Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's snowing in Florence!

It's snowing in Florence - bringing out the magic and enchantment of the ancient city! In the Renaissance, Florentines made snow lions (symbols of the republic) and figures of Hercules (the city's legendary founder); modern-day kids have just as much fun throwing snowballs! Here are some pics of the Ponte Vecchio and the beautiful church of San Miniato al Monte all covered with snow ... Enjoy Florence in winter and check our website for the best ways to discover the city's wonders at Christmas!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Free Wireless Internet in Florence Piazzas

Although filled with Medieval and Renaissance art, Florence is determined to be a modern city! This month, the city of Florence has introduced free wi-fi internet access in many city piazzas.

The free access is good for one hour in the following piazzas:

Piazza della Signoria
Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazza Santo Spirito
Piazza Santa Croce
Parco San Donato
Piazza Ghiberti
Piazzale delle Cascine
Piazza SS. Annunziata
Piazza Bambini di Beslan
Via Canova
Piazza Alberti

To get connected for free, simply search for wireless connections on your laptop or Iphone, and you will see a connection called "Firenzewifi". Connect and open a browser page, you will find a webpage that will ask you to register and enter your cell phone number. Once registered, call the local number 055 465 0034 from your cell phone and you will receive a password via a text message. Enter the password and you are online!

There are more areas planned to go wireless in 2010 such as the Santa Maria Novella train station and Piazza Duomo. Next year you will be able to use the service for more than one hour by paying a small additional fee as well.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Pisa anyone?

One of the advantages of staying in Florence is the opportunity to travel to nearby towns for more sightseeing and attractions. One of the most famous of these nearby towns in Pisa, more than anything for the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

From Florence, Pisa is only about an hour to an hour and a half away by train (depending on which train you take). Many tourists take day trips to Pisa as it is quite convenient with trains leaving everyday from Florence on the hour. Florence also provides a bus service that leaves daily for Pisa from the train station.

For train times, prices, and to buy tickets online, you may visit the Ferrovia dello Stato website in English.

Once you arrive at the main Pisa train station, catch the Bus #71 which will take you directly to the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) where you will see the Leaning Tower. Remember to buy your busticket at a local tabaccheria or at the train station, as local authorities periodically check onboard! You can also walk from the train station to Piazza dei Miracoli, follow this link for a Google Map with exact walking directions. The walk take about 25 minutes.

If you are interested in learning more about this fascinating town, why not take a tour? See more than just the outside of the Leaning Tower- learn all about the history behind it! Although Artviva does not offer public tours of Pisa, we do offer a private tour which you can read about and book here. For any further questions, please contact us at:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

False Competitor Reviews and Other Important Issues

Recently consumer advocate and well known travel journalist Gill Charlton from the UK 's Daily Telegraph newspaper published an article regarding unlicensed tour operators and insurance concerns.
This is the link to the article:
Unlicensed tours thrive on the internet

Our company is a licensed tour operator. We are very concerned about these issues not least because Florence and Tuscany are major tourist destinations where it is vital that international tourist consumers feel protected.

Our company also holds the international chapter presidency of ASTA (The American Society of Travel Agents) and holds dear the credo "Integrity in Travel".

It is to our great dissapointment that our competitors are making false and unsubstantiated claims in reviews regarding our services. The aim apears to be to damage our excellent reputation that has taken years of hard work to build.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any concerns. Our company with our small team of English speaking staff and large team of wonderful guides in Florence, Tuscany, Rome and Venice are on hand to ensure you have a great stay in Italy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Artviva Director is New ASTA President!

All of the staff and guides at Artviva Walking Tours are happy to announce that our director Rose Magers has been named Italy Chapter President of ASTA, the American Society of Travel Agents. ASTA is the world's largest association of travel professionals, and they pride themselves on representing integrity in travel. Congratulations, Rose!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

50 Days of International Film in Florence

Florence will be host to a prestigious array of film festivals at the Odeon Cinema from October 29th - December 13th, 2009. The ArtViva office is conveniently located right around the corner from the Odeon Cinema.

Artviva is the only tour agency in Florence selling tickets to the film festivals with the added bonus of 10% off any tour purchased with tickets!

The event, promoted by Mediateca Toscana & the Tuscany Film Commission, will be showcasing documentary films from all over the world (with English & Italian subtitles), as well as organising 3 separate festivals dedicated respectively to contemporary French, Finnish and Indian cinema.

Check out the listing below and take your pick!

France Odeon French Film Festival
October 29-31, 2009

Festival dei Popoli International Documentary Film Festival November 1-7, 2009

Florence International Film Festival November 12, 2009

Finnish Film Festival November 13-15, 2009

International Cinema and Women Film Festival November 17-22, 2009

Lo schermo dell'Arte/Contemporary Art Film Festival November 23-29, 2009

Florence Queer Festival November 27-December 3, 2009

River to River Florence Indian Film Festival December 4-10, 2009

New Italian Film December 11, 2009

Ethno-music Film Festival December 12-13, 2009

Please see The Florentine for bi-weekly listing of events in Florence & Tuscany. In the meantime, check out our blog for further events!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Do you see what I see?

Illusion, Deception, Objective Reality vs. Subjective Reality...these are all words that come to mind when describing Trompe-l'oeil artwork.

Trompe-l’oeil, meaning "trick of the eye" is a fascinating genre in art that has been popular for thousands of years. In fact, the earliest trompe-l'oeil pieces are traced back to Greco-Roman mosaics, and the most recent are pieces created by current day artists. The artwork itself is a visual deception, but the most fasicnating concept of this exhibit is whether all the pieces were actually meant to be trompe-l'oeil or, perhaps simply, misunderstood.

What is it that makes a work of art a real trompe l’œil? One of the keys is obviously the artist’s intention: does he want the work of art to "deceive" the observer or, on the contrary, is his work simply an attempt to reproduce an environment faithfully and in a realistic fashion, as for instance with a still life or an anatomical model? The illusion or ambiguity factor is also important in establishing whether a work of art is a trompe l’œil or not. -

The exciting part is deciding for yourself. Florence is now exhibiting this 3-month exhibit at Palazzo Strozzi, which is only about a 10 minute walk from our office. Tickets cost 10Euro, and the exhibit is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. until January 24th .
For more information you can visit the english version of the Palazzo Strozzi website here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Attention: Strike Friday!

To all clients visiting Florence:
There will be a general transportation strike on Friday, October 23rd.

The strike conditions are as follows:

No public transportation (buses): on strike all day
Train schedule: on strike from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
General airline flight (please check your airlines as it may vary depending on company).

