Sunday, August 2, 2015

Florence: Hammered Gold Jewelry: an ancient tradition


Generations of Skill at the studio of  Nerdi in Florence Italy

Early in the morning, the Ponte Vecchio is still waking up. 
Shop owners  are removing the shutters and the dazzling glint of gold challenges the sunrise.   The mobs of tourists  and window shoppers will soon fill the street but for a short time it is quiet and almost deserted.

This is a wonderful time to walk the ancient streets of Florence.
If there are no cars on the back alleys and lanes, you can imagine you are back in the middle ages.

The Medici family put all the craftsmen and artisans who worked for the family in this former monastery and it continues to be the 'house of the goldsmith'.    Casa dell' Orafo

On the first floor a simple wooden door leads you into the studio of the Nerdi family.  My visit was arranged by 'Italian Stories' and I was warmly welcomed by Daniella, Silvia and Luca.

This is a working studio where not much has changed over the years  Perhaps the showcases for the fine jewelry pieces have been updated, but the work bench and many of the tools have not changed in decades.
Since 1948 Paolo Nerdi has worked in the studio when he was not much taller than the work bench he has used his entire career.


Today at the age of 81 he arrives every morning via scooter, even in winter!  He scrutinizes all the materials and gives advice based on decades of experience.     I was fortunate to meet him the day I visited.   Sig Nerdi's warm smile and greeting makes you feel as if you are a friend who has dropped in for a chat or to drop off a bracelet that needs repair.    

Today the workshop is run by Daniela, Paolo's daughter in law and "maestra d'arte orafa'.   A graduate of the Art Institute in Florence, Daniela and her colleague Luca, a 35 year veteran gold- smith,  create original pieces, engravings, where ancient jewelry can be restored, modified and renewed. 

Nerdi's does work for local jewelry stores, commissions, repairs as well as redesign for customers who want a new look for pieces they may have had for years.  There were a number of wedding rings being engraved today, happy work.

The hand engraving work is stunning and I fell in love with the piece in this photo.   Every stroke by a sure hand, every tool fitting the hand of the maestro as a glove.   

 Silvia was kind enough to translate for me as Paolo demonstrated some of the techniques used to create such fine works of art.  

The traditional method of crafting find pieces is still practiced in the studio.  Work done by a skilled hand reflects the years of training that is required.

A collection of more modern looking gold chain necklaces, bracelets and earrings caught my attention.  Silvia told me the studio was well know for the old style and technique of hammering gold.

I found little written about the technique but many interpretations on line.    Silvia supplied additional photos to demonstrate the process.

                                Hammered Gold 
The technique and styles are the same used by craftsmen centuries ago and secret...

The gold is melted and from the liquid metal a golden plate is formed.  Slowly it is transformed into a golden thread:  passing through a sspinneret and it becomes thinner with every passage through the machinery.  

When it is thin enough it is passed through a spiral to create chain mails(circles).  The chain rings are closed and welded then hammered.   Now they are reopened and joined together to form the necklaces, bracelets or earrings you see here.  

The technique and the tools are part of the decades of experience that goes into each link.

Necklaces in different lengths, bracelets and earrings can be ordered directly from the studio.  Contact the studio for prices. 


Silvia was my patient translator for my visits to Nerdi's studio.
She graciously answered countless emails and questions.  
The historic information and photos of hammered gold are from Silvia.    Make an appointment to visit the studio and perhaps learn more about one of the many techniques the Nerdi studio specializes in.
The studio is open Monday to Friday

Nerdi Laboratorio Orafo Incisore
Vicolo Marzio 2
tel +39 055 292382


Additional history

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Puglia, Italy Last minute rental opportunity

Puglia, Italy is calling you!   A holiday house near the beach on the Puglia coast

A cancellation has offered this great opportuinity

See the web site and contact the owner.  
Hurry before it is too late.

