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Palazzo Pitti

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Rent, Sell and Manage Properties in Florence and Tuscany
NEWSLETTER – December 2010
December… snow has now whitened the Tuscan mountaintops and the Arno is running swiftly. Stroll through the city in early December, around 5:00 in the afternoon, and in my opinion you will see Florence at its very best. The Christmas lights are glowing, every shop is warmly lit from within, cafés beckon, churches have a precious corner decorated with simple or elaborate nativity scenes and the streets are blissfully and sparsely populated. Drive across the Tuscan countryside in December and discover a “true” Tuscany, with locals going about their business, mothers dropping children at school, vineyards and woods turned burnt orange, and “touristy” towns like San Gimignano showing their simple selves; stark, quiet and brooding until you cross the threshold of a small trattoria to be welcomed by a burst of warmth and vitality, where workers are lunching next to winemakers.

Along with Christmas and Boxing Day … remember that December 8th is a holiday, too. Staying in theme, our Newsletter this month covers Christmas fairs, holiday concerts, lots of music and other special events. Plus ace reporters Simon Clark & Anne Brooks continue in their quest to keep us up on the Fiorentina football latest.

SUZANNE, CORSO, BEI, SANDRA, LORI, ANNA PIA, KIMBERLY and MARIO send heartfelt wishes for a love-filled 2011 and thank you all for the years of support and friendship we have received.

On Wednesday 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 - 5:00 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 2011 to the charities voted upon by AILO's members.
Be sure and buy loads of lottery tickets as this year the prizes include: tours,  a week of dining out (dinners for two at various wonderful restaurants), prestigious gifts from Sacchi silversmith, Vaggi jewelers of the Ponte Vecchio, Salvatore Ferragamo, plus cases of wine, and much more.
There will also be a silent auction of an original Ferrari team jacket, a Chanel handbag, a Gheradini hand bag, and a one-week vacation house for 6 people on the island of Vanuatu in the Pacific. General Electric Elfins will be on hand again this year to serve hot dogs, hamburgers, wine, coffee and ribollita for all those hungry people. Wednesday 8: Le Pagliere (ex Scuderie Reali), viale Machiavelli 24, Porta Romana (near the Istituto d'Arte). Open 10:30 am to 5.00 pm. Free admission.
P.S. Note to our readers: there will be a pre-sale of clothes on Tuesday 7 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Le Pagliere. Wine and cheese will be offered by the YAWN  (Young Anglo Women's Network) group to enjoy while trying on all the clothes. A 3 euro admission charge will apply for all non-AIL league members.

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 mid-1400's. 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 Slow Food movement, from humble beginnings of simply wanting to protect good food traditions in Italy, has grown into a massive, global organization that has never lost sight of their original goals of keeping food simple, local and good. In recent years, the movement has also become proactive in education, both by arranging initiatives in schools around the world, and via the creation of their own university, the University of Gastronomic Sciences, in Northern Italy. Each month, a series of Slow Food events are held in all locations where there are Slow Food groups (each known as a ‘convivia'). For those interested in attending events being held this month in Tuscany, or looking for inspiration for some Slow Food activities of your own, here is a what's-on list for Tuscany in December:
4th December, 9:30am - The return of Saturday Cellars with a visit to Podere La Castellaccia. Simona and Alessandro invite visitors to Podere La Castellaccia to share in their passion for biological products, at: Via di Montauto, 18/A - 53037 SAN GIMIGNANO (SI). www.lacastellaccia.it. There will be tastings of 4 estate wines, including a Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG and a Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG. A light lunch of mixed bruschette, deli meats, mixed cheeses and ribollita will also be available. Price per person is 20 euro for members, and 25 for non-members. Please note: the last few kilometers are along unsurfaced roads. For more information and to sign up for this event, please call Ingrid on 339 849 89 21.
Thursday 9 - TERRA MADRE DAY (Mother Earth Day). This year, to commemorate the occasion of Mother Earth Day, celebrations will be focused on food diversity, whilst also supporting the realization of 1000 vegetable gardens in Africa - the new challenge of Slow Food to create such gardens in schools, in villages and in the areas surrounding cities in Africa. The ‘1000 gardens in Africa' project guarantees the training of farmers and young people, favouring knowledge of local products and biodiversity, promoting respect for the environment, and reinforcing the spirit of collaboration. To create a vegetable garden also signifies a guarantee that the local community will have fresh and healthy food available, bettering the quality of life and aiding the economy. Two events will be featured on Mother Earth Day in Florence: 9th December, Terra Madre Day - Mother Earth Day at the BiblioteCaNova Isolotto, on Via Chiusi 4/3A at 5:00pm. Meet with Ezio Giraudo, who will present his work titled, ‘Il piacere dell'orto. Tradizionale, decorativo, urbano, educativo. Idee e soluzioni per un orto slow.' (‘The pleasure of the garden. Traditional, decorative, urban, educational. Ideas and solutions for a Slow vegetable garden), published by Mi-Fi, Slow Food Editore-Giunti, 2010. Then at 7:00pm, there will be the inauguration of the photographic exhibition GMO Free, 11 diptychs by Paolo Gramigni, promoted by the Fondazione Slow Food for biodiversity. At both events, the Regional President Raffaella Grana will be present.
10th December - Charity Dinner for the ‘1000 Gardens in Africa' project. This event is to be held at the Circolo Ricreativo F. Pucci at Ponte a Mensola, on Via Gabriele D'Annunzio, 182 at 8:30 pm, with Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi in attendance. The menu will include: Polpettine di cardi e poppa fritta con insalatina di cavolo verza, Farinata con cavolo nero, Lasagna vegetariana, Stracotto alla fiorentina con rapini saltati, Frittelle di farina di castagne con ricotta al caffè. The cost of the dinner is set at 25 euro per person. Reservations to be made by 6th December via email to info@slowfoodfirenze.it or by calling 346 7897691.
Sunday, 12th December - A visit to the Frantoio di Camperiti (Pelago). An interesting event above all for participants of the recently concluded masters programme, which allows attendees to witness the transformation of olives into oil in situ. After the visit, tastings of certain oil as well as the Laudemio Frescobaldi will be accompanied by some nibbles. The cost is 10 euro for members and 15 for non-members. We will be meeting at 9:45 am in Pontassieve. For more information and reservations, please call Sonia on 3471915509.
14th December, at 8:30pm - Dinner with well-wishes from the Condotta di Firenze. A special evening being held at the Osteria da Mèlo in Via di Rosano, 198 in the location of Rosano. All members are invited to participate in a salute to the end of the year, which will also allow us to enjoy a splendid Sicilian menu - Appetizers: Salumi di S. Angelo in Barolo, Portola delle Moonie, Primo Sale con gelatin di Marsalis e Caponatina di Mèlo. Entrée: Cavateddi impastizzati alla Modicana. Main course: Sformato di Sarde all'origano di Nicosia e Capperi di Campobello di Mazara. Last but not least: Cannoli (by Mèlo). The accompanying wines will be those produced by Az. Agricola Petreto. The cost of the evening is 34 euro for members and 39 euro for non-members. Bookings can be made directly with the Osteria on 055 6519000 (ask for Francesca).
Finally, there is a spectacular double event ‘brewing': 13th and 20th December at 9.00pm - Awaiting Christmas. Italian and Belgium beer will be on the sled this Christmas, to be paired with the most delicious sweets. The event is being held at the Livingstone Club on Viale Redi, 73. The price per person, for both evenings, is 35 euro (including Livingstone membership). Registrations are being accepted via email to master@slowfoodfirenze.it or via calling 346 7897691. Payment must be received prior to the evening via bank transfer, payable to Slow Food Firenze account (IBAN IT07T0867302801030000100318).
To become a member of the Slow Food Movement, see http://www.slowfood.com/. To find your nearest Slow Food group (‘convivia'), visit: http://www.slowfood.com/international/4/where-we-are?-session=query_session:5D94D341191fe1B6AEhiR2D0F448. To book a Tuscan hands-on cooking class with Artviva, or market visit and cooking class in Florence, click here: http://www.italy.artviva.com/tours_category/12/cooking_classes_tuscany_florence_venice_rome. Artviva can also arrange wine tours and Tuscany tours, and encourages eco-friendly tourism with the utilization of public transport. http://www.italy.artviva.com/tours_category/14/Tuscany_Tours. Artviva offers a wide range of small-group Florence and Tuscany tours, bike tours, and tours in Rome and Venice. See www.italy.artviva.com for more information, or contact us via staff@artviva.com or on 055 264 5033.

