As hard as it is to not know when you can visit Italy right now, it’s even more surreal being here physically and not being able to move 200 meters past your door unless you have a reason verified by an auto certification form. We’re all extremely reliant on technology right now and it’s not a terrible thing.
Digital happy hours on zoom, a youtube live stream of Andrea Bocelli in Milan, remote workspaces in living room corners and unused back rooms, Facebook live chats sharing lockdown stories, Whatsapp conversations with friends and plenty of binge-watching TV shows and movies – because in these uncertain times; distractions aren’t just welcome, they are vital to get through the day at times.
That being said, I have seen so many interesting ways to connect with Italy on a virtual level right now – webinars, cooking lessons, museum chats, digital tours, wisteria-webcams (really). When this is over, the joy of returning to Italy will be ever that stronger, but until that’s safe for us all – these options will hopefully be a happy alternative.
For those interested in donating to a local hospital foundation and get a Florence print from photographer Francesco Spighi’s recent project #FlorenceForHospitals – check this out and check out this list by The Florentine (they also have a free downloadable special issue here with so, so many local stories you’ll want to read). To support local artisans in Florence – make sure to check out the list I have on this post.
In non-Italy, related news Reuters came out with this livestream calendar of virtual events around the world, a pretty epic list! This includes nightly performances by New York’s Metropolitan Opera, a Disney benefit concert on Broadway, twitter live chats, resources for kids, live-streamed workouts, and more.
Virtual Museum Visits & Options for Culture-Vultures
- The Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism (Mibact) is offering a “Gran virtual tour”, essentially a digital journey through the entire Italian peninsula! You can explore the beauty of Italy’s cultural heritage through virtual tours of theatres, archives and libraries, museums and state archaeological parks, learn about precious paper heritage and collections full of famous works and many masterpieces yet to be discovered. All part of the #iorestoacasa movement.
- The Uffizi Gallery was designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 for Cosimo I de’Medici to house the Grand Duke’s Magistrates of Tuscany. Over time, the top floor loggia became an exhibition of the dynastic collection of ancient sculpture, artwork and artifacts (and even a certain secret corridor) – here’s where you can explore the museum through a variety of online exhibits that surprisingly go in depth in explaining the artworks. I was impressed.
- The Biblioteca Nazionale of Florence has a series called #ViaggiareCoiLibri on their Facebook page, with photos, videos and stories posted daily to share more about the rich heritage of the Florentine National Library and to “travel” via their vast collections.
- The Vatican museums are among the world’s most crowded cultural destinations but now you can visit various rooms and halls with a 360-degree viewpoint here.
- The Capitoline Museums (honestly one of my favorite places to visit in Rome) contain countless ancient Roman statues, inscriptions, and other artefacts, plus a collection of medieval and Renaissance art along with collections of jewels, coins. All of which can be toured online.
- The Palazzo Strozzi in Florence’s most recent exhibition Aria features the works of Tomás Saraceno. While we might not be able to visit in person – there are a number of cool ways to connect online. Keep an eye out on this page for upcoming digital events for the whole family.
- La Bella Musica di Monteverdi is a digital artist-in-residence series created to support musicians while simultaneously bringing a small measure of comfort and beauty to those confined to their homes. A lovely idea, the series features musical performances recorded from the homes of internationally acclaimed, award-winning musicians and singers, many of whom have performed at Monteverdi the past. Here’s where to watch.
- Many of us were excited about the opening of the biggest exhibition of artist Raphael in Rome this year at the Scuderie del Quirinale, part of a series of events in honor of the 500th anniversary of his death. A bright point in this darkness is the fact that you can now enjoy it online.
- The British Institute of Florence is hosting Wednesday-night art cultural lectures on Zoom exploring a variety of Florence-centric topic like tonight’s virtual guided visit to one of Florence’s beautiful urban spaces. The talk will last about 40 mins, and will be followed by a discussion using the power of video conferencing. They are accepting donations in lieu of payments, proceeds will go to supporting both the institute and local hospitals. More info here.
