Sunday, August 23, 2020

Italian street shrines

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Pietre Dure: the art of hard stones

Florence offers a  view into the ancient art of
Pietre Dure

Not a painting.    Stone Art

   Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure

Via degli Alfani 78 - 50121 Firenze
Perhaps more familiar are the artistic techniques of mosaic, using small pieces of cut stone or marquetry, applying pieces of wood veneer to form patterns and pictures, but Pietre Dure is celebrated in Florence.
The museum is housed in a renovated, historic building that wraps around a central garden.   The traditional floor plan was altered exposing a 2 story gallery from the entrance of the museum.

Without the large crowds in other museums, you can enjoy your visit at your own pace.  There was no tour offered and the signage is mostly in Italian.  However,  in every room there were laminated information sheets for visitors to use as they examine the pieces in each room.   

But you may be too busy marveling at the colors and intricate designs on the tables, bowls and vases to read the descriptions supplied.     The walls are covered with stone 'paintings'.  From a distance they appear to be painted figures, animals and lush forest scenes.  But everything is created with very thin pieces of stone that fit together like a puzzle.

Some of the typical motifs used

The second floor houses the ancient machinery and tools that are used to create Pietre dure art. A  film explained the process simply and described how designs are created, patterns made and stone cut to fit exactly into each pattern.  The museums' You Tube posts gives you close up, color views 

For details on this detailed process another  You Tube  video covers  the process from selection of each stone, cutting and fitting into the intricate pattern to the final touches.

You get see the tools employed in the cases as well as stone samples.

This wooden vice holds a very thin slice of marble.   A wire saw will cut out the next design
piece that will be added to the outline

Most walls are covered with works that appear to be paintings but are ALL completed with different colored stone to create each piece.  The work is seamless with no indication that it is not one single piece of stone.

Check with the museum for open days and times.

 Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure  Via degli Alfani 78 - 50121FFirenze   

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Museum of the Liberation of Rome

Museo storico della Liberazione, Rome  another unique experience to discover- beyond the tourist sites.

The museum recording the liberation of Rome from the Nazi occupation is housed in a non descript apartment building not far from the Basilica of St John Laterna.

Here you will find records of the Italian Resistance in 1944 during the WWII German occupation of Rome 9/11/1943 to 6/4/1944.  

Exterior of via Tasso 145, Rome  photo from web site

At this location the SS detained and tortured captured members of the Italian Resistance.  Since 1955 the former cells and offices preserve original leaflets, posters and documents that create the record of events during the occupation.    Photographs, recordings and some films from this time are on display throughout the museum.

Historical Museum of the Liberation Struggle of Rome Prisons


The staff member on duty the day I visited.  What stories he may have to share

The museum layout uses the original apartment floor plans    Your audio guide takes you through the rooms on each of the 3 floors.  Tour at your own pace there is much to read and learn in the 19 rooms.   

                      What goes through your mind if you have been captured by the Nazi's
                                                 and brought to this stark building?

The rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors during the time the SS occupied the building,  'housed over 2,000 citizens, soldiers, partisans, who were detained, interrogated and tortured'. 1    In several cells you can see the prisoners faint messages scratched on the walls.


Many of the rooms have documents, photos, posters and art work from the occupation.   Most of the descriptions and details are in Italian but often there are short notations in English.

Photos and details of detained prisoners are carefully displayed.   
Their ultimate fate is listed for many of the detainees.  These are all sad rooms.   

 Several examples of prisoners' clothing and 
  personal property are on display


                                                         Bread, Peace, Freedom

                            Black and white photo from public events and a few of mass gathering 
                                                  for Hitler or Mussolini were fascinating


Not far from the Termini train station, close to the basilica of St. John Lateran

The museum offered free admission and welcomes donations.  
Several books and publications are available for purchase.
Check with the museum on access to the research room and materials.

Consult the museum's web site to confirm days and times open.
museum web site
 Phone: +39 06 700 3866
Address:  Via Tasso 145, Rome

Sources for statistics and dates:   www.itww.museoliberazion;  Wikipedia; the Museum Narrates by Antonio Parisella

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Made in Italy, a guide to artisans throughout Italy

Made in Italy, by Laura Morelli

We all may be arm-chair travelers this year, but we can still travel throughout Italy in the pages of Made in Italy. 

Part Italian history lesson, part insider travel guide this compact volume takes your inside the towns and villages of Italy where traditional handmade traditions flourish.

An award-winning author of Art-historical fiction and writer of a guidebook series, Authentic Arts guidebooks,  Morelli has updated her popular series for the third time and gives the reader up-to-date suggestions on how to experience Italy via the people who make the Italian items recognized all over the world.

Covering 5 regions  in Italy from the North to the tip of the boot, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, this is a wonderful exploration of towns and cities a traveler will be enticed to add to their next itinerary. 

                                                        Sample of the map for the NE region

Helpful maps of each region assist planning the cities to explore while traveling between regions.  Each chapter includes the history of an area highlighting the particular handcrafted and artistic items each region is known for, often detailing how a product is made.   In addition, Morelli includes detailed information on specialty food items, vinegars and wines you can discover on your travels. 

