For those of you who will be traveling in Florence in late March, please make note of the following world cultural conference to be held in the city. Hotel rooms are at a premium, if you can find them (!) and the city will be extremely busy.

An unprecedented culture-focused meeting of the seven major economies—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States—will take place in the Tuscan capital on March 30-31. Discussions will center on the protection of cultural heritage, as announced by Culture Minister Dario Franceschini. Mayor Dario Nardella called the cultural summit “a recognition of the role that Florence plays in the world, and an important opportunity to demonstrate the best of Italian and Florentine culture at the international level.

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The program for the exhibit available from Casa Editrice Sillabe

The great treasure of the arts in Florence is shared in yet another unforgettable program at the Medici Riccardi Palace.

Artifacts and memories from the Flood of 1966, La Bellezza Salvata,  are shared in this exceptional show. From now until March 26, 2017, visitors can walk through the exhibition which showcases the commitment to “saving beauty” in the aftermath of that flood.

It was not only Cimabue’s Crucifix, Vasari’s Last Supper or the removal of oil damage to Taddeo Gaddi’s Last Supper that were restored.  As you stroll through the exhibit you are reminded of the tremendous work, which continues even to this day, involved in the restoration of the city’s nearly numberless and invaluable trove of artistic treasure.

This marvelous exhibit was inaugurated by the President of Tuscany (Enrico Rossi) and the Councillor delegate of the Metropolitan City of Florence, Benedetta Albanian. The exhibit is curated by Cristina Acidini e Elena Capretti.


Via Camillo Cavour, 3,

50129 Firenze, Italy


CLOSED Wednesday

Thursday – Tuesday 8:30AM – 7:00PM

Palazzo Medici Riccardi. "Firenze 1966 – 2016. La bellezza salvata"



Technology and gorgeous art come together once again in the de-consecrated church of Santa Stefano al Ponte in Florence. The church, located just steps from the northern edge of the Ponte Vecchio, is a fabulous location for the exhibit.

The Klimt Experience brings over 700 images, projected by 30 laser systems, in an intimate exploration of the artist’s work.

From The Kiss to Portrait of Adele Bach-Bauer, recently the subject of the book and film, Woman in Gold, the opportunity to see so much of Klimt’s work, even if only in very high quality photographs is a rare one. Gustav was a symbolist painter, a leader in the Viennese secession movement. He is known for his use of multiples types media to include gold leaf.

The Kiss, Gustav Klimt, The Klimt Experience


Period Clothing at the Klimt Experience

Period clothing along with other information about the artist and his time are shared as part of the show.

This is an interesting opportunity to learn more about a great late 19th Century, early 20th Century artist in the city of Renaissance art!

Tickets cost 13 euro for adults, 8 euro for children from 6 to 12, 10 euro for over 65s, students and COOP members.

Chiesa di Santa Stefano al Ponte

Piazza di Santo Stefano, 5

50122 Florence

Web Site

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, an enfant terrible and genius of the later Renaissance, is the subject of this fascinating exhibit at the Borghese Gallery in Rome.

The intent of this mostra is to better understand the work of Caravaggio in still life (natura morta) with “The Hartford Master”, a supposed and mysterious young painter who was believed to have been related to the 16th Century Roman School.


Still Life with Flowers and Basket of Fruit Caravaggio – 1601

The show was created to address a long standing controversy about some of the still life paintings in the Borghese Collection. Many attributions to some “Master of Hartford” are now posited to have been painted early in Caravaggio’s career. For the first time, forty of Caravaggio’s masterpieces are displayed with in depth essay-like approaches to the comparisons of work, style, type of paint and approach to the art.

Who was the Hartford Master and is it true that the works attributed to him are actually early works by Caravaggio? The show presents interesting and intellectually challenging approaches in answer to that question.

Works like Bacco Malato (Self Portrait as Bacchus) – below – are contrasted with works that Caravaggio painted in both the latter 1600’s with those of the early 1700’s.

