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 Musical Feast in the Heart of Tuscany

One of Tuscany’s most intimate and charming festivals turns 30 next month. No small feat for a chamber music festival in Italy today! Founded by Benedetta Origo, the owner of Villa La Foce, and her son, cellist Antonio Lysy, Incontri in Terra di Siena features world-class artists in the most beautiful venues of the Val d’Orcia.

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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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The Art and Heart of Assisi

Last month, I got into my car early in the morning, on a Tuesday, and drove down to the lovely medieval town of Assisi, situated in the very heart of Umbria.

I had a lunch appointment with my good friend Rebecca Winke, the writer who joined us for our recent Instagram event in Venice. She has a beautiful place of abode in Assisi’s historic town center.

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Pistoia – a Tuscan Town that is Worth the Detour

Every time I travel between Florence and Lucca – I must have done it a hundred times, – I drive through the charming medieval town of Pistoia, famous throughout Europe for its impressive and well-organized plant nurseries. And every time, without fail, I make the same resolution: “Ok, next time, I will stop and visit one or two of these nurseries.”

A resolution which, as you may have guessed, I haven’t yet fulfilled. Well, not entirely fulfilled, I should say. For I finally did stop in Pistoia a few weeks ago, urged to do so by my friend Molly, who invited me to join her in the heart of the Tuscan city.

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The Italian Capital Within Arm’s Reach

Good news: all roads lead to Rome and, in some cases, will take you back to your starting point before the end of the day!

I experienced this two or three times last summer. After an early morning swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea, I hopped on a train, spent the day in Rome – combining business with pleasure, – and returned to my Mediterranean seaside just in time for the sunset extravaganza.

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An Electrifying Ride in the Chianti

Shortly after starting to work at Italy’s oldest winery, during the first years I spent in the bel paese, I was already dreaming of touring the bucolic Chianti region on one of those beautiful vintage delivery bicycles, the rusty, creaking, ramshackle type…

I must admit that I quickly gave up on the idea – even though I have always thought that there is no better way to explore a place than by walking or cycling. For the Chianti is a pretty hilly patch of land!… up, down, up, down… So much so that there is an official bike race, the Eroica, which re-enacts those heroic times when cyclists had to tackle the rough bumpy dirt roads of the region on unsophisticated heavy-set bicycles.

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They Are Simply Everywhere!

Oh, look Mummy, there’s a mosquito sagra around here! Can we go? Pleeeaaase!

This was two years ago, in August. My family and I were leisurely driving through the Italian province of Ferrara, along secondary roads, on our way to our treasured Tuscany.

My daughter was already, at that time, a seasoned sagra spotter and unconditional sagra lover. We were driving down a hairpin bend when she suddenly caught sight, between two yawns, of a colourful poster announcing the Festa mondiale della zanzara, the International Mosquito Fair…

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A Sparkling Gem in the Tuscan Archipelago

Until a few years ago, when we happened to be sojourning, my family and I, in the Maremma, an excursion on the Isle of Giglio used to be one of our favourite day-trip options.

Then, after the Costa Concordia ship disaster in 2012 – which took place off Giglio Porto, the tiny harbour of the island, – we abstained from visiting this beautiful gem of the Tuscan Archipelago. Ferries leaving from Porto Santo Stefano began to take hordes of snoopy tourists to the shipwreck area and affect the surroundings with unpleasant congestion, especially during the high season.

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