Currently the posts are filtered by: Florence and Tuscany
Reset this filter to see all posts.

Comments on Blue Guide Florence

11th edition
10th edition


Covers the full range of what this extraordinary city, cradle of the Renaissance, has to offer.

View the book’s contents, index and some sample pages, and buy securely from here»


I’ve just returned from my first visit to Florence, and want first to say that your guide to the city contributed hugely to making it thoroughly enjoyable.  Without the guide, I would have missed countless places and small details (and a good restaurant).

You invite comments on your guide, and I do have one suggestion for how the guide could be made more useful and informative.  It will take a paragraph or two to explain:

Much of the city centre that visitors see looks like it was built between around 1780 and 1910 (I’m guessing a bit re dates here).  Most of it is undistinguished, at least by the standards of medieval and renaissance Florence, though it is harmonious enough and provides an agreeable backdrop for the significant older buildings and monuments.  Obviously, all this building was on sites on which former buildings had decayed or been deliberately demolished.  I think that the context in which all this redevelopment took place deserves more attention than the various passing references given in the guide.  After all, there was clearly the money to do it.  What were the driving forces?  For example, Florence was the capital of Italy from 1865 to 1871, with parliament meeting in the Palazzo Vecchio.  So think of all the parliamentarians and bureaucrats who must have been around – I can’t believe they didn’t have any impact, or some sort of vision for what they wanted of Florence.  

Moreover, much of this redevelopment became controversial.  One only has the think of Herbert Horne’s own efforts, and his involvement with the group of foreigners who campaigned  from around 1890 for preservation of old buildings that were in areas that the city council wanted to redevelop.

I guess too there has been much restoration after the damage incurred in 1943-44.

I think all this deserves to be discussed in a short essay, or as an amplification of the Historical Sketch.  I think this would give readers a better understanding of the physical fabric of the city that we see today, and the forces that led to this.

John Purse

Comments on Blue Guide Tuscany

Tuscany, with Florence its capital and a host of gorgeous medieval cities set in a rolling countryside of fields, vineyards and olive groves, is the cradle of the Renaissance and for many visitors the cultural heart of Italy. This guide amply covers Florence (itself the subject of a whole Blue Guide) but also gives extensive coverage to the other major Tuscan cities - Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Cortona, Arezzo. Ideal for the Florence-based visitor making day-trips to the surroundings, or for a tour of the whole of Tuscany. Includes Blue Guides Recommended short lists of hotels and restaurants.

View the book’s contents, index and some sample pages, and buy securely from here»


Pietrasanta, Pisa: in search of Stagi

Tomorrow we will get the train to Pisa and on to Pietrasanta, the birthplace of Stagio Stagi. Having based ourselves in Lucca (a fortunate choice), we spent today searching out works by Matteo Civitali, both in the town (his birth- and workplace) and out in the surrounding countryside. But tomorrow will be devoted to the Stagi family of sculptors.

I came across Stagio Stagi (1496–1563), the most well-known of the Stagis, while in the first stages of researching for the 5th edition of Blue Guide Tuscany. Reading the previous editions, there were mentions of Stagio Stagi in Pisa and also Pietrasanta, Seravezza and Volterra. Lorenzo Stagi (Stagio’s father) was cited in Pietrasanta, and there was just one mention of a Giuseppe Stagi also in Pietrasanta. The 2nd edition (1995) refers to Stagio and Lorenzo as “famous natives” of Pietrasanta. I wondered how dominant these sculptors were in the marble quarrying town they were born in. How influential were they? Who might their works have inspired? Would they be commemorated widely in the town or only noticeable through their works? And were there any more members of the family working as sculptors?

First some preparation. As with all thorough preparation, the best results come from a suitable working atmosphere - we entered our ‘workplace’ for the evening: Trattoria Da Giulio on Via delle Conce, recommended by the Blue Guide Tuscany author. Surrounded by photos of the rich and famous in the entrance hall and tables enough to serve 200 diners, perhaps we had made the wrong choice. However, the food was reputed to be excellent, and the table we were shown to was in the quieter, furthest dining room which appeared to be reserved for non-Italian speakers (or was I being paranoid?). It looked as though our Stagi preparations would commence without major distractions. First things first, we ordered a bottle of local red (Montecarlo), and I opted for the daily special of baccalà frito (fried cod) and a side dish of ceci(chickpeas).

