FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

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!

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

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!

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Italian slang: Solo “Quattro gatti…”

Are we talking about cats? Yes, you can say. The expression in fact means literally “four cats” and it’s used in Italian to indicate that in a particular place or situation were just a few people; an example?

“C’eran giusto quattro gatti al cinema” doesn’t actually mean that suddenly four cats invaded the cinema, but just that there was a little audience 🙂

No cats around, then!

Wanna learn more colloquial  expressions? Take a look to the fully-personalizable one-to-one Italian language courses at Instituet Galilei

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Italian recipes: Panzanella!

Summertime is approaching, soups and warm dishes begin to be too hot for the nice weather; it’s time to have some fresh vegetables and salads! In Italy we have a real passion for them, also thanks to the our great olive oils that makes everything delicious. A typical Tuscan salad is the “Panzanella”, made with bread. It’s quick & easy to prepare, and the result will surprise you!


  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces with your hands
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar, plus more as needed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8 slices thick stale country style Italian bread, torn into bite-size pieces (sourdough is also good but not something you use here in Italy)


  1. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic and basil. Drizzle with the 1/2 cup olive oil and the 3 tbsp vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss well.
  2. Place half of the bread in a wide, shallow bowl. If the bread is quite stale and dry, you should first spoon a few tbsp of water over the bread and let it soak some of the water up, then with your hands squeeze all of the water out and place bread in a different bowl before proceeding. If it isn’t too stale or didn’t have any, then you can skip this step.
  3. Spoon half of the tomato mixture over the bread. Layer the remaining bread on top and then the remaining tomato mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or until serving time. Just before serving, toss the salad and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. At this point the bread should have assorbed the water from the tomatoes and be all moist. If the bread seems dry for some reason, add a little bit of olive oil and toss well. Serve immediately.

(source: Tuscan Recipes)

Wanna learn more salads recipes? Your Summer will be delicious with the Institute Galilei’s cooking courses!

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Art history in Florence: The church of the brides

The square of Santissima Annunziata is one of the most beautiful in Florence. In its perfect Renaissance structure hides many anecdotes that not everyone knows. Each piece of the square can be analyzed in its single story – we will start talking about the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata.

The Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation (Basilica della Santissima Annunziata) is a Catholic church located in Santissima Annunziata Square, in Florence.church of the brides, santissima annunziata florence, churches in florence, discover florence, history of fklorence, italian history courses, exam preparation courses in florence

This basilica was founded in 1250 by the Seven Holy Founders, the seven Florentine youths belonging to patrician families that formed the Servite Order. The Servite is one of the five original Catholic mendicant orders and its members (called Servite Friars or Servants of Mary) are devoted to the Mother of God.

The Basilica della Santissima Annunziata still is the mother church of the Servite Order.

Inside the Basilica there’s a miraculous painting of the Annunciation that, after being begun by one of the monks in 1252, was supposedly completed by an angel while he slept.

A special atrium (Chiostrino dei voti) has been built to house the votive offerings of the pilgrims that came to venerate the painting. This painting has always been venerated, especially by girls and women in childbed and, traditionally, the Florentine brides visit this shrine to leave their bouquets as a gift to the Virgin Mary.

This church is just on the Institute Galilei’s doorstep and is worth visiting.

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Traditional recipes from Florence: Florentine tripe

As you have maybe already understood from the other recipes we have posted, the Italian cuisine is especially based on “poor” dishes, which are all savoury and genuine.

One of the most typical, that you have heard for sure, is the “trippa alla fiorentina“:  walking around Florence you will meet for sure the “trippai“, which prepare everyday fresh tripe and sell delicious sandwiches filled with trippa or lampredotto. Do not miss them!
But let’s try to cook it. The ingredients are easy to find and the only thing you need is a little patience.


1 kg, or 2 1/4 lb tripe
2 red-skinned onions
2 carrots
head of celery
500 g, or 1 lb 2 oz tinned (canned) tomatoes
Parmesan cheese
olive oil


Wash the tripe and cut into finger-length strips. Make a mirepoix with 6 tablespoons of oil in a short pot. Add the tripe and, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, blend the flavours well.
When, after 20 minutes cooking, some of the liquor has seeped out of the tripe, add the drained tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for another hour over moderate heat, stirring frequently.

Serve the tripe hot, with the addition of  Parmesan cheese.

