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Image result for Siena panorama

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.

VISITING THE PALACE:

Booking is required for guided tours in English.

OPENING HOURS
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)

PRICES
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.

INFORMATION AND BOOKING
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

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

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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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Very few visitors to Florence have ever heard of Villa La Quiete. Even if this is a place you do not know, make plans to visit this incredible exhibit.

NOTE: Before you go, please double check the hours that the exhibit is open, as listed below.

Now home to a university of cultural studies for foreigners, and not far from Sesto Fiorentino, the villa’s restoration is being previewed, in anticipation of its April 2017 reopening, in an exhibit of works by  Renaissance artists.

Image result for villa la quiete florence

Villa La Quiete and Gardens

The area of the current villa’s location was called, during Roman occupation, Palagio di Quarto after a hill not far from the ancient city center of present day Florence. The Orlandini family owned the villa from the 12th Century and substantially expanded it during their ownership. It changed hands several times during the 15th century: 1438, given to a military leader, Nicholas di Tolentino, as a gift from the Republic of Florence; 1453 bought by Pierfranceso de Medici.

In 1637, Christine of Lorraine, wife of Grand Duke Ferdinand I de Medici, acquired the villa and was responsible for expanding and improving the building to its current beauty. The property’s furnishings were given to the Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Vecchio in Florence as part of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici’s Patto di Famiglia. She was the last remaining direct descendant of the Medici family tree, leading back to Cosimo, Pater Patriae. The Family Pact (Patto di Familia) of 1743 stipulated that all Medici property was to be given to the city of Florence.

The building is now the home of a work by Domenico Ghirlandaio’s son, Ridolfo, Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine. The other works in the exhibit were loaned by other museums and churches.

Image result for ghirlandaio mystical marriage of st. catherine

Domenico Ghirlandaio – Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine

The exhibit features several little known works including Botticelli’s Coronation of the Virgin with Saints, one of but a few crucifix’s by Baccio di Montelupo and the Ridolfo di  Ghirlandaio Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine.

coronation-of-the-virgin-with-saints

Coronation of the Virgin with Saints, 1490-1492 Botticelli

Exhibition Room, Villa La Quiete

Courses at the University vary by term and further information can be found by clicking here:

Universita degli studi di Firenzecentro Cultura per Stranieri

Exhibit Hours:
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 5:00PM to 8:00PM
CLOSED: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Florence’s Central University of Cultural Studies for Foreigners

Via di Boldrone, 2

50141 Firenze

Italy

Tel: 055.27.56.444

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libreria-acqua-alta-entrance

Libreria Aqua Alta Entrance

Down one of the more typical walkways of Venice, in the heart of the Castello Sestieri (neighborhood), and in the shadow of the gorgeous Cathedral of San Giovanni e Paolo, is an unexpected treasure of Venice, the Bookstore of High Water (Libreria Aqua Alta). Please refer to the map link below for detailed location information.

Any self-respecting lover of books MUST visit, if only for the memorable curiosities contained within: a gondola (yes, a real gondola) full of books, room after room of volumes stacked, in most cases, to the ceiling, another small boat filled with hard and soft covers and, as a final treat, an outdoor set of stairs built from tomes that afford you a view of the canal behind the shop.

librerai-aqua-alta-luigis-magic-artwork

The Infamous 3-D Artwork

As you enter the store, be prepared for the friendly and outgoing owner, Luigi Frizzo, to greet you. Along with his pointing out a certain three dimensional painting of Venetian palazzi, showcased near the check out counter (right), one of any number of well fed cats may stare you down, might stretch and resettle or could even meow a hello.

I have visited this libreria numerous times over the years. Each visit, I wonder how Luigi keeps the bookstore, literally and figuratively, afloat.

When you are next in Venice, make sure you add a short easy break at the “High Water”. You will not be disappointed.

Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa (Corte Senza Nome)

5176/B – Castello, 30122 Venice

Tel: +39 041 296 08 41

Daily Hours: 9:00AM – 8:00PM

map-libreria-aqua-alta-venice

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In one word: GO!

