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Rent, Sell and Manage Properties in Florence and Tuscany
NEWSLETTER December 2009

December… though autumn in Tuscany this year has been a delight, mild and peaceful, it is the first weeks of December that we especially look forward to each year. The holiday street decorations are going up, shop windows glow invitingly, and city strolling becomes a real pleasure. We love to seek out the best window displays (see Bartolini kitchen shop on Via dei Servi and Dreoni toy store on Via Cavour, for example). Along with Christmas day and Boxing day … remember that December 8th is a holiday, too.

Staying in theme, our Newsletter this month covers choices for super Christmas gifts, plus Christmas fairs and concerts, lots of food festivals and other special events.

To our friends far and near, SUZANNE, CORSO, SANDRA, LORI, ANNA PIA, KIMBERLY and MARIO wish a warm, wonderful season of holiday celebrations.

A heartfelt thank you to all those that have called, sent cards and visited me in the last few weeks. And to explain to those who haven’t heard, mid-November, while riding along on my scooter near the office on Lungarno della Zecca Vecchia, a guy parked on the right opened his car door and got me. In the collision, I hit my foot and toes, severing some ligaments and breaking a number of foot bones plus my elbow. I was picked up and taken to the Ponte a Niccheri hospital. The doctors tell me the foot should be mending in another 40 days, and the elbow in just 20, so I’ll be on crutches by Christmas, and bouncing around by New Years. Til then, thank you everybody for your lovely positive thoughts. And a special thank you to Olivia Rucellai for donating accommodation for the Florence Theatre Company through us at P&F. She is quite an extraordinary woman.


If you love theatre, then take advantage of the PassTeatri program which offers the chance to see 6 shows (from an array of 54) in any of 18 theatres in and around Florence for a single pass price of 48 euro. The program includes theatre, dance, prose and classical music offerings. Each of the theatres involved has chosen three of their best shows to insert into the program. And you can share the pass, though the shows do have to be chosen from six different theatres which include the Teatro Verdi - Orchestra della Toscana, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro Cantiere Florida, Teatro di Cestello, Teatro Everest, Teatro della Pergola, Teatro Puccini and the Teatro di Rifredi.
The PassTeatri is available at all Box Office locations and via internet at www.boxol.it, or at: Aci-Firenze - viale Amendola 36, Filistrucchi - via Giuseppe Verdi 9, Libreria Edison - Piazza della Repubblica 27r, Libreria Florida - via Corridoni 32r and the Libreria Melbookstore on via dei Cerretani 16r, plus and all the theatres taking part in the program. For more information: www.firenzedeiteatri.it or phone: 055 2779362.

Dining out during the holidays can be tricky business, with Florentine restaurants opening and closing seemingly according to whim. We have gathered the holiday schedules of a few favourite downtown spots. Obviously it is a good idea to make reservations asap, especially for New Years Eve (when most restaurants have a single seating Cenone meal that lasts past the midnight brindisi (toast). Don’t be surprised if restaurants ask for a deposit to hold your NYE booking.
Trattoria al Trebbio – A warm Tuscan trattoria, with the friendly sort of Florentine waiters one always hopes to find. The wine cellar downstairs has beautiful terracotta work. Open 24th all day, 25th lunch only, 31st open first seating regular menu, with special dinner at second seating, Via delle Belle Donne 49r, Tel. 055 287 089 .
Trattoria 13 Gobbi - Excellent trattoria, fashionable, with “bella gente”. From Dec. 24th to Jan. 2nd this restaurant will always be open…except dinner on the 25th. It would be a good place for Christmas day lunch, where you will likely find yourselves dining with Florentine families. Also check out their plan for New Years Eve dinner celebrations. Via del Porcellana 9r, Tel. 055 284 015.
Osteria Belle Donne - a fun, casual place for anytime. Giacinto who works there is a quick and spiffy guy. From the 24th to Jan. 2nd this restaurant will always be open…except the 25th. Via delle Belle Donne 16r, Tel. 055 238 2609.
Trattoria Marione – the perfect Florentine trattoria in every way. Open always except 25th. Via della Spada, Tel. 055 214756.

With Christmas sneaking up on us, here once again are a few of our favourite ideas for Christmas gift shopping. First on our list every year is the AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE CHRISTMAS BAZAAR on Tuesday December 8 (see Florence News below for details). The bazaar is a great place to pick up Christmas decorations, ornaments, cards and gift tags. Plus toys, clothes, books, and lots of really great hand-crafted gifts.
Many shops offer great chocolates in Florence, but the tiny hidden jewel of a store representing the work of that tallish elf Roberto Catinari, is one stop that must be made on the Christmas shopping rounds. Just off Via Porta Rossa is a narrow alley called Chiasso dei Soldanieri. Check out the Catinari nook for some of the best chocolate available in the world. Tel. 055 217136.
Food items always go over well. To avoid any qualms about the quality of your choices, just hit the Teatro del Sale where Fabio Picchi has taken the guess work out of gift giving. Choose from their own home-made jams and pickled veggies, plus the best in honey, wine, tuna and panettone packed in hat boxes. Teatro del Sale. Open from 9:00 to 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to midnight. Closed Sunday and Monday. Via de’ Macci, 107R, Tel: 055 200 1492.
Or check out the food shop called ‘ino on tiny Via Georgofili between the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio. One senses that the goods here were chosen with heart. You’ll find chocolates (Tuscan deBondt), superior canned fish specialities (by Moreno Cedroni), fabulous pasta (Chianti-based Fabbri), cheeses from exceptional producers of Gorgonzola Dolce and Pecorino di Fossa, an amazing Mozzarella di Bufala and Parmigiano Reggiano delle Vacche Rosse. The “salumi” include Salame di Felino, Culatello di Zibello and Prosciutto del Casentino. It is a great place for food gifts, or to simply pick up a panino for al fresco dining on your terrace or in the Boboli gardens. Open daily from 10 am to 8:00 pm. in Via dei Georgofili 3r. Tel. 055.219208.
Haunt the outlets for linens and designer duds. Cottimaryanne makes excellent quality bed, bath and table linens. Find the factory store by ringing a bell at the nondescript factory location, right behind the Sheraton Hotel (Ponte a Ema, Firenze Sud). You will have to climb a flight of stairs and walk through the production area, but the shop is well-stocked (from terry slippers for 3 euro to great terry robes for 70 euro to full bed sets for 120 euro, and more). Open Monday to Friday 9-1:00 and 2:30 to 6:00 pm. Plus Saturday 10-1:00. Via Vacciano 6/b. Tel. 055 641744.
Put together gift packs with a couple elegant bags of teas hand-chosen from the lengthy list offered at La Via del Tè tea-room in Piazza Ghiberti (Sant’Ambrogio). With a few crystal-sugar stirring sticks and a tea-ball, a super, personal gift package can run from approx. 12 to 20 euros. This is a great place to take a breather from your shopping and enjoy a civilized cup of tea with scones. 9:30-2:00 pm, 4:00-7:30 pm from Monday to Saturday. Piazza Ghiberti 22r, tel. 055 234 4967.
Rent a shiny black upright piano from Bussotti on Viale dei Mille 69. Approx. 400 euro will assure you a 6-month period of piano pleasure. They deliver just about anywhere (even top floor walk-ups.). Tel. 055 571461.
One of the best gifts ever is a small, bright red box containing a silver spoon and luscious hazelnut chocolate cream designed to eat straight from the spoon. Talk about supreme self-indulgence! Find this fabulous box of Crema al Cioccolato, along with other made-on-the-premises chocolates at Caffe Rivoir on Piazza della Signoria. And please treat yourself to a cup of their amazing hot chocolate with panna while you are there… Other stops for great hot chocolate… Vestri on Borgo degli Albizi (11red, tel. 055/234-0374) where you can spike your shot glass of pure chocolate heaven with ginger or hot chili pepper. In the Oltrarno try Hemingway Caffe in Piazza Piattellina (9red, tel. 055/284-781). Aside from a wonderful cup of hot chocolate, this cosy tea-room has an excellent selection of bon-bons and truffles.
A silk bag of potpourri from the Farmacia Santa Maria Novella will make your home or luggage smell great as you play Santa. Located at number 16 Via della Scala, the Farmacia Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of the world’s oldest pharmacies, offering a fascinating variety of time-tested creams, soaps, perfumes, liqueurs, and much more.
Leather boxes: Simone Taddei makes traditional Florentine leather boxes completely by hand. His tiny workshop can be found at Via Santa Margherita 11, just off Via del Corso. Simone is a likeable young man who won’t hesitate to get up from his work table and explain how he puts together his creations. He usually has boxes, picture frames, eye glass cases and great business card carriers to choose from.

