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Food is the new Florence

Blue Guide Italy Food app available for download

‘Yes,’ said Lucy. ‘They are lovely. Do you know which is the tombstone that is praised in Ruskin?’

[…] ‘I like Giotto,’ she replied. ‘It is so wonderful what they say about his tactile values.’

These famous words are uttered in the church of Santa Croce in Florence, by Lucy Honeychurch in E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. When he published it, in 1908, the hopeful middle classes in Britain and the US all dreamed one day of going to Florence, to follow in Lucy’s footsteps. Many would have recognised, with a frisson of delight at their own erudition, that ‘tactile values’ is a quote from Bernard Berenson. And for decades this persisted. Everyone wanted to find out the answers to the same questions that bothered Lucy. And travel publishers brought out guide after guide to help them, earnestly describing fresco cycles, assisting the eager visitor to view with understanding what needed to be viewed and understood.

Today that mould has been broken. Tactile values can go hang. Not that human nature has changed; it cannot. Travellers still dream of going to Florence and they are still anxious to see and to experience. They are as delighted as ever—as thrilled as Lucy was—to get a personalised guided tour and to tell everyone back home.

But not in Santa Croce. The Peruzzi Chapel doesn’t have the glamour it once had. Far better would be if the maitre d’ at Enoteca Pinchiorri, thrice Michelin starred, were to rush forward, usher you to an excellent table, whisk the menu from your hands and offer to concoct a personalised gastro tour, just for you.

So yes, it’s still all about wanting to emulate the heroes of our age and to be admired in our turn as members of some charmed inner circle. Lucy and her culture-hungry counterparts were aping the patrician Grand Tourists of the previous century, who had wanted art and sculpture. Lucy joined them, wanting art and sculpture too. But today our heroes have changed. They are no longer aristocrats and aesthetes with cabinets full of Tuscan bronzes or walls adorned by Renaissance artists with breathtaking brushwork. They are TV chefs with Mediterranean herb gardens and nifty knife work. When we go on holiday, we don't hang upon the words of Berenson. Few may need to know which was the tombstone admired by Ruskin. People are traversing Italy as much as ever, but with Plotkin, not Ruskin, as their mentor.

Food, after all, is universal. Everyone eats. And now too, unlike 50 years ago, the travelling, vacationing classes do their own cooking and housekeeping. Food is a levelling, absorbing subject. Suddenly, for the mass of travellers, Giotto’s pigments are not half so interesting as Maestro Giorgio’s condiments.

For the Blue Guide Italy Food Companion, a handy guide to help you negotiate any menu (and available in print or as a downloadable app), see here. Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler is published by Kyle.

Renaissance art from Florence to Paris and back

Self-portrait by Nélie Jacquemart

by Alta Macadam

A small but very choice exhibition has come to Florence from the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris (runs until 31st December). It is housed in the Villa Bardini, one of the city's most recent exhibition spaces, home also to a museum of the huge collection that was put together by the art dealer Stefano Bardini in the 1870s and 1880s.

From the entrance you make your way through the villa garden, designed around a central staircase flanked by beds where the plants are changed according to the season, and box hedges. The grottoes and wall fountains produce a pleasing sound of water which melts into the peaceful tones of birdsong. The garden is in the very heart of Florence and the truly magnificent, unique close-up view of the city is its most spectacular feature.

It is particularly fitting that the exhibition from the Jacquemart-André should be exhibited here since Edouard André and Nélie Jacquemart both knew and corresponded with Stefano Bardini and purchased some Renaissance works from him in the 1880s. Edouard died in 1894 and it was Nélie who created the famous Italian Renaissance section of their renowned Parisian museum (she herself was a skilled painter, and her self-portrait from 1880 is also on display here).

All the paintings in the exhibition are of very high quality (and nearly all of them are in very fine frames, mostly original). The portrait of a lute-player by Francesco Salviati could be taken at first glance for a Pontormo: it is a magnficent painting, memorable too for the prettily striped cloth in the foreground. Mantegna’s Ecce Homo (c. 1500) is one of the treasures of the collection. Cima da Conegliano’s Madonna and Child includes a lovely landscape, and the Madonna is dressed in a magnificent red, blue and golden cloak. The loveliest of three works attributed to Botticelli is the smallest, a Madonna and Child which, although damaged, reveals the master’s skill in the delicate rendering of the Madonna’s hair, veil and halo. Another famous work is Paolo Uccello’s St George and the Dragon: the thin beast is full of character, though it is perhaps the walled garden in the background which is the most interesting part of the work.

