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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Ferragosto

credits (video): Learn Italian with Italiano Automatico

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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source: wikipedia

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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