FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Italian literature: Luigi Pirandello

Luigi Pirandello was an Italian dramatist, novelist and short story writer awarded of the Nobel Prize in 1934.

Born in an upper-class family in the curious village of Kaos (Chaos) in Sicily, he begun his career as a narrator. After meeting Luigi Capuana, o theorician of the literature current called Verismo, he started writing novels on the veristic model, which were published in a volume called Novelle per un anno. Among his novels, the most importat is of course The late Mattia Pascal (Il fu Mattia Pascal, in Italian), written in 1904. The story tells the life of a business man, who after winning a lot of money in a casinò, goes far from his wife and family and is believed dead. His fortune becomes tragedy when, after losing all his money and documents, he wants to have his old life back: in fact his wife, believing he was dead, has now another husband and not having any document the authorities tell to Mattia that he doesn’t exist. To whom asks him who actually he is, he can’t answer nothing but “I’m the late Mattia Pascal”.

The message of this masterpiece strongly shows Pirandello’s philosophy: nothing is sure in our lives, the reality is not absolute but relative, and so is the man, who should not think to have just one personality.

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Events in Florence: The Mille Miglia Race

Enzo Ferrari defined the Mille Miglia “the world’s greatest road race” and, 82 years after its origin, this race still is a world-known event.

Mille Miglia is a suggestive parade of pre-1957 cars that cover 1000 miles in few days. This event tells something about adventure, history and discovery.

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Vintage car lovers should take a look at the Mille Miglia race, which starts out from Brescia on May 14th, passes through Ferrara and reaches Rome before returning to Brescia on another route via Siena, Monteriggioni and Florence.

You don’t have to go far to watch it, as these ancient cars will be passing through Piazza della Signoria and Piazza San Marco in Florence on May 16th, on their way back to Brescia.

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Italian recipes: Risotto primavera

This risotto is perfect each spring as the new vegetables arrive in the store. You can vary the recipe as you choose by adding other spring vegetables from time to time as well. Just keep all vegetables cut into bite sized pieces.

Serves 4 to 6
by Deborah Mele

(source: Italian Food Forever)

6 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter Plus 2 Tbsp Removed To Finish The Dish

1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Onion

1 Large Clove Of Garlic

2 Cups Arborio Rice

1/2 Cup White Wine

6 Cups Vegetable Broth

1 Cup Fresh, Shelled Fava Beans

6 Small To Medium Artichokes, Cleaned And Thinly Sliced

6 Spears Fresh Asparagus Cut Into 1 Inch Pieces

1 Small Zucchini, Diced

1/2 Cup Fresh, Chopped Parsley or Other Fresh Herb Of Choice

1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Heat the 4 tablespoons of butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the artichoke slices and cook one minute. Next add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the rice and stir until it is well coated with the butter. Begin to add the wine, and stir continually over medium heat until it is absorbed. Start to add 1/2 cup of hot broth, stirring as it is absorbed. Continue in this manner, adding ladles full of hot broth, and stirring continuously. About 10 minutes into the cooking time, add the asparagus, fava beans and zucchini and continue cooking for about 15-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked, but remains slightly firm to the teeth. Remove from the heat, add the remaining butter. parsley and the parmesan cheese. Serve, offering additional cheese if desired.

Buon Appetito!

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Italian literature: The poetry of Giuseppe Ungaretti

Born in Alessandria d’Egitto from an italian family, he formed himself in France where he could  get in contact with the french avant-garde literature; he moved to Italy to participate at the first world war, and decided to stay in the beautiful country just until his death. He devoted his life to the art of writing: he was poet, journalist, essayist, critic and academic, known all over the world as the major reprensentant of the experimental poetry current called ermetismo.

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The war, the death of his 9-year old son and many other sad events confirmed his character as a “man of poetry and hurt”, who saw his dreams and his hopes flying away – without stopping to fight for them. The espression of his hurt and pain is one of the main features of his short and deep compositions.

