mercoledì 23 aprile 2014

Marriages and Flowers in Tuscany: Interview with Tori, manager at Tuscany Flowers in Florence

Author: Gayane Simonyan

Tori is an American designer with degrees in Theatre and Interior Design. Currently she works at Tuscany Flowers in Florence - the company was founded in 1997. Her work background is rather diverse and non-traditional with experiences in performance, human resources and teaching as well as design. She finds these experiences serve to enrich her creative process as it gives her a broad perspective on her work. Location has also been a source of inspiration. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, lived nine years in New York City and now has been living in Italy for nearly six years. All of these places have shaped her career and offered a unique perspective on life.

“As Tuscany Flowers is a boutique agency, each member of our team wears many hats. My primary role is to prepare presentations and proposals and plans for clients based on their personal tastes and preferences regarding the style of decorations they would like to have at their event. These kinds of documents may include collages of images and photographs, renderings or drawings of specific decorative elements and venues. I am also responsible for the company’s website”, said Tori.

-Where has the idea come from?

“Tuscany Flowers combines the expert talent of three exceptional florists and horticulturalists. Antonio Magi, Mari Therese Nielsen and Gianni Berni. They combined their talents to create a signature style that comes from their collective experiences from all over Europe and their love for the Tuscan landscape”.

-What kind of events is it generally organizing?

“We have a number of different types of events in our repertoire from small private celebrations to large extravagant weddings. We often find ourselves in some of the most exclusive locations in Tuscany and the world including Santa Croce Church, The Academia and The Louvre for example”.

-Except flowers what kind of decorations do you have?

“Our horticulture work goes beyond flowers with trees, bushes and large plants and branches. Our clients can choose from an expansive selection of vases, urns, and columns as well as gazebos. We also specialize in unique lighting solutions such as chandeliers, candelabras, and lanterns”.

-How many events/ weddings have you organized so far?

“I’m still quite new to the company, and I spent the first couple of months fine tuning our marketing materials. To date, I’d say I’ve been involved in the proposals of about 10 events and the list is growing steadily”.

-What is the approximate cost of a middle-class wedding/event?

“As a luxury agency, all of our designs are couture, so the cost varies a great deal from event to event depending on the size, season, flowers and materials chosen as well as the nature of the design”.

-How long does it take to get prepared for a ceremony?

“The preparation for an event can range from a month or two up to a year depending on the clients planning needs and size of the event”.

-An interesting story/ event that happened during the preparations or ceremonies that is on top of your mind and you would like to share.

“One thing that impressed me when I began working here was the effect of the large floral arrangements when you see them being constructed for an event. It’s quite different than seeing a photograph. In person you can see every detail and every layer. The arrangements are full of little surprises. You can also smell the flowers, which makes the designs appeal to multiple senses to create an environment that does so much more than a photograph can portray. It’s a beautiful experience to see the work come to life. I’m really enjoying it,” Tori summed up.

mercoledì 16 aprile 2014

Interview with Professor Camilla Perrone: a brilliant urban planner at the University of Florence

Prof. Camilla Perrone
interview by Fabrizio Ulivieri
English version by Monika Mikucionyte

Professor Perrone, in comparison with the way of thinking of so many Italians, you criticize an international image in approaching technical issues in the field of architecture. How was this international disposition of yours born?

The discussion and the exchange of knowledge have always been one of my priorities.
I believe that the matter of spreading knowledge should go back to being a central theme in academic training, at second and third cycle, of architecture and urban studies in general.

Internationalization is an issue that is often overlooked or interpreted in terms of the mobility of teachers and students. Naturally, I think that to ensure this type of exchange is a priority for any university. International agreements, Erasmus, Teaching mobility programs, etc... are an objective to be pursued and a sector that academic governance must support and implement. However, I believe that internationalization should be expressed and pursued through effective exchanges of knowledge through the sharing and diffusion of cultures and disciplinary traditions in a balance that does not crush the entire training towards main stream cultural models.

For several years I have tried to contribute to the achievement of this goal in many ways, personally building opportunities for a cross-cultural, dynamic and open interdisciplinary confrontation, and providing practical learning opportunities to doctoral students from other countries that. I am sure, that this will enrich our educational training and research.