Until December 17 Florence is giving us another crack at visiting the Vasari Corridor. There are 6 guided visits per week, two on Wednesdays and Fridays (2:00 and 4:30 pm), and two on Thursdays (9:00 and 11:30 am.). The visits are conducted in Italian and cost 14 euro per person (plus a 4 euro booking fee and the usual 10 euro Uffizi ticket). Call 055.294883 for info and bookings.

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.
Zibibbo - This treasure is hidden behind the Careggi hospital. Open Christmas eve and for lunch on Christmas day. They will have a special menu on New Year's eve for a max. of 50 guests. Zibibbo. Via di Terzolina 3/r. Tel. 055 433383.
Trattoria al Trebbio - A warm Tuscan trattoria, with the friendly sort of Florentine waiter one always hopes to find. 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 .
Cavolo Nero - Another hidden treasure, this one in the Oltrarno neighborhood... Carefully crafted dishes let local ingredients shine. Open for Christmas day lunch and with a special menu on NYE (euro 100 fixed price). Cavolo Nero. Via dell'Ardiglione 22, Tel. 055 294744.
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. 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.

Beginning January 10, Florence will have a new direct flight to London (with some December dates already bookable). CityJet airline has just announced new service between Florence and London City airport six times a week. Out of curiosity, I looked into a quick weekend trip and found a comfortable Thursday January 20 Florence departure at 1:15 pm, with Sunday 23rd return at 3:05 pm for a tax-included total of euro 185.00. A taxi from the small, accessible London City airport to most London locations costs between 20 to 30£. Or get where you are going via the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and underground (example time: 35 minutes to my new favorite restaurant Barbacoa, near St. Paul's). www.cityjet.com

The St. James offices will be closed on Wednesday, December 8, in observance of the national holiday of the Immaculate Conception.
The annual Children's Lending Library Christmas Party will be held on December 11 from 4 to 6 pm in the undercroft. The party is open to library members. (You can become a member at the door.) Annual membership €15. Activities include: Book reading, Crafts, Toys, books, and homemade goodies on sale Christmas caroling and Cake raffle. For information contact Kathy Procisi at 055 577 527.
Pianist and composer Maurizo Koan is having a concert of his original works at St. James on Thursday, December 16, at 9 pm. Mr. Koan has been composing and performing his own works since 2000. An aperitivo will be offered following the concert. www.mauriziokoan.com
Donations to St. James - Although we are blessed with a beautiful church in a beautiful city, St. James is a parish of modest means. People are often surprised to learn that we are financially independent, and receive no financial support from the national Episcopal Church, from any missionary agency, nor from the US or Italian governments. Our mission and ministry is kept alive year to year by God's grace and the extravagant kindness of people like you. All donations to St. James are fully deductible for US tax purposes. St. James Church is a parish of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America and a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. Our tax ID number is 13-6132268. In accordance with Section 170 (F)(8)(B), any goods or services provided to you consist solely of intangible religious benefits. Personal checks should be made payable to "St. James Church" and sent to: St. James Church, Via B. Rucellai, 9, 50123 Florence, Italy or to: Friends of St. James Church, c/o Anne Bowen, P.O. Box 352, Salisbury, CT 06068 USA. It is also possible to donate online at the St. James website: http://stjames.it. Unless you wish your gift to be earmarked for a special fund or purpose, it will be used by the Vestry wherever it is needed the most. Please use the "Item" box to indicate the gift's allocation, if any, as well as dedication (e.g., "made in memory of..."/ thanksgiving for.../celebration of... etc.) You will receive an electronic confirmation of your gift, followed by a thank you letter that will also serve as an official document for IRS purposes. Gifts of stock are gladly accepted. Transfer instructions are provided on request. If you might consider the inclusion of St. James in your estate planning, please contact our rector at rector@stjames.it and a time to discuss it in person will gladly be arranged. For more information, please contact friends@stjames.it or call the church office at 055 294417.

Since 1992, Musicus Concentus has offered a detailed survey of the contemporary music scene. Concerts this month will take place at the Sala Vanni, in Piazza del Carmine 14 and at the Odeon Theatre, in Via de' Sassetti 1. Tickets: 12 to 20 euro. Tel. 055 287347. www.musicusconcentus.com
Thurs. 9 - NICO GORI & FRED HERSCH - TRADIZIONE IN MOVIMENTO. American Hersch (clarinet) jams with Tuscan saxophonist Gori. Sala Vanni. 9:15 pm
Saturday 11 - LE LUCI DELLA CENTRALE ELETTRICA. Independent Italian music at its best. Odeon Theatre. 9:30 pm.

Enjoy a concert at the Accademia Bartolomeo Cristofori. In the Oltrarno neighborhood you will find a lovely, small theatre presenting a series of concerts highlighting the fortepiano, and featuring a display of these historical instruments. Accademia Bartolomeo Cristofori, via di Camaldoli 7/R, tel. 055 22.16.46. All concerts begin at 9:00 pm. Ticket: 10.00 euro. www.accademiacristofori.it.
December concerts:
Tuesday 14 - LEONARDO DE LISI tenor, STEFANO FIUZZI fortepiano Bösendorfer 1846. Music of Schumann.
Monday 20 - CHRISTMAS CONCERT: CONTEMPOARTENSEMBLE, MAURO CECCANTI conductor. MARIA ELENA ROMANAZZI mezzosoprano, Jin JU pianoforte. Music of De Falla, De Paglo and Sotelo.

FOOTBAAAALLL!! by Simon Clark and Anne Brooks
Forza Viola!.......... A stormy sea navigated satisfactorily. The Viola waters are becoming less choppy. We stand 14th on 16 points, putting us into the mid-table scrap. We've managed this with a full treatment room but the ravaged squad is rising to the challenge. The young players - Ljajic, Babacar and now 18 year-old Michele Camporese - are giving a good account of themselves; Artur Boruc has contended himself with a single howler; Donadel has done a fine job as captain while Montolivo is recuperating. It looks like Sinisa Mihajlovic is bringing Fiorentina through their protracted crisis but he faces December's games without Gilardino.

