Tuesday, March 7, 2017

From A Journalist in Florence: A Mentor Tribute on International Women's Day

In just over an hour, it will be International Women's Day in Italy.
In honor of my mentor in a three-month stint in a news reporting class,
among the facts that I will report in this post is how blossoming mimosa
(pictured above) came to be the symbol of the Festa della Donna in Italy.
Today, everybody -- loves ones, even proprietors of cafés and stationary shops -- gift women with a sprig of soft-scented mimosa on March 8.

The custom can be traced to WWII Italy when Fascist police executed two sisters at the forefront of the Resistance movement.  At their funeral, dozens of female supporters came and placed mimosa on their graves.  It was probably late February or early March when the shrub is in bloom.

Well, I mentioned that this post was about me learning to report hard news.
A strange topic as everyone knows I am a wimp -- I love culture, non-profits and poetic causes, although I can really write about anything except sports.  And violence, except for rare cases.

Although I attended college in Boston, I am grew up on the banks of  the
Hudson Valley north of New York.  The city, that is.
Idyllic. Very peaceful, although I was raised in Highland Falls, next to that bastion of militarism: West Point.  My late father was an Italian tailor at the military academy.

One year, while home I decided to cross-register and take the aforementioned news journalism course at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.  My family was living in New Windsor at the time.

A tiny women, a professional journalist on maternity leave, taught the class.
I remember her bangs and eye makeup that made her vaguely resemble Cleopatra.
She wielded a red pen, which she used copiously on our assignments.

A chain smoker, she gave the impression of being in perpetual motion, of restlessness, even when she was still.  The trademark of a hard-bitten news writer.

Thirty-five years later I found her photo on Facebook.
Mimi Mcandrew has not changed all that much.

As one of her Facebook friends wrote, "a great picture of a great journalist."
I have already thanked her in a preface to one of my books for teaching me to write a lead,
that crucial first sentence or two which sums up the article, which, then,
also included incisiveness.  Now, the requirement -- a tall order -- is punch.
Bisogna spaccare, as the Italians would say.  Leave an indelible impression.
Like Mimi herself.

As a final assignment, Mimi had Marist College stage a mock disaster: students taken hostage, frightened parents (with weirdly-spelled names, Laurence instead of Lawrence,
I got it right), police, negotiations, the works.  The class was divided into teams, for coverage and live reporting and surprisingly I was asked to head one of them.  After all, I was from another school.  Even more surprisingly,
my team came in second out of five, with Marist's star reporter's group first.
As I had no ambition to continue in the field of hard news, I perceived it a great honor.

Fast forward to early 2016, when the Florence newsroom of La Repubblica asks me to write a story about the gruesome Ashley Olsen murder in Florence.  I thought the article would be posted in my (normally speaking) arts and leisure column in English called Day on the news site.

"I don't do this type of piece," was my mildly irritated response, "it was bad enough when I anchored the broadcast for BBC World Service after the bomb blast at the Uffizi."

But if you are a true journalist you know that obedience to the editor
(or in this case, as she was away for the week, the editor's standby) a given.
The only question you can ask is:  "when do you need it by?"
And we all know, if we miss a deadline, it is because we are dead.

I finished that article in just under an hour and half, reading the facts in Italian
and expressing in English.
I briefly thought of Mimi when composing the lead.  "Don't ever, ever start with a question,
unless the event is exceptional," she taught us.
I took a deep breath and wrote:  "Who killed Ashley Olsen?" and begged forgiveness.
The rest came on automatic pilot also thanks to the lessons I had learned.
The article here.

With the beginnings of tremendous back pain, which lasted all week, I left the office
after sending the story.
I received a text message from the editor in chief on the bus thanking me.  When I arrived at my Florence home, the web editor's assistant in charge sent me a concise email:
"Rosanna, you are in national coverage."
Oh my God, directly in English, was the email I shot back.

The story was on the national web site of Repubblica along with the Italian articles on the murder.
A first.
And the way it was posted, it seemed I had written all the pieces, English and Italian.

