Author: Deirdre Pirro

Deirdre Pirro, author of "Italian Sketches: The Faces of Modern Italy", published by The Florentine Press, is an international lawyer who lives and works in Florence. Her writing focuses on modern Italy, its people, its history and its customs. Follow her on Twitter @dp_in_florence or contact her at
February 6, 2019

Mahatma Gandhi’s Italian visit

Over the centuries, history has never been miserly about thrusting odd couples together onto the world stage. Yet, in pre-World War II Italy, one of the strangest pairings was when the ascetic, Indian independence, non-violent civil disobedience leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi met the militaristic, Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in Rome in December 1931. Gandhi […]
January 15, 2019

The marriage of Catherine de’ Medici

The turbulent times of the 16th century were dominated by the conflict between Francis I, King of France, and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, the spread of the Protestant Reformation, the divorce of Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon in England and the menace of Turkish invasion. When Giulio de’ Medici, the illegitimate son […]
November 29, 2018

Torrone: an Italian holiday tradition

At the Christmas Day table, there may be some argument between panettone diehards and pandoro instigators about which cake is better, but few dispute that the gooey white, sticky nougat-type confectionary made of sugar, egg  albumen and almonds is delicious. All over Italy, this candy, known as torrone, appears at the end of the traditional […]
October 31, 2018

Isabella Blagden

If you were a part of the English speaking expat community in Florence in the latter half of the 1800s and needed a chaperone or a place to stay or were ill or simply wanted a shoulder to cry on, more than likely you called Isabella Blagden for help.
October 16, 2018

Baron Charles Alexander de Cosson

In 1901, when Baron Charles Alexander de Cosson and his family arrived in Florence, he had planned to stay for only two months. Instead, he would remain there for the rest of his life, until his death 28 years later. For this inveterate traveller, it was most likely not his first visit to the city, […]
September 19, 2018

Florence’s statue of Vittorio Emanuele II

Most major Italian cities and many smaller ones boast statues to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of the newly united Italy who reigned between 1861 and 1878. The most majestic representation of him throughout the peninsula finds him on horseback high on a magnificent, decorated marble base in front of the imposing Vittoriano, the […]
July 6, 2018

The park of Villa Il Ventaglio

If you have never spent a summer in Florence, the heat and humidity may make you long for a cool, tranquil place to picnic or to spend the afternoons. Since June 4, 2018, one such place has been opened to the public once again. It is the romantic English garden of the Villa Il Ventaglio, […]
June 5, 2018

The Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal

The basilica of San Miniato al Monte recently celebrated its 1,000th birthday. Dominating the view from one of the highest and most scenic spots overlooking Florence, it is a jewel of Tuscan Romanesque architecture. A defensive wall built in haste by Michelangelo during the siege of Florence in 1530 surrounds the church complex, later completed […]
May 7, 2018

Porta San Frediano

Seven gates remain as reminders of the third circular wall built between 1284 and 1333 that once surrounded and defended the city of Florence: the Porta al Prato, Porta San Gallo and Porta alla Croce sopra l’Arno on the north side of the Arno river, and the Porta San Frediano, Porta Romana, Porta San Miniato […]
April 9, 2018

Vittorio degli Albizi

The powerful Albizi family whose German roots dated to the time of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III made its considerable fortune out of importing and selling French wool and in banking. After initially settling in Arezzo, the Albizi—whose name in Old High German derived from albiz, meaning “swan”—transferred to Florence in the 12th century […]