We covered the table with local maps, Blue Guide Tuscany, Blue Guide Central Italy and a recent edition of Touring Club Italiano Toscana. Between courses (all excellent, as promised) we sifted through each of the entries for the Stagis and made a list of works to see the next day: in Pisa, altarpieces in the duomo, a funerary monument in the Camposanto, and a tabernacle in Santa Maria della Spina; in Pietrasanta duomo a bas-relief of John the Baptist on the facade, a statue of the saint inside, altarpieces, water basins, a pulpit pedestal, two capitals, and choir frontals including signed marble profiles in stall no.4. The works in Pisa sounded interesting, but surely our research would come to fruition in Pietrasanta’s duomo. Signed profiles in choir stall no. 4 - this was exciting.

Having not seen any physical reference to Stagi in Lucca (even though Lorenzo is recorded as having worked with the Matteo Civitali workshop), we decided to scour our books one more time, and Touring Club Italia mentioned an aedicule by Stagio above the door of San Alessandro. Five minutes’ walk and we were in the small square facing the church. On the right side was the door and the Stagi aedicule (albeit in the dark). Most noticeable was the palm tree motif around the hood. Was this a signature motif that we would see more of in Pietrasanta tomorrow?

Reading list for Florence and Tuscany

Taken from Blue Guide Tuscany, 5th edition (2009)

Gene A. Brucker Renaissance Florence (Wiley, 1969). An excellent and very readable historical introduction.
Margaret Haines (ed.) The Years of the Cupola 1417-1436. A fascinating digital archive of the sources of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, now available on line at
Amanda Lillie Florentine Villas in the 15th century: An Architectural and Social History (Cambridge University Press, 2005). Provides a careful new interpretation of the countryside around Florence, concentrating on the properties owned by the Medici’s wealthy contemporaries.
John M. Najemy A History of Florence 1200-1575 (Blackwell, 2006). The most recent scholarly work, concentrating on the ‘Elite’ and the ‘Popolo’ as well as the Medici. The shift in emphasis from the ruling family to social history makes this a particularly intriguing book to read.

General Books on Florence
Eve Borsook The Companion Guide to Florence (Collins, first edition 1966; sixth revised edition of 1997, reprinted with corrections 2000). This remains one of the best books ever written on Florence.
Olive Hamilton Paradise of Exiles (Andre Deutsch, 1974) and The Divine Country: The British in Tuscany 1372-1980 (Andre Deutsch, 1982). Following on from Treves’ The Golden Ring, discussing Anglo residents in the region.
Christopher Hibbert Florence: The Biography of a City (W. W. Norton, 1993, reissued 2004). One in a series (others include Rome and Venice, both also by Hibbert) and provides an intriguing general view of all things connected with Florence.
Michael Levey Florence: A Portrait (Harvard University Press, 1996, repr. 1998). An equally intriguing view of Florence as Hibbert’s Florence: The Biography of a City.
Richard W.B. Lewis The City of Florence (Historical vistas and Personal sightings)  (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1995). As the title suggests, this book provides a highly personal account of the present-day town.
Giuliana Artom Treves The Golden Ring. The Anglo-Florentines 1847-1862 (Longmans, Green, 1956). One of the first books to discuss the importance of the English residents in Florence.

Tuscan History
Denys Hay and John Law, Italy in the Age of the Renaissance 1380–1530(Longman, 1989). An excellent, scholarly paperback dealing with this specific period.
Harry Hearder Italy: A Short History (Cambridge University Press, 1990, repr. 1996). A very readable paperback which provides an introduction from earliest times right up to the 20th century.
Daniel Waley The Italian City-Republics (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969, repr. 1978).
Describes the rise of the communes in the middle ages, and Lauro Martine’s Power
and Imagination
City-states in Renaissance Italy (Vintage, 1979) carries the story

forward. Waley has also written more specific studies (including Siena and the
Sienese, 1991).