Other paintings by less well-known artists, but all of extreme interest, include a tiny Narcissus (by an early 15th-century Umbrian artist); a portrait of a man in profile, one of the best works by the Dalmatian artist Giorgio Culinovic known as Schiavone, dated 1504; a crowded processional scene attributed to Verrocchio and his workshop; and a tiny painting of Christ of the Apocalypse by Zanobi Strozzi (unfortunately damaged). A charming scene of a birth by Scheggia is set in a pink and grey house and shows a group of six men approaching the bedside bearing gifts (mostly welcome food!). This was clearly a desco da parto, a circular ‘tray’ presented to a mother after childbirth (and traditionally used for her first meal). Many such deschi have survived, some of them painted by the best artists of the day.

Interspersed amongst the paintings are some exquisite small sculptures, including a small bronze Hercules and the Centaur by Giambologna, a tiny bronze plaque of Judith and the Head of Holofernes by Riccio, and a rectangular relief in bronze of the Martyrdom of St Sebastian by Donatello (especially interesting for its unusual iconography).

This exhibition is well worth visiting, both for its superb works as well as for the setting of the villa itself on its garden hillside in the very centre of Florence. And you can leave by the door on Costa San Giorgio and walk a few metres up that lovely old walled lane to the Forte di Belvedere, which has recently been reopened to the public after many years of closure. It provides another celebrated viewpoint of the city.

Alta Macadam is the author of many Italian Blue Guides, including Blue Guide Florence

The cloisters of Santa Maria Novella

An update to Blue Guide Florence from Alta Macadam.

One of the frustrations of guide book writing is the rate at which changes can occur. In the latest edition of Blue Guide Florence I complained that the museum of Santa Maria Novella had “a rather shabby and abandoned feel to it”, and that the oldest part of the monastery had been “closed for restoration for many years”. At that time there seemed no signs at all that the situation would change, and indeed I had found it in the same state for at least the previous four editions!

But now–finally–my complaints are no longer true, since a few months ago the museum arranged around the cloisters attached to the great church of Santa Maria Novella was given a definitive facelift and provided with a brand new entrance from the station square. Most important of all, access into the church from the Green Cloister has been provided so that the two monuments are once again linked together in their correct historical context (and can be visited with a single ticket).

You can now visit the Cloister of the Dead (so named because there was a cemetery here) and the pavement tombs and funerary monuments on the walls are well lit and well cared for (although sadly there is no description of them, as yet:  it would be interesting to have the inscriptions and dates transcribed).  The mid-14th-century frescoes include those in a chapel attributed to Orcagna (where the unusual Nativity scene is dominated by a flock of sheep and goats, and even a bumptious dog). Although the other frescoes here are extremely worn and some of them now barely visible, they have been restored as far as possible, and excellent explanations are provided in situ of the history of this, the oldest part of the monastery.

In contrast, off the adjoining cloister, the frescoes in the Spanish Chapel, dating from the later 14th century, are superbly preserved, and they remain one of the great sights of Florence. Here, too, the new explanatory panels (also in English), are well placed and extremely helpful. This chapel overlooks the Green Cloister with its three mighty cypress trees, and green-toned frescoes. The four most important lunettes, by Paolo Uccello, have been removed for restoration, but one of the four can always be seen (on a rotating basis–when not in the restoration laboratory) in the Chapter House close by. Here, since they are displayed at ground level, the visitor is provided with a wonderful opportunity to examine them at very close range. The huge vaulted chapter house also provides a magnificent setting for some of the monastery’s treasures, including vestments and church silver, and in the adjoining chapel are two memorable late 14th-century painted wood busts of female saints, as well as an altar frontal with fifteen charming embroidered scenes of the life of the Virgin, stitched by nuns in a Florentine convent in 1466. From outside this chapel glass doors enable you to look into the Great Cloister–currently occupied by the military police, though they are soon to be moved to new barracks, so this part of the monastery will also one day be accessible to the public.

