January has traditionally always been a time of starting anew and thinking about the future. As I type this month’s letter, flurries of snow are falling from the whitest of skies and the Tuscan countryside looks bleak indeed. It’s more than a touch of pathetic fallacy, given the ominous “omicronness” at the start of 2022. Fatigue is in the air too, given the endurance test of the pandemical winter. It’s important to remember the progress we’ve made. Science and behavioural adjustments mean that Florence’s museums, restaurants and shops remain open. Testing and FFP2 masks are helping students return to schools, albeit mired in concerns about hospital occupancy rates. If we’ve learned anything from life in a pandemic, however, it’s that this too will pass. We all have our coping mechanisms. Mine involve a borderline (yet healthy) obsession with tennis and tackling complicated (and less wholesome) recipes—my other half gave me a tagine for Christmas.
Staying fit and healthy has never been more essential, which is why this January issue of The Florentine introduces readers to parkrun (page 15), a free five kilometre run or walk that’s open to everyone on Saturday mornings in Florence’s Mensola park, and Ladies Adventures Florence (page 14), an all-women community founded by Lori Anne Lo Presti, which walks, relaxes and has fun together in the hills of Tuscany and beyond. Ironically, there’s never been a better time to have a spa all to yourself as wellness centres are obliged to reserve exclusive slots for guests in their facilities. Before the holidays, I soaked and slept at two of Florence’s best spa hotels (see page 22).
There’s plenty to look forward to this year—see the 2022 preview on pages 6 and 7—with promises such as a top-flight show focusing on Donatello at Palazzo Strozzi in March, Muse and Metallica playing at Firenze Rocks in June, and the reopening of the Vasari Corridor in the autumn. In the meantime, defy the winter greyness by gazing at art and thankfully there’s plenty to choose from this month in terms of exhibitions and new additions to the city’s museums. Collezione Roberto Casamonti is a colourful place to begin, with its brilliant Boettis and crowd-pleasing Pomodoros (not that there are any crowds in this sixteenth-century palazzo in piazza di Santa Trinita; it’s the perfect place for solo art gazing). January is a great month to pay a visit to Palazzo Pitti, especially now that 78 Russian icons have been added to the spacious first-floor rooms adorned in seventeenth-century frescoes. Highlights include the Menologium, a calendar of Orthodox religious holidays, an icon of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (1693-94), and Vasilij Grjaznov’s icon of Tikhvin Mother of God. Anj Smith’s first solo show in Italy is held within the blue walls of the eclectic Stefano Bardini Museum as the British artist unsettles and charms in equal measure. Jane Farrell speaks with the artist on page 13. Feast your eyes on beauty at AquaFlor as Hershey Felder meets owner Mauro Arena to find out the backstory of the sublime perfume store in the Santa Croce neighbourhood and consider Florence’s old gates as Harry Cochrane hits the history books inspired by a map in his parents’ bathroom in north-east England. (“Sometimes you need to get away to get perspective.”)
The New Year brings new publications as Deirdre Pirro celebrates the regal figures who resided or vacationed in the Renaissance city and its hills from the eighteenth century onwards. A treat for the seasoned Italy lover, this original collection of essays is expertly illustrated by The Florentine’s very own Leo Cardini.
2022 also welcomes a new business column: BachTalks comes to our pages. In this inaugural article, financial expert and New York Times bestselling author David Bach interviews Florence-based public speaking and communication coach Elia Nichols. Check out the video.