Art History
Bernard Berenson The Italian Painters of the Renaissance (1930 and subsequent editions). A fundamental work, well worth reading for a fresh and clear account of the works of the greatest artists.
Jacob Burckhardt The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860; repr. 1965, HarperCollins). The classic work on the Renaissance.
Doris Carl Benedetto da Maiano. A Florentine sculptor at the threshold of the High Renaissance, (Brepols, 2006). Beautifully illustrated, providing a careful study of the work of this sculptor.
Mary Hollingsworth Patronage in Renaissance Italy, and Patronage in Sixteenth Century Italy (J. Murray, 1994–96). A serious two-volume study on patronage.
Walter Pater The Renaissance (1873, repr. 1967, Collins). Another classic work on the Renaissance.
Numerous monographs in English on the most famous artists include works published in the last half of the 20th century by Kenneth Clark and John Pope-Hennessy.

The Medici
Christopher Hibbert The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici (Morrow, 1974). Still provides an interesting account of the history of the family.
Dale Kent Cosimo de’ Medici and the Florentine Renaissance (Yale University Press, 2000). One of the most recent books on the Medici.
Nicolai Rubinstein The Government of Florence under the Medici, 1434-94(Clarendon Press, 1968). Still one of the most important works on the Medici family. It was Rubinstein who began the project to publish all the Letters of Lorenzo il Magnifico, continued under the direction of Michael Mallet and Humfrey Butters (the first 11 volumes cover the period 1460–1488).
The Medici Archive Project is an on-going database project which, since 1993, has been concerned with preserving the papers of the Medici grand-dukes, consisting of some 6,429 volumes of approximately 3 million letters. These are preserved in the Archivio di Stato in Florence and the intent is to promote research on them (

Accounts of life in Tuscany
Kinta Beevor A Tuscan Childhood (Viking, 1993). Of all the many books written by
The English about their lives in Tuscany, this stands out as one of the most sincere
and interesting.
Iris Origo War in Val d’Orcia (Penguin, 1956), an account of the war years. Also, her
autobiography Images and Shadows. Part of a Life (J. Murray, 1970).


