Posts Tagged ‘Florence’


Angelo Cavalieri-General Manager at Le Menagere

Not far from the famous San Lorenzo Market (Mercato Nuovo) which recently opened a huge space offering the best of Tuscan food products, La Ménagére offers a warm and sincere welcome.

During a recent trip to Florence I had the great good fortune of meeting Angelo Cavalieri, the General Manager at this gorgeous new Florentine restaurant. His welcome and the food (!) will bring me back every trip from now on.

Once home to a famous Florentine housewares store, this creative new space incorporates a tribute to the origins by offering beautifully designed Italian housewares and flowers…but the real draw here is the food and atmosphere. And did I fail to mention the wine list?

In the spirit of training the next generation of Italian restaurateurs, the owner partners with a local hospitality school in providing internships for students who wish to learn the real world of running a restaurant. Your servers will, most likely, be participating in this unique program. Angelo and the other staff keep a close, trained, eye on each and every one.

Dinner, culled from their incredible winter seasonal menu, was Orecchiette with broccoli and clams followed by Maialino, mela arrostita, topinambur e salsa arancione (Pugliese special pasta with broccoli and clams followed by a perfectly prepared pork cutlet served with roasted apples, Jerusalem artichokes-a first for me-and orange sauce). Eat your heart out!:) For dessert? A unique twist on a traditional dolce: White chocolate mousse with Shezuan pepper and apple sorbet. Incredible.

Here are links to the Winter Menu (in English and Italian) along with their Wine List.

Winter Menu La Ménagére

Wine List – La Ménagére


During the restoration, the owners made the wise decision to keep the space bright. Daylight enters the back of the space through skylights and stunning Italian lighting adds to the creative design of the place.


The Bistro, right, offers flavorful pastries and panini throughout the day and well into the night. The large ‘farm to table’ inspired dining table welcomes foodies and passionate wine enthusiasts alike to enjoy meals together.

There are two separate areas off of the dining space, one with small tables and, for those truly passionate about Italian food, chef’s tables.

After Hours? How about live jazz in the cantina restored below the main dining and bistro levels of the restaurant. A marvelous and unique corner of bella Firenze.

The meals enjoyed in this space, the warm welcome by staff and the creative, modernist concept of the space, makes it all more than well worth the trip for lunch, an aperativo, dinner or late night.

In a word? GO! Enjoy! Buon Appetito!




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Bargello View from Uffizi Firenze

Museo Nazionale del Bargello Florence – View from Uffizi Gallery

On an early spring day in 1475, a young girl sat on a stool in the workshop of the Italian master, Andrea del Verrocchio.  A fresh bouquet of wildflowers had been given to her just before she sat in the master’s studio.

Born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de’ Cioni, Verrocchio was well known in the halls of Medici power in Florence during the early Renaissance. His study of this particular young girl rests on a stand in what is now called the Sale Verrocchio  – a small second floor gallery in the Bargello Museum in Florence.

The question that, even today, occupies the minds of many art critics and historians about Verrochio’s bust of that Tuscan girl is “Who created the bust of Dama col Mazzolino?”

Museo del Bargello, in the heart of Florence’s Medieval city center, seems an austere and perplexing location for yet another extraordinary collection of art. This was the seat of the Podesta, the Chief magistrate of the city for centuries and the place of execution for nearly an equal number of years.  Bargello’s imposing crenelated tower, which competes in scale with its nearby neighbor the Badia Fiorentina (Abbey of Florence),  pierces the skyline of the city.

To climb the long exterior staircase of the courtyard is to literally rise above Michelangelo (a collection of Buonarotti’s works occupies the ground floor gallery) and arrive in the the midst of invaluable art patronage: Donatello’s David, the gallery of the Della Robbia workshops, and much more.


Main Stairway Bargello Florence

Many visitors to the Bargello are, by the time they arrive at the Sale Verrocchio (The Verrocchio Room), too tired to pay much attention to the beauty of the works contained therein. The late afternoon sun shimmers through the wave-aged windows as noise rises from the streets below and on top of fatigue, the heat often erodes interest. My advice? Take a break and study, in particular, this singular cinnamon-hued marble masterpiece.

Dama col Mazzolino

Dama col Mazzolino

Now, the mystery.