St Thomas Aquinas and St Peter Martyr confounding the heretics: fresco by Andrea di Bonaiuto (1366–69) in the Spanish Chapel. Note the dogs, black and white like their masters, attacking heretical wolves. These are the “domini canes”, the “dogs of the lord”, their name a pun on “Dominican”, the order to which the monastery of Santa Maria Novella belonged.

It is extremely encouraging that the Florentine authorities have succeeded in making this monumental area in the heart of the city so inviting a place to visit. On some days it even has an atmosphere which perhaps recalls the days when pilgrims would call in here, as today travellers on their way to and from the railway station (with their luggage sometimes in tow!) can often be seen enjoying the peace of the cloisters as well as the wonderful works of art.

Leonardo’s “Adoration of the Magi” in restoration

Alta Macadam (author of
Blue Guide Florence
) paid a fascinating visit to the state restoration laboratory to see it:

Leonardo’s painting of the Adoration of the Magi, owned by the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence and which the artist left in its preparatory state, has been removed to the state restoration laboratory in Florence’s Fortezza da Basso for restoration expected to take at least three years. Leonardo was commissioned to paint the work as the high altarpiece for San Donato a Scopeto, a church outside the city walls (no longer extant). The funds had been provided by a saddler in 1479, and it may be that Leonardo was chosen for the job since his father worked as a notary at the monastery to which the church was attached. The contract was drawn up in 1481 but just four months later Leonardo seems to have withdrawn from the agreement as he was called to Milan by Ludovico Sforza. (The monks of San Donato had Filippino Lippi paint their altarpiece 15 years later).

Leonardo left his work at the preparatory stage. In the extraordinary sketched details we can study the development of his ideas as he seemed to play with various designs and solutions which include over sixty figure studies, both human and animal. The iconography that he uses, turning the arrival of Christ into an extraordinarily crowded, almost exotic scene, is derived not from the biblical account but from that of a 14th-century theologian who suggested that the event provoked fright and incredulity as well as devotion. Although Leonardo made preparatory drawings for the work (which are now preserved in the Louvre, the Uffizi, and the Royal Library in Windsor), it seems that he spent much time working out his ideas on the work itself.

The preparation of the support is particularly interesting. The canvas was made from hemp stretched over ten planks of poplar wood (attached behind with metal bars, still in place) and then the ground was prepared with no less than five hands of gesso mixed with glue. Through the use of highly sophisticated apparatus, it has been established that the preliminary drawings on this ground were made by Leonardo first using charcoal, then a brush, and then indigo blue watercolour, so that there are three distinct layers of drawings. Leonardo then began to add a very little pigment, mostly ochre. As in some of his chiaroscuro paintings, it appears that he worked on the darker tones first, so that the two trees in the centre of the painting (one a palm, the symbol of Victory and the other probably an ilex, recalling the Tree of Jesse) stand out as the most finished part of the work. The sky is still white with only a few very faint touches of lapis lazuli.

Because of its unfinished state, Leonardo obviously never varnished the painting but many varnishes were added during subsequent centuries, in an attempt to unify its appearance. These later interventions have tended to reduce the overall effect to that of a monochrome painting. The work has also been subjected to several past restorations, the last of which was in 1924. Since the aim of the present restoration is to remove the varnishes added after Leonardo’s time, the end result will probably show stronger contrasts of tones but will not be spectacularly different from its present state. But we will be able to study even more closely the evolution of Leonardo’s ideas as he resolves problems as they arise and investigates the various possibilities of  composition and form. The atmosphere in some parts of the work is almost chaotic, with Classical ruins, equestrian scenes, and human and animal figures closely entangled, while around the isolated majestic figure of the Madonna and the blessing Child, the Magi are shown in deeply reverent worship. The painting has many similarities in technique with Leonardo’s wonderful painting of St Jerome and the lion in the Vatican Pinacoteca, which he also left unfinished at around the same time. The format of the Adoration is unusual: it may have been slightly truncated at the bottom, so that it was probably originally exactly square.

This project is just one of many in progress at the state restoration laboratory in Florence, which is world-renowned for the excellence of its work—but sadly very much in need of funding so that more young restorers can be trained, to ensure the conservation of Italy’s art treasures in the future.

