On April 27, 2018, the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte will initiate a year of events to celebrate the 1000 year anniversary of its founding. On April 27, 2018 the Archbishop of Florence, Betori, will celebrate with the opening of basilica’s Holy Door and then will celebrate Mass.

San Miniato Facade

Facade of San Miniato

The basilica was founded by Bishop Hildebrand in 1018 when he placed the remains of martyred Saint Minius on the altar of the church. Located atop a hill, above the south side of the Arno River above Florence, the terrace that fronts the Basilica offer unforgettable views across the city and valley of the Arno. The monastic community and Basilica are still in use to this day.

(See our blog post, Gregorian Chant at San Miniato)

The Holy Door, on the basilica’s facade, has an inscription on the threshold which reads, “Haec est Parta Coeli” or “This is the Gate of Heaven.”

Haec est porta

Threshold of the Holy Door, San Miniato

Highlights of the events to come:

May 11, 2018. 9:00PM, Artist Marco Nereo Rotelli’s installations on the facade of the Basilica.

June 21, 2018: Sunset Prayer concert with the debut of an original piece by composer Isa Cecil Scott.

June 23, 2018: June 23 (Festival of the Patron Saint of Florence, San Giovanni Battista). Street performances and “Medieval” fair.

September 13 and 14, 2018: International conference on the history of San Miniato

April 3 – 7, 2019: Litrugical chants will be sung, based on “Haec est porta coeli” and called “Canti per mille anni”, “Chants for a thousand years”.

San Miniato Cappella del Crocifisso

Capella di Crocifisso, San Miniato

Keep checking the San Miniato and Florence Tourism web site for further details and an ever expanding calendar of events to celebrate the Millennium of San Miniato.




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View of Marcialla’s village square and the Church of Santa Maria

The news came quietly. The art world was stunned to learn that a fresco in the church of Santa Maria in Marcialla, not far from Florence, had been attributed to none other than Michelangelo.

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Residents of Marcialla, a tiny village south of Florence, have for generations claimed that a fresco depicting the deposition of Christ in their local parish church of Santa Maria was done by Michelangelo. After dedicated study by numerous art experts and historians, the attribution is official;  Michelangelo, along with the probable assistance of two of the artists friends-Granacci and Bugiardini-created the fresco. It was the two associates intervention, as well as some more recent overpainting, that complicated and delayed the attribution.

One of the most important pieces of evidence to support the attribution is the discovery of initials behind the altar facade in the church’s side chapel. The initials, MBF, had been hidden for centuries. The letters stand for, it is believed, Michelangelo Buonarotti Fecit – or Michelangelo Buonarotti Fiorentino (Michelangelo Buonarotti did this or Michelangelo Buonarotti of Florence). Additional evidence that this is Michelangelo’s work is supported by the fact that the letters “M” and “B” were the same as those the artist painted above a crucifix in the church of Santo Spirito in Florence.

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Removing the altar stone behind which are the letters “MBF”

The local parish priest, Father Rosario Palumbo, went to Dottoressa Elsa Masi, a local resident and retired chemist, to share with her that he had overheard a parishioner talk about seeing the initials behind the chapel’s altar stone many years prior during a youthful prank.

Dottoressa Masi has lead efforts to achieve formal attribution of the fresco, regardless of final result. She reached out to the expert Renaissance art history community to have this important piece of news investigated.

There are further data points to confirm Michelangelo’s hand; in the winter of 1494, the artist sought refuge with the Augustinian monks who lived and worked in the Marcialla church and monastery. The Medici had been ousted from Florence, thanks to the ‘mad monk of Ferrara’, Domenico Savonarola. In order to avoid being caught up in the political and social turmoil surrounding anyone associated with the Medici, Michelangelo fled.

The fresco may have been created as a way of thanking the Augustinian monks for their hospitality and protection. The Order would later support Michelangelo’s anatomical studies in underground rooms beneath the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence.

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The figure on the right in the fresco, a muscular bearded man, is conjectured to be Michelangelo’s imaginative interpretation of his own face in older age. When compared to the face of Nicodemus in the artist’s sculpture of the Pieta, now displayed in Florence’s Museum of the Works of the Duomo, as well as numerous etchings and paintings of the artist in his old age, there are certainly arguments to be made.

Etching of Michelangelo

The triangular form of the the main figures in the fresco are known to have been favored by the artist. Additionally, and not unknown in Michelangelo’s work, Joseph, the father of Christ, is not depicted in the fresco.

