A Spiritual Connection with Papa Francesco

By Emma Montross, Marist Italy MA 2014-15

Photo by Emma Montross

Photo by Emma Montross

On Sunday, November 16th I was fortunate enough to, for a price, travel on a Lorenzo de’Medici-sponsored trip to Vatican City for the Papal Angelus. For those who do not know, as I did not before attending this event, the Papal Angelus is a weekly occurrence in which Papa (Italian for Pope) addresses the crowd in Piazza di San Pietro from the papal apartments above the square. The Angelus usually includes a reading from the Bible with a short reflection, and then he, with the crowd, prays the Angelus Domini. Papa Francesco wraps up his fifteen-minute address by greeting pilgrims and tourists alike below in various languages. He blesses the crowd and any holy objects visitors may have with them (who doesn’t need a little bit of extra help to get through finals?). In addition to walking away with a flawless gift in the form of a blessed rosary for my grandmother, I left with a distinct sense of awareness.  Continue reading

First Year Seminar Photo Contest

As regular readers of the Marist Italy blog know, all Marist Italy freshmen participated in a class this semester called First Year Seminar: Florence by Foot, Tuscany by Train. As part of their final project they were invited to participate in a photo contest featuring their favorite photos from their pilgrimages. Below are the photos that were submitted.

Photo by Nicholas Porter

Photo by Nicholas Porter, Greece

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By Juliana Inglese, Marist Italy FFE 2014-15

Photo: Allison Boyd, Marist Italy MA 2013-14

Photo: Allison Boyd, Marist Italy MA 2013-14

Every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I pass Piazza della Repubblica. I have class at the Strozzi classroom building and make the trek through the Piazza, usually on my way home. I therefore always pass the Carousel. As residents of Florence, we’ve all seen it, maybe some have even ridden it, as I did for the first time a few days ago. Now, I didn’t come down off my metal horse and have an epiphany about the meaning of life, but I did have a smile on my face and a comfortable seat for a minute.  Continue reading

FYS: Florence by Foot, Tuscany by Train

Marist Italy Freshmen during their Pilgrimage Cocktail Party

Marist Italy Freshmen during their Pilgrimage Cocktail Party

This semester, all Marist Italy freshmen participated in the First Year Seminar class entitled: Florence by Foot, Tuscany by Train, taught by visiting Marist professor, Lea Graham. As students finish their final projects, prepare for the second of two public presentations on their pilgrimage, and reflect on the semester that has passed, Professor Graham has put together some thoughts on the course and photos from the first presentation event, which allowed the Freshmen to share their work with the Marist Italy Masters students. Read on and see the other photos below:

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Regional Flavors of Italy – Valle d’Aosta

Over the next several weeks, Marist Italy will be posting about the gastronomical specialties of the 20 regions of Italy. These guides were created by Alessandra Bianco, Marist Italy MA, 2013-14.

cartina-valle-d-aostaNext in our series is the region of Valle d’Aosta. Your Marist Italy Blog editor visited this tiny region in the northern part of Italy over the weekend and absolutely fell in love. With breathtaking views of the Alps and castles galore, what’s not to love? But if you visit, what should you eat? Read on to find out…   Continue reading

Regional Flavors of Italy – Lombardia

Over the next several weeks, Marist Italy will be posting about the gastronomical specialties of the 20 regions of Italy. These guides were created by Alessandra Bianco, Marist Italy MA, 2013-14.

LombardyNext in our series is the region of Lombardia. As we approach the holiday season, we’ve noticed that one of the regional specialties of Lombardia has already started popping up in stores. Read on to find out what it is!




Pork butchering was developed and improved in the Lombardy region due to the medicinal and therapeutic needs of the monastic orders. Today, this means that Lombardy boasts some of the best and most famous cured pork products in Italy. 

Salame Brianza DOP – This cylindrical salami is one of the most common throughout Italy. The ruby red meat comes with a distinct aroma and remarkably sweet flavor.
Salami di Varzi DOP – This salami originated during the Lombard invasions. Only select pork is used to make the meat, which became very popular as far back as the 12th century. The pork is minced, and then stuffed into a casing of entrails. A finished Salami di Varzi is bright red in color with pure, white fat distributed evenly throughout. The length of aging can influence the distinctive aroma and sweet taste.
Salame d’Oca di Mortara IGP – The Po, Ticino, and Sesia rivers encompass an area perfect for goose farming because of its fresh herbs and water. The historic center of this area, known as Lomellina, is the town of Mortara. This meat, named after the historic town, is believed to have been produced to satisfy the kosher needs of the local Jewish community. In 1891, Pellegrino Artusi documented a sausage made with a mixture of goose and pork meat when there was a shortage of geese.

A list of other cured meats from Lombardia is available at http://garrubbo.com/salumi-italian-cured-meats/.