The next chapter meeting for Democrats Abroad Florence will take place on Saturday, December 19, 11 am-12:30 pm at California State University in Florence on via Leopardi 12, (near Piazza Beccaria). For info write cathleen.compton@gmail.com.
Chair, DA Florence. www.democratsabroad.org

MARK FRIDAY 11TH ON YOUR CALENDAR! St. James Episcopal church is excited to announce its annual Christmas Gala. The celebration will be held at the Church the evening of Friday, December 11 at 8pm. The Christmas Gala provides an opportunity to celebrate St. James and the role it plays in the Florentine community. The exciting combination of great music, gourmet cuisine, and a live auction featuring fine wines and other exclusive items hosted by Dario Cecchini, is sure to be a hit. Founded well over a hundred years ago, St. James Episcopal Church is a historic and vibrant parish that operates at the heart of the English-speaking community of Florence. Over the years, it has made a considerable contribution to the city through its varied programs, including art and music, adult education and many outreach initiatives in the city and around the world. This year's Gala is being coordinated by Erica Kopczynski O'Kief (erica_ivy2@yahoo.it). Please let her know if you'd like to help out. Get your tickets to the Christmas Gala Dinner at the church office. Can't get to the Office to buy your tickets? You can buy them online with PayPal on the St. James website: www.stjames.it. A good time is guaranteed.
Other news: On Sunday December 13th, there will be a Sunday School Benefit Luncheon following the 11am service. All proceeds will be used for the Sunday School Advent Outreach to Malawi which Caterina is coordinating with Haswell and Maria Beni. St. James Sunday School is gathering new school supplies (pencils, erasers, notebooks, rulers, pencil bags...) and toys (new or used toys - as long as the used toys are in perfect condition - not broken, no pieces missing) for the children in Malawi. The monies raised from this luncheon will be used for shipping these gifts to Africa. Caterina has arranged for older children (11 +) to cook and serve, with the help of their parents. If any young people would like to help, please let us know. Also, it would be good to know exactly how many people they should prepare for, so we ask that you book soon. Please encourage other members of the congregation to contribute school supplies and toys, as well as participate in the luncheon. Immediately after lunch, the Sunday School children will perform a brief choral concert of Christmas music. Help us help others this Christmas. Thank you. Sunday School teacher Caterina caterinafirenze@yahoo.com. Sunday School coordinator Marie butifam@alice.it.
Upcoming Adult Forums - Dec. 6 and 13 - "Who is God?" with Gianluigi Gugliermetto. We have different images of God in our minds, and the Bible also presents an astonishing variety of them. Are there reasons, in this postmodern era, to emphasize some of these images? Advent, as a time of waiting and unknowing, may resemble well our time of uncertainty and even obscurity, but does Christmas come and makes the night bright and clear? What happens to the images that we have of God when we are confronted with the Mistery of the Incarnation? Time: 10 a.m. Location: Clergy Office (just off the sanctuary). Grab a cappuccino and join us for this two-part series. St. James Church, Via B. Rucellai, 9. Email: info@stjames.it.

