Caffe’ Ricchi used to be my “everyday haunt” for my morning coffee and pastry. Located in Santo Spirito it was usually my first stop on my daily rounds. Now that I don’t live in the area, I only make it over once or twice per week, and this is where I get the fabulous cheesecake. The caffe is located about midway in the piazza, and has sandwiches, gelato, coffee, and small appertivo, some primi piatti for lunch that are good and reasonable prices, and a cute little dining room with some of the greatest images of Santo Spirito around!The photos speak for themselves around the quality and variety of foods. The tabbachi shop next door sells tiles of the images of Santo Spirit and also magnets which make great gifts. Try it! Maybe I will see you there!

Figs became one of my new favorite fruits the first time I tasted them. I found the luscious green ones and have been addicted ever since. They are now out of season, that being a short 2 months, and the black figs, or Brown Mission figs are in. These are also very good, but not as sweet as the green ones. Unfortunately, in the United States you can only find these in a few states and Southern California produces 80% of them grown in the USA. They are a product of the Middle East, Northern Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.

If you ever see these or get a chance to try them, do it! Figs are one of the highest plant sources of calcium and fiber. According to USDA data for the Mission variety, dried figs are richest in fiber, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin K, relative to human needs. They have smaller amounts of many other nutrients. Figs have a laxative effect and contain many antioxidants.

It won’t be long now before it will be time to start the Fall Art History class with Elaine Ruffolo. This year it will start on October 5th. The course is called Masterpieces and Monuments, but covers even more than that. This 8 week course is so informative and fun! Even though I have taken this course before, and some of the same material is covered, I find that the repetition is just what I need to remember all of the details. Each time I hear something different and am able to store it away in my memory.


Each class is focused on a particular theme, but is so rich with information, I find it fascinating and overwhelming! Each Thursday morning, I step back in time to hear about why the buildings were built the way they are, who was responsible, what the government was doing at the time, and what was the significance of the art work. The class is never in a class room, but in the museums, piazzas, buildings, and churches around Florence. In front of the art work, architecture, crucifixes and tombstones. In the places where the history happened. The course is in English.

If you are in Florence for some extended time, you should investigate taking this course or one of the many others that are offered in the city. It’s great learning and great socializing! You can view Elaine’s syllabus for the upcoming class below. If you are interested, contact her at the email listed. I hope to see you there!

Florence Art History Class, Fall 2017
Masterpieces and Monuments
Thursday mornings 9.45-12:45
Class email:

Course Description
The course is intended as an introduction to the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance, with a special emphasis on Florence. Each week is devoted to a single topic or decorative complex and includes an on-site visit to a museum or monument in Florence.
Class time is Thursday 9:45 AM-12:45

Text books and suggested readings
John T. Paoletti Gary M. Radke, Art in Renaissance Italy (5th edition) or Frederick Hartt, Italian Renaissance Painting (7th edition)
Evelyn Welch, Art in Society 1250-1400
Painting and Experience in 15th century Italy, Michael Baxandall, (Available at the Paperback Exchange on Via delle Oche 2).

The eight week class fee is 380 Euros. Payment is due at the beginning of the first class. You may pay with a euro check, bank wire or cash in an envelope. You are responsible for your own entrance fees and field trips are a separate fee.

October 5:
Medieval Florence:
Meet at the column in Piazza della Repubblica at 9:45
Walk through Medieval Florence: Piazza della Repubblica, towers, Palazzo Davanzati, Orsanmichele interior, Bigallo.
6.00 Palazzo Davanzati

October 12:
Franciscans and the Rise of the City State
Meet at the steps of Santa Croce, Piazza Santa Croce
Visit: Santa Croce and museum
Entrance fees: Santa Croce 6.00 Euro (free for residents)

October 19: Black Death to the Early Renaissance
Santa Maria Novella
Meet at the front of Santa Maria Novella, Piazza Santa Maria Novella
Entrance fees: 5.00 (free for residents)

October 26: Early Renaissance Sculpture
Bargello and Orsanmichele
Meet at the entrance of the Bargello, Via del Proconsolo.
Entrance fees: 8.00 Euro at Bargello

November 2: no class (break)

November 9: Masterpieces of the Uffizi
Uffizi Gallery (Meet in the upstairs corridor outside the Giotto room)
Entrance fee: 13.00 Euro with reservation

November 16:
The Oltrarno: Santa Trinita’, Sto Spirito, Santa Maria delle Carmine
Meet at Piazza Santa Trinita in front of the church.
Entrance fee: 4.00 Euro at Santa Maria delle Carmine

November 23:
Medici Palace and San Lorenzo (meet on the steps of San Lorenzo)
Entrance fees: 4.50 Euro at San Lorenzo, 10.00 Euro at Medici Palace

November 30:
Piety and Patronage
San Marco and the Sant’Apollonia
Meet at the museum of San Marco, Piazza San Marco.
Entrance fee: 8.00 Euro at San Marco
End of class holiday lunch!

Field trips
Proposed dates:
Friday November 24: Ravenna
Tuesday December 5: Mantova

*Separate fee for field trips

Elaine Ruffolo
Art Historian

Elaine Ruffolo has been teaching art history in Florence, Italy since 1989 and is a popular instructor for students and adults alike. Her special interests include the history of patronage and the economy City-States in Renaissance Italy. Ruffolo firmly supports the idea that the best way to understand a work of art is by exploring the context in which it was made. What makes art history interesting and relevant today is study of the political situation, economic conditions, patronage, and the artist’s personality which is reflected in the work of art. Ruffolo’s approach to teaching is to combine art historical theory with the study of works of art in their original setting. This approach gives the student the fullest understanding of the work of art under consideration and at the same time, the past comes alive for the viewer.

Elaine Ruffolo currently lectures for Syracuse University and Stanford University in Florence. She is also the Resident Director for the Smithsonian Associate’s Programs in Italy, has developed art history programs for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Yale Alumni, College of William and Mary and the Patrons of the Vatican Museums. Ruffolo is on the advisory board of the Friends of Florence since 2000 and consults for CEO and YPOganization’s programs in Europe including Rome, Florence, Sicily, Naples, Greece, Morocco and Prague.