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!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Visiting Siena and its Districts (The Contrada)

Il Campo

You can’t visit Siena without coming across signs of distinct neighborhoods in the historic center, called Contrade.  Siena is a rather small city (today’s population about 90,000) and in the historic center there are seventeen historical Contrada’s! To give you a better idea of the size of Siena, in nearby Florence, a city of about four times the size, there are only four historical districts!

Quaint street in Siena

Another quaint street- notice Contrada light post in the upper left corner

So basically this means there is allot of Contrada activity going on during any and every visit to Siena (and especially the Contrada activities leading up to the spectacular Palio horserace).

Entering the Selva Contrada

Not being a local (and also being a foreigner) makes Siena’s particular Contrada tradition one of the more fascinating and interesting aspects of the city.

What do I like best about the Contrade?

Street near the Onda Contrada
1. The diversity of their names
Well, there are 17! Here they are in alphabetical order, not to create any rivalry!
Aquila (Eagle), Bruco (Caterpillar), Chiocciola (Snail),Civetta (Little Owl), Drago (Dragon), Giraffa (Giraffe), Istrice (Crested Porcupine), Leocorno (Unicorn), Lupa (She-Wolf), Nicchio (Seashell), Oca (Goose), Onda (Wave), Pantera (Panther), Selva (Forest), Tartuca (Tortoise), Torre (Tower), Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram

Which ones are my favorites? Well, my dear friend is part of The Seashell, and I am partial to the The Wave (for personal reasons, basically because I love the ocean and also because one year I was able to see, first-hand, the blessing of their horse before the Palio horserace). However, I also like the sound of the Giraffe, the Goose, and the Unicorn, and who wouldn’t want to be part of the Caterpillar?!

Aquila Contrada

Aren't these lamp posts just fabulous?

2. Contrada signage all over the place
Anywhere and everywhere in Siena there is something going on in at least ONE district. Old-fashioned wooden lamp-posts get put out on the streets to light up nights when a Contrada is organizing something. The street lights are painted with the Contrada’s colors and with their respective symbol. Flags are hanging out the windows. On the corners of buildings, signage indicates when you are moving from one district to another.

Home of the Snail Contrada

3. The “neighborhood“ gathering point is the Contrada
I like to think of the Contrada as a local community club. You pay dues as you can afford. There usually is a volunteer clubhouse where you can socialize and get a coffee, there are group dinners, outings, after-school programs, children’s activities. If you are in need, the Contrada will help you out. It is your hood! One summer evening I saw hundreds of people eating dinner outside in the streets of the Goose Contrada. They had organized a dinner, which was followed by a local fashion show.

4. Flags and drumming
When walking through the streets you can often come across kids and adults practicing flag waving routines and drumming. This is part of the Contrada history. Today groups practice for Palio celebrations.
Selva Contrada Fountain

5. Getting “Baptized” into your Contrada
In Siena, you don't get baptized only in the Catholic Church but you also get ‘Baptized’ into your District. This is like a ritual baptism, which happens once a year on the Feast Day of each Contrada's saint. This tradition began rather recently, as more and more people moved from the historical center to the outskirts of town, but still felt strong ties to the family Contrada. There is a fountain, font and church for this purpose in every district.  When a Contrada Baptism is going on everyone parades around the streets wearing scarves of the district, often with pacifiers on them! And, of course, a big lunch will follow!

Inside the Cathedral with all the Contrada Flags Hanging

6. Finally, the relationship of the Contrada and how it is intertwined with the Palio horse race and the city.
This reason could be a separate post entirely. There wouldn’t be the Palio horse race with out the Contrada. The Contrada are inter-weaved into the framework of the race and they also are so important for the history of the city. No Contrada, No Siena.

Where the Horse is kept before the Race in the Selva District

- Post and Photos by Elizabeth
- Video from You- Tube, videoturysta

Monday, March 9, 2015

Treasures of Florence, The Tuscan Countryside & Liguria's Cinque Terre... Come Explore Them with Us !

Tuscan Farmhouse

Spring is around the corner, and I think we all want to dust off the winter and start moving around a bit more OUTSIDE!!
Ancient Abbey of Sant'Antimo near Montalcino

Getting out of the city- exploring nature and what is offered in small towns and villages in this beautiful season is what makes living in Italy fun!

If you happen to be in Tuscany on vacation and you would like to get to know the treasures of this  territory or learn more about the family power of the great Medici.... What better way than combining a visit of Florence with an excursion in the countryside ?

Make sure you include it in your agenda- one or more day excursions with Angelica. She will take you to visit charming hamlets, castles, villas and gardens (the whole regions is dotted with them) or else to special places on the outskirts of Florence.

The sword in the rock, San Galgano

The Val D'Orica

San Galgano Church, south of Siena

Are you a wine connoisseur ?
Do you want to walk on an UNESCO ancient pathway ?