This delirio (I can think of no other word in either language) continued for five days,
including coverage of the arrest
of the alleged murderer and the funeral.

Throughout, I felt I was walking a tightrope strung between two skyscrapers,
balancing two languages.
I had to remain perfectly calm although I could hear noise -- a roar -- below me.
On the third day of the case,
Repubblica's arch rival Corriere Fiorentino -- the local newsroom of the Corriere della Sera -- starting running English translations.  The heat was on.  I began to sweat, not perspire
as ladies are alleged to do.

Plus, what slowed down me down was the legal terminology -- in both Italian and in English.
A procuratore?  Who the hell is that?  A district attorney?  What is a district attorney? And so on.

I had never ever studied or done the courthouse beat.   And I couldn't make a mistake.
I would fall off the tightrope, although I knew that Repubblica journalists
would launch a safety net.

I didn't need it.

Thank you, Mimi.

Happy Women's Day.

                                               reporting live from Beautiful Florence
                                   --Rosanna





  

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Norcia Earthquake & Siena: Goodby to 2016

This gilded wooden Madonna, originally found in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Argentea in Norcia, is currently on display in a art show divided between Siena's Cathedral crypt and Santa Maria della Scala.  The statue is part of the Bellezza Ferita (Wounded Beauty) exhibition of artworks rescued in the October 30, 2016 earthquake that devastated
a town in Umbria.

Originally part of an Assumption, in this setting she is raising her eyes upward, not to heaven, but to the semi-destroyed church from she was rescued.  Arms flung outwards, Mary seems to be supplicating help and mercy for Norcia.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Argentea in Norcia,
(above), was originally built in the 3rd century A.D. on the site of a Rome temple dedicated to Athena in her guise of the goddess of good fortune, with the "argentea" denoting one of her attributes:
a "shining" goddess.  The ancient church, which embraced Christianity but preserved the memory of Athena in its official name, was restructured in the 11th century in the Romanesque style, torn down in the 16th century and was rebuilt between the 16th and 18th centuries in what is been variously described as Renaissance (mirroring when it was begun) and
Neoclassical (reflecting when it was finished).

One can only hope that, seeing what is left of Santa Maria Argentea, that it will rise again from the rubble, along with rest of Norcia.

I covered the 1993 Uffizi bomb blast for BBC World Service, the result of an explosive set off in by the Mafia, killing six people, including an infant carried out lifeless by a fireman.  Looking at this image at the exhibition, which shows another fireman carrying out a Christ child sculpture from the church of San Pellegrino in Norcia, I couldn't help being reminded of another tragedy,
which damaged downtown Florence.

The panels already brought to safety and leaning on wall depict St. Benedict and his sister, St. Scholastica.

Both are exhibited, so that visitors can figuratively touch the cultural identity of the
earthquake area, and contribute to its rebirth, along with that of Siena.  The Tuscan city is financially troubled due to the near collapse of its signature bank, the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, founded before Colombus discovered America, in 1472!

For centuries, Santa Maria della Scala, located directly across from the steps of Siena's Cathedral, gave rest and shelter to pilgrims walking the via Francigena to Rome.  It is a fitting place to host Bellezza Ferita.

It is the wish of Beautiful Florence's less than faithful blogger on this New Year's Eve,
that humanity absorb the heartbreaking scenarios that 2016 unfolded and
commence 2017 with hope, looking forward to
rejuvenation and reconstruction,
 built on the
cornerstone of true
fraternity & sisterhood.

Buon Anno from
Beautiful Florence
                                           -- Rosanna

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Scaperia's 'Infiorata' Flower Festival

A well-known Italian song has as its theme, "to make anything, you only need a flower"
(per fare tutto ci vuole un fiore).

The lyrics of this children's song comes alive every year in Scarperia, a village north of Florence in the Mugello valley, which hosts a flower-painting festival, the "Infiorata," the last weekend in May.
At the base of the mountain pass leading to Romagna, Scaperia is one of the last towns in the province of Florence.
Here, residents color up the main streets and celebrate their community.