- The Fondazione CR Firenze has dedicated a number of videos for kids (in Italian) to watch, materials to download, drawings to invent and colour — all inspired by some of the most precious works of art in their Florence Collection.
- Coopculture has unveiled a home online platform to help connect kids with a variety of cultural activities.
- One of the oldest opera houses in the world, The Teatro di San Carlo di Napoli, is now live streaming some of their operas and ballets on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) – you can check out their lineup here.
- La Fenice Opera House is a large archive of their operas on Youtube here. I had a rather lovely morning the other day catching up on a few.
- Want to read Vogue Italia for free? They are offering a few months of digital content GRATIS – here’s how to do download your copies.
- MuseFirenze is currently sharing fun activity ideas for kids (in Italian) with a cultural/historical/scientific twist on their Instagram page, for non-kids they do a variety of deep dives in the Palazzo Vecchio museum
- Drawing inspiration from Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron,about a group of young people who stayed outside Florence for ten days to escape the Black Plague in 1348 and took turns in telling stories to pass the time, Triennale Milano has invited artists, designers, architects, intellectuals, musicians, singers, writers, directors and journalists to “inhabit” Triennale Milano’s empty spaces in order to develop a personal story. Every day at 5.00pm the stories will be broadcast live on the Triennale Milano Instagram channel.
- Great for kids! The archeological museum of Arezzo has a lot of stories for children on their Facebook page featuring the museum cat.
- The Accademia Gallery has a new digital initiative aimed at explaining culture to children (in Italian) through their newly-developed character “Davidino” – The Florentine explains more here.
- My friend Natalie of An American in Rome has this wonderful lineup of six museums you can visit virtually on her blog – check it out!
2. Webcams Around Italy
- Wisteria are one of Spring’s loveliest signs here in Florence, fragrant purple-flowers gently swaying in the breeze. Normally people would be heading over to Villa Bardini for a glimpse at their iconic wisteria-covered walkway in full bloom. We might not get to return in some time but luckily they’ve provided us with this lovely webcam view in real time.
- Skyline webcams is a great website to find various “insider” views on Italy – they have a number of live streams that literally will have you feeling like you are up close and personal with so many famous sites from North to South. You can watch a rolling time-lapse from night to day over the Ponte Vecchio of Florence or see the Roman ruins in real-time.
3. Digital tours in Italy
There is a lot of talk of doing virtual tours but understandably the logistics of such a task can be quite daunting. Impossible? Well nothing is during this day and day but I am sure we’ll find out more about this in the days to come.
- My friend Alexandra Lawrence is a tour guide, professor and is one of my top recommendations when anyone needs a private cultural guide when visiting Florence. Like many other guides, her work has been badly hit. She is now offering (from May 2020) a space for guided conversations “Forma Sideris” through Zoom. The subjects on offer are FASCINATING – think a discussion on dreams, Artemisia Genteleschi, Napoli Unveiled, Dante and more! These conversations are free to attend, donations accepted. https://www.exploreflorence.it/formasideris/
- Notable art historian and guide Elaine Ruffolo is offering a series of Art History Encounters focusing on Italian Art beginning this Sunday. The first session will be on Sunday, April 19 at 8 pm (Florence time) for an hour presentation dedicated to the notorious Caravaggio. She will open the class at 7:40 pm for anyone who would like to join early to chat and say hello. The zoom link is here, and while she isn’t charging for the virtual visit – you can leave her a donation on the donation button on her website here.
- ArtViva is one of the most respected tour companies based in Florence and as you can imagine they have been dealt a heavy hand during this pandemic. Luckily they have just launched (as of April 29, 2020) a selection of online experiences where visitors can dive head-first into cultural discussions, cooking feasts and more. I am especially intrigued by their session on the courtesans of Venice! You’ll find the full list here.