Leonardo’s “Battle of Anghiari”

by Alta Macadam

A study in oil for Leonardo da Vinci’s famous lost mural of the Battle of Anghiari, which he began in the first years of the 16th century for a wall in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, opposite a scene of another victorious battle commissioned from Michelangelo (but never executed), has recently been identified by the Italian police in charge of recuperating works of art stolen from Italy, especially works stolen during the Second World War. In 1621 the work entered the collection of the famous patrician Roman family the Doria (who also had possessions in Genoa). In 1940 it was stolen from Naples, and it is now known that since then it turned up in Switzerland, Germany, and even New York before it was acquired in good faith by the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum. This museum has now lent it to Italy and it is currently on show in Rome at the Quirinal, the palace of the President of the Republic. In January it will probably be sent to the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence for a year or so, but will then return to Japan (although it will be allowed back to Italy for certain periods). Scholars have therefore been given the chance to examine it and decide if it is by the hand of Leonardo himself or whether it is a 16th-century copy by an anonymous Tuscan painter (and so similar to other copies of this date which have survived, one of which, also showing the struggle to take possession of the battle standard, is preserved in Palazzo Vecchio itself). It is known that the two huge cartoons (chalk drawings on paper) of the battle scenes, made by Leonardo and Michelangelo, were much studied by their contemporaries before being lost or irreparably damaged.

This event, which has been given much publicity in the Italian press, comes soon after the investigations carried out by National Geographic in Palazzo Vecchio’s Salone dei Cinquecento to see if anything at all remains of Leonardo’s famous work, which he left unfinished. The completed part was painted with an unsuccessful technique so that it very soon all but disappeared, and the wall was ssbsequently painted over . The long-drawn-out investigations aroused some controversy, and did not result in any interesting finds. The project was halted a few months ago.

So the chance to see the ‘Tavola Doria’ again in Italy, after all these years in which it had quite disappeared, is all the more satisfying.

The Red Rooms at the Uffizi

A swift tour of the Uffizi’s newly-opened Red Rooms by Alta Macadam, author of Blue Guide Florence.

The Sale Rosse are a suite of nine rooms (nos 56–66) on the piano nobileof the Uffizi, opened in June this year. They are marked on this plan on the Uffizi website (which also takes you on a virtual tour). The rooms display some ancient Roman sculpture and Florentine paintings from the early 16th century, most of which was formerly displayed elsewhere in the gallery. They overlook the courtyard and have large windows providing excellent lighting. Each room has a bright red wall (hiding the climate control apparatus) on which the most important works are displayed (perhaps not an ideal solution). Labelling is kept to a minimum.

The first room (56), the only one entirely painted crimson, has an impressive display of early-Imperial Roman replicas of famous Hellenistic sculptures. They include a marble replica of the Capitoline Spinario, the Farnese Hercules, and the Gaddi torso. They have been exhibited here to underline the influence that they had on Florentine painters of the early 16th century (pointed out by Vasari), notably Andrea del Sarto, whose works are hung in the first two rooms. His three chiaroscuro scenes, on show for the first time, show his skill and interest in representing the Classical style. His Madonna of the Harpies, with its carved Roman base, is also a direct citation of ancient Rome, and other altarpieces by him are displayed in the same room, as well as his delightful portrait of a young lady with a book of Petrarch (formerly displayed in the Tribuna). Room 59 has Domenico Puligo’s splendid portrait of Pietro Carnesecchi, a male portrait by Franciabigio, and three scenes by Bachiacca.

Rosso Fiorentino is for the first time given a room to himself (60), although the extraordinarily powerful Moses defending the daughters of Jethro from the shepherds is still only attributed to him. His endlessly reproduced Angel Musician is in fact only a fragment, and the portraits displayed here are only tentatively attributed to him; it is suggested that one of them may be by Giovanni di Lorenzo Larciani, who also painted the exquisite little Allegory of Fortune hung here. Portraits by Pontormo in Room 61 include his well-known (posthumous) portrait of Cosimo il Vecchio, dressed from head to foot in crimson, which used to hang in the Tribuna, and his very fine portrait of Maria Salviati, who was his contemporary and the mother of Cosimo I (b. 1519). Maria was widowed at the age of 27 and devoutly dressed as a nun for the rest of her life, hence her portrayal as such here. Her tomb in the Medici Chapels, and that of her husband, Giovanni delle Bande Nere, have been investigated this month in an attempt to solve the mystery of Giovanni’s death: it seems his foot was amputated following a battle-wound but he died shortly afterwards of septicaemia). Two other lovely portraits hung here were formerly atttributed to Pontormo:  the woman with a basket full of spindles by Andrea del Sarto, and the musician by the much less well known Pier Francesco di Jacopo Foschi.