November Results
Week 10: Fiorentina-Chievo WON 1-0
Week 11: Roma-Fiorentina LOST 2-3
Week 12: Fiorentina-Cesena WON 1-0
Week 13: Milan-Fiorentina LOST 0-1
Week 14: Juventus-Fiorentina DREW 1-1
Coppa Italia: Fiorentina-Reggina WON 3-0

Serie A. We begin the month hosting Chievo. The Flying Donkeys are nobody's fools, six points ahead of us and beginning to dream of Europe - but we roar out of the blocks with vicious intent. Chievo claw their way back but, while Fiorentina are having difficulty joining everything up, we are by far the better team. This is not far off the side that crushed Liverpool at the Stadio in the Champions League, now struggling to impose itself on some Veronese lightweights - but it is still our game. Mutu improves by the minute and the Vargas howitzer is finding its range again. It takes 80 minutes to score, Cerci firing in after great persistence from Gilardino - it was really Gila's goal. That's that. Artur Boric looks comfortable albeit behind a defence still prone to amnesia; we need more from Gamberini but the whole team works better when Montolivo is pulling the strings.
To Roma in good heart but with too many of the squad left behind on the treatment table. We give everything but they are the better team; Fiorentina are still gelling as a unit. Nip and tuck until just before the break when Roma pocket what looks suspiciously like an offside goal. Nothing wrong with their second; 5 minutes after the break, as they carve our defence open like Cecchini carving a steak. The players show grit and Mihajlovic shows savvy with some astute substitutions. He sends on Ljajic who promptly tees up Gilardino to slot home. So far, Boruc had looked solid; nothing he could do about either goal. Now, blood rushes to his head, he sprints from his penalty area and fails to clear: somehow, from a tangle of Boruc, two of our defence and a solitary Roma forward, the ball nestles in our net. At 1-3 down in Rome, many teams would lie down and die. Not us. More grit and another inspired substitution. D'Agostino returns and on 89 minutes curls in a fabulous free kick that tantalises with a fairy-story..........but 3-2 is how it ends. Look at it this way - we drew the second half against one of the league's in-form teams; Ljajic is looking good, Mutu is making a difference, Santana was our man of the match and Sinisa is getting to grips with the talent at his disposal. Squad and manager are getting there!
Week 12 and a breather. Cesena look doomed already but are battering at everyone they play and we are no exception; in their previous game they defeated league-leaders, Lazio. It was mostly us in the first half but no goals and we had to endure the sight of a revivified Mutu yielding to injury and giving way to Ljajic. Just short of the hour, Cerci and Santana combined to set up Gilardino who controlled, spun and lashed in a fine goal. After that, Cesena tried hard but, truth to tell, Ljajic should have increased our lead and there was little doubt about where the points were going!
More hard labour as we travel to Milan. It may seem odd to describe a 1-0 defeat, even away to the league leaders, as "pretty good" but it was. Milan's goalkeeper fully deserved his "man of the match" award; true, we needed Boruc once or twice to remind us why the loss of Frey is not a handicap but the Milanese made three impossible saves. More than that, for the first time this season our defence began to look as though they knew each other and our midfield kept the chances flowing. The goal was a moment of magic from Ibrahimovic, wrong-footing everyone. Eight minutes from the end, battling hard, Fiorentina put together the best move of the game and Gila set up Ljajic.....only for the Milan keeper to defy the laws of physics once more and claw the ball to safety. We will have a problem next week; Per Kroldrup insulted the referee and got himself sent off - he will be suspended and we will be down to one central defender against Alessandro del Piero and his Juventus marauders.
Torino - we came, we scored, we very nearly conquered. The Big Viola Hope each season, after the Scudetto, is to stuff Juventus! Within four minutes, Vargas had pressured their defence into heading into their own net and we held that slender lead until the 83rd minute. In between, we continued to show our attacking teeth but the Juve momentum built inexorably and it was a testament to our improving defensive organisation generally and to the superb keeping of Artur Boruc - three Frey-class saves - that we held out so long. Even after their goal and after Felipe (who emulated Kroldrup by arguing and having his booking doubled into a red card) had departed the battle zone, we kept going and D'Agostino almost curled in a winner with the last kick of the game. An honourable draw for Fiorentina, two points lost for Juve. This was a gutsy performance from a squad down to its last fit man but whose self-belief has been well and truly rekindled. On the down side, Gila came off with a hamstring injury that will keep him out until 2011.
Coppa Italia. We close the month with a fourth-round cup game against Reggina, riding reasonably well in Serie B but seen off at a near-empty Stadio. Marchionni ran the showman tapped in the second goal, sandwiched between a couple of clinical strikes from Babacar and Cerci. Now the cup gets more serious as we move into home-and-aways starting with the leg at Parma (date unconfirmed but probably 8 December).
So what Christmas presents are coming Fiorentina's way? Just three games before the seasonal break but they all matter and will be successively harder. First up is Cagliari at home. They sit just above us and we will be looking to overhaul them; tre punti, please! Next, away to Udinese who have not been firing on all cylinders but have just walloped high-flying Napoli. Finally in 2010, we entertain Inter at the Stadio. When we played them in the cup last season, they looked nigh on invincible; this season their consistency seems to have deserted them and it will be interesting to see whether My Hyde or Dr Jekyll turn up.....................Alé Viola e Buon Natale!

December Fixtures
Week 15: 05 Dec/home Fiorentina-Cagliari
Coppa Italia 08 December Parma-Fiorentina
Week 16: 12 Dec/away Udinese-Fiorentina
Week 17: 19 Dec/home Fiorentina-Inter

BUYING TICKETS - Ticket information - seating plan, prices, ticket outlets - is on the "biglietteria" section of the club's website [www.it.violachannel.tv ]. Tickets can be purchased at official box offices and holders of TicketOne lottery franchises. Sources include:
CHIOSCO DEGLI SPORTIVI, via degli Anselmi (between P.za Repubblica/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 delle Vecchie Carceri, 1 (near S. Ambrogio), open M-F 9:30 to 7:00 pm, and Sat. 9:30 to 2:00 pm. Tel 055 264321
FELTRINELLI FIRENZE, Via de' Cerretani 39/32R

Suzanne writes: This is truly delicious so I asked for it for the Newsletter.... given by Alfredo Vedro



Lightly brush eggplant with olive oil, garlic and herbs. Grill over medium heat, browning on both sides. Set aside to cool. (It's much easier -- but more expensive -- to go to a local store and simply buy the already roasted and marinated eggplant slices. Same for the peperonata).
In a 1 lb. loaf pan, layer all ingredients as follows: eggplant, cheese, chopped olives, diced onions, diced roasted bell peppers and mushrooms into two layers, and top with last slice of eggplant. (Note make the first layer with the most attractive slices ­ they will be on top when you flip onto a serving platter.)
Seal with wax paper or plastic wrap and place in refrigerator with a weight overnight. (I use a brick -- washed and itself wrapped in saran wrap as a health consideration -- because being the same size as the pan, it distributes the weight evenly.)
Place the loaf pan on a serving dish and flip to release the loaf onto it. Cut loaf into two inch widths and place on a bed of tomato-balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below). Garnish with julienne of basil and grated Romano cheese.



Excluding oil, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes. Then slowly add oil while whisking so the ingredients do not separate. If dressing is too thick, add cool water to thin it out slightly. Dressing should be served chilled. BUON APPETITO!