One of Verrocchio’s students was a young man from the village of Vinci, one Leonardo. Verrocchio also worked with Perugino, Botticelli and Ghirlandaio – an incredible collection of the best artists of the day.

As art historians have studied the young woman, a number of experts began to doubt that only Verrocchio, and perhaps not Verrocchio at all, carved the bust. On several of Leonardo’s works there is a nearly identical style to the hands he painted.

Here are some examples, next to the Damma Col Mazzolino.

Verrochio Hands

Damma Col Mazzolino
Hand Study
Verrocchio 1475

Lady With An Ermine Da Vincie 1489-1490

Hands-Lady with an Ermine-DaVinci 1490

Note the striking similarity in the position of the hands. The elongated stretch of the fingers are nearly identical. One additional remarkable note about the resemblance of Da Vinci and Verrocchio’s work are from Da Vinci’s most famous fresco, Il Cenacolo, the Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria della Grazie Convent in Milan.

During a recent visit to that Convent, I noticed the hands of St. Phillip, who stands three disciples to the left of Christ in Da Vinci’s fresco.


Hands of Phillipus
Il Cenocolo, Da Vinci

Note, again, the nearly identical position of the saint’s right hand in this fresco to the hands in the works detailed above. Was it simply coincidence that these similarities exist? Many art historians and critics believe that if Leonard did not actually carve the hands (at a minimum) on the young girl holding flowers, Verrocchio’s influence on Da Vinci’s style was both remarkable and deep.

Such, perhaps, is the ‘science’ of art. While technologically advanced equipment can assess the age and condition of works of men and women, the true gift of the artist is in the mystery of their vision. Whether you agree with the discourse on these works of art, I believe those who take the time to study them will come to more deeply understand the effect of the Florentine masters, and their studios, on their students.

My vision, when I study the young Tuscan girl in that small gallery in Florence, is of a young Leonardo, fired by talent and desire, absorbing and learning from every mark of his master’s chisel, every stroke of paint on canvas. Da Vinci’s contemporaries, like Perugino and Ghirlandaio, were at hand to watch, sketch and stare in wonder at the creative energy so perfectly expressed by their teacher. Each of Verrocchio’s pupils learned to create their own work, while paying homage to the genius of the man who taught them.

I will conclude this post with two images. One by Verrocchio, discussed in this blog, and the other by one of Verrocchio’s students.

Yet another opportunity to compare and consider the comparative work of masters: Verrocchio and . . ?

AII58286Girl - by Verrocchio Studen

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Within the tightly controlled world of patronage during the post-Renaissance, women were largely ignored. Ignored, that is, until the arrival of an immensely talented artist.

Born in Rome to Orazio and Prudentia Monotone Gentileschi, Artemisia (b. 1593) grew in the shadow of her father’s fame as a painter. She would, during her lifetime, bring enormous changes to the world of art.

Judith Slaying Holofernes - Artemisia Gentileschi

Judith Slaying Holofernes – Artemisia Gentileschi

She studied with her father’s assistant and tutor, Agostino Tassi. In the midst of exposure to established artists like Michelangelo, she became embroiled in a rape case against her tutor. Vilified for her role in the trial, she was quickly married off to a Florentine painter, Pietro Stiatessi.  Her rise to fame, in the midst of the jealousies and political intrigues which plagued the art world of the Medici, is a story memorably told by Diane Vreeland in her historical fiction novel, The Passion of Artemisia.

The effect of the the untrue, lurid, details of the trial were forcefully expressed in her work, Judith Slaying Holofernes (1612-1613). The power in Judith’s hands as she beheads King Nebuchadnezzar is palpable. Within the canvas lie the expression of her emotions. I believe it is her tutor who is being slayed by an unjustly slandered Artemisia.

It was in 1616 that she was elected, as the first woman, to the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Florence, the Academy of Art. Grand Duke Cosimo II de Medici was her patron and his support must certainly have encouraged such well deserved recognition. Her career flourished under patronages granted across Europe. She eventually settled in Naples where she died in 1653.

Judith Slaying Holofernes hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. As I stood before the canvas this morning, it occurred to me that the work could easily be an analogy of present day Italian life: Judith (Italy’s political leaders) cut themselves off from the much detested Euro and EU (Nebuchadnezzar) as her servant (Italian’s support) encourages the action. Though I doubt such will ever happen, my recent interpretation underscores the universality and timelessness of Artemisia’s work.

