ristorante Miky (web site, as of this writing, not linking)

Via Fegina, 104  19016 Monterosso Al Mare Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.817.608

Ristorante L’Alta Marea (no Web Site)

Via Roma, 54  Monterosso al Mare, Province of La Spezia, Italy

TeL: +39.0187.817.331

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Beach, Vernazza, Cinque Terre 

It rises from the sea, a fortress of multicolored buildings.

The history of Vernazza is centered around its hook of a breakwater, and its geographic proximity to Genoa. Early 13th Century documents indicate that the townspeople swore allegiance to the authority of Genoa. In the mid-1500’s, to provide additional protection from pirates who plied their trade against all forms of merchant and private shipping, the town erected a large stone wall and fortress which still dominate the promontory above the harbor.

The Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia (pictured to the left) has served as the duomo of Vernazza since the mid-thirteenth century. The bell tower that now dominates the village was completed in 1750.

There are no roads to Vernazza. In the late 1800’s its singular isolation was broken with the arrival of the rail line that now connects Genoa to La Spezia and, from there, to the entire Italian peninsula.

The sense of isolation still exists, though during the high season visitors fill the hotels and restaurants to capacity.

Still . . . of a warm summer evening, as I explore the many narrow “carruggi” alleyways and straight, steep stairways that lead to the sea, the sense of those who labored here for centuries comes easily.

As glasses and dinnerware clink in the sultry air, I already hope to return to  the beautiful, historic and unforgettable town of Vernazza.

IF YOU GO:

Hotels Vernazza

For numerous reasons, accommodations in Vernazza are nearly non-existent. I recently had a client recommend the Inn – Villa Cinque Terre, but

Headlands of Vernazza with
Monterosso al Mare in the distance

note that it is 2.4 miles (app. 4 Km) above and away from the village itself.

Also, you can check accommodations in the relatively nearby villages of Levanto or Monterosso.

Restaurants Vernazza

There are not many restaurants in Vernazza. Cafes offer prepared sandwiches and drinks – an easy picnic if you are so inclined. If you arrive early in the morning during a hike along the trails, you can enjoy espresso, cappuccino and fresh hand-made rolls in any of the towns small coffee bars.

Il Pirate delle Cinque Terre

Via Gavino, 36 – 19018 Vernazza – La Spezia – Italia

Belforte  

Via G. Guidoni, Vernazza, SP 19018  Italy

Tel: +39.0187.812.222

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