There is also a strong possibility of a museum strike on the 23rd, however it is unclear yet as to when that will be decided. We will post all news on the blog as soon as we're aware of the situation. Should there be a strike during the time of a scheduled tour, we will either fully refund our clients, rebook them to antoher day or issue credit towards another tour of their choice.

Please feel free to contact us at: if you have questions or concerns.

..and remember...strikes are just part of "La Bella Vita" here, so don't stress out! It's Italy, and we'll do all that we can to ensure your time spent with us is as enjoyable as possibile!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Florence International Art and Restoration Fair

From the 29th to the 31st of October, The Florence International Art and Restoration Fair will be taking place at Stazione Leopolda Exhibition Center.

The fair will bring together all those working in the artworld, dedicated to the restoration and preservation of masterpieces. Florence is one of the leading cities dedicated to cultural preservation of the arts and has the largest percentage of schools and restorers in the world.

Click here for a full progam of the fair, or visit the english version by clicking the link below:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Florence Film Festival

ArtViva would like to remind all clients that the Florence "50 Days of International Film" Festival is taking place right around the corner and we are the only tourist agency in town selling tickets with the added bonus of 10% off any tour purchased with tickets.

The last film playing in the Odeon theatre will be October 31st. Les Grandes Personnes will be shown in French with subtitles in English. Director Anna Novion will be present as well as the stars of the film, Anaiis Demoustier and Judith Henry. Film buffs, don't miss this spectacular event!

For more information on tickets, please contact us at:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

“Great way to get introduced to Florence”

"Wanting to avoid the huge lines at the Accademia we took Rick Steves advice and booked a walking tour of the museum with Art Viva (

The tour we took was the Original David Tour, which concentrates on the statue of David within the Accademia.

Our guide was excellent and it was obvious to us that she was very passionate about art in general, and Florentine art and Michelangelo's David in particular. She provided some very unique insights into Michelangelo's style and the approachs he used to create this breathtaking statue.
I highly recommend Art Viva. They provide exceptional service and are professional in every way.

TravellerNanaimoB_C_ 1 contribution
Nanaimo B.C.
Oct 9, 2009

"All of the Florence in One Day tours were excellent! Good length and full of interesting information. Christine's sense of humor enhanced the Florence Walking Tour, Sarah brought Michelangelo to life when we visited the Accademia, and Paul made Renaissance art fascinating at the Uffizi. His passion for and knowledge of art was very evident."

Nashville, TN
Oct 9, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

ArtViva now selling International Film Festival tickets

From Thursday the 29th of October until Friday the 17th of December, the Odeon cinema will be showcasing 50 Days of International Film in Florence.
ArtViva will be offering tickets to all of the films, as well as a special 10% discount for any of our tours when purchased along with the tickets. By purchasing through ArtViva, clients will be able to skip the line. For more information on the movies and purchasing tickets, please email us at:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

ArtViva guides are among the best storytellers!

"I recently visited Florence and took an Uffizi Gallery tour with the company Artviva.

The guides are qualified art historians, therefore they are passionate, so the tour is not only informative, but interesting and personable.

I was so impressed I booked for the Original David Tour later that day ( as did most of the morning group). Having the knowledge and story behind the artworks you are looking at makes such a difference.

There are many tour companies in Florence so ensure you get the correct company - Artviva. You can look them up on the internet prior to arriving in Florence.

There any numerous other tours you can take with Artviva and they will bend over backwards to ensure your Florence experience is a memorable one.

I would highly reccommend you take at least one of the tours of Florence offered by Artviva. The highlight of my Florence visit!

Trip Advisor Review
Gina - gandvadventure
September 18, 2009
Italy, France, Greek Islands

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Elisabetta was the most wonderful storyteller!

She brought the art to life with the explanations and made us wish the tour could cover all the museum!


John & Theadora Browning
Washington D.C.

The Brownings joined our Masterpieces of the Uffizi Tour & The Original David Tour on October 6th, 2009.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"Artviva Bike Tours - One of the most authentic experiences of the Tuscan countryside in the hills overlooking Florence..."

"We could not have been more pleased with our Bike Tour, everything about it was fabulous.

The winery was truly beautiful and if we should decide in the future to stay out of the city it will be tops on our list of places to stay. They also had the best white wine I’ve ever drank. The restaurant was great food and very attentive service. Of course, having the place all to ourselves was an added bonus.

We can’t say enough nice things about our guide Giuseppe. He was very informative, had a terrific personality, and made us feel very comfortable. He went out of his way to accommodate us at our every request."

Dallas, Texas
Septe,ber 25, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Trip Advisor Review: “What a wonderful Original Walking tour in Florence!”

"The Original Florence Walk tour was great!

It was wonderful to have our visit to Florence given such interesting context.

The story about the young woman in the Middle Ages & the Plague; the one about the attempted coup on the Medici brothers that took place in the Duomo.

I loved how carefully the guide pointed out to us the "redone" Piazza Republic (done over in the 19th century to be more "modern"), and the comments about the Strozzi Palace (where Strozzi ran out of money to complete it, and the purpose of the bench at the front), and all the other general architectural details on the buildings throughout the city (i.e., what those tiny windows were used for, or the hooks, or how the buildings tended to expand outwards, so bars were run through to strengthen them), comments about the Ponte Vecchio and Orsanmichele were great too. Tidbits about Donatello and other sculptors and artists were woven in nicely as well.

All in all, a lovely tour which helped us contextualize our visit to Florence. It was an especially good choice for my 16 year-old, whose patience with looking at just one painting and church after another had worn a touch thin at this point in the trip.

Just a great tour, I'd recommend it highly. The guide did an excellent job."

Trip Advisor Review from 20th September

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Florence In One Day Package - Let the art historians at ArtViva show you what makes Florence world-famous!

ArtViva's Florence In One Day Package is a great overview of Florence, it's people, history and art.

Immerse yourself in history on our Original Florence Walk and listen to medieval stories with a three hour stroll around Florence's essential sights. View the most famous sculpture, the David by Micheangelo with our entertaining art historians.

Hear our clients' Robert & Cathy Fowler's comments about our Florence In One Glorious Day Package they joined on September 22, 2009.