Piazza_Santissima_Annunziata,_Florence

Piazza Santissima Annunziata

On June 24, 2016, the day of the annual Florentine celebration of the city’s patron saint John the Baptist, the ‘new’ Museum of the Innocents (Museo degli Innocenti) reopens after an extensive, nearly three year, restoration. The museum is located on the southeast side of the Piazza Santissima Annunziata at the end of the Via dei Servi, steps from the Piazza Duomo.

This restoration shares an intriguing variety of information, from the structure’s architectural history, its involvement with the guilds of Florence, the designs instituted by Filippo Brunelleschi (he of the famous Dome of the Duomo of Florence), to digitized video or audio interviews with seventy (70) people who were cared for at the Ospedale.

It was during the 15th Century that the Institute of the Orphans, Istituto degli Innocenti, was founded to support children and their families.

The children, born out of wedlock or unwanted, were brought without judgement or question to the Innocenti and were left in the exceptional hands of the Sisters who cared for these sventurati, the ‘unfortunates’.

FACCIATA

Architecturally, the building is  a stunner of early Renaissance architecture. Brunelleschi’s gorgeous loggia is bejeweled by works of babies in swaddling clothes created in the workshop of Andrea della Robbia. One of the the roundels, in blue and white ceramic, was selected to be the symbol of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Della Robbia - Innocenti

The museum contains records from the 15th Century onward, lists containing details of every child welcomed in to the Ospedale. The library also contains information regarding the children’s training and release into various programs during the Renaissance and beyond. From convents to monasteries, workshops of artists and sculptors as well as numerous other apprenticeships, the children raised in the Ospedale moved within, and beyond, the confines of Florence to become contributing members of society.

Today the Florentine phone book lists numerous families with the last name of Innocenti, a shadow of the institution’s significant impact on the life of the city.

The Istituto degli Innocenti is managed through a Board of Directors, all of whom are appointed by the Province of Florence. Their charter is to provide support for children in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The museum contains a library and resource center for the study of children’s care from the time of the Ospedale’s founding to today, even as seven ‘innocenti’ currently remain resident in the structure.

On the heels of the reopening of the Museo del Opera del Duomo in October 2015, this is yet another MUST VISIT when you are in bella Firenze.

Museo degli Innocenti/Istituto degli Innocenti

Open 10:00AM – 7:00PM Daily

Entrance Ticket: Euro 5.00

Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, 12
50122 FIRENZE
+39 055 20371

 

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It is difficult to imagine a more spectacular surprise on the outskirts of Naples, amidst the “architettura fascista” of the cities notoriously ugly preferia (suburbs), than the Reggia (Royal Palace) of Caserta.

Facade Reggia di Caserta

Facade
Reggia di Caserta

Though Charles VII initiated construction on the palace, he was never to spend one night in the structure. In 1759 he abdicated to become the King of Spain. It was left to Charles’s third son, Ferdinand IV of Naples, to bring the palace to its near completion. Vanvitelli’s original plan included two large colonnades, never realized, comparable in size to Bernini’s monumental installation surrounding St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

Following Luigi Vanvitelli’s death in 1773, his son Carlo assumed responsibility for the project. It was during the sons’ oversight that a garden of over 300 acres was designed and installed. The water garden extends nearly one half mile where, in 1780, an English Garden was designed and installed by Johann Graefer, a German born, English trained landscape architect. The garden design is also complimented by a floral garden on the east side of the palace.

The design and scale of the beautiful and complex water features and garden have been compared to those of Peter the Great’s palace, Peterhof, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

 Visits to the palace offer a number of tour itineraries and options. Visit the web site (see IF YOU GO below) for further details. The most important rooms in the palace are the King’s Theater, modeled after the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Throne Room, Staircase of Honor and Palatine Chapel. The most impressive exterior view of the Palace and estate is from a high point in the gardens.

View Gardens Reggia di Caserta

View
Gardens Reggia di Caserta

Visitors can easily reach the main entrance at the Palace using the regional train system from Napoli Centrale to Caserta. The grand approach to the palace is directly across the Sottovia Carlo Vanvitelli from Caserta’s station.

 Stunning. Breathtaking. Unbelievable. These are words that somehow inadequately describe this palace of unforgettable beauty. If you are planning a trip to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, I highly recommend at least a half-day visit to the Reggia di Caserta and gardens.

