Tag Archives: Michelangelo

F- Florence…A-Z Challenge 2020.

Welcome back to my series on Places I’ve Been for the 2020 Blogging A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’ll be heading over to the magnificent city Florence – birthplace of the Renaissance.

Writing about any city is intimidating, especially when you’re writing to the scope of this challenge which is all about short snappy posts and moving onto the next one. It’s meant to be more that those flashes of passing scenery you see through the windows of a passing train, than a much more considered absorption of each monumental treasure along with that quixotic sounds and aromas unique to that place.

Of course, when it comes to summing up Florence’s grandeur and inimitable history, it’s an impossible task.

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How serene…An early morning perspective of Florence.

 

“Stand on a bridge over the Arno river several times in a day and the light, mood and view changes every time. Firenze is magnetic, romantic and busy. Its urban fabric has hardly changed since the Renaissance, its narrow streets evoke a thousand tales, and its food and wine are so wonderful the tag ‘Fiorentina’ has become an international label of quality assurance.”

– Lonely Planet

So, I’m doing what I can. Almost 30 years down the track, I’m trying to remember my Florence. The Florence I experienced in August 1992 as a 22 year old backpacker who was simply visiting for a weekend. It’s not much to go on but armed with a handful of photographs I will press on.

Rowena Santa Croce

Perched on the stairs outside Santa Croce. 

The very first thing I remember about Florence was the heat. I felt like I was inside an oven, when for an Australian quite accustomed to the heat, says a lot. I also remember seeing luscious gelato stores. Gelato in an entirely different league from the pre-packaged stuff you could buy from the local pizza place. The colours were so bright and the gelato so luscious, that even after all this time I’m still salivating and staring through the crowds with puppy dog eyes. Drats! The life of a backpacker living on the smell of an oil rag is pure torture, especially being immersed in such temptation.

My view of Florence is from the street. It’s hot. Crowded. I want gelato, but initially go without (although, of course, you know I later succumbed.) The other thing is that as a young, single woman, I was also an unwitting target for Italian men who clearly saw the pursuit of female tourists as a national sport. However, it made such a difference to have my own personal tour guide. If I can offer one piece of travel advice, it’s “go local”.

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My gut feel is that I didn’t rush to the Duomo, even though that’s where my heart flutters whenever I see an aerial perspective of Florence and the Duomo hovers overhead like a proud mama bear. Located in Piazza del Duomo, Florence Cathedral was formally the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction began in 1296 in the Gothic style to a design of Arnolfo di Cambio and was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The magnificent dome, which dominates the exterior, was added in the 15th century on a design of Filippo Brunelleschi. If you’d like to read more about the architectural aspects of the Duomo: Click Here. This is also a good Link.

Birth of Venus

What always comes to mind when I reminisce about my trip to Florence, is seeing Bottacelli’s Birth of Venus for the very first time in person and it was electric, and even exceeded the gelato. I actually bought my very own print of the Birth of Venus, which says quite a lot on my backpacker budget.
Michelangelos-David

Michelangelo – The Statue of David

Michelangelo’s Statue of David housed at Florence’s Accademia Gallery is well-recognised as one of the greatest artistic masterpieces of all time and well described in the words of Giorgio Vasari:

“When all was finished, it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; no other artwork is equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelagnolo finish it”.

Giorgio Vasari

I feel very privileged to have seen this statue in person and from right up close. How amazing. Of course, it’s not the same as meeting Michelangelo himself or seeing the artistic genius at work, but it is enough to walk amongst his shadows here in Florence and traverse the streets he trod hoping that one day I would find my own angel sealed inside my very own metaphorical slab of marble. After all, I was still so young with all the world at my feet and my dreams, weren’t perceived as dreams but imminent destinations and my ticket was there ready in my pocket. Many times, I’ve wanted to jump into my time machine and be that person again. My faith might have been blind but it was real.

Michelangelo’s Tomb

Memory tells me very poignantly, that I also visited Michelangelo’s tomb. Even 30 years later, I still remember standing by his tomb as clear as day and having my photo taken by my local tour guide. That’s monumental. Over the years, I’d forgotten the name of the place or that Michelangelo wasn’t the only incredible mind buried here. Michelangelo is buried in Santa Croce, as are RossiniMachiavelli, and the Pisan-born Galileo Galilei, who was tried by the Inquisition and was not allowed a Christian burial until 1737, 95 years after his death. There is also a memorial to Dante, but his sarcophagus is empty (he is actually buried in Ravenna as he was exiled from Florence). However, I’ve just scanned in my photos and when you read the inscription, you’ll see it’s actually Dante’s tomb! So, my memory isn’t so good after all.

