San Gimignano launches crowdfunding to repair walls

FLORENCE, ITALY – The town council of San Gimignano on Tuesday launched a crowdfunding scheme to pay to repair part of its walls which collapsed last week.

The scheme has been set up after the Tuscany regional government said it was prevented by stability pact rules from funding the repair at the Town of Fine Towers, a UNESCO world heritage site.

San Gimignano  is a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north-central Italy. Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses, which, with its hilltop setting and encircling walls, form an unforgettable skyline.

Within the walls, the well-preserved buildings include notable examples of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with outstanding examples of secular buildings as well as churches.

The Palazzo Comunale, the Collegiate Church and Church of Sant’ Agostino contain frescos, including cycles dating from the 14th and 15th centuries.

The town also is known for saffron, the Golden Ham, and its white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the ancient variety of Vernaccia grape which is grown on the sandstone hillsides of the area.

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Caravaggio's Medusa

The new Caravaggio’s rooms at the Uffizi

FLORENCE, ITALY – The eight rooms on the first floor of the eastern wing of the Uffizi opened with a new layout devoted to Caravaggio and the painting of the 17th century on February 19, 2018.

The names of the eight rooms are evocative: Between Reality and Magic; Caravaggio and Artemisia; Caravaggio: Medusa; Caravaggio: Bacchus; By Candlelight; Rembrandt and Rubens; Galileo and the Medici; and  Florentine Epic. The lion’s share obviously goes to Caravaggio, the unquestioned pivot of painting in a century characterised by strong passions, symbolism and often extreme innovation.

The age’s passionateness determined the colour choice of red for the panels in the rooms along the corridor (in order to avoid intervening directly on Vasari’s original colour scheme) and for the walls of the inner rooms (from 96 to 99). Not a flaming, over-the-top red but a red that is often found in the fabrics and decor depicted in the paintings of those years, developed on the basis of a textile sample of the period and manufactured with natural pigments already in use in the 17th century: a real yet almost “filtered” red, as one might say.

Uffizi Galleries’ Director Eike Schmidt stated: “The new layout is based on a thematic and artistic approach designed to inspire and to stimulate the visitor’s curiosity, carrying him or her back into the atmosphere of the time and into the history of the Medici’s collections. The idea is to create an intellectual experience both for the non-specialist and for the expert. Thanks to the juxtaposition of paintings from Florence and the rest of Italy with pictures from northern Europe, we have recovered the international spirit informing the taste of the period, which was open to influences from every country.”

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“Between Reality and Magic”, the first room, contains paintings by artists who were active in the 16th century but already paved the way towards a new artistic approach that left the Mannerist ideals behind. Also on view are highly unconventional, playful and even bizarre subjects such as Annibale Caracci’s Man with an Ape. Other works are exemplary of the learned culture suffused with symbolic meanings, which is characteristic of the region in which Caravaggio trained. This is the case, for instance, with the Dossi brothers’ Allegory of Hercules (once thought to be a scene of witchcraft) and with the enigmatic Witch Strangling a Putto of intensely discussed attribution.

The following room, “Caravaggio and Artemisia”, is dominated by a biblical subjects, which revolve around the theme of violence. It showcases an extremely fine David and Goliath by Guido Reni, which will be facing Caravaggio’s Sacrifice of Isaac as of June when it returns from the exhibitions in Milan and in Forlì; until then, the gap will be filled by an ancient copy of Caravaggio’s Incredulity of St. Thomas, which was already documented in the collection of Carlo de’ Medici by 1666. This room also houses Artemisia Gentileschi’s Beheading of Holofernes, one of the Uffizi’s most famous paintings.

In the room dedicated to Caravaggio’s Medusa, a magnificent painted parade shield is displayed in a new case against the backdrop of a large red panel. On the walls, in addition to Cecco Bravo’s Armida, a recent donation from the Friends of the Uffizi, it is worth highlighting the presence of a Roman statue of Minerva with the head of the Gorgon on her breast, and a painting of the Gorgon’s head crowned in writhing serpents painted by Otto Marseus van Schrieck but attributed in past centuries to Leonardo da Vinci and thus formerly admired by countless travellers as one of the most celebrated paintings at the Uffizi.