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Bacco Malato, Caravaggio


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Hartford Master (attribution), Basket of Fruit

Also, a treasure of Caravaggio’s work, Basket of Fruit, on loan for the first time from the Ambrosiana in Milan, is showcased in the exhibit.

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Basket of Fruit, Caravaggio – On exhibit loan from the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milano

If you are in Florence or Naples/Amalfi Coast-or Rome-you can easily visit this exhibit in a day. Please see notes about ticketing below.

I have included a *.pdf file about the exhibit. Just click on the document cover below to download the English version and read at your leisure. Fascinating.

In a word? Go! This is a rare opportunity to view such a collection in one place – and you can hardly have a more gorgeous venue than the Galleria Borghese.

Exhibit concludes on February 19, 2017.


Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

NOTE: You MUST purchase your tickets prior to arriving at the Villa Borghese. Only pre paid voucher holders will be issued tickets for your visit.


Eurostar Italia trains run frequently  between these two cities and Rome. The trip between Florence and Rome is one hour and fifteen minutes, between Naples and Rome one hour and twenty minutes. You can take an early train, visit the Borghese – and other sites if you wish – and be back in either city in time for dinner. You can use the English version of the TrenItalia web site to check train time and pricing.

TrenItalia Web Site

Her name is, indeed, a ‘tongue twister’; Artemisia Gentileschi. (1593 – 1656)

An incredible exhibit featuring a large and rare collection of her work opened on November 30, 2016 at the Palazzo Braschi in Rome titled, “Artemisia Gentileschi and Her Times.”

Thirty masterpieces by this recently rediscovered female painter have been brought together for the first time. The collection shares a unique perspective on the her time and  life story.

She is an artist we study during my Art and History of Renaissance Italy classes. A woman apart; strong, defiant, driven and immensely talented.

Not only was it unusual for a woman to be recognized as worthy of note during the Renaissance, this particular artist took on the male establishment of Rome and won.

Her father, Orazio Gentileschi, was a painter of note in Rome. Agostino Tassi was one of Orazio’s compatriots, along with Caravaggio. In the course of their close artistic associations, Tassi raped Artemisia.

Not one to shy from the wrong done her, she charged Tassi with sexual assault. After seven long and difficult months, Artemisia won her case. The emotional toll on her was deep. Following the resolution of the case, I believe that some of her work exhibits a visual retaliation for Tassi’s attack.


Self Portrait as a Lute Player ca. 1617

There are three known self portraits of Artemisia. The one above was completed shortly after her marriage to a Florentine painter, Peter Antonio Stiattesi. I have wondered if the shape of her fingers, particularly those on the left hand, show the effect of sibille. These were a torture device used during the case against Tassi; metal rings were placed around her fingers and increasingly tightened during court proceedings to encourage truth in testimony.

A Florentine by birth, Stiattesi and his bride moved to Florence where she worked for a number of years, most notably commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimo II.

Judith and Holofernes?

The biblical story of Judith taking the life of the Assyrian general Holofernes, in particular, was a subject of her intense interest. She completed two works about this strong woman; Judith Beheading Holofernes (1612-Called “The Naples“) and Judith Slaying Holofernes (1620). The paintings depict the biblical story of Judith who, after secreting herself and her maidservant into the enemy camp, tempts the Assyrian King Holofernes with sexual favors, gets him drunk and then beheads him. Judith returns with the severed head of the king and the Jewish forces win the day.

Dark? Absolutely. Emotional? Clearly. I visualize Artemisia in her studio venting every ounce of her anger at her male dominated society on these canvases. Muscle tension, the force of the sword, the intensity of both Judith’s and her handmaiden’s faces during the brutal act all communicate anger, control, focus and approaching victory.

The breadth and scope of Artemisia’s work goes well beyond these two masterpieces. Over thirty canvases grace this incredible exhibit at the Braschi in Rome.

When you are next in Rome, and before the conclusion of the exhibit on May 7,2017,  please take time to visit and study the work of an immensely talented artist.