Pontormo: portrait of the widowed Maria Salviati, mother of Cosimo I de’ Medici

Rooms 64 and 65 display all the great Medici family portraits by Bronzino, which include his masterpieces, most of which were formerly in the Tribuna. Here they can be seen in a far better light and in all their glory. Amongst them are the newly restored refined portraits of Bartolomeo Panciatichi and his wife Lucrezia, fittingly displayed on either side of the “Panciatichi” Holy Family. Eleanor of Toledo, in a splendid velvet dress with her son Giovanni, is shown in a very sophisticated work, whereas the delightful young Medici children are portrayed in much more natural poses. A bizarre note is struck with the full-length nude portrait of the dwarf Morgante: it is displayed in the centre of Room 65 as it is amusingly painted both on the front and the back.

The last room (66) has a superb group of paintings by the greatest master of this period, Raphael. His famous portrait of the first Medici pope, Leo X, with his two cousins whom he created cardinals, hangs beside his self-portrait and his court portraits of the Gonzaga and Della Rovere. But perhaps the most memorable painting of all in this set of rooms is his famous Madonna del Cardellino (“Madonna of the Goldfinch”), which was spectacularly restored a few years ago.

Raphael: Madonna del Cardellino (1506)

The Blue Rooms at the Uffizi

Alta Macadam, author of Blue Guide Florence, pays a visit to the newly-opened Blue Rooms at the Uffizi.


Florence’s Galleria degli Uffizi has been undergoing renovation and expansion since the State Archives left the building in 1989, releasing a vast new exhibition space on the piano nobile. When the ‘Grandi Uffizi’ are finally completed, more than twice the present number of paintings will be on show and double the number of visitors admitted. However, work has progressed agonizingly slowly. The exit itself at the back of the building is still awaiting the embellishment (or, many would say, the encumbrance) of a vast structure designed by Arata Isozaki in 1998—if funding from central government is ever forthcoming. Meanwhile, there is a feeling of neglect throughout the gallery and the general atmosphere provided by the staff is not the most welcoming.

But we should at least be grateful that the Tribuna has been restored and, over the last few months, two sets of rooms on the piano nobile have been opened for the first time. The Uffizi now has an excellent website, where you can take a virtual tour of the entire gallery, room by room and painting by painting.

The first rooms to be opened (in May of this year), marked on the plan on the website as the ‘Sale Blu’, house non-Italian paintings, mostly of the 17th–18th centuries. The rooms take their name from their bright blue walls. Unfortunately there are no windows, and one wishes they were bigger. The Flemish and Dutch schools are particularly well represented by numerous small works (many of which were already on show at the Uffizi by the 18th century). Ever since the 15th century, Flemish painting was well known in Florence—the huge Portinari triptych (today exhibited in the Botticelli room) was shipped from Bruges to Florence in 1483 after it had been commissioned there by the Florentine merchant Portinari. Some two centuries later, the future Medici grand duke Cosimo III acquired a number of small Dutch paintings while in Holland. These included Gerrit Dou’s self-portrait (now in Room 47) together with a genre scene by the same artist and six works by the less well-known Dutch artist Frans van Mieris the Elder (1635–81), who was most particularly admired by Cosimo. Also displayed in this room are an interior by Gabriel Metsu and a scene in a country inn by Jan Steen. In Room 49 are some famous portraits by Rembrandt. Two of the forty or so self-portraits he painted throughout his life are hung here: as a proud young man in armour sporting a hat, and then as a rather pathetic, very old man. His portrait of a bearded rabbi is signed and dated. The large landscape by Hercules P. Seghers is known to have been admired by Rembrandt (and there is a fascinating hypothesis that he might even have had a hand in painting the sky): curiously enough, it was donated to the last Lorraine grand duke, Leopold II, by an English lady called Hatfield who ran a pensione on the Lungarno Guicciardini. There are two still lifes here by Rachel Ruysch, one of the few women painters of the time: she managed to paint some 100 works in her long life (she lived to be almost 100), as well as giving birth to 19 children. Also here is an idyllic landscape by Adriaen van der Velde and a view of a square in Amsterdam by Jan van der Heyden. In Room 50 are 17th-century works by Godfried Schalcken, lit by candlelight, including his self-portrait commissioned by Cosimo III in 1694. Room 53 has works by Adriaen van der Werff (who was famous in his own lifetime; less so now). In Room 54 there is a self-portrait by the little-known Dutch painter Gerrit Adrianensz Berckheyde (an intriguing work, it includes another self-portrait, shown hanging on the wall behind the sitter). The landscapes here are by Cornelis van Poelenburgh, Dirk van Berghen and Jacob van Ruysdael. It is interesting to note that all the imitation Dutch ebony frames were made in Florence much later, during the 19th century.

