FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Italian tradition: The Mimosa for Women’s Day

mimosa,
The mimosa

In Italy, to celebrate the International Women’s Day on March 8th, men give to women the mimose.

However.. Do you know why, of all the types of flowers , the mimosa was the one chosen as the “typical gift” for this special day?

As you can perfectly see, the flowers of the mimosa are very bright and cheerful! They look very delicate, but they are actually very strong! Just like women!

Its fame as the symbol of Women’s Day is also linked to many important historical events:
In 1946, the U.D.I. (Unione Donne Italiane = the Union of Italian Women) was looking for a flower that could represent the first Women’s Day, after the war. The choice was almost forced: the mimosa is one of the few plants that blooms at the beginning of March. Moreover, it had the advantage of being very cheap given the situation oh the period.

If you want to learn more about Italian traditions and cultures, take a look to our culture courses!

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

To-do in Florence: A Valentine’s day full of sweetness!

Are you ready for the Valentine’s day? Or do you still need to organize something for the one you love, but have no idea of what to do?


Well.. Like every year, in Florence there is the possibility to enjoy the day of love with a lot of sweetness! This romantic city offers in fact in piazza Santissima Annunziata a very special event totally dedicated to sweetness!!

The chocolate fair 2017 welcomes you again with a very interesting program and a lot of sweet surprises!

All information about the program and the opening hours can be found on the official website of the fair: http://www.fieradelcioccolato.it/

If you want to impress the people you love by preparing delicious recipes and dishes by yourself, have a look at our Italian cooking courses!

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Curious Florence: An endless love at Grifoni Palace

Florence is a wonderful city, in fact it doesn’t requires a lot of work to fall in love with it. This Italian city is a living museum, where every street, alley, and building is full of history.

The undisputed charm of the city of Florence comes not only from all the works of art you can see in every street, but also from the imperceptible hidden details, elements that can escape the eye at first glance.

I am now going to reveal you one of these hidden elements that will surely blow your mind:

Piazza_Annunziata
Grifoni Palace

On the corner between Piazza Santissima Annunziata and Via dei Servi there is the Palazzo Grifoni (more known as Palazzo Budini-Gattai), which is a red brick palace. When you observe the palace from the square you might notice that on the facade of this building there is a particular window that is always open.

One of the most less known Florentine legends relates that the Grifoni family lived in this building for centuries and it is said that toward the end of the sixth century, one of the Grifoni sons went off to war (which was not something uncommon at the time) and was so forced to leave her beloved wife.

Piazza_Annunziata1
The open window

The beautiful lady ran to the window to greet him one last time and to watch him leaving. The legend tells us that the wife spent all of her time sitting nearby the window, hoping to see her husband again. The love of her life never returned home, and when she died, the window was shut.

There are two different versions to this story:

Some say that the neighbors of the two lovers were so touched by the profound love story that they decided to reopen the window.

Other people say that when the window was closed, objects inside the room began to fly and furniture began to shake. As a servant reopened the window, everything returned normal. This makes us understand that this woman’s love is still there and her spirit still waits for her husband’s return and will probably wait forever.

No one knows the woman’s name and no one will ever know which one of these two stories is true.

For more stories and legends about Florence, do not miss our history of Florence tours!

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Discover Florence: The Vasarian Corridor

Vasarian Corridor

One of the most memorable thing you can do in Florence is to visit Vasari Corridor. Some people do not understand where this wonderful secret corridor of the Medici family is. In fact it is not simply visible and it is also not simply accessible for security reasons.

The Vasari Corridor is an enclosed private passageway long approximately 1km built in 1565 in just five months by order of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. The total design is planned by Giorgio Vasari, from which the corridor has taken its name.

Painting gallery

Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici has ordered to build this passage at the time of the wedding between his son Francesco I de’ Medici and Johanna of Austria. He especially wanted to be able to move freely between his residence, Pitti Palace, and the government palace, Palazzo Vecchio. In fact, since he had replaced the Republic of Florence, he felt insecure in public. The meat market on the bridge Ponte Vecchio was then replaced by goldsmith shops (that still occupy the bridge until now) to avoid its smell reaching into the passage.

On the other side of the Arno, the corridor passes over the loggiato of the church of Santa Felicita until it finally reaches the Boboli gardens and the apartments in Pitti Palace. The secret passageway contains over 1000 paintings, all dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the important collection of Self-portraits by the greatest Masters of Western Art, like Giorgio Vasari, Andrea del Sarto, Bernini, Canova, Delacriox, Chagal and many others.

