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!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fall 2014 footsteps...

Dear Friends,

We are back in town, for a bit!

Florence's Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore
My summer vacation was filled with sun and sea on the picturesque Island of Elba. Located off the coast of Tuscany, it takes about one hour to get there by ferry. 
Capo Bianco beach on a very windy day- no people...!

Lido di Capoliveri

We, on the other hand, went to the coin operated laundry...

Our footsteps this fall will be taking us, in addition to tours in our beloved Florence, to different regions of Italy –

Mountain hamlet San Vigilio di Marebbe
- Trentino (where the stunning Dolomite mountain range is located)

Picturesque coastline in Liguria
- Liguria (hiking the 5-terre footpaths)

One of Saint Francis' sacred spots- the Eremo degli Caceri

- Umbria (the birthplace of Saint Francis)

Maremma countryside

Magliano in Toscana

- Southern Tuscany (the fabulous hill towns and explorations of the Maremma area)

- Lazio (Rome!)

Ah yes... you are correct... what you see is mozzarella in the shape of Elba in a sea of tomatoes!

Each area has its own special places, cuisine, art and traditions. These subtle differences make travelling in Italy so fun and unique and different from other countries. A mountain range made all the difference in the world centuries of years ago and specific regional specialties can be noted, often because of these natural geographic configurations. Areas of Liguria, for example, were rather isolated with access only by sea, until the advent of the train and the autostrada... 

For the moment savour some photos from these areas and you can look forward to some specifics about these different places in future posts.

In the meantime, the harvest season is going to start shortly in many areas of the country! So search out a great bottle of Italian red or white wine, have a toast, and think of Italy!


- Photos and post by Elizabeth 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summertime and the living is easy.

August 2014
Enjoy the summer holidays! 
Wherever you may be and whatever you may do!
See you in September!
Baci e abbracci!
Angelica & Elizabeth 


Monday, July 28, 2014

The race is over....

(photo: nytimes)

Dear Friends,

Finally a bit of fresh air in Italy. And not just the sunny, salty, air which one can find at the sea.

An Italian, Vincenzo Nibali, has won the Tour de France! The first Italian winner of the famous French cycling race in 16 years! This is a huge morale boost for the country and for Italian cycling. And indeed, it is nice to hear some positive news for a change!

(photo: nytimes)

The last Italian who won the race was Marco Pantani (which by the way, is also my married last name). However, my Pantani has no relation to the famous cyclist (the only two wheels I can get my hubbie to ride is a scooter!).

The new winner is twenty-something Vincenzo Nibali, originally from Sicily. He left the island in his teens and went and trained with an amateur team in the Tuscan hills. He turned professional and kept moving up the ranks and the ladders. And now he has won the coveted Tour de France. It is a proud moment for Italy. Viva Nibali!

Post by Elizabeth, Photos by NY Times

Monday, July 14, 2014

Georgetown University's Villa Le Balze in Fiesole (Florence)

Villa Le Balze
The other month I had the good fortune to experience a private tour of Georgetown University’s Villa Le Balze, which is located in a nearby town to Florence, Fiesole.  My good friend Karen works for this prestigious University stateside. She was in Italy on business. I had heard that the Villa had some beautiful gardens and was seeped in history. Indeed, my expectations were completely fulfilled, and then were exceeded…

Villa living room
Photograph Margaret Strong

What a wonderful experience for students to have the possibility to study on these premises for a semester or two.  Students live in some of the old rooms of the Villa, which have been converted into a dorm-like structure, complete with on-site dining and a small library. There is a public bus service quite close, but the Villa’s location is not in the center of town. The Villa is located on a steep hill right below the rather prestigious suburb of Fiesole. In fact now it makes more sense to me that the Villa’s name is ,“Le Balze”, meaning the “The Cliffs”.

The Villa was originally owned by Charles Augustus Strong and dates to the beginning of the 20th century. Strong was part of the stronghold of wealthy Americans who had a passion for Europe and in particular Florence (think Grand Tour…).

Great views of Florence!
After the death of his wife, Elizabeth Rockefeller, (notice the last name….), Strong moved to Florence permanently, taking with him his young daughter Margaret.  During his life he suffered from ill health, which kept him confined to a wheelchair.  A wealthy ex-pat, who was shy and intellectual, Strong was known in his cultural circles for books on philosophy and low key entertaining. He frequently invited guests within the walls of the Villa, where one can imagine long engaging conversations about Plato or the meaning of existence at sunset, overlooking the birthplace of the Renaissance!  

A small sculptured grotto

The building and the spectacular gardens were designed by two English architects, Cecil Pinsent and Geoffrey Scott. The Villa is composed of two main buildings, a number of formal gardens (with stone sculptures and other outdoor decorative elements), and a two acre olive grove. All this was built on quite a steep slope, at places up to 50 degrees! Therefore the architects created narrow terraces, designed to make the at times treacherous space, more accessible.  It is because of these reasons that some areas of the garden can not be accessed today by casual visitors.

Elizabeth on the retaining wall terrace

Infact, a large retaining wall was built to hold in place the main building, which also has incorporated underneath a large water storage system. In the past this afforded the Villa with much needed water for the gardens, especially in the warmer summer months.

From the Villa description it reads, “House and garden are engaged in a complex dialogue with interpenetrating spaces and vistas most frequently terminating in a garden feature or ornament, continuously provoking the viewer’s curiosity with a glimpse of the unexplored”.

What a pergolato!

Strong’s daughter, Margaret, inherited the Villa upon the death of her father. Empty for many years, among other things it was occupied during World War II by German commanders and served as a military headquarters. For this reason the building suffered damaged by Allied offensive action. Luckily, however, the Villa was not totally destroyed.

A quaint corner of the garden

After the war Margaret secured a small staff on the premises, to ensure that the building would not fall into total disrepair. Finally in 1979 she decided to donate the Villa, the gardens, and all the contents held within to Georgetown University. The University has been carefully restoring and preserving this historical space ever since, now known as the Charles Augustus Strong Center for Scholarship.

Side entrance to the Villa
The gardens can be visited during the work-week for a small donation to the University. One could easily combine this experience with a morning hike in the nearby picturesque hills or a visit to charming Fiesole.

One more idea for visiting “another” Florence, the next time you come!

- Post and photos by Elizabeth (information garnered from the Internet)