Frugal Tuscans are known for not throwing away anything, and reutilizing whenever possible. This includes stale bread which is the basis of their signature soups pappa al pomodoro and ribollita.  Here we are at the end of May, where flowers in a number of small town festivals are separated into petals, stems and buds, destined to be
re-used in the flower paintings.


For a day, Scarperia forgets its medieval origins mirrored in austere medieval architecture, and the streets and squares bloom.  Drawings by local elementary school children (Piazza Clasio), middle school students (Piazza dei Vicari) and shop owners who access their inner child (via Roma) on a theme are chosen, faithfully recreated as patterns and
outlined by the teachers or the artistically talented
directly on the cobblestone pavement.

The locations come alive with people -- children, parent and residents -- decorating the designs, which come alive in 2D and sometimes 3D thanks to papier maché and flower installations.

Petals lend the vividness, and with the mixture of colors and texture, the participant can create almost any shade he or she wants to see in the picture.  Dark colors such as brown and black
are applied with seeds and soil.

The 2016 theme was animals in literature.

An eagerly-awaited moment of the event is the climb to the top of Palazzo dei Vicari.
This is no Disney recreation, the building was the originally the headquarters of the military rulers, later turned into the bishop's palace in the late 16th century.
Great place for putting things into perspective: here is an overall view of the 
fox petal painting.

The eye-catching designs are a heart-warming manifestation of the local community.
When the sun goes down, everyone, including the children, pitches in to dissemble their creations.

Beauty is fleeting -- here it lasts the space of a day.

But the "T" in Tuscany also stands for tradition, and next year
the "Infiorata" will once again blossom
and grace the streets and squares of Scarperia.

Per fare tutto ci vuole un fiore -
To make anything, you only need a flower.
        
               reporting live for Beautiful Florence
                              -- Rosanna 
                                                       & Greta Szabó 



Saturday, March 26, 2016

Poli & Teatro Niccolini: Death & Resurrection

Life, death and rebirth: the Easter story in three words.
Easter 2016 in Florence was no exception.

All the world's a stage," wrote William Shakespeare in "As You Like It."
Florence in 2016 saw the rebirth of its oldest stage, the Teatro Niccolini in early January, and right before Easter, the death of the actor who was invited to perform on opening night:
 Paolo Poli.

The origins of the theatre date back to the 1600s.  Amplified to its current size between 1711 and 1764, its original name "Teatro del Cocomero" (Watermelon Theatre") merely mirrored its location on via del Cocomero" (Watermelon Street).  In 1860, it was re-christened in honor of Giovanni Battisti Niccolini, a playwright from the Tuscan town of Livorno who had the honor of seeing his works on stage there. The road, now the present-day via dei Ricasoli leading from Florence's Cathedral to San Marco, was renamed for the second Prime Minister of a united Italian kingdom, Bettino Ricasoli.  The statesman was a Florentine.

Florence was also the birthplace of the acclaimed stage actor Paolo Poli.  He starred in 12 plays at the Niccolini in the 1980s until the early 1990s, when the theatre was closed.  Graciously coming out of retirement at age 86 just for the occasion, his performance re-inaugurated the space after  restoration and renovation which lasted exactly 10 years, from 2006 to 2016.

I met Poli at the event's press conference on January 9.  He praised local publisher and entrepreneur Mauro Pagliai who purchased the building.  Pagliai found financing to so the theatre could maintain its 18th century architecture with modern wiring, lighting and security and Poli thanked him
"for giving the Niccolini back to the city."

Then he unexpectedly expressed his desire "to die in exile, like Dante.
Florence is a city of merchants with closed hearts, who as described in his 'Divine Comedy' are
ungenerous and miserly, prideful and envious," he said.
Poli's wish was granted: he passed away in Rome.  Dapper and elegant, I was not surprised to discover that he had a degree in French literature.  Having studied French and French literature for a number of years, and having even acted in a college production of "The Bourgeois Gentleman" by Molière (who knew I would move to Italy?), his style brought to mind the attitude of my teachers.
Although they were "Québécois" (French-Canadians), they were careful
to instill in us a Parisian accent and knowledge
of France and French manners.