By the way, if you’ve like to read the gripping story of Michelangelo’s Tomb, click here.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Veccio

“Among the four old bridges that span the river, the Ponte Vecchio, that bridge which is covered with the shops of jewelers and goldsmiths, is a most enchanting feature in the scene. The space of one house, in the center, being left open, the view beyond, is shown as in a frame; and that precious glimpse of sky, and water, and rich buildings, shining so quietly among the huddled roofs and gables on the bridge, is exquisite”.

– Charles Dickens

As our tour continues, it’s still stinking hot and full of bodies. I also remember walking across Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River. It was in these shops and markets that all reservations about spending money blew up in smoke and I blame my maths. Back in 1992, we still had the lire and I’ve forgotten what the formula was but I certainly mucked it up and goodness knows how much the leather wallet purse I bought actually cost. In the long run, it didn’t really matter. It was pickpocketing in Thailand on my way home.

These memories comes in no particular order, or perhaps they do. I’m not sure. I’m just finding my way back along the corridoors of memory the best way I can and perhaps I should Google a map of Florence and put things in their rightful place and in a neat little sequence. However, that isn’t me and doesn’t evoke that same sense of travelling by feel and intuition (along with the assistance of my local guide).

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It is my local tour guide who took me out to a local monastery which, much to my amazement, produced Ouzo. I haven’t remembered the name that monastery, even though I sort of remember driving there and more clearly remember having a small glass of clear liquor, which had been made on location by the monks still living in the monastery. It was visiting this monastery which felt incredibly authentic and a window into another world and indeed the reason why we travel…to see and experience something beyond our own backyard and way of life.

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However, I was a 23 year old when I visited the monastry and I experienced this incredible place through those eyes and it was here that possibly my favourite photo of myself on my European travels was taken. I’d spotted this sign on the end of a high stone wall and pulled myself along the top to get into position grateful for my many years of climbing trees as a kid preparing me for the job.

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This photo shows me for how I saw myself…a traveller. I was an Australian over in Europe exploring Italy and I was miles and miles away from home and living the life of a bird.

Doing a Google search from my lounge room back in Australia in 2020, it looks like this monastry was the Certosa of Galluzzo. It would be wonderful to go back and retrace my steps and experience this incredible historica place through more mature eyes.

Florence in April 2020…

Then, I was brutally brought back to the present where Florence and all of Italy is embroiled in the deepest depths of the coronavirus and Florence is closed.

All the world is thinking of you and praying for release, a flattening of the curve an end to this blight. I send you my love and the outstretched arms of a friend. We hope you’ll be okay and we look forward to catching up in person on the other side.

Have you ever been to Florence? Have some memories or posts to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Flying Inside a Veritable Mosquito.

When psychologists and all sorts of other mental and physical health experts (who usually have a swag of impressive letters after their names) say that scouting develops resilience, they’re usually talking about the kids.

However, last weekend just goes to prove that scouting also stretches the parents well beyond their comfort zones into unexplored territories of fear. That’s apparently what it means to build resilience…you feel the fear but somehow manage to slay the beast and bury it somewhere in your backyard.

A stunning sunrise over Brisbane Waters as the cubs prepare to leave base on their big adventure.

A stunning sunrise over Brisbane Waters as the cubs prepare to leave base on their big adventure.

You see, last Saturday my husband and the kids went flying with the cubs while I stayed home.

Now, I’m not talking about “flying” as in running very fast or leaping off the roof of the scout hall doing some kind of Superman manoeuvres. They’re the sort of antics reserved for Detol commercials and such like!

No! Instead, Geoff and the kids went up in the sky in a real, live airplane. An airplane which I have since code named: “the Mosquito”. I don’t know what I was expecting in the way of aircraft but it was definitely something approaching half the size of a commercial jumbo jet with some kind of full-body airbag or parachute attached. After all, isn’t the Scout motto: “Be prepared”?!!

The Little Prince

The Little Prince

Unfortunately, I was unable to go flying with them myself. Rather than being a case of scaredy-cat-itis, I have hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) so I have a shunt in my head which I understand doesn’t really like changes in pressure. We didn’t have much notice about the trip and seats were limited so I didn’t have time to check the ins and outs of it all. Rather, I simply waved the family off before sunrise and returned to the comfort of my electric blanket and feather doona and had a big sleep-in instead. It is the middle of winter in Australia and we are experiencing freezing, Antarctic conditions, which means the temperature is anything below 18®C. We Aussies can cope with the roasting summer heat but we shrivel up and almost die, as I said, when it is “cold”. So at this time of year, we’re all happily hibernating underneath our doonas and the invading hoards can completely overrun the place. We wouldn’t even notice they were here unless they turned off the heater or our electronic devices.

While this plane might look safe, it actually crashed and broke a wing.

While this plane might look safe, it actually crashed and broke a wing.

Anyway, while the rest of the family was out flying, I did the next best thing. I was reading about, thinking about and even inhaling the joys of flight while I was writing in my journal. Quite a few years ago, we had been to a wonderful exhibition where scientists had built models from Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings and we gained a real appreciation of his absolute obsession with flying.