THUMBS UP - THUMBS DOWN "Our Readers Right"
Our "Thumbs up, Thumbs down" column is your chance to write us and share your own ideas and information, or to toot the horn of businesses, events and those Florentine situations that strike you as either wonderful or terrible. Please note: all opinions are (usually) those of our readers. Lend us your thoughts!

Hi Kim -
I just wanted to tell you again -- since I don't think I have lately -- that your newsletter is invaluable. Thanks for writing it, and thanks for having me on the list. Please give Martino's and my best to Dario, and tell him we are lousy people since it's been years since we've seen him, and you.

Dear P & F,
What a wonderful, wonderful newsletter! I can't imagine any one as good as yours!
I lived in Florence ....obtained some apartments through your agency, etc. some yrs ago. Now my husband and I have been to Florence for shorter time periods, e.g., a few weeks in June 2010.....but I read the newsletter every month....visualizing all the wonderful places that are so familiar.
In any case, keep up the good work! Hopefully we can return soon for a longer period of time.
Joan Vorpahl

Simon Clark and Anne Brooks submit a Thumbs Up for:
BRONZINO: Artist & Poet at the Court of the Medici - On the strength of Kim's last newsletter we took in the Bronzino show at Palazzo Strozzi. True, we were influenced by the 50% reduction negotiated by the Amici degli Uffizi but, having been, we'd gladly cough up the full price. We've known Bronzino as the author of one painting that hung for years in the Uffizi Tribuna - of Giovanni, son of Cosimo I, a chubby wee boy, smiling inanely and squeezing a bird in his hand. To be honest, we thought it a bit laughable but we have revised our opinions. We had no idea how great a painter Bronzino really was. The portraits are terrific. Go see!
CASA RODOLFO SIVIERO - The Casa is being marketed by the Region as one of "three unusual places to visit in Florence". It's a charming window on 20th century intellectual life and you can do it comfortably in an hour. Rodolfo was a member of the resistance movement in Florence working to prevent the Nazis plundering art. After the war, he lead the Committee established by the Government to retrieve stolen artworks; he was very good at it - hence his Italian and international honours and reputation as the "007" of the art world. He was also a collector in his own right.
The villa previously belonged to the Castelfranco-Forti family, whose Jewish lineage forced them to bail out in the 1930s and sell to Rodolfo, who lived here till his death in 1983. He bequeathed villa and contents to the Region to become a museum open to the public. In many ways it is as he left it although, with restoration still under way, viewing is limited to ten or so rooms and spaces on the ground floor. It's manageable, intriguing and illuminating with a sense of the magpie instinct you often get with enthusiasts. The library is charming, the dining room decorated especially for its function (!) and objects are everywhere - Roman busts, Etruscan pottery, liturgical objects and traditional Tuscan furniture through to modern painters. Giorgio De Chirico, Giacomo Manzu, Ardengo Soffici and Pietro Annigoni were all friends and hang alongside Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Castelfranco was a patron of De Chirico who lived and worked here in the 1920s. Most of an extensive De Chirico collection was sold off as the Castelfrancos departed but some striking canvasses remain on show, including a self-portrait as a matador. Lungarno Serristori 1/3 (if bussing, first Oltrarno stop over the bridge is nearer) & www.museocasasiviero.it. Saturday 10-18.00; Sunday/Monday 10-13.00; other times by email request (casasiviero@regione.toscana.it)



Until Sun. 19 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.

For the 14th year in a row, from now til January 9 you can ice skate in downtown Florence. The skating rink is open to the public daily from 10:00 am to midnight. Entry fee including skate rental: 6 euro. If you love skating, think of spending New Year's Eve on ice... they have a special party planned. Call for info: 055 0517447 or 3356749849.

Until Sun. 12 the Stazione Leopolda at Porta a Prato is a fantastic place to taste, see, touch and buy everything Christmas-y. A visit to this fun fair, where one can 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 weekdays from 3:00 to 11:00 pm. Saturdays, Sundays and Wed. 8: open from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm. Ticket: euro 7.50.

On Wed. 8 at Le Pagliere (ex scuderie reali) near Porta Romana join in on an American/Florentine Christmas tradition. See above for details.

On Wed. 8 from 9 am - 7 pm Piazza SS Annunziata will be animated with a can't-miss crafts and organic food countryside Christmas fair. You 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.

Sat. 11 and Sun. 12, from 10:00 am. to 8:00 pm in the new, open piazza of Via Martelli near the Duomo, you will find a couple of tables filled with toys. Purchase a new or used children's toy and help promote birth registration for orphans supported by the Comunità di Sant'Egidio. Take time to check it out if you are in the neighborhood. Further information may be had by contacting the Comunità di Sant'Egidio. Tel., santegidio_firenze@hotmail.com.

From Fri. 17 to Sun. 19 don't be shocked if you spy a golf ball flying off the oldest bridge in Florence. For three days the Arno River turns into a golf course. Twelve players from 12 countries tee off from the Ponte Vecchio toward four floating greens anchored in the Arno. This year, the most unique golf course in the world, open just three days a year, will see defending champion Jan-Are Larsen return to the bridge after back-to-back victories in 2008 and 2009. Film and sports stars will also give it a go, among the 500 other guests who get to take a whack. Most of the action will take place daily between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. The unusual rules and regulations read as follows:
FORMAT - The Championship will be decided by Match Play, contested by 12 players representing 12 different countries, with the first round played to the ROUND ROBIN MEDAL format. The 12 players will be drawn into FOUR groups each of FOUR players who will play against each of the other players in their group in the First Round. The players will play to three floating greens positioned at varying distances on the River Arno. The ‘greens' will each have a points value as follows: ‘green 1' (nearest the Bridge) 4 points, ‘green 2' 7 points, ‘green 3' (furthest from the Bridge 10 points).
ROUND ONE - Each group of THREE players will hit TEN balls (one ball at a time, alternately). To earn points, a ball must land and remain on the respective ‘green'. No player is allowed to score more than four times from the same green. If a player scores four times from the same green he shall hit the ball to another green otherwise the score of the ball will be void. The player accumulating the most points from the ten balls shall be declared the winner of the group. The winner of each GROUP goes forward to the Quarter Finals. In addition to the group winners, the four players with the most accumulated points after the winners, will also go forward to the Quarter Finals.
SUBSEQUENT ROUNDS - The Quarter Final draw will be as follows: 1. Winner of Group 1 plays 4th Best Runner Up Score, 2. Winner of Group 2 plays 3rd Best Runner Up Score, 3. Winner of Group 3 plays 2nd Best Runner Up Score, 4. Winner of Group 4 plays Best Runner Up Score. The winners of the first two Quarter Final matches will contest the first Semi Final match, with the winners of the third and fourth Quarter Final matches going through to contest the second Semi Final. The two Semi Final winners will then meet in the Final. A match will consist of each player hitting SIX ball (TEN on the Final), with each player hitting one ball alternately. The player accumulating the most points from the six shots shall be declared the winner.
PRIZE MONEY - Winner Euros 15,000, Runner Up 10,000, Semi Final Losers 3,000, Quarter Final Losers 3,000, First Round Losers 3,000. Check the website for details. Tel. 0552768506. www.pontevecchiochallenge.it.

FORTEZZA ANTIQUARIA - Monthly Antiques Fair
Sat. 18 and Sun. 19 the gardens surrounding the Fortezza da Basso bloom with kiosks selling every sort of antique including furniture, kitchen tools, books, etc.

