The Italian Almanac

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nest of the falcon

Nesting in Florence

A pair of falcons have chosen an unusual home to nest and bring up their young - the top of Florence cathedral. A webcam has been set up to follow the peregrine falcons, who have been named after two heroes of Florentine history - the great painter Giotto and Monna Tessa, Italy's first nurse and the founder of a famous religious order.

Bird lovers and others can follow the birds' movements in the run-up to the appearance of the first additions to their family, expected towards the middle of this month. The bird-watching world has been waiting with bated breath since Monna Tessa laid four eggs on March 8. Thanks to the webcam - a tangerine-sized ball painted the same brick-red colour as the Duomo's tiles - they'll be able to see the fledglings' first steps towards becoming, like their parents, one of the fastest creatures on the planet.

The peregrine falcon, which risked extinction in Italy because of pesticides until DDT was banned in the 1970s, was first spotted in the skies over Florence in 1993. A pair of hawks were spotted a few years ago on another great city landmark, the imposing tower of Palazzo Vecchio. Experts say it could have been the first visit by a younger Giotto and Monna Tessa, already showing their taste for fine architecture.

The new webcam, funded by Florentine civic and artistic authorities, can be accessed via www.florence.tv, www.provincia.fi.it and www.birdcam.it.