July 4 – Coming to Florence
When the opportunity to sign-up for Barbra’s class occurred – it was an opportunity too hard to ignore. It is July 2011, and only the heat of the day slows us from absorbing the magic of the cobblestone streets, looming architecture, and abundance of history book art. We both came to learn and grow, still motivated by the desire to discover inspired by our flower child heritage. Florence, we have arrived.
July 5 – 17 Ricasoli
The light wood floors are done in a herring bone pattern with a foot wide border, all showing the same attention to detail as the mosaics found throughout the city. The great room is 16’x16 feet with 8’ tall shuttered windows opening to the active street below. We are less than two blocks from the Duomo, the cathedral most often seen on postcards from Florence, and a similar distance from the Accademia on Piazza San Marco, where Michelangelo’s David is located. Our school is three blocks the other side of Piazza San Marco. I am finding this to be a most pleasurable way to experience Florence – with a best friend, amidst endless art, and a new camera capable of zooming in on a cup of espresso two blocks away.
July 6 – Santa Reparata International School of Art
There is a large painting studio, a printmaking studio, photo studio, and two lecture rooms. My photography class is taught in a lecture/studio room equipped with computers and big monitors. In this summer session there are 125 students ranging in age from 17 to 65. Most are associated with one of seven universities in the United States. There are 16 instructors, many American, who offer daily courses in art history, fashion design, drawing, painting, printing making, and photography.
July 7 – Inside Aldo
Our “Aldo” has two bedrooms, a bath and a great room. The ventilation in the small bedroom is inadequate so we sleep in twin beds in the larger room which has tall windows opening to an air shaft. The 14’ ceilings in the great room boast frescos from the 1800s and 12” high trompe l’oeil (trick of the eye – a term for realistically painting a flat surface to look three dimensional) crown molding that takes its shading perspective from the natural light through the street side windows.
Florentine gold candelabra-esque wall sconces and light fixtures with small frosted white flame shaped bulbs and with degrees of ornateness are found throughout the apartment. Previous tenants have left a bevy of books on travel, art, fashion, drawing and food – if we never left this apartment and read every book, our education about Florence and its wonders would be broad.
July 8 – Sienna
The road system seems to be designed for function. Cobble stone streets undulate up and down the hills and just about the time you feel you can walk no farther up or down, the street turns and you walk a slightly different direction. It is steep, but not too steep for children, pregnant women, or the elderly. All roads ultimately seem to wind you to the center, the bricked Piazza del Campo, famous for a twice yearly horse race in which the 10 of the 17 contrades (communities comprising Sienna) compete. Jockeys, riding bareback, race clockwise around the piazza for 90 seconds. The first finishing horse, with rider or not, wins bragging rights for the contrade and emblematic flags are posted throughout their section of town. The Palio horse race is held on July 2 and August 16, my birthday, and attracts a crowd of 20,000. Dangerous , yes; magnet for adventure photographers, also yes; catch a clip on CNN, yes again.
July 9 – The Street Below
Florence is rich in color and the street scenes outside our window makes us feel as if we are living in a movie set. Our street, Via Ricasoli, is active with foot traffic and scooters as it is a straight three block shot between the Duomo and home of Michelangelo’s David. Across the street on the second floor is a designer’s studio. When they work late at night, they open the shutters and we can see the rolls of fabric overlapping in color stories. White backdrop walls are moved from place to place. Sometimes they are draped with fabric and accessories or sketches are tacked to the surface. The people inside are young; they wear black and look trendy.
In a neighboring apartment must be a designer or design student as a book on fashion rests on the desk by the open window, illuminated by a crookneck lamp, with a sharpened pencil neatly lying in wait.