Amici della Musica e il Teatro della Pergola

Amici-della-Musica-Firenze-440x240Amici Della Musica

Founded in 1920, the Amici della Musica or Friends of Music is one of the oldest and most prestigious concert groups in Florence. The group presents some of the best works and performers on the international scene. And its home is the beautiful Teatro della Pergola, Florence’s oldest theater built in in 1656, so you can enjoy a wonderful Florentine evening from boxes once maintained for the private entertainment of the city’s aristocracy and social elite.

There is surely also much scope, now that Italian performers have become experts in this field, for further exploration of the Baroque repertoire, not to mention the grandsopéras of Meyerbeer, which were staged for the first time in Italy at the Pergola in the mid-nineteenth century and have been absent from the Maggio Musicale since the 1971 production of L’Africaine with Jessye Norman. The neglect of the French repertoire in general has been one of the weaknesses of operatic programming in Florence. It is hoped that the galvanizing presence of the new general manager will succeed in breaking down this barrier, too. spacer

For more, see

Art is a part of daily life in Italy

Italy was a place where art was part of daily routine. It was in the fabric and facades of the buildings and in the way towns and villages.  Aestheticism was instinctive, a common trait, as if it were one of the senses. Artfulness was ubiquitous, from the wrapping of one’s purchases in a shop to the arrangement of food on a plate.

The most common word in the language appeared to be bella, which prefixed everything from the morning espresso to the design of a dress. Great effort – and great importance – was placed on how things looked. Tuscany’s landscape was the ultimate expression of this. It was the view that travellers dreamt of, composed who knew how by diverse hands over centuries.

It even smelled wonderful, of clean air and woodsmoke, of rosemary and new leather, of frying garlic and pungent parmigiano.

Taylor, Alan F.. Appointment in Arezzo: My Life with Muriel Spark (Kindle Locations 859-865). Birlinn Ltd. Kindle Edition.


Flour types for baking in Italy

If you are accustomed to buying flour in the USA, you will encounter some unusual products when you peruse the baking aisle of a grocery store in Italy.  The first thing you might notice is the packages are much smaller than in America.  And then there is the milling process and wheat berry type to consider.


For one thing, you will have a lot more choices in the grinding of the wheat berry: the names 00 and 0 Flour refer to specifically Italian milled flour that is used for pasta making. You will find that this is also called Doppio Zero, just meaning double zero.

The grading system is 2, 1, 0 or 00 and indicates to how finely ground the flour is and how much of the bran and germ has been removed.  2 for instance is a wholemeal flour while 00 is the most refined of the three and has the lowest level of bran. It is similar to unbleached all purpose/plain flour, which is a mix of hard and soft wheat, and though while finer, it creates a dough that is silkier and maintains a chewiness when the pasta is cooked.

chestnut flour italy 2

If you are looking for pasta, bread flour or baking flour, 00 will work for all and you can substitute 00 flour if you run out mid way through pasta making with just plain old high-grade flour. Again this has been refined more so than standard flour making it higher in protein. Pizza dough is perfect with single 0 flour but again it is interchangeable.


The French grade their flours as well with a similar system.

To make life more confusing the terms hard and soft get used to also explain flours so to try and put it simply:

Low Protein + Low Starch + Low Gluten = soft flour – 00 flour or high grade flouruse this for pasta, pizza and cakes as you would any high grade flour

High Protein +High Starch + High Gluten = hard flour – semolina flour or standard flour perfect for bread doughs and most other uses.


Copyright GVMachines Inc.

Italian millers will also combine different wheat varieties to make flour to suit different purposes. So you can buy a ‘00’ flour suitable for pasta with a very golden color, and a ‘00’ flour suitable for plain white bread.

The packaging will usually suggest what items you can make with any particular flour to get the best result.

Much of this post is based upon:  in Bread and conversation, Flour and milling, International bread adventures

For those looking for additional info, here you go:

Bake the same recipe in the same way with 00 flour and with stong white flour and you will see that the 00 loaf is flatter and the crumb has holes that are different sizes and are not evenly distributed.

Bake the same recipe in the same way with 00 flour and with strong white flour that has been stone milled and you will see that the 00 loaf is white white white and the stone ground loaf is a bit beige.

This is because the stone milling mills for whole meal flour first grind and then and seive it to separate the bran and the germ.  Industrially milled flour (of whatever strength) has the bran and the germ milled out at a very early stage because industrial millers want white flour.

The lesson is that if you want the very white, soft, holey bread from your childhood you need to get the flour from your childhood.