On Sunday 19, from 10:00 am. to 4:00 pm. the Four Seasons Hotel will open its lovely and extensive private garden to the public, offering roasted chestnuts, vin brulè and hot chocolate to all. With this initiative the new Four Seasons hotel has begun a Christmastime tradition that benefits the Istituto degli Innocenti. The 1 euro symbolic entry donation (and any extra) goes directly to the Istituto which was founded with funds donated nearly 600 years ago by Francesco Datini, a merchant from the nearby town of Prato. In 1416 Datini left the princely sum of 1,000 florins to the silk guild (Arte della Seta), money with which the guild officers were able to raise many more florins for Datini's chosen cause. The guild oversaw construction of the famous building, a masterpiece designed by Brunelleschi. In 1445 the institute opened its doors and took in 62 abandoned children, the first of many thousands to come.
The park may be accessed from the main gates located at Via Gino Capponi 54 and Borgo Pinti 97 and Piazzale Donatello 12. Call the Four Seasons Hotel for further info: 055 26261. http://www.istitutodeglinnocenti.it

On Sun. 19 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 can check out 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.

The last Tuesday of December (Tues. 28) take advantage of free evening entry into some of Florence's most interesting museums. The following sites will be open gratis from 7:00 to 11:00 pm: Cappelle Medicee, Uffizi, Accademia, Bargello, the Museo San Marco on Piazza S. Marco, Palazzo Davanzati on Via Porta Rossa and at the Pitti Palace: the Galleria d'Arte Moderna and the Galleria Palatina.

Friday 31 put on your warmest coat and head to central Florence for at least three, free outdoor concerts. While the final schedule is yet to be announced, traditionally Piazza della Signora hosts a classical concert starting around 11:15 pm. This year (as last) look for jazz, pop and rock to be happening in Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza della Stazione and Piazza SS. Annuziata.

Until May 1 Palazzo Vecchio will be showing the much ballyhooed, diamond-studded skull by controversial artist Damien Hirst. Cast in platinum from an original human skull found in a London taxidermy shop, the piece apparently elicited the comment "for the love of God" from Hirst's mother when she saw what he was working on. The skull includes 8601 pavé-laid diamonds (and real teeth from the original skull) for a total of 1,106.18 carats, including the centrally-place star diamond which alone measures 52.40 carats. The work took 18 months to complete and has been touring the world.
Rather unusual show regulations read: For security reasons the visit to Damien Hirst's work For the Love of God and the Palazzo Vecchio Studiolo is limited to groups of a maximum of 12 people. Each group will first enter the Studiolo of Francesco I, where it can stay for three minutes before entering the Camera del Duca where the work is displayed. The group can stay in this room for a further three minutes. Visitors are informed that they will be seeing the work For the Love of God in a completely dark room. At the end of the visit you will be able to visit the Palazzo Vecchio museum. Visitors cannot access the museum more than once with the same ticket, but while they are in the museum they may make repeated return visits to the exhibition For the Love of God. Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria 1. Hours: every day 9:00 am - 12:00 am, Thursdays 9:00 am - 2:00 pm. The ticket office closes one hour before the exhibition. Ticket: 10 euro. Info: tel. 055055

RUGGITO - Antonio Ligabue: The Fight for Life
Until Jan. 16 the Gallery of Modern Art at the Pitti hosts an exhibition focused on the theme of animals, and in particular wild animals depicted in scenes of fighting and attack-the Black Widow, the Leopard, the Wildcat with Kite, Tiger Being Attacked by Snake-as well as numerous self-portraits in which Antonio Ligabue portrays his own face in a variety of aspects of physical and psychic pain. The exhibition features 80 artworks, genuine masterpieces of intense and expressive power and explosive chromatic energy.
Antonio Ligabue (b. 1899, d. 1965) was one of Italy's most important Naïve artists of the 20th century. This overview captures many intimate and significant aspects of Ligabue's work, and announces it in an extraordinary fashion in a single word: ‘roar.' Both the artist's roar and the roar of the animals portrayed. One long howl portrayed in continuation on canvas after canvas, as if to depict the harshness of the world. Ligabue takes us, with his self-portraits and savage beasts, to the archaic, prehistoric significance of art. In order to paint, and to paint himself, he needs to shout into the mirror and at himself. The painting created in this fashion is an unleashing of guttural, cutting sounds, as unruly and disheveled as the blizzards that he confronted on the wintry banks of the river Po, or perhaps, more simply, as his own life. Gallery of Modern Art (Palazzo Pitti). Ticket: euro 12.00. This ticket also allows entry to the Palatine Gallery Caravaggio e i Caravaggeschi a Firenze exhibit. Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 8:15 am. to 6:50 pm. Info: Firenze Musei tel. 055. 294883

ARCHIBUGI ALLA PROVA DEL GRAN PRINCIPE (Ancient weapons and Grand Prince Ferdinando de' Medici)
Until Jan. 9 the Casa Rodolfo Siviero hosts a special show of antique firearms. The exhibit adds rifles and pistols dating to the 18th century from two museums in Pistoia, to the permanent collection at the Siviero museum, shedding light on the history of Baroque arms production and Medici family involvement. There is much scholarly debate as to whether the Medici family crest found on the arms shows ownership, or simply Medici approval of the goods.
The museum is located at the ground floor of a Neo-Renaissance building on the banks of the river Arno, where Rodolfo Siviero lived from 1944 until his death in 1983. Siviero was a keen collector who managed to accumulate many works of ancient art among which Etruscan findings; ancient Roman busts; 14th and 15th century wooden statues; medieval paintings, Renaissance and Baroque pictures, bronzes, terra-cottas, liturgical objects, and beautiful furniture. Not to mention a group of works from Italian modern artists such as Giorgio De Chirico, Giacomo Manzù, Ardengo Soffici, Pietro Annigoni, who were friends of Siviero. Casa Rodolfo Siviero. Open Saturday, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm (from October to May); 10:00 am-2:00 pm and 3:00 pm-7:00 pm (from June to September); Sunday and Monday 10:00 am -1:00 pm (all year round). The museum will be closed on 8, 25 and 26 December. Entry free of charge

Until Jan. 10 Casa Buonarroti will host a show of 11 bronzes, copies of some of Michelangelo's best-known works. The bronzes were created by the historical foundry Fonderia Artistica Marinelli located in Poggibonsi. The foundry has for 3 generations, produced copies of some of Florence's major masterpieces, allowing the originals to be moved to more protected locations. The Bacco by Giambologna just off the Ponte Vecchio, the Porcellino by Pietro Tacca at the Mercato Nuovo, four bronze figures at the base of Cellini's Perseo under the Loggia dei Lanzi, are all replicas. The show includes Michelangelo's Pietà di San Pietro, his Madonna di Bruges, Moses, and the Madonna Medici della Sagrestia Nuova, whose original in marble is surely one of the artist's best works. Casa Buonarroti, via Ghibellina 70. Tickets: € 6,50. Hours: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., closed on Tuesdays. Tel. 055 241752. www.casabuonarroti.it