Not only shoppers will enjoy this easy read, but travelers may find new ways to ‘experience’ Italy by interacting with locals, visiting a studio and leaning about skills perfected over decades to create items that are truly ‘Italian’.
“One of the many things that make Italy great, is their traditional handmade items that join the past with today.” a quote from her book

Finely crafted violins from Cremona


You know about the lace makers in Burano, but have you seen the pupie marionettes in Sicily or the paper makers in Amalfi.

Sicily:   pupie
Amalfi hand made Carta (paper)

You can watch women in Sardinia hand weave certini or admire the carved stone in the shops in Lecce, Puglia.   Some of the many skilled passed from one generation to the next

In a world filled with mass produced products it is refreshing to find craftspeople creating stunning jewelry, fine leather goods, pottery, carved wood, nativity pieces for the Presepe, perfumes from ancient recipes and so much more. 
On your next trip to Italy support a local artist.   All the new places you can experience on a trip Home to Italy!

Wood carving in  Legno
The author has compiled a list of recommended artisans and shops, Artisans of Italy, available to readers of Made in Italy, available on Amazon

Morelli has a PhD. from Yale, has written for National Geographic Traveler, USA Today and Italy Magazines and has published award winning novels including The Gondola Maker and the Painter’s Apprentice.  Her new work, The Giant, is available now.  all photos are the property of Laura Morelli    

Friday, May 29, 2020

Italy: closed for months but locals became very innovative!

Italians Became Creative during the shut down

Italians have stoically followed the directives of their regional governments to stay at home since early March and finally have started to return to what will become the new normal.  

Some worker were able to tele-commute from home while 
non-essential businesses, hotels, restaurants, cafes, museums, historic sites and even the Vatican closed. 

Not a tourist in site, Florence Photo credit:  Sheila Ford

Photo by Sheila Ford
Photo by Sheila Ford

Businesses depending on tourism and critically hurt when the world stopped traveling, hotels closed, restaurants and cafes only offered take away.    

A substantial part of the Italian economy is dependent on visitors and even international students. Without the constant flow of travelers to fill hotels, enjoy the restaurants and cafes or book tours, it became financially difficult for businesses to remain open.

Italians have become very resourceful during the stay at home order, creating new ways to market their products, connect with clients and promote future projects.    Some of these new business ideas may become a permanent part of future marketing.

Zoom has quickly become the go-to method to remain relevant to clients and reach new prospects in the virtual classroom or showroom.    

Instead of a palazzo outside of Lecce, Cook in Puglia offers live interactive cooking lessons via zoom.  Students obtain all ingredients prior to the meeting and prepare dishes along with the instructor Yle Sambati from their home kitchens.  

Wine appreciation classes with Michele Passero offers 10 live zoom sessions   You can learn about wines and how to enjoy then, from the comfort of your home.  Register with Cook in Puglia.  

You can also register for Italian conversation classed the will cover travel, food, cinema, music and shopping.  The 60 minute classes are kept small, 10 per class and offered in morning or afternoons.  Private groups can also be arranged.  Contact Yle for all details.

The Beehive   in Rome has been welcoming visitors to the ancient city since 1992.  Expats Steve and Linda offer boutique hostel accommodations near the central train station.   This not the typical hostel and appeals to all ages.  

The in house cafe is often the site for cooking events and family style dinners during the week.  Pizza and Pasta making classes have been offered as well.  

Linda offers insider tours to share her in depth knowledge of Rome.    Ask a local if you want to know about a city, you can learn much more than a tour book ever offers. 

Due to the worldwide pandemic the Beehive temporarily closed, and offered Gift Cards for future stays.   unique program that some other hotels adopted. Guest would prepay for a future stay, helping the beehive with cash flow while the city was closed.  When travelers can return to Italy again guests will enjoy a stay during a future stay.

During the closure of the Beehive you could follow cooking lessons by Steve on You Tube.    

The cafe at the Beehive serves meals and often does cooking classes.

MailboxEtc #212 is accustom to tourists dropping in to ship their treasures home as well as the countless students who study in Florence each year.    With the closure of most if not all international study programs in March quickly followed by the suspension of most travel to Italy, the partners found new ways to
 keep shipping packages.

Collaborating with other stores in Florence, Mailbox Etc will pick up the items you select from the online offerings of olive oil, cookies, candies, pasta and other treats package your items and ship them direct to your or as a gift.

If you cannot visit Italy now, you can easily have your favorite treats shipped direct.  Contact via email:  

Do you miss any of your favorite Italian products?

Italian Stories arranges visits with artisans throughout Italy for visitors to experience how Italian fine products are created.  Experiencing Italy through her crafts and art takes you beyond a tourist.

While Italy was closed, Italian Stories brought craftsmen and artisans to world wide audiences through a series of online 
video visits shared by Eleanor Odorzzi .  

You can tour many studios and learn about the people who create fine Italian products on the Face Book feature:
Il Caffe in Laboratorio


Large numbers of travelers may not return to Italy until later this year.   Until we can return to Italy, we can find innovative ways to assist their recovery.    This may be the perfect time to shop online for an authentic Italian product, take an online virtual tour or book a future stay with a local business.