Saturday, April 25, 2009

Uffizi Gallery in Florence - Beat the Queue

Housed in the Palazzo degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy; the Uffizi gallery is one of the most famous art galleries in the World. It contains one of the biggest collections of Renaissance art and some of the most iconic artworks from Botticelli, Caravaggio, Da Vinci and Rembrandt, among others.

When booking your flights, Florence apartment and hire car, also consider booking your tickets for attractions such as the Uffizi Gallery. It is reported that in high season visitors can spend up to five hours queuing for entry to the gallery. Tickets can be booked online directly from the official Uffizi gallery website and will allow you more time to enjoy the abundance of other tempting attractions in Florence city centre.

Completed in 1581, after 21 years of construction, the Uffizi Gallery was designed by Giorgio Vasari as office buildings for the Florentine Magistrates, Uffizi means office in Italian. The design of the building is considered highly influential by architecture historians as the long internal courtyard that that looks towards the Arno River through a Doric Screen is considered to be the first uniform streetscape in Europe. The accentuated perspective and unbroken cornicing create the linear quality that led to this observation.

The Uffizi Gallery possesses a monumental collection of artworks that are distributed among some 45 exhibition rooms, meaning that it is advised to set aside at least 3 hours of your day to appreciate all of the vast collection and leave time to visit any of the other nearby museums or galleries.

It is also recommended to take one of the audio tours that are available, as this will give you historical insight and make your viewing experience a lot more worthwhile.

Ticket prices begin at €9.95 and visitors simply visit the official Uffizi website where they enter the date, time and number of visitors that they wish to admit and the ticket order can be made quickly and easily online using a credit card. The price includes a small booking fee but it is definitely worth paying to avoid the queue in the often stifling, Florence summer heat.

European citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 and teachers are entitled to a reduced rate and those under 18 and over 65 are entitled to free entrance, although children under 12 years old must be accompanied by an adult.

The Uffizi Gallery is located at the Piazzale degli Uffizi in central Florence.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cantine Aperte 31st May 2009

The region of Tuscany is world renowned for its beautiful rolling countryside and exquisite wines and cuisine. Wine production is deeply rooted in Tuscan culture and has existed since the Etruscans imported the grapevine from the orient and began cultivation of the vines on a large scale, the Greeks named Tuscany "the Land of Wine".

The last Sunday in May offers wine lovers the chance to sample wines that are produced throughout Italy through an initiative called the Cantine Aperte or Open Cellars. The public are invited to try the wines offered by each winery and observe the cultivation and production processes involved in making them.

With a wealth of central Florence apartments on offer, this initiative provides the perfect excuse for a day trip into the countryside that surrounds the city, which is a recommendable activity to help truly appreciate this part of Italy and its cultures, which are rooted in traditions of fine wines and good quality cuisine.

On the 31st of May 2009, around 800 wine cellars throughout Italy will open their doors to an enormous visiting public of around 1 million people, Tuscany alone has 130 participating wineries. The massive scale of this event represents the importance that wine cultivation has on Italian culture from region to region.

The event is coordinated by the Movimento Turismo del Vino, a non-profit organization that was set up in 1993 with the aim of promoting wine tourism in the region and improving the “image and prestige” of the wine producing areas. The wineries chosen to participate are given the opportunity based on strict criteria which places emphasis on a high level of quality in the visitor tours that are offered.

The event also celebrates the cultural and culinary traditions of the region and is an ideal way to discover many local delicacies . Information on participating wineries can be found by visiting the official webpage of the Movimiento Turismo del Vino.

Ponte Vecchio- A Brief History of One of Florence’s Most Iconic Landmarks

The oldest of Florence’s six bridges, the Ponte Vecchio attracts thousands of visitors every year to marvel at this ancient landmark that dates back to Roman times. The original bridge was destroyed by a flood 1333 and was subsequently rebuilt twelve years later , however the architect that the project is attributed to is widely disputed. Some authorities claim that the bridge’s architect is Neri de Fioravante while others support the theory that the architect was in fact, Taddeo Gaddi.

The original design of the bridge included five arches while the Ponte Vecchio that exists today has three and is wider than the original. The bridge is famous for the shops that occupy its porticos or porches. These were initially owned by the Comune but in the 15th century were sold to private owners. The majority of the traders included butchers, greengrocers and fishmongers but in 1565 Ferdinando I ordered that the bridge should be cleared up and they were replaced with goldsmiths and jewellers to give the bridge a more elegant image.

The famous Vasari corridor or Corridoio Vasariano was built in 1565 under the order of Cosimo I de’ Medici who was the serving Duke of Florence at that time and is named after its designer Giorgio Vasari. This corridor links the Palazzo Vecchio and the Gli Uffizi with the Piti Palace. The motivation for the corridor was highly extravagant; it was built in 5 months to offer the Duke a means of moving freely between his residence and the Government Palace. Today the walls of the corridor are adorned with world renowned Renaissance artworks.

The Ponte Vecchio has endured numerous fires and floods, one of the worst cases on record was a flood that occurred in 1966, in which many valuable pieces of jewellery were washed away and the bridge suffered significant structural damage. During the Second World War, as the Germans retreated from the Allies, they destroyed all of the other bridges in Florence but left the Ponte Vecchio under explicit orders from Hitler, instead choosing to blockade its ends with large piles of rubble to hinder their enemy in its imminent advance.

