Archives for March 2013

Most Swedes have more legs than average

Women's and men's feet in hurryA Swedish statistician with a sense of humour (if that’s not engendering a stereotypical oxymoron) has recently pointed out the most Swedes have more than the average number of legs.  He notes that while the vast majority of Swedish people have two legs, there are a few with only one, and a very, very few with no legs at all. This makes the average number of legs per person in Sweden 1.9999999999999….  So those with two legs have more than the average.  Another reason not to trust statistics!

Grand Duke keeps kids quiet

Foundlings-May05-D3310sAR800The elegant square of Santissima Annunziata is just to the North of the cathedral in Florence. On its East side is the graceful colonnade of the Ospedale degli Innocenti, the Foundlings hospital, designed by my hero Filippo Brunelleschi, the first classical building of the Renaissance. In the centre is a fine equestrian statue of the Grand Duke Ferdinando I, who ruled Florence at the turn of the 16th and 17th Century. The statue was the last work of Giambologna, and was actually completed by his pupil Pietro Tacca and cast in bronze from a captured Turkish cannon.

Ferdinando statue

The statue is a symbol of Medici power and designed to emphasise the family’s hold on the city and the Grand Duchy.  But for generation of Florentine mothers, it’s also been a means to keep noisy and unruly children quiet for a moment or two, perhaps while Mum buys some provisions at one of the regular markets in the square.

Bees statue 2 The secret lies in a bronze plaque on the pedestal of the statue, which shows a multitude of bees around a Queen, surmounted by the Grand Duke’s personal motto Maiestate Tantum. That Latin phrase can be translated in a number of ways: Majesty only, the Greatness of this, Only Grandeur – take your pick. The idea was to reinforce the message of the rule of one over many: happy and busy Florentine bees surround their Queen.

But the generations of Mums have not been interested in precise Latin translations but rather in the number of bees. Because of the way they are arranged, it is extremely difficult to count them, so that’s the task they have set their unruly children. Keeps them quiet for ages.

You may want to have a go yourself next time you are in Florence.

(PS The answer is 91)

Frothy designs

Most mornings when we are in Florence, Lois and go for a little stroll in Florence for a cappuccino and a brioche, more often than not to the wonderful Pasticceria Serafini near us. Here’s the team:

Serafino team

cappuccino ordinaryThe coffee’s great and the caramelised apple brioche is to die for, but the cappuccino looks just like this.





Cappuccino designIn other establishments, however, the barista likes to add a little something to the frothy top of the coffee. Like this:





Florence coffee bloomOr, if they really want to go to town, like this.





cappuccino heartWe’re really there for the coffee, so we don’t mind not getting a small masterpiece of design as well – and I must say I was always a little suspicious of the barista in the cafe near where we took our first Italian lessons in the centre of town, who always drew a heart in Lois’ froth and not in mine!

See the Florence dome from the inside

Florence dome umbrellaIt’s been raining quite a bit in Florence for the past few days.  So perhaps this is the best way at present to see the dome of the cathedral (inside out) and keep dry!