Ligurian Gardens, the new network

If you’re planning a visit to Italy, and are looking for something different than the usual paths, we highly recommend to take a look at the new network Ligurian Gardens. It proposes an itinerary of parks that were created in Liguria between the Renaissance period and the 20th Century. Not only a botanical and landscape tour then, but also historical and cultural, Ligurian Gardens touches locations from Savona to Tigullio which overlook the sea and can be visited in any time of the year, even in winter.

The first of these are the Gardens of Villa della Pergola in Alassio, Savona, which cover a surface of 22,000 sq m. Renowned for its exotic flora and evergreen Mediterranean vegetation, this park was restored in the late 1870s by General Montagu McMurdo and his wife Lady Susan Sarah Napier. Today there are over 32 varieties of wisteria recreating romantic pergolas all around the gardens and a botanical garden with the Path of Senses crossing it. These gardens are open on Saturdays and Sundays from March to October, only by admission guided tours.

At Pegli, near Genoa, one can, instead, find the 19th-century park of Villa Durazzo-Pallavicini and a small botanical garden. Designed by set designer Michele Canzio in the 1840s, the park is highly theatrical and has been organized as a series of scenes forming a play with a prologue and three acts. For this reason, everything from the buildings to the lake, from the waterfalls to the statues are fundamental for the scenes. From November to March the park is open only on weekends from 10 am to 5 pm, from April to September daily, except Mondays, from 9.30 am to 7 pm and in the month of October  only until 6 pm.

On the hills of the Val Polcevera, near Sant’Olcése sits the 18th-century Villa Serra in Comago. The park extends itself for 9 hectares along the serpentine banks of the Rio Comago. Typical of 18th-century parks, here one can find rare examples of redwood trees, tulip trees, magnolias, cedar trees and pagoda-trees. Open daily, except on Monday mornings, in January and February from 10 am to 5 pm, in March from 10 am to 6 pm, in April and May from 9 am to 7 pm, from June to September from 9 am to 8 pm, in October from 10 am to 6 pm and in November and December from 10 am to 5 pm.

On the coastal road to Portofino, one can find the 14th-century Cervara Abbey, also known as the Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte. What was once the vegetable garden of the Benedictine monks is today a monumental Italian Renaissance garden extending over two levels. With a breathtaking view over the Gulf of Tigullio and the inlets of Paraggi and Portofino, this garden is truly unique. On the lower level, hedges of boxwood surround the 17th-century putto marble fountain whilst grapevines frame pergolas and a centuries-old wisteria covers an enormous arbour. On the upper level of the garden, columns are covered with fragrant star jasmine, bougainvillea and bignonia. Here one may find colourful bird-of-paradise flowers, citrus trees, pine trees, an ancient pink pepper tree and an extremely rare pink caper. For a guided tour of both the abbey and garden there is a toll-free number.

Another pearl is Villa Durazzo in Santa Margherita Ligure. Today a museum, it includes the two villas, Durazzo-Centurione and San Giacomo, and the 3 hectare 17th-century park with an Italian garden overlooking the gulf. The oldest part of this park is the little Citrus Garden located on the terraces above the sea, whilst the Italian garden was developed in the 19th century with geometrical box-tree hedges embellished by cycads, roses and several varieties of camellias. Along the slopes of the hill one can find the Romantic English wood with an impressive mingling of exotic and Mediterranean flora including palm trees, Holm-oaks, cypresses, camphor trees, lime trees and pine trees. Recently restored is the Centurione Princes’ Secret Garden, a small jewel of this park. Villa Durazzo is open daily in summer from 9 am to 7 pm and in winter from 9 am to 5 pm.

Posted in Events in Liguria, Genoa, Historic houses and gardens, Liguria, Not Only Tuscany, Savona | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Schiacciata alla Fiorentina: The Soft, White Queen of Carnival

01 Schiacciata alla Fiorentina

The Schiacciata alla Fiorentina is certainly one of the symbols of carnival in Florence. With flour, sugar, eggs  and milk, this traditional Florentine cake evokes memories of mum’s simple, homemade cooking, yet soft and savoury, it is sure to amaze your taste buds.

02 Schiacciata alla Fiorentina photo credits Cakes & Co. Bakery Lab

A sweet delicacy of the carnival period, this cake is mainly prepared in Florence. Its origins are lost in the mists of time. There is, in fact, no precise birth date, for this cake. The only thing we are certain of is that it is an ancient recipe and that its poor and simple ingredients, yet full taste, indicate it to be deeply rooted in the local cooking tradition.

03 Schiacciata alla Fiorentina

The ritual of preparing the Schiacciata in a precise period of the year goes back to the tradition of cooking ‘fatter’ dishes before the ‘leaner’ Lent that separated Carnival from Easter. However, today the Schiacciata alla Fiorentina is a cake that can be eaten all year round.