FOOTBAAAALLL!! by Simon Clark and Anne Brooks
Forza Viola!..........A month in which to reflect on the great philosophical question “is the glass half-full of half-empty?”. We think it half-full, with plenty of bubbles winking on the surface but we have only ourselves to blame for much of the spillage. Fiorentina won four out of November’s six games. We powered into the knock-out stages of the Champions League (goodnight Liverpool!) for the first time ever and to scenes of delirium at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. But we have drooped to tenth in the league thanks partly to a ham-fisted display against Parma!!!
Serie A. After two straight defeats, the Viola got back on track against Catania. Of course, we couldn’t do it without a hiccup. Four minutes gone and ZOOM! Vargas sends over a teasing cross and THWACK! Marchionni buries it in the top corner. Here we go. Except that Dainelli then gets himself sent off; Catania press us back and equalise early in the second half. The gods then took pity on us as a Catania player saw the red card brandished. Ten on each side and Fiorentina took control. Marchionni smashed in his second of the game and, four minutes from the finish, De Silvestri set up Gilardino for a simple tap-in as we trotted out 3-1 winners. Next up, a trip to Udinese – in a smaller charabanc than usual as Mutu, Jovetic, Zanetti, Gamberini and Dainelli were all injured but Frey was back, ready for his mandatory wonder-save at the death. It’s a measure of the squad’s depth that we hardly missed the wounded, delivering a 1-0 drubbing. Santana’s first-minute strike against the crossbar and Vargas’s 84th minute goal sandwiched some enterprising play. Natali and Kroldrup locked up the centre of defence, Montolivo and Marchionni took out a mortgage on the middle of the park and Vargas and Gila behaved as if they’d never heard of Jo-Jo and il fenomeno!
Week 13 and we welcome Parma to the Stadio. Promoted last year, Parma are shaping up well. After some brisk sparring, Gila put us ahead with one of his trademark looping headers but Parma sliced up our defence to equalise five minutes later. Worse was to come. Just into the second half, we botched the offside trap and Viola old-boy Bojinov put Parma in front. But there is always Gila and he dutifully headed us back to parity from a Vargas corner. Had we learned a lesson? No. We pressed forward for a winner and left the stable door open again as Parma once more breached the offside trap. A dubious red card for Donadel and the second home defeat of the season 2-3.
To the San Siro and league-leaders Inter. This was always going to be the toughest of games. A draw would have been splendid and for 84 minutes it looked like we could get one. We were on the back foot most of the time and still playing Russian roulette with the offside trap. As the deadlock stretched on, Fiorentina came more into it and we almost took the lead on 82 minutes as Gila surged brilliantly into the penalty area only to be defied by a post. Two minutes later, it was a clear penalty and even Sebastien Frey could do nothing. Wait till we get them at the Stadio!
Champions League. The Stadio for our fourth group game and the Hungarian champions, Debrecen. They are turning out to be the whipping boys of the group; we beat them 4-3 in Budapest, where Lyons crushed them 4-0. Adrian Mutu was fit again and made his presence felt on 14 minutes as he dived to nod in Marchionni’s cross but Debrecen got the next goal as our central defence froze – 1-1 at the break. Prandelli sent on Montolivo for the second half and the midfielder responded by playing a blinder; everyone else rose to his prompting. After intense pressure, Dainelli headed us in front and the flood-gates opened. Vargas to Montolivo and it’s 3-1. Marchionni runs through their rearguard and flicks the ball over the goalkeeper – 4-1. As we took a short breather, Debrecen got a second but we finished off with a well-earned goal for Gila from a Vargas free kick. 5-2 to the Viola. Two games to go in this group; a single point will see us qualify!
Which means Lyons at the Stadio. What a night! The Frenchmen are group-leaders and a fine team – but they only just managed to beat a ten-man Fiorentina in France and they depended on last-gasp goals in both their battles with Liverpool. We opened brightly. On 14 minutes, Santana’s shot smacked against a post and, from the ensuing corner, Gila clipped the post. Then, 28 minutes in, we got a penalty that Vargas buried emphatically, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. Lyons had already qualified but they had not come to lie down but Fiorentina were in the box seat, Santana inspirational. Gila almost made it 2-0 but scuffed his shot. Frey was called into late action but we kept our nerves and pocketed the points. Ecstasy in the Stadio – we’ve qualified!
So there’s the glass draining – four league games and we lost two of them. Deep down inside, we expected to lose the Inter game so it’s really just three points given away – but the top half of Serie A (apart from Inter, already seven points clear) is very tight. We appear to have slumped drastically to tenth place but we are only three points behind Sampdoria in fourth spot. A long way to go yet! And there’s the glass bubbling – a side comfortable on the European stage, conquerors of Liverpool and Lyons. Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid – bring them on!..........Forza Viola!

BUYING TICKETS - Ticket information – seating plan, prices, ticket outlets – is on the “biglietteria” section of the club’s website [ www.it.violachannel.tv ]. Basically, tickets can be purchased at official box offices and holders of TicketOne lottery franchises. Sources include: CHIOSCO DEGLI SPORTIVI, via degli Anselmi (between the Piazza Repubblica post office and the Odeon cinema). Tel 055 292363. BAR MARISA, viale Manfredo Fanti 41. Tel 055 572723. BAR STADIO, viale Manfredo Fanti 3r. Tel 055 576169. ACF OFFICIAL TICKET-OFFICE, via Dupre 28 (corner of via Settesanti). NUOVO BOX OFFICE, via Luigi Alamanni 39 (close to SMN station). Tel 055 264321. FELTRINELLI FIRENZE, Via de’ Cerretani 39/32R.

THE FIORENTINA SCHEDULE: Up to Christmas, we need to maintain focus. The final Champions League group match at Liverpool is irrelevant to both teams; a cynical Dame Fortune may allow them a futile victory. The league is where we need to stay sharp. Atalanta are struggling in the bottom four so we must win that. We’re away to Chievo, holding mid-table and only three points adrift of us; we want the points there, too. The last game before the winter break brings Milan to the Stadio. Last season’s final game with Milan decided who finished third and fourth. They won 2-0, convincingly. Fiorentina are a different team now; this one is hard to call. Let’s hope 2009 ends with a bang rather than a whimper!

Recent scientific reports indicate that regular doses of vitamin K formula help ward off winter blahs.
Vitamin K Formula
Mix: 1 part Vanilla Vodka, 1 part Limoncello. Serve on the rocks with a twist of lemon peel.


On Thurs. 3 crime reporter/author Mario Spezi will hold court at 9:00 pm in Florence’s Melbookstore on Via de’Cerretani. Sig. Spezi will be discussing his books Dolci Colline di Sangue - The Monster of Florence (which spent 14 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list, as well as being a soon-to-be produced movie by Tom Cruise) and Un’Indagine Estrema del Commissario Lupo Belacqua.

50 Giorni di Cinema Internazionale a Firenze came together for the first time in 2007 as a project of the Mediateca Regionale Toscana Film Commission to create a single, unique calendar of events uniting a number of already existing Florentine film festivals. The result is an agenda of incredible, high-quality international and alternative films. Documentaries, short films, premiers, meet the artist events and debates animate the 50- day schedule. The various programs of the Festival offer an opportunity to sample excellent films in original language versions, and to meet directors, actors and writers of quality cinema from all over the world. The December calendar, hosted at the Cinema Odeon, features the River to River Florence Indian Film Festival from Fri. 4 to Thurs. 10 (www.rivertoriver.it), followed by the presentation of New Italian Cinema Events yearly prize on Fri. 11 (www.nicefestival.org), then Immagini&suonidelmondo on Sat. 12 and Sun. 13 celebrating ethnic music themed films (www.multiculti.it), closing with Evangelion Day on Wed. 16. Evangelion is the best known Japanese animation series (www.mediatecatoscana.it).

Until Sun. 20 Piazza Santa Croce will be filled with the unexpected scents of strudel, wurstel and vin brulè. Every December the atmosphere of a Northern European Christmas market is recreated with 50 stalls displaying and selling traditional “Dresdner Stollen”, “Lebkuchen”, Christmas decorations and trees, plus handcrafts and foods from Germany, France, Holland and England. Open 10:00 am – 10:00 pm. www.anva.it.

Starting Dec. 3 you can ice skate in downtown Florence. Celebrating its 13th year, this outdoor ice skating rink is Florence’s annual holiday gift to its residents. Rent skates for 6 euro. Mon. to Thurs. 9 am to 12:30 pm, 2:00 pm to 7:30 pm, and 9:00 pm. to 11:30 pm. Fri. - Sun. from noon to 1 am.

