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...

Italy’s Immortal Poet: Dante’s Words Live On!

Although 756 years have passed since Dante Alighieri’s birth in Florence in May of 1265, his words live, not just in literature, but also on the tongues of contemporary Italians. On a swerving, heart-stopping ride through Rome, a taxi driver assured me that the...

Leonardo and Mona Lisa: Still Famous After All These Years

More than five centuries after his birth on April 15, 1519, Leonardo da Vinci and his Mona Lisa are still making headlines. A front-page article in the New York Times claims that the Saudi Cultural Ministry, which bought Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World)...

Welcoming Spring in Italian

In English the most eagerly awaited of seasons “springs” to life with blunt urgency. In Italian la primavera blossoms into four elegant syllables. My etymological dictionary traces primavera back to radici indoeuropee (Indo-European roots): prima for “before” and vas...

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...