Artemisia Gentileschi and Her Times (in Italian only)

Palazzo Braschi – Museo di Roma

Piazza di S. Pantaleo, 10

00186 Roma, Italy

Hours: Sunday – Saturday 9:00AM – 7:00PM

Tel: +39 06 0608


A sample of other works by Artemisia Gentileschi:

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Madonna col Bambino   1610

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Susanna and the Elders  1610

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Allegory of Inclination  1615

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Jael and Sisera   1620

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Esther and Ahasuerus   1630

There are very few small travel organizations in Italy who are part of the KM “Zero” movement. KM Zero Tours, owned and operated by Alessio and Arianna, established their company upon this philosophy: “…we would love to invite you to discover Tuscany from a different perspective, following its slow rhythms, meeting local, passionate producers and being inspired by their sustainable, authentic lifestyle.”

Alessio and Arianna of Km Zero Tours

Alessio and Arianna of KM Zero Tours

Private Italy Tours LTD does not partner with a large number of other such passionate owners in Italy. Our philosophy of travel melds seamlessly with KM Zero Tours and we very pleased to share true Italian cultural experiences with them.

It was thanks to their generous partnership that we visited the Villa del Cigliano, a private family owned and operated estate in the Chianti Area of Tuscany. The owners and managers of the estate, Anna Macaferri Montecchi and her husband inherited the estate from her mother. The estate was established in the 16th Century by the Antinori family and it has been in the care of that extended family ever since. Anna’s son, Niccolo’, cares for the grape and the production of wine. The long list of honors bestowed upon the wines created there speak to his loving and careful care of the production.

The video link below, though in Italian, shares both Anna and Niccolo’s passion for their work. Their spirit and enthusiasm come through, regardless of the language, though Italian is such a sensuous and beautiful language you can, if you don’t speak Italian, understand what they are saying.


While private tours and tastings can be arranged directly with the estate, my strong recommendation is to contact Arianna and Alessio at KM Zero tours so that they can share with you “their” Tuscany. The relationship that they have with Anna and Niccolo’ are unique and only through the partnership of the two passions will you truly experience all the Villa del Cigliano offers.

Km Zero Tours

Villa del Cigliano Via Cigliano 17 – 50026
San Casciano Val di Pesa
Firenze – Italy   tel +39.055.820033

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Looking for a less expensive way to travel between major European cities?

A relatively new bus service, FlixBus, is receiving very positive response as a safe and comfortable alternative to train or rental car options while in Europe.

The company, FlixBus, was founded in 2013 in Germany following deregulation of German transit restrictions. Various countries across Europe have been added to their routes, including Italy which was added to the network in 2015.

The buses are exceptionally clean and offer:

  • Extra leg room for all seats
  • Restroom facilities aboard
  • Seat belts at each and every seat
  • Internet service throughout your trip at no additional cost
  • Power plugs at each seat to ensure you do not run out of battery time
  • Snacks and refreshments available
  • Large amount of luggage space; large pieces of luggage go in the compartments below the seating and there is space for small hand luggage above each seat or, on double deck buses, under the seat in front of you
  • Clean buses with confidence on the timetable for planning and transit

So, if ease of travel, no hassle with loading luggage on and off trains in crowded stations and comfortable safe travel appeal to you, please consider FlixBus.

Web: FlixBus

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Some of the Flixbus Fleet

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Upper deck seating on two-level buses


Seating Main Level Flixbus

For many years, this island in the Venetian Lagoon, not far from the Lido, was a secret of the city. Slowly, the word is reaching the world about a living treasure of enormous intellectual and spiritual importance; San Lazzaro degli Armeni.

Bookmarked by two Mocenigo family members who became Doges, Giovanni Il Cornaro was Doge of the city of Venice in 1715 when a group of seventeen Armenian monks arrived, seeking refuge after being ousted by Turkish occupiers in the area now known as Greek’s Peloponnese.