Following this international vision of yours, how are you structuring the Department of Architecture?

On the technical/organizational side, I agreed to carry out the task of delegate LLP Erasmus for the School of Architecture, working on the construction of agreements with European universities (in order to facilitate the mobility of students) and tracking funds for the integration of scholarships, often unfortunately too scarce.

At scientific level, I structured a strong partnership with the Aesop (Association of European Schools of Planning) that allows our students (of the second and third cycle, students of master and PHD) to confront with an international context, both in terms of the topics of the mode of communication and exchange of knowledge.

I am a representative for the National Association and last July I won an international award by this association - Aesop Excellence in Teaching Award, for a PhD course organized on a national scale, in a manner and on issues considered to be of international interest.

I also carried out periods of training and teaching at foreign universities, including York University in Toronto and the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, where I have built international relations for research and training.

My commitment will be oriented towards the future construction of curricula in collaboration with other emerging universities, in a worldly perspective.

How much more of an international strategy would the Italian university need? 

I believe that this moment of global crisis has exacerbated some very difficult situations in the academic machine of Italian universities.

Like any important activity, even internationalization has always needed, and at the same time has always felt the lack of, governmental investments.

There are many programs that can be undertaken, particularly at European level, but as always, they alone are not sufficient for the construction of a structured program of internationalization that is able to offer opportunities and contexts for competitive researches and studies. At least in the field of urban studies, there are very few programs of such excellence.

Some of the Italian research centers and polytechnics have certainly made progress.

I would say that over time, despite the current global push towards flows and exchanges of all kinds, the academic world is paradoxically less internationalized than 40 years ago.

The students have few opportunities, know few languages. Today you can also find some teachers who have hardly participated in any international conference, and that it is difficult to compare with scientific contexts in large diversified. There are too many localisms in the academic world, scientific and educational localism paradoxically emerge with more force this season than in the previous academic years.

I do not think it is possible to overcome this crisis that we are going through now, even epistemological, without imagining a different organization of the training and selection of teachers, based also on their ability to intercept cultural domains external to their own context.

Florence and globalization. Florence represents the global idea of Renaissance and probably it has been persisted without evolving for too long throughout the centuries. How to revive Florence back to a level of a global, international and a competitive city again, at least from the modern urban planning point of view, today?

Florence is a city full of contradictions. Its story proves it: open and vibrant throughout alternate of times in the history of the world.

Narrow minded and reactionary, unable to grasp the value of personality in scientific and academic majors, to such point of forcing outstanding personalities to leave this town (I am thinking of some of the teachers of our faculty, such as professor Benevolo). But at the same time an extraordinary city in terms of teaching a new cultural and artistic sensibility to the world, needed to Italian culture itself.

Today it's an artistic, urban and territorial heritage representing a challenge for every architect and scholar of urban planning in the world. How to preserve it and what to do in order to renew it? 

Difficult to answer. We might say that Florence certainly represents a challenge as well as a historical heritage to protect and preserve, a challenge that is common to the entire world, and for this very reason forces/impels everyone to hand regeneration and renewal on future generations.

Florence is a city of the past, a capital of civic sense and urbanity recognized throughout the world. Nothing would make sense without imagining this town as a city addressed to the future.

It is an international city by excellence in terms of attractiveness and as a museum of the world; on the other hand, it is one of the most conservative and narrow minded cities I have ever lived in or have known from willingness to parallel and debate in academic world point of view.

My opinion is that a comparative approach in developing program of studies, training and research is mandatory (and urgent).

The skyline of Florence, that we all know, is a source of inspiration and beauty. People who come to Florence breathe beauty, are inspired by beauty. How would you summarize the themes, capacities and shapes that are the ground of this beauty? The architectural principles that have inspired the buildings of Florence that we all know?

Perhaps we could define Florence as a work of art made with commitment, sometimes boldness of challenging patrons and artists, and especially with collective intelligence capable of transforming the space into places meant to last and form the cultural and urban heritage which we all enjoy today.

