RESTORING ‘LE RAMPE’ OF SAN NICCOLO’

Being situated in the San Niccolò neighbourhood has many advantages but maybe the thing we love the most is being so close to some of the most beautiful gardens of Florence.  The Bardini Gardens, Rose Garden and also Boboli are all within walking distance from our front door and now we can add another of Florence’s gems to our list of places for you to walk to during your next stay.

Lying below the popular lookout of Piazzale Michelangelo leading down to the San Niccolò Tower in Piazza Poggi is the area known to all Florentines as ‘Le Rampe’.  Built between 1872 & 1876, thanks to architect Giuseppe Poggi, who had initially presented his urban plan to celebrate the choice of Florence as the capital of Italy in 1865.  His plan called for interventions in several parts of the city, including the arrangement of the hill between Piazza San Niccolò and Porta Romana.

And so, Viale dei Colli, Piazzale Michelangelo and Le Rampe were born: this latter architecture connected the square to Porta San Niccolò thanks to a system of staircases, streets, plants and fountains.  Unfortunately, over the years the difficulty in supplying water and the lack of maintenance led to a gradual abandonment of the fountains.

However, Le Rampe has returned to its former glory thanks to an impressive restoration, begun last July by the Municipality of Florence and financed by the Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze Foundation for 2.5 million euros. A new water system has been installed as well as restoration of the caves and the vegetation which was fundamental in Poggi’s original project. 

The Ramps were inaugurated on Saturday 18 May but unfortunately, due to heavy rain, the original light show and circus activities were postponed and so we will have to wait for the sun to return to really enjoy the party.

FOTO Enrico Ramerini / CGE Fotogiornalismo

The restoration has focused on three aspects: the conservation of the architectural component of the system (caves, cliffs and tanks), the construction of the new water system and the recovery of vegetation.

“The hydraulic system is fed from the aquifer and then ends up in the Arno river”- explained Giorgio Caselli of the Florence City Fine Arts Office – “Once activated the timers can be adjusted so as to allow the fountains to function during the day”.

The water will in fact be introduced from the top, where the lily and the shell are visible, to fill the first tank and will then flow into the three caves. From here it will pass into the second basin and through the waterfall, about 5 meters high.  It will fall into the basin below and into the Five Caves to then merge into the oval basin and the single cave. Finally all the water will flow into the large basin of the Tower of San Niccolò and into the two side basins.

BEFORE
AFTER A MASSIVE CLEANUP

The recovery of botanical species has also been very important. Following the original design guidelines, more than 1200 semi-aquatic and aquatic plants have been replaced and 200 species transplanted between vines and Iris, as well as 900 square meters of lawn with flower beds.

A total of 27,000 hours of work including the removal of 100 quintals of weeds removed and the relocation of 1,200 plants has seen an incredible transformation of this important location in Florence.   The new restoration of Le Rampe will contribute to making the ascent on foot to Piazzale Michelangelo much more pleasant, creating a green corner on the banks of the Arno: an important point of attraction for the San Niccolò area.

You can watch a beautiful video of the restoration here.

CELEBRATING LEONARDO

Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath of the Rennaissance whose areas of interest included invention, drawing, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography.he is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter, and tank, many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the “Universal Genius” or “Renaissance Man”, an individual of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination”, and he is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived.

You may have heard that on May 2nd, 2019, Italy and the world will honour the day, 500 years ago, when Leonardo da Vinci died.  There are a host of celebrations and exhibitions already taking place around the world, from Rome, London to New York and of course here in Florence. 

Currently showing in Florence at Palazzo Strozzi is the exhibition, ‘VERROCCHIO, IL MAESTRO DI LEONARDO’, a celebration of Andrea del Verrocchio, an emblematic artist of the Florentine Renaissance, whose workshop is associated with best-known artists, Domenico del Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Perugino and his most famous pupil of all, Leonardo da Vinci.

This major exhibition, open until the 14th July 2019, reconstructs Leonardo’s early artistic career and interaction with his master, Verrocchio.

With a special section, also at the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, the exhibition showcases over 120 paintings, sculptures and drawings thanks to outstanding loans from the world’s leading museums and collections.