The next room is devoted to still-life. Surrounding Caravaggio’s Bacchus we find two Larders by Empoli, a vase of flowers by Carlo Dolci and a still-life by Velázquez clear echoing the work of Caravaggio.

“By Candlelight” is the name of the next room, which is given over to the depiction of candlelit scenes. In the centre, a Nativity by Gherardo delle Notti (Gerard van Honthorst) in which the light appearing to model the figures in the scene is actually emanating directly from the Christ Child; around it, a number of genre paintings by Bartolommeo Manfredi, Mathias Stamer’s Annunciation and Bartolomeo Manfredi’s Roman Charity.

Works by the greatest masters of European painting of the period follow in the next, especially large room. The faces portrayed by Rembrandt, Rubens and Van Dyck in small- and large-format paintings form a succession of rightly famous works which, brought together in this way, comprise a breathtaking group full of cues prompting a reflection on the great painting of the 17th century, which was primarily European on account of the lively circulation of ideas and of the many, ongoing contacts among artists and patrons who cared little for national borders or boundaries.

European portraiture goes hand in hand with Florentine portraits: pride of place in the following room goes to the Portrait of Galileo Galilei and to a monumental triple portrait of Cosimo II, Maria Magdalena of Austria and their son Ferdinando II, both by Justus Sustermans.

In the last room in the tour, “Florentine Epic”, we find a spectacular Rinaldo and Armida by Cesare Dandini inspired by Tasso’s poem, and a small, precious St. Catherine of Alexandria by Francesco Furini. Literary themes taken from Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata were far and away the most popular subjects in Florence in the first half of the century. They were popular both on account of their nature as modern mythological fables and for their moral symbology, which people read into the stories of the heroes and heroines of both those chivalric poems.

Sting and Shaggy at the Anteprime di Toscana

Sting and Shaggy: a surprise performance in Florence

FLORENCE, ITALY – The rockstar Sting and his wife Trudie Styler, owner of a winery in Chianti, toasted to open the previews of Tuscany 2018 at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence. Before the toast, Sting sang in acoustic version, together with the singer raggamuffin Shaggy, surprise present to the previews , “Message in a bottle” and “Do not make me wait”, the song that the two artists performed at the Sanremo festival.

Sting and Trudie officially opened the week-long Anteprime di Toscana and visited the stands of 11 wine consortiums. The following consortiums uncorked their best bottles of the new vintage: Carmignano, Casole d’Elsa, Colline Lucchesi, Cortona, Elba, Maremma Toscana, Montecarlo di Lucca, Montecucco, Pitigliano and Sovana, Val di Cornia and Valdarno di Sopra.

At this event, with distinguished guests opening procedures, operators and journalists from all over the world tasted the first wines of 2017 produced in the territories of the leading consortium producers: Chianti, Chianti Classico, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino.

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Firenze e cioccolata in Santissima Annunziata, Florence, Italy

The new craft chocolate fair in Florence

FLORENCE, ITALY – The countdown just started! Firenze e cioccolato, the new craft chocolate fair will take place in Florence from the 2nd to the 11th of March.

A special edition that represents a kind of year zero, for this historical event. The Chocolate fair, was born fourteen years ago and was always characterised by interesting events and by the involvement of important personalities of the Tuscan panorama.

This is the year of restyling: The fair will have a new look but also will become not just a stop over for gourmet lovers but also a showcase dedicated to professionals and chefs.

In the beautiful Piazza SS. Annunziata you will find a selection of more than twenty maitre chocolatier coming from all over Italy. They will offer you pralines, chocolat bars, ganaches and more over. An unforgettable “chocolate trip” from the north to the south of Italy

This year the Fair schedule will be marked by cooking shows with Michelin Starred chefs, games and workshops for children, food tasting and matching guided by gourmet professionals.

