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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Under the Tuscan Sun

When actor Colin Firth, an Academy Award winner, and Eco Age founder Livia Firth decide to actively foster a little-known refugee project in Southern Tuscany, you can reasonably surmise that they are on to something. Last December, the famous couple visited Crune Lab – a hub which operates as a meeting place, support network and sewing workshop for migrants and refugees – and returned home with bagfuls of handmade textile creations!

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The New Casamonti Museum in Florence

When the Eiffel tower was erected at the end of the 19th century, a big outcry was raised in Paris about the bold new monument. One could hear or read words such as “useless and hideous”, a “chimney stack”, a “truly tragic street lamp”, a “giant unsightly skeleton”…

In the early 16th century, many Florentines reacted pretty much in the same way when the Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni was being built. Continue Reading →

Italian Leather Craftsmanship

My love for the bel paese has always been closely related to my passion for fine leather bags. And when I say “fine leather bags”, I don’t necessarily mean Gucci or Prada – even though I would not turn the precious item down if you offered me one. Since I first set foot in Italy, I have always revelled in discovering and supporting lesser-known artisan leather brands.

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A Dog’s Dolce Vita

My mother had a little smile: “Katharina, I would love to spend another holiday in Italy. But I worry about Daisy…”

Daisy… the cutest wire-haired dachshund on Earth!

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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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Celebrating the Precious Tuscan Olive

You may remember, dear readers, that I recently wrote an article about the festive sagre, these celebrations held in myriad villages and towns in Italy, all year round, and during which you can taste local delicacies and enjoy a most convivial atmosphere.

A few weeks ago, in the lovely village of Montisi, south-east of Siena, I discovered the Sagra del Primo Olio, entirely dedicated to the freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil, and a great opportunity for the uninitiated to see how this magic nectar is actually produced.

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My Sweet Tuscan October

“Designers want me to dress like Spring, in billowing things. I don’t feel like Spring. I feel like a warm red Autumn…”

These words – which I can easily relate to – were delivered during the 1950s by Norma Jeane Mortenson, also known as Marilyn Monroe.

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