Christmas Dessert
Panettone, is the Christmas Italian dessert by definition. A dome shaped cake with raisins and candied fruits whose dough requires nearly 20 hours to rise and be ready for baking.

Local Dairy
Agri di Valtorta- Soft Ewe’s milk cheese
Bernardo- Produced only in the summer, this goat’s milk cheese has a yellow-brown crust,  and is intense and aromatic.
Crescenza- Italy’s closest thing to cream cheese. A soft spreadable cow’s milk cheese, very young.
Magro di piatta- One of the lightest cow’s milk cheeses. It sets in water for 16 hours loosing all the fat. Maturing process lasts for 60 days to a year.
Mascarpone- Creamy, sweet white cream that comes from working of milk cream
Pannerone lodigiano-A whipping cream excellent in pasta and rice dishes.
Quartirolo Lombardo DOP- Table cheese from cow’s milk.
Semigrasso d’Alpe o Livigno- Cheese produced by mixing cow’s milk and goat milk. Matures for 18 months.
Silter- Semi-skimmed hard cheese from raw cow’s milk.

For more food from Lombardia, visit: http://www.cookaround.com/cucina-regionale/lombardia/prodotti-tipici

Siena: More than just a Day Trip

By: Jordan Beatty, Marist Italy MA 2014-15


Streets of Siena

Streets of Siena

Siena is one of Italy’s most charming Tuscan cities, and it is not to be missed during your time in Florence. It is a walled, Medieval city known world-wide for the famous Palio – a horse race that takes place two times every summer. In the heart of the city you will find Il Campo, the main piazza where locals and tourists alike come to spend the afternoon, people watching and enjoying each other’s company.

Dominating Piazza del Campo is Palazzo Pubblico and its tower, Torre del Mangia. The civic palace, built between 1297 and 1310, still houses the city’s municipal offices, much like Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Its internal courtyard has entrances to the Torre del Mangia and to the Civic Museum. If you’re feeling extra ambitious and energetic, the climb up the 500 steps of the tower leads to breathtaking views of Siena and surrounding areas.

Torre del Mangia

Torre del Mangia

Il Duomo lies in Piazza del Duomo, above Piazza del Campo. It is a great, Romanesque-Gothic cathedral filled with treasures by Pisano, Donatello and Michelangelo, as well as frescoes by Pinturicchio. The exterior and interiors are decorated in white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, black and white being the symbolic colors of the city.

Duomo of Siena

Duomo of Siena

The Sienese are fun-loving, wine-drinking, warm people with a deep respect for traditions that they refuse to forget. One of these traditions is Il Palio. Each contrada, or district, competes in the race, and the Sienese take this very seriously. Walking through the seventeen contrade of Siena, you will notice that each is named after an animal or symbol, with its own museum, fountain, and motto. Many have allies and adversary contrade, with differing colors and flags.

When considering getting around, Siena must been seen by foot – it is one of the most picturesque cities in Italy. With winding, narrow streets and hills offering amazing views, be sure to bring your camera. Siena is great for a stroll through the piazzas, alleys, and palaces that haven’t lost their original charm.

During your journey around the city, you are bound to work up an appetite. There is a gelateria that goes by the name “Kopakabana” on Via dei Rossi that offers arguably some of the best gelato in Italy. Kopakabana has unique flavors like petali di rosa (rose petal), limone & basilico (lemon basil), and blue jeans. During a visit to Siena, stopping at Kopakabana is a must!

Gelato from Kopacabana

Gelato from Kopakabana

Siena is only an hour and twenty minutes by bus from Florence. Tickets cost around €7,40 each way on a SITA bus. When you arrive, get off the beaten path and allow yourself to stumble upon one of the many hidden treasures that make Siena so lovely!

That One Time I met Italian Nobility: A Brief History of Via del Giglio 6

By Emma Montross, Marist Italy MA 2014-15


As a Masters Student with an interest in history, I often find myself wondering about the

Bartolini Salimbeni Crest

Bartolini Salimbeni Crest

history of the buildings in which I study and work. Who lived here before? Is the function of this building today the same as it was in the past? What does that symbol on the wall or the exterior refer to? Did a formerly powerful and famous person live here? It is fun to speculate what could have been, but after staring at the Bartolini Salimbeni stained-glass crest (pictured right) almost every day when I come into the Marist office at Via del Giglio 6 to work, I realized I had the means to find out about the history of this building, and could not pass up the chance to finally find something out.

I was able to sit down with the owner of the building, Lorenzo Bartolini Salimbeni, who graciously explained to me the history of his family, and therefore the building, which I am more than excited to share.

