Welcome to Tuscany and Italian Riviera di Levante, my home.
My name is Martina Beatrice Manfredi: I am an enthusiastic art historian of Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Art, specializing in the XVIII century print market and gender studies (women artists in XVII -XIX century).
My passion for art, architecture and local history led me to start an intriguing new project in 2007, when I gained the License as Qualified Tour Guide and Professional Tour Director in Tuscany.
In 2009 I also set up my own Private Guided tour Company, ‘Tuscany at Heart’, which offers bespoke Cultural Itineraries, exquisite food and wine trips, deligthful cycling & boat tours to travelers of all ages and interests!
I love sharing my personal and intimate knowledge of both popular destinations and almost unknown hidden gems in the heart of Tuscany or on the Italian Riviera di Levante.
Above all I am always delighted to meet people who are curious and wish to discover Italian culture from a different perspective, while experiencing local communities. It opens your mind and fills your heart!
There it is certainly to learn, but not at the expense of fun! The discovery of the sites also includes the most interesting areas of city life, as historical cafes, artisans workshops and nice meeting places.
Over the past thirteenth years I have organized and delivered authentic in-depth tours of Northern Central Tuscany and Italian ‘Riviera di Levante’ to many travelers from all around the world.
What people love most about me it is my positive energy, genuine enthusiasm, attention to details, flexibility and willingness to honor special requests, regardless of the weather conditions.
I really hope to be the person who will make you fall in love with Tuscany’s Beauty and Culture and to have you experience a true human connection!
As lovingly pointed out by a traveller:
“I love Italy! My love started with Pisa and Martina’s stories…. Martina was my first guide into Italian and Tuscany life. It was love at first sight! History and facts were just a wonderful bonus. I started my journey intentionally from Tuscany. Martina walked me through Pisa and Volterra with unforgettable ease and full of great stories. We walked, we talked, we ate …. and we met a lot of great people. That made time with her that much more special. She is professional and lovely to be around from the first e-mail to last hug. I am so glad that we became friends. Going back to Tuscany next year. Guess who will be my guide 🙂”
(Tanya Safontchik – November 29, 2019, LinkedIn -Tanya was a client and now friend of Martina)
MY STORY | HERE ARE DETAILS ABOUT MY BACKGROUND AND HOW IT ALL STARTED
I was born and raised on the ‘Gulf of the poets’, just south of the beautiful Cinque Terre/Five Lands, (Italian Riviera di Levante) in the Liguria Region, a slender strip of land between the mountains and the sea.
With an innate connection to the natural environment, especially to the sea – I still need to live in places where I can ‘smell’ and ‘breath’, if cannot ‘see’, it– since being a young child I was drawn to untouched places and ancient ruins. I looked for Beauty everywhere.
When I was two years old, right next to my garden, a large pre-Roman cemetery, which was built up by Liguri Apuani in IV century BC, was discovered by accident.
As a result, an archeological campaign was set up and excavations continued for several years. My curiosity about archeology was encouraged very much when they let me visit the site: one of the archeologists gave me a piece of earth with the impression that had been left by a vase. It was so inspiring that, together with my sister, I started looking for ‘ancient treasures’!
As a teen-ager my interest in art, architecture and antiques developed.
This was awoken by some special people: first and foremost, my dad Lorenzo – who could paint when he was a child and who developed a gift in wood and stone carving in his adult age. He ‘introduced’ me to antiques shops in Lunigiana (Sarzana, Villafranca, Pontremoli) and northern Tuscany; then my professor of latin and literature at high school, Lidia, who gave me fascinating lessons on art and its correlation to socio -economic and environmental elements/factors. Finally, my mum Brunella who has always encouraged me to go to University and to travel abroad.
This led me to visit several art exhibitions and museums by myself, in addition to exploring medieval villages and ancient cities within and beyond my home.
I chose to study a four-year course in ‘Conservation and Management of the Cultural Heritage’ at the University of Pisa (BA Degree – Painting, Sculpture and Architecture).
Coming from a small town, I was intrigued by the idea of studying in a city which was the birthplace of the great scientist Galileo Galilei and the mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci. Most of all I was fascinated by the fact that Pisa had been a destination for travelers at least since the 15th Century: this was not due to the world famous Leaning Tower -as it is at present- but because of its mild climate, the beautiful ‘Lungarni’ (the two banks of the Arno river) and other almost unknown attractions.
