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 intending to build the magnificent Pitti Palace, later owned by the Medici family. The Medici commissioned the landscaping 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 most significant historical parks in Florence. Around the principal 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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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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Il Liberty fiorentino: the Florentine art nouveau

Il Liberty fiorentino: the Florentine art nouveau

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Florence is not only synonymous with the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Its streets hide other equally valuable treasures that no one expects to find, as samples of the Liberty style, the Florentine art nouveau of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is quite a decorative style in wrought iron, with floral and animal motifs, linear and curved forms. The Liberty patterns found opposition, hostility and criticism in Florence, as it was believed that these buildings broke the architectural uniformity of the city.

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Shoe master Roberto Ugolini and his traditional atelier in Santo Spirito

Shoe master Roberto Ugolini and his traditional atelier in Santo Spirito

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Roberto Ugolini is one of the most prestigious shoemakers in Florence. His workshop is located right at street level, in Via dei Michelozzi 17, in front of the basilica of Santo Spirito, in Oltrarno, as if in old times, when medieval guilds were so present in cities. The business opened twenty-two years ago just like a repair shop, but he soon began to make shoes too, always in Italian and English leather tanned in Italy. It takes thirty hours of work to create a pair of handmade shoes; thus there´s a waiting list over six months to acquire any. Above and below, photos show one of the craftsmen, probably the sexiest shoemaker in the old continent.

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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 on 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 unusual, 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 showing the art treasures 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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Christmas in Florence, between dreamers and depressed people

Christmas in Florence, between dreamers and depressed people

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In Florence, a city that adores art as a religion and consumerism as an art, Christmas here, as in any other part of the world, is full of dreamers and depressed people. The majority of them have unattainable and hideous expectations about Christmas. While some strive to manifest an insurmountable aversion to all the commonplaces outlined in these days, for others, there is nothing comparable to the emotion and profound joy that Christmas time brings. For better or worse, Christmas produces a significant disruption in the spirit of almost everyone. Christmas decorates us and not the other way round. A golden ornament here and some coloured lights there and voilà: we are happy and feel terrific. We complain heavily about Christmas and the feigned happiness of all its acts without noticing that this superficiality and cult for appearance is what we do daily too.

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Firenze Winter Park, ice-skating in Florence

Firenze Winter Park, ice-skating in Florence

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One of the experiences indisputably linked to Christmas is ice-skating. The Firenze Winter Park is not the New York Rockefeller Center, but it has its charm. I have never skated over ice, and I do not think I am going to do it on this occasion, but I love to go there and observe the eager faces of people, filled with curiosity and happiness. I love to guess who are the scared ones, the clumsy ones, the agile ones, the vanity ones, and even those who show their expertise — they take it as seriously as if they were in a world championship. All in all, this mixture is just great.…

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Casa Musicale G. Ceccherini: the sound of music in the heart of Florence

Casa Musicale G. Ceccherini: the sound of music in the heart of Florence

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Julie Andrews sang in the movie how «the hills are alive with the sound of music». We could imagine this chant not in the Alps but at the Tuscan peaks instead: «I go to the hills when my heart is lonely, my heart will be blessed with the sound of music». At Casa Musicale G. Ceccherini, besides offering space for different courses, repair and rental of instruments, it is possible to buy a cello or a piano, an electric guitar or an amplifier, a solfeggio book or a violin string. I am not a regular of this unique music store in the heart of Florence, but from the cortile of my apartment — which overlooks one of its multiple rooms — I am amused by distinguishing how different piano students evolve every day. Naturally, this is sometimes a truthful delight; some others, just an ordeal.
Casa Musicale G. Ceccherini – Via de’ Ginori, 31R, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy

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Glamour and garbage disposal in Florence

Glamour and garbage disposal in Florence

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I think to myself quite a lot of nonsense every time I throw the garbage in Florence. Depending on where one resides, garbage disposal in Florence requires a walk of 200 or 300 meters to the nearest container. In other cities you can do so in pyjamas or in slippers, with tousled hair and bleary-eyed, but in Florence certain composure and sophistication is needed. You never know whom you could meet on such particularly long journey ……

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Gian Gastone de’ Medici, the last homosexual of the Medici dynasty

Gian Gastone de’ Medici, the last homosexual of the Medici dynasty

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The last sovereign ruler of the Medici dynasty, Gian Gastone (1671-1737), Grandson of Ferdinando II, reigned fourteen years – from 1723 to 1737. He was a lonely pubescent man who spent most of his time isolated in the Boboli Garden, concentrated in his studies on flowers and plants and his collection of dainty, delicate objects and things. It is said that because of his homosexuality, he was affected with a deep melancholy. He was the second in the hereditary line since the first soon of the Grand Duke was Ferdinando. When Ferdinando died without heirs in 1713, Gian Gastone inherited the throne. In 1697 and for alliances and dynasties reasons, Gian Gastone was forced to marry a German-Bohemian princess, Anna Maria Franziska. The matrimony was a calamity from the beginning due to the lack of comprehension combined with a high degree of repellency and depressed resignedness on part of Gian Gastone. The marriage had no children thus consequently the option of a Medici heir vanished.

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