Michelangelo Fresco Marcialla

Professor Robert Weiss, in his 1942 book  The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity (1969), made the assertion that the fresco was Michelangelo’s. Then, the fresco slipped back in to its quiet corner of a small church in rural Tuscany-until now.

After years of tireless work, the art’s community has made it official: Michelangelo is the artist who created the fresco.

It is always a surprise and a stunning statement about hidden treasures of art, to learn of yet another masterpiece by a Renaissance genius on the side altar of a small church, in a small village, in the hills of Tuscany.


The village of Marcialla is located about forty minutes south/southwest of Florence. The fact that this lovely village is ‘off the map’ of the heavy tourist traffic makes it all the more enticing as a day excursion destination.

(We were given permission to video inside the Church of Santa Maria in Marcialla to present the fresco. As soon as that video is completed and approved, we will update this blog post with a link so that readers can view the work.)

Please call the church office before visiting. You will need to confirm that the church is open for visitors.

Piazza Antonio Brandi, 25, 50021 Marcialla FI, Italy
Tel: +
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Our thanks to Villa San Filipo for this map


On Easter Sunday, the Medici Grand Duke’s Villa Demidoff, near Pratolino, is reopening. The spectacular gardens are among Tuscany’s largest. With the estate’s well tended woodlands and open fields, and visits to the various buildings within the park, it is a wonderful easy day excursion from Florence. The trip by bus takes about forty-five minutes, a bit less by auto. Please refer below to further information “Location and Visiting Hours.”

See also our previous blog post, Villa Demidoff  with further details and information about this incredible estate.

During your time at the park, you can visit places of interest like the Buontalenti Chapel, the Sala Rossa, the Grotto of Cupid and the Fagianeria. Please note that these visits require prior reservation and payment. See “Opening Hours” listed below in this article. 

The access to the park is allowed only on foot and you can leave your car in the free public parking in front of the main entrance. Inside the park you can find toilet facilities, a playground area for children , free wifi and a restaurant and coffee bar service.

View this video to learn more about visiting the park:




HOURS: Open April 1, 2018 – October 31, 2018


If you’re driving, head to Piazza della Libertà; once there, follow road signs to “Ponterosso – Via Bolognese” and drive away from the city. Via Bolognese, also the SS65 road, leads you out of Florence through Pian di S. Bartolo and Montorsoli to arrive in Pratolino. You’ll see a parking lot on the left as you arrive in Pratolino, turn and park there – the entrance to the park is right across the road.


Take the ATAF bus #25A from Piazza San Marco – the “A” is important because otherwise you’ll not get to Pratolino. The #25 stops before the Demidoff Park; the 25A gets you to the a stop just above the park entrance. You can easily walk back down the incline to the park entrance.  of the property.  SITA also offers service to Pratolino from the main stop at the Santa Maria Novella Train Station with stop on Via Nazionale in Florence. The ATAF bus stop in Pratolino is a little beyond the park entrance but it isn’t far to walk back toward the park.


From April 1, 2018: All Fridays through Sundays 10:00am – 8:00pm. Beginning October 1, the park closes at 6:00PM.

The park is closed for national holidays with the exception of Liberation Day (April 25th) and Labor Day (May 1st).  The park is open on these two Sundays even though they are National Holidays.

You can request special visits during the week and obtain other information via email:


Visits during the week there is a charge for visits. Please request further details directly from the management via email listed above.


+ (Monday through Saturday)



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Visitors to Siena now have the unique and very special opportunity to visit one of the most critically important music centers in the world, the Accademia Musicale Chigiana.  Founded in 1932 at the behest of Count Chigi Saracini, the Accademia has become a world renowned center for musician and composer instruction and performance.

Image result for musicians at accademia chigianaSince its founding, the Academy has provided instruction to many known names in music performance fields: Zubin Meta, Daniel Barenboim, Claudio Abbado and Carlo Maria Giulini to name only a few. Students travel, each year, to this prestigious academy to further perfect their craft with the support of renowned, experienced, composers and musicians.

Across numerous musical disciplines, the academy offers Master Classes lead by the most celebrated maestri of all the main instruments, of voice, of orchestral conducting, and of composition.

2018 Accademia Musicale Master Classes

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Concert in the Performance Hall, Accademia Chigiana Siena

In addition to Master Classes, the academy hosts special events at the time of the annual Siena Palio, dinners or mornings at the academy, Chigiana International Festival and Summer Academy (July/August each year), private events and Micat in Vertice, an annual music festival which beings in late November and continues through the following spring season.