Let’s go to Puglia

Due to a cancellation Casa Mare is available between 12th September and 3rd October,
a great time for beach, pool and sight-seeing. Contact us with your dates

 and number of people and we will make a special price, but don’t wait too long
 …. you might miss this opportunity.  
Looking for the perfect place for your holiday, look no further…. Discover Puglia, the warmth 
of the mezzo-giorno, the warmth and hospitality of the Southern Italians, the wonderful food and 
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for the independent traveller with the advantage of concierge services and an English speaking, local Italian events co-ordinator. Enjoy the peace and quiet of your villa, relax by the  pool, enjoy days on the beach and explore
 the Salento and Puglia. We live here all year round and do not take care of any villas other than our own
 Casa Mare and Villa Rosaenabling us to dedicate our time to ensuring perfect Villa Holidays. Regular 
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Copyright: Lets Go To Puglia 2013 / 2014 /2015
Any income earned from advertising is used to help the abandoned, stray and rescued animals here in Puglia

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ITALY: Rome airport adds trains to Northern Cities

Just saw this online, Trains from the Rome Airport to Venice and other stops
No Change in Rome?

Direct trains from Rome Fiumicino Airport

Travel directly from the airport in Rome to Venice, with stops in Florence, Bologna and Padova
Now there’s one less connection to make when you’re traveling from Rome Fiumicino Airport to popular stops in Italy, including Florence, Bologna, Padova and Venice. After a long flight it’s nice to skip the airport connection, usually required to get you to Rome Termini, the city’s central station.
With 2 daily departures in each direction you can travel on Trenitalia’s high speed Frecciargento trains between Rome Fiumicino Airport and:
Book your Trenitalia E-ticket now, which you can print at home and is ready to travel with, seat reservation included!



This entry was posted by Angela on July 8th, 2015, and is filed under Italy. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tomato Sauce in August is a family affair

Oggi Cucino Vegetariano

a new feature from the Cooking School in Puglia
via Ylenia Sambati

August is the time to make the annual tomato sauce in the Salento and it is one of the most beautiful summer happenings. Just as beautiful as fiestas (sagre), grape harvest (start in August) and luminarie (the special Salento lights).

It is also another simplistic, yet divine cucina povera recipe, eating healthy and living well, of the farmers living according to the cycle of seasons and celebrating the earth through simple food.

It’s one of the most beautiful tradition involving entire families and friends from the elderly to the children and grandchildren.

You might be interested on how to make the classic tomato sauce from scratch. If you’re invited by the Salento locals to join this experience, please do, it’s a lifelong memory.

One thing is very important in making the tomato sauce and it is the quality of tomatoes, the oval-shaped plum variety. You can buy amazing boxes of red plum tomatoes at any local food market or at local farmers.

Wash the tomatoes first, and cut in half before putting them in a big saucepan. Sprinkle with salt, add the onions and fresh basil. Then cover the saucepan and let the tomatoes simmer over moderate heat, stirring from time to time. After about 20 minutes, they should have softened and just begun to melt.

A mill is used to pass the pulp  through in order to remove skins and seeds positioned over a large mixing bowl.

Rotate the handle until all you have left in the food mill are skins and seeds: there will be either a little or quite a bit of liquid that will have drained into the bowl. Discard it before proceeding. 

It’s now time for bottling.

Sterilize all the jars and make sure you keep them cool and clean until you are ready to use them. Fill with the tomatoes mixture.   Seal them tight and then boil the jars for a good 45 minutes.

In a couple of days when the bottles would have cooled down to the touch, they will be ready to use,  stocked up and stored over the next year. Families making passata usually bottle four hundred bottles each!


fresh and ripe tomatoes
red onion
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
basil leaves
red pepper flakes

The taste of tomato sauce made with freshly made passata is truly delicious

This and more experiences are arranged by

Plan your adventure in Puglia with to see and learn the Italian perspective.

to read the Italian version, continue

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Italy: Closed for August

From the Archives

August 15 is 'marked on the calendar in red', I was informed by Olga Stinga  one of my great sources in Sorrento, for Italian insight.1

Ferragosto on August 15th, is Assumption Day, a national holiday.  A day when offices, factories, many stores and restaurants are closed it also is the beginning of the exodus from the cities and towns for families not working in the tourist industry.   