Why not trying to cook it with an experienced chef who will tell you all the secrets of this traditional dish? Take a look to the Institute Galilei’s cooking course “Da Lino”.

Source: Rameria

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Italian slang:”Avere la coda di paglia”

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(Delia Ciccarelli – La volpe dalla coda mozza)

It’s a funny colloquial expression, used in Italian to indicate someone with a guilty conscience in a friendly and light way. Its origin can be found in a popular novel: a young fox was caught by a trap. She could get away, but without her wonderful tail. Now, everyone knows that foxes beauty is represented by the tail,  so the poor fox was really ashamed of her ugly stump. To make her happy, the animals of the wood created for her a  fake tail made of  straw.
None of the animal told this secret but an evil cock, which revealed everything to the farmer.
So the farmer, to keep the fox away from the hen-house decided to light some fire around it…and the fox couldn’t do nothing else than staying away from her beloved chikens.

When someone has a “coda di paglia”, means that he did something wrong and is afraid of being discovered…!

Learn all the Italian slang you want with the Institute Galilei one-to-one courses!

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

Recipes from Florence: Rice Fritters

During winter times it is really easy to see in Florence’s bakeries and pastry shops these sweet “little balls” covered with sugar: they are called “Frittelle di riso”, and are actually rice fritters.
The recipe belongs to late middle ages and Tuscan peolple were used to bake them in occasion of Saint Joseph’s celebrations (19 March). Try to cook them!


  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) rice — cheap rice that gives off starch as it cooks will be fine
  • 1 quart (1 l) whole milk
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • A walnut-sized chunk of unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 jigger rum or vinsanto
  • 1 cup (100 g) flour
  • 1 packet active live yeast
  • Oil for frying


Begin by cooking the rice until it’s thoroughly cooked in the milk, together with the sugar, lemon zest, and butter. Let the mixture cool, and stir in the three yolks. Stir in the rum or vinsanto. Whip the whites and fold them in, then fold in the flour and the yeast.

Heat oil in a fairly deep pot and fry the mixture, a teaspoon at a time, removing the balls from the pot when they become golden. Drain them on absorbent paper, dust them with granulated sugar, and serve.

Good tip: when you cook them, do A LOT of them, because people always want more!

Cooking is your passion? Then try the Institute Galilei’s cooking courses!

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

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.

FlorenceItaly - news and stories about Florence and Tuscany

People from Florence: Galileo Galilei

galileo galilei, galilei florence, italian in florence, galileo museum florence, galilei museum florence, science in florence“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use”Galileo Galilei, Letter to Christina of Tuscany

As the most important character of the 17th Centurys science revolution, we owe to Galileo Galilei some of the major discoveries in physics and astronomy. He’s considered the father of the modern science and had a fundamental role in promoting the Copernican theory, which made him suffer more than just a trial with the Roman Church.

Within his many discoveries we find of course the Telescope, with which he was the first to observe Jupiter’s moons and the Moon’s mountains, and the calculation of the law of free fall. He was always working on his theories on the basis of experiment: Galileo was, in fact, the first “real” experimental scientist.

He’s the perfect example of the modern man: despite his problems with the Catholic Inquisition, he went on with his studies and  ideas, saying that if God endowed the humanity with intellect, people should have use it. These were really important admission for a 17th Century Italian, who was the son of a court musician and left the University of Pisa wihtout a degree.

All the informations on his life and theories can be found here.

Galileo Galilei was recently selected as a main motif for a high value collectors’ coin: the €25 International Year of Astronomy commemorative coin, minted in 2009. This coin also commemorates the 400th anniversary of the invention of  Galileo’s telescope. The obverse shows a portion of his portrait and his telescope. The background shows one of his first drawings of the surface of the moon. In the silver ring other telescopes are depicted: the Isaac Newton Telescope, the observatory in Kremsmünster Abbey, a modern telescope, a radio telescope and a space telescope (source: Wikipedia).

For this occasion, from the 13th March to the 30th August, a special exhibition of 250 of his works, objects  and instruments will be open to the public at Palazzo Strozzi, in Florence. There you will also have the possibility to see Galileo’s finger, which has been taken from his dead body by Anton Francesco Gori in 1737.

Galileos finger
Galileo’s finger

To have more informations, click here.

The Institute Galilei devoted its name to this illuminated scientist, who could change the vision of the world also in a period of strong restrictions.