"Made Florence more endearing by learning so many interesting facts & different periods explained and pointed out in the city's architecture. Our Uffizi tour was made so much better by the tour's picking highlights to focus on "David" - was incredible & all of the information shared about Michelangelo made it so much better. Guides were well understood & very personable - we'll leave Florence with a much better because of these tours. "

ArtViva's Masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery Tour will allow you to understand and enjoy the most important paintings of the Renaissance in this world famous museum! Rick Schwartz, who joined our Uffizi Tour on September 8th, 2009 says:

"Outstanding Tour. Elisabeth was articulate, interesting and injected personality and humour. She gave a "unified" story that really helped provide the bigger picture, not just details about each piece. This was the high point of our Firenze visit."

Reserve a tour with our art experts and make your vacation in Florence unforgettable! See our Best of Tuscany blog and hear more about about our most popular Tuscan tour that clients keep coming back to join!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Trip Advisor Review for Original Florence Walk and Masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery Tour

Find out more about our Masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery Tour and the Original Florence Walk from one of our happy clients!

TripAdvisor Original & Best Walking Tours Review:

"We truly enjoyed both the Original Florence Walk and Uffizi tours.

We booked via internet from home and everything went well. Good information was provided regarding the tours and meeting place which was easy to find.

Both guides were so passionate about Florence and able to share both their love of the city and their tremendous knowledge. We had fun, we learned a lot from them and our tours contributed to make our stay in Florence a very memorable experience.

During the walking tour, you really get a good sense of the city: its history, influent families, religion, politics, arts and so on.

The Uffizi museum is a "must see" but can be quite overwhelming on your own. Our guide was really good at selecting the best art pieces and information was so interesting!

I would strongly recommend Artviva!"

Quebec, Canada
August 2009

The Original and Best Walking Tours: "This was so worth my time and money, that 3 years later, I came back for another!"

The Original and Best Walking Tours TripAdvisor Review from August 19, 2009:

"This was so worth my time and money, that 3 years later, I came back for another!

This event, I'll refrain from using the phrase "tour" because it did not feel like one, was extraordinary to say the least.

Sylvia, our tour guide, was not only extremely knowledgeable, energetic, punctual, personable, highly talented, and communicative about the various architectural and historical wonders of the city, but she was also helpful to lead us in the right directions (various local points of interest) for the remainder of our 3 day stay in Florence.

With the large number of tourist trap boutiques that my group was definitely not interested in, we surely would have been lost amongst the crowds without Sylvia's expertise.

Thank you again, Sylvia and "The Original and Best Walking Tours" for this wonderful experience and tradition that we look forward to on our return to Italy."

Florida, US
Aug 19, 2009 New

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why not try our Italy Grand Tour Special!

Trip Advisor ArtViva Review:


"We did the Grand Italy package tours of Venice, Florence and Rome with the Learn to be Gondolier Tour in Venice and Villa Swim tour with wine tasting in Tuscany as extras.

The company threw in an Evening walk with wine in Florence. Friendly staff, great service, really fantastic guides, best tours we did in Europe.

Venice gondola rowing teaching experience was our favorite, just being out on the lagoon with magical views and our son having a go at rowing was the highlight of our trip. We can't recommend Artviva more highly; we will definitely be using them when we return.

Can't remember all the guides names, but a special thanks to Stephan for a great Best Tuscany tour and Jennifer for the Grand Canal and Original Gondola tours, and Sylvia in Florence for the Uffizi tour and Chris for a memorable Vatican tour."

May 12, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Best of Tuscany and Florence - Just Do It!" - ArtViva TripAdvisor Review

Read further to hear what one of our recent clients have to say about our Best of Tuscany Tour, Tuscan Bike + Villa Swim Tour and Tuscan Wine Tour.

Did we mention they loved our Florence tours as well?

"We can not say enough about this very friendly company. Due to a mix up over setting our clocks-put it down to jet lag! and a problem with a bus strike we turned up late for our morning tour and Uffizi tour the next day.

No problems for the smiling Artviva young ladies in Florence who graciously took our rambling family to meet the already departed guides.

Our guides caught us up in the break with what we missed. Florence is a fascinating city and our guides Christine and Silvia just made it come alive for us. We loved the smallest bar we have ever seen, a cupboard sized hole in a wall where we stopped for a snack.

The best for us was the Best of Tuscany tour with Stephen with the wine, the lunch, views. He convinced us to do the Villa Swim tour as well. As our parents are elderly -we biked, they opted to be transfered directly to the villa. All highly recommended for young and old alike.

Artviva never made us feel unwanted, our questions about parking, restaurants, changing money, rest rooms, where to get medical attention, wheel chair hire (Mother not feeling too well), post offices (you get the idea!) ... were answered with a sense of humor and patience as I'm sure they must have heard most of our queries a million times before.

Our guides always made sure my mother in her wheel chair for this part of out trip felt included in the tour. Thank you Artviva you made what could have been a difficult stay in Florence not just a memorable experience but one we will all treasure."



14 August 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"A Great Tour of the Uffizi Gallery with ArtViva"

What better way to understand the highlights of Renaissance art than with our expert guides!

Read the latest review from Trip Advisor about our Masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery Tour!

“A Great tour of the Uffizi Gallery with Artviva

"I had a really interesting and fun tour of the Uffizi gallery in Florence with a company called Artviva. We were escorted to the gallery by a young guide who is a native speaker of English and were able to gain entry without the usual interminable wait in the queue.

Having visited the gallery before, I know it is a vaste repository of wonderful paintings and sculpture. But you can wear out an awful lot of shoe leather trying to find the really good stuff and even then you might not realise what you are looking at. Our guide, on the other hand, knew just where to take us and was full of entertaining stories about the artists and their work.

There were some children in our group who were kept interested with questions to answer with a treasure hunt style quiz. They seemed to really enjoy the tour as much as the adults. After our tour we were free to keep exploring the gallery for as long as we wished, but I must admit my friend and I headed straight for the coffee shop."

Port Douglas
10 August 2009

For more details on this tour, please visit our website .

Friday, August 14, 2009

ArtViva Trip Advisor Review for the Uffizi and David Tours

"What a find Artviva was! We took the Uffizi and the David tours. The tickets were pre-reserved so we did not have to wait in any long lines. That in itself was great. It got better as the day went on.

Our guide was fabulous. Her knowledge base was unbelievable. She directed us to the certain masterpieces in the Uffizi that demonstrated the development of early to late renaissance styles with much added background information. The David Tour was great as well.

The staff at Artviva was very professional from the person who took our reservation to the guides. I will recommend Artviva to anyone I know who is traveling to Italy and will use them again next time I go."

Brookline, Massachusetts

Original Evening Walk offers you a glimpse into Florentine life, past and present, and treats you to a tasting of wine, olive oil & balsamic vinegar!