Until January 10 the Bargello National Museum hosts the first exhibition ever dedicated to Giovanfrancesco Rustici. Born in Florence in 1475, the sculptor trained in the celebrated Garden of San Marco under the protection of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and was the heir of Andrea del Verrocchio and Benedetto da Maiano. Close to Leonardo, whose student and assistant he was, Giovanfrancesco was also friend of Andrea del Sarto, Jacopo Sansovino, Domenico Puligo and Baccio Bandinelli, and preceded Rosso Fiorentino and Benvenuto Cellini in accepting the invitation of Francis I - king of France tied to the birth of the so-called Fontainebleau School - in 1528 moving to France, where he died in 1554.
The focal point of the exhibition is Rustici's masterpiece, the Sermon of Saint John the Baptist. This group sculpture of three grandiose bronze figures, designed and executed with the participation of Leonardo da Vinci, was placed over the North Door of the Baptistery of Florence in 1511. The challenging restoration it was subjected to has restored the splendor of material and conception: an undertaking supported by the Opera del Duomo di Firenze and the generous contribution of the "Friends of Florence". The presence in the show of the monumental group sculpture constitutes an unmissable twofold opportunity: on one hand, to show Leonardo's contribution in its creation through the comparison with Leonardesque autographic works and, on the other hand, to reconstruct for the first time Rustici's artistic personality, which the latest studies have shed light on.
The show will indeed present a practically complete review of his works (glazed ware, marbles, terracottas, paintings and other bronze sculptures of middle to small dimensions) which testify to his great technical versatility and the features of his style. Alongside Rustici's works from the Bargello - such as the monumental Della Robbian Noli Me Tangere altarpiece or the Struggle of Horses and Horsemen in terracotta, inspired by Leonardo's Battle of Anghiari - the exhibition will be completed by the most significant pieces attributed to his hand, and today divided among the major museums in Europe and the United States. Bargello National Museum. Hours: Monday to Sunday, 8:15 - 5:.00 pm. Closed 2nd, 4th Monday of each month, 1st, 3rd, 5th Sunday of each month, New Year's Day, May 1st and Christmas Day. Ticket: euro 4.00

Until January 23 Palazzo Strozzi presents one of the greatest painters of the sixteenth century, Agnolo di Cosimo, known as Bronzino (1503-1572). Bronzino embodied the fullness of the ‘modern manner' in the years of the government of Cosimo I de' Medici. Florence is clearly the preferential location for a monographic exhibition on Bronzino, since the majority of his paintings are still conserved here, above all in the Uffizi, but also in other city museums and in the churches. This exhibition, the first devoted to Agnolo's pictorial work, will also avail of loans from the most important museums all over the world.
The exhibition comprises a selection of works of the very highest level: autograph works by Bronzino and other artists connected with him - such as Pontormo and Alessandro Allori. The idea is, through direct comparisons made possible for the first time, to enable a broad public to admire and comprehend the unrivalled poetic heights achieved by the artist. Finally, it will be possible to study and compare several works, most of them attributed with certainty to Bronzino, displayed to the public for the first time. The exhibition will be divided into chapters devoted to crucial phases, episodes or genres in Bronzino's work. The show will present a wide variety of Bronzino's masterpieces, some of them displayed together for the first time, in addition to a selection of drawings originating from the greatest museums in the world. Alongside the works conserved in the Uffizi, will be Venus, Cupid and Jealousy from the Szépmuvészeti Múzeum in Budapest, the Portrait of Young Man with a Book from the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the Holy Family and Saint John, in the version of the Louvre (Paris) and of the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna. Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza Strozzi. Hours: daily 9 am-8 pm, Thursday 9 am-11 pm. Info: 055 2645155

VINUM NOSTRUM - Art, science and myths of wine in ancient Mediterranean civilizations
Until May 14 the Museo degli Argenti hosts Vinum Nostrum. From Mesopotamia to our tables, from the rite of communion to avoidable drunkenness, from distasteful habit to the gate of spirituality, wines and vines are the protagonists of this exhibit. Original showpieces, sculptures, frescoes and mosaics, accompanied by multimedia and video installations tell the millenarian history of the grapevine and of wine, and the important influence they exerted on ancient cultures. Following a chronological development, the exhibition illustrates the origin of wine-growing in the Near East, its full affirmation along with its related symbolic, religious and cultural significance in the Hellenic world, up to the wine production and large-scale diffusion practiced by the Romans.
By virtue of the abundant archaeological remains of the Vesuvian cities, the particular case of Pompeii's vineyards is illustrated, while the exhibition devotes another section to the contribution of the Phoenicians and the Etruscans, who played an essential role in spreading vitis vinifera throughout the Mediterranean. While inviting visitors to reflect on the evolution of cultivation techniques (reproduction and genetic improvement, plowing the land, tending the vineyard, theoretical principles and practical instructions for pruning and grafting), specially selected exhibits also illustrate the religious and cultural values of the grapevine, expressed through a series of depictions regarding the divinities, rituals and festivities of wine. Sculptures and painted vases illustrate the cult of Dionysus. Elegant table-services clarify how the consumption of wine represented one of the most important moments of conviviality among patricians. A cella vinaria where wine was stored, reconstructed based on finds uncovered at Pompeii and on the precise descriptions contained in Latin literature, enable the visitor to delve into the reality of the past, through tools for the vineyard, wine amphorae and wooden barrels, baskets for harvesting, carts and more.
The exhibition itinerary aims not only at scientifically documenting the entire cycle of wine, from harvest to consumption, but also by stimulating the visitor's senses of taste, smell and sight. Museo degli Argenti, Palazzo Pitti. Hours: 8:15 am to 6:50 pm. Ticket: € 10.00. Closed on the 1st and the last Monday of each month. Info: Tel. 055294883

Until January 9, three of Florence's most important museums (the Pitti Palatine Gallery, the Uffizi and Villa Bardini) unite forces to offer a fascinating overview of the works and influence of one of Italy's greatest masters Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.
Born in 1573 in the town of Caravaggio, this artist's life is as turbulent as his personality. We know he had numerous run-ins with the law and was arrested on several occasions. For example, in 1606 a bet over a game of tennis led to an argument, at which point Caravaggio drew his sword and killed his opponent. We also know that Caravaggio's artistic influence was widespread: outside Italy he inspired painters as diverse as Georges de La Tour and members of the Utrecht School, e.g. Gerrit van Honthorst - artists who in turn later influenced Rembrandt. Caravaggio was particularly celebrated for his use of chiaroscuro, a technique using light and dark to achieve a 3-D effect.
While many aspects of this artist's life remain a mystery, what we do know is that splendid paintings by Caravaggio - the Bacchus and the Medusa - reached the Uffizi towards the end of the XVI century. Others (two or three) were purchased by the Grand Dukes who proved to be early and staunch admirers - especially Cosimo II - of the controversial painter and of his followers. The presence of important artists in Florence such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Battistello Caracciolo and Theodoor Rombouts, and direct dealings with artists like Gerrit Honthorst, Bartolomeo Manfredi and Jusepe Ribera gave rise to an intense Caravaggesque "season" which left an extraordinary number of paintings in Florence itself.
Gerrit Honthorst (who painted the Adoration of the Shepherds, today in the Uffizi Gallery, though heavily damaged by the Via dei Georgofili bombing of 1993) was the protagonist of one of the most important episodes of the fortune of Caravaggesque painting outside of Rome; the unfinished decoration of the Guicciardini Chapel in the church of Santa Felicita. Honthorst was commissioned to execute the work with Cecco del Caravaggio and Spadarino. This exhibition presents a landmark virtual reconstruction of the work. In addition, on this the IV centennial of Caravaggio's death, the show will include more than one hundred paintings, both famous and less famous, in the light of research, with new attributions that have modified our view of this outstanding master. Galleria Palatina at the Pitti Palace, the Uffizi, Villa Bardini. Hours: the usual hours of each venue. Ticket: a cumulative ticket for the three venues will cost euro 25.00. For info and reservations: tel. 055 294883. www.unannoadarte.it.