 IF YOU GO:

Train service from Napoli Centrale begins very early during the week (5:09AM) and trains run approximately every forty minutes. The trip takes approximately fifty minutes each way. For further schedule details refer to: www.virail.com or www.trenitalia.it.

Reggia di Caserta

Web: Reggia di Caserta

Entrance to both Palace and Gardens: Euro 10.80 per person

Palace Open:

8:30 to 7:30PM daily

(Closed Tuesdays, January 1, Easter Monday, May 1 and 25 December)

 Garden Park:

 Open daily 8:30AM

Closings: January, February, November and December at 3:30PM, March at 4:00PM, April at 5:00PM, May at 5:30PM, June – August at 6:00PM, September at 6:30PM, October at 5:30PM

 

Map  Reggia di Caserta

Map
Reggia di Caserta

 

 

 

 

 

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Evening View of Modica Sicily

Evening View of Modica Sicily

Modica. A city of intense beauty, part souk, part Renaissance fantasy, a mosaic of buildings reflecting an equally diverse populace.

Over the course of many years of travel to Sicily, I have stayed in Modica numerous times. In this post I will share some of the little known treasures – and some well known – in a Sicilian city I have come to love.

Some orientation will help you understanding the geography and cultural diversity of the city. Modica Basso is located in the center of Modica’s valley. Despite the destruction caused by the devastating earthquake in 1693 (which destroyed the greater part of eastern Sicily), the city has survived and restored its Sicilian Baroque splendor.

Sicilian Baroque? This is a style of architecture established in this area of Sicily after the 1693 earthquake. Known for fantastic sculptures in the facades of buildings and churches, it has come to symbolize a unique style particular to this geographic area of the island.

Until 1902, there were numerous bridges across the river Modicano, formed by two rivers called the Pozzo dei Pruni and the Janni Mauro. After a disastrous flood that same year, the city redirected the river through culverts beneath what is now called the Corso Umberto I, the city’s main thoroughfare. Shops abound along this road offering everything from jewelry to clothing to restaurants.

Over the course of centuries, Modica Alta was established above the city’s valley. It is here that one of the most beautiful churches in Italy is located. (See “Churches” below). This is a residential area of the city offering few shopping options. The views, however, from the high point above the city are spectacular.

Churches:

San Giorgio Modica

San Giorgio Modica

The Cathedral of San Giorgio: Located on the steep hillside above the lower city, this is one of the most striking examples of Sicilian Baroque in Sicily. The facade was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693, and the results are spectacular. One of the island’s first meridians, a means of tracing the seasons by the position of the sun on the floor of the cathedral, crosses in front of the main altar. It was in 1895, that the mathematician Armando Perinio received permission from the church to install the meridian.

The rays of sunlight that pierces the high windows of the interior, particularly in the afternoon, create prisms of light on the surface of huge white interior marble column; an evocative sense of the spiritual in a spiritual place.

The Cathedral of San Pietro: Older than San Giorgio, this was the diocesan church of the city until factions formed around Modica Alta and Modica Basso. The  ensuing divisions ended in their being two patron saints of the city – San Giorgio for the upper city and Saint Peter for the lower city. The statues of the twelve saints that stand along both sides of the entrance stairway to the church are beautiful, as is the interior of this historic church.

Saints Entrance San Pietro Modica

Saints Entrance San Pietro Modica

San Niccolo Inferiore: It was in the late 1960’s, when a car repair garage was being renovated, that the workers opened up a cave that had been used by early (4th Century A.D.) Christians as a place of worship. Located almost directly across the street from one of Italy’s premier chocolatiers (see Chocolate below), you have to ring a bell to enter this little known treasure in the heart of the city. Once you ring the bell, a warden leans out of a window above you, descends and opens the cave for you. The walls retain remnants of fourth and fifth century frescoes created by the artists of the day, gorgeous in their simplicity, moving in their beauty.

Frescoes Chiesa Rupestre San Niccolo Inferiore  Modica

Frescoes
Chiesa Rupestre San Niccolo Inferiore
Modica

Chocolate in Modica:

Chocolate Assortment Bonajuto Modica

Chocolate Assortment
Bonajuto Modica

You can find few chocolatiers in Italy that can match the history of Bonajuto (bon-aye-u’-toe) in Modica Basso. Established in 1880 by Francesco Bonajuto, the recipes used in this workshop date to the time of Spanish occupation on the island. The grainy texture of the chocolate,(they do not allow the sugar to dissolve completely)  mixed with ingredients as diverse as red pepper or lemon, are a delight. Guided visits are possible at Bonajuto. See below under “IF YOU GO” for further details.

