At Lost In… we love books. Not just the tales themselves but the people and places behind them. When it comes to Florence, two of the most infamous names arguably are Michelangelo and David.
The 5-metre statue of David has many transfixed and even seen adults cry on first glance, but why? How is one piece of art so famed throughout the world and so revered? I met with author of new book, ‘From Marble to Flesh’, to find out.
Victor Coonin is Professor of Art History at Rhodes College in the United States. His passion for David began twenty five years ago when he lived in Florence while studying over two years for a Master’s. Yet returning to the USA and leaving Florence didn't diminish his passion for the subject and this month The Florentine Press released his book detailing the journey of David from inception until present day.
‘From Marble to Flesh’ begins almost 200 years before Michelangelo’s birth with the development of the Duomo, Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. ‘The Giant’, as David was initially called because of the sheer size of marble, lay dormant for almost 50 years before being reawakened by Michelangelo’s chisel. The book reveals many insights into the life of the David statue and features all the players of the art world in Florence at this time: Donatello, Brunelleschi, Cellini, da Vinci, Vasari.
Did you know Michelangelo wasn’t the original artist commissioned to create ‘The Giant’; that the marble sat in a courtyard gathering dust with no future until 1501; that the stone was full of imperfections even though it’s considered a work of perfection today?
Florence has many hidden places with a history; ‘From Marble to Flesh’ offers fresh insight, telling detailed tales involving the city and some of its key players of the past.
Want to read more? You can find the book in Florence at Paperback Exchange, B&M bookshop, as well as Art&Libri, Accademia and Uffizi bookstores. For those abroad, direct from The Florentine Press: theflr.net/davidbook
Bacio da Firenze,
Three great bookstores in Florence…
Paperback Exchange, Via delle Oche, 4R, Florence 50122 Tel: (+39) 055 293 460 papex.it
B&M Books and Fine Art, Borgo Ognissanti, 4r Florence 50123 Tel: (+39) 055 29 4575 bmbookshop.com
RED, Via de' Cerretani, 30/32r, Florence 50123 Tel: (+39) 055 238 2652 lafeltrinelli.it
Florence is famed for its food, from salty cured meats to gooey cheese, and let’s not forget the breads, pastries and pastas. Italians also have a great reputation as cooks, following the principle ‘less is more’: just a few ingredients, of quality, combined well.
I love to cook - as I love to eat the results - and if you are in Florence and fancy an afternoon of foodie fun, the new cooking school run by Cucina Lorenzo de’ Medici could be the perfect place.
Positioned on first floor of the Central Markets in San Lorenzo (read more via FOODIE FLORENCE POSTCARD here), this shiny new space is a modern cooks dream: 16 stations of gleaming stainless steel counters, utensils galore and mini screens to watch the lead chef at work while you replicate his skills at your personal counter.
The school is run by the same organisation famed for helping foreigners learn the Italian language for over 40 years and is neatly positioned above the food market where fresh produce is sourced daily for lessons. ‘Table with the Chef’ offers lunchtime cooking demonstrations including food with wine for 30 euros (there are also dinner sittings). Longer 2-4 hour cooking courses for the more serious minded, focusing on fish to dolce depending on your preference, are also on offer.
Happy cooking (and eating!!).
Bacio da Firenze,
I spent Sunday afternoon lying on the lush green grass of the Rose Garden in Florence enjoying the last rays of sunshine of the weekend. Situated just beneath the famed viewpoint, Piazzale Michelangelo, this hidden garden has a breathtaking mix of fragrant scents naturally derived from 400 types of roses. It’s an intoxicating space. Made public in 1895 and now open daily, it's the perfect mix of park, city views and sweet spring smells of the floral variety.
This had me thinking: what makes the smells of a Florentine spring? And where to buy such sweet smelling treats? Here are three favourite places in Florence to tantalize your sense of smell…
Aqua Flor – housed in a palace in the Santa Croce district, Sileno Cheloni’s perfumery takes you back to a bygone era of Florence. Three rooms house rows of shelves of smelly treats developed at the in-house laboratory. Read more here
Santa Maria Novella Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica – famed as the oldest perfume maker in Florence, officially established in 1612, hidden down a backstreet street near the main train station. Walk through the glass doors to be transfixed into a world of beauty. And that’s just the design of the bottles... Read more here
Ortigia – Tuscan made products inspired by Sicily, this store by Ponte Vecchio is bright, modern and offers soaps, crèmes and perfumes ranging from sweet Lavender to zesty Lime. All packaged in signature Ortigia style in vibrant hand made boxes. Read more here
Happy Spring time!
Bacio da Firenze,
Florence is famed for being a city of art. The wealth of the Medici family fed much of the Renaissance that today inspires flocks of travellers to come revel in the visual beauty on offer.
Florence is also a city that inspires young talent from many countries across the globe and Patrik Lundell is one such creative. Swedish by birth, Florentine by nature and from tomorrow will be offering a local or visitor to Florence the chance to take home a piece of his art…for free!
But first you have to find it. In true Lost In… style, the best things are found down an innocuous street. Want to know more? Read on…
Patrik moved to Florence in December 2012 when he found love and followed her here (her name is Jacqueline). Patrik often uses recycled materials (doors or window shutters) as a canvas to produce modern, bold intriguing pieces. His art combines his own quotes with symbols and figures around these words.