The month of August traditionally has been the month for vacanza, vacation, when Italians leave the cities for the cooler mountains, countryside and the sea.     The Italians I lived among in Sorrento loved the sun.   Before temperatures allowed coats to be left at home, the decks for the countless lounge chairs along the Marina Grande were being constructed.    Bodies would fill each sun bed, cover the rocks in coves and grill on the stone beaches along the coast.    The Italians love the sun.

For a perspective on small towns vs cities, I asked my Italian friends to tell me about August closings. "The practice of closing for the entire month (of August) is not common, perhaps because of the economic situation the last few years" Isabell Salesny, in Rome, tells me.   "Any small retail activity, bars, pizza take aways, ice cream shops, close from the 15th to the end of august." "From June to the end of August, grandparents, stay at home moms and children are at the beach.  Husbands visit on the weekends?"  2

Vacations may be shortened to a few days around Ferrogosto, 2 weeks or until school children return to the classroom in September. 

My translator, Caterina lives in  Ravenna  and shares that "the month long holiday is shrinking.   Some services do not close:   pharmacies, tourist attractions.
In smaller towns usually there is only one baker and one vegetable store, and in many cases one shop for both kinds of products, and of course the owner doesn't close."  "Barber shops close for vacations, (my hair dresser closes for two weeks."  3      
" the hardware store may close for a week or more, but here in Ravenna we have a mall and many supermarkets, where you can find everything while you wait until you favorite shop will open again."

Myra Robinson lives about an hour outside of Venice, is an author and an expat.  She answered "how August closings affect daily life?" "Quite often local stores stagger their holidays so that there is always one barber's open etc. The little supermarket is suspending its continuous opening hours and will be closed from 1 to 3.30. I remember from last year that the (Saturday) market was somewhat diminished in July and August. The usual shoe stall and handbag stall were not there, but there was always a fish stall, green grocery etc whereas normally there would be two or three. 4

Monica Cesarato my Venice authority:  "yes they do, usually for a month in August - even in Venice, last night I saw an Osteria which was closing for a month from middle of July to middle of August.

But I have to say as the years go by I see more and more people not closing during the summer, due to the crisis." 5

"Lecce is always opened" declares Yle Sambati in Puglia.
"August is the month of holidays for many Italians: many of them go on holiday in
August at least mentally..unplugged for at least 20 days.   It is the time of the year during which (you) forget about public offices or quick replies.......most of them say "it's August" (this is hilarious right?), or "contact me after august".
"And since Puglia is more than ever before,  the TOP place for the Italians, they all head south.
Especially in the Salento - namely the trendiest part of Puglia - with its incredible beaches and summer places, services and facilities are available also in August except for FERRAGOSTO"

"In the past, the cities used to be empty in August since all the locals were on the beach or enjoying their summer houses. It's different now,  In Lecce, for example, from the morning till very late at night you have people in town and many facilities available."

"The shops that close are mostly those outside the historic town, since this is the part of the town where most locals and tourists enjoy the DOLCE VITA, what in Lecce we call THE MOVIDA.  Shops and facilities may close " PER FERIE" (summer holiday) and open up again after Ferragosto (August 15th) or for the Saint Patron Celebration (Festa di Sant'Oronzo August 24 - 26)".6


My new BF Tina with DND said:  What Ferie?7

Buono Vacanze

Thank you to all my contributors from Italy for your input and willingness to answer my many odd questions.

1.  Olga Sting Study Abroad Program Coordinator & Head of the Italian Department, Santa Anna Institute
2.  Isabell Salesney, Estate Agent and co founder of Rome based,
3.  Catterina   for translations find her on  as slam24
4.  Myra Robinson, author of Fried Flowers and Fango, writer, expat:
5.  Monica Cesato,, learn Italian, home stay, cooking adventures and Venice experiences not in the travel books.
6.  Ylenia Sambati, owner of (  A travel concierge
  who works to maker you dream of Italy come true. 
7.  Discover Naples Destinations, DND.  A totally new way to travel and learn about Naples and it's surrounding treasures., ask for Tina

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Running Away to Live in Italy! Interviews with expats living in Italy

How many times have you considered moving to Italy, even for only a few months each year?