After spending over sixteen years in Pisa, I can tell there is much more to discover next to and beyond the amazing Leaning bell Tower of the Cathedral!
Whilst studying for my third year of University, I was awarded a scholarship and was happy to be an Erasmus Student at the University of Leicester (UK) for six months. I subsequently received a grant to return to England and lived in London for three months while researching my final dissertation. It was a meaningful/enlightening experience!
Completed my BA graduation, I worked as art history teacher for private schools and guided in temporary exhibitions held at Museums located in the historic center of Pisa.
As I was keen to research art history, I dreamed of becoming a professor of art and researcher at the University of Pisa.
I succesfully gained an MA Degree (three-year course), specializing in Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Art. While, as an indipendent scholar, I have attended conferences and I am author of several articles published on art magazines, including Arte|Documento, Arte Veneta, The Burlington Magazine and Print Quarterly (London, UK).
Meanwhile I found a job in Florence, where I worked for two years for an editor, whose studio is located in the ‘Oltrarno’, where at present you can still meet locals and discover the real city life!
For the same boss I also managed the ticket Office located by the beautiful Church of Santa Croce; so I could often go inside it and wonder around Galileo Galilei & Michelangelo’s tumbs, and admire masterpieces by Cimabue, Giotto, Donatello and other great medieval and renaissance artists.
Travelling back and forth from Pisa, I walked through the historic centre of Florence at least five days a week. This turned into a fantastic opportunity to see and stop by several masterpieces: from the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore with the outstanding Dome by Brunelleschi, to the Baptistery of St. John. I also loved the ‘Piazza della Repubblica, Il Mercato del Porcellino (‘The piglet market’), Piazza della Signoria with the ‘Loggia dei Lanzi’, the Uffizi Gallery, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) and the Pitti Palace, besides antiques and local artisans workshops located in ‘the other Florence’!
I truly could fullfil my eyes with Beauty, while breathing deeply and imaging everyday life during Medieval and Renaissance times!
When in Academic Year 2005-2006 I was offered a part-time job at the Economics Department of the Univeristy of Pisa, I said yes because I realized I would have more time to dedicate to my reseach in art history and especially to an intriguing and fascinating new project!
That same year I attended a course and in Spring 2007 successfully gained my license as a Qualified Tour Guide of Pisa and its surroundings (San Piero a Grado, Calci, Vicopisano, San Miniato, Peccioli, Volterra, Pomarance, Castelnuovo Val di Cecina and other beautiful ancient villages).
At the outset I gave tours on behalf of some local guides, especially at weekends when I was not busy at the University.
In 2009 I set up my own Private Tour company, ‘Tuscany At Heart’.
It took several years to develop, but eventually it turned into my full-time job in 2015!
I am grateful to life for this, being in a position to live on what I am passionate about! That is Art, History and Nature!
I like going to ancient books and crafts fairs, antiques and vintage markets, as well as discovery cozy artisans’ workshops and cool artist’ studios.
I truly enjoy music, food and wine festivals which I have been enjoying with my partner in life, Raffaele, whom I met in 2011!
Finally, I love taking pilates lessons, swimming, cycling and hiking everywhere, especially on the Alps and along the Ligurian Coast!
Due to family issues, in 2015 Raffaele and I decided to return to live on the Italian ‘Riviera di Levante’.
We rented an apartment in Sarzana, a charming town located on the borders between Tuscany and Liguria Region, a few km from the Ligurian Sea (Mar Ligure).
At present this is the place where I reside and look after my adorable little son, to whom I gave birth three years ago. Being mother it is a unique experience and definitely helps me understanding better the needs of families who travel with kids.
I now divide my time between two different regions of Italy: Liguria and Toscana, which I love!
My goal is to make your stay in Tuscany unforgettable; to make you ‘feel at home’, while exploring new places at your own pace!
Book a tour with me and you will not regret it!
You will experience a warm, authentic human connection! And You will return home with ‘Tuscany At Heart’.
See you soon!
Martina Beatrice Manfredi