The Cloister of San Lazzaro degli Armeni

The rule of the day was that no religious orders were permitted to live in the canal-narrow confines of the city proper. An island, however, was another thing altogether. With the  support of the Venetian Senate, the monks were given an island within site of St. Mark’s Square. That island, once home to a leper colony,  became known as San Lazzaro degli Armeni, The Island of St. Lazarus of the Armenians.

Why all this history? Well, in order to better understand the treasure that lay securely within a very modern library, it is always helpful to have a framework in which to understand the gifts that they gave to Venice and the world.

The founder of the order, Mekhitar, was accompanied on his journey from Armenia to Venice with seventeen other monks. Mekhitar’s translated name is “The Comforter”-though this writer cannot locate any reference to how this was translated.

Knowing that the Armenian culture would continue to suffer a long and painful demise, Mekhitar took it upon the Order to begin the creation of what would become one of the extant three centers of Armenian culture; San Lazzaro, Echmiadzin near Yerevan in Armenia and Vienna.

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The Illuminated Manuscript Library – San Lazzaro degli Armeni

The collection is now housed in two libraries; one contains over 150,000 volumes regarding Armenian language, religion and culture. Mekhitar’s priceless collection of over 35,000 volumes along with his personal library are contained in the larger of the two libraries.  The other, more modern, structure contains over 4,500 masterpieces of illumined manuscripts.

In addition to collecting works of cultural importance, the monks also established a book press where, from the mid 16th century until 1991 they printed innumerable books of primarily Armenian focus.

Lord Byron?


A brief aside for those who have a passion and interest in the work of Lord Byron. He arrived in Venice in 1816 and took up acquaintance with the monks. He eventually spent time on the island, studied the Armenian language and assisted in the compilation of an English-Armenian language grammar reference. It was in 1817 that Byron removed himself from Venice and the fellowship of the monks, and headed to Greece. It was there, in 1824, that he succumbed to a fever while living in Missolonghi.

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The Memorial Marker – Lord Byron

Some of Byron’s items remain at San Lazzaro; a pen and desk he used and some other items. There is also a memorial marker on the island to remember his kindnesses to the monks of San Lazzaro.

Please make plans to include a visit to this fascinating and little known island when you are next in Venice.


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Route #20 – Vaporetto Venice

A visit to the island can only be made by leaving on the 3:15PM vaporetto #20 from S. Zaccaria stop near St. Mark’s Square to the island. Upon arrival, you are greeted by some of the monks who will lead you on a tour. The tour takes about an hour and you are back at S. Zaccaria by around 4:45PM.


San Lazzaro degli Armeni

Vaporetto Route information (to check for any possible changes in schedule) Tel: 011+39.272.2111

Monastery Tel: +

Web: Monastero Mechitarista

Join us in Italy on one of our small group excursions across Italy. Four itineraries.  Your own villa. Daily multi-lingual tour lead and support. Relax. Unwind. Come home again to Italy.

If you are planning on a trip to Italy, this is the season to read up on numerous great books about the culture, history and la vita Italiano.


stones-of-florenceThe reference I most strongly recommend is Christopher Hibbert’s definitive The House of Medici-Its Rise and Fall. Hibbert deftly guides the reader through the intricacies of everything from the Medici family tree, political intrigue and ‘the end of the line’ in easy to read prose. Truly a must for those who plan on spending time in bella Firenze.

Inferno: Dan Brown’s most recent book, this one does describe various parts of the city in very vivid detail.

The Stones of Florence: Mary McCarthy’s landmark 1956 book is still a wonderful read to get a great perspective on the city, its sites and history.

Heading south – Naples or Sicily

Elena Ferrante, The Neapolitan Quartet. In this day and age, no one beats Elena’s the-ancient-shoreability to capture Neapolitan life so vividly and in such lucid style.

The Ancient Shore. Shirley Hazzard’s lifelong love with Naples comes through in a unique framework of the ancients who established colonies here in the era’s past. A very good read with an unusual perspective.

Sicily, 3o00 Years of Human History: Sandra Benjamin’s ability to translate the complex story of Sicily’s tumultuous existence, from the indigenous cultures of the Sicanians and others through multiple occupations by other nations brings the island’s complex story to life. A great read if you are planning time on Sicily.

