Posts Tagged ‘florence’

Q&A With Italy Expert Angela Buriani

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Born and raised in Florence, Smithsonian Study Leader Angela Buriani is an expert on Italian art and all things Italy. Here, she takes time for some engaging Q&A with Travel Planner Emma Impavido.

Q: Why do you enjoy leading people around Italy or to Florence?

A: I am always extremely glad and proud to bring travelers around Italy in general and to Florence in particular. Italy is a special country, special from several points of view. It is beautiful and fascinating but also sometimes difficult and different. An Italian journalist wrote, “To be Italian, it’s a full time job.” I believe that being in contact with a native person helps the travelers to fully enjoy and understand Italy, going deeper than the mere appearance.

Angela Buriani

Italy expert Angela Buriani.

Q: What does it mean to you to be Italian? Or is it more important to show allegiance to a region?

A: We are a very young nation, so it is no wonder some people still show a low national spirit. I love my region, Tuscany, but I definitely consider myself first of all Italian and to me being an Italian means to be part of the beautiful and immense heritage we have inherited from our ancestors.

Q: What sort of topics will you address in your lectures?

A: During my lectures on tour I discuss the history of the city we are visiting, its art, and its people. I try to give people a sense of why certain things happened in that place and not elsewhere and what makes that place unique.

Q: Your focus is on art and history, what other topics do you cover?

A: Travelers are generally very interested in knowing about our present way of life, the organization of the society and politics. I also love to talk about the food and wine of Italy, I have a special professional interest in these topics. A tour through Italy is naturally also a tour through our traditional foods and local wines, that varies from season to season. At every meal we have the right wine paired with a particular dish, and it becomes an occasion to discuss the two and why they work so well together. In this way the travelers gain a better understanding of Italian cuisine, but more importantly they enjoy the ritual of eating together; this is a fundamental part of our everyday life in Italy.

Q: What is the one thing you want any visitor to know when they leave?

A: I would love visitors to know the long history hidden behind the sense of beauty, the pleasure for simple things and the general wish for enjoying life that characterizes Italy and the Italians.

I want them to understand the sense of beauty and of challenge that has always characterized the Italians. I believe that this is clearly visible on any journey through my country.

Packed yet? Click here to learn more about traveling wth Angela Buriani, and here for all of Smithsonian’s tours to Italy.

Family Dining in Florence

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Guest Blogger William J. Higgins, FAIA is an architect with 37 years of worldwide experience, has practiced in 10 different countries, and has traveled through more than 20 countries across Europe, Asia and North America. He is contributor to two recent books: International Practice for Architects and Founder’s Folly. He has a Masters of Architecture degree from Harvard University, a Bachelor’s Degree from Louisiana State University, and has taught at Stanford University. He is a founding Principal of Architecture International, Ltd. and was a Principal of The Architects Collaborative, Inc. Here, he shares some advice on dining in Florence.

Diners at a Cafe in Florence

Diners at a cafe in Florence

Florence is an Italian jewel box filled with iconic art, glorious architecture, flavorful food, and rich wine. Therefore, finding a suitable family-friendly trattoria that would welcome a two-year-old and seat a table of seven adults seemed a formidable challenge, but we were fortunate that several candidates were located in our new Santa Croce neighborhood and we tried Pizzeria I Ghibellini located just a few blocks from the family apartments.

We had just ordered a family meal of the famous hearty and filling ribollita bread soup and beef lasagna when Amelia, our toddler niece, began to demonstrate how terrible the “terrible twos” could be. Admittedly, the dining hour was late, but this was Italy after all, and while all the adults sipped wine or beer and talked while waiting for our supper, Amelia had nothing to do. Eventually she became quite animated and even agitated, perhaps due to hunger. She started pounding on the table with her fork, and yelling, “Dingle hopper! Dingle hopper!” Amelia had recently seen Disney’s film The Little Mermaid about thirty times in which, you may recall, the fork is called a dingle hopper.

We, of course, thought it was quite amusing and a sign of future brilliance that she knew the Little Mermaid word for fork, so we smiled, kept sipping, and talked over her yelps. But as the clamor continued the amusement wore off, especially for the waitress. She came over to our table, crossed her arms over her generous form, and peered down at little Amelia, with a silent stare that needed no translation. Our bambina slowly dropped her fork on the table and slinked underneath it to be in the protection of her father’s legs. When our food arrived, we all wolfed our dinners, retrieved our dear little mermaid, and then retreated to the safety of the nearest gelateria.

On our different treks to Florence, I always tried to plan our dinner meals to be a short walk from our hotel, in deference to the advanced ages of our parents. Buca dell’Orafo, near the Ponte Vecchio, is one of those restaurants and one of the many cellars or buca-type eateries beloved by Florentines. An orafo is a goldsmith and the buca, “hole in the wall,” was once part of an old goldsmith’s shop. One interesting aspect of this dining experience is their custom of placing full, large carafes of wine on the table and charging customers according to how much wine has been consumed from the carafe. Saluté!

