Happy Birthday to the Real Mona Lisa!

Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo (June 15, 1479 — July 15, 1542) My quest for the real Mona Lisa began years ago in Florence when I was doing research for LA BELLA LINGUA. An art historian who befriended me casually mentioned during a dinner at her home that the mother...

Celebrating Three of Italy’s Passionate Women Artists

Italy’s dazzling pantheon of artistic geniuses seems a man’s world. Yet a few women with singular passion defied all obstacles and created important works of art. As a way of celebrating International Women’s Day, here are three artists whose stories I recount in LA...

The Year of Dante: Learning to Love Italy’s Greatest Poet

It was dislike at first sight.  Everything about Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) put me off. As artists traditionally portrayed him, the medieval poet seemed a ferocious grump with a big beak, jutted chin, petulant sneer, and hooded eyes. Although writers like William...