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Fiesole and the Hills Around Florence

The small town called Fiesole stands on a hill north of Florence and is reached through some of the loveliest panoramic roads in the capital town of Tuscany.

The first settlements in the area date back to the Etruscan era. The Etruscans were a mysterious people coming from present Turkey. But it is under the Romans that Fiesole became the most important town in the area, at least until Florence ascent. Traces of that period are still visible in Fiesole, as for example the wonderful Roman theatre, built following the slope of the hill.

In the Renaissance many noble families chose to have their countryside residences built on this hill. Nowadays in Fiesole there are over 30 villas – elegant buildings surrounded by well-tended luxuriant gardens.

Fiesole attracts many tourists, and in spring and summer weekends the Florentine love to climb the hill and enjoy the panorama while eating an artisanal ice cream.

But that of Fiesole is not the only hill around Florence. South of the town there are Arcetri (which is renowned for having been the place where Galileo Galilei was secluded), Poggio Imperiale, where you can admire one of the Florentine villas that once belonged to the Medicis, and Bellosguardo, whose name (meaning “magnificent view”) reveals its major feature.

And if you still have doubts about how fascinating would be living in a villa on the hills around Florence, remember that at the beginning of the 20th century Enrico Caruso bought two of them.




If you want to visit Fiesole and the hills around Florence with a private guide, check out our Guided Visits in Florence!

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History of the Birth of Italian Language in Florence

Although Florence is responsible for the exile of Dante Alighieri, the city, still today, is living in the reflection of the poet’s glory. Dante is famous all over the world for his enormous contribution toward the spreading of the Italian language in literature. Before Dante began to use his vulgar language, Latin was the official language of writing.It’s thanks to him if Florentine language has acquired the status of standard italian. Whatever the merits of the claim, a modern standardised language only really started to gain ground in the 19th century. In his literary masterpiece, “I Promessi Sposi” (The Betrothed), Alessandro Manzoni, the novelist of Milan, struggled against Tuscan language in order to give to his writing a more broadly national appeal. From the end of the second world war the media have made use of a standardised Italian, making it known to the Italian public:from the north to the south of the peninsula.

Would you like to learn Italian language? Check out our Italian language courses!

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Italian Cooking: Colomba – Easter Dove Cake

The Easter Dove (in italian la Colomba di Pasqua) is a cake from Italy and traditionally served at Easter. Here’s the recipe!

1 lb all-purpose flour
5 oz butter
4 ½ oz sugar
1 ¾ oz fresh yeast
3 eggs
5 oz mixed candied fruit
almonds, sweet to taste
coarse sugar to taste
⅛ oz salt

Dissolve the yeast in a little warm water and slowly work in half of the flour; allow the dough to rise in a warm place in a floured bowl.

When the dough has doubled in size, place it in a larger bowl and add the remaining flour, beaten eggs, melted butter, sugar and salt.

Work the dough gently until it stops sticking to the sides of the bowl, cover with a cloth and allow to rise for another hour.

Sprinkle flour on the raisins and the candied peel then shake excess flour away in a sieve.

Add the raisins and candied peel to the dough, place in a dove-shaped mould and decorate with almonds, baste with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar crystals.

Cook in a moderate oven for 20-25 minutes.

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!!

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Wine Tasting in Florence

Florentine and Tuscan Wines are very famous all around the world, thanks to the wine production areas that surround Florence, like the most famous: Chianti.

Two of the main noble families of Florence, Antinori and Frescobaldi, began producing wine 8 centuries ago. They have been great rivals ever since.

In Florence you can visit a “Cantina” (Wine cellar) to enjoy a delightful wine tasting or winery tour inside an “Enoteca” (Wine bar). In these wineries you can taste: Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and many more wines!

Here’s some pictures of our clients:

If you would like to enjoy very good Italian wines we suggest you our Wine Tasting in Florence, an unforgettable experience for your palate!


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February: not only the month of Love but also the month of Carnival!

February in Italy means that just about every city on the Peninsula is invaded with masks, confetti, colors and lights that make for a very exciting and unique atmosphere: it’s Carnival! It is a party with ancient roots, and today has become a folkloristic rite in which traditions and fun work together to bring enormous life to this unique celebration.

Of course the protagonist of Carnival is the costume or disguise, the mask that allows those who don it to transform themselves into whomever they wish to be – at least for a few days. The origins of Carnival date back to the Roman Saturnalia festival that rang in the new year (Julian calendar) – similarly to the Lupercalia and Dionysian feasts. The actual term “carnevale” however derives from the Latin “carnem levare” for “take away the meat”: indeed, in Antiquity the term indicated the banquet held the last day before the period of abstinence from meat, i.e. the Christian Lent. Carnival, according to the Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar, is set for between Epiphany (January 6th) and the start of Lent.

Initially a feast characterized by unrestrained enjoyment of food, drink and sensual pleasures, and granted as a temporary escape for the lower classes – an opportunity to upend and subvert norms, especially in the way of social order – through the arc of time Carnival spread throughout the world and took on ever-novel shades and nuances, mutating into a singular form of entertainment and merrymaking. From north to south, Italy marks Carnival with long standing traditions that are internationally-known, and that attract thousands of visitors from around the world this time every year.


Would you like to discover more about Italy and its culture? Check out our Italian culture courses!

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Luciano Pavarotti: an Italian operatic tenor

Luciano Pavarotti (12 October 1935 – 6 September 2007) was an Italian operatic tenor who also crossed over into popular music, eventually becoming one of the most commercially successful tenors of all time. He made numerous recordings of complete operas and individual arias, gaining worldwide fame for the quality of his tone, and eventually established himself as one of the finest tenors of the 20th century.

As one of the Three Tenors, Pavarotti became well known for his televised concerts and media appearances. From the beginning of his professional career as a tenor in 1961 in Italy to his final performance of “Nessun dorma” at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin,

Pavarotti was at his best in bel canto operas, pre-Aida Verdi roles, and Puccini works such as La bohème, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly. Pavarotti was also noted for his charity work on behalf of refugees and the Red Cross, amongst others. He died from pancreatic cancer on 6 September 2007.

source: Wikipedia

Would you like to discover more about Italy and its culture? Check out our Italian culture courses!

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Italian cooking: Risotto alla Milanese

italian cooking, italian recipes, italian cooking courses, italian cooking courses florenceNow 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!

You’ll need:

chicken broth
1 small onion
Arborio rice
freshly grated Parmesan
saffron threads

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 to receive information about tailor-made cooking programs!

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Markets in Florence (1): “better pay your bills!”

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 - italian language florence, italian culture florence, italian learning florence, italian tuition, italian courses florence, sightseeing florenceMercato 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.

Mercato Vecchio - italian language florence, italian culture florence, italian learning florence, italian tuition, italian courses florence, sightseeing florenceExactly 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.

Mercato Nuovo - italian language florence, italian culture florence, italian learning florence, italian tuition, italian courses florence, sightseeing florence
Loggia del Porcellino

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 the stone 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.Mercato Nuovo - italian language florence, italian culture florence, italian learning florence, italian tuition, italian courses florence, sightseeing florence

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.

If you’re curious and would like to find out more about the legends and stories that enriches Florence’s fascinating history, check out our webpage and find out more with our History of Florence courses!