TripAdvisor ArtViva Review:

"We went on "The Original Evening Walk" in Florence and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Heather was our guide, an American who had been studying art restoration in Florence. She seemed to know everything, and her enthusiasm was contagious. My sister and I are now both anxious to read all all about the Medici's.

This tour is limited to between two to eight participants, however, we were the only two that night for the tour. We learned more in those two hours than the rest of the week put together!

We loved learning about the little details of the architecture that you would normally miss. And the best part was the second hour that is spent in an upscale wineshop in a back room for the tasting.

The wineshop provided us with several types of olive oil, balsamic vinegar (including the 20 year aged cherry variety), chocolate, vin santo, chianti and grappa. We spent more than an hour talking about the history and use of each.

We didn't call to book the tour until that morning (in March) from the hotel, and they booked the tour for us. And when it started hailing in the middle of the tour, Heather offered us her umbrella. What a classy operation!"

March 26, 2009

Join our Original Best of Tuscany Tour for An Unforgettable and Memorable Experience!

ArtViva Review:

"Excellent, exceeded my expectations overall. Didn't expect the stop at the wine estate with lunch and wine to be so nice.... Driver was very skilled driving through the countryside, views were magnificent, tour guide was very knowledgable and entertaining during the time in the car between towns, had a thoroughly enjoyable day, totally worth the price.

Having lunch with our tour guide at the wine estate in the cellar was one of the most memorable moments of my entire trip. Very special, even the Grappa, which I could barely swallow because it was so strong!

Thanks for the unforgettable memories,"

Karen Carpenter

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Have a truly unique Italian experience with ArtViva in Florence, Rome and Venice!

See what one of our satisfied customers has to say about our Original Gondola Tour in Venice, our Original Bike Tuscany Tour and the Florence In One Day Package!

"I traveled with my husband and daughter age 16 and son age 21. We all did the Florence in One Glorious Day tour and it was fabulous. We had two different guides. The second was especially beyond our expectations. She really helped us to appreciate the art that we encountered. I am sure that I would have looked at the statue of David, for example, and moved on. With her careful eye she helped me to see the work in such a way that it truly moved me. She performed the same magic in the Uffizi Gallery. My whole family speculated that she must be a scholar who keeps her hand in the field beyond just doing these guided tours.

My husband and I did the Bike tour of Tuscany ourselves and we absolutely loved it. The group was varied, the guide was lively, funny, and informative, and the entire day was just plain fun - great scenery, great food, a little introduction into the art of tasting wine (in an atmospheric setting), and some good exercise as well. This tour had it all. My husband says he would do the same tour again...

The gondola tour was a good bargain for the money and very pleasant. The gondola ride was off the beaten path and a unique experience made afforable. In planning the trip I thought that the full day tour in Venice would be too much canned itinerary, but in retrospect I would have done another in tour in Venice as well. My 16 year old thought the gondola ride was a highlight of our trip."

Patti Zucca
June 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Florence In One Day Tours ArtViva Review

Visit two of the world's most famous art galleries, the Uffizi and the Accademia, with our entertaining guides who are experts in art history! Don't miss out in really getting to know the essence of Florence - let us take you on a journey through the city's past and present with the Original Florence Walk! What better way to see the masterpieces of the Renaissance than with our Florence In One Glorious Day Package!

Hear more about our Florence In One Glorious Day Package from one of our clients:

"Outstanding experience! Tanya was an excellent guide to introduce us to the architecture and history of Florence and the Renaissance. Her knowledge and presentation style were engaging and informative and all members of my family (my husband, my 10 year old son and I) found the tour one of our trip's highlights! We were left wanting to read books about the Medici family and spend far more time in Florence than our time allowed!

Christine did a fantastic tour of the highlights of the Uffizi! She was extremely knowledgable and her sense of humour and ability to make so many connections between the art and the history of the time was fantastic! I had been to the Uffizi previously (unguided) and know realize how essential a good guide is to a collection of that importance. My son, who is just acquiring a taste for art and the subtle (and not so subtle) elements in a painting, loved the tour (as did my husband and I!) and it ranks amongst the top of his tour experiences during our two week stay in Italy.

Our time with Elizabeth at the Accademia was also very informative. She pointed out a number of interesting things about Michelangelo's sculpting style and we felt it was of great benefit to have the background when trying to appreciate his work. Our greatest regret on our trip was that we had not booked more tours through Artviva (particularly in Venice!!). It is a great incentive to return to Italy and make better use of the excellent tours you offer!!"

Megan McColm
July 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ryan Air Mag Article Artviva Learn to be a Gondolier Venice Tours

Ryan Air Mag Article by James Williams

Learn to be a Gondolier-Artviva Gondola Toirs and Rides in Venice, Italy

Behind the MaskFrom the July/August 2009 issue

We all know the bridge of sighs, but what about the rest of Venice? James Williams enters a world of spritz drinking, gondola making and life surrounded by water.
Click here to view the gallery for this article
I’m sitting in a café on St Mark’s Square savouring the last dregs of my €14 cup of coffee, watching as a young woman covered in pigeons poses for a photo against the backdrop of the magnificent, multi-domed Basilica. It’s a familiar sight and this must be one of the most enjoyable public spaces in the world, but part of me is still asking why I came to Venice at all.
Just then through the crowds of teenagers buzzing round the tacky souvenir stalls I spot a rare sight on this iconic piazza – a local. I can tell instantly by the lack of a camera and casual demeanour that it’s my guide, Fabio – a 24-year-old Venetian who has agreed to take me on a tour of his hometown, show me Venice’s traditions are alive and well and introduce me to some of the best bars the city has to offer.

Ducking down an alley under the clock tower Fabio leads me through a dense maze of narrow passageways until I am completely lost and disoriented. “You could never find this place on your own,” he says five minutes later as we enter a medieval courtyard near the church of San Giovanni Crisóstomo. There’s a little taverna tucked away in the corner with a group of locals perched on benches outside, and at the other end a jetty stretching out onto the Grand Canal.
It seems the perfect place to try a classic Venetian cocktail. “So are we having a Bellini?” I ask. “No, Venetians don’t drink those!” says Fabio with mischief in his eyes. “We only drink spritz!” The red-orange cocktail was invented back in the days of the Austrian Empire and tastes delicious – slightly bitter yet completely refreshing. Here at Taverna del Campiello Remer (Cannaregio 5701) they make it with white wine, Aperol and sparkling water.
Fabio informs me this courtyard would once have been a workshop making oars and oar rests for the gondola. “You can tell by the name ‘remèr’. At one time there were remèri all over Venice,” he says. I’m intrigued, so we head off to meet Fabio’s best friend Pietro, who for the past five years has been carrying on the tradition.