Rachel Ruysch: Still life with insects

The Flemish school is well represented (in Room 52) by Paul Bril (Seascape), David Teniers the Younger (The Butcher’s Shop), and by two allegories attributed to Jan Brueghel the Younger. More 17th-century Flemish works are displayed in the largest room (55), where Rubens is represented by a self-portrait (which, however, is not apparently entirely by his own hand) and also by the fine portrait of his first wife, Isabella Brandt. There are also a number of late portraits by Van Dyck. Daniel Seghers, whose particular skill was in representing flowers, painted the lovely garland encircling a bust of the grand duke Leopold.

There are also two rooms of French paintings (dating from the 17th and 18th centuries and acquired at the end of the 18th). The later works include portraits of Vittorio Alfieri and the Countess of Albany by François-Xavier Fabre; Marie-Adelaide of France in Turkish costume by Jean-Etienne Liotard (whose self-portrait also hangs here); and two delightful portraits of children by Chardin. Another room is devoted to the Spanish school, poorly represented elsewhere in Florence: it is dominated by a superb large portrait of the Countess of Chinchón by Goya. St John the Evangelist and St Francis is a typical work (signed) by El Greco. The self-portrait by Velázquez was brought to Florence from Düsseldorf by Anna Maria Luisa, sister of the last Medici grand duke.

Turin, Pisa and mathematics

What is the connection between the Mole Antonelliana, the great 19th-century landmark on the Turin skyline, and Leonardo da Pisa, born at the end of the 12th century and hailed as one of the greatest mathematicians the west has ever known?

The Mole was begun in 1863 by the architect Alessandro Antonelli. He had been commissioned to build a synagogue by the city’s Jewish community, only a few months after King Vittorio Emanuele had granted freedom of worship to Italian Jews. Antonelli got carried away and instead of the modest structure he had been asked for, he produced something 167m high. The Jewis congregation found an alternative site and the Mole was turned into a monument celebrating the unification of Italy. It is now the Cinema Museum. In 1998 its exterior became host to one variation of Mario Merz’s public light installation known as Flight of Numbers. Merz (1925–2003) was a well-known exponent of the Arte Povera movement. A great part of his oeuvre is dedicated to the numerical sequence known as the Fibonacci sequence, whereby each number is the sum of the previous two. It has been observed to occur very frequently in nature, for instance in the typical number of petals of a flower. The sequence is named after the great north Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci, or Leonardo da Pisa, who set himself the following problem: How many pairs of rabbits will be born in one year, beginning with a single pair, if each pair gives birth to a new pair every month and that new pair begins reproducing from the second month on? The Mole Antonelliana is not the only building to be graced with a Flight of Numbers. There is also one high on a smokestack in Finland, in the city of Turku.

Turin and the Mole Antonelliana are covered in Blue Guide Northern Italy and Blue Guide Concise Italy.