The art piece to find is an old window shutter that has been restored in his signature style. His inspiration? As Patrik says, “I want to give something back to the city that I have come to love. This window shutter with my art is the best way to do that, putting back something from the streets to the streets.”
As for the art hunt... the piece will be located near the library in Florence named after a famous Medici (clue: said Medici’s first name begins with “L”, venue isn’t far from Santa Maria Novella Station and part of “The Italian International Institute”). On Monday 19 May at 12pm the piece will be hung and the first person to find it becomes it’s proud owner…
Lost In…Art Florence style. Happy hunting!
Bacio da Firenze,
One of the joys of living in Italy is eating. Ask any local or expat and a big part of their day revolves around food, and I’m no exception. Florence has many places to enjoy the best seasonal food and the latest addition to San Lorenzo's Mercato Centrale will have any foodie heading to the space upon opening hour.
For years the upstairs area of the nineteenth century building lay dormant, eager for a reinvention. From 23 April, the new dining room is here. Modern décor in a light filled space with counter after counter offering Italian foodie treats: SUD for southern-style pizza with chewy base and dripping in creamy mozzarella; TOSCA for trattoria-style fare; FRANCO PAROLA for cheese boards or sweet treats via CRISTIAN BEDUSCHI. Plus Eataly store for deli products to take home and cooking school by Scuola Lorenzo di' Medici.
Open daily from 10am until midnight it’s a worthy stop on your eating adventures in Florence. Don’t forget to also peruse the downstairs market with stalls selling fresh produce to hungry locals and neighbouring restaurants. It has a number of stores to sample olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pesto, wines and more...
So if feeling hungry, go seek! Preferably with a rather large appetite, you won’t be disappointed.
Bacio da Firenze,
The Tuscan sun shines most days in Florence but there is the occasional moment of pioggia (rain). In these times, running to nearest gallery or museum, normally housed in a glorious historic building, is a great escape to a wet and windy afternoon.
The city of Florence is littered with great spaces to experience stunning works of art from many time periods, including modern (yes, it's true, there is more than the Renaissance to this fine city!). Beyond the Uffizi or Accademia, here are some of my favourite art spaces to get Lost In Florence…
Palazzo Pitti - housed in the Medici's final Florence residence, this opulent palace has five gallery spaces plus the Boboli Gardens to explore. From special one-off exhibitions to permanent spaces showcasing fashion, it's a place to see. Think Palace of Versailles is spectacular? You must see the Palantine Gallery. Like clothes? Take a tour through the Costume Gallery for fashion from the 17th century until present day.
Villa Bardini - a secluded pink villa perched atop the hill on the road to Forte Belvedere, Villa Bardini is an over-looked gem. Featuring beautifully curated exhibitions showcasing art, photography and fashion, it's a destination venue to be seen. Take in the latest exhibition before strolling the private gardens which offer some of the best views of Florence, guaranteed.
Museo Ferragamo - like shoes? You will love the Ferragamo Museum. Celebrating the career of its founder, Salvatore, and the many celebrities who swore by his craftsmanship, it's an intriguing space housed in the basement of the palazzo owned by the family today. Take in the rows of fashionable dresses and shoes in the main store by the river Arno before descending the stairs to the museum to learn all about the detail of shoemaking, Florentine style.
Want more inspiration? Take a peek in the Fine section in Lost In Florence…umbrella optional!
Bacio da Firenze,
Ciao cari,January is the month more suited to rugging up in your finest woollens and keeping warm over a cioccolata calda. Though this weekend saw la citta bella, Firenze, awash with sunshine and the Italians walking the streets in their finest vestiti (clothes).
For those planning a trip to Florence, I always recommend the off season months. You may have to pack a few more items of clothing (a good excuse to shop when you get here?!), but you will find the city a calmer affair and the popular sites easier to navigate. It's also saldi time, which is the sales, and many of the finest stores have great savings on Italian made items.
But back to the hot chocolate. It's famous in these parts and for those of you with a sweet tooth you won't be disappointed: thick, pudding-like syrup served in dainty china cups from some very elegant and old school cafe bars in the historic city centre. Here's a few I recommend in a heart beat...
Caffe Cibreo...an institution in the central east of the city, Caffe Cibreo is a bistro style affair with wicker seating and a polished wooden bar. On a sunny day, take a table on the small terrazza and feel the energy of the hip Sant Ambrogio district pass you by.
Rivoire…neatly positioned in Piazza della Signoria (the main square of Florence), their hot chocolate isn't the only thing to saviour at Rivoire. Creamy cappuccini and daily pastries are also worth sampling. If you have time, and a few extra euros, take a seat on the outside terrace to admire the architectural elegance of the town hall, Palazzo Vecchio.
Caffe Giacosa…has an illustrious history. First established in 1815, it has been the bar of choice for nobles, counts and the gentry of Florence. Now housed by the Roberto Cavalli store off via Tornabuoni, the caffe makes soul satisfying hot chocolate as well as frothy macchiati and cappucci with a cacoa trim.
Bacio da Firenze,