The Global Eye
Florence: Forged in Fire
European rail changes for 2020
An Artist of the World
Food guide for River Café
SPQR and expressions of Rome
The Seuso Treasure: a new display
Life in Color
Hungary Food Companion
Baroque-era spinach patties
Perfect paprika chicken
A spring recipe from 1891
Master of Leonardo
News from Florence
Gellért 100
Unsung Hero
The Corvina Library
Modernists and Mavericks
Dracula: An International Perspective
Lorenzo Lotto: Portraits
Leonardo's Leicester Codex
A tale of two Camparis
Best restaurants in Brescia
Budapest Art Nouveau
Transylvanian Book Festival
Flawless ... and 100 years old
Extreme dairy farming in Sauris
Islamic Art in Florence
The Seuso Roman silver: on display at last
The Wonders of Pontormo
Builders of Budapest
Crowded Times
Good news from Florence
The Heartwarming Middle Ages
Waves of Art Nouveau
Bookshops in Budapest
Budapest at the Biennale
Living with Leonardo
The Zeugma Mosaics Saga
News from Syracuse
Raphael in Bergamo
Titian in Brescia
Comments and Updates on Blue Guide Budapest
Heroism on the Danube
The 'Romanesque Hall' in Budapest
Dürer in Milan
Re-interpreting the Trojan Horse
Charles I: King and Collector
Fleming and Honour Remembered
Pictures from Lake Maggiore
A late Art Nouveau treasure in Budapest
Anna: Female destinies in Transylvania
What’s on in Florence
Art Within Limits
A Time in Rome
Diana Athill, 'A Florence Diary'
Season’s Greetings
Christmas with the Gonzaga
Aegean Turkey: Troy to Bodrum
Collectors in Florence
European rail changes 2018
A people who changed history
Return to 'A Room with a View'
Italian island food
The Scythians at the British Museum
Rogues' Gallery by Philip Hook
Ferragamo's Return
Silence of the looms
Grammar and Grace
The Seuso Saga
Giuliano da Sangallo
The Black Fields of Kula
Leonardo's "Adoration of the Magi" restored
Venice before Easter
Selectivity at the Uffizi
Guide to the Via Francigena
What Ariosto could see
News from Florence: Giovanni dal Ponte
More than just the David
The formidable Empress Matilda
Life, Art and Kenneth Clark
Hedonist's travel, Hungarian wine
Remarkable Manuscripts
Abstract Expressionism at the RA
Comments on Hungarian Wine: A Tasting Trip to the New Old...
Transylvania Launched
Which 50 Sites of Antiquity?
A Treasure in Cagli
The Transylvanian Book Festival
Comments on Travels in Transylvania: The Greater Târnava...
Roman Brixia
The new Museo degli Innocenti
Wine guide wins prize
Jesters at the Court of the Medici
Budapest, Freedom and the Olympics
The Roman Forum Reconstructed
Bernini's Beloved
Blue Guide Paris on Amazon
The Imperial Ramp in the Roman Forum
Sabbioneta, Cryptic City
Secret delights of Florence: the Bellini private museum
Cutting-edge mosque design in Albania
St Francis in Florence
To Austria’s Lake District by rail
Pilgrimage pathways to and from Rome
Five major London museums
Napoleon and Paris: Dreams of a capital
Whither Tate Britain?
The many lives of Nasreddin Hoca
Lesley Blanch: On the Wilder Shores of Love
The Middle Ages on the Road
Hellenistic bronzes in Florence
Europe by rail - an introduction
Frescoes in a convent of a closed order of nuns
Michelin starred Paris
A Michelangelo discovery?
Jan Morris: Ciao, Carpaccio: An Infatuation
The Venus de Milo fights back
Winter in Florence: a new look at Donatello
Tea (or coffee) with the Sultan
Artwork of the Month: January. Medieval stained glass
Which? ranks Blue Guides #2
Giacomo Leopardi: A poet in film
Sassoferrato and the Aion Mosaic
The Aventine and Turner in Rome
Artwork of the Month: December
Rendez-vous with Art
Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age
Giovanni Battista Moroni
London The Information Capital
Changes to European rail services for 2015
Comments on Blue Guide London
Egypt, Greece, & Rome
The Medici Villas of Tuscany and Tourism
Artwork of the Month: November. Reason, Unreason and the...
The first collectors of 'Primitives'
From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town
Artwork of the Month: October. The Arch of Constantine
Sorting out the Uffizi
Waging war with a view
Dull London? Surely a mistake
Artwork of the month: September. Watercolour of the Great...
Italian Venice: A History
A tale of three museums
All Aboard the Cheese Train
National Gallery London to allow photography
Artwork of the Month: August. Bust of Augustus Caesar from...
Sacred Splendours: reliquaries of Florence's pious grand...
Book Review. Helena Attlee: The Land where Lemons Grow
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
Comments on Smoothly from Harrow
Renaissance art from Florence to Paris and back
Comments on Blue Guide Venice
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
Comments on Short Guide to London 1953
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
Comments on Pilgrim's Rome: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph
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
Comments on Blue Guide India
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
Comments on Blue Guide Istanbul
Comments on Blue Guide Florence
Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor
Comments on The Venice Lido: a Blue Guide Travel Monograph
Comments on Blue Guide Literary Companions: Rome, London,...
Comments on Blue Guide Italy Food Companion
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
Comments on Blue Guide Turkey
Comments on Blue Guide Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Hay-on-Wye
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Aegean Islands
Comments on Blue Guide Crete
Comments on Sites of Antiquity: from Ancient Egypt to the...
Comments on Blue Guide Tuscany
Familiar face
Comments on Blue Guide Concise Italy
Comments on Blue Guide Paris
Comments on Blue Guide New York
Comments on Blue Guide Central Italy
Comments on Blue Guide Southwest France
Blue Guide Northern Italy
Comments on Blue Guide The Marche & San Marino
Comments on Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London
A day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome - highly recommended
Comments on Blue Guide Southern Italy
Comments on Blue Guide Concise Rome
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
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Mainland


follow us in feedly