Back to Poli, he entered a new life on March 25.  The date also happens to be Florentine New Year, the Feast of the Annunciation (Gabriel appearing to Mary). It was the first day on the calendar up to 1750 in Florence, where it is still  celebrated with traditional events.  Like it or not,
Florence was Poli's final resting place.

In true Florentine style, the actual birth of of Teatro Niccolini had its roots in conflict.  Members of the theatre company founded the "Accademia degli Immobili" on the premises of the present-day Niccolini in 1650.  A year later, the group split:  half went to establish the Teatro della Pergola, and those who remained renamed their company "Accademia degli Infuocati" (The Ardent Actors Academy).  Their coat-of-arms, visible in the newly renovated theatre (right), is of a fiery time bomb beginning to explode.

A speaker at the event said that Pagliai (which means haystacks in Italian, notably combustible) was the right person to to reopen the Niccolini!

The Niccolini's fiery beginning was to continue throughout its history.  After hosting notable productions and actors such as Poli and Vittorio Gassman, it closed in 1995.  The theatre suffered abandonment, the ravages of time, even severe damage caused
by a student sit-in which happened in 2002.
At the press preview, I was sitting one seat over from another extremely famous Italian stage actor, Gabriele Lavia.  I  surreptitiously aimed my Iphone camera towards him, and luckily, he didn't notice.
I did, however, hear him comment that Pagliai's gamble was one of "incosciente follia" (pure madness, not taking risks into account).

In his "fool's paradise" Mauro Pagliai (above), found a bank foundation, the Ente Cassa di Risparmio, as a partial sponsor in the rebirth of the Niccolini.  Knowing that the box office receipts from 406 seats plus boxes of a theatre prose season would probably not cover costs, he decided to turn the
Niccolini into a "multipurpose cultural space."
Sounds like a man with vision.

In the 2 1/2 months of its newfound existence, the Teatro Niccolini has hosted a designer's event during Florence Fashion Week, a concert, and a performance of traditional and contemporary dance marking the close of the Korea Film Festival.  Sunday evening chamber concerts, regularly held in 
Teatro della Pergola's intimate Saloncino, have found a new home.  Starting in May, to avoid waiting in lines, from 9 am - 5 pm, visitors to the Cathedral complex and museum have the option of viewing a video that provides background information on the landmarks.  A bookshop and a café have been added to the ground floor.

Next door is a modest trattoria/pizzeria, which has been there for many years.  The "Buca," in the title means that it is underground, probably in a former wine cellar.  During my first year in Florence, in the '80s, I had a pizza there with my friend Marjorie Coeyman, who was working towards her masters at Florence's Middlebury College study center.
I remember Marjorie and I discovering pizza "capricciosa" (capricious pizza, a tomato base topped with a mixture of mozzarella, artichoke hearts, baked ham and mushrooms as well as the "quattro stagioni," which had the same ingredients neatly divided neatly into four sections.  I believe that I ordered the former and  Marjorie the latter, which surely reflected our personalities.
We did not go downstairs, but dined on the streetfront patio.

Although I enjoyed the pizza, for now I never managed to go back.  There will surely be an opportunity given the upcoming program at the Teatro Niccolini.

I initially meant to post this blog entry the weekend immediately following the re-opening, specifically after a Saturday afternoon meeting at Florence's La Repubblica.  When I arrived at 5 pm, the meeting was postponed.  "We are in the midst of covering a murder of an American --
 do you know her?" I was asked.

I did not personally know Ashley Olsen, although she was to change my life.  Two days later I was asked to write a story on the case that was posted on the homepage of the national Repubblica web site  -- a first for a piece in English, by a American no less.
This led to five days of coverage on my part, relaunching my international career.