Seven works by Leonardo, some on display in Italy for the very first time illustrate the early career of Leonardo da Vinci, and the exhibition provides an overview of artistic works in Florence from roughly 1460 to 1490, the age of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

The exhibition is promoted and organised by the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Musei del Bargello in conjunction with the National Gallery in Washington DC (which will be hosting the show from 29 September 2019 to 2 February 2020) with the support of the Comune di Firenze, the Regione Toscana and the Camera di Commercio di Firenze.  With a contribution from the Fondazione CR Firenze.  Main sponsor : Intesa Sanpaolo.

Andrea del Verrocchio, Madonna and Child (detail), 1470 or c.1475 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie/Christoph Schmidt

When Leonardo was 64, he left Italy for France in 1516 after his patron Giuliano de’Medici died. He was unwell and his hand too crippled to paint, but he and his admiring new patron, Francis I, the youthful king of France, became close friends who discussed everything from philosophy to art, architecture and engineering. 

In his Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Giorgio Vasari, writing in 1550, recorded that Leonardo actually died in the king’s arms, with the king “supporting his head to give him such assistance and do him such favour as he could, in the hope of alleviating his sufferings.” This account by Vasari inspired artists like Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres to paint, that death scene with the king in 1818. 

“The death of Leonardo,” Ingres, 1818

In his carefully researched ‘Leonardo Da Vinci, The Biography’ (Simon and Schuster, 2017). Walter Isaacson writes, “With Leonardo, nothing is so simple,” Leonardo was buried in the cloister of the Church of Saint Florentin at Amboise, “but the current location of his remains is another mystery,” writes Isaacson. The church was demolished in the early 19th C., and, although excavation decades later revealed bones, they are usually and cautiously described as Leonardo’s “presumed remains.”

The Leicester Codex of Leonardo da Vinci

One of the main events of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death begins this October at the Uffizi Galleries of Florence, with the exhibition “The Leicester Codex of Leonardo da Vinci: Water as Microscope of Nature.” The 72-page Codex, which discusses the movement of water, fossils, and moonlight (among other topics) is being loaned by Bill Gates, who purchased it in 1990 for over $30 million.

Florence is definitely the place to be this year to celebrate the genius that was Leonardo da Vinci!

VERROCCHIO IL MAESTRO DI LEONARDO

9 MARCH – 14 JULY, 2019

PALAZZO STROZZI – Daily 10.00 – 20.00, Thursdays 10.00 – 23.00 

Exhibition also open on Public Holidays. 

Reservations : +39 055 2469600 – prenotazioni@palazzostrozzi.org

OUTLET EXPERIENCE IN TOWN!

This past week I was able to visit the SecretCloset Outlet.
My first impression started from the outside; the building is beautiful! It is located right near the San Niccolò area and was very easy to walk to from Palazzo San Niccolò. Even though I went to do work, I felt like a high class luxury shopper having to be buzzed into the building. Once inside it is set up similar to a showroom, but for a majority of the shoes there was only one pair left. The SecretCloset includes brands like Steve Madden, Jeffrey Campbell, Buffalo, UGG, Naked Wolf, and Dr. Martens.

The discounts on the shoes were amazing! All of the shoes were anywhere from 30% to 80% off of the original price (end of season styles). These particular shoes were all from the winter collections from these brands, and the store changes the shoes every week. I knew it would be hard to work for a company that specializes in some of my favorite shoes, but with these great prices I’m going to end up going home with a much heavier suitcase!

To get a pass to enter the SecretCloset, you can contact the Reception desk in Palazzo San Niccolò to get one! It is a free, exclusive pass that anyone can get! Once you visit once, you can ask the workers there for a membership card that allows you to come back whenever you want. The card is free, but takes a few weeks to receive. The closet is only open on Friday and Saturday for right now, but will open for more hours in the spring and summer. To keep up to date with the new arrivals and sales, follow us on Instagram!