Within his many works, he published various poetry volumes; probably the one called L’Allegria is the most representative one. In his verses, he uses the style of the french poets maudits (he was especially inspired by Apollinaire’s Calligrammes) connecting it with his experience of death and pain as a soldier at war. The hope of brotherhood between all the people is expressed strongly, together with the desire of searching for a renovated “harmony” with the universe, impressive on the famous verses of Mattina:

M’illumino
d’immenso

(I flood myself
with light of the immense)

(Santa Maria La Longa, il 26 gennaio 1917)

In the successive works he studied the importance of the poetic word, as the only way to save the humanity from the universal horror, and was searching for a new way to recuperate the roots of the Italian classical poetry. His last verses are on the poem l’Impietrito e il Velluto, about the memory of the bright universe eyed Dunja, an old woman that was house guest of his mother in the time of his childhood. Here’s the end:

Il velluto dello sguardo di Dunja
Fulmineo torna presente pietà

(The velvet in the bright gaze of Dunja
Rapid returns as present mercy)

Reading is your passion? Would you like to study the main characteristcs of the Italian literature?

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Art history in Florence: Piazzale Michelangelo

Located in the Oltrarno, the part of the town across the river, this square is known all over the world for the magnificent view of the city landscape it offers – which is in fact reproduced in many postcards.

Designed by Giuseppe Poggioni, the square was buit in 1869, during the urban renewal of the town. Florence was the capital of Italy and during that period, the middle class strongly wanted to show its strong rebirth; there were created lungarni; on the right bank, instead of the fourteenth-century walls were open the avenues of the ring of a boulevard, on the left bank was traced, wind on the hill of San Miniato, the Viale dei Colli, a street tree overview 8 kilometers long, at whose climax the square was built as a terrace with a panoramic view inside the city.

The Michelangelo square, dedicated to the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo, has copies of some of his famous works in Florence: the David and the four allegories of the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo. These copies are made of bronze, while the originals are all in white marble. The monument was brought up by nine pairs of oxen on 25 June 1873.

Poggi designed the loggia in the neoclassical style that dominates the whole terrace, which today houses a panoramic restaurant. Originally it was supposed to house a museum of works by Michelangelo, ever.

The view shows the heart of Florence from Forte Belvedere to Santa Croce lungarni through the bridges of Florence and in sequence, especially the Ponte Vecchio, are the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, the Bargello and the octagonal bell tower of the Badia Fiorentina, without forgetting opposed to the hills north of the city with the center and Settignano Fiesole.

The square can be accessed by car along the tree-Viale Michelangelo, made in those same years, or walk the stairs going up the ramps of the monumental Piazza Poggi Poggi in the district of San Niccolò.

(source: Wiki)

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Traditional Italian recipes: Tiramisù

For sure, the most famous dessert coming from Italy, known all over the worls for its delicious coffee flavour. An easy-to-cook recipe is explained in Italy-yum. Here you are the recipe, as explained in the website!

Apparently its origin dates back to the 17th century; it was created for the occasion of a visit by Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici III to the city of Siena (Tuscany). That time the dessert was named “zuppa del duca” (the “Duke’s soup”) but nowadays everybody knows it as “tiramisù” (pick me up). There are lots of version of tiramisù, but here is explained the most traditional, with a little change: the classic recipe requires the use of “savoiardi” biscuits, however, in the last two decades, many Italians has discovered that the use of “pavesini” biscuits gives the tiramisù a better finish, so let’s go for it! Click on the title to read all the recipe and see the images!

For sure, the most famous dessert coming from Italy, known all over the worls for its delicious coffee flavour. An easy-to-cook recipe is explained in Italy-yum. Here you are the recipe, as explained in the website!

Apparently its origin dates back to the 17th century; it was created for the occasion of a visit by Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici III to the city of Siena (Tuscany). That time the dessert was named “zuppa del duca” (the “Duke’s soup”) but nowadays everybody knows it as “tiramisù” (pick me up). There are lots of version of tiramisù, but here is explained the most traditional, with a little change: the classic recipe requires the use of “savoiardi” biscuits, however, in the last two decades, many Italians has discovered that the use of “pavesini” biscuits gives the tiramisù a better finish, so let’s go for it!

