Pazzi Chapel Restoration

Commissioned by the Pazzi family, the Chapel

Ornate sculpted rosettes, terracotta cherubim roundels and the colourful tin-glaze terracotta by Luca della Robbia decorate the interior of the Pazzi Chapel loggia. It is built in pietra serena, a grey sandstone that, by its very nature, tends to crumble over time.

By Walter Sanders

Many fortunate lovers of Renaissance art journey to Florence, but few get to the splendid Pazzi Chapel—one of architect Filippo Brunelleschi’s 15th Century masterworks–part of the complex of the Basilica of Santa Croce. If you have been to the Pazzi recently, you may have noticed the façade is in need of some repair. After 650 years, who wouldn’t need a little touch up?

The video in the Kickstarter campaign launched by the nonprofit Opera di Santa Croce paints a loving portrait of a jewel. The Opera is seeking donations to match the 50 percent of the funding it has already raised.

I’ll focus on what the Pazzi Chapel means to me. I first experienced it as an art history master’s student. Viewing it from the courtyard, I was underwhelmed. The façade looked severe, and a little top heavy, with the illusion of the tall porch and cupola being supported by impossibly spindly columns.

But there’s something transformative about entering the Chapel. I felt serenity, order, cool spatial integrity. I was amazed how hushed the interior was, muffling clamor from nearby Piazza Santa Croce. And, over time, I learned to love the façade.

I worked inside Santa Croce, at the Scuola del Cuoio (The Leather School), and lived just off the square. Santa Croce and the Pazzi Chapel became integral aspects of my daily life. In some respects, the Pazzi Chapel became a personal escape, a calm island. I needed only to look at it to feel the peace.

Sharon and I met in Santa Croce, and four years later married there. No, not in the Pazzi Chapel but in the Medici Chapel in the adjacent sanctuary of the Basilica.

The Pazzi means a great deal to us, and we are helping to support the renovation (#crazyforpazzi).

Do you have a Pazzi story? Share it here and please consider a contribution to help restore this Renaissance treasure.

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Tuscany Tours 2015

Is 2015 the year for your Tuscan dream to come true?

Escape with SimpleItaly to the private Villa Pipistrelli!

Few experiences are as memorable as sharing time and a spectacular destination with an intimate group of friends, colleagues, or grown-up family.

This intimate curated adventure is all about cultural immersion, relaxation, and good times. You’ll feel as if Villa Pipistrelli is your home because you’ll unpack once and “move in” for a week of wonders . . .

Pecorino cheese-making demonstration and tasting.

Olive oil comparison blind tasting.

• Watercolor painting class.

Pasta making session and tasting.

Wine estate tour with tasting.

• Magnificent medieval Siena—home of the Palio—and a private tour of the Brucco contrada with author Dario Castagno.

• Outing to the stunning hill town of Montepulciano.

• Presentation on the restoration of Villa Pipistrelli conducted by antiques expert Susan Pennington.

• Lavish buffet breakfasts and gourmet evening meals prepared by a private chef at Villa Pipistrelli.

• Free time to explore Montestigliano, the 2,500-acre Tuscan estate on which Villa Pipistrelli is tucked away.

• Social time with author Jennifer Criswell and other English-speaking experts on the culture, cuisine, and lifestyle.

Click here for the full itinerary to make 2015 the year for your Tuscan dream to come true!

Four week-long itineraries are reserved for you to choose from:
April 11–18, 2015
April 18–25, 2015
October 3–10, 2015
October 10–17, 2015

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Verrà l’estate

On the piazza in Ravello, it will always be summer.

On the piazza in Ravello, it will always be summer.

On a soggy sunless October day, I couldn’t get the song Verrà l’estate out of my head.
The stirring duet from Italian pop singers Pacifico and Malika Ayane always makes me smile.

The tune celebrates the simple joys of summer, but, for me, it becomes a reason for hope in life itself.

The single Verrà l'estate is from Pacifico's CD Dentro Ogni Casa (Inside Every House).

The single Verrà l’estate is from Pacifico’s CD Dentro Ogni Casa (Inside Every House).

Verrà l’estate
sarà nel vento
nel fiato caldo dietro le persiane

There will always be the summer
it will be in the wind
the hot breath behind the blinds

Sempre ti aspetto
salvami stanco e infelice
Nell’aria la tua luce

I always wait for you
you save me from fatigue and unhappiness
your light in the air

Malika Ayane has collaborated on several songs with Pacifico.

