Author: Christine Contrada

Christine Contrada earned a Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance history from Stony Brook University in New York. She has taught Italian history and culture for over a decade. You can read about her adventures at
September 13, 2018

Horses in the lemon house

Horses were frequently represented in the cultural production of pre-modern Western societies. Paradoxically, because they are so common, the horse is an easy image to dismiss in favor of the exploration of more exotic themes, which explains why the horse often becomes an invisible beast of burden. The telling message of a modern Italian idiom […]
June 4, 2018

Anatomical drawings: Da Vinci great but not infallible

The inaccuracies of Da Vinci's anatomical drawings should not overshadow the boldness of his efforts. Rather, they should serve to highlight that his studies were only in their infancy.
February 7, 2018

The Silver Caesars

While place cards marking empty spaces is a typical sight in the museums of Florence, taking a stroll through the Bargello might cause one to wonder if they had missed a Michelangelo fire sale. A significant sampling of the great Renaissance artist’s works have been loaned to a major international exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum […]
December 4, 2017

Milton and Galileo

Viale Giovanni Milton is a modern street tucked against the Mugnone brook beyond piazza Liberta where the memory of John Milton is far removed from the historic center of Florence. Here, the English poet is out of sight—and out of mind. The fear that strikes while crossing the viale is not due to the threat […]
July 4, 2017

Crimes and punishments in piazza Beccaria

It was a midday Italian scorcher in piazza Beccaria and I was sitting on a bench which was leaving griddle marks on my backside. I had fought a passive aggressive war for those six inches of stone bench, and I wasn’t about to give them up. On those scorching summer days when Florence rather marvelously—and […]
June 14, 2017

King Arthur, Excalibur and Tuscany

But why is Arthur’s story so well known while Tuscany’s own Excalibur legend less so? Tuscany’s tale is a different story that falls into medieval lore.
May 19, 2017

Early modern women artists take center stage

Although historical memory has often been less than kind to early modern women artists in Florence, over recent months the ladies in question have re-emerged to take center stage in the city on more than one occasion. The Advancing Women Artists Foundation continues its tireless quest to raise money for key restoration projects, Plautilla Nelli’s […]
May 10, 2017

The Decameron done over

Written by Christine Contrada   When the spring sun comes out in Florence, be a rebel. Leave the cell phone and the selfie stick at home and arm thyself instead with witty tales from an old master. Boccaccio, along with Petrarch and Dante, is a prong in the triple crown of Florentine literary giants. His […]
January 24, 2017

“The Young Pope”: post-truth and documented history

What “The Young Pope” does so well is that it offers a visceral whirlwind of intrigue, which unexpectedly turns notions of good and evil on its head.
January 6, 2017

What “Masters of Florence” gets wrong

The "Masters of Florence" series is more soap opera than truth, with the Medici family intoxicatingly powerful and downright sexy at every turn.