Curious Florence: Florence’s Historic Cafés

To discover Florence through its buildings, its monuments, and its museums is certainly an effective way to experience the charm of the Medici city that has remained intact over the centuries. To visit its historic cafés, however, is tantamount to catching a glimpse of its soul and its history. Indeed, the fortune of some of the most famous streets and squares of Florence is linked precisely to these important meeting places. This is the case with Piazza della Repubblica, one of the most beautiful squares of Florence. Contrary to what you may think, the square’s fame is not due to its architecture and famous arch, but to its literary cafes: Le Giubbe Rosse, Gilli and Caffè Paszkowski. All three were involved to varying degrees in one of the biggest cultural phenomena of the twentieth century – Futurism – the literary and artistic movement dedicated to the myths of modernity, strength, speed, and power, as incarnations of technology and progress.

Le Giubbe Rosse
Le Giubbe Rosse opened in 1827, and took its name from the clothes of the waiters who wore red coats. In the early years of the 1900s, it was the favorite of many intellectuals of the time. However, after the publication of the Futurist Manifesto of 1909, it became the seat of the Florentine Futurists, in particular Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni and Carlo Carra, and later became a meeting place for writers and artists, both Italian and foreign. It was initially a chess club – it is said that Lenin was a frequent guest – and really never lost this label. In the period between the two world wars, it was home to the famous magazine “Solaria,” which introduced Italians to writers like Joyce, Kafka and Virginia Woolf.
Its walls are still decorated with Futurist and Neo-Futurist paintings in an elegant, yet casual, setting where one can taste the typical dishes of Florence. There are also many photos, drawings and memories of its famous patrons. It is still a center of culture and art.

Caffè Concerto Paszkowski
Caffè Concerto Paszkowski opened in 1846 as a brewery, but it soon became a café where the Concerto Paszkowski performed as well as a famous all-female orchestra, rare for the time. Again, this café-brasserie soon became a meeting place of the leaders of literature and art of the early 1900s; after the war, its musical vocation turned decisively towards cabaret. Even today this ancient musical tradition is well represented by the artists who perform there. There are also conferences and fashion shows, while its tea rooms are a must for foreign visitors who want to have a break. In 1991 it was declared a national monument.

Caffè Gilli
At the beginning of the century, Caffè Gilli was an elegant meeting place, frequented by artists and intellectuals such as Marinetti and Soffici. A café in the Belle Époque style with ivory-colored walls, Murano glass chandeliers, painted ceilings, and arches that confirm the good taste and the warmth of the Florentines. Many photographs of international artists are immortalized within its halls. But it is outside the Caffè Gilli where Ruth Orkin’s famous photograph entitled American Girl in Italy 1951 was taken. The photo, which portrays the twenty-three year old American Ninalee Craig walking on the sidewalk in front of the bar, surrounded by the admiring glances of his young visitors, became in time a well-known icon of cinema and photography.

source: Italia.it

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Curious Florence: Florence and the Explosion of the Cart

Among the most characteristic Easter events in central Italy is the Explosion of the Cart in Florence, Tuscan Capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982.

The celebration dates back to the First Crusades, undertaken to liberate the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the hands of the “infidels.”

Legend has it that a Florentine crusader that was the first to climb the Jerusalem walls was gifted with three splinters of stone from the Church; today they are held inside Florence’s Church of the Holy Apostles.
According to historians, once the crusaders liberated Jerusalem (on Black Saturday, no less), they gathered in the Church of the Resurrection to receive the “holy fire,” symbol of purification.

The Florentines’ Easter customs go back to this very ceremony: that is, the Florentines’ tradition has long been to go to the Church of the Resurrection and light a small torch of holy fire with the sparks that emit from the rubbing together of the stone flints. At such a point they undertook a procession through the city to then take the holy fire to each house.
In time the ritual came to include transport of the holy fire (burning coals) by cart. It was in the 14th Century that fireworks were thrown in the mix, resulting in the “Explosion of the Cart.”

The Explosion of the Cart

White oxen led the car from Piazzale del Prato to Florence’s Church of the Santissimi Apostoli, while a dove (in reality, a bird-shaped flare) sets fire to the fireworks in the cart.

The mechanism in detail involves a cord that runs the length of the Church, from its choir to the cart outside the church entrance. The dove flare slides along the cord, and bounces off the cart, thus setting off the fireworks before returning backwards on its own.
It is said that if the explosion goes off without a hitch and the dove makes its return to the altar unimpeded, it is a good augur for Florence for the rest of the year. The tradition is always a big draw for tourists, citizens and, especially in the past, inhabitants of rural areas that based their hopes and fears regarding harvest, flooding, etc. on the dove’s success. In fact, the devastating flood that hit Florence in 1966 coincided with the fact that the dove had not returned to the church altar.

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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!

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