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.
During the month of December, Florence has a magical atmosphere. When Christmas gets close, you can feel it everywhere. The streets are full of Christmas lights, different for each neighborhood, making the city very colourful.
For several days, in the squares there are a lot of Christmas markets, where the stands offer many products: crafts, food and warm beverages and many others. Among these, one of the most famous market is of course the international Christmas market in Santa Croce, which is part of Florentine tradition, with its typical small wooden houses, where you can find handmade pieces and gastronomic specialities from all over the world.
Another famous tradition is the big Christmas tree situated in Piazza Duomo, that is lighted during the official ceremony on December 8th, in occasion of the Immaculate Conception; next to the tree, on the church porch of Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, is organized the Christmas nativity scene composed by handmade terracotta statues, which stays in the square until January 6th, Epiphany’s day, the last day of this magical holiday time.
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.
If your holiday in Florence has just started, it will suerly be the San lorenzo area to welcome you. A stone`s thow away form the Dome, the area around the San Lorenzo Church offers a wide variety of things to see and to do in a perfect mix of cultural and free time: from a peacefull stroll among the stands of the San Lorenzo market to a visit to the Medici chapels.
The best way to appreciate the atmosphere of the area is to take a walk along the streets of the famous San Lorenzo market. If you are looking for a a present or a souvenir of your stay in Florence, this is the right place: you`ll be able to find small gadgets but also dresses and first of all leather accessorizes that made the Florentine craftsmanship famous all over the world.
If you are up to try and cook an Italian meal to enjoy in your rental apartment in Florence , go grocery shopping to the Central Market, the most renowned and crowded grocery market in Florence.
In this two stores building you will Ifind meat, fish, fresh vegetables and fruits in aboundance, magnificently displayed on the stands: a wonderful spectacle to see and savour.
Some culture? You won`t find yourself in lack of suggestions here. You can start with taking a look to the Canonici closter and to the Church of San Lorenzo , the heart of the area, go on with a visit to the Medici Riccardi Palace, especially if one of the numerous exhibitions is underway and end up with the beautiful Medici Chapels , with the grand sculptures funeral by Michelangelo.
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.
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.
Ferragosto is an Italian and Sammarinese public holiday celebrated on 15 August, coinciding with the major Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary.
The Feriae Augusti (“Festivals [Holidays] of the Emperor Augustus”) were introduced by the emperor Augustus in 18 BC. This was an addition to earlier ancient Roman festivals which fell in the same month, such as the Vinalia rustica or the Consualia, which celebrated the harvest and the end of a long period of intense agricultural labor. The Feriae Augusti, in addition to its propaganda function, linked the various August festivals to provide a longer period of rest, called Augustali, which was felt necessary after the hard labour of the previous weeks.
During these celebrations, horse races were organised across the Empire, and beasts of burden (including oxen, donkeys and mules), were released from their work duties and decorated with flowers. Such ancient traditions are still alive today, virtually unchanged in their form and level of participation during the Palio dell’Assunta which takes place on 16 August in Siena. Indeed, the name “Palio” comes from the pallium, a piece of precious fabric which was the usual prize given to winners of the horse races in ancient Rome.
During the festival, workers greeted their masters, who in return would give them a tip. The custom became so strongly rooted that in the Renaissance it was made compulsory in the Papal States.
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