There will be an area dedicated to meetings focused on the chocolate product, with special attention to the nutritional and health aspects. The same area will be also dedicated to discussions on important current themes and also on unusual subjects as the relation between sport and chocolate. One of the partners of this event is the renowned maître chocolatier Andrea Bianchini.

The Chocolate fair is also made of shows and entertainment that will transform Piazza SS. Annunziata in the place where to spend relaxing moments with family and friends.

Cioccolato e Firenze is open every day from 10 am to 10 pm, free admission, the florentine JDEvents srl is the organiser.

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Oltrarno, the first app for the other side of Florence

FLORENCE, ITALY – There’s another side of Florence waiting to be discovered, just over the Arno, filled with artisan workshops, quaint restaurants and trattorie and Florentines who still carry out their daily lives far from the tourist crowds. Oltrarno su misura is the first guide dedicated entirely to the Oltrarno and its dense weave of small streets that wind around the most famous noble palaces and their magnificent gardens, the churches overlooking the lively piazzas and the thousands of aromas wafting from the workshops, permeating every corner of the city.

The guide has come to fruition after two years of hard work by the City of Florence, the Florence Chamber of Commerce, Oltrarno Promuove 2.0, and the trade associations, with the contribution of Fondazione CR Firenze. The journey through this other side of Florence unfolds across 280 pages of never-before-seen images taken by a team headed by photographer Dario Garofalo, curated by the publisher Gruppo Editoriale.

Oltrarno su misura is also a free app, Oltrarno App: with one click, you can explore these places, all geolocated, for the best Oltrarno experience possible.

The knowledge from which the Oltrarno gains its strength is the result of an unparalleled tradition of craftsmanship. Oltrarno su misura is a collection of the fruits of these experiences, presenting them to you with spotlights dedicated to artists, craftsmen, antiques dealers and the faces of fashion, food, theater and a lifestyle that has made Florence famous throughout the world.

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Oltrarno su misura tells of a Florence marked by authenticity, waiting to be discovered and explored, step after step, with four itineraries through the neighbourhoods that mirror the great soul found of the left bank of the Arno:  San Frediano, Porta Romana, Santo Spirito and San Niccolò. Each one has its own story, what makes it special, and each one offers an exclusive look at the different microcosms that are filled to the brim with craftsmanship and poetry.

The guide accompanies readers through the beauty of one-of-a-kind places, true –must-sees: 13 museums, 14 churches, palaces, of which the guide has selected the 27 most important ones, and gardens, the green lungs of Florence.

Enriching this tale of Florence are curiosities: from the origins of the calcio storico, to the Sala Bianca, where Italian fashion as born, to the tabernacles and gonfalons, the earliest precursors to quarters. Finally, the more than 800s botteghe, or workshops, can be found listed inside the guide.

Read the Italian version of this post.

Oltrarno su misura: ecco guida e app del quartiere

FIRENZE – Oltre l’Arno si svela una Firenze tutta da scoprire, ricca di botteghe artigiane, di piccoli locali e trattorie, di fiorentini che vivono ancora la città lontani dai flussi classici del turismo.

Oltrarno su misura è la prima guida tutta dedicata all’Oltrarno: una guida cartacea ma anche una App per localizzare dal proprio cellulare strade, palazzi, musei, botteghe artigiane e curiosità di questo quartiere che recentemente Lonely Planet ha definito come uno dei quartieri più ‘cool’ del mondo.

La guida nasce da un lavoro lungo due anni ad opera del Comune di Firenze, la Camera di Commercio di Firenze, Oltrarno Promuove 2.0 e le associazioni di categoria, con il contributo della Fondazione CR Firenze.

Nella guida, 280 pagine con immagini del gruppo di lavoro guidato dal fotografo Dario Garofalo, curato dalla casa editrice Gruppo Editoriale, ci sono la storia e le curiosità di San Frediano, Porta Romana, Santo Spirito e San Niccolò, il cibo e il teatro, le chiese, i giardini e non ultime, le più di 800 botteghe che danno all’Oltrarno, un vero e proprio censimento che troverete all’interno della guida.