ASTRA 2, Piazza Beccaria. Tel. 055 2343666. (Note theatres carefully, as films are being show at either the Astra 2 or the Odeon.) www.cinehall.it.
Monday 6 (Astra 2) - LAST NIGHT by Massy Tadjedin. 4.30 - 6.30 - 8.30 - 10.30 pm
Monday 13 (Astra 2) - YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER by Woody Allen. 4.30 - 6.30 - 8.30 - 10.30 pm
Monday 13 (Odeon Theatre) PRECIOUS (with Italian subtitles) by Lee Daniels. 4.00 - 6.10 - 8.30 - 10.40 pm
Tuesday 14 (Odeon Theatre) PRECIOUS (with Italian subtitles) by Lee Daniels: 4.00 pm
Tuesday 14 (Odeon Theatre) BOOGIE WOOGIE (with Italian subtitles) di Ducan Ward. 9:00 pm
Tuesday 14 (Astra 2) - YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER by Woody Allen. 4.30 - 6.30 - 8.30 - 10.30 pm
Wednesday 15 (Odeon Theatre) PRECIOUS (with Italian subtitles) by Lee Daniels: 4.00 pm

LAST NIGHT stars Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington and Eva Mendes in a story of resisting temptation and encounters with the past.
Woody Allen's latest venture YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER pits Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts with and against each other in a tangled story of life, love and resolution.
PRECIOUS is set in a dark and frightening Harlem, with incredible performances by Gabourey Sidibe, Lenny Kravitz and Mo'Nique.
BOOGIE WOOGIE stars Alan Cumming, Heather Graham, Christopher Lee and Charlotte Rampling involved in the nasty doings of egoistic artists, unscrupulous art dealers and cruel agents.

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 15, Christmas Event - An evening of Dylan Thomas - For our Christmas celebration this year we offer, together with our customary mince pies, an appreciation of Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) and readings from his poetry and prose, including his sparkling and evocative short story A Child's Christmas in Wales.

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, 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 delle Vecchie Carceri, 1 (near S. Ambrogio ), open M-F 9:30 to 7:00 pm, and Sat. 9:30 to 2:00 pm.. ARGONAUTA VIAGGI, Lungarno Torrigiani 33/B, Tel.055/2342777. Many tickets can be pre-purchased via www.ticketone.it, www.boxol.it.

Tuesday 7
TOSCA - Once again Zubin Mehta on the podium for Puccini's "Roman" opera, staged by Mario Pontiggia with pictorial sets and costumes by Francesco Zito. Violeta Urmana will alternate with Adina Nitescu as Tosca, Marco Berti is Cavaradossi, and the very great Ruggero Raimondi is the quintessential Scarpia, as also seen in television. Teatro Comunale. 8:30 pm.

Wednesday 8
REVOLUTION GOSPEL CHOIR - Piazza del Comune, Prato. 5:30 pm. Free entry.

Thursday 9
TOSCA - See Tues. 7. Teatro Comunale. 8:30 pm.
MATTHEW BOURNE'S SWAN LAKE - An audacious original, Matthew Bourne's legendary production transforms one of ballet's best-loved stories into a witty, poignant, contemporary tale. Well-known for replacing the traditional female corps de ballet with a menacing male ensemble, Matthew Bourne blends dance, style, humour, spectacle, comedy and mime to create a powerful Swan Lake for our times. Since its 1995 world premiere, this sexy version of Swan Lake has become the longest running ballet in the London's West End and on Broadway. Originally written by Tchaikovsky in the late 19th century, Swan Lake was staged at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre in 1877, but it wasn't until 18 years later - and after the death of its composer - that it was finally staged in St Petersburg, and became a universal classic. Teatro Verdi. 8:45 pm.

Friday 10
TOSCA - See Tues. 7. Teatro Comunale. 8:30 pm.
MATTHEW BOURNE'S SWAN LAKE - See Thurs. 9. Teatro Verdi. 8:45 pm.

Saturday 11
ZUBIN MEHTA CONDUCTS - Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" and Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" are two renowned compositions for which the great conductor of Indian origin can use to the fullest his incredible technical virtuosity and prodigious capacity to create atmosphere and colours with the sound of the Orchestra del Maggio. Teatro Comunale. 10:30 am. Dress rehearsal. Ticket: Euro 4.
ZUBIN MEHTA CONDUCTS - See above. Teatro Comunale. 8:30 PM
QUARTETTO ARTEMIS - Music of Beethoven. Teatro della Pergola. 4:00 pm.
MATTHEW BOURNE'S SWAN LAKE - See Thurs. 9. Teatro Verdi. 3:30 and 9:00 pm.
FABRI FIBRA - Italian rap at its best. Saschall. 9:00 pm

Sunday 12
TOSCA - See Tues. 7. Teatro Comunale. 3:30 pm.
QUARTETTO ARTEMIS - Music of Beethoven. Teatro della Pergola. 9:00 pm.
MATTHEW BOURNE'S SWAN LAKE - See Thurs. 9. Teatro Verdi. 3:30 and 9:00 pm.
THE GOSPEL FIRE CHOIR - Piazza del Comune, Prato. 6:00 pm. Free entry.

Monday 13
TOSCA - See Tues. 7. Teatro Comunale. 8:30 pm.

Wednesday 15
ZUBIN MEHTA CONDUCTS - The young Russian Denis Matsuev has played the piano since he was three years old. In 1998 he won Moscow's Tchaikovsky competition. He debuts with the Teatro del Maggio with "Rach 3", the concerto made famous by the film "Shine". In the first part Zubin Mehta directs the Orchestra del Maggio in Bartok's Concerto. Teatro Comunale. 10:30 am. Dress rehearsal. Ticket: euro 4.
ZUBIN MEHTA CONDUCTS - See above. Teatro Comunale. 8:30 pm.

Thursday 16
SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR - Three time Grammy winners. Teatro Verdi. 8:45 pm.

Saturday 18
SESTETTO STRADIVARI - Music by Strauss, Bellino, Tchaikovsky. Teatro della Pergola. 4:00 pm.
LUDOVICO EINAUDI - His album DIVENIRE is one of the top most sold on ITunes. Teatro Politeama Pratese, via Garibaldi 33. Prato. 9:30 pm.

Sunday 19
QUARTETTO PANOCHA -Schiff (piano), Shiokawa (viola), Music by Dvorak. Teatro della Pergola. 9:00 pm

Tuesday 21
MALIKA AYANE -pluri-award-winning Italian vocalist. Teatro Verdi. 8:45 pm.

Wednesday 22
RANDY CRAWFORD AND JOE SAMPLE TRIO - swing from soul to jazz with this ageless trio. Teatro Verdi. 8:45 pm.
COPPELIA - For the Christmas season and back to the tradition of going to the ballet with the family during the holidays. Evgheni Polyakov choreographed this version of the popular ballet. The very colourful and surreal staging is by the Spanish painter, who was in inspired by the thousand "enamel eyes" of the girl in E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Sandman". Teatro Comunale. 8:30 pm.

