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
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 […]
March 1, 2018

Italian Sketches: Howard Pyle

Recognised as the father of American illustration, Howard Pyle forever changed the way we think of our heroes through his vivid, often dramatic black-and-white and colour drawings and paintings, in addition to his adventure writings, especially for young readers, including King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood and his Merrie Men, […]
February 2, 2018

Italian Sketches: Alessandro Sinigaglia

After Mussolini fell and the armistice had been signed, German troops occupied Florence for almost a year between September 1943 and August 1944. A climate of fear, suspicion and betrayal pervaded the city while resistance against Italy’s former allies and the remnants of the fascist dictatorship grew stronger as Allied forces moved north along the […]