lunedì 31 ottobre 2011

ISTITUTO EUROPEO Study Abroad: Halloween in Firenze

Old Stove Signoria decorated for Halloween

By Paige Gherardi

While Halloween isn’t a traditonal Italian holiday, its popularity is growing in Florence. From costume parties to themed dinners, the historic center will host many different Halloween events tonight. Most pubs and discos are already adorned with pumpkins, spider webs, and even human limbs to kick off their Halloween parties. The Old Stove Signoria will have a live band and costume party. The Odeon is showing the Rocky Horror Picture Show with audience participation. YAB, Central Park and Otel are having Halloween parties. Just about every angle in Florence will have something themed around Halloween or All Saints Day. If you’re thinking about celebrating, it’s not too late to find a costume either. The Dreoni toy store on Via Cavour has lots of options, and most 99 cent stores are stocked with wigs, accessories, and masks. Check out the following websites for more information about tonight’s events:

martedì 25 ottobre 2011

ISTITUTO EUROPEO Study Abroad: Florence Tassa di Soggiorno

 By Paige Gherardi

On July 1st Florence imposed a tassa di soggiorno, or tourist tax, for all non-residents of the city staying in hotels, bed and breakfasts, residences, guest houses, hostels, and campsites. Tourists can expect to pay a maximum of 5 euros per night per person for a maximum of 10 nights depending on the type of accommodation. For hotels the daily tax is determined by the number of stars, meaning a 3-star hotel will have a 3 euro per night fee. The tourist tax for all other types of accommodation are based on a similar system. These taxes are typically an added cost that is paid at the time of check-in, but some establishments are swallowing the tax into their nightly rate. Exceptions to the new tax are children under 10 years old, people who provide assistance to patients in hospitals (limited to 1 person per patient), and people or family who provide assistance to underage patients in hospitals (limited to 2 people per patient). The money collected through the tassa di soggiorno will go toward maintaining works of art and historic buildings, improving public services, and keeping the city clean. One of the first services the tax will support is the free water fountain in Piazza della Signoria allowing people to fill their own bottles whenever they want. A similar tassa di soggiorno has been introduced in Rome and Venice, and it seems that other cities will soon follow.

For those looking to reserve accommodations in Florence in the future, make sure you are aware that these charges differ for each type of stay and that they are rates per person per night. Many travel sites have already included a note that their price does not include the Florence tourist tax, while most hotel websites specify what their tasso di soggiorno is on their homepage or reservations page. The list below has been adapted from the Comune di Firenze website and describes the nightly taxes.

Rates of the Tourist Tax
The tax is determined by the type of accommodations, with a maximum of 5 euro per person per night, for a maximum of 10 consecutive nights, in the following measures:
Tax classification (euro) per person, per night
1 star 1,00
2 stars 2,00
3 stars 3,00
4 stars 4,00
5 stars 5,00
Tax classification (euro) per person, per night
1,2,3 stars 1,00
4 stars 2,00
Tax classification (euro) per person, per night
Hostels 1,00
Vacation Homes 1,00
Tax classification (euro) per person, per night
Professional Room Rentals 2,00
Non-professional Room Rentals 1,00
Vacation Homes 1,00
Historic Residences 4,00
Tax classification (euro) per person, per night
Residence 2 keys 2,00
Residence 3 keys 3,00
Residence 4 keys 4,00
Tax classification (euro) per person, per night
1 ear of wheat 1,00
2 ears of wheat 2,00
3 ears of wheat 3,00

See the following link for more information from the Comune di Firenze on this tax (in Italian)

(photo from

martedì 18 ottobre 2011

Study Abroad ISTITUTO EUROPEO: Florence Voted #1 Food and Wine Destination in Europe