Location: Via di Ricorboli, Florence

Hours: Saturday + Sunday 10:30am-7:30pm

Instagram: secretcloset.firenze

by Julia Wright

LA PARTITA “DELL’ASSEDIO”

On February 17th in the year 1530, Florence was besieged by the troops of Carlo V and Pope Clemente VII, who wanted to bring the Medici Family back to Florence. A game of  ‘soccer’  was played to mock and make fun of the enemy.   This was not the same soccer as the one we know today, but the historical game known as Calcio Storico: an ancient game, that according to some people was played by Romans, called Harpastum and played to keep the body trained. The Florentines decided to demonstrate to the army of Carlo V that life in the city was the same and they were not going to stop doing what they always did. So they decided to play the game in front of the troops. One team was dressed in white and the other in green and the prize for the winner was a calf.

Nobody knows how the match ended or which team won – it doesn’t matter….what really matters is that the game played on that day will be remembered as a great event in the history of Florence. To remember that fateful day, this Sunday 17th February 2019 the players of “Calcio Storico Fiorentino” will return to the same field in Piazza Santa Croce square to honour the brave warriors who preceded them.  Santa Croce square will be as it was in the 16th century to remind people of the events of that important day.

“The match played is an anthem to Florence, a symbol that is part of the identity of each Florentine and that adds a sense of belonging to our city.”

 

 

GET READY FOR CARNIVAL!

CARNEVALE DI VIAREGGIO – FEBRUARY 9 – MARCH 5, 2019

Carnival celebrations are held all over Italy from Venice and Milan down to the villages and towns of Sicily with many of the biggest celebrations on Martedi Grasso (Mardi Gras) or Fat Tuesday.  As in many other parts of the world, it is also approaching Carnival time in Tuscany.  Viareggio is home to one of the most impressive Carnival festivals in Italy and 2019 marks the 146th edition of the Viareggio Carnival.  This years festival is dedicated to women and so we look forward to seeing what floats have been created.  It has become a well established European tradition of carnival festivals, with parades and celebrations being held for the five weekends before lent which begins on Ash Wednesday. The first indication that the Carnival Season is here are the beautiful sweets that start to appear in the local bakery.  Sweet delights such as Cenci, Frittelle di Riso and Schiacciata alla Fiorentina.

Second only to the famous festivities held in Venice,  the Carnival of Viareggio was born in 1873 when the first parade of festively decorated carriages was seen in the historic Via Regia, the heart of the old town. It was transferred to the Promenade at the beginning of the twentieth century and it has grown in size and popularity year after year. In 1954 a big media event was created when the newly founded Radiotelevisione Italiana – RAI sent their first outside live TV report from the Carnival of Viareggio.  In 1958 the report of the parade was broadcast in Eurovision and nowadays it is the largest Italian folk event with a budget of € 5 million per year.

The Carnival of Viareggio lasts a whole month with day-time and night-time festivities, the famous parades of floats, local parties, masked balls and festivals of all kinds. The huge floats are made in what is known as the Cittadella del Carnevale.  Sixteen hangars, where the “Papier-Mâché Masters” set up the  huge Carnival floats, overlook a giant elliptical square.  The complex has a specific architectural structure and in addition to the hangars, there is the Carnival museum,  Carnevalotto Museum for contemporary art. An historical archive, a restaurant and the big central square, where some of the most important events of Viareggio take place, like summer concerts, parties and dance shows.

 

A papier mache depicting Uberto Bonettii who created Burlamacco, the Clown mascot of the Viareggio Carnival

DID YOU KNOW?

Burlamacco was first depicted in 1931 by Uberto Bonetti when he won a competition to design the mascot for the Carnival.   He chose the red and white of the outfit from the traditional colours of the umbrellas on the beachs of Viareggio and the name Burlamacco came 8 years later, derived from the Burlamacca river.  To this day Burlamacco remains a feature of the carnival and there is a statue of him all the year round on the Lungomare in Viareggio.

These days the Carnival of Viareggio is broadcast on national television and watched all over Italy.  Each year famous guests, politicians and sports figures come to Viareggio to admire their papier – mâché effigies although not all are complimentary and mostly satirical.