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Holiday reading
Artwork of the Month: July. The Phaistos Disc
Budapest to Vienna and Salzburg by Railjet
Marvellous and Macabre: the art of Jacopo Ligozzi
David Esterly - The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of...
Artwork of the month: June, Pordenone's Noli me Tangere
Budapest to Serbia by EuroCity Avala
Saving the Great Bear: Trieste's floating crane
News from Florence
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Baccio Bandinelli: a rehabilitation
Artwork of the month: May. "Flora", Pompeii
Travelling around Britain in style
In praise of plague cakes
Princesses from the Trabzon Empire
Artwork of the month: April. The Seuso Silver
Uffizi selfies come to Budapest
Florentine Mannerists at Palazzo Strozzi
Rome: seasonal stations
Sustainable living in Bolzano
Artwork of the month: March. Murillo's Flower Girl
Tastes change
Francesco Laurana's serene beauty
Being Mithridates
Florence and Buda: two cities of learning
Thoughts on Rome
Copyrighting Heritage
Food is the new Florence
A Grumpy Visit to Westminster Abbey
The Honey Of Hybla
So what is the Turkish Van?
The Pike: by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Smoothly off the buffers
Under Another Sky
'Art under Attack' at Tate Britain
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Renaissance art from Florence to Paris and back
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Hepworth's "Winged Figure": 50th anniversary
Tying the Knot in Urfa
Venice and the Politcs of Washing
Comments on Staten Island: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph
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Turin restored and rejuvenated
A palatial art museum in Trieste
The cloisters of Santa Maria Novella
The wonderful Palazzo Grimani, Venice
Pope Benedict: an unorthodox farewell
Obscure St Valentine and his famous Feast Day
Burano in February
The St Agnes lambs
Leonardo’s “Adoration of the Magi” in restoration
Cathedral picks: Exeter
The real Patrick Leigh Fermor?
The joy of Giambattista Tiepolo
Leonardo’s “Battle of Anghiari”
In praise of Venice’s water transport system
The Red Rooms at the Uffizi
The Blue Rooms at the Uffizi
A trip to the Port of Trajan, outside Rome
Pour l’honneur de la France
An early-morning visit to Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, Rome
Church of SS Luca e Martina reopens above Roman Forum
How the tide turned at the Milvian Bridge
A compelling reason to visit Trapani province
St Augustine and his mother at Ostia
Visiting St Paul’s in London
Hadrian, Antinoüs and the Christian Fathers
Earliest-known image of a martyrdom
Can’t face the Vatican crowds? Try San Lorenzo
Turin, Pisa and mathematics
Ideal cities are all around us. It’s simply a matter of...
On Canaletto and Guardi and Venetian Light
Mithraism: a Roman Mystery Religion
Random Musings on Pontormo and Vermeer
The Amphitheatre of Londinium
Edward Lear and Crete
A handful of favourite things to see in Sicily
The mystery of the veiled virgins
Venice without the crowds
Cividale del Friuli and the Lombards
The Trouble with Snake Goddesses
The tragedy of Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico
Oranges, lemons and relic cults: an escape from the queues...
City Picks: Verona
Hitherto unknown language discovered in east Anatolia
Painting of the Day
Museo Barracco: a little-visited gem
Santo Stefano Rotondo in Rome
Staten Island: Upcoming Exhibition …
International Gothic at the Uffizi
Celebrating Santa Rosalia, patron of Palermo
Delhi Ghost Trail
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The Roman Villa at Balácapuszta (Baláca, Nemesvámos,...
The Bard of….Messina? Was Shakespeare Sicilian?
Rereading Ruskin
Sicily’s emblem: the Trinacria
Luca Signorelli on exhibition in Umbria
The Tribuna of the Uffizi reopens
The Venice equivalent of the anonymous Tweet?
Comments on Blue Guide Sicily
Sicilian Holiday Reading
Attila the Hun and the Foundation of Venice
Death in Venice cocktail a hit
The Gentry: Stories of the English
381 years ago this June
Brooklyn Bridge: a New York landmark
A Venetian Update
Sixth-century church to reopen
Roman Aquileia
Springtime in Friuli
Northern Italy dining and accommodation recommendations
Al Dente: Madness, Beauty & the Food of Rome
A celebration of Lucca
Romantic music in a Baroque setting
Blue Guide India Delhi Launch
Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life
The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution
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The Roman Forum
Whispering City: Rome and its Histories
The 15th-century Health Museum at Edirne
City of Fortune, How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire
Books about Istanbul
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Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor
Comments on The Venice Lido: a Blue Guide Travel Monograph
Comments on Blue Guide Literary Companions: Rome, London,...
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The 54th Venice Biennale stars Tintoretto
Holy Bones, Holy Dust
Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity
Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us
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Comments on Sites of Antiquity: from Ancient Egypt to the...
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Familiar face
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Blue Guide Northern Italy
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A day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome - highly recommended
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A day trip from Venice up the Brenta Canal
A day trip to Murano from Venice
Pietrasanta, Pisa: in search of Stagi
Reading list for Venice
Reading list for Florence and Tuscany
The Best Credit / Debit Card for Travel
Ruskin on Venice
Reading list for Rome
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