And the Niccolini?  When would I write about the Niccolini?

You see, I had a second chance, during a weekend highlighting death and resurrection.

Below is a perspective from the seat where Paolo Poli sat on opening night, representing 3 1/2 centuries of passionate "theatre," reborn and destined to live on, portraying the dramas and comedies of life.


Happy Easter/ Buona Pasqua!

--reporting live from Beautiful Florence
                                                                 -- Rosanna

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Florence 2015 Christmas Card

Your Beautiful Florence blogger returned from an eventful trip from the south of Italy regarding family matters on December 18, and on the morning of the 19th, attended a press conference connected with the Uffizi.  The event was to present Florence's annual Christmas gift, a free exhibition called "The Never Seen" (I Mai Visti) with works coming from the gallery's storerooms.

This year's theme, the mythological and archetypal story of Hercules as portrayed in sculpture and paintings from the Roman times to the 17th century, was gorgeous but apart from the gemlike glow of some of the pigments, not particularly in synch with the season.  The event, however, was the prelude of my discovery of Beautiful Florence's 2015 Christmas card.

Drinks and finger food were offered to the journalists on the Uffizi terrace.
The medieval Palazzo Vecchio, loomed nearby--the building seemed so close that one could almost reach out and touch the stonework. 

Finished at the end of the 13th century, Palazzo Vecchio, originally called the Palazzo dei Priori, was constructed as the headquarters of the Florentine republic.  Half fortress, half city hall, it was the seat of a European powerhouse--by the 1290s Florence was one of Europe's five largest cities, with a population of about 100,000.  Commerce and a booming textile industry also made it one of Europe's wealthiest.  The rich merchants and nobles who governed Florence (has much changed eight centuries later?) wanted a building that would communicate the power of their republic, governed at that time by the Florentine people.

After the respite in the tepid winter sun, to exit, I had to walk down an endless corridor encompassing half of the Uffizi.  Chronologically organized according to theme, I stumbled upon Room 71 (of 93!!)

My feet were beginning to feel weary, but however, the rich collection of paintings beckoned me to stop and look.

Then, I saw it.

Correggio's Madonna and Child Between Two Angel Musicians (1515-16).

Antonio Allegri da Correggio (from Correggio, a town in nearby region of Emilia) created this work early in his career.  The background is pure gold, a throwback to earlier Italian primitive  fondo oro masterpieces without a realist background; here, however, the figures are completely naturalistic.
Correggio's birthplace was absorbed into the Duchy of Modena, a sweeter, gentler place than Florence, also evidence by the local cuisine.  The artist Correggio's depiction of the Madonna and Child is, in fact, tender.  The lessons of the Renaissance are evident in the play of light and shadow (chiaroscuro), as seen in the left angels's wing with the lighting obscured by Mary's veil.

Correggio worked at the court of Mantua, which place a great emphasis on music.  When looking at the painting, on can almost hear the celestial Christmas music from the harp and violin.

The Madonna and Child Between Two Angel Musicians is believed to have belonged to the last Medici ruler, Anna Maria Luisa, who prized it so much that she took it with her when she left Florence to marry a German prince.  Upon his death, it returned to the city, and later became part of the Uffizi collection that she willed to Florence for posterity.


Mary is wearing a robe of dark pink rose draped in lapis lazzuli, the Child reaches toward an angel, other-worldly seraphim adore from above and below, sense of stillness and peace pervades all in a precious setting of gold.


Light, color and sound, beauty and balance: 
a Child is born this day.

Buon Natale from
Beautiful Florence
                  -- Rosanna

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nov. 2015 in Florence: Pope Francis & the Paris Tragedy

     It was a little over a week ago, although it seems an eternity given what happened in Paris immediately afterwards, that Pope Francis visited Florence.  Like a rock star, the Pope arrived in a helicopter which landed in nearby Prato, an industrial city where he publicly condemned the problem of thousands of illegal Chinese immigrants who are employed in textile factory sweatshops.  