Day Trips

There are numerous options open to visitors who choose Modica as the base for their visit to this part of Sicily. Easily reached are the other famous Sicilian baroque cities of Scicli, Noto and Ragusa. Lovely small fishing villages dot the southeastern coast and offer quiet (except in July and August!) respite from the cities.

A longer day trip can take visitors to the extraordinary Valley of the Temples near the southern town of Agrigento. (A future post will discuss the Valley in great detail).

On many evenings, I have walked up to the piazza above the Hotel Palazzo Failla – see “Hotels” below (not for the feint of heart!) and looked out over the valley of Modica. Despite the occasional group of local youths who gather as young people are wont to do, the timelessness of the buildings, the rugged beauty of the architecture and the long sifted light of sunset evoke a different time, a different era, a different Italy.

No matter where your travels take you during time in Sicily, visit Modica. You will not be disappointed.

IF YOU GO:

Hotels:

Entrance Palazzo Failla Hotel Modica

Entrance
Palazzo Failla Hotel
Modica

Absolutely and without question, the Palazzo Failla in Modica Alta. The Failla family opened this lovely hotel in their family palazzo. The resultant restoration is gorgeous; the master bedroom, replete with original floor tiles from the Sicilian ceramic city of Caltagirone, are one of the many options for guests. In 2008, the family opened a dependance across the road from the original hotel where suites that include every modern convenience (Spa tubs, steam showers for example) are available. There are two restaurants in the hotel – the Gazza Ladra and La Locanda del Colonnello. The Gazza is one of the finest restaurants in Italy and the Locanda offers more typical Sicilian fare. Both are excellent places to eat in the city.

In closing I must write that the Failla family has cared for many of my company’s clients over the years. Their extraordinary service would be difficult to match in the highest luxury level hotels across Italy. Truly a wonderful place to stay during your explorations of southern Sicily.

Via Blandini, 5 – 97015 Modica (RG)

Tel: +39.0932.941.059

Restaurants:

Osteria dei Sapori Perduti

In addition to the two restaurants listed in the Hotel Palazzo Failla, I also strongly encourage you to enjoy a meal (or meals!) at the

Osteria dei Sapori Perduti - Modica

Osteria dei Sapori Perduti – Modica

Osteria dei Sapori Perduti. This is a treasure of a place to enjoy a fabulous meal in Sicily. The recipes are generations old, traditional in every sense. The translation of the Osteria’s name (The Osteria of Lost Flavors) is not quite accurate as the flavors, rediscovered in traditional recipes, are unforgettable. This is a very affordable place and the service is matched by the owner’s dedication to satisfying even the most discriminating palate.

Corso Umberto I, 228, 97015 Modica, Sicily, Italy

Tel: +39.0932.944.247

Pizzeria Smile

Pizzeria Smile? Yes. A short walk from the Palazzo Failla in Modica Alta is this wonderful pizzeria. After long days of travel and visiting across this part of Sicily, the pizzeria offers simple and flavorful fare served in a very plain atmosphere. Weather permitting, the dining rooms open to the street and absent the occasional motos that rip past the restaurant, the cool evening breezes are a welcome respite from the heat of summer and welcome cool in the autumn and spring.

Via G. Marconi, 17

Tel: +39.0932.946.666

Churches:

San Giorgio and San Pietro: 10:00AM until 6:00PM except Sundays. Sunday 1:00PM – 5:00PM. The schedule for masses are posted on the doors and interior entrances to the churches.

San Niccolo Inferiore: Via Rimaldi, 1. Tel: +39.331.740.3045. Hours vary by request. You must ring the bell at the entrance to the site to gain entrance with no reservation. If you wish to set up a time to visit, call the Italian cell phone listed in this summary and make an appointment. This is a place with no formal hours, absent 10:00AM to 5:00PM. It is catch as catch can, but well worth the effort!

 
 

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