Medici villas #2: Poggio a Caiano

Medici villas #2: Poggio a Caiano

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The construction of this medicean villa located between Florence, Prato and Pistoia was the whim of Lorenzo the Magnificent, thus he commissioned it to his favourite architect, Giuliano da Sangallo, at the end of the 15th century. A residence for the pure leisureliness of contemplation by the dynastic power, the villa of Poggio a Caiano recovers elements of the classic architecture such as the fronton and Ionic temple at the main facade. Due to the harmony and symmetry of its proportions, as for representing an ideal of life in the outskirts under Humanism, the site is listed World Heritage by the UNESCO since 2013. Walking the Parco all’inglese and the Giardino all’italiana is as stimulating as visiting its interior. Free entrance.
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Medici villas #1: La Petraia

Medici villas #1: La Petraia

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Perched on a hill top of Castello, with a panoramic view of Florence, this astonishing 14th century villa was first owned by the Brunelleschi family and the Strozzi, before being home to Cosimo I de’ Medici and his offsprings. It was also the favourite residence of Vittorio Emanuele II in the company of her lover Rosa Vercellana. Its significance has paved the way for restorations throughout the centuries, thus becoming declared UNESCO World Heritage in 2013 and an asset of the state museums today. Not to miss are the famous lunettes painted by Giusto Utens — each representing a Medici villa and garden —, the sculptures of Giambologna and a wander lost in its gardens. There is a guided tour in Italian every 30 minutes. Free entrance.

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Medici villas #3: Medicean villa di Castello – Accademia della Crusca

Medici villas #3: Medicean villa di Castello – Accademia della Crusca

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Like the villa of La Petraia, the villa medicea di Castello is in the hills of Castello, a few kilometres from Florence. Built in the 14th century and completely rebuilt in the 16th century, it is mostly famous for its gardens, which compete in splendour with those of Boboli. Also known as Villa Reale, L’Olmo or Il Vivaio, di Castello serves currently as the headquarters of the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s most prestigious linguistic institution, so the visits are restricted and always subject to prior request. The gardens under management of the Polo Museale di Firenze, the institution in charge of the public museums of the province of Florence, are however more accessible. In addition to the gardens, another must-see is its library, the largest in the country regarding linguistics and history of the Italian language.
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Farewell to Bernardo Bertolucci, director of “Stealing Beauty,” a postcard movie shot in Tuscany

Farewell to Bernardo Bertolucci, director of “Stealing Beauty,” a postcard movie shot in Tuscany

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Presented at the 49th iteration of the Cannes Film Festival and shot in Tuscany, the feature film Stealing Beauty (1996) shows the beautiful and cheerful wild face of Tuscany. Siena, Gaiole in Chianti, Castello di Brolio, Scorgiano, the photogenic Tuscan hills, the country houses, the olive trees meadows, the parties in luxury villas, summer, love, sex and interpersonal relationships are the ingredients of this arthouse movie. The film shows wonderful places located in the surroundings of Siena through its 19-year old protagonist interpreted by Liv Tyler. This postcard movie, with its eclectic and outstanding soundtrack  (Portishead, Billie Holiday, Steve Wonder, Liz Phair…), has been key in my romance with Tuscany and Florence. I was 19-year old as well when I saw Stealing Beauty in a cinema theatre in the summer of 1996, in Tenerife. Its romance was very important for me and blossomed my love for this land and this region. Master of the Novecento, poet, documentarist, filmmaker, producer, polemicist, Italian cinema auteur par excellence, Bertolucci died today (November 26, 2018) at his home in Trastevere, Rome, after a long illness.

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St. Regis Winter Garden Bar, a 5 star inner garden in Florence

St. Regis Winter Garden Bar, a 5 star inner garden in Florence

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Florence, with its artistic wonders and cosmopolitan air, has become the universal dream of any traveller. The present and past essence of the Tuscan capital can be breathed in the atmosphere of historical The St. Regis Florence Hotel, which boasts a superior category in piazza Ognissanti since the mid-18th century. Placed in central Florence, at the former Palazzo Giuntini, the picturesque St. Regis Florence has been the favoured stop of experienced travellers for decades. Granted with the Gambero Rosso BAR D’ITALIA prize since 2015 and for four consecutive years, its Winter Garden Bar provides visitors with an exceptional and personalized experience. Gratify yourself with an aperitif, an afternoon tea or after dinner drink accompanied by live piano music and savour the creations arranged with fresh ingredients and masterfully prepared by Bar Manager Christian Pampo and his crew. Everyday, Bloody Mary from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., afternoon tea from 3:30 to 5 p.m., and champagne ritual from 7 to 8 p.m. Open to the public, welcoming and exquisite service.