We enter a workshop in the laid-back Dorsoduro district to the pleasing smell of wood and varnish, and the strains of Vivaldi’s Summer filling the room. Pietro shows us a finished forcola (oar rest), which has been carved from a whole piece of walnut wood. It looks beautiful. “This one provides the rower with two speeds and a reverse gear,” he explains. “And we don’t just make these for the gondolas – rowing is a very popular sport here and there are about 50 clubs. We make pieces for private buyers, too – there is even a forcola at the MoMA gallery in New York.”

As we are talking, Pietro’s boss – Venice’s “master remèr”, Saverio Pastor – appears and chats to us briefly before picking up a sharp tool and making intricate carvings to a freshly chiselled piece. Saverio is also president of the El Felze association, which helps to promote and preserve the crafts of the gondola, from boat builders to tailors and engravers. These artisans and their crafts offer a fantastic snapshot of the soul of Venice, and if you fancy seeing more you can even download maps showing workshop locations at

I sense Fabio is becoming restless. It’s getting close to spritz hour, when the town’s bars come alive, so we take the vaporetto (water bus) over to the district of Castello, where along the quiet, tourist-free streets like Via Giuseppe Garibaldi we find gondoliers out enjoying a well-earned beer, some of them still in their stripy shirts.

And best of all Fabio reveals he is to take us out tonight by boat, which we find moored near the Arsenale. Soon Pietro, who has got cleaned up, joins us and we get ready for the night out. “Look you can see everything from here,” says Pietro, as the boat chugs along a narrow canal. We pass by secret gardens with plumes of purple wisteria leaping over the walls, a beautiful Greek Orthodox church, and Venice’s own leaning tower. We also capture hidden moments, such as people on running machines in the gym and couples kissing next to a bridge.

Unlike your average tourist boat ride, we also have to get our hands dirty squeezing the boat under the dangerously low Ponte Tetta, or “Tits Bridge”. “We don’t want to get wedged under here,” says Pietro, as he tells us about the prostitutes who used to display their wares from the windows in the houses above.

Happy hour is in full swing as we pull up alongside Ostaria Simson (Castello 6316), the first stop on our bacari tour. The aim is to visit several bars and osterias – small restaurants where you can either eat a meal or just drink great wine alongside cicchetti, bite-sized snacks that are a highlight of Venetian cuisine.

Clinking our glasses of white wine, we tuck into sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines in onions and vinegar), baccalà (cod paste spread over crostini) and tender baby octopus. Fish has long been a staple in this former maritime nation and we also see diners enjoying seared tuna and pasta with clams.

Next up we moor the boat at Ostaria al Ponte (Cannaregio 6378), where the owner greets us with a jug of ombra – white wine consumed in glasses so small it’s impossible to remember how many you’ve had. Another friend, Pippo, turns up and we all stand on the bridge overlooking Campo San Giovanni e Paolo eating wonderful soppressa salami, and hearing funny stories about Venice’s promiscuous nuns and people falling in the canal.

Now we’re all warmed up the Venetian boys proceed to lead us on foot through the labyrinthine back streets of San Marco. All around the deserted alleys are more signs of Venice’s weird and wonderful past. We see peculiar masks used to ward off the plague, discover the square where Marco Polo and his family once lived, and come across a hidden courtyard that not even Fabio knew existed.

It’s turning into a real adventure, as we sink yet more wine outside Trattoria Ca’ d’Oro (Cannaregio 3912), scoffing fried potato and mince balls, before hitting our last port of call around 1am at the trendy Osteria al Pesador in the nightlife hub of the Rialto market. We zoom up the Grand Canal and moor the boat by the jetty. “Having a boat in Venice is like having a car – only better,” says Fabio as we go ashore. I couldn’t agree more, and we stay on drinking until the early hours, before thankfully the boat is on hand to transport me back to my hotel.
Head spinning the next morning I wonder how I’ll manage spending this day bobbing about on yet more boats – having promised to meet with a few of Pietro’s highly praised rowers. Leaving behind my comfy bed in the Hotel Papadopoli Venice ( – a luxury bolt-hole that’s close to everything, including the main vaporetto terminal – I’m soon on the water again heading to the Querini rowing club, one of the oldest in Venice.

“The great thing about this sport is that people of all ages can do it, whether you’re 17 or 70,” one grey-haired man tells me, as a father and son push their boat out into the lagoon. Traditions are strong here, and so is the competition between clubs – races have been a Venetian way of life for centuries. The biggest of all being the Regatta Storica (6 September), which sees teams of top racers battling it out on the Grand Canal.

Gazing out at the idyllic scene before me, I contemplate how I’ve seen this city in a whole new light since hanging out with some natives. And I wonder how people can come here on daytrips and venture only as far as St Mark’s Square. Or, as Fabio put it to me: “Venice is such an amazing, beautiful city – I just wish people would come and see more of it.”

Learn to be a gondolier!Ever wondered what it’s like to ply the murky waters of La Serenissima? We had a go ourselves and it’s not as easy as it looks. First you have to keep the oar in the water at all times and keep your balance. Second, keep your left hand below shoulder height and use those muscles. Many Venetians start rowing when they are kids, but luckily for us landlubbers a new hands-on course by Artviva The Original and Best Tours Italy will give you a two-hour lesson rowing a gondola. Unique in Venice, an experienced native-English-speaking tutor takes you out onto the lagoon in a specially adapted boat, where you’ll also hear plenty of stories about this age-old profession.

It costs €80pp (maximum four) and can be booked at
Also check out Artviva’s Original Gondola Tour – the only one of its kind – and discover Venice with a quality guide in one of its magical black boats.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Artviva Tour Review

Artviva Tour Review
“Tours with a personal touch”

Aug 12, 2008

I cannot say enough good things about the two tours I took with this company. One was a 4 hour walking tour of Florence, and the other was a day trip into the heart of Tuscany on a bus. Each had no more then a dozen clients and we all felt that we had personal treatment.There was a small mix up with my original booking, but it was handled quickly and to my complete satisfaction. Thank you to both my tour guides who were fun and very knowledgable. Thanks to Artviva for adding so much to my trip to Italy. Worth every penny.

