Two women leaving soft footprints through city streets, country roads, and green mountain paths. Two friends with backgrounds in Fine Art Restoration and Art History who share an appreciation for simple pleasures and a passion for introducing others to Florence and beyond.

Angelica Turi - Tuscan, Licensed Environmental Guide. Elizabeth Namack - American, Licensed Tour Guide for Florence and Province

Come share the journey with us! Reflections and Wanderings through Tuscany and Italy!

Friday, January 15, 2016

'See Naples and Die'

Bay of Naples 

Visiting NAPOLI - not Naples, Florida but Naples, Italy
Beyond the nitty-gritty exterior, the Southern Italian city of Naples is warm and inviting. Just be forewarned-  arm yourself with a good bit of patience and a good appetite. With a ‘non c’è problema’ nonchalance, the un-official capital of Italy’s south may even slowly win you over.

Decorated Tamborines

Not so great post war architecture....
Often Naples gets a bad rap.  There is a well-known phrase ‘see Naples and die’ and these words have been a hostage to fortune. The phrase, which has an obscure origin, (maybe even from Virgil) became popular when the Bourbon city was one of the great capitals of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, in the 18th and 19th century. The phrase was meant to convey the sense of ‘Once you’ve seen Naples, you will have seen it all and can happily die’. Goethe coins this phrase in his 1787 Italian Journey and Mark Twain also mentions it in his 1869 travel journal The Innocents Abroad.  Twain writes, “ ‘SEE Naples and die?’ Well, I do not know that one would necessarily die after merely seeing it, but to attempt to live there might turn out a little differently.”  

At times a visit to this city today doesn’t seem that far off from Twain’s apt description.  When you finally get into the right frame of mind, however, and I mean a Napoli frame of mind (which may mean allot of deep breaths and shots of limoncello), you’ll be yearning to return (and not only for the decadent sweets and its famous thick crusted pizza topped with mozzarella di bufala).

Time for a passeggiata.
Caste dell'Ovo (photo: wikepedia)

The area around Castel dell’Ovo is a great place to stay. It is a nice, safe part of the city and hotels and bed and breakfasts abound for every budget. You can easily walk to many of the city’s tourist attractions from here. Recently the city has closed this area to car-traffic and it becomes a delightful place to take an evening passeggiata with the locals and on the weekends. Castel dell’Ovo looms in the distance as this neighborhood’s landmark. The pale gold castle, rising from the sea, marks the spot of the original Greek town. The castle is named for an egg- ovo in Napolitan dialect. One legend says that Virgil enclosed an egg in a vase and the vase in a case and had the case suspended inside the castle, where somewhere, inside the thick walls, it is still standing upright.

Using candles to see underground Naples
There are many different sites to visit in Naples, but one place that shouldn’t be missed (especially for families), is Underground Naples, Napoli Sotterranea. Exploring the eerie, dark corridors and spaces up to forty meters underground is an incredibly unique experience. Greeks and Romans up through the centuries built and used these passages for many purposes. Aqueducts and later cisterns were used from ancient times until the late nineteenth-century. No wonder Naples was always invested with various plagues and cholera, the citizens often ended up drinking contaminated water from these cisterns. In fact, curiously there is an entire area of town called Sanità, where supposedly it was a healthier area to live.
Santa Maria della Sanità

Underground Cistern
Making sure no-one gets lost in the underground passages 

WWII left-overs found in the Underground
Being an important port city, during World War II Naples was heavily bombed. To save themselves the people found refuge in these underground spaces. Thousands of people made these corridors their homes for months, even years, until it was safe to return to normal living. It is hard to imagine, but these secret passageways lead miles and miles underground, even all the way to Pompei.

A wine cellar underneath a Convent!

Everyone tends to by-pass Naples and make a non-stop for the Amalfi coast. Granted, if you are travelling in Italy with limited time, I would do the same. 

Red pepper decorations.
A charming street in the Chiaia neighborhood.

However, there is more to Naples than meets the initial eye (the eye seeing crazy traffic, trash and graffiti). So keep your eye out for more on this vibrant city and the surrounding area in future posts!

And how can I not end a post dedicated to Naples by paying homage to Pino Daniele, the great singer from this area who recently passed away.  Napule è - Enjoy.

- Post by Elizabeth
- Photos by Elizabeth (except for one from Wikipedia)
- Video with Pino Daniele: youtube

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Five 'Other Greats' in Florence

Saturnia- Southern Tuscany
We are back after a busy fall touring and showing guests magnificent Italy.  Angelica was accompanying small groups in the Dolomites, Liguria and Southern Tuscany. Elizabeth was busy in Florence, Southern Tuscany and Umbria.
A favorite restaurant in Montalcino
That is why we weren’t sitting around on our couch, sipping strong coffee and writing. Of course, that would have been nice too! We must announce that posts will continue to be more sporadic from now on. Angelica is studying to get her sommelier’s license (the final exam after a three year course) and Elizabeth is preparing some interesting itineraries (which hopefully will be future post material).

Chianti Views

So, basically, we are not ending our virtual dialogue, but we will not be able to post as frequently as before.  Don’t worry, however, we love sharing with you when we have a reason- curious meanderings, newly discovered places, and special tour offerings.

After five years of blogging our paths are leading us into some interesting new directions in the New Year. Of course will keep you informed!
Yummies to Taste in Lucca

Ilaria del Carretto's Tomb by
 Jacopo della Quercia in Lucca

In the meantime I recently had someone ask, after seeing the main museums of the Uffizi Gallery  and the Accademia, what would be my five 'shouldn’t be missed places' to visit in Florence. I have given this some thought and here is what I have come up with :

Five  “Other Greats" to Visit while in Florence

1.     Museo del Opera del Duomo 
      (Visit the Cathedral Complex – Baptistery, Crypt, Cathedral, and then the Museum of the Cathedral)
2.     Bargello Museum
3.     San Marco Monastery
4.     Palazzo Vecchio- taking one of their Secret Room tours
5.     Palazzo Pitti Complex

Donatello's Sexy David in the Bargello

Bargello Museum

Of course there are so many incredible places you can visit in Florence, or in Tuscany, or in Italy! In Florence alone, there are over 60 historic or religious monuments!

We invite you to create a customized itinerary with Italian Footprints.

-       Post by Elizabeth

Monday, September 21, 2015

Indian Summer Walk around Renaissance Florence

There are still some warm summer days left in September here in Tuscany. What better way to enjoy it, than a walk in the countryside?

Enjoy these images of a morning walk near the suburb of Settignano. Yes I got a little lost. But sometimes you just need to remember to breathe in and breathe out, and everything will work out.

Italy- olives and castles

Settignano alley
Way-side shrines found on the trail
Shrine detail
Capers growing out from the wall

Settignano is where the stone workers worked, and one can follow the Stone Worker's Trail. Maybe even Michelangelo walked here... We know that he lived in this little village for a number of years as a young child, with a simple stone mason family...!

Plaque regarding Michelangelo's relationship with the stone carvers

The path may divide but you will find your way.

Tired but happy.

- Post and Photos by Elizabeth