Bartolini Salimbeni Palazzo in Piazza Santa Trinità

Former Bartolini Salimbeni Palazzo in Piazza Santa Trinità

Hailing originally from Siena, the Bartolini Salimbeni family relocated to Florence where they become involved in governing the city and banking. The family’s main palazzo was located in Piazza Santa Trinita (pictured left), though the family does not own the building anymore. The family itself has popped up here and there throughout history, important enough in their time to make a few appearances in literature. Dante mentions the brothers Niccolò and Stricca Salimbeni among the squanderers in Inferno, and some believe that the Salimbeni/Tolomei feud inspired, through some means, Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.[1] But it is the story of the family’s crest that I found the most interesting.

The Bartolini Salimbeni family symbol, when you look careful enough, can be seen scattered all over Florence. The official crest usually includes one or more lions, however, the true Bartolini Salimbeni ‘symbol’ are three poppies. These poppies are always encircled in a gold ring, tied together by a ribbon inscribed with PER NON DORMIRE in Latin. As the story goes, a Bartolini intent on receiving a spice shipment set to arrive the next morning invited his rivals over for dinner the night before. He laced their food and drink with opium, putting everyone to sleep to ensure that he would be the only merchant to purchase the shipment the next morning. PER NON DORMIRE refers to the plant he used, as well as the family saying, “By not sleeping, you make a fortune.”

Bartolini Salimbeni Stained Glass Crest in Via del Giglio 6

Bartolini Salimbeni Stained Glass Crest in Via del Giglio 6

Via del Giglio 6, Lorenzo explained to me, had been his family’s primary residence until the

Photo of the Bed and Breakfast, where the Marist Italy conference room is today

Photo of the Bed and Breakfast, where the Marist Italy conference room is today

1920s. His father was born in what is now the Marist Italy office space; it was only until the family relocated to Rome for business did they begin renting out the building. Between the time that the family relocated to Rome and the Marist Italy Office became the Marist Italy office, however, the space was a bed and breakfast hotel. The T.V./living room area located behind the wall of glass windows was a dining area, and the conference room with the beautiful 18th century frescoes on the walls and ceiling was a bedroom (pictured at right).

I am sure that Via del Giglio 6 holds many more secrets that I have yet to learn, but as of now, I am so happy to have been able to meet Lorenzo and receive the smallest glimpse of what a treasure trove of a building we work and study in. If you are interested in learning more about the Bartolini Salimbeni family or would like a first-hand experience by staying in the villa Lorenzo’s family owns, please visit http://www.villa-collina.com or say hello to Lorenzo if you manage to catch him in his office on the first floor! I know he would love to share his story with you as he shared it with me.

And remember Marist students, when you have a potential problem concerning your future, just put your foes to sleep with some poppy seeds. Everything will turn out fine. What could go wrong?[2]

Bartolini Salimbeni family motto

Bartolini Salimbeni family motto

[1] Vidimos, R. (2010, November). Relating to “Juliet”: Author Dug into Italian History to Unearth 1300s’ Family Feuds. The Denver Post. http://www.denverpost.com/ci_16526482.

[2] Lorenzo strongly recommends you not do this, as, in his words “nowadays you could go to jail for using poppy juice…”



Regional Flavors of Italy – Tuscany

Over the next several weeks, Marist Italy will be posting about the gastronomical specialties of the 20 regions of Italy. These guides were created by Alessandra Bianco, Marist Italy MA, 2013-14. Since we are based in Florence, we’ll start with Tuscany.


Salumi: (Toscana) Chianti Wine Salami – Dry-cured salami infused with the finest Italian wines. Like other salami, this is made from fresh pork with no additives. Crusty bread and soft cheeses are the perfect match.

(Tuscany) Prosciutto Toscano DOP – This raw, aged ham is exclusively produced in Tuscany. Production regulations influence the breeding and raising of livestock, and the aging, treatment, and final properties of the meat itself. The round, red meat is typically between 8 and 9 kilos in weight when finished. Prosciutto Toscano has a delicate, savory flavor with a remarkably fragrant aroma.

(Toscana) Lardo di Colonnata IGP – This is lard, from the village of Colonnata, was named after a group of slaves was brought to the area by Romans to work the marble quarries. The lard is actually both cured and aged in marble tubs. Whenever work at the marble quarries came to a halt in the Middle-Ages, people from the area persevered due to their skill in breeding pigs and working with their meat. The town still holds an annual lard festival, which falls on the day of Saint Bartholomew (patron of butchers). Lardo di Colonnata is placed within marble tubs within 72 hours of being trimmed. Layered with the lard are seasonings such as sea salt, ground black pepper, fresh rosemary, and roughly minced garlic. Lardo di Colonnata is aged for six months.


Tuscan cured meats

Tuscan cured meats

Want more about cured meats? http://garrubbo.com/salumi-italian-cured-meats/.