It is intertwined in a melting pot of surprises embedded into one another according to rules either designed or self-determined to represent examples of social, civil, religious, private: expressions of civil power and religious power. However, Florence was also a city of hospitality, in the network of its monasteries (e.g. the dissemination of churches and convents in the Oltrarno that have historically hosted young women rejected by society, the poor, the homeless, travelers and recently many immigrants and refugees), and care facilities (in this case think of the hospital of the Innocents). And nevertheless, it was the mirror of the alternation of cultures and artistic codes .

The architectural principles that all of us are now able to recognize as the great lesson of the Renaissance would not be enough to explain the "beauty" of Florence. Great social mobilizations and public made Florence as it is. Think of the great collective effort in the reconstruction of Florence and its rebirth after the 1966 flood.

Florence lacks green areas, how can you fix this?

In fact, Florence does not lack green areas. There are many of those, even in the center. They are really nice, interesting, and often are the completion of the buildings that make up the foundation of the historic center. But they are locked up in the courts of the palaces and convents. They are private and hidden properties that can only be enjoyed from the above.

In my opinion Florence is a city that should learn to open up, to indulge itself, to navigate throughout its thickness.

Also, just imagine a system with free and intersecting all the private gardens of the great palaces of the center, presenting the city as very livable, urban, regular but at the same time international. Florence would once again be a city for its inhabitants and not just for tourists. Florence, at least the Florence recognized as a cultural heritage, refuses to recognize the right of people to their city and more often treats itself as the global tourism market.

Florence is a city overwhelmed with tourists. How should the developer take this matter into account in order to design any urban intervention within this city?

Definitely a different management of public spaces, a different design of its streets and the construction of new networks of the tramway would free the center from the bondage of buses and cars to give new regenerated space for its inhabitants.

What does it mean to innovate and create in architecture today?

I would not speak only of architecture. The city is a complex system in which dynamics and different needs are intertwined. I guess that a correct answers is that architecture should perhaps seize to create spaces that can intercept the needs and requirements of the variety of lifestyles and cultures that today are intermingled within the city. This can potentially be used by multiple recipients. DiverCity is the play of words that I love to use in order to define an imaginary horizon towards which all efforts, joint ventures, architecture, urban design and regional designs are united to.

Rethinking the steps of the architecture is a priority of this historic moment, "today we need an "enabling architecture," an architecture that is able to provide opportunities, the widest possible range of opportunities for its users.

Perhaps it won’t be a creative sign of a Master, the innovative response that we would expect, but quite a productive insight of a community, that will show the direction for a different architecture. The creativity and innovation in architecture today are perhaps not only, or are no longer, found solely in the artistic genius of one man (a Master), but in the generating capacity of those who build and produce their own living space.

Is the Urban Planning Department of the Faculty of Architecture of Florence planning national and international events?

Actually there are many international activities undertaken by the department of architecture and many countries around the world are involved. They include cultural agreements, students mobility programs, conferences and seminars, coordinate tutoring of doctoral theses, etc...

I point out particularly an initiative organized within a ministerial project called Prin, that I am co-coordinating with other colleagues, and which deals with the new challenges of contemporary cities (defined as post-metropolitan territories). It is an international conference (to be held on March 14 in Via Micheli 2), in which we will evaluate possible strategies to undertake in order to make cities sustainable, livable (and maybe even more beautiful), with experts in dynamics of urbanization and suburbanization and the world in general.

A word of advice to the young ones who are about to become architects.

I suggest to imagine architecture as the result of an interactive process that includes many stakeholders, values, cultures and different histories, and to keep in mind how reflective professionals may be able to grasp ideas and creativity into the dynamics of co-production of the act of creating living spaces under the stimulus of a variety of contemporary inhabitants.

lunedì 14 aprile 2014

Me, myself and I- Gayane Simonyan

Author: Gayane Simonyan

I'm Gayane Simonyan from Armenia who passed 2720 km to get to Florence, Italy on April 8 and who is happy to explore “Bella Italia”.

I was born and raised in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. My homeland is located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the North, Azerbaijan to the east and Iran to the South.