Self-Portrait-Leonardo-da-Vinci

Self-Portrait-Leonardo-da-Vinci

I contemplated Da Vinci’s love of flight: “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been, and there you long to return”.

Of course, I pictured the kids arriving home with their necks permanently craned up towards at the sky.

Then I jumped online and thought I’d check out the Scout Flying Centre and see what type of plane they were flying in.

That was where my heart fell out of the sky and came well and truly crashing down to earth.

It wasn’t a plane. It was a mosquito!

The Mosquito in shadow. I loved this shot. Well done Geoff!

The Mosquito in shadow. I loved this shot. Well done Geoff!

The plane was miniscule Cessna C172…a 4 seater with only one engine.

One engine meant there wasn’t a Plan B.

Moreover, with a plane that small, there was no room for the kind of airbag or full-plane parachute I was considering, although I guess the plane was small enough to somehow break its landing in a tree…

Such is the power of positive thinking!

Yet, as much as I was a bit rattled, I was the one encouraging the rest of the family to go. I wanted them to carpe diem seize the day and you can’t do that from the safety of your couch or by wrapping everyone up in so much bubble wrap that they can’ t even move. This might be a different application of the saying but “if you love someone, set them free”. As much as you need to protect your children, you also need to give them the space and encouragement to grow up and stretch their own wings!! In other words, they need to become independent and actually grow up!

At the same time, a part of me did wonder whether they really had to go flying in such a small aircraft to experience the whole carpe diem thing, especially in light of recent devastating aviation catastropies?!!

Apparently, the answer was a resounding: “yes!”.

Of course, they didn’t ring me to let me know they had all touched down safely and there were no photos beamed through to my phone so I could be a part of the experience. However, I did call them. The first time, they hadn’t gone up yet and the second time they were on their way home on the bus already. Phew!

Thankfully, the first phone call informed me that Geoff and the kids weren’t going to be on the same flight. Geoff and Jonathon were going up together and Miss was going up with a buddy. That was a bit of a relief but I was still looking forward to that phone call to say they were all safely back on terra firma and on their way home.

Geoff and Mister about to climb onboard.

Geoff and Mister about to climb onboard.

Apparently, the plane took off from Camden and they went on about a 20 minute flight out to Warragamba Dam out in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Geoff and Mister went together while Miss went with another girl and her Dad. Their plane was called “CFI” which in airplane talk becomes “Charlie Foxtrot India”. Aparently, Geoff kept getting in trouble for referring to it by its initials only. Geoff told me the boys were full of enthusiasm and it was a case of “Look! Look! Look!” They were so excited! Mister, who is 10, commented on how the view reminded him of looking at a model train layout, which also has an aerial perspective. Miss, who is 8, said they had gone to the Blue Mountains and it looked like “pillow land”. She was amazed at how quickly they managed to get there. It took them 15 minutes, whereas it takes a couple of hours’ drive from home. I should point out that the kids haven’t been on a plane since they were too young to remember so this is their first memory of flying.

Flying over Warragamba Dam. Can't see Nessy but everybody knows she's shy!

Flying over Warragamba Dam. Can’t see Nessy but everybody knows she’s shy!

In addition to these sightings, I also heard about a reported sighting of the Loch Ness Monster in Warragamba Dam, which holds Sydney’s water supply (so you could say it is a rather thirsty sort of beast!) This could, of course, explain the frequent water shortages…

French Pilot and enigmatic writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

French Pilot and enigmatic writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

While you could dismiss this sighting as childish imagination, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s enigmatic classic: The Little Prince reminds us that children have a different perspective on things and who are we to say who is right and who is wrong? I guess he is the “I” in the story, who talks about how he drew a picture of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant as a child, which adults dismissed as a hat. When he explained his drawing, the adults told him not to waste his time with such nonsense:

“The grown-ups’ response, this time, was to advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic and grammar. That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number One and by my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things[1]”.

LIttle Prince Boa Constrictor

St Exupery strongly believed in the power of the imagination to achieve greatness:

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing with in him the image of a cathedral”

Michelangelo had a similar vision. Talking about his famous the statue of David, he remarked:

“I saw an angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.”

However…

That doesn’t mean that I’m suggesting or even purporting that Nessy has gone and packed her bags and somehow relocated to warmer pastures!

I’m just saying that we have to be gentle with a child’s vision and all that they may or might not see and carefully nurture their dreams and visions. Given this little bit of faith, you never know how far they’ll grow! We don’t need to stamp all over them just because we’re “right”.

By the time the flight crew arrived home, they were tired and cranky. Their necks weren’t craning permanently to the sky longing to return. After such an early pre-dawn start, there was only one place for this flight crew to go…bed!

Sweet dreams!

xx Ro

[1] de Saint-Exupery, Antoine; The Little Prince, New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1971 p 2.