The big difference, in addition to texture and look, is that the stone ground white flour is higher in the naturally found nutrients because the white flour absorbs some of the nutrients from the bran and the germ before they are seived off.  Industrially milled flour is rather bereft of these nutrients because the bran and the germ are removed so early in the process.  For a more comprehensive discussion about this, please click here.

Italy is a place where retirement is welcome

But it is rare for [Italians] to view work as anything but a necessary evil. A survey commissioned by the weekly newsmagazine Panorama in 2006 found that two-thirds of Italians would give up their work if they could be guaranteed the relatively modest sum of € 5,000 a month.

In the same way, retirement is usually seen as entirely positive. There seems to be none of the fretting that goes on in Anglo-Saxon societies about how to cope with a loss of identity.

I have known plenty of Italians who have gone into retirement, and sometimes I have bumped into them in the street or when they have made a return visit to the offices where they worked. Not once have I heard any of them express anything but unmitigated delight at no longer having a job.

Silvio Berlusconi was still prime minister at the age of seventy-five. Mario Monti, who replaced Berlusconi in 2011, took over as head of government when he was sixty-eight. His cabinet, which was brought in as a new broom that would sweep clean and introduce wide-ranging reforms, had the highest average age of any in the European Union at the time.

And after the election that followed the fall of Monti’s government, the new parliament reelected a president, Giorgio Napolitano, who was eighty-seven. For truly untrammeled “gray power,” however, nothing compares with the universities. A study published as Monti and his ministers were settling in behind their highly polished desks found that the average age of Italy’s professors was sixty-three and that many were still clinging to their positions and the vast patronage they were afforded when they were well over seventy. Their average age was the highest anywhere.

It means that young Italians are not just imbibing the theories and attitudes of the previous generation, which is natural, but of the one before that, and in extreme cases even the one before that. The appointment of two younger prime ministers, Enrico Letta in 2013 and Matteo Renzi in 2014, has led to a rejuvenation at the highest levels of government. Renzi became Italy’s youngest ever prime minister at the age of just thirty-nine. And he set about naming a cabinet that included a party colleague who was only thirty-three at the time of her appointment.

But it remained to be seen whether the process would extend to other areas of Italian life, and particularly higher education. The role played by the elderly in the formation of Italy’s future elite continued to represent a formidable obstacle to innovation, modernization and the rethinking of established ideas. This may have some link to the enthusiasm with which so many young Italians embrace the culture of their parents. Perhaps the most striking example of this is to be found in the area of rock music: currently the ages of three of the most popular singers are fifty-two, fifty-six and sixty. Aging rock stars have kept going.

Hooper, John. The Italians, Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


Purely Tuscan words: mesticheria

I posted about this great shop recently, and want to dig in a little deeper on the roots of such a business in Florence.  Let’s focus for a minute on just exactly what kind of “paint store” is being advertised here and in a few other Florentine businesses.


From Wiktionary ( we learn that the word mesticheria in italiano is a feminine singular noun and means the following:


mesticheria f sing

  1. termine prettamente toscano, indica una bottega dove si vende l’occorrente per dipingere o verniciare, e piccoli utensili per la manutenzione della casa (è molto frequente però trovarci le cose più svariate, come prodotti di giardinaggio o prodotti tessili)   A rough English translation: a purely Tuscan work indicating a shop wherein one can buy paints and small tools needed to maintain a home.


mesticherìa s. f. [der. di mestica], region. – Bottega di colori già preparati, di vernici e di tutto ciò che occorre a pittori, verniciatori, imbianchini, e sim.  Rough English translation:  Shop selling prepared colors, paints, and all that is needed for both.

The latter definition speaks more clearly of the ancestry of these Tuscan shops: for a flourishing fresco tradition to exist and develop, extensive site preparations are necessary.  In order to prepare for a fresco, certain agents are needed to make the colored paints adhere to and chemically interact with the plastered wall below them.

I recently had a conversation with Jeremy Boudreau, the head of the art history department at the British Institute in Florence, and he said that only in Florence does one find this kind of shop, or a meticheria, selling the materials needed to create frescoes.

My guess, though, is that if you walked into one of these shops, they would be hard pressed to provide you with the materials needed to prepare a surface for the art of fresco.  It has been a while, I would imagine, since the likes of Giotto or Michelangelo needed paint supplies for this specific art form!

And, again…call me crazy, but I wonder where artists and their assistants purchased these materials in say Padua or Roma?  Did someone have to go to Florence to buy artistic materials for frescoes?!