Each year the Viareggio carnival attracts more than 600,000 people so be prepared if you decide to brave the crowds.  Getting there by bus or train is probably the best option but we can also organise a private transfer to the Cittadella and also to the promenade to watch the parade! 

The parades take place in a 2km long, ring-like circuit on the seaside avenue, best known as La Passeggiata.  Here the floats move among the crowds of spectators, who can attend the show as there are no barriers – so the spectators often become the protagonists of the parade too!

CARNEVALE DI VIAREGGIO – FEBRUARY 9 – MARCH 5, 2019

Click here for more details – VIAREGGIO CARNIVAL

REFLECTIONS FROM OUR INTERN – GIANNA

“Despite the fact that I had been excitedly telling everyone that I would be studying abroad in Florence for a semester, it didn’t sink in until I had lugged my suitcases up three flights of stairs in the early September humidity, and caught a glimpse of the Duomo from my balcony window. At the program orientation they discussed how it might take time to adjust and prepared us for various aspects of culture shock that students usually experience. Initially, these external influences didn’t really seem to affect me. My curiosity and eagerness to explore my new home led me down unknown cobblestone alleys, discovering amazing dishes that I severely butchered the pronunciation of. I loved everything Italy had to offer – amazing, fresh food; rich culture; and convenient access to the rest of Europe. Italy was spectacular, way better than charmless, concrete clad America.
Once classes started things began to feel more normalized, and I settled into a new routine consisting of pasta and gelato twice a day. As the previously unknown streets became familiar and favorite cafes were established, the initial honeymoon haze started to wane. I became aware of the absence of little aspects of home that I relied on to feel comfortable. For instance, I had no point of reference for any brands at the nearest Pam Local and the had to hunt through several pharmacies to find one that carried face wash. These novel experiences, not the different language or unfamiliarity with the city, were what reminded me daily that I was in a place very far away from home.
When preparing to study abroad I knew I wanted to do everything possible to take full advantage of the opportunity to be in Europe for an entire semester. I had a list of the places I wanted to go, and the weekends planned out to do so. What I wasn’t prepared for was how exhausting traveling practically every weekend would be. I pushed past the fatigue and sickness to explore new cities that I had dreamed about for so long. It continued to surprise me how places could appear very similar, but beyond surface-level experiences, are quite unique. Embracing interactions with locals while using public transportation, seeking restaurant recommendations, and participating in local and traditional celebrations provided invaluable insight into the daily life of each place I visited.
One experience that enriched my semester in Florence was the opportunity through my program to have dinner with a local Italian family. Every Tuesday my friend and I would walk to our family’s apartment on the outskirts of the city with empty stomachs, prepared for a decadent home cooked meal. During each visit I gained a much richer understanding of Tuscany and the Italian lifestyle in general from our lively, inquisitive discussions. While sometimes heavily aided by Google Translate on both sides, I was fascinated by their commentary every time. I loved discovering aspects of American life that were common place to me but seemed completely absurd to them, and visa versa.
Additionally, I was fortunate to be able to participate in an internship with Your Place in Florence. I had previous work experience in hospitality and marketing and was eager to see these fields approached through a different, Italian lens. From my time spent at Palazzo San Niccolò I gained an appreciation for the finer attention to details and aspects of running a local business compared to the more corporate environment I was a part of in the States. I thouroghly enjoyed collaborating with other members of the team while working on projects, and learned so much from their unique insights.
Beyond the material covered in my courses and cities explored, I learned so many things about myself during my time abroad. I began my semester in Florence as an obvious outsider and soon came to call it home. I cannot wait to see how my perspectives of my home in America have changed when I return based on what I have experienced this semester.”

PIAZZA SANTA CROCE CHRISTMAS MARKET

written by Gianna Bacher

The piazza of the beautiful Basilica di Santa Croce is home to the largest Christmas market in Florence! While the tradition began in Germany in the 12th century and spread to surrounding the countries, the Weihnachtsmarkt Santa Croce does not fail to deliver the charm and excitement of the historic markets.

The Weihnachtsmarkt market has been an annual tradition in Florence for the past 500 years and is a spot you have to experience during holiday season. From November 28 to December 20th (10 am-10pm)  you can stroll through the festive, German style open-air wooden stalls to browse the local and international goods.