From Sat. 5 to Sun. 13 the Stazione Leopolda at Porta a Prato is the brightest spot in town where five kilometers of Christmas lights illuminate the ex-train station. This fair, where one can taste, buy and browse artisan (and not) wares and foods, will put you in fine style for celebrating Christmas. Visit Santa’s House and Post Office, and a Chocolate Village. Open Wed and Thurs. from 3:00 to 10:00 pm, Fri to Tues. from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. Ticket: euro 7.50. Tel.: 347/4838142. www.florencenoel.it

On Tues. 8 at Le Pagliere (ex scuderie reali) near Porta Romana, the American International League of Florence will light up the Florentine holiday season. From 10:30 – 6:30 pm you can join the merry crowd and have a ball picking up Christmas decorations, jams and jellies, clothes, accessories, jewelry, toys, and more more more. AILO with the collaboration of GE-Volunteers, is holding its annual Christmas Bazaar to raise funds to finance specific projects of non-profit organizations in and around Florence. AILO will make a public distribution in spring 2010 to the charities voted upon by AILO's members. Be sure and buy loads of lottery tickets as this year the prizes include: a round trip airline ticket (to a destination yet to be announced) offered by Vanessa Viaggi, dinners for two at various restaurants, prestigious gifts from Angela Caputi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Casa dei Tessuti, Florian Café, Tessuti Valli, Erboristeria Inglese, cases of wine, and many more. Tuesday 8: Le Pagliere (ex Scuderie Reali), viale Machiavelli 24, Porta Romana (near the Istituto d’Arte). Open 10:30 am to 6:30 pm. Free admission.

From Sat. 5 to Sun. 13 Florence’s seventh edition of the Biennale Internazionale dell’Arte Contemporanea will be held in the historical setting of Fortezza da Basso. Participants and guest can meet and participate in many conferences and special events. This year features two prestigious guests of honor: Marina Abramovic and Shu Yong. Marina Abramovic will exhibit some of her videos at the Fortezza da Basso and offer a lecture followed by book signing and an exchange of thoughts with the public. Shu Yong will exhibit paintings from the series “Chinese Myths”. Biennale artists from all over the world will show more than 2,500 works of art in this extraordinary encounter between cultures, styles and languages.
As always, the Biennale will see the presence of important artists: in the 2007 edition the "Lorenzo il Magnifico" career prize was conferred to Gilbert & George, for the 2005 edition to Christo and Jeanne-Claude and to Richard Anuszkiewicz, and in 2003 to David Hockney. Once again, St. James American Church is honored to be one of the featured venues for the Florence Biennale. Artist Paul Lorenz will display his works in sculpture and copper at St. James. Stop by to see his work before heading over to the Fortezza da Basso to see the rest of the exhibit. Fortezza da Basso. Open 10:30 am - 7:30 pm. Admission: 10 euro.

On Tues. 8 from 9 am - 7 pm Piazza SS Annunziata will be animated with a can’t-miss crafts and organic food countryside Christmas fair. Your will find hand-woven dresses and ponchos, Christmas wreaths, beeswax candles, naturally scented soaps and oils, home-baked bread and cakes, ceramics, wine, olive oil, olive wood salad bowls and more.

From Fri. 11 to Sun. 13 Florence’s Saschall theater will be the site of a lovely holiday fair put on each year by the Tuscan Red Cross. There will be something for every budget, from home decorations to foods and artisan crafts. All proceeds go to needy families in and around Florence. Fri. 3:30 to 7:00 pm, Sat and Sun. from 10:30 to 7:00 pm. Ticket: 5 euro. Kids under 14 free. Tel: 055 27441, www.saschall.it

Sat. 12 and Sun. 13, from 10:00 am. to 8:00 pm in Piazza della Signoria you’ll find a couple of tables set up in a corner of Florence’s most magnificent piazza. Purchase a new or used children’s toy and help promote birth registration for orphans supported by the Comunità di Sant'Egidio. The used goods are in decent condition. Take time to check it out if you are in the neighborhood.

From Fri. 18 to Sun. 20 don’t be too shocked if you spy a golf ball flying off the oldest bridge in Florence. For three crazy days the Arno River turns into a golf course. Champions from 12 countries around the world will battle it out in a one-of-a-kind competition, taking aim from the Ponte Vecchio toward three greens floating on the Arno. Film and sports stars will also give it a go. Check the website for details. Tel. 0552768506. www.pontevecchiochallenge.it.

Sat. 19 (afternoon) and Thurs 24 (from 12:00 on) watch to see Santa on the Arno. The Canottieri Club of Florence sets a boatload of cheery Kris Kringles afloat each year to celebrate good cheer.

FORTEZZA ANTIQUARIA – Monthly Antiques Fair
Sat. 19 and Sun. 20 the gardens surrounding the Fortezza da Basso bloom with kiosks selling every sort of antique including furniture, kitchen tools, books, etc.

On Sun. 21 between 9 am - 7 pm take yourself down to Piazza Santo Spirito just before Christmas and find what Santa (or his faithful helpers) has been handcrafting for very good children. You will all kinds of stands offering foods, ceramics, hand-knit sweaters, beeswax candles and everything you need to make heartfelt gifts, especially if you are shopping for kids.

Thurs. 31 put on your warmest coat and head to Piazza della Signora at 11:15 pm for the annual free outdoor classical music concert (Philharmonic Orchestra of the Ukraine conducted by Giuseppe Lanzetta).

Become acquainted with the presepio or Nativity scene, an Italian Yuletide tradition. Tuscan and Florentine churches have a rich collection of Nativity scenes to admire. One of the oldest presepii in Florence is on view at San Marco, dating back to the second half of the 15th century. The bambinello (baby Jesus) was sculpted in the workshop of either Donatello or Desiderio da Settignano. The figures wear clothing inspired by several Andrea del Sarto period drawings. The Nativity in Florence’s Duomo is made from the same material used to construct Brunelleschi’s Cathedral dome. At Orsanmichele (on via Calzaiuoli) wooden Nativity figures are on display; these colorful painted miniatures were handmade in the Val Gardena, a valley in the Italian Alps.