Trip Advisor Artviva Tour Review
Artviva Review Trip Advisor

“Favorite Tour in Europe”

Robles2010 Boston, MA
Sep 28, 2008

All the Venice tours were absolutely amazing! After doing the Walking Tour in Florence we fell in love with Artviva and had high expectations of the Venice tour. I am very happy to tell you that our expectations were met and surpassed. The guides were incredible, personable, friendly and brought the history of the sights to life in a funny, memorable way. What a wonderful experience! Their site is belowP.S. Throughout the tour they made up feel like old friends showing us the town.

Francisco "Artviva: The Original and Best Walking Tours"

Review TripAdvisor

Artviva Review Trip Advisor

Artviva Review “Grand Canal Tour”

Sep 28, 2008

Cynthia Johnson gave us all the scoop, past and present. It was fun to hear her stories - personal ones and those of the celebrities and past Venetians. It's a good tour to get off your feet and sit in a water taxi. We would take another one. Cynthia had a great way sharing. You felt like you know her almost instantly. She's knowledgable in her field and I love that she lives in Venice. She's a real part of the community, but still a part of ours. Thanks, Cynthia, hope to see you again in Venice!

Artviva Trip Advisor Review Venice Tour Grand Canal

Reviews Artviva Venice

Trip Advisor Review

Review Artviva
“Wonderfull tuscan tours = great memories”

May 4, 2009

The best tours we have ever done. We’ve just returned and still find ourselves talking about what a wonderful experience we had. We did the Venice in One Glorious day tours as well as the learning to be a gondolier tour (two memorable hours listening to stories from our gracious and insightful master guide) not to mention floating on Venice’s lagoon and trying to row like the Venetian gondoliers! We have to recommend this as a great and relaxing way to get out of busy Venice and see it from such a fantastic perspective. It's hard to imagine a better introduction to this wonderful city. Our guides exhibited a wonderful combination of in-depth knowledge of the city and its treasures, a wonderful presence, a sense of humor, a great ability for story-telling, not to mention a wealth of practical suggestions… Throughout our all too brief stay we found ourselves referring to the suggestions made by our wonderful guides; ranging from how to snack Venetian style, to tricky rowing tips, use of perspective, where to find the best Murano glass to ordering a Bellini at Harry’s Bar in native Venetian… we will recommend this company to anyone visiting Venice. Thumbs up Artviva!

Artviva Venice Review

Artviva Venice Tour Review
“Fantastic tours we did with Artviva.”

May 12, 2009

Wow! We did the Grand Italy package tours of Venice, Florence and Rome with the Learn to be Gondolier Tour in Venice and Villa Swim tour with wine tasting in Tuscany as extras. The company threw in an Evening walk with wine in Florence. Friendly staff, great service, really fantastic guides, best tours we did in Europe. Venice gondola rowing teaching experience was our favorite, just being out on the lagoon with magical views and our son having a go at rowing was the highlight of our trip. We can't recommend Artviva more highly; we will definitely be using them when we return. Can't remember all the guides names, but a special thanks to Stephan for a great Best Tuscany tour and Jennifer for the Grand Canal and Original Gondola tours, and Sylvia in Florence for the Uffizi tour and Chris for a memorable Vatican tour.

Trip Advisor Review Venice Artviva

Artviva Review Venice Tour

Artviva Review Venice Tour

"We really lucked into your company. All the Florence and Venice tours were exceptional.”

Artviva provided knowledgeable and personable guides who made the tours a very pleasant experience. I felt like we got a lot extra out of our visits to Florence and Venice due to our Artviva guides. I wholeheartedly recommend Artviva tours.

RCWTexas Texas
Jun 13, 2009

Trip Advisor Review Venice Artviva

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Looking for La Bella Vita? Look no further!

For those of you looking to get outside the hustle and bustle of the city, why not try La Bella Vita offered exclusively by ArtViva?

We take you away from the hot sun and crowds, to a picturesque Renaissance villa on the outskirts of Florence. See beautiful views of Tuscany, enjoy a wine tasting and winery visit, a gourmet lunch...and then laze away by a private pool with stunning views of the Tuscan hills surrounding you.

Because not many hotels in Florence have pools, this is the perfect option to enjoy yourself, relax, refresh, and take in the best that Tuscany has to offer!

For more information on all of our ArtViva experiences, please visit us here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Enjoy the Original Best of Tuscany Tour

Everyone is talking about The Best of Tuscany tour that ArtViva offers. Where else can you participate in a full day tour that takes you straight to the heart of Chianti, offers you wine, a delicious typical tuscan meal and breathtaking views of Siena, San Gimignano and Monterrigione?
But don't take our word for's what clients have had to say:

The Best of Tuscany Tour: "Great! San Gimignano was gorgeous!! Siena was lovely! Wine and lunch under the Tuscan Sun was just heavenly!!"-

"The Best of Tuscany Tour was incredible! The perfect mix of Tuscan hill towns and scenery. The lunch at the wine estate was amazing! It was neat to see how a traditional farm winery works. Highly recommended! Both the tour and our guide were fabulous!

For more information on the Best of Tuscany tour, dates the tour is run, and booking online, please visit us online!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Artviva: The Original and Best Walking Tours Italy has a fantastic team of professional and personable guides in Florence, Tuscany, Venice, Rome...

Artviva: The Original and Best Walking Tours Italy has a fantastic team of professional and personable guides in Florence, Tuscany, Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre and Pompeii as well as super experts from the famous Maurizio Seracini the Da Vinci Code art detective finding a lost Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece in Florence, Italy to the best known Tuscany wine expert Burton Anderson to other great guides and art historians they have collaborated with over the years including Florence guide Silvia , Rome guide Chris , Florence guides Aniko Szabo, Elisabetta Francini, Freya Middleton, Tanya Bruckner, Tuscany and bike guides Stefan Derich, Douglas , Cristine , Andrea, Venice experts Cynthia Johnson, Jennifer, Rosemary, Louisella, Pompeii guide Gaetano Manfredi, and other Italy guides, Laurence, Paola, Molly, Sara, Suzy, Ros , Paul , to name a few... we are very careful about who we work with providing training and resources for our guides and historians.
Why use a reputable tour operator rather than go direct with a guide....reliability! Artviva is the Original and Best Tours in Italy with internationally acclaimed high quality services and entertaining guided tours. Enjoy your holiday knowing you have the security of a fully accredited tour operator based in Florence, Italy. Experience the best small group tours and exclusive private tours in Florence, Tuscany, Venice, Rome and beyond

Monday, May 25, 2009

Experience the Venetian way of life - Learn to be a Gondolier|

Ever wondered what it would be like to manouver a gondola through the lovely water alleys of Venice?

We glide through Venice's prettiest canals and out into the Venetian lagoon where we will learn how to row a gondola.

