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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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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