Siena Cathedral uncovers its mosaic floor

SIENA, ITALY - APRIL 05:  A view of the nave from the balcony under the roof  seen during the press preview of "La Porta del Cielo" at Duomo on April 5, 2013 in Siena, Italy. The newly launched "Door to Heaven" from April 6th will allow visitors to enjoy a spectacular new view of the Duomo and the city of Siena.  (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)

Every year the Cathedral of Siena unveils its magnificent inlaid marble mosaic floor for a short period. Generally to preserve these treasures the floor is covered and only a few are on display. This year, a Jubilee year, it was already exceptionally uncovered in July, now, as by tradition, it will occur from August 18 to October 26.


Siena’s Romanesque-Gothic Duomo is without doubt the hub of this wonderful city, attracting over one million visitors every year. Yet  not to be forgotten are also the Crypt, the Baptistery and the Opera Museum, this entire complex contains some of the most important monuments of the European artistic panorama.

03 Pinturicchio, The Allegory of the Hill of Virtue, 1505

Of the numerous works of art enclosed in the Cathedral of Siena, one of the most exceptional is certainly its floor. The works on this inlaid marble mosaic masterpiece were carried on from the 14th to the 16th centuries and saw the contribution of about 40 important artists, all from Siena except for the Umbrian painter Bernardino di Betto, better known as Pinturicchio. Described by Giorgio Vasari as “the most beautiful … largest and most magnificent … that ever was made”, the floor consists of 56 panels in different sizes.

04 Siena Cathedral

Most of the panels have a rectangular shape, but the later ones, to be found in the transept, are hexagons or rhombuses. They represent the sibyls, scenes from the Old Testament, allegories and virtues. The earliest scenes are made by graffito technique, where scratched lines and tiny drilled holes on the white marble are filled with black stucco. This usually simple technique here reaches a surprising degree of perfection. Later the marble intarsia was adopted, employing coloured marble in much the same manner as wood inlaying. The effect of the black, white, green, blue and red marble results in a vigorous contrast of light and dark.

05 The She-Wolf panel, 1373

Amongst the various panels one depicts Hermes Trismegistus (1488), the founder of human wisdom. Beyond the Hermes panel in the nave one encounters the She-Wolf nursing the twin brothers, within a circle connected to other 8 smaller ones representing the emblems of cities in Central Italy. Another panel in the nave was designed by Pinturicchio in 1504. It represents the story of Fortune, or Hill of Virtue. The hexagon beneath the dome (Scenes from the Life of Elijah and Ahab), and other panels near the altar (Moses Striking Water from the Rock; Moses on Mount Sinai, and The Sacrifice of Isaac) present works by mannerist painter Domenico Beccafumi, the most renowned Sienese artist of his time, who would perfect the technique of marble intarsia to the point of attaining chiaroscuro effects.

06 The Wheel of Fortune, 1372

Portrayed in the aisles are the 10 Sibyls (1482-83), five for each aisle, named after their geographic location: the Persian, Hellespontine (by Neroccio di Bartolomeo de’ Landi), Erythraean (by Antonio Federighi), Phrygian, Samian (by Matteo di Giovanni), and Delphic Sibyls for the Eastern and Greek world; the Libyan Sibyl for Africa (by Guidoccio Cozzarelli); and then those of the West (with reference to Italy), the Cumaean or Cimmerian Sibyl, the Cumaean Sibyl (of Virgil) and the Tiburtine Sibyl.

07 Domenico Beccafumi, detail of Moses Striking Water from the Rock 1524-1525

Undoubtedly a magnificent masterpiece the unveiling of this floor is certainly not to be missed.

Posted in Culture in Tuscany, Events in Siena, Siena, Tuscan churches and cathedrals, Tuscany | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Calici di Stelle 2016

01 ©Shutterstock

Wine parties galore this period. It’s Calici di Stelle, goblets full of stars, and they’re waiting all over Italy to toast to the night of shooting stars. From the Val d’Aosta to Sicily, town squares and wineries will be organizing events to pair to good wine.