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Kathleen Kennedy at the Florence Biennale

Artistic trip to Florence by Kathleen Kennedy

FLORENCE, ITALY – Kathleen Kennedy, daughter of Bob and Ethel, and former governor between 1995 and 2003 in Maryland, is on a trip to Florence.

Among other things, she has visited the stands of the Florence Biennale, an international exhibition of contemporary art.

Accompanied by stylist Regina Schrecker, present on display at Fortezza da Basso with two Snow White scene dresses, Kathleen Kennedy was interested in the most curious works, talking to some of the artists present.

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Rolling Stones arrives to Pisa in Tuscany

The iconic band Rolling Stones go to Tuscany

LUCCA, ITALY – After three years from their last concert in Rome, the Rolling Stones come back to Italy. For this unique date of the summer tour 2017 they chose the walled city of Lucca.

They arrived to Tuscany on September 21, 2017, at the Pisa airport. They reached the Tuscan capital of Florence until the concert in Lucca scheduled on September 23 in the Lucca Summer Festival program.

The European Tour Stones – No filter follows the success of the South American tour that culminated with their first historic concert in Habana, Cuba, in front of more than 200,000 people.

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Livorno flood death toll up to eight

FLORENCE, ITALY – The death toll of the flash floods that hit the Tuscan city of Livorno due to storms at the weekend climbed to eight on Tuesday when the body of the last missing person, a 67-year-old was found.

The body of a missing young woman was found Monday in a private garden engulfed in mud in the Antignano area, not far from Rio Ardenza, taking the death toll to seven and leaving just one missing person.

The Fire Department was also in Rosignano Solvay, a seaside town a few kilometers from Livorno, to remove any exposed parts of buildings and rooftops that risked falling, after the wave of bad weather on the September, 10, 2017.

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Authorities in the coastal city have pointed the finger at the civil protection department and weathermen for allegedly not alerting them to the flood danger. Four of the victims were members of the same family who were trapped by flood waters in their basement.


A new exhibition of monumental sculptures by the celebrated sculptor Helidon Xhixha

Sculptor Helidon Xhixha to exhibit at the Boboli Garden

FLORENCE, ITALY – A new exhibition of monumental sculptures by the celebrated sculptor Helidon Xhixha is opened at the Boboli Garden in Florence on 27 June 2017. Xhixha, who currently spends his time between Milan and Dubai, was born into a family of artists in Albania. In fact it was thanks to his father that he discovered his calling for sculpture at a very early age.

Over time, that sculpture was to take on a monumental quality and to focus on social and existential issues, becoming so successful that his iconic stainless steel structures today take pride of place in public and private collections throughout the world. His most famous work to date may well be the Iceberg, devoted to the issue of climate change: a powerful mass of steel emerging from the water, it was the first installation ever to obtain permission to float on the Grand Canal, during the Venice Biennale in 2015.  The work was also to draw the attention of such leading international media as The New York Times, The Guardian and CNN.

To mark the opening of the London Design Biennale in 2016, Xhixha was commissioned to design the layout of the central courtyard in Somerset House and he won the Public Award for Bliss, a series of concentric yet dramatically split blocks designed as a visual metaphor for the migration of peoples.

This exhibition, entitled Helidon Xhixha At Random, has been curated by Eike Schmidt, Director of the Gallerie degli Uffzi, in conjunction with art critic Diego Giolitti. In a spectacular layout involving fifteen monumental installations and sculptures spread out over the Boboli Garden and the city of Florence, Helidon Xhixha explores the concept of chaos and order, his work a tribute to the way in which these concepts have been addressed down the ages not only in philosophy and in the arts (sacred geometry) but also in the natural world.

Their surfaces glistening like mirrors, the works merge into their surrounding environment, pursuing a sophisticated intellectual and aesthetic investigation that sinks its roots in the 16th and 17th centuries and offering a new take on the theme of the interaction between art and nature that was so close to the heart of the Medici family’s artists, who interpreted it with spectacular fountains and mesmerising grottoes in those centuries.

