Florence has gone mad on moda – 60th anniversary of Fashion

Florence baptistery

Florence Baptistery has gone Pucci!

I turned the corner and WOW….the Baptistery of Florence  had suddenly changed colours. It was no longer the dignified monument that it has been for centuries but a massive cupcake landed from Mars! It looked fabulous, a giant splotch of energy and colour that illuminated the entire Piazza as people stood in awe or rummaged for their phones to capture the sensation.  

I had heard that the Baptistery was to undergo restoration work for the  next 18 months, and expected to see the scaffolding camouflaged as they do on important monuments and palazzi, but had not expected it to be so gay. Laudomia Pucci, son of Emilio Pucci, had promoted the idea to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Florence as the Fashion Centre. In 1957 Emilio had designed a foulard of the Baptistery in rose and orange and it seemed a great opportunity to combine an artistic installation with the Moda celebration. Remember his fab designs in the 60’s and 70’s which have made such a comeback now. The current installation certainly caught everyone by surprise.

Gates of Paradise

Gates of Paradise

The 2000m fabric cover will draw more attention to the Baptistery which is mostly appreciated for its fabulous East side doors by Ghiberti which Michelangelo described as “fit to be the gates of Paradise”. The originals are in the Museum of the Cathedral and I was one of the early birds to see them on their first day after restoration.Florence Baptistery doors Unbelievable precision and detail in the gilded bronze panels reflect Ghiberti’s devotion and expertise, in the 27 years it took to create them.

Many visitors to Florence don’t realise that the interior of the Baptistery is also worthy of a visit as the pavement and the vault are beautifully decorated with 13th century mosaics illustrating stories from the Old testament, especially the life of St John the Baptist. St John is the patron Saint of Florence and soon the city will be celebrating again as the 24th June is his name day.

Baptistery interior

An interior ablaze with golden mosaics

Florence Baptistery interior




The Luna park atmosphere continued as I crossed the Arno, and my eye caught a floating car, a cute Fiat 500 ‘bambino’, and a small caravan bobbing alongside a large iron posted bed…what was going on? A circus on water? Closer investigation showed various props that were to be used in the evening’s festivities.

This was not the only treat as a dinner had been organised on the Santa Trinita bridge for the selected elite of the Fashion industry and non. Andrea Boccelli entertained them with his melodic Opera followed by a spectacular circus-like performance with fireworks on the Arno river. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see it, but heard people raving about it and have included a photo link here of the evening’s entertainment.

Florentine Stefano Ricci was the guest of honour since he is the President of the  Florence Fashion Centre and initiator of the evening’s event. His company has created some very interesting tributes to the Art world – the first to surrealism and René Magritte, another to contemporary Scottish painter Jack Vettriano and the following a    Tribute to Uffizi Gallery – Stefano Ricci fashion house

So while we must wait some time before we see the result of the restoration work on the Baptistery, at least we will be entertained by its new stunning look. A timely task since its last clean was in 1938-1944 so the façade is somewhat encrusted with pollution and the marble requiring some consolidation work. The Museum of the Cathedral is financing the foreseen €1million 800,000 for the job and we hope to see it again in all its splendour in the Summer of 2015.Florence Duomo

The frivolity continued  with a street artists’ cheeky interpretation of  The Duke of Urbino painting pasted on a wall. The original in the Uffizi gallery by  Piero della Francesca

Duke of Urbino

Duke of Urbino in goggles!

Ps. The party is over now and the Baptistery has regrettably returned to its dignified self!

restoration Baptistery Florence baptistery cover


There are no bunnies in Corniglia!

Corniglia from San Bernardino

Corniglia a bunny paradise?

Bunnies in Corniglia? What am I talking about? It was an innocent mistake of mine, when I heard the names of each of the five villages of the Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso were easy enough but my pronunciation of Corniglia sounded more like Coniglio (bunny) Leave out the ‘r’ and change the last vowel is  all that’s needed,Corniglia church and I kept calling it that for years!

Lardarina staircase Corniglia







Besides it was a village that I rarely visited, as it is built on a high promontory and has no ferry access. The Lardarina are the never ending stairs (377 steps!) to climb from the station to the village and the same endless stairs down to its little port, with no beach area….so why go?   How wrong could I be!

Corniglia shopMain street





From my little hideaway at San Bernardino, I am forever looking down on Corniglia and since it’s  my closest village, I have spent many days exploring it in depth. It is delightfully different from the others, with a much more local feel to it and some super quality handmade products made in the region.

Since the via dell’amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola has been closed, as well Shopping Cornigliaas the trail between Manarola – Corniglia, Corniglia is getting much more attention, and lapping it up. Corniglia






Corniglia restaurant






I usually pop down each day to pick up some bread or milk, cutting into the Blue Trail  (that runs between Vernazza and Corniglia) at Prevo, the halfway mark, absorbing the great views of the coastline on the way down and relishing the perfect view of my little village on the return trek.

Main square Corniglia

Main square, waiting for the plane trees to regrow


The main square is the meeting spot for everyone, tourists and locals alike, catching up on the gossip, under the shade of the plane trees. Unfortunately the trees underwent a ‘boys pruning’ job at the start of last year and may take a few years to recover!

no wifiSabrina





Late afternoon I indulge in an aperitif at my favourite little bar, where I endorse their philosophy “We are free from wifi for our and your health. Look around there is Nature. Log out and clear your mind” In the quieter hours Sabrina is often seen relaxing with book in hand as she waits for customers.Wine Bar

In July the place is smothered in basil for the festival, every nook and cranny decorated, even prizes awarded and menus overflowing with creative suggestions.

to the seaWhen the heat gets too much, the little marina calls and swimmers enjoy a crystal clear sea while sunbathers are refreshed from the spray. The sign to take your own rubbish back up, goes to show that council workers have some rights and are not obliged to do the 300+ steps down just to empty a rubbish bin!Corniglia Marina







Corniglia sea





Rubbish sign

No garbage bins at the Marina

Corniglia marina






Designer and handcraft producers of the T shirts – Stefano and his wife embarrassingly printed hundreds of T-shirts with the villages in the wrong order!! When I pointed it out, they said fortunately most tourists don’t notice….so  check the fish T shirt to see what went wrong next time you’re here.T shirt shop

The name relates back to Roman times, “Gens Cornelia“, being the Roman family who owned the place. And despite the 377 steps, you will not be disappointed, as the local sign says. If you’re quick out of the station there is even a little bus service!

View of Manarola

View of Manarola

So now that you’ve been warned about the name, I hope you get the pronunciation right. From Corniglia station enjoy the view of Manarola before you start the hike up, and then treat  yourself to a gelati when you do get up there. If your a hiker, try the high trail Manarola via Volastra to Corniglia which will give you stunning views and get you away the crowds.