The British Institute Weekly Cultural Programme. Every Wednesday at 6:00 pm, the Sala Ferragamo in the Institute’s Harold Acton Library hosts a free lecture, concert or other event, followed by an informal drinks reception. British Institute Library, Lungarno Guicciardini 9.
Wednesday 2 - Mary Beckinsale: Four examples of ‘feminist' art. Following the debate that the definition of feminist art can be based on the content of the work of art rather than the fact that the author was a woman, Mary Beckinsale has chosen to talk about four sculptures that she argues are feminist in content. In this case 'feminist' means talking of the strength, identity and social equality of women, as distinct from a sexist archetype of the female. Mary Beckinsale served for ten years as Dean of SACI (Studio Art Centers International) in Florence before becoming its Director in 1995. She is President of the non-profit Palazzo dei Cartelloni and is a governing board member of the Association of Independent Art and Design Schools.
Wednesday 9 - Paul Blanchard: Art on the run: the Florentine heritage in the Second World War. During the Second World War, tens of thousands of artistic masterpieces-paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, stained-glass windows, textiles, gold, jewellery and porcelain-were taken from their traditional locations in churches, museums and private collections in Florence to fortified shelters where they would stand a greater chance of surviving if the city were bombed. From there they were dispersed all over the Tuscan countryside when the approach of the front made these depots unsafe. Many were so heavy they had to be moved by rail rather than by road, while others were so valuable they remained mobile, so as not be seized by retreating belligerents or purloined by the robber-merchants who fed the uniquely uninquisitive international art market. Paul Blanchard is a writer and artist based in Florence.
Wednesday 16 - Mark Roberts: Horace Mann at the Casa Manetti in via Santo Spirito. As British Representative at Florence for nearly fifty years, Horace Mann (1706-1786) was famous for his lavish hospitality. He kept open house for English visitors at the Casa Manetti in via Santo Spirito, and was universally praised for his kindness and usefulness. 'The politeness of his manners, and the prudence of his conduct, are shining examples both to the Britons and Italians', wrote the Earl of Cork & Orrery. Not everyone cares to plough through Mann's correspondence, variously described as 'absolutely unreadable' and as 'written in a dry, heavy style' full of 'trifling details of forgotten Florentine society', but Mark Roberts, Cultural Advisor at the British Institute, finds it a wonderful source of information on the comings and goings of the Grand Tourists, providing a window into eighteenth-century Florentine social life.

Odeon Theatre, Piazza Strozzi 2. Phone: 055 214 068. www.cinehall.it
During December, the Odeon cinema is proud to host 50 Giorni di Cinema Internazionale (see above). The Odeon Original Sound Program will however continue to offer cinema-goers the chance to see the best current productions. So, some films will be shown at the Astra 2 Cinehall (a 20-minute walk from the Odeon).
Thursday 10 - CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY by Michael Moore with Michael Moore – Documentary. 3.45 – 6.00 – 8.15 – 10.30 p.m. Cinema Astra 2, Piazza Beccaria.
Monday 14 - PUBLIC ENEMIES (with Italian subtitles) by Michael Mann with Johnny Depp, Christian Bale. 4.00 – 7.00 – 10.00
Capitalism: A Love Story, is the new provocative documentary by Michael Moore.
Public Enemies is the story of notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s.

Theatre info: Teatro Comunale, Via Solferino 15. Tel. 055 27791. Teatro della Pergola, Via della Pergola 12/32, Tel. 055 2479651. Teatro Verdi, Via Ghibellina 99, tel. 055 212320. Teatro Saschall , Lungarno Moro 3, tel. 055 6504112. Teatro Goldoni, Via Santa Maria 15. Tel. 055 229651. Teatro Romano, Fiesole, Tel. 055/59187. Mandela Forum, Viale Paoli 3, tel. 055 678841. Stazione Leopolda. Viale Fratelli Rosselli 5. St. Mark’s Church. Via Maggio 16. Tel. 055 294764. Church of Orsanmichele, Via dei Calzaiuoli. Tel. 055-210305. Teatro Puccini, via delle Cascine 41, tel. 055 362067. Chiesa S. Stefano al Ponte Vecchio, piazza S. Stefano 5. Viper Theatre, Via Lombardia 1. 055/318056, 335/429298, www.viperclub.eu. Auditorium FLOG, Via M. Mercati, 24/b, 055/210804, www.flog.it Sala Vanni, Piazza del Carmine 14. Teatro Everest, Via Volterrana 4/b, tel. 055. 23 21 754. info@teatroeverest.it, www.teatroeverest.it. Teatro Politeama Pratese, Via G. Garibaldi, 33 – Prato. Tel: 0574/603758, www.politeamapratese.com. Purchase tickets for theatre, concerts and other events at the following ticket agencies: BOX OFFICE: Via Alamanni, 39 (alongside the train station). Open Monday 3:30-7:30 pm, from Tuesday to Saturday 10:0-7:30 pm. Tel: 055/210804. Fax: 055/213112, INTERNATIONAL STUDIO, Chiasso de’ Soldanieri, Tel. 055/293393, ARGONAUTA VIAGGI, Lungarno Torrigiani 33/B, 055/2342777.9187. Many tickets can be pre-purchased via www.ticketone.it, www.boxol.it, www.classictic.com/en or www.festivalopera.it.

Every day
ORGAN CONCERT. Chiesa S. Maria de' Ricci, Via del Corso. Daily at 9:15 pm; Saturdays at 6:00 pm.

Thursday 3
GIGI D’ALESSIO - the singer that made a pop phenomenon out of Neopolitan music. Mandela Forum.

Saturday 5
ALEANDRO BALDI - This Tuscan singer-songwriter accompanied by a Jazz band, will move through the successes of his repertoire in surprising new renditions, not to mention the presentation of new works from “Liberamente Tratto”. Teatro Everest. 9:00 pm.
CARMEN SUITE – choreography by Alberto Alonso/Victor Barykin, conducted by Fabrizio M. Carminati. Danced by Eleonora Abbagnato, Jean-Sébastien Colau. Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Teatro Comunale. 8:30 pm. Followed by IL CAMPANELLO - Il campanello (The Night Bell) is a melodramma giocoso, or opera, in one act by Gaetano Donizetti. The composer wrote the Italian libretto after Mathieu-Barthélemy Troin Brunswick and Victor Lhérie's French vaudeville La sonnette de nuit. The premiere was on June 1, 1836.

Sunday 6
JEFFREY LEWIS & THE JUNKYARD – A combination of folk and punk, this Indie-folk rocker oviously has a passion for variety. Sala Vanni.
CARMEN SUITE – choreography by Alberto Alonso/Victor Barykin, conducted by Fabrizio M. Carminati. Danced by Eleonora Abbagnato, Jean-Sébastien Colau. Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Teatro Comunale. 3:30 pm. Followed by IL CAMPANELLO - Il campanello (The Night Bell) is a melodramma giocoso, or opera, in one act by Gaetano Donizetti. The composer wrote the Italian libretto after Mathieu-Barthélemy Troin Brunswick and Victor Lhérie's French vaudeville La sonnette de nuit. The premiere was on June 1, 1836.

Monday 7
LAURA PAUSINI – The reigning Queen of Italian pop brings her World Tour 2009 to Florence. Nelson Mandela Forum. 9:00 pm.

Thursday 10
LUDOVICO EINAUDI – This Torinese composer/pianist brings music from his latest album. Teatro Verdi.

Sunday 13
VINICIO CAPOSSELA – Back by great reqeust with his concert/show with a quirky circus theme. Teatro Verdi.

Tuesday 15
EROS RAMAZZOTTI – Touring after the launch of his new album “Ali e radici”. Nelson Mandela Forum. 9:00 pm.

Sunday 20
CLAUDIO BAGLIONI – Teatro Verdi. 8:45 pm.

Monday 21
CLAUDIO BAGLIONI – Teatro Verdi. 8:45 pm.