After getting my Bachelor’s degree in linguistics in Armenia, I decided to change my major a little bit and I moved to Tbilisi, Georgia to get my Masters’ in Journalism and Media Management. So, now I'm a second year student at Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA), faculty of Journalism and Media Management. The program is strongly supported by US Embassies in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. In cooperation with South Carolina University, GIPA is inviting professional reporters, editors from USA to share their professional experience and knowledge with us-students.

According to the curriculum we go for internship to the foreign countries other than Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. We are free to choose our hosting organization, company, agency, etc.

I, always having a dream to visit “Bella Italia” had a clear target where to go. Searching for different opportunities in Italy I ended up with finding a perfect match: 2- month-internship at Istituto Europeo (

My decision to pursue the internship at Istituto Europeo is underscored by my desire to be a part of professional working staff at this Italian University, share my knowledge, gain more experience and of course to get to know many different people from different parts of this beautiful world. One of the most important advantages of the university is that it spellbinds young minds like me who have the zeal to combine theoretical study with research and practical work putting enthusiasm on it.

As one of these young minds who wish to opt for technically challenging career filled with excitement of setting a goal and finding ways, no matter taugh or rough- to get to the goal-point and to impliment it using various techniques and skills-has led me into applying for this internship and offering to put my standard, non-standard and creative ideas into the further development of Istituto Europeo.

I'm here to write various articles, make photos and videos about dreamy Florence like:

  • A video and/or a photo- story about life in Florence providing information where to go, what to do.
  • An exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi a Firenze called "Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino" on April 15 devoted to the work of the two famous painters Pontormo and of Rosso Fiorentino.
  • An article and photos how Easter is celebrated in Florence organizing special events every day from April 17 to 21.
  • Gelato Festival to be held from April 24 to May 1
I'm interested but not limited only in these topics, so if you are interested, you can simply follow the updates.

As a student at GIPA, I gained basic journalism skills using the latest techniques of professional reporting and writing for both print and the broadcast media. I also took courses of Journalism ethics, Programming, PR; chose Media Management track to get more management techniques and key knowledge fields like economics.

As GIPA students we produced radio and TV newscasts and short video stories, photo reportages, some of which were put in NewsCafe ( a student media available in Georgian and English. So, these skills will help me in covering these

My innate enthusiasm for facing formidable tasks and my will to learn and implement new things, aided me to get through various stages of my academic life with flying colours.

So, this is a great opportunity for me to show, to use all the knowledge and practice gained, and it will help me go deeper in my major as a Journalist and Media Manager, and what is more important, to see how Journalism works outside Caucasus region.

Benvenuti in Italia – Welcome to Italy.

mercoledì 2 aprile 2014

Tanja Tammimies: a Finnish auditor at Istituto Europeo

Tanja Tammimies
by Ilaria Gelichi

Tanja tell us something about yourself. Where do you come from, which is your job…

I am Tanja Tammimies and I am from Finland. I am a teacher of Finnish language at Oulun Aikuiskoulutuskeskus, the Adult Education Centre in Oulu, Finland. I have come to Florence through Leonardo da Vinci program to visit Istituto Europeo, to see the teaching method of language, culture and music and to know how the school works.

What kind of students do you have in your Centre in Finland?

I have many kinds of students, from everywhere in the world. Lots of husbands and wives of Finnish people, refugees, people who end up in Oulu for work and then decide to remain.

In your opinion, what are the most common problems in your job?

At the beginning it’s difficult, because Finnish is so different from most languages. Like here, we teach only in Finnish so it’s very hard for beginners, but after the start things normally go better. Of course, sometimes the motivation to study a very rare language can be a problem. In Finland you can survive with English, you could live 20 years in Finland without learning Finnish. For this reason it’s very difficult to find the real motivation to study the language of the country, even though I believe that in all countries to learn the language it is really the key to the society. So if you want to live in a country you should learn its language.

Could you tell us more about the project you came through?