Xixha has created eight of the fifteen sculptures on display expressly for this exhibition, including Order and Chaos, Helium and Neon, which are on display in the Amphitheatre in the Boboli Garden. Alongside them, however, the exhibition will also be showcasing other works created between 2010 and 2016 (Symbiosis, Desert, Fragment, Elliptical Light, Light, The Four Elements) illustrating the sculptor’s recent output.

Knowledge and Infinite, set up in the area in front of the Pitti Palace, play a go-between role with Florence and with the austere and mathematical character of its urban aesthetic. Knowledge calls to mind the genius of Fibonacci, nature’s most immediate response to the Golden Section, while Infinite harks back to the fundamental concepts of order, balance and regularity.

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With Chaos, a monumental installation expressly created for the Limonaia conservatory in the Boboli Garden, Helidon Xhixha explores nature in an effort to penetrate the meaning of chaos. Taking his inspiration from the Cueva de los Cristales, the Cave of the Crystals in Naica in Mexico with its extraordinary selenite crystals up to fourteen metres tall set in an old silver and lead mine, Xhixha has created a new order of seemingly random and chaotic structures which closer observation reveals to be a clarifying and exquisitely intellectual human response to the natural formation: imposing steel columns clad in fabric invite the visitor to enter and to explore this powerful artistic interpretation of one of the wonders of the cosmos as though entering a cave of almost lilliputian proportions.

In most of his works, Helidon Xhixha transforms stainless steel, polished until it gleams like a mirror, into incredible abstract forms at once massive and delicate, a visual comment on the interaction between metal and light, between the object and its surrounding environment, between the tangible and the intangible. His recent success at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and at the 2016 London Design Biennale, together with the prestigious awards he has received, have given Xhixha a position of prestige in the panorama of international art and his works are currently among the most recognisable and sought-after in the context of contemporary sculpture.

Xhixha’s art has a natural depth and breadth, speaking to everyone at different cultural and intellectual levels. As Eike Schmidt, the Director of the Gallerie degli Uffizi put it, these works are imbued with a special communicative tension and forge a unique and different relationship with each individual observer.

“Like an enlargement of the dual nature of light, both wave and particle, from the quantic dimension to the monumental dimension, Helidon Xhixha’s sculptures are at once solid object and ephemeral mirror: solids which yet seem to exist only in relation to that which surrounds them and to those who observe them. At the same time, however, they are not the product of complex theoretical reasoning; rather, they offer an immediate, gut-level experience to the observer regardless of his or her age or intellectual formation. It is indeed rare for sculpture to succeed in drawing the attention of children and adults alike, yet both tend to engage in a lengthy exploration of Xhixha’s work and generally take out their smartphones to capture their own image together with the images being reflected by the steel. The sculptures also act as magnets for the very young, who often touch their bizarre surfaces and move around them, observing the changes in their reflected image, pulling faces or leaping about in front of them. These highly interactive and communicative objects multiply, separate and distort the observer’s image, in many cases even turning it completely upside down.”

Thanks to the City of Florence, the artist has also been invited to display a new monumental sculpture in Piazza San Firenze entitled Giotto’s “O”, a reference to the legendary idea of perfection for the painter Giotto da Bondone. “Giotto’s ‘O’ by Helidon Xhixha,” as Dario Nardella, the Mayor of Florence, explained, “is the work of art that has been chosen to inaugurate the new aspect of Piazza San Firenze, a square which has been renovated and upgraded thanks also to the language of contemporary art and culture. It is precisely in this context that, working in conjunction with the Galleriedegli Uffizi, we have decided to extend the celebrated Albanian artist’s one-man show into Piazza San Firenze, in an effort to build a virtuous dialogue between contemporary works of art and the square’s spectacular Baroque and Renaissance architecture. The MuseoNazionale del Bargello, Palazzo Gondi and the Complex of St. Philip Neri make up the superb backdrop for one of the most representative squares in the city’s historical centre, a square that from now on will also be able to host temporary exhibitions of public art.”

The exhibition – with a catalogue published by Sillabe – is curated by Diego Giolitti and Eike Schmidt, organized with the patronage of the Comune di Firenze, and promoted by the Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo, with the Gallerie degli Uffizi and Firenze Musei.