Art history - Florence

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!

Art history - Florence

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!

Art history - Florence

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!

Art history - Florence

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!

Art history - Florence

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!

Art history - Florence

Art history in Florence: The Brancacci Chapel

Located in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, the Brancacci Chapel (the “Cappella Brancacci”) it’s a richely-decorated Chapel, also known as the “Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance” for its painting cycle, which follows a precise narrative line.

Mostly decorated by Felice Brancacci, Masolino da Panicale, Masaccio and Filippo Lippi, the Chapel features famous mural paintings like the Masaccio’s “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden” and “Payment of the Tribute money”. This last painting is the most famous of the Chapel, also because of its innovative representation of Jesus as a human, with the same height of the disciples.

Masaccio’s technique, with its scientific perspective, unified lighting, use of  “chiaroscuro” and natural figures, was one of the most important influence for the new Renaissance style.

A visit to the Santa Maria del Carmine church and Cappella Brancacci can be included in the Art History course at Institute Galilei, or in our guided visits of Florence.

Art history - Florence

Italian modern painters: Valentino Monticello

Nowadays, everyone’s personal expression can be free with Art: drawings, paintings, sculptures created with all kinds of material.

Developing a personal style is something that can make an artist’s name last for the ethernity: that’s what the Maestros from Renaissance teached to our era with their masterpieces and what contemporary and modern artists keep in mind to make of their artworks always something special.

Not just a particular way of painting or drawing, but also the used materials can become a logo of the artist: that’s exactly what we can see in the colourful and original works of Valentino Monticello.

The Italian-native artist grew up literally into his profession – his family run a hotel where he was brought up between food and wine – Valentino worked for many years as sommelier in prestigious London’s restaurants. He was continuoulsy exposed to wines from all over the world and at the highest levels (like Bordeaux and Burgundy) and was working all night long to his other biggest passion: Art. Since the beginning, his work has been always prestigious.

His personal unique style came out when he obtained his first commission as artist: he should have done a common mural painting but – surprise – he ended up doing a wonderful collage using the most obvious tool of his trade: wine labels. By cutting out and an arranging the labels in incredible detail he created a fascinating scene which brightened up the lives of all the residents. It also got Valentino thinking that perhaps his talents could best be employed on this type of art form rather than painting or drawing.

We can easily recognize his particular works: a serie of collages showing detailed scenes, with people, flowers, where drawing and painting are not involved at all; wine labels are the absolute starrings.

In his collages you can often find also a strong symbolism coming from the world of Opera, his third passion. Valentino carefully looked through many different Opera scores to find references relating to wine. Once he found a specific scene, he would illustrate it using wine labels from the country where the Opera was set. For example “La Boheme” by Giacomo Puccini uses only French wine labels. Other Operas are specific to wine regions for example Il viaggio a Reims by Gioachino Rossini features only Burgundy Wine Labels.

Thanks to his original style, he had the chance to expose in some of the most important art galleries like Ergon and National Gallery in London.

(source: http://www.valentinomonticello.com/theartist.html )

Art as a passion and life-style, where developing personal features will let you express your soul. The Institute Galilei offers drawing & painting courses held by experienced and innovative artists.

The Institute Galilei also offers Wine Tasting individual and small group programs, held directly in a famous restaurant of Florence by a professional sommelier. To have more informations, please send and e-mail to info@galilei.it

Art history - Florence

Art history in Florence: The Bargello museum

Yes, right: Florence is the best town in Italy where people can get directly in touch with Art, and everyone who comes here knows for sure, also only by name, museums like the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia Gallery or Palazzo Pitti. But only few people know that here in Florence there is much more to see – without standing in a queue for hours and hours.

The Bargello Museum is one of the less-known museums in Florence, but it really worths the visit. Its strange name comes directly from Latin: the word “bargillus” means, in fact, castle or fortified tower; that’s what the Bargello Palace, also known as Palace of the people, actually is.

Originally used as a prison, this middle age palace is nowadays hosting a rich art collection which includes the masterpieces of artists like Michelangelo, Donatello, Gemito, San Sovino, Della Robbia, Cellini.
Going there, you will also have the possibility to see a fine collection of ceramics, textile, tapestries, ivory, silver, armours and old coins.
If this is not enough for you, let me tell you that this museums also features the competing designs created by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi to win the contest for the doors of the Florentine Baptistery.

This museum is just one of the visits included in the Institute Galilei’s art history program.