The Santa Croce market hosts traditional, mouthwatering foods such as bratwurst and pretzels. These create a rich, savory meal when accompanied by kraut or a beer.  A must-try goodie is Kürtőskalács, also called chimney cake, covered in your choice of delicious toppings such as cinnamon and chocolate. A warm cup of mulled wine is the perfect holiday drink to warm you up on a brisk winter’s day, and some stalls even have the option to keep the mug as a souvenir!  Other fun international treats can be found at the Dutch crepes and waffles stall and the Austrian booths lined with an array of tempting pastries.

An Italian twist is added to the traditional stalls with the addition of the tasty cheese, jam, chocolate, and spice vendors. Original jewelry and contemporary artwork can also be found at local artisan’s booths. Several vendors that sell winter wears such as scarves, hats, and jackets to keep warm while enjoying the market and the rest of Florence. The market is a great place to pick up unique Christmas treats and sweets for stocking stuffers or souvenirs. Beautifully crafted ornaments and candle votives of all kinds are sure to liven any holiday celebration. Lastly, there is a plentiful variety of ceramic home goods offered at the English stalls where you can also buy amazing lemon curd and fruit-mince.

Whether you are just perusing the stalls or on the hunt for one-of-a-kind gifts, you are sure to enjoy this delightful market!


 

Florence Hot Air Balloon Festival

Get to experience the city of Florence through a perspective unlike any other. A relatively new addition to Florence, the Festival delle Mongolfiere is sure to brighten your stay.

The festival began only two years ago and is held just a short distance from the city centre. Accessible by foot, train, bus, or taxi, make your way over to the Ippodromo del Visarno on October 13th-14th or the following weekend of the 20th-21st to witness the giants of the air light up the Florence sky.

There are many activities for both children and adults that are sure to captivate. For an unparalleled view of the city, take a ride in a free-flying or tethered balloon. For those that prefer the comfort of the ground, have your breath taken away by a musical performance of colourful balloons illuminating the night sky. If you want an even closer look, let reality fade as you explore the inside of two grounded balloons and hear the fantastic stories as told by the staff. Finally, for those travelling with children, the festival offers various free workshops and activities that allow creativity to run free.

photos by balloonintuscany.com

Hot Air Balloon Festival 13-14, 20-21 October, 2018

For more details and the whole program, visit http://www.festivaldellemongolfiere.it

SETTEMBRE IN PIAZZA DELLA PASSERA

This year marks the 17th edition of the event Settembre in Piazza della Passera” ! After taking a sabbatical last year.  The festival was conceived by Stefano Di Pucci, owner of Trattoria 4 Leoni together with the cultural association “In Piazza”, under the direction of Alessandro Di Puccio and in collaboration for the organisation with Momy Manetti.  The initial plan was to include all the main squares of the Oltrarno, with the idea of using art to enhance the territory and an opportunity to meet and discover new talents.

The piazza has come alive this week with two concerts each evening, all with free admission and the idea this year was to involve young students in the event.  The ‘Giovani in Piazza’ format, created with the Jazz department of the Florence Academy of music offers young talents in the sector the opportunity to open the first three evenings.

 

 

FLORENCE JAZZ FRINGE FESTIVAL 5-9 SEPTEMBER

 

Calling all Jazz lovers!  Florence is the place to be for 5 days of Jazz from the 5th – 9th September.  The Firenze Jazz Fringe Festival (FJFF) will include 70 hours of music, 150 artists, 50 performances across 12 locations. Local and international jazz artists will bring to life the many iconic piazzas, churches and bars of the city, our top picks being Rifrullo, Piazza Santo Spirito and Piazza del Carmine. The inauguration is to take place on the 5th September at 9:00pm at the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte. The river Arno will also naturally set the stage for some specatcular performances.  There will be an incredible floating stage in front of the Ponte Vecchio and the ‘River Urban Beach’ will also host some special performances on the night of Saturday 8th.

 

For more details and the whole program look at the Event website : www.fjff.it