The Vasari Corridor can only be visited through guided tours organized by travel agencies and the costs are a little bit expensive. However, it will surely be worth the visit!

If you want to visit the Vasarian Corridor with a private guide, check out our Guided Visits in Florence!

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Curious Florence:

florentine legends, history of florence, italian courses florence, history courses florenceComing to Florence, if you pass by Piazza Duomo it is impossible not to notice the wind that always blows in the square (which in winter turns into a fierce north wind).

That wind is well known to the Florentines, who call it the “rifrullo of the devil”, a curious atmospheric phenomenon that, like many of the “quirks” of Florence, hides its origins in an eerie legend!

florentine legends, history of florence, italian courses florence, history courses florenceThe legend says that one day, we do not know the era, the devil was chasing a priest on the streets of Florence trying in every way to steal his soul. Once they got in front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the poor priest said to the devil, before suffering eternal damnation, he asked the devil to give him one last wish: he wanted to pray for one last time. The devil agreed to the request of the priest, who entered the Church. The devil meanwhile leaned against the Cathedral, waiting for the priest to come out of it.

The priest obviously took advantage of the distraction of the devil to escape, fleeing through another of the many doors of the Cathedral, that Lucifer without noticing.

florentine legends, history of florence, italian courses florence, history courses florenceMeanwhile Satan, bored by the long wait, he began to puff, raising such a breeze in the square. Once discovered the deception with which the priest had made fun of him, the evil breath turned into a real whirlwind.

Since then, the rifrullo devil has never ceased: even the devil’s breath now waits in vain in the square that his chosen bait from the Cathedral…

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Italian cooking: Pappa al Pomodoro

italian recipes, pappa al pomodoro recipe, italian cooking recipesThe “pappa al pomodoro” is one of those dishes that best represents the Florentine and Tuscan cuisine, as it is made of simple ingredients which, properly combined, offers tasty and flavoured dishes!!


Here are the ingredients:

350 gr of stale Tuscan bread
500 grams of ripe Tuscan tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic
basil
1 lt of vegetable broth

italian recipes, pappa al pomodoro recipe, italian cooking recipes– Peel the tomatoes (they are ripe, so there is no need to pass them in boiling water), remove the seeds and cut them into small pieces.

– Heat up the oil in a pot with garlic. When the garlic releases its aroma, add the tomatoes and some basil stalks.

– Season with salt, add the chili and simmer the sauce for a few minutes covering the pot.

– Cut the bread into small pieces and let it soften in warm vegetable broth. Squeeze lightly and add the bread to the tomato sauce.

– Cook for about 15-20 minutes while turning it, until the “pappa” begins to take shape. If it is either too dry, balance the consistency by pouring a ladle of broth.

Add the fresh basil leaves torn by hand and leave to rest for an hour.

The pappa al pomodoro is at it best when served warm with a sprinkle of pepper and a little olive oil…

And now…Buon Appetito!!!

If you wish to know more on Italian cooking or you’s like to take a few lessons to learn and improve your cooking skills with a professional chef, then take a look to our Italian cooking courses!

 

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Curious Florence: Wine holes

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.

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Buchette del vino

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.

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Buchette del vino – Firenze

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 😉

Did you like this story? Then they will like also our guided tour of History of Florence!

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Curious Florence: La Berta

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:

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La Berta on the side of Santa Maria Maggiore

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 😉

For more stories and legends about Florence, do not miss our history of Florence tours!

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

To-do in Florence: Mostra dell’Artigianato 2016

events in Florence, mostra artigianato florence, florence weekend. florence eventsThe 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
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Here’re our tips to enjoy the fair at its best 😉

  • events in Florence, mostra artigianato florence, florence weekend. florence eventsavoid 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
  •  events in Florence, mostra artigianato florence, florence weekend. florence eventsget 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
FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Italian Cooking: Bucatini all’Amatriciana

pasta matriciana recipe, italian cooking, italian recipes, italian tradition, italian cooking courses, italian cooking classes, italian cooking course florence
guanciale di maiale

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”.

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bucatini

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).

You need:

  • 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.

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bucatini all’amatriciana

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!!

If you want to learn this and many other recipes of our cuisine, remember that the Galilei Institute offers Italian cooking courses in Florence, all year round!!