The name of the project is Leonardo da Vinci Mobility Program. It is financed and coordinated by CIMO, the Centre for International Mobility in Finland. The coordinating school is in Tampere, then there are other participating schools, like mine. We got six positions for teachers, to go abroad to develop intercultural connections between our school and other schools and the professional experience of the teacher. For example, if I were teaching to cooks in Finland I could go to a cooking school here to learn Italian cooking. In my case, the aim is learning something new about my profession – language teaching - in another country.

Let’s talk about Florence. Have you ever been here before? What do you like most of the city, and of Italy in general?

Yes, I have been to Florence many times. I like Florence best, but that’s because I lived here before, so it’s familiar to me. Of Italy in general I like the culture of being open: Italians are more social than the Finnish, you are more in contact with people, more flexible with times, etc… I like the way of life, the way you enjoy food and spend time to prepare and eat it; in Finland we don’t have such food culture. Also, another quality Italians have is that they are proud of their culture and they know how to show it to others: in Finland it’s not the same, we are a bit shy about this. I also love art and Florence is unique in its “art content”: if you study art and architecture you must come to Florence, you cannot miss this city!

How was this experience at Istituto Europeo?

It has been great. By attending the Italian lessons as an auditor, I could feel as one of my students feel. In the classroom the teacher speaks only Italian and for the first time I had the chance to meet foreign students, with whom I could speak only in Italian because we didn’t have other languages in common. I like the school, the lessons and the teachers are great: it has been a very interesting experience.

Finally, do you have any advice to give to a young person who wants to become a teacher? Which qualities he/she should have?

To be open with people, to be ready to learn, experiment and give from yourself. The most important thing is to communicate with people, so a good teacher should have good communication skills… and lots of patience, too!


martedì 1 aprile 2014

APRIL 2014 at ISTITUTO EUROPEO: Schedule of Activities

April 2014 (March 31st – April 24th)

Mon  31  9:00 am        Written and oral placement test
               7:30 pm       Welcome dinner € 30
Tue   1    2:00 pm       Presentation about cultural activities in Florence in March
Wed  2    12:30 pm     Lunch (tastings of typical Tuscan cuisine) € 20
Thu   3    2:00 pm       Movie: “Cosa voglio di più” by S. Soldini
Fri     4    7:00 pm       Dinner in trattoria € 30
               11:30 pm     Night out at the disco
Sat    5    7:30 am       Hiking in Chianti with lunch and wine tasting € 45
Sun   6    8:00 am       Day tour to Pisa, Siena & S. Gimignano with lunch € 50

Mon  7    1:30 pm       The Director meets the students of Istituto Europeo
Tue   8    3:00 pm       Visit to a Florentine workshop: Lastrucci’s mosaics
Wed  9  12:30 pm       Lunch (typical tastings of Tuscan cuisine) € 20
Thu   10  2:00 pm       Movie: “Borotalco” by C. Verdone
Fri     11  7:00 pm       Dinner in trattoria € 30
               11:30 pm     Night out at the disco
Sat    12  8:00 am       Day tour to Cinque Terre € 40
Sun   13  8:00 am       Day tour to Verona & Garda Lake € 65

Mon  14  2:00 pm       Visit to Alinari Museum € 9
Tue   15  2:00 pm       Movie: “Va’ dove ti porta il cuore” , by C. Comencini
Wed  16 12:30 pm     Lunch (typical tastings of Tuscan cuisine) € 20
Thu   17  2:00 pm       Conference: “Dante and his Time
Fri     18  7:00 pm       Dinner in trattoria30
               11:30 pm    Night out at the disco
Sat    19  8:45 am      Day tour to S. Gimignano, Siena & Chianti with lunch € 45
Dom  20  8:00 am      Day tour to Montepulciano, Pienza & Montalcino with lunch € 69

Mon  21                       Festa: Lunedì dell’Angelo
Tue   22  2:30 pm        Day tour to Monteriggioni & Castellina in Chianti € 30
Wed  23  2:00 pm       Visit to Ferragamo Museum € 5
Thu   24 12:30 pm     Farewell party. Awarding of attendance certificates/diplomas
                  5:00 pm    Concert provided by the artists of Istituto Europeo
                 7:00 pm     Farewell dinner € 30
               11:30 pm     Farewell party at the disco
Fri     25                      Festa della Liberazione