Tuesday 22
CLAUDIO BAGLIONI – Teatro Verdi. 8:45 pm.
CARMEN SUITE – choreography by Alberto Alonso/Victor Barykin, conducted by Fabrizio M. Carminati. Danced by Eleonora Abbagnato, Jean-Sébastien Colau. Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Teatro Comunale. 8:30 pm. Followed by IL CAMPANELLO - Il campanello (The Night Bell) is a melodramma giocoso, or opera, in one act by Gaetano Donizetti. The composer wrote the Italian libretto after Mathieu-Barthélemy Troin Brunswick and Victor Lhérie's French vaudeville La sonnette de nuit. The premiere was on June 1, 1836.

Wednesday 23
CLAUDIO BAGLIONI – Teatro Verdi. 8:45 pm.
CARMEN SUITE – choreography by Alberto Alonso/Victor Barykin, conducted by Fabrizio M. Carminati. Danced by Eleonora Abbagnato, Jean-Sébastien Colau. Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Teatro Comunale. 8:30 pm. Followed by IL CAMPANELLO - Il campanello (The Night Bell) is a melodramma giocoso, or opera, in one act by Gaetano Donizetti. The composer wrote the Italian libretto after Mathieu-Barthélemy Troin Brunswick and Victor Lhérie's French vaudeville La sonnette de nuit. The premiere was on June 1, 1836.

Thursday 24
HARLEM GOSPEL CHOIR – Spend Christmas eve with one of the world’s best-known gospel choirs. Saschall theatre.
CARMEN SUITE – choreography by Alberto Alonso/Victor Barykin, conducted by Fabrizio M. Carminati. Danced by Eleonora Abbagnato, Jean-Sébastien Colau. Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Teatro Comunale. 3:30 pm.

Friday 25

L’ARMA PER L’ARTE - Aspects of the Sacred Rediscovered
Until April 6, the Pitti Palace Palatine Gallery, hosts a very special exhibit. Forty years ago, in May 1969, the special squad of the Carabinieri assigned to the protection of the cultural heritage was set up, which in 1975 became answerable to the newly-established Ministry for the Cultural Heritage. The offices of this special squad were installed just a few steps from the Collegio Romano, in Piazza Sant’Ignazio, underscoring the relationship of collaboration between the two institutions, protecting the cultural heritage of the nation. Over the span of these forty years there have been reforms and changes in both the Public Sector and society as a whole, fine-tuning the weapons and tools of those engaged in protecting the cultural heritage, and of those who in various ways attempt to destroy or violate it.
This show celebrates the birthday of the special squad, the Comando Tutela Patrimonio Artistico, while also offering the perfect occasion for appraising how much has been achieved and how much still remains to be done. It is devoted in particular to sacred art, and hence to paintings and objects stolen from churches and convents, and sometimes museums, bringing to light how sites of worship tend to be exposed to the risk of theft and damage, and how over time the Carabinieri squad specialised in this sector has set its resources and competence at the service of the Church and its enormous artistic heritage.
As well as being arranged in chronological order, the works are also divided up into panels, canvases, sculptures and works of applied art, illustrating how the thefts have indiscriminately affected different genres. Special emphasis is also placed on the relationship that links the public to the works of the churches and the sites of worship, the relationship between museums and territory, and the progress which – also thanks to the activity of the special squad of the Carabinieri – has been made in making safe the individual works and the sites that house them. Ticket: euro 10.00. The ticket grants admission to the exhibition, the Palatine Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art. Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 8.15-18.50. Closed Mondays, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day.

From Fri. 11 until Jan. 24 Palazzo Medici Riccardi is offering a free glimpse at 20 XXL-size photographs of Florence interiors by German photographer Candida Hofer. The photos show quiet, human-free views of historical homes, museums and theatres. Via Cavour 3, Open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. Closed Wednesdays. Tel. 055 2776461.

MANIPULATING REALITY - How Images Redefine the World
Until Jan. 17, the exhibition at the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina at Palazzo Strozzi poses a question: “What is true and what is real in our daily lives today?” Twenty-three international artists use photography and video-art to manipulate our perception of the visible world and to build new models of reality. The great contradiction that characterizes photography and video-art is that both pretend to record reality while being, at the same time, a falsification of that reality. This ambiguity has increased with the spreading popularity of easy-to-use digital technology and the massive dissemination of images through the mass media and Internet; the conflict between appearance and reality is pushed to its outer edges and demands that the spectator play an active role in defining what he or she is seeing as real.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with entries written by university professors, by experts in the visual arts, and sociologists. Check the names of the artists and the details of the exhibition at: www.strozzina.org/manipulatingreality. CSSS Strozzina, Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza Strozzi. Open Tuesday - Sunday 10.00 am - 8.00 pm. Special free entrance: Thursday 6.00 pm - 11.00 pm. Monday closed. Tickets (valid for up to 5 entries in one month) 5,00 euro. tel. 055 2446761.

ART AND ILLUSIONS - Masterpieces of Trompe L'oeil from Antiquity Till the Present
Until January 24th Palazzo Strozzi offers a most unusual exhibit regarding trompe l’oeil… the art of deceiving the eye. The theme of this show is deception, illusion, and the eternal tension between fiction and reality shown not only in painting, but in sculpture, intarsia, scagliola, pietre dure and porcelain. Showpieces run from faux armoires, half-open, with books inside, to soup tureens and table furnishings in the shape of vegetables, to anatomical and botanical wax models. From ancient Greco-Roman mosaics, to European masterpieces of the 1300s, to today, two hundred works from museums and private collections tell the intriguing and spectacular history of trompe-l’oeil.
The jury is still out over when a work of art should be considered trompe-l’œil and when it’s simply trying to be realistic. What is it that makes a work of art a real trompe-l’œil? One of the keys is obviously the artist’s intention: does he want the work of art to "deceive" the observer or, is his work simply an attempt to reproduce faithfully and in a realistic fashion, as with a still life or an anatomical model?
The exhibit also dedicates a significant amount of space to wall decorations and interiors (detached frescoes from Ancient Rome, where the theme of deception gave life to a school) and to Flemish artists and their innovations in the trompe-l’oeil genre. Among the many curiosities are the famous cabinet called Scarabattolo (from the Opificio delle Pietre Dure), a painting of the late 1600s by the Flemish artist Domenico Remps, showing a collection of natural and artistic objects from the Medici family. There are masterpieces by Mantegna, Titian and Veronese that will induce the visitor to reflect on the duplicity with which spatial interaction is depicted in painting, whilst the 17th century works of Jean-François de la Motte, and the still lifes of the 19th American realists will allow us to explore subjects frequently encountered in optically deceptive painting, such as hanging letters, or panels with papers alongside other objects on them, or the motif of hunting trophies and of various objects hanging on doors and panels. In addition, works by American artists specializing in trompe-l’œil such as Peto, Kaye, Harnett and Haberle will be on display in Europe for the very first time.
And since the eye is not the only thing to be deceived, the exhibition will allow us to experiment with the way in which all of the senses – touch, smell, hearing and taste – can be tricked. For example, special captions and cards designed by celebrated Florentine master perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi will challenge the visitor to verify the ability and the reliability of his sense of smell, while an innovative audio-guide will prove that even sounds can be deceptive. The exhibition staff will be part of the show too: they will not simply help the visitor to discover the wonders of trompe-l’œil, they will also be capable of performing a few card tricks liable to deceive the eye and the brain.
Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza Strozzi. Tel. 055 2645155. Daily 9:00 a.m – 8:00 p.m, Thurs. 9:00 a.m – 11:00 p.m.

