Florence Blog

Find here all the interesting news, tips and thoughts about Florence. Reading this page should give you an idea what to see, where to go and eat in Florence. And some info on the lovely apartment you are about to rent!

Pubs in Siena: The Porta Giustizia

Posted by on Jan 28, 2006 in blog, Nightlife | 0 comments

Porta Giustizia - The door to just enjoyment!

When in Siena the place to go is Porta Giustizia (Justice Door). The tea-room is set where the ancient Justice Door of Siena is located. A small door with a lot of artistic and political importance. Ambrogio Lorenzetti puts it in his “bad government” fresco inside the Public Palace in Siena.

The not-so-big hidden tea-room opens almost every day at the end of old stairs that take you to the omonimous city door. No street signs taking you there, not even a sign outside the entrance. But when you step in you suddenly feel like you have rediscovered an old friend’s house you had forgotten was there. The big leather and vellur couches with big old leather armchairs and a large, low coffee table on the right invite your sight and make you move your first steps to sit with your friends to play a game or just sip a nice coktail, or a one of the many fine teas from all over the world (a must-try is the mat-cha, fine powdered tea, used in the Japanese tea ceremony), or eat a piece of homemade cake or pie (hard to tell which kind, they always change and the variety is wide). One thing that may need improvement is the Chai Tea. The spices are just right, but the consistency is a little too watery.

The fireplace warms up the environment rich with old wooden bookshelves filled with books. From the walls hang paintings, the vault brick ceilings is adorned with old chandeliers, the furniture reminds that of an explorer that has travelled all over and is now retired and enjoys fine food and drinks in the comfort of his own house. There are several tables, but the environment does not result overcrowded, also because it is distributed on many levels.

Some tables are on the twosteps platform where the piano and sax are casually left and sometimes played. One private living room is carved out the little grotto-cellar, where couches and a large coffee table can host many friends altogether for a fun chill out night.

The music is mainly jazz, bossa nova, some blues, bossa alegre, and rarely soul.
The owner always tries to accommodate your needs with a smile and always greets you with measured taste and the humble behaviour of a good host. Here you can also play cards, chess, checkers, backgammon, and a score of more modern games. The wine and spirits range from regular to superfine. It is not unusual to find here an aged rum from Costa Rica, or a fine vodka.

The Porta Giustizia is open from 8 to 2,30-3,00 on weekends. Til a little earlier during the week.

This is a fine place to go at all times during all seasons!

Cortona in Val di Chiana

Posted by on Jan 23, 2006 in blog, Towns | 1 comment

Under the Tuscan sun, Cortona

Last summer I spent my vacations in Florence and one day I visited Cortona a very nice town near Arezzo in Val di Chiana. The town was built by the Etruscan and was very powerful before roman times. From the top of the village you can appreciate a breath taking view. During medieval times, the city was also important and Cortona has changed very little in its urban make up.

During these last years, Cortona was also a set of many famous movies same of them are: life is beautiful by Roberto Benigni and the more recent “Under the Tuscan sun”.

If you go there you should not miss a visit to one of the best restaurants i have ever tried, the place is called Osteria del teatro. The restaurant is one of the most appreciated place by many italian artist. Price is about 35 euros per person.

Look at Me! Siena

Posted by on Jan 23, 2006 in blog, Cultural Events, Museums | 0 comments

Some time ago a Sunday I decided to go to Siena and visit the Palazo Pubblico (Town Hall), a Medieval palace where the administrative offices of Siena are still active.

Well, it was closed for official use only, so I had to stroll around, and I ran into this great exhibition called “Guardami” (Look at me!). It is a video and audio exhibition where operas come alive through the use of cinematic media. Artists from all over the world have created out-of-the-world things, clever in their simplicity.
Originally the mansion of a noble medieval family, the Palace of Papesse that hosts the exhibition is a misterious building used as a bank in more recent times. The vault, still preserved as it was during the banking years, and still smelling of money dust, is the setting of some breath-taking multi screen action which will leave you wandering whether someone is closing the 15 ton vault door on your back…keep an eye on that one….

Some of the featured artists are Matthew Barney, Stan Douglas, Tacita Dean, Steve McQueen (NOT the actor!) Doug Aitken, Kutlug Ataman, Douglas Gordon and Paul Pfeiffer. Noteworthy is the opera by Mark Lekcey “Made in Eaven”, a totally digital animation of a reflecting balloon shaped as a rabbit (Jeff Koons) with a carrot in its paws.
The machine that projects the images has been modified by the artist with a device that makes the film play in a loop.
Also, the Latitude by David Cotterrell has taken me to another dimension. Floating on that boat for such a long time has been better than a yoga session.
Many many others are worth mentioning, but I lack the time and critical capacity, so just trust me on this!