Angelica can organize day tours in 5-Terre, Chianti, San Gimignano, Montalcino, taking you to prestigious wineries too !
Walking in the Val D'Orcia

One of our favorite places is the Val D 'Orcia area. It is a World Heritage Site and has been known since Roman times for hot springs, as it is located at the foot of an extinct volcano, Mount Amiata. The medieval route to Rome, "the Frank's Way" passed through this area, and the Val D'Orcia is probably one of the most wonderful places in Italy to walk. Here ancient and modern pilgrims can stop and soak their feet in the hot water, in small villages such as Bagni Vignoni.  We can organize easy or moderate walks in this area. And why not combine a walk with a visit to a winery or a cheese factory? Stay two or three nights in this area and your soul will be rejuvenated and your heart will sing!

Palazzo Vecchio

If you prefer to remain in the main capital of Tuscany contact Elizabeth for the most outstanding guided visit of Florence ( 3 hrs ) and its art works. She will take you into the heart of the Medieval town with its deep secrets...

Ancient Tower Houses in Florence
As we are already doing for a number of people in 2015, Angelica & Elizabeth can organize tailor made itineraries for you, your family and your friends, with your own car or with a minivan and chauffeur.

Please inquire directly... and happy travels!!

- Post by Angelica
- Photos Angelica & Elizabeth

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Luxury Chianti Villa Cooking May 2015

There may be snow on the ground in many parts of the world, but the days ARE getting slightly longer.

It is time to think about that much needed vacation. Envision yourself lounging by the pool, surrounded by shimmering olive trees and fragrant bushes of lavender and rosemary. Envision sipping sumptuous red wine with friends, as the sunset turns the sky magnificent shades of pink, blue and red. Learn something new- like creating home-made pici pasta or the most fab meat sauce ever.  Get away from it all, turn off all devices, and figure out why the Italian lifestyle is called by many “la dolce vita”.

Why not come to Tuscany this May?

Elizabeth is very excited to be accompanying a culinary week in May 2015!


Where – unpack your bags in a Villa near Panzano in Chianti, in the heart of the world famous Chianti Classico wine district, about 45 minutes from Florence.

When - the best time of year for traveling to Italy - 23 – 30 May 2015

Who – Interested foodies who speak English

Size - Small group guaranteed departure - maximum 10-12 people total

Included –
three hands-on cooking lessons
delicious dinners and lunches
local wines
morning maid service for breakfasts and room straightening
a visit to a wine estate & a local saffron farm
a day excursions to San Gimignano and Siena
a day excursion to the wine towns of Montalcino and Montepulciano & the cheese town of Pienza
a great guide 

Time to –
walk down country lanes
go to nearby villages for shopping
sit under olive trees
pick wild flowers
pause and reflect

Come along 23 – 30 May 2015

Price per person in double room € 2400

Price per person for non cooking guests in double room 
€ 2090

Interested in more info? 
The link is below and please don’t hesitate to contact us:
Elizabeth Namack – Italian Footprints, in collaboration with Stendhal Tours

Post by Elizabeth, photos Elizabeth and from Stendhal TO

Monday, February 9, 2015

More wine in Val d'Aosta, Liguria & Piedmont

Here are some more Italian regions, that specialize in, guess what...

incredible WINES!

Val d' Aosta 

There are numerous good wines in this small mountainous corner on north west of Italy.

At the foot of Mount Blanc (a little over 1200 meters above sea level) there are the highest vineyards of Europe that produce Blanc de Mourgex de la Salle made with the local Prie Blanc. 

Here, in a such cold area the 'fillossera' never arrived, so vines are not draft but planted directly.
There are a number of local vines Myiolet, Aymavilles, Premetta and Fumin. Il Petit rouge characterizes the central region.

One great local red is the so called Donnas. It is made with picoutener (nebbiolo, the same grape of Barolo).


Liguria is one of my favorite regions, and I can often be found here, leading walking groups up and down the steep, challenging trails. It is incredible to think that wine is also produced here.

DOC wines are: Colli di Luni, white or red; Colline di Levanto (for red)

But certainly the Cinqueterre is the highlight of the area.

In Cinque Terre, you find the mineral and sapid white wine well known for centuries and made with the local grapes (albarolo, bosco and vermentino). A memorable dessert wine, sciacchetra, is made here also. It is very sweet. Local lemon liquor can also be found.


Even though I am Tuscan (DOC!), for many good reasons, Piedmont is probably the most important wine region of Italy.

There are 16 DOCG and many DOC.

The grape of the territory is nebbiolo that produces five DOCG wines: Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, Ghemme and Roero.

Barolo is consider of the greatest Italian wine. It is made south of Asti, in an area called Le Langhe. Here we find the concept of terroir, so there are small holdings that grow unique parcels of grape that is reflected in the wine. The alcool content is 13%.

Other rappresentative wines of the area: Barbera d'Asti (a spicy elegant wine), Dolcetto superiore,
Moscato d'Asti and Asti Spumante, an interesting red (made with dolcetto, a local grape).

And not to be forgotten are the local white vines: Arnais, Cortese and the DOCG Erbaluce,  which make a delicate white, as well as a raisin wine.

- Post by Angelica
- Photos by Angelica and Elizabeth