SERVES 6

Ingredients:

  • 500 g (1.1 lb) Italian mascarpone cheese
  • 100 g (3 ½ oz) Icing sugar
  • 4 or 5 Eggs (medium size)
  • 1 Pack of Pavesini biscuits (for this recipe I used 59 Pavesini)
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) Strong espresso coffee (cold) or coffee prepared with a moka
  • 100 ml (3 ½ fl oz) Marsala wine (cold)
  • Cocoa powder for dusting
  • Some dark chocolate shavings

Note: this is a dessert containing raw eggs, so be sure you buy fresh, top quality eggs.

Directions:

 

Separate the egg whites from the yolks.

Start beating the egg yolks with a whisk and gradually add all the sugar.

Keep beating until the mixture become pale yellow and thick.

Next, empty the mascarpone into a bowl and, with a wooden spoon, work it for few seconds so that it is a bit loose.

Now, add the mascarpone to the egg-sugar cream and blend all together.

The result should be a pale yellow mascarpone-egg-sugar cream. Set it aside, putting it in the fridge, while carrying out the next stage.

Next, add a tiny pinch of salt into the bowl containing the egg whites.

 

Whisk the egg whites until completely white and firm (into peaks).

Now, add the white fluffy mixture into the bowl containing the mascarpone-egg-sugar cream.

Gently mix all together.

Finally, we have the tiramisù cream.

Now we are ready for assembling our tiramisù. First, spread a thin layer of tiramisù cream in the bottom of the dish (I used a 30 cm x 22 cm rectangular oven dish).

For the first layer of biscuits, dip them in the coffee first (dip the biscuits, one at a time, for about 5 seconds).

Lay the biscuits side by side, leaving a tiny space between them.

First layer completed.

Having completed the first layer of biscuits, cover it with the tiramisù cream.

Then, start again with a second layer of biscuits. This time dip the biscuits in the Marsala wine.

Second layer completed.

 

Cover it with the tiramisù cream.

Finally, proceed with the third layer of biscuits. For this final layer, dip the biscuits in the coffee. Once done, cover it with the last spread of tiramisù cream.

Dust with cocoa powder.

Sprinkle with dark chocolate shavings.

Put the tiramisù in the fridge and leave it for about 4 hours. However, the longer the better because all the flavours blend together (I usually wait for 6-8 hours).

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Art history in Florence: L’Ospedale degli Innocenti

The “Hospital of the Innocence”, also known as Spedale degli Innocenti in Italian, was a children’s orphanage designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1419. The hospital, facing Santissima Annunziata square with its loggia, is one of the best examples of the Italian Renaissance architecture.

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The building, elevated above the level of the piazza by a set of steps running along the entire length of the façade, was constructed in several phases of which only the first was under Brunelleschi’s direct supervision. Since the loggia was started before the hospital was begun, the hospital was not formally opened until 1445.

Brunelleschi’s design was based on Classical Roman, Italian Romanesque and late Gothic architecture, but the use of round columns with classically correct capitals, in this case of the Composite Order, in conjunction with a dosseret (or impost blocks) was novel. So too, the circular arches and the segmented spherical domes behind them. The architectural elements were also all articulated in grey stone and set off against the white of the walls. This motif came to be known as pietra serena (Italian: dark stone). Also novel was the proportional logic. The heights of the columns, for example, was not arbitrary. If a horizontal line is drawn along the tops of the columns, a square is created out of the height of the column and the distance from one column to the next. This desire for regularity and geometric order was to become an important element in Renaissance architecture.

An important feature of the building are, of course, the “Tondi”, located above each column. In Brunelleschi’s original idea, they were supposed to be blank, but later Andrea della Robbia was commissioned to fill them in.

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The design features a baby in swaddling clothes on a blue wheel, indicative of the horizontal wheel in the wall where babies could be rotated into the interior. A few of the tondi are still the original ones, but some are nineteenth century copies.

(source: Wikipedia)

The Ospedale degli Innocenti can be included in the Institute Galile’s art history and our guided visits program.

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Events in Florence: The historic game of “Calcio in costume”

The game of Calcio in Costume bears no resemblance to football, although calcio is Italian for football, or soccer.

It was probably invented in the military encampments where the soldiers resting between battles would have lost strength without exercise. Here was a game which developed arm and leg muscles in a real hand to hand struggle for what was the size and shape of a cannon ball.