Thursday 23
COPPELIA - See Wed. 22. Teatro Comunale. 3:30 and 8:30 pm.

Friday 24
COPPELIA - See Wed. 22. Teatro Comunale. 3:30 pm.
CHRISTMAS CONCERT - Giuliano Carella conducts. Leonardo Caimi (tenor), Mirco Palazzi (basso). Music of Schubert and Puccini. Teatro Verdi. 5:00 pm.

Wednesday 29
ANDREA BOCELLI in Notte Illuminata - A benefit concert. Teatro Verdi di Pisa. 9:00 pm.

Friday 31
PAOLO BELLI, IRENE GRANDI, GIUSY FERRERI - We would say Italian Fun in the Sun... if only it wasn't the dead of winter. Piazza del Campo. 10:00 pm. Free entry.


Daily until Wed. 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, where the 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.

In celebration of Tuscany's green gold, on Wed. 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. www.comune.reggello.fi.it

Sat. 11 and Sun. 12 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.

On Sunday 19, at 4:00 pm in the lovely church of Santa Maria del Carmine al Morrocco near Tavarnelle, a small community of Australian nuns will hold a traditional Sunday Christmas Carol service in their wonderful church about 20 kilometers from Florence. There will be refreshments served afterwards. It is truly an occasion that should not be missed. For information: Chiesa di S. Maria del Carmine Morrocco, Via Morrocco 35, Tavarnelle Tel. 055 8076067.

GHIRLANDAIO - The Ghirlandaio Family. Renaissance Painters in Florence and Scandicci,
Until May 1 a widespread series of locales host one of Florence's most interesting artistic dynasties. Though always used in the singular, the name Ghirlandaio is actually the trademark of a family dynasty of artists and entrepreneurs, who, beginning in the second half of the 15th century, dominated the scene of the Florentine Renaissance for a century. Domenico (1449-1494) was the first artist in the Ghirlandaio family, which included his brothers David (1452-1525) and Benedetto (1458-1497), his half-brother Giovambattista, his brother-in-law Bastiano, and his son Ridolfo (1483-1561). In addition to family members, numerous other artists who were apprenticed to their school (Michelangelo and Granacci being the most renowned) contributed to spreading their fame throughout Italy and Europe. The Ghirlandaio workshop was extremely productive and organized according to quite modern criteria as to skills and roles. Within the workshop Domenico and Ridolfo were the creative masters of colour, others were extremely good at painting, and others still, were expert in workshop management.
This well-balanced, prolific and long-lived clan is now the focus of an exhibition, the first one dedicated to the family in its entirety, involving an area spreading from Florence to Scandicci. This is the zone where the Ghirlandaio family lived and worked, rarely leaving, filling it with masterpieces, and creating a spectacular and diffused museum.
The actual surname of Domenico Ghirlandaio was Bigordi, and he and his brothers ended up being identified with the nickname of their father, an excellent goldsmith renowned for his special skill in making garlands (ghirlanda in Italian). From Scandicci, their homeland, they moved to Florence in the first half of the 15th century, and their workshop, in the then world capital of art, was established in the second half of the century.
The exhibition tour starts from Scandicci, in the Castello dell'Acciaiolo. The Castello showcases a famous painting by Domenico (Saints James, Stephen and Peter), a beautiful Madonna by Ridolfo (from the Fuligno Refectory) and 14 other works loaned by various museums in Florence.
Two different Ghirlandaio exhibition itineraries "depart" from Scandicci. The one in Florence includes the frescoes in the Sala dei Gigli of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Sassetti Chapel and the Tornabuoni Chapel - respectively in the churches of Santa Trinita and Santa Maria Novella - and the Adoration of the Magi at the Museo degli Innocenti. The other includes the area north-west of Florence, on both sides of the Arno, abounding in works of art that the Ghirlandaio family created and left in two family homes; in San Martino and Colleramole, in the Church of Sant'Andrea in Campi Bisenzio, the Sacred Art Museums of San Donnino and San Martino. And also Mosciano, Giogoli, San Martino alla Palma, and San Colombano.
It is a fascinating journey into the Florentine Renaissance which offers guided visits, educational workshops, as well as a prize for students and artisans. Moreover, you can buy or taste typical products in restaurants and shops participating in the initiative. Show locations: CASTELLO DELL'ACCIAIOLO, Via Pantin, Scandicci. BADIA DI SAN SALVATORE E SAN LORENZO A SETTIMO, Scandicci. MUSEO DI ARTE SACRA DI SAN MARTINO A GANGALANDI, Lastra a Signa. MUSEO DI ARTE SACRA DI SAN DONNINO, Campi Bisenzio. MUSEO DEGLI INNOCENTI, Florence. PALAZZO MEDICI RICCARDI, Florence. Hours: Thursdays to Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. For information and bookings: 055.2340742, www.ghirlandaio.it.

JOAN MIRO' - Myths of the Mediterranean at Palazzo Blu - Pisa
Until January 23, Pisa's Palazzo Blu hosts "Joan Miró. I miti del Mediterraneo", a retrospective exhibit of the works of this Spanish (Catalan) master. The show presents over 100 pieces ranging from sculpture and drawings, to paintings and illustrations.
Born in Barcelona, Mirò died in 1983, having earned international acclaim as a Surrealist. His style was in fact, surely also influenced by Dadaism, by his frequent visits to Paris, and by his relationships with printer Fernand Mourlot and the artists he often shared shows with; Chagall, Giacometti, Brach, Cesar, Ubac, and Tal-Coat. Palazzo Blu, Lungarno Gambacorti, 9. 56125 Pisa. Tel: 199 28514. Ticket: 8 euro. Hours: Tuesday thru Friday: from 10:00 am. to 7:00 pm. Saturday and Sunday: from 10:00 am. to 8:00 pm. Closed Monday. www.palazzoblu.org

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. Small, guided tours of the fresco cycle now allow the public to come face to face with Lippi. The restoration began in the upper reaches of the chapel ceiling. Four monumental images of the evangelists are incised within the arches of the groin vault. Below them flow the scenes from the lives of two saints: Stephen, Prato's patron saint on the left, and John the Baptist, protector of nearby Florence on the right. From his birth in the top register to his death on the lower register, each saints' life is a theatrical spectacle played out with vivid imagery.
Fra Filippo Lippi was quite an intriguing character; his behavior wasn't exactly exemplary of the Carmelite order, (Fra indicates his religious title). The Carmelites ordained him and trained him as an artist, and by the time he reached Prato in 1452 he was among the most highly regarded and frequently commissioned painters of the early Renaissance. His trysts with various women had already gained him a somewhat sensational reputation, but it is the long-running romance with nun Lucrezia Buti, 25 years his junior, that has been most noted by history. Lucrezia modeled for many of the Lippi's Madonnas, and is said to have been the inspiration for the enchanting Salome, who dances through the final scene of John the Baptist's fresco cycle, The Feast of Herod. The three-part banquet scene contains larger-than-life figures that feast and make merry around the dancing girl, whom many compare to the female figures in the later works of Lippi's young apprentice Botticelli.
Prato Cathedral. Open Mon. to Sat. 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission: 4 euro with audio guide. Small, guided tours available by calling 0574/24112. www.restaurofilippolippi.it

All the best,

Pitcher and Flaccomio