     Another helicopter ride and he was in Florence, where he had lunch at the Caritas soup kitchen staffed by volunteers.  Pope Francis was served the simple, yet hearty, meal of the day given to the poor on the usual plastic plate, with plastic utensils. After an after-lunch siesta in the Curia headquarters, he visited the newly renovated, state-of-the art Cathedral museum and then went to the Florence stadium in the Popemobile.  Here Sua Sanctità (as Italians call him) is in Piazza del Duomo, Florence's cathedral square, in the company of Cardinal Betori.

At the stadium he said, "I would like the Church not to rest easy but rather be anxious, in order to get close to the those whose are abandoned, forgotten and imperfect.  I would like the Church to have the face of a mother, who understands, accompanies and caresses.  I would like you to share the same dream of a Church just like this, to believe in it and be able to innovative in complete freedom."

  The aura of peace that Pope Francis left Florence (even traffic jams disappeared for a day) was shattered by the Friday the 13th massacre of innocent civilians in Paris clubs and restaurants.  But (who knows!) his words helped to inspire the gesture decided by Florence's city council pictured below:
the open-air copy of Michelangelo's David, that ultimate symbol of freedom wearing a black armband with the French flag draped at his feet.

  This strong message from David can be seen in front of city hall in front of 
Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza Signoria.

The photo of the Pope is by faithful Beautiful Florence blog photographer Cathleen Guerrero.
Reporting live from Beautiful Florence -- Rosanna

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Tuscan Summer of 2015 & 1944

Today is August 11, marking the 72nd anniversary of Florence & Tuscany's liberation from Nazi and Fascist forces thanks to the efforts of the Allies who proceeded northward from Rome, aided by local partigiani (Italian resistance fighters).  


2015 is also the hottest Tuscan summer since records were kept, with daytime temperatures hitting 102°F.  

Even for a die-hard beach aficionado like me,
the heat was too much to head to the coast on weekends.

I abandoned my spot under a beach umbrella 
(left) along the Mediterranean, and began to dream of a picture I published in the magazine Vista, Florence & Tuscany.  Taken by my work soul mate Andrea Pistolesi, it depicted a waterfall somewhere near the Tuscan border with 
Emilia Romagna.

That picture haunted me.  An alternative image popped into my mind's eye: a cool, clear river I bathed in many years ago.  With only my memory to go on, I decided to find it, and to return.

In the search, friends Erin (mother of a toddler and six months pregnant), husband Chris and myself, took a trip back to the tumultuous liberation of Tuscany as well as to the timeless beauty of the countryside.

I called old friend, Andrea Politi, remembering having been invited to a convivial lunch at his family country home near Pelago, and indeed, he identified the river as the Vicano, which follows its course close by, eventually flowing into the Arno.

One Sunday morning, Erin, little Elise, Chris and myself went up to the mountain pass of the Consuma (3000 ft), hosting a village renowned for its schiacciata, the Tuscan variant of the focaccia, which comes topped or filled with a choice of vine-ripened tomatoes, porcini mushrooms from the local woods, onions, ham, cheese etc.  We had a mid-morning merenda (snack), accompanied by espresso, but had so enjoyed our authentic Italian moment in a non-touristy location that we neglected to take pictures.

Chris drove us down the mountain to an altitude of 1500 ft, to Diacceto, where we made a turn-off to Ferrano.  As per Andrea's directions, Chris drove to the end of paved road, and continued to on a dirt road (strada bianca) to the end, until we saw a small chapel.


"This is Andrea's property!," I said, and indeed later on he confirmed that that his rustic country home and chapel were originally part of a larger estate and that his ancestors were originally tenant farmers.

It was Erin who spotted the plaque on the house first.


It says that a Jewish family found refuge within its walls thanks to the big-heartedness of Giuseppe Politi, Andrea's father.  Their lives were saved in the wilderness of Ferrano, and the marker commemorates this fact for posterity.

"They were the Navarro family from Rome," Andrea told us later, "who had friends in Diacceto, just down the road, on the way to Pelago."