- Context Travel is now hosting “context conversations”, a selection of scholar-led seminars (35$) you can watch directly at home: a few of the options include “Treasures of the Uffizi Galleries”, “Venice in Peril”, “The Colosseum and Roman Forum in the Time of Emperors” and much more.
- This company “takewalks.com” is offering digital tours directly to your home with art historians sharing secrets from their visits to places like the Vatican’s Sistine chapel (tours are around 10$ with an option to leave an online tip. It’s a neat concept and they have a great website and system set up. If anyone tries this – let me know!
3. Italian Food Culture Directly at Home
Many of us are spending a fair amount of time cooking or planning meals as the lockdown drags on. Perhaps making pasta by hand has always seemed impossible to you before but now is the time to try all of the recipes you’ve had on the backburner – here’s who can help with that.
- Curious Appetite, a well-known (featured in Lonely Planet) boutique tour company here in Italy is offering one-on-one cooking or wine lessons with expert guides/sommelier. They last around one hour and can be customized to the listener (perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn about Tuscany’s Chianti Classico wines and want to taste and chat with an expert – or learn how to make homemade gnocchi step-by-step with an expert). It’s a great idea and they are available for an affordable price.
- Casa Mia Tours is one of Rome’s best foodie tour companies and since the lockdown they have come up with a series called #whatscooking to offer individual one-plate simple interactive lessons as a way to bring people together during this time of social distancing. There will be a maximum 10 participants per lesson (I saw that Sicilain Arancini are on the menu this April!) and you can get updates on the upcoming lessons here.
- Judy Witts aka “Divina Cucina” is an icon in the Tuscan culinary scene – along with her frequent posts on social media, video recipes and updates, she also has a Patreon channel where you can help support her through a variety of affordable subscriptions that include some delicious perks.
- As you can imagine hostels have been some of the hardest hit businesses around Italy and I especially feel for Linda and Steve of The Beehive Rome – an iconic hostel just steps from Rome’s Termini station. They have been kind enough to share recipes via IGTV on Instagram and aren’t charging but it might be worth asking them how to donate during these uncertain times.
- When I think of the island of Capri, I think of my friend Holly and her husband’s Ristorante Michel’angelo and the fun times we’ve had there all together. You can order some of their delicious local products to your home (wine, extra-virgin olive oil, tomato sauce, ravioli stamp) and coming soon, an interactive Caprese Cookbook!
- At Italy Magazine we compiled this list of Italian-food accounts on Instagram that are currently sharing cooking lessons and foodspiration and I love them all.
4. Learning Italian
- For those looking to brush up on their Italian right now and are a little sick of Duolingo notifications – what about a virtual language exchange meetup? There is a virtual Speakeasy hosted every Wednesday (typically bilingual with most “breakout rooms” in English and one in Italian). You can join them on Zoom at 7:30pm CET, check this page for links.
- The ItalianME school in Florence is offering a fun 40-minute Italian chat with fellow Italophiles on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays – here’s the info on how to sign up and get your zoom link.
- Join these Italian conversation classes hosted by The Student Hotel in Florence on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (5:30pm CET) to have some fun and improve your language skills with the help of TSH Florence’s staff members Michelle, Leonardo and Eleonora.
- Labsitters offers creative workshops at home in Florence and Milan, held entirely in English, French and Spanish for children and teenagers. Now they have activated an online teaching service – I see plenty on the rota here, great options for families!
- Everyone needs to listen to this Nonna (has English substitles)!
6. Community-Based MEET-UPS & Live Chats
- The Florentine has been doing a tremendous job at keeping the local community closely rooted with one another during this trying time and have launched “TF Together” online community events with local people from around the community – including a much-needed wine Wednesday with local wine experts. If you have a skill you wish to share as a TF Together session, or an idea for us, please contact [email protected]
- Venice Tour Guide Monica Cesarato has been hosting daily chats on her Instagram live with people around Italy called “Venice meets…” to share more about life in lockdown and not only. They are fascinating and informative – a great way to stay truly in touch with people on the ground here. Make sure to watch the archived chats on her newly-created youtube channel.