Florentine Specialties

Lampredotto- Panino (sandwich) made with the fourth and final stomach of a cow, the abomasum. “Lampredotto” is derived from the Italian word for lamprey eels, lampreda—once very abundant in the waters of the Arno River—as the tripe resembles the inside of the mouth of a lamprey in shape and color. It consists of a thin part, the gala, and a fat part, the spannocchia. It is cooked in water along with tomato, onion, parsley and celery, and then served, usually on a crusty bun that has been dipped in the cooking broth, with a choice of salt and pepper, parsley green sauce and hot chilli sauce.

Bistecca Fiorentina- Organic Chianina beef (a huge T-bone steak) grilled over coals and served very rare on the inside but seared on the outside.


Long before the first Etruscans made their appearance, wild vines grew in abundance all over the sunny rolling hills of Tuscany. The Etruscans are believed to have domesticated and bred the forbearers of such grapes as the Sangiovese and the Lambrusco from those early feral grapes. The hilly soil and the weather conditions of Tuscany are ideal for grape growing and, with the passing centuries, the numerous types of grapes grown gave rise to some rare and much loved varieties. Tuscany’s winemaking industry counts on one of the most noble and ancient traditions that pre-dates the universally known Chianti wine that often springs to mind when this region is discussed. The most famous grapes grown in the region are: Chianti, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Canaiolo Ciliegiolo. There are also blends made with these grapes: Brunello di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano, Carmignano and, of course, the signature Tuscan wines, the Chianti and Chianti Classico, which probably are the best known Italian wines in the world

For dessert you can sample some Vin Santo – A precious bottle of liquid gold, Vin Santo is made from a 15-200 year old “mother” and fermented in vats for five years. This syrupy, balanced, golden vin santo is something special. “Holy Wine” is a dessert delicacy usually made from Trebbiano grapes that have been left to dry in an airy place until the start of Holy Week before being made into wine.

A traditional bottle of Chianti

A traditional bottle of Chianti

To learn about Tuscan wines visit http://www.winecountry.it/regions/tuscany/


Goats cheese from Podere le Fornaci, Greve in Chianti: Whether you find it at the weekend farmers markets in nearby towns (Florence, Pisa, Prato, Greve) or visit personally, any lovers of goat cheese should make it a point to eat one of these creamy, wrinkly, tangy beautiful caprini.

Pecorino di Pienza is a cheese made from sheep’s milk, and named after the Tuscan town of Pienza, a small town near Montepulciano. This cheese was a favorite of Lorenzo il Magnifico de’Medici, and is aged anywhere from 40 to 60 days for the youngest version of the cheese, to 18 months, at which point it is excellent for grating.

Who Doesn’t Love Tutto?

By Emma Montross, Marist Italy MA, 2014-2015


“Do you think Tutto has that?”

“You got what at Tutto?”

“Is the Tutto near San Lorenzo better than our Tutto?”

“Wait where is the super huge Tutto?”

I can state with assurance that almost every student studying in Florence has uttered at least one of these questions during their stay in this historic city. For Masters students like myself, Tutto is a way of life. Need a trash can for .99 cents? Tutto .99 has it. Folders, notebooks, and pencils for under a Euro? Tutto has that too. Energy drinks and pretzels? Yep. Holiday themed decorations? In abundance. Tupperware? Bowls and plates? Cleaning supplies? Nail polish? Converters and adapters? Honestly, I would be surprised if Tutto didn’t have a secret wardrobe to Narnia considering how much of a poor man’s utopia this store is.

The many charms of Tutto should be obvious by now, but the thing that makes this store different from the stale and uncomfortable dollar stores back home is the atmosphere. Upbeat pop music almost always plays softly overhead, the employees happily count your items aloud during check out, and your fellow shoppers seem just as excited as you are about the great deals at your feet. It’s a different kind of mentality about what a shopping-on-a-budget store is. At no point will you hear the sound of a flicking florescent light or wonder what that smell coming from the carpet is (because Tutto has tiled floors).

There are, of course, like any good thing in the world, knock off Tutto stores. I have, with sympathy, seen otherwise unknowing tourists get caught in lure of the 1 Euro store. If you didn’t know about a far superior .99 cent store, a 1 Euro store seems like a pretty good deal. However, the 1 Euro store is full of tourist tchotchkes and therefore doesn’t contain anything of real value while Tutto provides everyday items for real people, tourists and residents of Florence alike. All are welcome to experience the glory that is Tutto, and I hope that newcomers and repeat visitors to Italy alike can experience its simple greatness again and again for a long time to come. I know I will.

To experience Tutto .99, visit one of the five stores in central Florence located at:

  1. Via degli Orti Oricellari 16- 18- ​​20 R
  2. Via Nazionale 107 R
  3. Piazza Salvemini 23
  4. Via de‘ Conti 57 R
  5. Via de‘ Ginori 46 R