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Mona Lisa's Florence

I thought I knew Florence. As a tourist, I returned again and again to explore its treasures. As a student, I learned the history of its language. While researching La Bella Lingua, my biography of Italian, I interviewed its scholars. But it wasn't until I found myself in the palazzo where Mona Lisa's mother grew up that I became intrigued by the real woman in Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic portrait. While tracing her life story, I got to know a different Florence: Mona Lisa's hometown.

Yes, hers was the architectural marvel that thrills us still, the city of Brunelleschi’s sky-skimming Cupolone (big dome), Giotto’s graceful Campanile, the sacred spaces of Santa Croce and Orsanmichele. But Mona (Madame, spelled Monna in modern Italian) Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo lived her life in neighborhoods where tourists seldom tread.

From the day I first ventured onto Via Sguazzo, the squalid lane where she was born in 1479, I wanted to travel back in time to the city where Mona Lisa grew up, married, gave birth to six children, inspired a genius and survived some of the most tumultuous decades in Florence’s history. In MONA LISA: A Life Discovered, I take readers with me on this quest. I describe the noisy streets, bustling markets, hushed cloisters and clattering wool mills of her time. But even as I was taking notes and photographs, I realized that nothing could compare with the actual experience of exploring Florence com’era (as it was).

This is why I am working with art historians and professional guides to develop walks and workshops that will provide a unique journey to and through Renaissance Florence. From October 1 to 9, we will be offering a limited number of previews. Our tours of Mona Lisa’s Florence will formally launch in 2015.

For more information, please write me at info@monalisaflorence.com. Additional details will be posted on  my website and at Mona Lisa's Florence.

If you're planning a trip to Italy, I hope that you will join us and discover Florence as you've never seen it before: through the Mona Lisa's eyes.

Words and Expressions

Firenze — Florence

fiorentino — native of Florence, Florentine speech

fiorentineggiare — to use Florentine idioms, to affect the Florentine way of speaking

fiorentinamente — in the Florentine manner

fiorentinesco — Florentine

Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.