Florence is a city rich not only in art and history, but also in curiousities and intriguing secrets.
Today we will speak about the mystery related to those ancient shrines dedicated to a very important product of the city’s both culture and economy.
If you have been to Florence, probably wandering in the streets of the center you could have seen some “buchette” (small openings) on the ground floor of the facades of palaces.
These small holes are all very similar: they have the shape of a small door with a higher arch, decorated by a dropped frame, and closed by a wooden door.
What were those little holes for? Well these are “wine tabernacles”.
Their origin dates back to many centuries ago: at the end of XVth century the trade in textiles and linen, a driving engine of the Florentine medieval and Renaissance economy, began to encounter the fierce competition of the northern countries, especially England.
The nobles, the bankers and the Florentine merchants sought new markets and decided to invest their capitals in land and possessions. The new landowners invested on the typical products of the area and particularly on wine. Those little holes are the result of strong investment in wine production.
Through these openings the producers directly sold their wine on the street, without other intermediaries, such as taverns. The little holes were placed on the ground floor at the same level as the palaces’ inner cellars to allow a quick and easy sale.
Try to knock when you find one, maybe a good merchant of ancient times might make you taste the new wine 😉
One of the best things about Florence is that at every corner, if you raise your head and look around, you always have the opportunity to discover something new.
And we’re not just talking about beautiful churches and old buildings, but of curiosities mostly linked to particular stories and legends, like the one we’re about to tell you:
Near the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore you can find the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. In the side of the tower overlooking Via dei Cerretani you will notice that there is a “petrified head” embedded in the bricks: This is the “Berta”.
Two very different stories tell us about its likely origin:
According to one school of thought, it seems that this head is there from 1326 because of Cecco d’Ascoli (an astrologer condemned to the stake). The man was led to death and casted a curse to a woman who, denying him water, had prevented him to save himself from the flames (he had made a pact with the devil).
According to others, Berta would have been a greengrocer who gave the church a bell, so that it could be used to alert citizens with its chimes about the opening and closing of the city gates.
This small bust is therefore a sign of recognition of the Florentines to Berta.
Which of the two stories is true? We do not know, it’s up to you to choose what to believe 😉
The traditional event opens his gates tomorrow in Florence!
From April 23rd to May 1st the Fortezza da Basso will be the place to go for a journey through tasty flavours, handmade objects and the best of local and international artisans.
Every year a foreign country is the special guest and it’s Brazil’s turn this time: in its reserved areas the country of next Olympic games will show you its best thanks to food pavillons, shows and events.
The opening times are the following:
Every day from 10am to 10:30pm
(on the last day early closing at 8pm)
All information on the official website
Here’re our tips to enjoy the fair at its best 😉
avoid April 25th and May 1st: they’re national holidays in Italy, so the risk of overcrowding are pretty high. Moreover the last day happens to be mostly a dismantling day for most international exibithors so you might not be able to see some of them properly
use lunchtime to see the pavillons while many visitors will be eating, and enjoy an early lunch when food pavillons will not be crowdy yet, so to avoid queueing
get there in the afternoon, enjoy a first look to the exibithors and dine inside the fair, then after dinner might be the occasion to get again in the pavillons and complete your shopping
The Amatriciana or matriciana is a typical dish of the Italian tradition, known and appreciated in every region. The name comes from Amatrice, a town in the province of Rieti. The main ingredients are guanciale (jowl bacon), pecorino cheese and tomato.
In the nineteenth century and until the beginning of the twentieth century the popularity of the dish in Rome grew considerably. This happened because of the close contacts between Rome and Amatrice. Many innkeepers and restaurant owners in the city were from Amatrice, so that the term “Matriciana” came to mean “inn with kitchen”.
The pasta Amatriciana was very well received and quickly became a classic dish of Roman cuisine.
Here’s the recipe!
Although you can use any type of pasta, the tradition requires to use bucatini (large spaghetti hollowed in the center).
400 g of bucatini (or spaghetti)
300 g of peeled tomatoes (in season 4-5 ripe red tomatoes)
150 g of jowl bacon thick sliced
60-70 g of grated pecorino (mild and not too salty)
1 red pepper
1/2 cup of dry white wine
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Bring to the boil the water for the pasta. Meanwhile, cut the bacon into cubes eliminating the hard parts (rind), put on the fire a frying pan and when it is hot, combine the bacon and let it cook on low heat with a little oil.
Add the tomatoes, peeled and chopped and cook over high heat for about ten minutes; season with salt, pepper and remove from heat. As soon as the water bubbles, add the salt and the pasta to cook it. Drain the bucatini “al dente”, season with the sauce, sprinkle with cheese and mix everything.
To better appreciate the dish, put the pasta Amatriciana in the dishes and add more grated cheese before serving.
Enjoy this delicious recipe with family and friends, accompanied by a good glass of Italian wine! Buon appetito!!
Now that autumn has arrived there’s nothing better than a warm risotto to cheer up the first cold evenings…
This recipe is typical of northern Italy (it comes from Milan to be precise, where it is accompanied by Ossobuco) but has now become part of the Italian traditional cooking and is well known around the world: it’s risotto alla milanese (or saffron risotto).
