As the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence has long been a major destination for art and culture. The city itself can feel like one vibrant, living museum, with a public space filled with marble sculptures seeming to appear around every street corner. Wandering the streets and gardens of Florence is a must-do, but the city’s museums are also not to be missed. Here are a few tips for prioritizing and planning a successful museum-filled trip.
- It is no secret that the Galleria degli Uffizi is one of the top museums in the world. While no hidden gem, the Uffizi houses some of the most important works of the Renaissance, including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, as well as works by Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Michelangelo. The collection’s fame can mean long lines, so be sure to book ahead to skip ahead and get straight to exploring the art-packed rooms. For a small fee, tickets can be purchased online. To book your entrance time and skip the lines, buy tickets here.
- Some of the most famous Florentine works can be found at the Uffizi, but if you are looking for Michelangelo’s David, head to the Academia. Founded in the 16th century as a school of fine arts, the Academia hosted Michelangelo among its early members. The halls of the old drawing school now house many masterpieces, but none more memorable than the striking white marble David. To keep crowds manageable, only small groups are allowed at any one time and like the Uffizi, booking online allows visitors to skip the line and avoid missing out.
- If all that artistic beauty leaves you curious about life in Renaissance Florence, stop off at Palazzo Davanzati for a taste of aristocratic life in the 14th century. An interior-lover’s dream, this museum recreates what a home would have been like at the time, and is even filled with items from the original owners. For just 2 euro, the palazzo offers a peak inside a beautifully preserved private home.
- It can be tempting to try to cram in all the art museums in one go, but better advice might be: everything in moderation. When planning a trip to Florence, if you need a quick art break, pop into the Museo Galilelo (previously the Museum of the history of science). While the Renaissance was a hotbed of art activity, it was an equally important time for scientific discovery. This museum has a world-renowned collection of scientific instruments, and as the new name suggests, it houses Galileo’s telescopes.
- While it is hard to overstate the Renaissance beauty of Florence, a lot has been happening since the historical period as well. After you have taken in the Donatello’s, frescoes, and altarpieces, fashion-lovers can explore a bit of more modern history at the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. The designer’s genius is on display in the fashion house headquarters located in Palazzo Spini Feroni. The collection showcases drawings, books, photos and most importantly, Ferragamo shoes!
But if a trip to Tuscany is not yet in the cards for the immediate future, you can still enjoy Florence’s top museum from home. The virtual tour of the Uffizi is available online, and allows for a leisurely perusal of the famous rooms, without having to worry about long lines or big crowds!
Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.
Here at Live Like an Italian, we were thrilled to read the news this week that engineers have managed to right the shipwrecked cruise ship Costa Concordia off the coast of the Isola del Giglio.
The island — here’s the Wikipedia entry for Isola del Giglio — is one of the Tuscan coast’s best-kept secrets and one of its most popular seaside vacation spots for tourist in search of undeveloped coastline.
It’s beauty is simply breath-taking and the island’s restaurants, hotels, and other services retain that 1960s small-town feel.
The island is also a favorite spot for scuba divers (see below).
What a thrill to learn that the hazardous shipwreck — a threat to the island’s ecosystem and an eyesore — has finally been righted again!
Above: The famous horse race of Siena, the “Palio di Siena,” held every year in early July and mid-August (image via WikiSiena).
If you’re anything like us, you’re probably Googling around the internet looking for information and updates on the Palio di Siena to be run on Friday, August 16.
We recently came across a wonderful online description of the Palio at WikiSiena (probably the best English-language resource for all things “Siena” that we’ve ever seen).
Here’s what the editors have to say:
The Palio is the most important event in Siena and it has involved the life of Sienese people over time and in many different aspects and feelings: “You run the Palio all year long”, someone says. It is a horse race run in Piazza del Campo and it was born long time ago (the earliest known antecedents of the race are medieval and some present day regulations are still valid since 1644, when it was run the first Palio with horses, as it is run today).
It is held on July 2nd (named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of Madonna of Provenzano) and August 16th (named Palio dell’Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary) and it is run by 10 of the 17 Contrade (city wards) that form the city.
Each Contrada is like a small state, ruled by a Seat headed by the Prior and led in the “carousel” by a Captain, assisted by two or three contradaioli called “Mangini”; their boundaries was established in 1729 by Proclamation of Violante of Bavaria, Governor of the City.
As we gear up for the Palio dell’Assunta this Friday, we’ll be following some of the Italian-language sites that document the events every year (like SienaFree.it; if you do read Italian, have a look at this detailed post, including information on how to attend the events).
And we’ll post the winning contrada and its flag on Friday.
But in the meantime, if you want to read up on this wonderful, historic pageant, take a look a this entry from WikiSiena.
