In 1980, the average Italian drank 50 liters of water per year. Today that number has soared to 200, as bottled water has become more plentiful, affordable and more habitual—which is a good thing, right? Well, the shadow side of all that water consumption is the abundance of plastic bottles, not to mention those nasty carbon emissions from both production and delivery. So Tuscans, particularly Florentines, have decided to offer ultra-filtered water for free! (more…)

Ferruccio Lamborghini decided to create super sports cars to compete with Ferrari, which already had a 16 year head-startan almost impossible challenge. He was 47 years old at the time, and already a famous Italian entrepreneur. People thought he was crazy to risk his fortune to build specialty cars that were clearly an unjustifiable extravagance. But the strong-willed businessman was already a proven success. He reasoned that if he could amass a fortune making tractors, why not sports cars? In November of 1963, he unveiled his first masterpiece—the 350GT. The rest is automotive history. (more…)

Legends are made of high drama. Some have a smattering of gruesome details. We find both in the story of Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy).

As the patron saint of Sicily’s ancient city of Syracuse, Santa Lucia’s image is scattered around the city. We didn’t think much of it until we spotted the strangest delicacy in a window of the local pasticceria, pastry shop: eyeball cookies. (more…)

We turned around and saw one for the first time. It was outside the coffee bar, just across the narrow street in Fiesole. On the sportello (little door) that covers the gas meter was a painting of a street scene—specifically, the very house that belonged with the painted door! It was signed FL and dated 2013. We smiled at our discovery and asked Riccardo, the owner of the bar, what that colorful picture was all about. He told us about an artist in town who likes to paint pictures on those little utility doors. Interesting! (more…)

Don Quixote might mistake the windmill called Mulino a Vento as a “giant,” standing on top of the ridge, with arms outstretched over the valley below, ready to do battle with any approaching foe. It surely must be a giant, right, because there aren’t any windmills in Tuscany? Everybody knows that! Right? Well, “everybody” is mistaken. (more…)

Imagine a hiking trail 100 miles long with no particular destination. Sound strange? What if you could actually see the focus of your wanderings, yet never arrive there? What if the trail encircled the most magnificent symbol of the Italian Renaissance—the Duomo, Cattedrale Santa Maria del Fiore—the main cathedral in the heart of Florence? Now, this is really getting interesting. Well, there is such a trail—where the real destination is a deepening of the magic and mystery of that special place known as Firenze—the heart of Tuscany—an experience like no other! (more…)

È quest’autobus per Santa Brigida? Is this bus going to Santa Brigida?”
Seems like a pretty simple question, but after a 5 hour hike and an hour wait for the last bus of the day, we wanted to be sure. We had no interest in retracing our steps back to the car. ” Sì, questa è l’autobus giusto. Yes, this is the right bus,” she replied with a smile. (more…)

Over 2,000 years ago, the comic playwright of ancient Athens, Aristophanes said: “Let each man exercise the art he knows!” We think he had it right.

Yesterday, we were having lunch in Fiesole. It was balmy in the shade of the street-side cafe. We were fascinated, watching the installation of a new sculpture, a colorful contraption, on Piazza Mino. Made of hundreds of small brightly enameled pieces, all fastened together into a collage; much like one of those erector set creations of 50 years ago—wheels, gears, nuts and bolts, angles and edges. The sun really made this one pop! It was playful and riveting. We liked it. (more…)

“If you get pure beauty, you get about the best thing God has to give.”

The quote is attributed to an anonymous artist long ago, cited by the British writer, Charles Latham in his 1905 book, The Gardens of Italy. The sentiment sums up the intention of the Italian villa—pure beauty! And Villa Gamberaia, set in the peaceful hills overlooking Florence is certainly no exception. This incredible garden in the Tuscan landscape has been studied and celebrated by architectural historians and garden designers throughout the centuries. In fact, the painter may have been standing in Gamberaia’s garden when he first spoke those words that captured Latham’s imagination. (more…)