Let’s find out how to prepare this easy and tasty recipe!
1 small onion
freshly grated Parmesan
In a saucepan bring broth and water to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer.
Finely chop onion and in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan cook in 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.
Add rice, stirring to coat with butter. Add the broth mixture and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a simmer, until absorbed.
Continue cooking and adding broth mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking.
Stir in Parmesan, saffron, remaining tablespoon butter, and salt and pepper and prepare to enjoy this amazing recipe, that must be eaten hot to be fully enjoyed and appreciated!
If you would like to find out more recipes or would like to join us for a personalized cooking experience, take a look at our cooking courses or write us at email@example.com to receive information about tailor-made cooking programs!
With this article, we’re starting a two-dates travel in Florentine history and culture: we’ll be exploring together the markets of Florence!
Not only places where to eat or go shopping, but also rich in funny and not so famous tales 🙂
In this first issue we’d like to start this trip talking about the Old and the New markets in town.
– Mercato Vecchio (Old Market): The Old Market was an area of Florence that was demolished, along with the old Ghetto, between 1885 and 1895 for the creation of Piazza della Repubblica, during the so-called “restoration” of the city.
This site was the ancient Roman forum of Florentia. The area had a high symbolic value, since it was the geographical center of the city where the Cardud and Decumanus intersected.In the early Middle Ages the area continued to be a meeting place, and soon became the most important market place of the city; it remained so until the election of Florence, capital of Italy, together with the need for a historic renovated and up to the expectations of the new political class, made it necessary to modify the structure of the city.
Exactly on the spot where the Cardus and Decumanus intersect, you can still today admire the column of Abundance or column Dovizia. The column defines the boundaries of three of the four historic districts of Florence (Santa Croce, San Giovanni and Santa Maria Novella) and, on it there still are attached two irons, one at the top, which was used to hook the bell which gave signals the opening and closing of the Old Market (dismantled to make room for the current Republic Square), the other at the bottom, was used instead to tie you with a bell collar worn by rogue traders exposed to the public pillory.
– Loggia del Mercato Nuovo is better known as Loggia del Porcellino. It is so called to distinguish it from the Mercato vecchio located in the area of today’s Piazza della Repubblica.
Built around the middle of the 16th century in the heart of the city, just a few steps from the Ponte Vecchio, at first it was intended for the sale of silk, luxury goods and straw hats, while today you can find there both leather goods and souvenirs.
The focal point of the loggia is the Fontana del Porcellino, “fountain of the piglet”. Popular tradition has it that rubbing the nose brings fortune, so over time, the statue has acquired a certain shine in that spot. Visitors are encouraged to place a coin in the mouth of the boar after rubbing its nose, and superstition implies that the wish will be granted if the offering tumbles through the grate whence the water flows.
Another oddity of the place is thestone of the shame, a round spot marked in bicoloured marble at the centre of the loggia, which is only visible when no sales stalls are there. The design reproduces one of the wheels of a medieval Carroccio, symbol of the Florentine republic, on which the city’s standard was hoisted daily.
The spot was later chosen for another purpose, whence its alternative name pietra dell’acculata (“the stone of the bum punishment”). During the Renaissance, the punishment of insolvent debtors included being chained to a post on this spot and then paddled repeatedly on the naked buttocks. The popular expression stare col culo a terra (“to have one’s ass on the ground”) and the word sculo (a dialectal word for “misfortune”) may have originated from this practice.
Coming to Tuscany can be quite exhausting: visiting churches and museums, sightseeing cities, wandering around the countryside for a wine tasting in Chianti or a concert in a medieval village…
But coming to our region on holidays means that no one would likely get back home tired, right?
A good way to relax and enjoy a lazy day away from the crowds of tourists and rushing queues should be to drive off to one of Tuscan natural hot springs.
Our region is really rich in hot natural springs bubbling out of the ground, whose waters are filled with minerals and are used for their curative properties since ancient times.
The best thing is that you can also choose to take a few days off to relax treating yourselves, as many hot springs are used by spa hotels and medical centres; but you can also decide to enjoy the pleasure of discovering one of the wild hot springs peppering the untamed countryside.
Florentine people are well known to be funny and entertaining, always very proud of their wonderful city (easy to understand why!) and full of stories an anecdotes. If you are interested in discovering more about Florentine people and typical places (including historic local shops) take a look at this interesting Youtube channel called Firenze a Ufo, where a group of guys will take you around introducing some famous Florentine people, places and facts.
The program is entirely in Italian but can be a very good exercise for intermediate learners as no difficult words are spoken and the accent is mild, very well understandable. This program is interesting even for Italians, since the facts and stories told are usually not known by everyone and are very interesting to discover!
Episode n. 10 covers the story of one of the most well known “panineria” of the town: All’Antico Vinaio, located in Via de’ Neri. Tourists and locals queue sometimes for over a half hour to get one of their famous schiacciata ripiena (stuffed focaccias). Just watching this interview I feel hungry already! It’s a real must visit when you come to Florence.
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