On every trip Home to Italy I meet expats who have done just that! 

Most recently a young woman from Arizona and most encouragingly a mature woman who retired, sold her home and moved to Italy and a few others who have lived in Italy for decades......

Often on a vacation you will spend time in a town or city that 'speaks' to you and think "I could live here".   But we never again think about moving once we return to our regular lives.

In this series I will interview several expats and ask them why and how they 'moved to Italy'.

Today meet Kelly Medford

Kelly is an accomplished, professional painter who I met several years ago in Rome.  She was kind to let me 'shadow' her around while she was painting one day.  Kelly, as you will read in her bio at the end of this story, paints outside.  She paints in ALL kinds of weather.  
We have stayed in touch and I have watched as her reputation has grown as she has added teaching workshops in the USA and in Europe.  

 Hello Kelly, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
How long have you been an expat in Italy?
I moved to Italy in January of 2004, it's hard to believe that I've now been here just over 11 years. 

Prior to becoming an expat did you live in Italy for any length of time?
No I didn't. I did come on a landscape painting course with my teacher at the time, who suggested that I apply to study in the drawing program at The Florence Academy of Art 

What made you decide to no longer be a visitor but to be a resident in Italy?
After completing a year of drawing in Florence I realized that the majority of that year was spent focused on studying, closed in the studio. 
I wanted to stay and learn Italian, eat more good food, travel and just get to know Italy better.
I started taking my easel out on the street to paint, which seemed like the best way to accomplish my goals and indeed it's what I'm still doing over 10 years later. 

 Any reasons you wish to share, for selecting the city/town you live in?
I moved to Rome after having spent 6 years in Florence. While Florence is a beautiful city, it is small and offers less opportunities to working artists today. 
Rome being the capital city is much larger with loads of opportunities, galleries and artists of all different genres and the big spaces just suit me- not to mention the whole aesthetic of Rome which is very different from any other Italian city.
It is where the old meets the new and everything in between.
I love the chaos interspersed with quiet found at the numerous spacious parks around the city. 

Did you speak Italian before you moved to Italy?
No I did not, not even a word. I took a couple of classes and then moved to the countryside of Tuscany for a year. Living in the countryside really helped me to learn the language, not having any other option if I wanted to communicate.
Then I took private lessons over the years in Florence. My teacher is still a good friend and wonderfully patient woman. She taught me so much and forced me to read novels, write essays and learn about history, culture and traditions in Italy. I am grateful to Lucia! 

What is or was the most difficult part(s) of expat life?   
Everyone says this, but it is true: the bureaucracy can be trying. For me I deal with a lot of paperwork in shipping paintings all around the world. You cannot imagine the various steps that go into shipping artwork! 
Also something that is difficult about being an expat is you have to learn a lot. First is learning the language, but then comes learning about the history, culture and politics and in my opinion is an important part of living abroad and understanding more about the culture you are living in. 
Being an American in Italy- or at least in Rome- I realize how we are so used to everything being "easy." What I mean is in America you can just use your debit card everywhere or order everything online. 
Here you can still order from Amazon, but sometimes you can't figure out where your package is and the endless hours of phone calls ensue. 
One good thing to do is observe how Italians handle these kind of situations and then when your Italian is good enough imitate them! This may sound funny, but it's true. 
I remember the first time the postal service "lost" a tracked and insured package of mine. When I called the toll-free number the person on the other end told me that it must be stolen and there was nothing to do and promptly hung up. I literally broke down crying, the package was an original oil painting that could not be replaced, literally a one of a kind object.
So I called a friend and asked his advice as to what I should do. He laughed at how upset I was and just said, "Hey, this is Italy, just call back and talk to someone else." And he was right, it was really that simple and I found my package with the next person I talked to.