By Paige Gherardi

La fettunta, pappa al pomodoro, ribollita, ragù al cinghiale, bistecca alla Fiorentina, Chianti, Vin Santo… Florentine cuisine is based on simple, fresh ingredients and the world has taken note.  Tripadvisor’s annual Travelers’ Choice Awards voted Florence as the best European Food and Wine Destination of 2011, which are based on millions of traveler reviews. The Choice Awards resulted in the top 10 Food and Wine Destinations in each the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia,  Central and South America, the South Pacific, and India. Italy surpassed all European countries in the vote, taking four other spots with Rome in third, Sorrento in fourth, Siena in sixth, and Bologna in seventh place. Other countries represented in the Top 10 were France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. While Italy is an extremely popular travel destination, it says a lot that Florence has won over other gastronomic centers of Europe like Paris. Keep it up, Florence!

giovedì 13 ottobre 2011

ISTITUTO EUROPEO Study Abroad: Google Art Project Increases Visits to the Uffizi Gallery

Botticelli's Venus

By Paige Gherardi

Thanks to the Google Art Project, which brings 17 world famous museums to life through similar technology used for Google Maps Street View, the Uffizi Gallery has seen a dramatic increase in both real and virtual visits. The Uffizi tracked its attendance numbers since the inauguration of these virtual tours, which had an immediate reaction of almost 10,000 visits. In the days and weeks following the Project launch the museum had over 3,000 virtual visitors per day. To give an idea of the quality Google Art Project brings to virtual visits, Botticelli's Venus was captured in a high resolution image of 17 billion pixels. This new partnership with Google is also helping the Uffizi Gallery direct traffic on the web to their official site, which steers patrons away from the many websites that sell advance tickets for almost double the cost of museum entrance. It was unclear what the results of the Google Art Project would be, but it has proven to stimulate interest in the Uffizi and give those who cannot visit it personally the opportunity to see its timeless collections.

To see the Uffizi Gallery and other museums go to It is also possible to see the inside of museums using Google Maps but it does not give you a floor plan or guide to famous works of art. 

mercoledì 12 ottobre 2011

ISTITUTO EUROPEO Study Abroad, Call a Taxi Using Skype

One of the most famous taxis in Florence
By Paige Gherardi

On October 13th it will be possible to call for a taxi without charge using Skype. Co.Ta.Fi (Cooperativa Tassisti Fiorentina) operates Taxi Firenze 4390 and for its 40th anniversary has come up with a way to revolutionize taxi services in Florence. Using the skype contact “taxi.firenze” or clicking on the Skype icon on the company’s website will make for an easier way to arrange a taxi pick-up without charge. Co.Ta.Fi is creating a new look and brand through introducing Skype, a new website, blue taxis, and a new logo. All other taxi services can be arranged on their direct line, which remains as 055 4390.

martedì 11 ottobre 2011


Una bella e brava Solarino in "Manuale d'Amore 3"

di Fabrizio Ulivieri

Manuale d'amore 3

Carlo Monni

GENERE: Commedia
DURATA: 100 min

Primo episodio. Bella la scena iniziale con Scamarcio (nel film Roberto Tommaso, avvocato rampante) che fa una proposta di matrimonio a Valeria Solarino (nel film Sara)! Bello vedere Castiglion della Pescaia (la mia mèta preferita durante l’estate) al cinema!
Forte il toscanaccio Carlo Monni! che sembra sempre lo stesso dai tempi di Troisi e Benigni. Ottime le chiacchiere in un bar del centro di Castiglion della Pescaia in puro toscanaccio! di una combriccola di matti a metà strada fra i vitelloni e gli sfigati dei film di Pieraccioni.
Ed è così che inizia Manuale d’amore 3, con un avvocato rampante che viene mandato a Castiglion della Pescaia per sfrattare una famiglia di contadini (quella di Monni) e che invece di sfrattarla si innamorerà della pazza Micol (Laura Chiatti) e della combriccola del bar perché ancora gli evocano la vita che sta per morirgli dentro e che lui invece ancora vuole assaporare.
Trasmette serenità Veronesi in questo film, soprattutto in questo primo episodio (forse anche per l’effetto delle belle musiche di Morgan), serenità e piacere. Raramente càpita di stare al cinema così rilassati.
Frasi ad effetto, del tipo: io ho paura di tornare a casa…ma non è che uno che può stare tutta la sua vita in viaggio…(la paura che sposandosi la vita si chiuda). Banali ma ficcanti.
Secondo episodio con Verdone. E Verdone è sempre Verdone: antipatico, peso, irritante, imbranato e fedifrago eterno – insomma sempre lo stesso ruolo; e neanche cambia con Veronesi anche se con Veronesi è meglio di quando fa i film suoi perché almeno qui fa ridere davvero.
Terzo episodio ovvero il Miracolo: la Bellucci che  ha imparato a parlare, cioè recitare! (insomma…si fa per dire). Effetto Veronesi o effetto De Niro con cui recita? A proposito di De Niro: un De Niro davvero spiritoso ma anche tenero, come non avevo visto mai.