02 Calici di Stelle, Tuscany ©TuscanyPeople

In Tuscany the events on August 10 are countless. Here’s just to name a few.

03 Pratomagno

In the Upper Valdarno, at the foot of Pratomagno,  the village of Campogialli, Arezzo, has programmed a wonderful evening for the 10th. The tasting of a hundred different wines paired to local food produce. There will also be music while visitors sip, eat and observe the stars.

04 Campiglia Marittima ©TuscanyPeople

In the streets and squares of Campiglia Marittima, Livorno, in Maremma, sommeliers will be guiding visitors on an itinerary to discover the tastes and scents of the prestigious wines of the Val di Cornia and its local products. The main sights of town, Palazzo Pretorio, the fortress, the Museum of Sacred Art, the mineralogical museum and the, Centro Civico Mannelli, will be open until late.

05 Castiglione d'Orcia

Val d’Orcia kicks off earlier than others with Castiglione d’Orcia, Siena, hosting concerts from 3 pm. There will also be a handicraft and antiques market and a vintage car plus Piaggio vespas show while visitors taste their Orcia Doc wines under the stars.

06 Terricciola

Jazz music and Etruscans are the ingredients to add to the local wine event at Terricciola, Pisa. These will be paired to a delicious wild boar dinner under the shooting stars.

07 Carmignano. Calice di Stelle alla Rocca, ©BernaNasca

Carmignano, near Prato, is opening the gates of its Rocca for four days. On August 6-7, and again 9-10, this beautiful fortress on the Medicean hills invites visitors to try its excellent local wine under the shade of the olive trees and with a breathtaking view over the plain of Florence. There will also be live music on every evening.

08 Pitigliano

Awe-inspiring Pitigliano, Grosseto, the medieval town perched on top of a tufa ridge, will be hosting in its streets the local wine and food produce. The Archaeological Civic Museum of Etruscan Civilisation will be opened also in the evening.

09 Montespertoli FI chianti-3

Montespertoli, Florence, is offering  a tasting of its excellent Chianti wines, together with musical shows and a mobile planetarium from the town’s Astronomical Observatory. An opportunity not to miss.

10 Calici di Stelle

For a complete list of events in Tuscany, in Italian, please take a look here.



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Recovered Botticelli on show at Villa La Quiete, Florence

01 Botticelli, L’incoronazione della vergine, details © Quotianonet

A well hidden Botticelli masterpiece is now finally in the open. Last March there was a tremendous outcry when a painting of the great Renaissance artist was discovered abandoned in a garage of Villa La Quiete. ‘L’Incoronazione della Vergine’, the Coronation of the Virgin, had been left neglected like grannie’s old chest of drawers.

02 Botticelli, L’incoronazione della vergine, details © Quotianonet

Villa La Quiete lays at the feet of Monte Morello on the hills of Castello overlooking Florence. The first news of the villa goes back to the 15th century when Italian condottiero Niccolò da Tolentino received the villa for his services from the Florentine Republic who had taken it from the Orlandini family. Today it belongs to both the University of Florence and Regione Toscana who in March had put the villa for sale “with all the pieces of furniture and works of arts it contains”.

03 Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, Sposalizio Mistico di Santa Caterina © Quotianonet

Together with the Botticelli masterpiece were also found two works by Ghirlandaio. According to Eugenio Giani, a member of the regional council, ‘L’Incoronazione della Vergine’ is a fundamental painting since it reflects the ‘second’ Botticelli. It was painted in 1500 and comes after the Primavera and the Birth of Venus, where pagan culture and nature’s dimension have a central role, whereas here is a different Botticelli who offers the central role to the religious dimension as one can see expressed by the serene beauty of the Madonna. Her delicate and devoted face represents a new concept of beauty and is the symbol of a new Botticelli.