It was Andrea's late father, a partisan fighter known as
Braccioforte (Strong Arm) who sheltered them.  He headed a group of 200 men, the Perseo brigade, who sabotaged the German's mean's of communications and routes, also to help defend the
local population.


In retaliation, the Nazis rounded up 19 locals, including women and children, who were the victims of a massacre.  For their anti-Nazi and anti-Fascist stance and actions, the village of Pelago was awarded a silver medal at WW2's end.


The house itself is from the 1700s, a quintessential slice of true Tuscany.
Andrea's sister lives here in the summer, while Andrea himself and wife Nicole, of Polish-Jewish heritage whom he met on a trip to Paris, arrive from Florence on the weekends.

After a picnic lunch among the olive groves, it was time to find the river.


Indeed refreshing, but only one to three ft. deep because of the drought, alas! we did not go swimming.
Sitting on cool rocks, we put our legs and feet in.  The Vicano indeed pristine as the nature surrounding it, and full of fish and crayfish.  NB:  from a subsequent Internet search, I discovered that the place to bathe in the Vicano river is at Fontisterni, several miles away, where German tourists have been even reported to dive in the river's pools recklessly headfirst.

Another memory flooded in my head: that of a stone church dating back from 1100 CE (or AD).
Andrea obliged us and led the way in his vintage Vespa scooter, from 1984.





Isn't it a beauty?

As timeless as the original Fiat 500.

In any case, we were traveling in a red Opel Corsa, half-German, half U.S. General Motors car, bought new in
1996.







It was an uphill drive -- great for a spring or fall hike -- but now I was glad to be in the car.

Suddenly, after parking, we were in the presence of a perfectly preserved stone Romanesque church.

Its antiquity is testified to by the open bell tower and the
single rose window.



The church's name is Santa Maria a Ferrano
(St. Mary of Ferrano), and is located at 1800 ft.  For the record, it was built in the 11th century, and belonged to the Albizi family
(my office in Florence happens to be on Borgo degli Albizi, and the descendants of the family still live in the Renaissance section of the palazzo).

Santa Maria a Ferrano has been more or less abandoned since 1574, occasionally serving as a barn, before becoming recuperated by a religious community headed by a German monk.  He has apparently taken to Italian habits and was away on vacation.

Hence the door was locked.

Years ago, once inside, I saw a wood beam ceiling and a ray of setting sun come in through the bare rose window, to strike the stone altar.
Indelible memory.



This is the view of the hills around Ferrano and Santa Maria a Ferrano, woods filled with chestnut, beech and fir trees.

Driving back, I saw a sign for Rufina, which provided an adventure for the following weekend for me, Erin & family:  a visit to Petrognano, a farm bed-and-breakfast w/pool (we swam at last!) belonging to friends Enrico Lagorio of the La Toraia Chianina burger food truck fame, and his wife Antonella.


Here Chris, Erin and Elise are going into lunch and meeting another family.
In a twist of fate, Petrognano is situated right below Pomino, which was for centuries an Albizi wine estate.  The family coat-of-arms still graces the then (19th century) innovative white wine blend, Pomino Bianco.

It would appear that I have a karmic link with this historic Florentine family, although my family is originally (and proudly) from the hills of Lucania, province of Matera, near Pollino.


As for me and Andrea, as pictured, we continue the long trail of our friendship.
It dates back to when I first arrived in Beautiful Florence as a young girl, when I became friends with his neighbor, Mariangela Bortolani, introduced to me by art historians Lucia Monaci Moran and Gordon Moran.  Older than us -- I  learned during our adventure that Andrea was born to Bracciaforte (Strong Arm) and his wife at the beginning of peacetime, the end of 1945.

He has always been to Mariangela, an art conservator who is from the mountains of Emilia and who would probably recognize Andrea Pistolesi's waterfall photo -- and I,
nothing less than a Tuscan big brother.

    Reporting live-- 
                                    Rosanna