Above: One of the many gorgeous stretches of coastline in Tuscany. Photo via Nautica La Marina.
When people think about summertime beach going in Italy, the famous Amalfi coast in Campania (southern Italy) is the first place that comes to mind.
Few realize that Tuscany has some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Europe.
When the staff at the Tenuta Il Poggione (where the Mazzoni wines are made) takes its summer vacation (the last two weeks in August), most go to Castiglione della Pescaia, about an hour’s drive from the winery.
Above: The Duomo of Milan.
Now that summer travel season is upon us again, we’re going to launch a series of travel tips for your Italian vacation.
First up, is church etiquette.
Italy is a country rich with historic churches, both big and small, containing some of the world’s greatest works of art. Entrance is usually free, costing only a bit of conscientious tour etiquette. Here are our suggestions:
1. Cover your shoulders! Tank tops are frowned upon as are short skirts/shorts. If it’s too hot outside to wear even the smallest cap sleeves, a scarf draped over the shoulders for the duration of the tour will do.
2. Turn off your cell phone, it’s a place of quiet reverence.
3. Photography is almost always prohibited, but check at the entrance. There’s usually a plaque stating the church’s policy on this. When in doubt, leave the camera in your pocket. Just follow the same protocol that you would in any museum.
4. Leave your food and drinks outside.
Just be mindful of these very simple points and enjoy your journey into Italy’s rich historical treasury!
Now that Christmas and Epiphany are over in Italy, it’s time to hit the slopes.
While Italians are historic devotees of sunbathing and beach combing, there is quite a fan base dedicated to skiing.
Italy may not be the first country that comes to mind when thinking of ski resorts, but it certainly has its share of great slopes and glamorous places to see and be seen, even in the Winter.
And don’t forget about all of that beautiful, soul-warming Italian food that will keep you going for daytime skiing and night time dancing.
Image via WheretoSkiandSnowboard.com.
Courmayeur aka Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc): Located in Valle d’Aosta, this is a classic little Alpine village in one of Italy’s stunning northern regions. Along with great slopes, there’s plenty of shopping, nightlife, and great dining.
Cortina d’Ampezzo: This glitzy resort town is in the Northern reaches of the Veneto. Wildly popular, it is also very expensive. Set in the Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo is definitely tops with Italians when it comes to Winter weather destinations.
Matterhorn (Monte Cervino): Also located in the beautiful Valle d’Aosta, this town is situated just on the Italian side of the Swiss-Italian border. The less expensive (and more car-friendly) side of Zermatt, this is a great place to go for cozy comfort, Alpine-style.
Southern and Central Italy
Image via AboutAbruzzo.com.
Roccaraso: Located in beautiful and rugged Abruzzo, Roccaraso is the ski town of choice for Central and Southern Italians. It has a bustling town center and active nightlife. Other surrounding towns with slopes are Rivisondoli, Castel di Sangro, Pescocostanzo, Ovindoli and Rocca di Mezzo, to name a few. Skiing in Abruzzo will reward you with far fewer foreign tourists and constant contact with Italians. The food of the region is especially well-adapted to the cold climate with grilled meats and hearty stews starring on every plate.
Image via HindustanTimes.
Mt Etna: Yes, even Sicily has great skiing! The two towns are Refugio Sapienza and Piano Provenzana. While the slopes probably won’t attract advanced skiers looking for a challenge, it has long and gradual runs well-adapted to beginning and intermediate skiers. Mount Etna is a very active volcano, so the ski-scape is as interesting as it is exciting and different.
Above: The Fiera del Tartufo is one of the many sagre that take place during the fall (it continues through November 18).
Traveling to Italy in the winter can provide you with an array of rewards. Lower fares, fewer tourists and cheaper hotels are some of the obvious.
Fall colors in the vineyards are a sight to see. Warming your hands with a paper cone full of warm chestnuts while strolling through a pizza decorated with Christmas lights is something that everyone should experience.
But if you like organized cultural events, the sagra is for you. A sagra is a festival, usually celebrating some sort of food with accompanying fanfare. Sagre are held year-round and in even the tiniest of villages, but Fall/Winter is the high season. In the winter, there is often a Sagra della Castagna (chestnut), Sagra dei Funghi Porcini, Sagra del Tartufo (truffle), and Sagra del Cinghiale (wild boar), to name just a few.
The celebrated ingredient or dish is served along with simple country wine. There is music, usually typical of the region, and sometimes there are vendors selling toys and candy. Communal tables are the norm and families can eat, drink and be merry while the children play in the festive atmosphere.
It’s a great (and inexpensive/free) way to really soak in the local color while tasting some very authentic and home made food. What could be better than that?