Until Jan. 10 the Bargello National Museum hosts a retrospective for Ugo Nespolo (the first held in Florence) responding to Florence’s need to promote contemporary art, too. Forty of Nespolo’s creations are on display, ranging from objects in silver and mother-of-pearl, sculptures in wood and bronze to glass-work and books. With this exhibit, the Bargello intends to valorize its extraordinary heritage of so-called “minor” or applied arts, presenting a review of works produced by one of the most famous contemporary Italian artists, some of them dedicated specifically to the Bargello museum. Bargello museum. Ticket: euro 7.00. Hours: Monday – Sunday, 8:15 am to 5:00 pm.

Until Dec. 13 the Uffizi Gallery hosts a fascinating special exhibit. With the extinction of the Medici dynasty (1743), Florence did not lose its prestige as capital of culture and the arts, thanks to the government of the Lorraines, who gave the city the international profile required by Enlightenment policies. This exhibition is the first overall panorama of the principal artistic events of the eighteenth century in Florence, with 120 paintings, sculptures, art objects and furnishings, works from the entire century, recording the changes in taste from the late Baroque period to Neoclassicism.
The show starts with commissions made by Cosimo III and the Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici, that opened the city to “foreign” artists like Sebastiano Ricci and Giuseppe Maria Crespi. They favored sculpture (with personalities like Giovan Battista Foggini and Massimiliano Soldani Benzi), and developed the manufacture of tapestries and semiprecious stone work.
Following the Medicis, Peter Leopold of Lorraine brought the European version of Rococo and Neoclassicism to Tuscany, along with the reformist spirit that accompanied the theories of the Enlightenment even in the figurative arts. A new elite of patrons took shape in Florence. In this context, the families of the Florentine aristocracy held a conspicuous role: the Gerini family for the diffusion of the veduta (landscape), the Ginori family for their famed porcelains of Doccia, the Corsini family for their constant relations with pontifical Rome. In this climate of civic and cultural fervor, the Frenchmen François-Xavier Fabre, Bénigne Gagnereaux, Louis Gauffier and Jean-Baptiste Desmarais came to Florence, driven from Pontifical Rome after the murder of the diplomat Nicolas de Basseville. With them came the international version of neoclassicism, thus contributing to the “reform” of the portrait, the veduta and the historical painting, on the eve of the instatement of the Napoleonic court (1799). Uffizi Gallery. Ticket: 10 euro. Open Tuesday to Sunday 8:15 – 6:50 pm. Closed Monday. Tel. 055 2654321.

BETTY WOODMAN: The Cheerful Vitality of the Porcelain
Until Feb. 15, the Porcelain Museum at Palazzo Pitti is stage to the refined and imaginative creations of Betty Woodman. With their unpredictable shapes and the intensity and brilliance of the colors, the unusual Sèvres porcelain pieces created by Woodman revolutionize the traditional concept of prized tableware, while preserving a classy elegance. A potter who has already made her name in New York, Betty Woodman periodically lives and works in her house in Antella, just outside of Florence, where she has had the chance to delve into the stratifications of Italian culture. Her expressive freedom enables her to renew the design of traditional forms, drawing on diverse historical and geographical sources to bring forth a new, playful language of matter, unburdened by the labor and study that nevertheless lies behind each individual piece. As she herself puts it “I seek to make art that nods its appreciation towards the history of ceramics without attempting to imitate it”. Palazzo Pitti Porcelain museum. Piazza Pitti. Hours: 8:15 am– 6:15 (up to 24 October), 8:15 – 5:15 (from 25 to 31 October), 8:15 – 4:15 pm (November, December, January, February). Closed 1st and last Monday of each month.


In celebration of Tuscany’s green gold, from Sat. 5 to Tues. 8 the hillside town of Reggello holds its annual olive oil fest. Closing up the olive harvest, the town of Reggello hosts local producers presenting this year’s yield and invites connoisseurs to celebrate the diverse tastes of the region. Reggello is a quaint town on the way from Florence to Arezzo that attributes its uniquely-flavored oil to the pristine climate and high altitude. In addition to tastings and tours of frantoi (olive mills), visitors can also acquire extra virgin oil directly from the source. Nuovo Palazzetto dello Sport, via Brunetto Latini, 111, Reggello (FI). Open all day. Free admission. Tel 055/2478436, www.comune.reggello.fi.it

From Sat. 5 to Tues. 8 the town of Lastra a Signa will fill with a food fair/antique market dedicated to the experience of traditional Tuscan cuisine, foods and wines. Explore the narrow streets in the old town past the still-standing 550-year-old stone city walls and towers designed and built by Brunelleschi. Adjacent to the walls you will find a large tent “Ristorante” operated by volunteer chefs and servers. Long tables are filled with mostly locals enjoying ribollita, lampredotto, bistecche alla fiorentina and wood-burning-oven baked bread. Lastra a Signa is situated 13 miles from Florence on the main road 67 Tosco Romagnola. It can be easily reached by car from the centre of Florence or from the A1 motorway (exit Firenze-Signa), following signs to Lastra a Signa. Good bus service links Florence to Lastra a Signa run by LAZZI Autobus. They can be picked up at the bus station in Piazza Adua near the main railway station Santa Maria Novella. The local Florentine public bus service ATAF also reaches Lastra a Signa. For info call the Comune di Lastra a Signa: tel. 055 8743749 or 055 8725770. www.comune.lastra-a-signa.fi.it.

MERCATINO DI APRILANTE – “Artisan wares market”
On Sun. 6, from morning to afternoon in Panzano-in-Chianti you will find the weekly town market is expanded with artisan booths of all sorts. The December version boasts Christmas ornaments and great gift ideas, plus honey and pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese producers, hand-embroidered linen makers, boutique wineries and antique dealers. To visit Panzano by car from Florence or Siena, take Route 222, the "Chiantigiana" highway passing through the Chianti wine area. From the west, there is a road connecting with the highway at Tavarnelle or S. Donato. This pretty road passes the monastery at Badia a Passignano. It is also possible to reach Panzano by SITA bus from Florence. The trip takes about one hour.