Malika Ayane has collaborated on several songs with Pacifico.

Click here for the complete lyrics.

This lush video of Pacifico and Ayane’s performance is the official release of the single from Sugar Music.

I prefer this bare bones video. The sound quality is terrible. It seems as if someone taped it at a media conference judging by all the camera flashes. But, for me, the expression on the singers’ faces conveys the pure joy of the song.

I know winter is coming to wrap me in its icy embrace but I’m not worried. . .

Verrà l’estate!

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A Taste of Di Palo’s Essentials

By Tess Sanders

The Di Palo family’s shop has been a vital presence in Manhattan’s Little Italy for more than a century. It began as an unassuming latteria that Lou Di Palo’s great-grandparents opened to to serve immigrants mostly from their area of Montemilone in the region of Basilicata.

These days Lou and siblings Sal and Marie run a full-fledged grocery store. When visitors ask who owns the store, the current shopkeepers gesture to their great-grandparents’ photo on the wall. Di Palo’s moved only once at the turn of the 21st century and still boasts its exquisite dairy products. “Cheese is our life,” Lou says.

In the newly published Di Palo’s Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy, Lou shares generation-spanning stories that feature key Italian ingredients as their characters. For Lou, it’s a book about relationships. Relationships between food and people.

Lou worked with food writer Rachel Wharton to create a narrative that glides as smoothly as Di Palo’s signature cannoli cream–from the origin of the family’s life and shop in New York into the stories of the foods that form that life. The book tells the tale of eleven essential Italian foods, from ricotta to sea salt ending with piave and speck. Lou worked with Rachel to fold in many personal reminiscences “for other people, to invoke memory for them—their ancestors, what they did and how they did it.”

The tales of how these essentials are created and savored makes for a compelling and informative reader experience. An interaction not unlike the customer’s experience shopping at Di Palo’s where the staff prizes the sharing of flavor and knowledge above all else.

Speaking with Lou in the wine store Enoteca Di Palo that son Sam Di Palo opened next to the grocery, it became clear that he could pen another book’s worth of essentials right now. Working within the space confines of a printed book, Lou had to select the essential essentials.


Lou Di Palo continues the family business, located on Grand Street in Manhattan's Little Italy, with his brother, Sal, and his sister, Marie. Photograph courtesy of Di Palo Selects

Lou Di Palo continues the family business with his brother, Sal, and his sister, Marie (photograph courtesy of Di Palo Selects).

He revealed to SimpleItaly some other essentials that didn’t make it into the volume:

read more about Di Palo's

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Tomato September Song

Allow garden or farm tomatoes to ripen at room temperature to develop deep flavor.

Allow garden or farm tomatoes to ripen at room temperature to develop deep flavor.

The calendar says it’s the first day of autumn. This is indisputable science. The equinox, those brief few days when the daylight and the dark are “equal,” will soon tilt (as the Earth’s axis does) to bring days of less sunlight and more darkness.

But wait! I’m not giving up that easily. The sun is warm on my face today and the temperature is approaching 70 degrees. I still have plenty of locally grown tomatoes on the counter. I’ve chopped them and added extra-virgin olive oil, garden basil, and garlic.

After this heady mixture macerates for a few hours, I’ll toss it with cooked, drained rotini. The aroma will be like an intoxicating distillation of summer. The taste will be like sweet-tart sunshine.

Uncooked tomato sauce is macerated at room temperature before tossing it with hot pasta. Don't refrigerate the sauce. It would blunt the flavor.

Uncooked tomato sauce is macerated at room temperature before it’s tossed with drained cooked pasta. Don’t refrigerate the sauce. It would blunt the flavor.

The calendar says it’s the first day of autumn but, in my kitchen, it’s summer.

Rotini with Uncooked Tomato Basil Sauce
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4 to 6
Use any short pasta--such as rotini, penne, baralotti, campanelle, or shells--to capture the rich tomato juice.
  • 4 large or 8 medium very ripe tomatoes (about 4 pounds), cored and chopped
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound dried rotini
  • Ground black pepper
  1. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, oil, basil, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to mix. Set aside for several hours at room temperature.
  2. Set a covered large pot of water over high heat. When the water boils, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt and the rotini. Stir. Cover and return to the boil. Uncover and boil, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, or until al dente.
  3. Drain the rotini and return to the pot. Add the tomato mixture. Toss to mix. Set aside for for 5 minutes. Stir and serve.


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