Uffizi Gallery Courtyard

Uffizi Gallery Courtyard

When you visit the Uffizi Gallery, please take time to pay homage to a ground breaking artist, one whose talents overcame the deeply prejudiced and male-dominated world of post-Renaissance art.

Artemisia shares space with Caravaggio in Room #5.

Some important notes about visiting the Uffizi follow.


Open Tuesday to Sunday 8:15 AM to 6:50 PM
Closed all Mondays, New Year’s Day, May 1st and Christmas Day. Full price ticket, without reservation fees or additional exhibits is € 6.50.

RESERVE your tickets in advance of your arrival. (The museum is CLOSED on Mondays). The tickets must be booked and paid for on line. UFFIZI TICKETS.

Tickets are issued for specific entrance times throughout the day. If you miss your entrance time by more than fifteen minutes, you may be denied entrance. Should you miss your entrance time, the only other option is to stand in the public entrance line. This may mean a wait of up to two hours.

There are two entrance doors to the Uffizi. If you have a voucher / receipt for pre reserved tickets, present that voucher at the ticket windows inside Door 3. This door is in the west wing of the museum, across the courtyard from the main entrance at Door 1. With tickets in hand, go back across the courtyard directly to Door 2 (near the public entrance at Door 1). This is where those with pre-reserved tickets may enter.

Other resources:



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Via Santo Spirito, 5r

After a long day in the Tuscan sun, I retreated to the shade and comparative calm of the Oltrarno, the south side of the River Arno. An immediate right after leaving the glittering windows and geranium bedecked balconies of the Ponte Vecchio is the narrow Borgo San Jacopo. As the noise of traffic and intense conversations abated, I found myself in front of the small church of San Jacopo spor’Arno. Built in the 10th and 11th Centuries, the tiny church once housed a small chapel designed by Brunelleschi, he of dome fame on the Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiore.

A slight breeze encouraged me further toward a small fountain at the corner of Borgo San Jacopo and Via Maggio. As in most Italian cities, the name of the street changed as I crossed to Via Santo Spirito. This narrow lane was named for yet another Brunelleschi designed masterpiece, the Church of Santo Spirito. In the shadow of the church’s northern wall, the entrance to one of the few artisan workshops in this historic part of the city, Ippogrifo, invited me to enter.

Gianni Raffaelli, the owner, warmly greeted me. Mutual friends, Janet Shapiro and Stefano Magazzini, who live in nearby Impruneta, had encouraged our meeting. He  founded the workshop in 1976 along with another artist. Soon after his business partner left, he met Francesca Bellesi. She became his wife and has worked alongside him for over thirty years. Their three grown sons live in, or near, Florence.

He explained how engravings were made, from blank copper sheets to etched plate. He further demonstrated the use of wax, nitric acid (l’aqua forte) and the skills that experience had honed before he placed the engraved metal on an old press. Artisan hand made paper, created specifically for their work, took the ink perfectly.

Penne Stilografiche

Francesca’s skills as water-colorist made the etching come to life. She worked on a small table at the front of the gallery. A bright architect’s lamp created a circle of light above an engraving of pens. Each color and every stroke made the work live. She explained that, while there were traditional engravings available in the gallery, the ones most people were drawn to were those that shimmered with color.

What saddened Gianni, Francesca and many other artisans in Florence, they said, was that many galleries and workshops were closed. Astronomical rents, intensified cultural desire for immediate gratification and the waning interest of a new generation had affected the declining number of artists who dared take the risk.

Florence became the center of Renaissance art for good reason, not all related to the Medici family. Numerous patrons cultivated men, and women in the unique case of Artemisia Genetileschi, whose talents refined and redefined the ‘new’ western culture.

Location – Ippogrifo Florence

Please add an afternoon walk in the Oltrarno to your itinerary. Stop in at Stampe d’Arte L’Ippogrifo, and other workshops, to appreciate the dedication of artists whose labors continue to enrich the soul of the world’s most beloved city, Florence.


Stampe d’Arte L’Ippogrifo

Via Santo Spirito, 5r – 50125

Tel: +39 055 213 255

web: www.stampeippogrifo.com

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