- Dr. Carey Benenson Taussig is now offering 45 minute long-distance Osteopathic sessions during the time of the COVID-19 quarantine. Dr. Carey has shifted her services to offer these long-distance healing sessions because she feels that during the time of COVID-19 all healthcare practitioners and body workers are being called to work any way possible on the frontline to help support and maintain care. Dr. Carey is offering some probono/gratis spots to selected families and individuals who have been affected directly by the COVID-19 epidemic and who have experienced economic crisis. Osteopaths work with chronic and acute discomfort including back pain, headaches, knee pain, TMJ syndrome, muscle pain, digestive issues, allergies, insomnia, arthritis, and other imbalances in the body including hormones. For more information, inquire at [email protected] or Facebook/IG @osteoinflorence or call the office at +39 055-0107880.
- Manifattura Tabacchi – the city’s new industrial creative space near Cascine Park has a pretty cool digital platform offering a variety of interesting online events. You can find interviews with artists, workshops, an in-house podcast. I especially appreciate every Wednesday, which is when they discuss new books and vintage classics with bookshop Todo Modo.
- The lovely ladies of Lady Ripple have offered kundalini yoga sessions via video on their platform here.
- The Open-Mic crowd in Florence is a pretty creative group. Pre-CoVid19 it was an in-person meetup where people shared stories, poems, songs at various venues – now they have taken it to a digital format. Check out their facebook page for upcoming events.
- The Student Hotel in Florence is currently hosting a number of digital events: everything from yoga-sunrise-flows to meditation sessions, pub quizzes and even free online dance classes!
- Speaking of Instagram and Italy-based or themed accounts, I just completed this (really long) list of suggestions based on categories (food, geography, travel, etc.) that you can search through here. Also check out the hashtag #ItaliaDalDivano to see “Italy” through a visual lens from the IG community.
- My friend Shari of Sole Yoga Holidays is offering *LIVE* lessons from her home during the lockdown in Florence: 60 minute, strong vinyasa flow 10am-PST / 1pm-EST / 7pm-CET. Lessons are donation-based, but please practice if you can’t donate!
- I am a fan of the “Coffee Break” language podcasts (currently listening to the French version) and their Italian one is a wonderful, and free, resource!
- If you want to deep-dive into Italian culture, interesting phrases, verb tenses and more – follow our “language” page over at Italy Magazine – the gift that keeps on giving!
7. Films, TV & Podcasts
- If there is one positive aspect to come out of this lockdown in Italy, it is that the environment is getting a break from us humans. We need to care about protecting this planet (not just talk about it) if we want to enjoy a planet to live on in the future. The CinemAmbiente Festival has collaborated with the Odeon Cinema in Florence to showcase a variety of green-themed films touching on climate change and sustainability in the future this April that you can watch online. Check out the schedule here.
- For anyone looking for Italian TV and film suggestions available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Sky Italia – here’s my roundup of top picks right now.
- I’m a girl who loves her podcasts – a beloved gem for many of us freelancers who regularly work from home. Luckily you have quite a few to choose from in Italy to keep you connected with our wonderful country – here are some personal favorites: Ciao Bella by Erica Firpo, Travel: In Situ with Darius Arya, the Bittersweet Life podcast, Dream of Italy podcast, Cooking with an Italian accent, Gola podcast, Morgana podcast (in Italian – highly recommend), Podcast from Italy with Ashley & Jason Bartner, Italian wine podcast, Adventures running a villa in Puglia, A History of Italy podcast, Thoughts on the table.
- For fellow-lovers of film festivals, the Ischia Film Festival is showcasing a series of films (listed here) that can be seen for free online.