U.S. soldiers after 1966 Florence flood


Florence flood of November 4, 1966: US soldiers distribute food to citizens, Piazza della Signoria


Florence flood of November 4, 1966: US soldiers distribute food to citizens, Piazza della Signoria

Mandatory photo credit:

Dufoto / Alinari Archives


Permission must be required for non editorial use. Please contact Alinari Archives


Dufoto    Image date:  06/11/1966


Place of photography: Florence, Piazza della SignoriaCollection:

Dufoto / Alinari Arch

Farmacia di San Marco

Fate is truly fickle.

You take 2 historic pharmacies, founded in Florence long, long ago. I’m speaking of the le farmacie di San Marco and di Santa Maria Novella. Santa Maria is still going strong, while the farmacia di San Marco shuttered its doors in 1995.  It obviously had a good run!

I’ll be discussing the components of the facade below, but first please notice the little niche with a shelf above the lunette over the door.  There was once a small marble statue, depicting the lion of San Marco, placed there.


I’d never heard anything about the San Marco pharmacy, although I wasn’t surprised to learn the there once was a farmacia attached to this church complex.  It was customary for conventi (in Italian, a convent denotes what in English we would call a monastery) to have a farmacia, selling medicinal products that the monks created.

But, many times a week I ride or walk by the old entrance to the pharmacy of San Marco on Via Cavour in Florence.  The pharmacy is now defunct, but it is lovely that the authorities who closed the shop in 1995 left the old, 19th-century facade.  It speaks volumes and is a charming relic of days gone by.


The San Marco pharmacy was established in 1450 by the Dominican friars, along with its twin, the still operating Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella. Cosimo de’ Medici had a particular interest in San Marco and there is little doubt that his patronage helped the church in all of its endeavors.


The Dominicans were known to be people with considerable culture. The  medicinal preparations they created inspired confidence.

What were the medicines they had on offer? We know they sold at least the following:

  • The Alchermes, much appreciated by Lorenzo the Magnificent
  • Anti-hysteria water, for nervous ladies
  • Elixirs for the stomach
  • Rose water


We know that the monks drew from long-held botanical remedies and experimented with others.  They made their medicines by dissolving the helpful plant material (whether from the flower, the leaves, the roots, or the stems) in alcohol.  Their various products could take the forms of a tincture, a solution, a suspension, an infusion, a potion, elixir, extract, essence, quintessence and or a concentrate.



My favorite product listed on the engraved stone menus is “Coca.”  This would indicate coca cola, which was invented as a medicinal elixir by a pharmacist in Georgia, USA, in the 1880s.  So, that gives us a date for the facade of the old pharmacy.  Would that we could see the earlier versions, now long lost.

I just love the concept of an American elixir on sale in the Florentine pharmacy.








If you can, like I can, picture how this pharmacy must have seemed when these engraved stone tablets were new, then let your mind wander back in time.

The following info on the farmacia comes from: http://socialdesignzine.aiap.it/topografie/9172

The Ancient Pharmacy of San Marco was established by friar Antonino, with the generous support of Cosimo de ‘Medici, called il Vecchio, during the reconstruction of the San Marco complex in 1435. From 1450 the pharmacy, whose production was initially reserved for use inside the convent (monastery), was open to the public. The stone lintel of the ancient entrance, is one of the oldest examples of commercial signage with the logo “Fonderia: e: S. Marco pharmacy”, with a minimalist setting in a beautiful pre-humanistic character characterized by broken bar of A.

Among the most famous productions of the pharmacy was an alchermes, particularly appreciated by Lorenzo the Magnificent, and antihysteric water. In 1498 the stomatologic elixir, the Dominican liqueur, the herbal tea, elastin and Scots pine syrup were created.
Then rose water from 1700, about which the Dominicans wrote: <<Thanks to the peculiarity of the singular Rose of Bulgaria, from which it is directly distilled, rose water is miraculous to delay the sad prodromes of old age: wrinkles. Warmed up in a bain-marie, it will restore tiredness and vivacity to your eyes ».

Later, absinthe and the “Bolivian” coca were included among the specialties of the pharmacy. (If this writer is correct, then my assumption about Coca Cola is incorrect.)  The pharmacy was closed in 1995.

The series of gray marble signs of the mid-19th century that surround the entrances give account of the many products of the pharmacy with a composition that incorporates a real typographic sample with graceful, linear, Tuscan, italics and ornate characters.





Addio Wanda Ferragamo, widow of Salvatore Ferragamo


The family of Wanda Miletti Ferragamo, widow of Salvatore Ferragamo (1898–1960), has announced that she passed away on October 19, 2018 in at her home in Florence at age 96.

The Ferragamo family matriarch — at work in her office in Palazzo Feroni Spini up until several weeks ago — was born in 1921 and would have reached the even more venerable age of 97 on December 18.

“I look at everything, check everything and it only takes me five minutes to understand when something is not working,” she said recently.

