Fascinating In Florence, The Madonna of the UFO

Could UFO’s have been flying over Renaissance Italy?

There is a little extraterrestrial intrigue at the Palazzo Vecchio in the historic heart of beautiful Florence. Up on the top floor of the palace in the Hall of Hercules there is a large tondo (circular frame with the painting inside) measuring about one meter across, featuring the Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist.

Madonna of the UFO, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist

It’s quite lovely, right? But there may just be a little more to this painting than meets the eye. We don’t know exactly who painted it. It has alternately been attributed to Tondo Miller, Bastiano Mainardi and Arcangelo di Jacopo del Sellaio but no one seems to know for certain who’s work it is. It happens, and this is not the only painting in Florence with an artist we can’t name.


At first glance it looks like any other Renaissance Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist. It is nice enough but you wouldn’t necessarily stop and swoon over it. In a city with more art within one square kilometer than any other city in the world, this painting is lovely but expected. You can imagine it on the walls of any Florentine palazzo. She is pretty, wears a red dress with a dark cape and a young John the Baptist is there with with baby Jesus. Ho hum.


But look over Mary’s shoulder and things get interesting. In the countryside behind her we see a shepherd with his small flock and his dog. Look more closely at both the shepherd and the dog. He has his hand raised to his forehead in awe and both he and the dog are looking up to the sky. Follow the line of their gaze and you will see what appears to be a B movie style flying saucer.

Madonna and child with John the Baptist and UFO, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

I’m not kidding! A grey, oval object is moving across the sky, with spiky golden rays emanating from it. Could it be a UFO?

Leonardo da Vinci ornithopter sketches
Leonardo da Vinci’s ornithopter sketches

The painting is dated to 1510-1520, a time during which there were no flying machines. Leonardo started work on his ornithopter around 1485 but the skies over Italy in those days were occupied only by birds. So what exactly is going on here?

Madonna of the Flying Saucer.
Madonna and Child with John The Baptist and UFO, Florence Italy
the light of God on the left, and mystery object on the right.

UFOlogists are adamant that this is proof that UFOs were being sighted during the Renaissance. Some art historians say the odd looking grey object is an angel appearing as a cloud (I don’t see it – they were realllly good at painting angels back then. Renaissance painters specialized in angels, and none of them were painted as grey blobs with golden spikes coming out of them.) The historians also say the shepherd is shielding his eyes from the light of God and that the nativity star with the three smaller stars in the left hand corner represent Mary’s continued virginity, before, during and after childbirth.


What do you think? UFO or grey blob of angel? Or could it be something else altogether?

Are you planning a trip to Florence? Would you like to know my favorite secret spots in Florence? My favorite places for lunch and dinner, where to have a drink with a view, the best markets and even a secret jewelry shop behind a hidden door! Get my Secret Florence PDF for free. Download your copy HERE

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Mornings In Florence

I love Florence.

Sunrise on Ponte Vecchio

I’ve loved her for years. She is one of the most magnificent cities in the world. 

Early morning Duomo

One of my absolute favorite things to do in Florence is to get up early and go walking.

Before the crowds descend, before the views get obstructed by the human masses, before the lines of tourists wrap around the buildings.


Ponte Vecchio before everyone arrives

Ponte Vecchio

The shops on Ponte Vecchio before they open for the day

Pitti Palace with the early morning sun

There is a magic hour in Florence after the sun is up and before the shops are open, when there is almost no one around. That is my favorite hour. This is when the city is my own, and I don’t have to share her with anyone.

Piazza Della Signoria before the crowds arrive

Florence street in the early morning
Santa Maria Novella

All images taken on my iPhone while walking in Florence.

Where To Buy Leather In Florence

I love Florence.

I love the art. I love the architecture. I love the city. I love the food.

I love everything about Florence.



One of the many things that Florence is famous for is being one of the very best places in the world to buy leather goods.

Everything from sensational handbags to luggage, belts, soft leather gloves, and fabulous leather jackets. Fabulous.


Just walking anywhere in Florence is pure magic, especially at night or in the early mornings before the tourists descend en masse.