Enjoy the chance for fabulous views of Venice from this unique vantage point and don't forget your gondolier hat!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cruise along winding Tuscan roads on our Vintage 500 Fiat Tour

Imagine being part of a classic old Italian film!

Experience a leisurely escorted driving tour in a vintage Fiat 500 car -we are talking about those cute tiny Italian cars you see in old films!

Enjoy a Half-Day Hike with a Perfect Morning In Tuscany Tour

Enjoy a 2 hour hike through the woods in Fiesole, an ancient Etruscan town that overlooks Florence followed by a lunch at a famous Renaissance Villa where 'Tea With Mussolini' and 'A Room With A View' were filmed!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

One Minute Guide To The Uffizi Gallery Florence Italy

Chris Leadbeater from Travelmail has provided this overview of the Uffizi in Florence Italy.
See it in style and with a small group with our Masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery Tour

"The One Minute Guide To...

The Uffizi Gallery, Florence By Chris Leadbeater, TravelMail

The Uffizi is home to some of the finest treasures of art anywhere in the world
The gallery is as beautiful on the outside as it is from within
What: One of the world's finest art galleries – if not the finest. After all, the Galleria degli Uffizi, to use its full Italian name, has been open to the public as a cultural treasure trove since 1765 – a time when the Louvre was still slumming it as a plain old royal palace. The Uffizi was also one of the key stops on the 'Grand Tour' of Europe – the cross-continental travel route followed by the wealthy and the itchy-of-feet in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. They didn't have budget flights in those days, you see.
Where: Right in the heart of Florence, just up from the River Arno, on the Piazzale degli Uffizi. To be precise, it sits within a Renaissance pile built between 1560 and 1581. The sort of building that looks just as glorious as the art it holds, in other words.
Why go? Well, at this time of year, there is one very good reason to visit. The Uffizi is home to Sandro Botticelli's The Birth Of Venus – the masterpiece, painted some time between 1482 and 1486, that shows the famously lovely deity perched on a shell as she emerges from the sea, nothing but well-positioned strands of her long golden hair preserving her immortal decency. Venus was, of course, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Valentine's Day is this week. Do you see where we're going here?
Random fact: The world can consider itself fortunate that The Birth Of Venus still exists. It could easily have perished in 1497 during the infamous Bonfire Of The Vanities – the destruction of thousands of priceless works of art and literature on large pyres in the Piazza della Signoria. The purge was ordered by Hieronymus Savonarola, a Dominican priest and the city's then-leader, as a way of ridding Florence of items he deemed impure and sinful. The Birth Of Venus, with its glorification of a pagan icon and – let's face it – blatant nudity, might well have fallen victim to the flames (other works by Botticelli, as well as pieces by Michelangelo certainly did), but somehow survived, possibly because Botticelli had friends in high places with immaculate taste.
Best bit: Unless you're an art historian who wants to argue the matter, Botticelli's chief achievement is the best bit about a visit to the Uffizi. But the gallery's list of showstoppers does not end there. Its walls play host to glories created by Da Vinci, Titian, Caravaggio, Raphael and Michelangelo, as well as other Botticelli numbers..."

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Villa Swim Tour

Fancy lounging by the pool with a glass of wine with a view of the marvelous Tuscan countryside below?

We are now offering visits to private villa where you can choose to spend half a day relaxing by the pool with a light lunch, and alternatively, also lounge by the pool side and join a wine-tasting at the villa with the experts!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

New York Times Article Europe Discounts

New York Times still recommends booking now as the reasonable prices make Europe affordable. “Right now, the great deals are for departures before the end of May and some are leaking into mid-June,” said Rick Seaney, chief executive of, a price tracking website. He recommends that Americans book now for trips to Europe in May or June, but to hold off for flights later in the summer.

See our Super Special Rick Steves Readers Grand Tour of Italy Special DISCOUNTS

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tuscany Bike Tours Review and Information about the new Tuscany Bike Tours and Villa Swim Tours

Here is a review of our Tuscany Bike Tours and an introduction to our new Tuscany Bike Tour and Villa Swim. We are the first company in Italy to offer a day bike tour with a villa swim. If you don’t fancy biking, you can choose to meet family and friends up at the Villa to enjoy with them the wine tasting, walk around the vineyards and olive groves, and lunch. You can laze away the afternoon beside the fabulous pool with stunning views of the Tuscany countryside. Our new Tuscany Bike Tour allows you to just do the bike tour, or take the option to stay at the Villa and laze away the afternoon swimming. The guide then comes back and brings you back to Florence.
The Villa is a magnificent renaissance villa replete with beautiful olive groves, vineyards and ancient hunting grounds. The Villa estate also produces wonderful wine and olive oil.
Book the Original Tuscany Bike Tours or Tuscany Bike Tour and Villa Swim at

You can also choose to have a day just lazing around the Villa pool with lunch or a wine tasting, Villa visit and lunch with or without a swim, see our site for more information.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring 2009 Tours Italy-Review Marvelous Chianti Castle Wine Tour Tuscany Italy

Our favorite review so far for 2009

"the epicentre of wonderfulness" said by one of our clients while relaxing over a glass of wine and delicious Tuscan lunch at the castle on our Marvelous Chianti Castle Tour....

and for those that love the Tuscan spring, here's one of the first poppies in Tuscany for 2009!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Concerts July 2009 at La foce, Tuscany Italy

A Wonderful July Concert Series at the Famous La Foce Villa in Southern Tuscany

About La Foce
The property of La Foce lies on the hills overlooking the Val d'Orcia, a beautiful and miraculously intact valley in Southern Tuscany. Midway between Florence and Rome, it is also within easy reach of Siena, Arezzo, Perugia, Assisi, Orvieto.
Renaissance and medieval gems such as Pienza, Montepulciano, Monticchiello and Montalcino are only a few miles away. The countryside abounds in lovely walks among woods and the characteristic crete senesi (clay hills); the food is among the best in Tuscany and famous wines such as the Vino