In a city which boasts a massive wealth of attractions, the Ponte Vecchio is one of the few attractions in the city that is totally free; after all it is classed as a public byway. The most impressive views can be found from the neighbouring bridges, the Ponte Santa Trinita and the Ponte alle Grazie or by walking along the banks of the river Arno to snap that iconic shot of the bridge in its full glory.

The History of Chianti in Florence

Created in the ripe Tuscan countryside since the 14th century and defined as a wine-producing area in 1716, Chianti and Chianti wine is one of Italy’s most favourite products. All apartments in Florence deem it necessary to have at least a couple of bottles of Chianti, their home-grown produce.

The Chianti area now incorporates about 65 square miles between Florence and Siena, which has grown and added new territories since its first days of wine-making.
The original Etruscan family of Clante settled in the area in the 7th and 8th centuries, and the wine-making activity is said to be attributed to them.
Always enamoured for its fertile valleys and natural beauty, the Chianti region mixes woods of oak and chesnut with olive groves, villages, vineyards and many little rivers.

In the 14th century, a dispute over land ownership was settled as two young nobles from the rivalry cities, Guelph Florence and Ghibelline Siena, had a race to cover land and claim it. According to the story, the race was to start at the first cock of the crow in each city. Florence had kept a black rooster without food, so that it would crow earlier in the morning and this led to Florence gaining more of the Chianti territory. The image of this black rooster is still used today as the seal on the Chianti wine bottle.

Striving to protect the Chianti wine production and its hugely popular culture in more modern times, there have been several societies established, to allow for the correct ecological management of the region around Florence, and the organisation of the tourist flow within the Chianti area. The seal of this community is marked by the ever-faithful Chianti rooster.

When in Florence, be sure to relax with a glass of Chianti and savour the city’s great past.

A 360 of Piazza della Signoria in Florence

Well, here is a 360 of one of the most famous place in Florence, the wonderful Piazza della Signoria. More info on what you can see there here: Piazza della Signoria - Wikipedia.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Well-Heeled in Florence’s Ferragamo Museum

Florence has produced many of the greats in art, many of whom had humble beginnings in an apartment in Florence, or simply settled in Florence, to later become renowned worldwide. In modern history, Salvatore Ferragamo made his mark on the world of fashion, designing shoes in Hollywood in the 20’s for stars and the silver screen and later brought their manufacture to his preferred city of Florence. Ferragamo died in 1960, but his legacy lives on; his name being a modern-day global luxury brand. For shoe-lovers, a trip to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum is highly advised when in Florence.
Quite unlike the usual Florence museum, this conceptual shoe gallery, which was opened by the Ferragamo family in 1995 as a tribute to Salvatore’s ideas, showcases the designer’s work and collections. Each piece of footwear is viewed as an artwork, alongside documentary on Ferragamo’s life, photos of him with celebrities and an interesting insight into last century’s relationship with shoes.

The fascinating story behind Ferragamo’s work, pioneering the cork wedge during the scarcity of the world war years, his popularity with Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, the re-planting of his business in his native Italy, these are all detailed within the museum’s permanent collections.

What’s more, the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum also organises temporary collections dealing with new contemporary artists, collaborating with arts and culture societies and hosting exhibitions. The entrance fee into the museum (€5) goes towards funding annual scholarships for up-and-coming footwear designers. The museum is definitely worth a visit for its inter-cultural aspect, if not for the shoes.

The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum is located on Piazza Santa Trinita 5r, in Florence’s Santa Maria Novella district. It’s opening hours are from 10am-6pm and it is closed only on Tuesdays. For information about reserving a visit, the contact phone number is +39 055 3360 456/455.

Divinely Dante in Florence

Follow the Florence trail of Dante, the writer of the Divine Comedy, one of the most acclaimed literary masterpieces in world history. Dante Alighieri, Florentine born, frequented Florence apartments –many of which are still the same today- and streets at the end of the 13th century until his political banishment from Florence. In the years that succeeded, he wrote some of his works, as well as the Divine comedy, between 1308 and his death in 1321.

The 14,000 lines of Dante’s Divine Comedy or Divina Commedia unfold as the writer takes a journey through the three Christian phases of the afterlife; Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Heaven (Paradiso). Written in the first person, the poem’s famed allegory and Christian themes, along with the Italian language used, helped to portray the religious and scientific ideas of those times in Florence and in the Western World, while establishing the Tuscan dialect in a historical context.

When in Florence, it’s worth visiting those monuments of a great literary past with Dante, as follows:

Baptistery of San Giovanni- Where Dante was christened. There is a painting depicting Dante showing Florence his poem, painted in 1465 by Domenico di Michelino.

Via Corso and the houses of Portinari- Where Beatrice lived; Dante’s obsession as portrayed in La Vita Nouva.

Chiesa di Santa Margherita de' Cerchi- The Florence church in which Dante is believed to have married Gemma Donati in 1295.

Florence’s House of Dante - A little museum with articles pertaining to Dante’s life and works.

Palazzo del Bargello- The building in which Dante’s banishment from Florence was proclaimed.

There is a Giotto fresco of Dante in Paradise, in the building’s chapel.

Chiesa di Santa Croce- See the Dante sculpture outside the church, created by Enrico Pezzi in 1865.

Chiesa di Santa Maria Novella- Frescoes by Nardo di Cione which show Dante’s Paradise and Hell.

For enthusiasts of literature, a trip to Dante’s monuments in Florence will make for an interesting trip.