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Posts Tagged ‘Small group tours of Italy’

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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

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Seating Main Level Flixbus

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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.

Florence:

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.

 

 

 

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Today we reached a milestone.

100,000 visitors to our blog.

Please accept my profound appreciation for your loyalty and interest in our articles!

If you would like to FOLLOW us, please use the block at the right side of our blog home page, include your email address and you will receive a brief update when future posts are made. Your email address will never be shared with anyone.

 

 

 

Stats 10:35AM EST November 14 2016

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I will continue to do all I can to ensure that you receive the best updates regarding the finest cultural experiences in bella Italia.

Grazie!

Mark Gordon Smith

Private Italy Tours LTD

Author, Tuscan Echoes A Season in Italy

and Tuscan Light, Memories of Italy

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Last Supper restored detail

I had the privilege of studying the panels of Giorgio Vasari’s Last Supper during a visit to the Opificio dell Pietra Dura workshop in Florence’s Fortezza di Basso last March.

Given the condition of the painting at that time, it was difficult to believe that the restored panels would be ready to hang once again in their place of honor in the Basilica of Santa Croce by early November of this year.

 

On November 4, exactly fifty years from the date that Vasari’s work was inundated and nearly destroyed in 1966, the work was unveiled in its original home.

It is difficult to put in to words what this means to Florentines. When Cimabue’s Crucifixion was restored and unveiled, the city expressed the same deep sense of pride they do now. Florentines are justifiably proud of their artistic heritage, no more so than when a Renaissance treasure by Vasari comes once again to life.

This is no small piece of art. The completed work measures 8.6 Feet (262 cm) high by 19 Feet (580 cm) wide.

For forty-six years the panels were kept in secure storage, awaiting the moment when art restoration would successfully meet the scientific techniques required to carefully and lovingly repair the painting.  It was in 2012 that the panels were moved to the Opificio della Pietra Dura in Florence to begin the process of ‘rebirth’.

Vasari’s opus joins several other master works at Santa Croce, including Taddeo Gaddi’s Last Supper.

Below are some photographs taken shortly after the flood submerged this masterpiece for over thirty-six hours, as well as photos of the work’s recent restored unveiling.

In a word? GO!

Santa Croce Visiting Hours, Ticketing Information and Map

Shortly after the flood – note that the panels have been covered with linen cloth to stabilize the paint so that it would not flake off as the piece was moved and dried.

The experts bring the Last Supper back to life

The completed masterpiece, in its place of honor at Santa Croce

 

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Midnight in Umbria’s city of Norcia.

Huge construction lights illuminate the facade of the Basilica of St. Benedict. Behind the facade, ruin.  The loss of this religious and artistic treasure will take decades to restore-if it can ever be restored.

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October 30, 2016 – the aftermath

The basilica was constructed over the site where,  in 480 AD, the founder of the Benedictine order and Sister St. Scolastica were born.

Benedict’s legacy has been plagued with difficulties. The Monastery of Monte Cassino, located close to Rome, was destroyed during the final years of WWII. Though it was rebuilt, the crosses that mark the cost of allied victory dot the cemeteries at the abbey.

Now, the loss of the home church.

PLEASE keep the people of central Italy in your thoughts, meditations and prayers.

In June of 2015, the monks released a CD of their chants, recorded within the nave of the Basilica. As you hear the bells, calling the monks to service, and you hear the echo of their voices as they reflect off of 13th century wall, please remember that the walls exist no more. Now, the ghostly rise of their voices seek the stars . . .

Please click on the album cover below to watch the beautiful and moving video to mark the launch of their album.(Note that if you purchase the CD from their site, a portion of the proceeds go to help those in need.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Marco Caretlli in Studio Siena

Marco Caratelli in his studio

One a blustery March day, I was walking behind the Duomo of Siena. A small table with a gorgeous Renaissance style icon, presenting the location of an artisan’s studio, drew my attention.

Upon entering the workshop, the young gentleman introduced himself as Marco Caratelli. A small dog was curled up on a pillow in the corner. Heat created a welcomed respite from the fresh late winter weather.

The shelves of the small workshop were lined with extraordinarily beautiful icons; wings of angels, faces as if freshly taken from a Duccio di Buoninsegna work of the early Renaissance.

Marco graduated with an art degree from the University of Siena’s School of Art in 1998 and began his exploration of ancient techniques, now refined under his well experienced hand.

Marco Caretlli Icon Foil

Gold Foil after application

His dedication to keeping the art form alive is reflected in his commitment to using techniques outlined in Cennino Cennini’s Il Libro del Arte, early 14th Century studies of artists and the materials used to create early Renaissance panels and frescoes. Most of the wood types he uses, aged at least thirty years and specially selected for his purpose, are walnut, poplar or chestnut. Gesso or plaster is then applied to the wood. Twenty-four carat gold leaf follows on top of a layer of “bolo armenico”, a mixture of red clay and water.

Special tools, called punzoni or bulini, are used to create the incised patters which form the halos or other ornamentation on the icon.

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A completed work

When the time comes to paint, Marco uses only natural pigments and colors, following the traditions of the Renaissance iconists.

The texture of Italian culture is formed of many sources; food, wine, landscape, history, architecture, and art. When Marco’s hands touch aged wood, apply gesso, gold and paint inspired by centuries of artistic heritage he brings the past alive. At a time when we are driven by an unfounded need to have everything ‘now’, artists like Marco, their work and their passionate commitment to cultural memory are reminders of how we arrived to today and how we must keep the past alive.

NEW YORK OPENING

In early April 2016, Marco travels to New  York City for an opening of his work titled, “Details”. This exhibit will be presented at the Ward-Nasse Gallery, 178 Prince Street, NY, NY 10012.

You can contact the gallery on +1.212.925.6951.

APRIL 8 – 17, 2016

DETAILS

THE ART OF MARCO CARATELLI

The opening reception, April 9, 2016 from 4:00PM to 7:00PM offers the opportunity to meet Marco and view his historically important work.

If you cannot attend this exhibit, are next in Siena or wish to perhaps own one of his works, you can contact him on www.passatonelpresente.com.

You can find Marco, of a day when in Siena, at Via Monna Agnese 20. The street is located down the hill below the Baptistery entrance of the Siena Duomo.

For those who understand Italian, the link below is a recent interview with Marco from Siena TV.

Marco Caratelli-Siena TV

 

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