Author: Alexandra Lawrence

Alexandra Lawrence is an expert on the language and art of Italy. Based in Florence, she is a lecturer of literature, art history and contemporary Italian cultural studies. Alexandra is currently offering a six-week guided reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy, in addition to other Dante-related courses, which you can learn more about at
March 5, 2021

Best Dante books: a deep dive into the medieval poet

T.S. Eliot famously said, “Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third.” While Dante is still rigorously read in Italian schools, most English-speaking countries limit themselves to a bit of the Inferno in Western literature courses, if at all. Approaching Dante for the first time can be daunting, especially since some knowledge about […]
June 1, 2020

Boboli: a meaningful walk in the Medici gardens

Florence is a city of stone, of imposing civic, religious and domestic architecture—where power and wealth are communicated in girth and in height. Massiccio—solid, hefty—is the adjective used to describe so much in Florence—the architecture but also the figures in paintings, its works of literature. One must only think of the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, the […]
January 13, 2016

The Passignano Last Supper restored

In 1455, Isidero del Sera was elected to lead the community of Vallombrosan monks at the 11th-century Badia di Passignano, near Florence. Intent on continuing the renovation begun by his predecessors, in 1476, del Sera, a native Florentine accustomed to refined style, commissioned Domenico and Davide Ghirlandaio to decorate the refectory wall with a Last […]
October 2, 2014

Porpo, Un gni parea ivvero, Dagnene

Porpo: Octopus (‘polpo’ in standard Italian).   Example: ‘Che s’ha preparare un po’ di porpo pe’ antipasto?’ (‘Should we make a little octopus for an antipasto?’)     Un gni parea ivvero: He could not believe it.   Example: ‘
April 3, 2014

Tronata, Va’ia, Covaccino

Tronata, Va' ia, Covaccino Your in-progress dictionary of the Florentine dialect by Francesco Stefanelli + Alexandra Lawrence   Tronata: A hard fall.   Example: ‘Maremma, che tronata ho battuto con la bicicletta!’ (‘Damn, I took a hard fall on my bike!’)     Va’ ia:
February 27, 2014

Volata, Borda, Tattameo

Volata: Fit of rage or anger. To freak out.   Example: ‘Se un tu la smetti di fare confusione piglio una volata di quelle che tu te ne ricordi!’ (‘If you don’t stop messing around I am going to freak out so bad that you&
January 16, 2014
The Tuscan TimesTRAVEL

Buzzurri, Stonfo, Palletico

Buzzurri: Name for the Swiss citizens who would go south into Italy during the winter to sell polenta and roasted chestnuts   Stonfo: A loud bang   Example: ‘Maremma, che stonfo hanno picchiato quelle du’ macchine!’ (‘Damn, what a loud bang those cars made when they
December 12, 2013

Out of exile

When evening has come, I return to my house and go into my study. At the door I take off my clothes of the day, covered with mud and mire, and I put on my regal and courtly garments; and decently reclothed, I enter the an­cient courts of

Meeting Betty Soldi

Betty Soldi’s mother was sure of one thing: her little girls were not going into the family business of making fireworks. Not just any old family company, the Pirotecnica Soldi had been producing handmade fireworks since 1869, even the display for the Scoppio del Carro, Florence’s


Ceppo:  In Italian, a ceppo is a tree stump or a log, but in Florence it was once something much more meaningful. Of ancient origin, the tradition was to take a thick trunk of wood that had been cut down shortly before the holiday and burn it in the