Conclusione: un film godibile, divertente (entertaining) che non annoia affatto. Andate a vederlo, ve lo raccomando caldamente. Specialmente se siete depressi. Vi passerà la depressione, se non altro per 100 minuti.

Tre stelle e mezzo.

lunedì 3 ottobre 2011

ISTITUTO EUROPEO STUDY ABROAD: Living in Florence with a Host Family

My family

 By Paige Gherardi

It has been almost five years since my first study abroad experience, but I will never forget the first day I arrived in Florence and met my host family. After a long plane ride and a disorienting experience trying to find our luggage and a taxi at the Peretola airport, I had to call my host family to let them know that my roommate and I were on our way. A sweet, older woman picked up the phone and suddenly I forgot what I was supposed to say. I had made an attempt to learn Italian by taking a beginner’s course the semester before I left, but everything I learned escaped me in that phone call and I could only manage to say our names. We arrived at the house, which was a large apartment on the third floor of a palazzo near Piazza San Marco, and we were greeted by two women who hugged and kissed us and grabbed our luggage to bring upstairs. Caught in a whirlwind of so many things happening at once and not being able to understand the language, we somehow managed to communicate through broken Italian and gestures. Our host mom, Gianna, and her mother who insisted on calling her Nonna, spoke in slow Italian to help us understand where we could put our things. They showed us around the large house and I understood that four other students were living there along with Gianna, her husband Paolo, their three daughters, and Gianna’s parents.

Before arriving I was confident that I would be able to communicate, but I was surprised by how little I could speak. On that first day I made my first big mistake in trying to Italianize an English word. While unpacking my toiletries I wanted to ask Gianna if there was cabinet space in the bathroom that I could use. I asked if there was a “cabinetto,” which she interpreted as “gabinetto,” and she couldn’t figure out why I wanted to put my stuff in the toilet…

A bit embarrassed and discouraged from my fatal errors during the first few days, I thought I would never come out of the experience learning the language. I was thankful to have roommates at all different levels of Italian to help out with the language barrier. After a week or so I realized that if I wanted to get a lot out of the experience I needed to force myself to speak. Fortunately, my host family didn’t speak English and I could practice with them each day. I sat next to Nonna and Nonno at dinner every night and they picked new things to teach me each week. I brought a pocket dictionary with me every time I went out at night (yes, big nerd) and I began to speak Italian in more and more situations.

The experiences I had with my host family are some of my most treasured memories of studying abroad in Florence, and I honestly would never have become fluent if it hadn’t been for them and my determination to learn. They took us on trips to Carnevale in Viareggio, wine tasting in Montalcino, to the chocolate festival in Perugia, and so many other places I would have never seen as a student living in my own apartment. Students become part of their family and I continue to consider them an important part of my life here in Florence.

Whether you live with a host family or not, I encourage students studying abroad to take advantage of the opportunity to learn Italian culture and lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to use your Italian – no matter how little you speak. Try using your Italian in supermarkets and stores in the center even if you think you’re butchering every word you say. You can’t imagine how good it feels on that first day that no one responds back to you in English and you understand them! Do some research on where locals hang out and meet new people. Find someone who can show you the true Florence and you will discover things you would never be able to on your own.