04 Schiacciata alla Fiorentina @littlemisshealth

In the original recipe, the fat ingredient was lard, or even pork crackling, and for this reason the cake earned the term “Stiacciata Unta”, the ‘greasy’ schiacciata. Nowadays, one uses butter or, for a lighter touch, Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. How ever it is made, it is of primary importance that the cake never grows more than 3 cm in height and be covered in icing sugar and the Florentine fleurs-de-lis, the crest of the city of Florence, be recreated with cocoa powder in its centre.

05 Schiacciata alla Fiorentina @fulgram_alfa_

So why not sit back and enjoy a soft slice of Schiacciata alla Fiorentina with a glass of sweet vinsanto or a hot cup of cappuccino?


Posted in Florence, Italian food and wine, Tuscan food and wine, Tuscan traditions, Tuscany | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Carnevale di Viareggio 2018, the carnival alongside the sea

The Carnival of Viareggio

It’s that time of the year again, when the three cannon shots announce the beginning of the Carnival of Viareggio, one of the most renowned festivals of this kind both in Italy and Europe.

The 2017 edition of the Carnival of Viareggio

As by tradition, the appointments on the seaside boulevard are five, starting off on Saturday, 27th January at 4 pm, followed by a firework display. For a month, Viareggio becomes the fun factory full of colourful floats and masks, night parties, music and dancing, masked balls, theatrical reviews, food and wine events and much more.

Kim Jong-Un in the making at the Carnival of Viareggio

For every event, a special jury is asked to rank floats of both first and second category, masked groups and individual carnival masks. This year on the Viareggio floats are expected to be seen the ageless Rolling Stones, a world ‘Risk’ board game, an apocalyptical doomsday clock, a drag(on) queen, a tribute to Italian film director Federico Fellini, together with the usual political figures (obviously Putin, Trump, Kim Jong-un and Macron will not be missing).

A float of the past edition of the Carnival of Viareggio

The following events will be held on Sunday 4th February at 3 pm, on Sunday 11th February at 3 pm, on Tuesday 13th February at 5 pm, aka the Shrove Tuesday parade, and ending on Saturday 17th February (starting at 5 pm) with the nocturnal parade, at the end of which the winners are proclaimed and a spectacular firework show follows concluding the whole month of fun and frolics.

The firework display at the Carnival of Viareggio, ph. credits Andrea della Spora

Posted in Events in Versilia, Festivals and feasts in Tuscany, Folklore in Tuscany, Tuscan lifestyle, Tuscan traditions, Tuscany, Versilia, Viareggio | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Arezzo commemorates De Chirico the sculptor

Palazzo della Provincia in Arezzo

Arezzo celebrates Italian artist and writer Giorgio de Chirico at 130 years from his birth, and forty from his death, with an exhibition of what are considered his ‘less known’ works: his sculptures.

Giorgio de Chirico, The Great Metaphysician, credits Riccardo Serafini

The show “Giorgio De Chirico. La Scultura” is hosted in the hall of the Neo-Gothic Palazzo della Provincia in Arezzo and consists of a dozen of works of which two monumental standing three metres tall.

Giorgio de Chirico, The Archaeologists, 1940, hand-painted terracotta

Visitors are not to expect the de Chirico of red towers, empty squares, elongated shadows, cobalt-blue backgrounds. Here there are terracotta horses and their riders, archaeologists, patinated bronzes, Hector and Andromache and a gigantic metaphysician in gold and darkened bronze.

Giorgio de Chirico, Horse and rider, 1939-40, terracotta sculpture, credits Riccardo Serafini

In a universe of their own, they interact flawlessly with the large space the frescoed hall of Palazzo della Provincia offers, in a sort of sublime synthesis of the thought of this great interpreter of metaphysical painting.

Giorgio de Chirico, Hector and Andromache, credits monica_ba73

The exhibition will remain open until March 4th.


Posted in Arezzo, Art exhibitions in Tuscany, Art in Arezzo, Exhibitions in Arezzo, Tuscany | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Wine&Siena 2018

Wine & Siena 2018

On January 27th and 28th, Siena will be hosting the third edition of Wine&Siena, an event oriented to promote Italian food and wine.

Palazzo Salimbeni @facebook

Over 150 food and wine producers will be participating against the breathtaking backdrop of Palazzo Salimbeni and Hotel Continental.

Wine&Siena 2017 edition

All the companies taking part will be presenting the products that were assigned the WineHunter Award.

Wine tastings

Master classes will be held during the weekend as well as food and wine itineraries.

Wine & Siena 2017 edition

A great opportunity to visit Siena and try some of Italy’s specialities.

Visit Siena


Posted in Events in Siena, Fêtes & showcases in Tuscany, Italian food and wine, Siena, Tuscan food and wine, Tuscany | Tagged , | Leave a comment