Window shopping in this beautiful, art filled city is glorious. But if you’re not able to drop multiple thousands of dollars on the high end jackets and bags you see in the windows of Ferregamo, Gucci or Prada you are in luck – just make your way to San Lorenzo.



Looking around the San Lorenzo market in Florence


Not even 5 minutes walk from the Duomo (Santa Maria Del Fiore) you will find yourself at the San Lorenzo market and Mercato Centrale one of the most famous outdoor market areas in all of Europe. Mercato Centrale is inside, and is a food market, but all around it are endless market stalls and shops selling gorgeous leather handbags, luggage and jackets.

 Related Post: 10 Things You Absolutely MUST Do In Florence

(If you haven’t be to Florence in a couple of years, be prepared for a surprise. All the market stalls the used to be outside the Basilica di San Lorenzo are now gone, relegated to side streets.)

Jimmy’s beautiful leather shop in Florence

There are so many vendors that it can get quite confusing, and it would be easy in the mad tourist shuffle to make an expensive mistake and purchase something sub-quality. So I advise all my friends to have fun looking through the market, but then go see my dear friend Jimmy.

I first met Jimmy years and years ago when I bought my beautiful leather travel bags (that have been featured many times in this blog and in magazines!). Over the years we have become great friends, and now Jimmy has his own shop in the Piazza San Lorenzo, named Jimmy’s Leather Collection.




Everyone in the market knows and loves Jimmy, which is really helpful! I always get completely lost in the market stalls and can’t find my way back, so there are always vendors who will walk me back to his shop, which is in the Piazza San Lorenzo at the very beginning of the market.

 Related Post: How To Order Coffee In Italy

Jimmy’s second store is at the tail end of the market. Travel bag in the front is identical to mine!


What sets Jimmy’s shop apart from the rest is his attention to detail, and the quality of his merchandise. There is a giant area T the back end of the shop where you can sit comfortably on couches, look at clothes and bags in peace where you can really think and make wise decisions, to try jackets on and look at them in huge mirrors so you can see what they really look like, and to go over every inch of your jacket, it’s stitching, it’s form, and see the absolute perfection in the garment.



Jimmy does buy some garments from other manufacturers, but he also designs his own line of sensational leather jackets.
And they are beautiful.







Stylish, modern, and also classic.







The leathers that Jimmy uses are exquisitely soft and totally luxe.



Part of what makes shopping there so much fun is his depth of knowledge about leather, about the hide your jacket came from, about every step in the process.

 Related Post: 9 Things You Need To Do Before You Travel To Italy




He has an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion and of specific moments in fashion. I can be talking to him about a cuff style I like and he will say “Yes that was in the Fendi jacket in 2013” or he will say “Do you remember the sleeve on Balmain’s jacket in 2012? That shape would look perfect on you”. When you talk about that very specific shade of beige that Chanel had 5 years ago or last season, he knows exactly what you are talking about.

I can’t get enough of it!



Jimmy really understands body shape and how to choose the perfect style to maximize your assets and not draw attention to your not so great bits. He also understands geographic idiosyncrasies.

He will show me styles that girls from Chicago and L.A love, and then he will show me what girls from NYC are drawn to.

I love that he gets it.



Jimmy’s attention to detail is worth noting too. He sees the perfect alignment in the hides he uses, how the seams match perfectly.

I’ve sent people from all over the globe to Jimmy, normally because they want to buy luggage like mine, but they tend to end up buying leather jackets. And every single time, every single person is just ecstatic about their experience and their beautiful new leather jacket.


Of course he also has beautiful handbags and travel bags. But everyone lately has been asking me about jackets.

 Related Post: How To Make Italian Coffee In A Moka

Another thing to love? Jimmy is charming and charismatic and fun. You will have a wonderful time shopping with him, no matter where you are from. He speaks something like 21 languages, so it doesn’t matter who you are, he just changes over to your language and chats away, always happy, always delightful.

Find Jimmy’s Leather Collection on Facebook here

Jimmy’s Leather Collection

Piazza San Lorenzo, 2


Tel: 0055-292137

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