Visits can now be booked and confirmed for the academy’s home palazzo. The structure houses an enormously important collection of art, ranging from Franz Liszt’s piano to works by Botticelli and other Renaissance masters.

Accademia Chigiana Palazzo Interior

Interior Room, Accademia Chigiana Palazzo Siena

The Accademia is always looking for your support. If you believe that the important work of this important institution is deserving of your financial support, please click on the link below for further information:

Join in support of the Accademia Chigiana

Booking  for visits to the palazzo MUST be reserved well in advance.


Booking is required for guided tours in English.

Guided tours – lasting approximately one hour – will be held
from October 1 2017 up to June 30 2018
(except for holidays and the following days: 1, 24 and 31 December 2017; 8 February and 29 March 2018)

From Monday-Saturday* at 11:30.
Those on Thursday and Friday at 4 p.m. too

* Visits on Saturday must to be booked (See “Information and Booking” below)

Full-price tickets for the tour cost 7 Euros.
Tickets for visitors under the age of 26 and for groups of at least 10 visitors the price is 5 Euros per person.
Entrance is free for children up to 6 years of age and for those who are accompanying groups.

Call center 366 8642092 from Monday-Friday between 9 and 11 a.m. or +39.0577.22091 from Monday-Friday between 9 and 13 a.m.
E-mail: infochigiana@operalaboratori.com or visite@chigiana.it

Bookshop of Palazzo Chigi Saracini (via di Città, 89 – Siena)
Opening hours: half an hour before each visit.

Michelangelo_1475-1564_Sacred_Family_the_Doni_Tondo_grande (1)Join Road Scholar and Mark Gordon Smith, Instructor in Italian Renaissance Art History, Conversational Italian and Travels Across Italy, in a five day program entitled, “The Beautiful and the Powerful of the Italian Renaissance“.

The program begins on 22 April 2018 and concludes on 27 April 2018.

The program is based on the beautiful campus of Montreat College, about fifteen minutes east of Asheville, NC.

Participants will learn many background stories of the Italian Renaissance’s most powerful families, the iconic as well as less known works of art they commissioned, and the effect that their patronage of the arts had on western civilization. From Florence to Venice, Rome to Naples, the trace of Italian Renaissance art is a fascinating and remarkable one.

The pace is easy, informal and comfortable.

Please visit the Road Scholar web site for further details and information. Join us for what will be an enjoyable and fascinating exploration of Italy’s incredible Renaissance art and political history.

The Beautiful and the Powerful of the Italian Renaissance

22 – 27 April 2018

Montreat College Campus (on the outskirts of Black Mountain, NC)

Telephone Inquiries: 800-454-5768

Montreat College View NC

Montreat College View – Western North Carolina

Mark Positano May 11 2015

Mark Smith, Owner of Private Italy Tours LTD, above Positano on the Amalfi Coast.

We wish to extend our deepest gratitude to all of you who have read, or follow, our travel blog about Italy.

This week, we surpassed the 200,000 views of our blog.

Thank you.

We are dedicated to continuing improvement about the accuracy and reliability of all of the information we provide to those who love bella Italia.

Join us on one of our incredible explorations of Italy!

Private Italy Tours LTD

Come Home Again to Italy


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In the past few months, increased visitor security screening was initiated at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Duomo, in Florence. As with most of the other museums in the city (Uffizi, Bargello, Museum of the Works of the Duomo and many others), visitors are security checked before entering sites.

The result of the increased security at the Duomo in Florence is frustratingly long lines. During a recent visit to the city, in mid-March, the line stretched from the facade entrance all the way along the northern side of the structure and around to the entrance of the Museum of the Works of the Duomo. This was easily a wait of well over an hour before entering.

Security is critical to the protection of historic sites; this is an article to assist visitors in avoiding long waits before visiting this incredible cathedral.

Best recommendation we can make is to go EARLY. If you can be in line at least fifteen minutes prior to the Duomo’s opening, see Hours listed below, you will not have to stand for extended periods of time before entering.

While you do not need a ticket to enter the Duomo, the new combined ticket offered by Il Grande Museo del Duomo includes your admission to the Baptistery, Museum of the Works of the Duomo, Giotto’s Campanile (Bell Tower), Brunelleschi’s Dome (NOTE: Visitors to the Dome MUST reserve a specific entrance time, or will not be admitted) and the Crypt of the Duomo.

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Cathedral 10:00-17:00 details
Dome 08:30-19:00 details
Baptistery 08:15-10:15 / 11:15-19:30 details
Bell Tower 08:15-19:00 details
Crypt 10:00-17:00 details
Museum 09:00-16:30 details


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