HARPSICHORD TRADE SECRETS

You certainly are familiar with the sound of the harpsichord, and would probably recognize the instrument itself if you saw one. But have you ever seen how it is built?

Last week, I was walking across Castelmuzio, a lovely Tuscan village not far from Pienza, when I randomly peeped through the window of an artisan workspace, expecting to see leather bags, wrought iron or the like… Instead, I stumbled upon harpsichords in the making!

Bruce Kennedy has been building harpsichords for more than 40 years, in Switzerland, the Netherlands and now in Tuscany. He has also founded the Piccola Accademia di Montisi, which organizes a festival each summer, as well as master classes and harpsichord lessons all year round. Find more photos of Bruce’s skills on our Instagram page!

 

Katharina's Italy

In Audrey Hepburn’s Two-Wheeled Wake

I did it, at long last! Wandering about the streets of Rome on Italy’s iconic motor scooter, the Vespa!

I had been dreaming of this since I had first seen, as a child, the 1953 romantic comedy film “Roman Holiday”, in which the beautiful woman I was lucky enough to call my godmother, Audrey Hepburn, drives through the Eternal City astride a silvery, fidgety Vespa.

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A Master of Contemporary Design and Architecture

When thinking of Italian art and architecture, most people see, in their mind’s eye, Roman ruins, Renaissance masterpieces and Baroque churches. And we may even wonder whether the bel paese, in this particular sphere, has ever made it into the Modern Age…

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The extraordinary Palio of Siena

You have always wanted to attend Siena’s famous Palio, but never did because of the dense crowds and stifling heat that come with it when it takes place, in the heart of summer?

Well, here’s your chance of a lifetime: a Palio Straordinario, a unique “extraordinary” edition of the far-famed horse race, will be held on Saturday, October 20, 2018, to commemorate the end of World War I.

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Pontremoli by Word of Mouth

Do you still remember the time when TripAdvisor and the like did not exist? When it was creatures of flesh and blood – and not applications and algorithms – who pointed and steered you, in a confidential tone, to a little-known gem of a restaurant, a picturesque back road or an unfrequented beauty spot?

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An Autumn Swim in the Mediterranean

They are everywhere… Over the last twenty years, the monotonous Monobloc – a lightweight stackable polypropene chair, often white in colour – has proliferated like mushrooms all over the world, and most noticeably at beach bars and seaside resorts.

The numbers make your head spin: a billion Monoblocs have been sold in Europe alone, and I’m told that one Italian manufacturer turns out 10 million units a year!

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One of Italy’s Most Beautiful Food Markets

I have always loved wandering in the aisles of markets, covered or open-air ones.

So when I found out, in Giulia Scarpaleggia’s excellent cookbook, From the Markets of Tuscany, that Livorno’s market is probably the liveliest and most impressive in the whole of Italy, I decided it was high time for a visit.

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My Italy of the Good Old Days

“I really like the way you’ve furnished your bar, Francesco. No wonder people keep flocking in.
— Thanks for the compliment, Katharina. I think I’ve been lucky.
— Lucky, I don’t know, but you’ve sure done something right. Remind me, when did you set up shop?
— About a year ago. Already! Come vola il tempo…
— You’re telling me!”

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A Sweet Pre-Latin Aperitivo in Vetulonia

Before moving to the bel paese, I had barely heard about the Etruscans, a rich and remarkable civilization who flourished in ancient Italy until they were conquered and assimilated by the more powerful Latin polity.

The ancient Romans often referred to them as the “Tusci”, from which “Tuscany” has been derived. They also borrowed from them many of their ingenious inventions in agriculture and road construction.

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A Little Palace of Art in Venice

The luxury of loving Italy… These are the very last words of Italian Hours, a collection of essays which the great Henry James wrote about the bel paese more than a century ago, and which I have recently read with great interest.

 

 

 

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