Daughter of the town doctor in Bonito, province of Avellino, she met Ferragamo when he was visiting her home town, and they quickly became engaged. Her husband, the shoemaker of the stars of Hollywood, decided to set up his business in Florence when he returned from America, as he admired the talent of the local craftsmen.

Widowed at age 39 with six children, Wanda Miletti Ferragamo became the executive director of her late husband’s company despite the fact that she had not been involved in the business before his death.

Thanks to her foresight, Ferragamo became an international brand with 4,000 employees and 630 sales outlets across the globe. One by one, her children became active in the firm: Fiamma (who died in 1998), Giovanna, Ferruccio, Fulvia (who also passed in 2018), Leonardo and Massimo. Over the years Ferragamo SPA expanded to become a fashion house in addition to designing and producing its iconic shoes.

She was also a patron of the British Institute of Florence.

She told a journalist recently that she had written a letter to her grandchildren with following advice: “Don’t conform to whatever is bad in this world but rather try to transform it by bettering your way of thinking and behavior in order to be in harmony with the goodness of God.”

Addio Signora Ferragamo.

Villa Peyron, Fiesole

Oh, Villa Peyron!  How lovely you are, sitting in your pretty setting high above Florence!



Situated in a beautiful position up in the hills around Fiesole, one can view both Florence and Castel di Poggio from the Villa.


The Villa Peyron is a large complex, with buildings, formal gardens, and the surrounding olive groves. The villa is located in the woods named Il Bosco di Fonte Lucente, named after a spring above the villa

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The spring is said to supply the water necessary to work the many fountains in the garden and park, although I will say that the fountains weren’t working when I was there recently. Even without the fountains, the gardens are beautiful.



It is likely that the villa itself was built on top of Etruscan ruins, traces of which can be seen in the underground chambers and in the immediate surroundings; there are, for example, antique stones in the walls found in the forests around the villa.

The garden is built on three terraces that slope southwards and has a wooded parterre parallel to the villa.

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What we see today bears nothing harking back to the Etruscans, but of course the villa has been subjected to a series of renovations and transformations over many centuries.

In the late 19th century, the Florentine architect, Ugo Giovannozzi (1876-1957), gave the villa its current appearance, working for Peyron family members who envisioned a very grand villa.




There’s a lot of statuary placed throughout the villa grounds; these sculptures come from the Venetian villas of the Brenta. These prestigious works were installed to take the place of those which were destroyed during World War II.



In fact, a plaque is installed on a building near the entrance to the villa grounds, which speaks to the horrors of war.  During WWII, the villa was requisitioned by the high German command. Later it was occupied by the Allies who also installed a military hospital there. (I can’t help thinking of the film, The English Patient.)


You might say that some of the minor horrors of war were even clearly imprinted on this villa. When Paolo Peyron returned to his home after the war, it was a very bittersweet homecoming: all the objects that  Peyron had tried to save by hiding them in a room in the farmhouse were destroyed and scattered in the garden. Paintings and gilded frames were mockingly attached to olive trees; furniture was smashed; rare books, incunabula and prints of Piranesi, inherited from his father’s library, lay on the ground in the open, irremediably spoiled by the rain.

And now I will stop talking and simply place the photos of this beautiful locale on my post.  Enjoy!









































This gorgeous villa, open for visits, lies just beyond Fiesole.  It’s an easy trip by Ataf bus (#7) from Florence to Fiesole, and catch a connecting bus #47.  The #47 is unreliable (it has only 3 runs on Sundays, for example, and they are all in the morning).  But you can do what I did, and take a taxi to the Villa from Fiesole.










La vendemmia: the grape harvest

It’s that time again!  Grape harvest all over the vineyards in Italia!

(And the news is excellent coming from France too:) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/french-champagne-makers-record-harvest-quality-grapes-vintage-wine-a8507911.html


The word “vendemmia” comes from the Latin words “vinum” (wine) and “demere” (take away).
In the past, grapes were picked either directly by hand or with the help of small knifes or scissors. The grapes were put in baskets, made of wicker or wood, and later they were moved into larger wood containers “tini” or vats, which were used for the crushing.
As most Americans will remember, Lucille Ball excelled at stomping grapes when she visited Italy on I Love Lucy.
Indeed, the crushing was done using the feet of the workers or with some special wooden sticks called “ammostatori,”  shaped like baseball bats.
The ammostatori were often used in small containers, while for larger and taller vats, ladders were used by workers, descending from the top.

In the common imagination the idea of feet crushing is well rooted, a ritual still done by some wine estate just because it keeps a sort of ancient fascination.



(Foto proveniente dall’archivio privato della famiglia Colombini. -1945, Neutro Martini, guardiacaccia della Fattoria dei Barbi, con un bigonzo di uva in spalla durante la vendemmia nella vigna dei podernovi.)

— at Museo Della Comunità Di Montalcino E Del Brunello.

Personally, I’ve spent some time recently in the rows of grape vines heavy with pendant grapes. What a treat to be in Chianti at the time of la vendemmia!