Standing room only

Lunchtime queues FlorenceFlorence council has issued new legislation to deal with the ‘continuing degradation‘ of the city from mass tourism. Action has been taken and, in particular, aimed at the top rated snack bar ‘All’Antico Vinaio‘ in Via dei Neri just behind the Uffizi Gallery. Over the past 5 years it has seen a boom in trade, largely produced via social networks. It rates so highly on TripAdvisor that tourists queue for up to an hour for the scrumptious  ‘schiacciata’ (Florentine salted and oiled flat bread) filled with delicious local produce of salami, prosciutto, vegetable and cheese assortments. Lunch

But having finally acquired the sandwich, tourists line the entire street sitting on the footpath. All’Antico Vinaio has 2 snack bars and 1 restaurant enjoying a roaring trade, while the remaining shops that line the street are suffering as food scraps lie about, pigeons swoop in, tourists visually block their passing trade, turning the street into a pretty disgusting site most of the day. Florence lunchtime police patrolSo it’s now standing room only! Council police are on patrol for a few hours each day and evening but I think it will be a lost battle. The retailers in via dei Neri were already paying for 4 vigilante to dissuade tourists from sitting along the street but it had proved largely ineffectual.

Antico Vinaio has now placed staff outside to advise clients where they may find a public bench to sit on to avoid the €500 fine, although they are relatively sparse. As my hairdresser is in the same street I did a quick reconnaissance of the area and found a lot of tourists sitting now on the steps in front of the Old Courthouse or uncomfortably standing in a grotty side street. A pity since there are loads of places to eat sandwiches in Florence but obviously not with such a high profile that social  networks have created of All’Antico Vinaio.

Previously the same Florentine Mayor, Dario Nardella, had introduced washing the steps of the churches at lunchtime to dissuade tourists from lunching at the church and to restore some sort of ‘decorum’. As the temperatures rose in the Summer the steps soon dried out and the tourists returned! No more Street food licenses are being issued in the city and none can be revoked, so the problem will continue.

The solution? Who knows? It is something of a clash of cultures as well, since Tripe stand FlorenceItalians don’t usually eat on the street, even in a hurry they sit on a stool at the tripe stand (when tourists haven’t beaten them to it!) or stand inside their lunchtime bar/cafe. Social networks have created a totally new phenomenon and the obligatory ‘selfie’ of lunch or dinner.

The mass tourism of today is difficult to manage, not just in Florence. Cinque Terre, Venice and other major cities are overwhelmed and all struggling to find solutions. I fear many tourists have now gone ‘feral’, treating Italy like a Disneyland, behaving in a way they would probably never do at home….or maybe they do!

We have had monuments and statues damaged, fountains being used for a cool dip, and recently a tourist leapt from the vaporetta in Venice into the Grand Canal as she had no ticket when Inspectors got on board! In the Cinque Terre tourists Olive tree nets 5 Terre
treated olive tree nets used for picking as hammocks, unfortunately tearing the nets as they are not meant for 80 kilo bodies! Climbing in the same fragile territory has often caused rock slides and/or injuries to the same to be saved by a voluntary health service and sometimes employing helicopter rescue services at Italian expense. Florence Council police


I suspect many tourists are oblivious to the damage they cause, and Italy incapable of visualizing and implementing measures for sustainable tourism.Florence dinnertime





So be warned and avoid the fine as the Council Police are out on patrol now so it’s standing room only!  And while I can highly recommend the schiacciata sandwiches from All’Antica Vinaio I don’t think any meal deserves to be queued for….


No bones about it – Florence exhibition

View of FlorenceThe Humans of 2015 are now just a skeleton this year in the ‘Ytalia’ Art Exhibition at Forte di Belvedere, Florence! No bones about it Florence never fails to surprise me!

As I wandered up to the Fort  I thought of the other exhibitions that had fired my passion or uninspired me, yet I always return to this fantastic location and never Spritual Guard jan Fabreget tired of the fabulous panorama.

Last year’s Jan Fabre Spiritual Guards’ had an overdose of beetles and crosses for my taste. Although I did like the gold turtle in the main square of Florence. While the Zhang Huan‘s exhibition of Buddhas ‘Soul and Matter’ had been a startling reopening to the fortress in 2013.

This year we are treated to polystyrene fiberglass bones covered in gypsum which precariously sway in the breeze and for safety and security reasons have to be tied down!

The Ytalia exhibition – presented 100 Contemporary Italian works of Art about Energy, Thoughts and Beauty to demonstrate, as the pamphlet blurb read: “how Italian Art has strongly influenced the international artistic community and has been a model to admire the perfect balance between classicism and anticlassicality, eclecticism and purism, invention and citation, immanence and transcendence.” 

Forte Belvedere entranceI have my doubts that the exhibition lived up to its promise but it was still well worth the visit.Art Exhibit Florence








Lots of beautiful marble alongside rusty iron and the geometric nature of the exhibits  lures the eye into labyrinths and techno prints reflecting Fibonacci’s sequence.

A splash of colour inside the building seems totally unconnected….

and other weird to the absurd exhibits leave me pretty flat!

Skeleton Florence


I am constantly drawn back to the panorama of Brunelleschi’s dome seen between oscillating bleached ribs and lassoed toes, or about to be blow-dried…..


Art Exhibit Florence


And the typical Tuscan view of cypress trees, olive groves and a stray castle tower at the back of the fortress, while stumbling through marble blocks much to the disdain of the Fort custodian!

So just in case you are in Florence, there is still time to see the  ‘Ytalia’ exhibition as it remains open until the 1st Oct and there are more exhibits dotted about town – the Basilica of Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti.  I would suggest Forte Belvedere any year you may be over for the view, the relaxing alfresco wine and café bar and the cheap entrance fee!


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