04 Villa La Quiete © Quotianonet

Today both the University and the Regione have arrived to an agreement and the villa’s dining hall will be exhibiting until October 30 some of the great masterpieces found here: L’incoronazione della Vergine e Santi by Sandro Botticelli, lo Sposalizio Mistico di Santa Caterina by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio and a crucifix by Baccio da Montelupo. This temporary exhibition will prelude to the definite opening of the museum tour for the Spring of 2017 with the refitting of the rooms of the Electress Palatine, Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici. Here the most consistent part of the paintings belonging to the villa will be put on show.

05 Villa La Quiete ©

Finally both Botticelli and Villa La Quiete are out in the open.

06 Villa La Quiete © Quotianonet

Opening hours, until August 31st on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 5 pm to 8 pm, on Thursdays until 11 pm. From September 1st open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 7 pm.

07 Villa La Quiete © Quotianonet

Posted in Art in Florence, Breaking news, Exhibitions in Florence, Florence, Tuscany, Villas in Tuscany | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cortona Mix Festival 2016


Starting today is the Cortona Mix Festival. A combination of various cultures, this festival aims to bring together all arts in a unique contamination. All its editions have seen protagonists of both the Italian and international music, literary, cinema and cultural world take turns on its various stages scattered around this beautiful town of the Valdichiana.


Visitors will thus not only be seeing concerts but also book presentations, exhibitions, film showings (even movies of the past) and performances of all kinds. One of Italy’s most important summer events, the Cortona Mix Festival returns this year from July 30 to August 7 with a fifth edition that confirms both its typical curiosity and desire to interweave various horizons and disciplines.


Even classic music is on the menu. This evening in Piazza Signorelli the Orchestra della Toscana, conducted by Peter Guth with soprano Elizabeth Jahrmann, will relive Viennese magnificence performing Strauss, Suppé, Arditi, Lehár and Kálmán.

04 Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull, photo credits Sdo216 at en.wikipedia

In complete contrast the last evening will see in the same square Ian Anderson & Jethro Tull. The British rock group is certainly an excellent way to finish off the Cortona Mix Festival with a huge party in the sound of rock, folk and blues.


For the complete programme have a look here where an English version is available for download.



Posted in Cortona, Culture in Tuscany, Events in Valdichiana, Tuscany, Valdichiana | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pistoia and its Giostra dell’Orso

01 Giostra dell'Orso 06

Pistoia, named Italy’s 2017 Capital of Culture, celebrates its patron saint, St Jacopo, on July 25th with its traditional Giostra dell’Orso (Joust of the Bear).

02 Giostra dell'Orso 07

This ceremony goes back hundreds of years to the 13th century when many towns, including Rome, Florence, Padova and Chieti would run the “palio dei barberi”, a race for  jockeyless Barb horses. During the years the palio has undergone many changes, including the introduction in 1788 of a round racecourse. The tournament was interrupted during World War I only to be resumed in 1947 when the name was changed into today’s Giostra dell’Orso in honour of the town’s heraldic symbol.

03 Giostra dell'Orso 04

Traditionally the Palio dell’Orso is held at 9.30 pm in  Piazza del Duomo, the Cathedral’s square, following an historical pageant. The four quarters of town participate with three ‘knights’ each. These are Cervo Bianco (White Deer, colours green and white), Drago (Dragon, colours red and green), Grifone (Gryphon, colours white and red) and Leon d’Oro (Golden Lion, colours gold and red).

04 Giostra dell'Orso 01 check colours

The palio consists of eighteen rounds, which are drawn and decided on the morning of the 25th, during which the knights compete two by two in taking down a bear-shaped target with the help of a spear. The score is thus awarded: three points for the first one to reach the target and succeeds in knocking it down, two points for the second reaching and knocking down the bear and zero points if the bear isn’t hit. Obviously the quarter with more points wins the tournament but there is also a prize for the best ‘knight’, the golden spur.

05 Giostra dell'Orso


Posted in Events in Pistoia, Folklore in Tuscany, Pistoia, Tuscan lifestyle, Tuscan towns and cities, Tuscan traditions | Tagged , , | Leave a comment