We dined family style on thin, silky, bicolored fettuccine with porcini mushrooms followed by bistecca alla fiorentina, the traditional grilled steak preparation of Florence. We passed the wine carafe, poured, relaxed, and had a wonderful meal in this unusual and delightful buca.

There are high water levels on the walls of this below-ground restaurant, marking the great flood of 1966. During this epic storm caused by days of heavy rain, Florence was engulfed in a colossal natural disaster as the Arno River rose above its banks and went cascading through the city streets. Today, you can see the high water marks along the restaurant walls at your standing head height. Many tourists seek out the Buca for its warm atmosphere and traditional recipes but they should check the weather forecast for rain before they go.

On the Oltrarno side of the Arno, we had dinner at the Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, or White Boar. The restaurant nestles on the ground floor of a 13th-century tower and judging from the buzz inside, does a good repeat business of locals and tourists alike. We were ushered into the first of its two cozy rooms by one of the owners. The dining room has exposed stone, wood tables, odd and old iron implements hanging everywhere, and lights that evoke a medieval mystery. Our two young waiters, Massimo and Marco, were friendly, English-speaking, and very professional. They were both quite enchanted with my mother-in-law and her Italian cheekbones and they spent the night charming us with their flamboyant style.

Cinghiale Biancois a comfortable restaurant with genuine Tuscan food. We savored our meal which started with taglierini with pesto, and was followed with a family style platter of tender and savory grilled meats. My father-in-law seemed to have the best dish of the night, the Tagliata con Rucola e Parmigiano, which was a perfectly cooked New York cut beef steak served with arugula dressed in olive oil and shaved parmesan. He protested in his usual manner that it was too much to eat, but the waiters egged him on and he finished it in grand style, washed down with a beer.

Where do you like to dine with family? Please share.

Ready to dine Florentine-style? Click here for our journeys to Florence.

Photo: Smithsonian Studies Abroad in Florence, Italy

Thursday, December 17th, 2009
One of Galileo's famous telescopes

One of Galileo’s famous telescopes

There’s always a part of us that looks back on when we were teenagers and asks, “What would I have done differently?”

Maybe you would have eaten a little healthier or been a little kinder to that kid that didn’t have many friends. Perhaps you wouldn’t have had your class picture taken with that terrible haircut. For many of us who love to travel, we imagine going back in time and telling ourselves, “You really should study abroad.” Maybe you can’t change the past, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give a little advice to your grandson, daughter, or nephew.

Smithsonian Journeys is proudly introducing a new program this year specifically for high school students called Smithsonian Studies Abroad. Students will not only learn a new language, they will experience living in a new culture by discussing social and political issues with fantastic guest speakers, explore the host country on weekend excursions, and interact with the local community.

One of our inaugural programs is located in Florence, Italy, the homeland of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Galileo. Whether you are a future historian, artist, or scientist, Florence is and always has been significant city center to them all.

Learn more about Renaissance Treasures, our new program for high school students in Florence, Italy

Did you study abroad when you were in high school? Share below.  

Photo: Florence, Italy

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
A view of Florence's Uffizi Gallery, along the banks of the Arno. Photo: Ben Crochet, Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

A view of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, along the banks of the Arno. Photo: Ben Crochet, Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

Florence is an ideal location for the study of art, whether you’re in high school or looking for new insights a bit later in life. The Uffizi gallery, completed in 1581, was opened to visitors by request shortly thereafter and opened to the public in 1765. It houses many works originally collected by the Medici family; its world-class collection of paintings includes works by Da Vinci, Boticelli, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio, as well as many others.

Who’s your favorite Renaissance painter? Share below.

See the Uffizi for yourself (and take a private tour of the Vasari Corridor) on our Insider’s Florence tour.

if you’re a High School student (or you know one), click to learn more about our Study Abroad programs, especially for high schoolers. Our new programs offer study opportunities in Beijing, Avila, and Florence.

Click here for more information on all of our tours to Italy.

Travel Hit List: Tuscany

Friday, September 11th, 2009
Sunset on Siena. Photo: Christine Thompson. Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

Sunset on Siena. Photo: Christine Thompson, Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

Tuscany never fails to pleaseit’s one of our favorite destinations and we’re sure you’ll love it too. Read on to find out all about this enchanting region.

Read: about a 600-year-old pharmacy begun by Florentine monks, where staff continue to make traditional herbal elixirs, in Smithsonian magazine.

Listen: Festa Italiana – Colorful folk music from Italy from Smithsonian Folkways.

Watch: Secret message or not? Learn from Smithsonian Channel about a mysterious inscription in a fresco by the Tuscan-born painter Vasari. Some believe that his fresco, Battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana, hides another secret fresco painted by Leonardo da Vinci.

Eat and Drink: Get the best of Tuscany’s food and wine traditions, guilt-free! Join our cycling journey through Tuscany.

Check out:rare Michelangelo drawing, discovered in our own collections at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Travel: Now is a great time to book a journey to Tuscany.

Which destinations do you want to see on the next Travel Hit List? Share your requests with us below.