“Incontri in Terra di Siena” is a not-for-profit cultural association, founded in 1989 in memory of Antonio and Iris Origo, who dedicated their lives to the development and progress of the Val d’Orcia. The Incontri chamber music festival is now recognized as one of the best and most refined in Tuscany.
Incontri is based at Villa La Foce and in a medieval castle nearby, Castelluccio di Pienza. Its aim is to spread the appreciation of music and art through concerts, meetings, and artistic events in the many beautiful venues of Southern Tuscany. Members and donors receive invitations for the many activities – contemporary art exhibitions, conferences, symposia, youth concerts – initiated by Incontri.
The Avalon String Quartet with pianist Alexandros Kapelis The famous zig-zag road visible from Castelluccio
Antonio Lysy, the internationally acclaimed cellist, now also Professor at UCLA, and grandson of Antonio and Iris Origo, is the Incontri’s Artistic Director and its principal founder.
Musicians like Charles Dutoit, Maurizio Pollini, and Hans Werner Henze, among others, are on the Incontri’s Honorary Board, while some of the most interesting and talented artists have played in the Incontri concerts – such as Louis Lortie, Ronan O’Hora, Kathryn Stott, Jeremy Menuhin, Daniel Phillips, Ani Kavafian, Anthony Marwood, Daniel Zisman, Rachel Podger, Mark Kaplan, Lucy Shelton, Stephan Genz, Nicki Kennedy, Steven Isserlis, Carter Brey, Colin Carr, Janet Hilton, Antony Pay, James Campbell, Stephen Stirling, and chamber groups like the Orpheus and Schidlof Quartets, Goldberg Ensemble, Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, Kremlin Chamber Orchestra, Red Priest, and many others.

“The Incontri constitute one of the most enjoyable musical enterprises of the Tuscan summer” — William Weaver, Financial Times

July 22 - 25 2009
The 2009 festival sees the return of Vladimir Ashkenazy and Pascal Rogé and the first visit of The Tallis Scholars. Mr. Ashkenazy will conduct the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto in a programme of music by Prokofiev, Poulenc (soloist Pascal Rogé) and Schoenberg.
Other festival highlights include the legendary Tallis Scholars in the newly restored S.Maria dei Servi in Città della Pieve, a recital by the renowned Irish pianist Barry Douglas, and the return to Incontri of the Italian violinist Domenico Nordio in duo with Russian pianist Mikhail Lidsky.

Wednesday July 22Mercoledì 22 luglio
S. Maria dei Servi, Città della Pieve‘The Tallis Scholars’, conductor Peter Phillips
music by Victoria, Allegri, Palestrina, Monteverdi
Thursday July 23Giovedì 23 luglio

Castelluccio di Pienza, La FoceBarry Douglas, piano
programme to be announced / programma in preparazione

Friday July 24Venerdì 24 luglio

Castelluccio di Pienza, La FoceDomenico Nordio, violin, and Mikhail Lidsky, piano
J.Brahms, Sonata op.78E.Grieg, Sonata no.2A.Dvorak, “Romantic Pieces”L.Dallapiccola, “Tartiniana Seconda”N.Paganini-K.Szymanovsky, Tre Capricci op.40
Saturday July 25Sabato 25 luglio

Villa La Foce, ChiancianoGala Concert in the Lower Gardenwith the Orchestra di Padova e del Venetoconductor Vladimir Ashkenazy - Pascal Rogé, piano
choreography by Alessandra Ashkenazy
Dinner in the Limonaia Garden before the concertCena nel Giardino della Limonaia prima del concerto
Sergei Prokofiev, Sinfonia n.1 in re maggiore 'Classica' op. 25Arnold Schoenberg, Verklärte Nacht, op. 4Francis Poulenc, Aubade per pianoforte, 18 strumenti e tre danzatori


Barry Douglas' concert on July 23rd:

Tchaikovsky, May and June from Les Saisons Op.37b
Rachmaninov, Moment Musical No 5 in D flat
Schumann, Sonata No 1
Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition

For more Information and bookings :


tel/fax +39 0578 69101

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Florence in One Glorious Day (or two) Special

See this review and introduction to our Florence in One Glorious Day special package. The package consists of 3 great tours covering the must see highlights of Florence with a 3 hour Original Florence Walk, a 2 hour Masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery tour and a 0ne hour Original David Walk. All tours are eco-friendly and have great guides. We keep the group sizes small. We have specially designed our tours to ensure that they cover all the must-sees in the most entertaining way. See our site for more information.

The Marvelous Chianti castle Wine Tour, Tuscany Italy

See Tuscany tour reviews from 2009 travelers for our Marvelous Chianti Castle Wine Tour. To book this tour go to :

The Marvelous Chianti Castle Wine Tour booking page

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Madonna of the Gold Finch by Raphael to be Returned to the Uffizi Gallery

Madonna of the Gold Finch Returns to the Uffizi Gallery

The Renaissance masterpiece Madonna of the Goldfinch, by Raphael, is finally ready after 10 years of painstaking restoration.
The 107-centimetre by 77-centimetre oil-on-wood work, known in Italian as the Madonna del Cardellino, portrays Jesus Christ's mother Mary with two children caressing a goldfinch.
The children symbolize a young Christ and John the Baptist while the bird, feeding among thorns, is interpreted as representing Christ's future suffering.
The restored painting has been transformed from its faded and dour colours, more green and brown, to its original glory — a vivid blue sky and an equally bright blue dress on the Madonna.
Meticulous restoration has removed centuries of film and grime.
Raphael, who died in 1520, painted the panel as a gift for the wedding of Lorenzo Nasi, a wool merchant.
The work was broken into 17 pieces when the Nasi house collapsed in 1547. Another artist used nails to put it together again and also repainted the piece to conceal the breaks.
It later became part of the collection of Florence's powerful Medici family, who also commissioned several repairs to the painting.
"I think I probably know this painting almost better than Raphael," chief restorer Patrizia Riitano said.

Join our Masterpeices of the Uffiz Gallery Tour to see other Raphaels and works by great masters such as Da Vinci , Botticelli and Michelangelo

Monday, March 23, 2009

Telegraph March 20 2009 Guides in Florence, Masterpieces of the Uffizi gallery Tour

The Telegraph 20 March 2009

Guides in Florence

Michele Lester from London writes
We are travelling with a couple of friends to Florence next month. It is our first time in the city and we would like to employ a guide to show us around the Uffizi Gallery (above) as I understand it's a bit of a scrum. Any ideas?

I can personally recommend Artviva (00 39 ...,, which employs art history experts (all native English speakers) who use humour and anecdotes to explain the background to the gallery's most famous works.

You can join a three-hour guided tour for up to 14 people, which costs €25 (£23) each including entry charge, or hire a private guide for your party of four for €76 each. Artviva also offers excellent walking tours of central Florence, similar guided visits to other galleries in the city and "exclusive experiences" including an irreverent look at the city's history with a count from one of Florence's oldest families followed by drinks at his palazzo on the River Arno. The three-hour tour costs about £450 for up to five people.