It was first played in Florence not so much as a sport as for training young men in the art of combat. The most famous match was probably that played on 17 February 1530, in Piazza Santa Croce. The Florentines had taken advantage of the sack of Rome by the imperial armies in 1527 to drive the Medici out of the city for a second time and place themselves under the sovereignty of Christ and the Virgin, determined to defend Florence to the last against the imperial armies spurred on by Pope Clement VII.

The imperial army, the most powerful of the time, laid siege to Florence from the summer 1529 to that of the following year. It was a memorable siege, which became steadily more severe, the city began to feel the shortage of food, although the general feeling in the city at that time was summed up by the graffiti on the walls; poor but free. It is in this atmosphere that a game of Calcio in Costume was played in mid-February, not just to keep up the ancient tradition of playing during carnival but more to show the city’s scorn for the besieging troops, who considered Florence exhausted and already defeated.

To emphasize this scorn a group of Florentincalcio storico, historic football florence, florence ball game, piazza santa croce, santa croce florence, june in florence, florence events, florence folkloree musicians played from the roof of Santa Croce so that the enemy would have a better idea of what was going on. Suddenly a cannon ball from the imperial batteries flew over the heads of the musicians and landed on the other side of the church; no damage was done, and it was greeted by the jeers of the crowds and the clamour of the instruments. There are no records of who won the match, maybe because it seemed more of a joint effort against the enemy than a tournament amongst teams. Although the match was a success, the city soon capitulated and the iron rule of the Medici returned.

The matches were played almost without interruption until the end of the 18th century, and only in May 1930 on the fourth centenary of the siege of Florence was the historical manifestation started up again.

Nowadays three matches are played, by teams drawn from Florence’s four major neighborhoods, in Piazza Santa Croce, on 16th, 24th, 30th of June on the recurrence of the patron-saint. After the long parade headed by the nobles on horseback, starting in Santa Maria Novella and culminating in Piazza Santa Croce, the game begins to cries of Viva Firenze!

It is an hour of continuous struggle, attacks, scuffles, blows and tangling of bodies dressed in fifteenth-century costumes. It is intended to echo the famous match of 1530, in the desire to revive and to record a memorable page of the city’s glorious history.

Don’t miss it!

Source: About Florence

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Art history in Florence: The lucky piglet

La “Loggia del Porcellino”  – that means literally “The lodge of the piglet” – it’s a 16th century lodge, located just in the way between Piazza della Repubblica and Ponte Vecchio.  As we can understand from its official name, “Loggia del Mercato Nuovo”, its function was – and still, is – the sale of goods. Walking there, you will be captured by the thousands of colours of the exposed bags, scarves and lots of other things.

But let’s talk about the funny piglet that you can see right in front of the building. This bronze wild boar is a reproduction of an Hellenistic statue which is in the Uffizzi, signed by Pietro Tacca. The piglet is a real touristic attraction, Wikipedia explains the reason:

Popular tradition has it that rubbing the nose brings fortune, so that the statue has acquired over time 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.”

This place of interest can of course be included in one of the Institute Galilei’s guided tours of Florence.  Good luck, then!

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Art history in Florence: La loggia del Bigallo

Walking in front of  Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, you will see – right in the corner in front of you, between piazza San Giovanni and Via dei Calzaiuoli – a particular building with two wide arches; it’s called “Loggia del Bigallo”, and was part of a construction that housed the “Compagnia della Misericordia” (the Company of Mercy).

loggia bigallo, bigallo florence, art history in Florence, art history courses florence, italian art history, discover florenceBuilt around 1352, the Loggia was used as a shelter for lost children and unwanted infants who were abandoned to0 the care of the Company of Mercy.  In 1425 the “Compagnia of Santa Maria del Bigallo”, normally housed at Orsanmichele, transfered here as well. They used to take care of pilgrims and travellers at their Ospedale di Santa Maria del Bigallo, located in Fonteviva.

The two arches are richely decorated with bas-reliefs of prophets, Angel, the Virtues, a Christ giving benediction and an Ecce Homo. Nowadays, the Loggia hosts a museums of objects related to the Compagnia del Bigallo.

(source: Wikipedia)

Every building in Florence hides a story – discovering it with the Institute Galilei’s art history course is really easy and interesting!