Anyway. Now it’s gone, sadly, but you have to keep this palace in mind.

Day Trip to Monticchiello

Posted by on Jan 21, 2006 in blog, Towns | 0 comments

A day in Monticchiello

Monticchiello is a very nice town on the top of a hill between Montepulciano and Pienza. The village is very little but you should not miss a visit if you are in south of Tuscany. The castle of Monticchiello was thickly strengthened from the Senesis at the end of the 12th century, when it became a strategic borderline fortress. Today this place still keeps its medieval atmosphere. If you go to Montichiello during the summer you should see the outdoor theatre.

A good place to is eat is restaurant “la porta” very good value for money. Greats views. Price 30 euros per person.

Pienza, the Renaissance Town

Posted by on Jan 21, 2006 in blog, Towns | 3 comments

Pienza the heart of Tuscany

Pienza is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen in my life, the village defined as the utopian city it represent one of the most impressive villages, best planned during the Renaissance. The city was wanted by a the pope Pius II and realized by the architect Bernardo Rossellino who was commissioned to build a Duomo, papal palace and town hall.

Pienza is located in the heart of the Val d’Orcia that is one of the most beautiful valley in Tuscany. Val d Orcia is mostly untouched and it preserve the balance relationship between Man and Nature.

You can visit pienza in one hour, you should not miss the Duomo and the view of the valley. If you decide to have lunch in Pienza here you have some suggestions:

Latte di Luna: value for money. typical Tuscan food. You should try the pork meat. Price with house wine 20 euros per person

IL Chiostro: very elegant. During the summer you can seat outdoor from where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the valley. Food is also good. The owner, Maurizio is very friendly. Price with house wine 35 euros per person.

night life is inexistent. The closest place to go go is a music bar on the road to go to Montichiello, the pub is called “5/4″ or “Caffe degli Archi” in Montepulciano.

Tasteful Siena

Posted by on Jan 21, 2006 in blog, Restaurants, Towns | 2 comments

Tasteful Siena

Siena is a small city unrolling on hills in Tuscany. But do not let it fool you with its town looks. It preserves the taste of old traditions, that is true, but it is a place sweltering with cultural events and modern happenings.
An example where tradions meet modern is the cuisine. The Tuscan cusine is traditionally based on simple ingredients such as wheat flour, corn flour, garlic, season vegetables, olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley, and occasional meat.
And it’s good, trust me. Simple dishes such as Ribollita, or Bruschetta can leave you satisfied without asking too much of your tongue.
Modern dishes, however, combine more and more spices such as cumin, cinnamon, fruits and honey to get a result that at times surprises, at times shocks.

So former trattoria Da Divo is born and offers dishes such as the “Duck breast paired with mashed saffron potatoes”, or the “Gnocchi in melted pecorino cheese and chives sauce”. Even the ambient trascends the exterior world. The dining room is carved out nude rock and “t u f o” stones. The inferior rooms are actual Etruscan tombs preserved in perfect state. The tables are set with elegant clothes and fine tableware. Servers address customers with a friendly but composed attitude. Prices are really not expensive for the quality and the unique environment. A must-try!
(SIENA ANTICA OSTERIA DA DIVO- Via Franciosa 25 Tel 0577 284381)

A Day in Montepulciano

Posted by on Jan 20, 2006 in blog, Towns | 3 comments

If you go to Tuscany you should not forget to visit Montepulciano. Montepulciano is located in the heart of Siena area on the top of a hill at 605mt (1905ft). The town is medieval close by a strong wall. The city has an old Duomo and you should not miss a visit. The Duomo begun in 1592 and finished in 1630 is Ippolito Scalza’s masterpiece. The face was not finished, but the interior is Classical and beautiful. The most beautiful church is located at the exit of the city and it is called San Biagio. This unique church was built of honey and cream colored travertine. This Church is Sangallo’s masterpiece begun in 1518.

A visit at montepulciano should not take to you more than half day. The next town you should visit is Pienza just 10km far away.

If you want to stay for lunch or dinner in the city I would suggest to you a couple of places:

expensive:restaurants le grotte (very high quality food) 40 euro/person aprox
cheap: with outside terrace, il pozzo di Pulcinella is very good value for money, 15 euro/person aprox

ask for vino Rosso (cheap) or Nobile (expensive) di Montepulciano both are very good local wines

if you want to live Montepulciano’s night life I would suggest to you to go to Caffe degli Archi live music bar. The owner, Pier, should not be missed.