Don’t miss! On Sunday 13, 4:00 pm at the lovely church of Santa Maria del Carmine al Morrocco near Tavarnelle, a small community of Australian nuns will hold Sunday Christmas Carol service in their wonderful church about 20 kilometers from Florence. For information: Chiesa di S. Maria del Carmine Morrocco, Via Morrocco 35, Tavarnelle Tel. 055 8076067.

Sat. 12 and Sun. 13 head to Arezzo and dive into the culture of honey. There will be honey tastings, honey demonstrations and explanations, bee’s wax candles and other by-products of honey making. From 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Borsa Merci, in Piazza Risorgimento, Arezzo. Free entry.

Until Dec. 31, the jewel-like Oratory of Santa Caterina, just above Bagno a Ripoli will showcase twelve masterpieces from the Uffizi and other collections. In addition to frescoes by Spinello Aretino telling the story of Saint Catherine, visitors can admire works from the Repository of the Uffizi Gallery, the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce and the Museo Nazionale di Villa Guinigi of Lucca, by Agnolo Gaddi, the Master of Barberino and Pietro Nelli. Hope is that the Uffizi – by lending a remarkable work tied to the Oratory itself – succeeds in sharing a bit of the fame the well-known museum enjoys, enticing foreign visitors to take a trip out of town, and to consolidate the historical awareness of those who live in Bagno a Ripoli. Open: Monday – 3:00 to 7:00 pm. Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, 3:00 to 7:00 pm. Ticket: 5.00 euro. By bus from Florence Santa Maria Novella central station: take line number 31 or 32, get off at the Chiantigiana 7 bus stop. Easy walk to the Oratorio di Santa Caterina. Driving directions (and lots of other information) can be found on the website: www.oratoriosantacaterina.lacittadegliuffizi.it.

THE STYLE OF THE TSAR - Italian and Russian Art and Fashions Between the 14th and the 18th Centuries
Until Jan. 10, a Prato Textile Museum exhibition brings together more than 130 paintings, costumes and fabrics from the leading museums in Russia - the Hermitage, the Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg, and the Kremlin Museum in Moscow - as well as numerous Italian institutions. The exhibition illustrates the origin and development of cultural, commercial and diplomatic relations between Italy and ancient Muscovy through the privileged channel of commerce of Italian textiles and luxury goods. The first section of the show gives an overall view of Italian silk production from the late 14th to the early 16th century, displaying masterworks of textiles and painting, illustrating the importance of these fabrics in the social and cultural context of the times. The nucleus of the exhibition is devoted to the relations existing between Italy and Russia in the period between the 14th century, moment of the earliest contacts between European merchants and the ports on the Black Sea, and the early 18th century when thanks to Peter the Great, the Russian Empire opened up to western ways of life. Despite the gradual decline in Italy’s silk production during the first half of the 18th century, Italian art still remained popular and, thanks to collectors, many important masterpieces reached Russia. Many of these are now incorporated in the collections of Russia's leading museums. The exhibition ends with the display of an altarpiece of the Circumcision, originally painted by Cigoli for the church of San Francesco in Prato and transferred in the 19th century to the Hermitage.
Prato Textile Museum is Italy’s largest centre for the study, conservation and exhibition of historic and contemporary textile. Its mission is to promote the study, enhancement and exploitation of historic and contemporary textiles and all related artistic, industrial and technical aspects of interest. It represents a centre of promotion of the textile production of Prato district, an area important for textile production since the early Middle Age. The Prato Textile Museum is located in the centre of Prato, approximately 300 meters from the Castello dell'Imperatore, in Piazza S. M. delle Carceri, and approximately 800 m from Prato Centrale railway station (direction city centre). Visitors wishing to use the bus service, should take the LAM blu line towards NENNI, which departs every 7 minutes. Get off at "Piave" or "Carceri 2" bus stop. Lo Stile dello Zar. Prato Textile Museum, Via Santa Chiara 24, 59100 – Prato. Open: Monday to Sunday from 10:00 am – 7:00 pm. www.museodeltessuto.it Tel. 049 2010067. info@lostiledellozar.it Ticket: 9.00 euro.

Over five centuries ago, Filippo Lippi ascended three stories of scaffolding in the dark recesses of Prato’s cathedral. Today, the three-tiered frescoes, which cover the walls and vaults of the main chapel with stories of St. John the Baptist and St. Stephen, are visible in renewed splendor after seven years of restoration. Tours of the fresco cycle now allow the public to come face to face with Lippi. Prato Cathedral. Open Mon. to Sat. 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission: 4 euro with audio guide. Tours available by calling 0574/24112. www.restaurofilippolippi.it

Until Dec. 6, Lucca’s Center of Contemporary Art will feature 50 works by Man Ray, one of the most unpredictable, genial, brilliant, anti-conventional, contradictory, impertinent, challenging and eclectic figures in the history of 20th century art. In this show, created in collaboration with the Marconi Foundation of Milan, fifty portraits of the artist's wife Juliet Browner, who he photographed between 1941 and 1955, will be presented. The Fifty Faces of Juliet was conceived by Man Ray in the early 1950's as a book in honor of his wife Juliet, but also as a selection of photographic works begun in Los Angeles in 1941. It presents fifty photographs, original prints using different techniques and styles, some hand-colored, in various sizes that Man Ray dedicated to Juliet, the definitive muse of his life.
Many of the techniques invented by Man Ray, such as solarisation, over-development, dithering (retinatura) and grains obtained in the shooting or printing phase, were applied in the series with Juliet. Since painting remained his great passion, he thought it was a good idea to touch up his photographs with colored and treated pastels drawn directly onto the paper. It is for this reason that the series The Fifty Faces of Juliet is unique in its kind; in fact it shows all the abilities of an artist who uses every expressive means at his disposition to reach the sublimations of his own ideas. The portraits of Juliet are for the most part informal; some are focused on her face: faces that are luminous and gathered out of time, superimpositions of photographs that are dreamy and romantic, sensual and daring. Others are refined investigations into the silhouette of the female form: never ordinary, rather classical in the poses and similar to works by painters like Ingrès or Vermeer.
The Fifty Faces of Juliet is the story of a love and of a lifetime. Fifty portraits in which the image of Juliet is each time invented, rewritten, modified, exalted with the mark of the pencil, a graphic effect, superimposition of a piece of cloth, a transparent veil, a mask obscuring the face, her face framed with a large winged hat, revealed in her nudity, transformed into an embroidery. Lu.C.C.A. - Lucca Center of Contemporary Art. Via della Fratta, 36, 55100 Lucca. Hours: Tues. to Sun. 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Closed Monday. Tel. O583 571712. info@luccamuseum.com, www.luccamuseum.com

All our best,

The Staff of Pitcher and Flaccomio

Newsletter compiled by Kim Wicks

Pitcher & Flaccomio Newsletter Copyright 2009

Direttore responsabile Mario Spezi -  Pubblicazione con iscrizione n. 5697 del 23\01\09 presso il Tribunale di Firenze