Venice in your plans?

paradise-of-citiesParadise of Cities: Venice in the Nineteenth Century. John Norwich’s remarkable book shares observations about the city as it began to attract visitors on the “Grand Tour”. My love of this book is that the author shares what Venice was and what it was destined to be, well in advance of the tourist hoards that arrive today. A very interesting perspective on the City in the Sea.

If Venice Dies: Salvatore Settis’s searing look at the terrible effects of cruise ships and tourists crowds descending on the city. Even if you are a cruise passenger, this book deserves your attention to a city in peril. I highly recommend. The book was released in Italian and an English translation by Andre Naffis-Sahely has brought the book to a whole new audience.

There are hundreds more. This will get you started!

Join us in Italy on one of our small group excursions across Italy. Four itineraries.  Your own villa. Daily multi-lingual tour lead and support. Relax. Unwind. Come home again to Italy.




Imagine that the finest preserved Greek Doric Temples in the world reside not in Greece, but Italy. It’s true. Less than an hour south of Salerno are the remains of an ancient port city which once brought wealth to that part of Magna Grecia.


Paestum – Illustration by Jean Claude Golvin – Showing the city at the height of its success.

When the Greeks arrived and began to build their city, they selected a flat plain at the intersection of the River now called the Sele and the Tyrrhenian Sea. With ease of access to the river-bringing supplies inland-and the sea for trade with the countries on the perimeter of the Mediterranean, the colony thrived until the invasion of other cultures.

Only twenty miles down the coast was the partner city of Paestum, Agripoli. Located, now, on a high promontory above a natural harbor, the town of Agripoli traded with Paestum for the supplies and products used to trade with, and subdue, the indigenous people-the Lucanians.

The temples in Paestum were built between 600 BC and 450 BC, symbols of Greek power in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea. Named Poseidonia by the Greeks, the colony was eventually overtaken by the Lucanians (an indigenous people who occupied lands near where the colony of Poseidonia was established) who renamed it Paistos. When Rome conquered those lands, they renamed it Pesto or Paestum.

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It was not until the 18th Century that efforts were made to mark the archaeological site, catalog its treasures and establish protection of the lands around the site. Only about fifteen percent of the ancient city has been excavated; the remaining lands are in private hands.

It is nothing short of breathtaking to suddenly come up on the temples and archaeological site. The coast road that connects the Amalfi Coast Road at Vietri sul Mare to Salerno and then on to Paestum travels across lands fought over during WWII. A nearby cemetery at Battipaglia is a stark reminder of those times. (A side note that the home of the best Mozzarella Buffa comes from this area of Italy, particularly near Battipaglia. Try Tenuta Vanullo for tours and exceptional meals.)

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5th Century BC Fresco – Paestum Museum

This place is rarely busy. I’ve been to the site numerous times and it is unusual to see more than two groups of ten people or more. The site is quiet and exudes a melancholy air of age. The museum is well worth visiting so please plan on including time to explore the treasures from years of excavation.


There is a very nice small hotel in the area, along with some restaurants. The hotel  information is included in the “IF YOU GO” section, below.

Why should you visit? Well, less than 1/100th of the crowds of Pompeii, less expensive and crowded than either Pompeii or Herculaneum, easy access, a lovely drive and good food within reach!


Archeological Museum Via Magna Grecia – Paestum. Phone +39 0828 811 023 / +39 0828 722654. Open daily 08.30 a.m.– 7.30 p.m (last admission: 6:50PM)

Ticket (Museum + Archeological Area): € 9,00 pp


Il Granaio dei Casabella

This lovely, small and very fairly priced hotel was renovated in very old farm buildings.  Just six minutes walk from one of the ancient city gates of Paestum, the rooms here are clean and service is well provided.

Via Tavernelle, 84, 84063 Capaccio-Paestum SA, Italy
Phone: +39 0828 721014






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