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History of art according to Florence or the Renaissance chapter at high school

History of art according to Florence or the Renaissance chapter at high school

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History of art was, without a doubt, my favourite subject at high school. By then, Italy was for me a distant and unknown country, it seemed so far as in another planet, and I did not even know what Tuscany meant or where in the map Florence was. At the age of 17, everything seemed so phantasmagorical and unreal … How rare, the unpredictable ways to which life sometimes leads. Especially, to those who try to escape from routine. I then loved the art history classes taught by María Luisa, always conducted in the dark. During those hours, I felt invisible and safe (at that time, my face was plagued by acne). We contemplated slides explained with genuine devotion by the teacher, and took notes of things that I thought I would never see on site. María Luisa inoculated me with the love for art and subtly with a passion for Florentine wonders. Today, 24 years later, I do not even remember her surname.

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Gardens of Florence #9: giardino di Boboli, the paradigm of a 16th century Italian garden

Gardens of Florence #9: giardino di Boboli, the paradigm of a 16th century Italian garden

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The Boboli Gardens date back to 1418, when Luca Pitti bought its land in Oltrarno with the intention of building the magnificent Pitti Palace, later owned by the Medici family. The landscaping was commissioned by the Medici to Niccolò Tribolo, the famous architect responsible for the gardens of their villas of Castello and La Petraia. However, after the premature death of Tribolo, it was Bartolomeo Ammannati who finished the job. The Boboli is the paradigm of the 16th century Italian garden, as well as one of the largest historical parks in Florence. Around the main axes are placed avenues, hedges, terraces full of statues and fountains. The first operas of history were also represented in its open air amphitheatre.
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Gardens of Florence #5: il giardino di Santa Maria Novella, flowers and fruits of Florentine tradition

Gardens of Florence #5: il giardino di Santa Maria Novella, flowers and fruits of Florentine tradition

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The garden of the prestigious perfume brand Santa Maria Novella is located in Firenze-Castello, close to the Medician villa of La Petraia. In this 161,458 ft² paradise still operates the ancient tradition of harvesting the hortus conclusus, just as the Dominican friars used to do in the monastery as of thirteenth century. In the garden and orchard of Santa Maria Novella grow all extracts and essences needed for the elaboration of the perfumes and other products of the legendary brand. The aroma of plants, trees and shrubs; the butterflies and lizards; the Tuscan sun; the Duomo of Florence in the distance … A perfect anti-stress frame prone to relaxation in a pure natural state. (Un)fortunately, it is not open to the public, so better ask for an appointment. (visiteofficina@smnovella.com).
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Gardens of Florence #4: parco mediceo di Pratolino

Gardens of Florence #4: parco mediceo di Pratolino

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This monumental complex, property of the City of Florence, is included since 2013 in the Unesco World Heritage list. In addition to housing The Colossus of the Appenines, the work of Giambologna for which it is perhaps best known, the Medicean Park in Pratolino contains two Italian gardens and another one in romantic style due to modifications in the 19th century, when the property passed to the Lorena and later to the Demidoff. The Medicean villa of Pratolino was almost completely demolished in 1820 and its remains are now part of the villa Demidoff. The garden is also an ideal destination for lovers of trekking, wildlife and flora. The only downside is that, although the park is huge, many areas are fenced and no passage is allowed. On weekends it is full of families with (many) children. It is idyllic for a couple, as well as for a picnic with friends or simply a spot to enjoy alone, with some book and a cold beer.
Parco Mediceo di Pratolino, open from 10 am to 8 pm (until 6 pm on weekends) from the beginning of April to the end of October. Free entrance. Take bus 25 from piazza di San Marco up to the end of the route (25 minutes)

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Monica Magnani’s Florence

Monica Magnani’s Florence

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Se qualcuno mi dice ‘Firenze’ la prima cosa che mi viene in mente è fuggire via. Firenze, a volte, io la guardo e mi sembra diventata un luogo comune, un cliché inventato per far contenti i turisti. Firenze per la nave da crociera è il percorso di due ore, per gli amanti clandestini è la città di un fine-settimana, per le famiglie sono i musei delle vacanze di Pasqua, per le gite scolastiche è il capitolo sul Rinascimento, per gli animi malinconici è lo struggimento della sindrome di Stendhal. Io, da questa Firenze, ho continuamente voglia di scappare e forse mi piace proprio perché, poi, quando sono fuggita via dai luoghi comuni, è così bello aver nostalgia di questa città! Firenze, per chi ha voglia di scappare, ha molte vie di fuga: per alcune ci vuole un mezzo di trasporto, per altre, invece, basta un paio di scarpe comode.

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