Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Garden of Eden and How I Flunked Cultural Literacy 101

Garden of Eden Talk Details

This evening I went to a lecture at the British Institute in Florence, An English Garden in Italy, Inventing the Aesthetic Renaissance Garden by Michael Liversidge. This was part of the Cultural Programme that the Institute puts on. Overall, I really enjoyed it, but boy did I feel like I was flunking at cultural literacy. Quick, describe the following:

· Garden of Eden in Venice
· Aesthetic movement
· Hypnerotomachia Poliphili
· Whistler (no, not the ski resort)
· Gertrude Jekyll
· Gordon Bennett
· Walter Pater
· Sissinghurst

If you got greater than four correct, excellent. I think I vaguely knew who Whistler was, but not the details of when he lived and what he did. So I flunked. I understood the talk well enough, but it took a bit of research on the Web later to really understand the subtleties. The main goal of the talk was to show how the Garden of Eden in Venice fit with the Aesthetic movement goals. Unstated, but I’ll conjecture since I put way too much research time in this, that the future of the garden as well (reverting back to nature) might be considered fitting as well with the movement.

Partial answers, i.e. the players in this story:

· Garden of Eden in Venice – A 9 or so acre garden in Venice (the Giudecca island to be exact) – which is amazing considering the size of Venice. It was and still is the largest private garden in Venice. It’s located here – though the satellite image really doesn’t reveal much. The garden took form at the end of the 19th century under the owners Frederick and Caroline Eden. Frederick Eden wrote the book A Garden in Venice originally published in 1903 describing the garden. The garden was a famous stopping spot for the intellectual jet set (who, it can be assumed, had more cultural literacy than I do). After the death of the owners, the garden passed through a series of different hands eventually being bought by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928 – 2000) who let it go back to nature and it looks like that’s the way it will remain for now. Considering Hundertwasser’s goal of reconciling humans with nature I guess it makes some kind of sense.

· Aesthetic movement – a movement in literature and arts in the late 19th century Britain that emphasized mainly the sensual pleasure of art without any particular message: “art for art’s sake.”

· Hypnerotomachia Poliphili – a book published in 1499 and widely considered one of the most beautifully illustrated among incunabula (i.e. books printed before 1501).

· James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) – an American-born, British-based artist who was part of the Aesthetic movement. You might be familiar with his painting Whistler’s Mother, 1871.

· Gertrude Jekyll (1843 – 1932) – a famous British garden designer. Her family name was used in the famous novella Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Her sister, Caroline, was the wife of Frederick Eden – owners of the Garden of Eden in Venice.

· Gordon Bennett, Jr. (1841 – 1918) – a wealthy American newspaper publisher. It was said that he carried dairy cows on his yacht and one or more those cows ended up at the Garden of Eden in Venice. The Garden of Eden produced milk for a while (this statement sounds odd!).

· Walter Pater (1839 – 1894) – an English essayist and art and literary critic. His essays published in 1867-68 were important for setting the tone of the Aesthetic movement: live life intensely and follow ideals of beauty.

· Sissinghurst Castle Garden – an English garden created in the 1930s that represents a quintessential example of an English garden. The garden layout was influenced by Gertrude Jekyll (did you forgot who that was already?).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Orsanmichele and Florentine Guilds

OrsanMichele and Guild Symbols and Statues 

We created the above diagram to help understand how the Orsanmichele in Florence relates to the guilds of Florence. Warning: there could be inaccuracies in it – we're not Renaissance scholars or something. You can’t help but pass by the Orsanmichele at least once while in Florence and notice the very odd cube-of-a-building with all the statues on the outside. What’s this building doing here in the middle of city and what are all those statues on the façades? Read on. The Orsanmichele name comes from what used to exist on the spot before the current building: a kitchen garden (“orto”) of the monastery of San Michele. But that’s all gone now and in 1337 the current building was started as a grain store (upper floors) and market (ground floor). Over time, the ground floor was enclosed and turned into a church. (The ground floor prior to becoming a church probably looked a little something like the present day Loggia del Mercato Nuovo – located nearby.) The Orsanmichele was the church of the guilds. The guilds were Florentine associations of craftsmen and tradesmen that began to form in the 1100s in Florence, across Italy and Europe. (The height of the guilds in Florence was in the 13th and 14th centuries.) For example, the “Arte del Cambio” or the banker’s guild would be the guild you belong to if you were a banker, like the Medici. There were seven major guilds and 14 minor guilds. The difference between major and minor guilds probably was related to the clout the guild had and how important the guild was to bringing money to the city. Each guild has a patron saint. For the banker’s guild it is St. Matthew because he was a tax collector before an evangelist (quite the career change, huh?). Each guild had a coat of arms (or in Italian a “stemma”) that helps everyone, especially the illiterate to understand who a particular building belonged to or who sponsored a piece of artwork. Guild patron saints and stemma are both recorded in the Orsanmichele outside. Just walk around the building and you can start to learn a little more about the guilds and their importance to Florence. The Italian Wikipedia page for the Orsanmichele has a more complete explanation of the statues. All the images I repurposed, I got from the great site (sorry all in Italian):

Monday, April 28, 2008

BaccaRossa Bistrot Ristorante

Baccarossa Business Card
We had been hearing about Baccarossa Bistrot Ristorante from our Fiorentino friends, and then as a candidate for Mark's stage as part of his culinary program at the Cordon Bleu. So of course, we had to check it out. We ate there with friends and had a wonderful meal. Baccarossa’s specialty is fresh fish simply, but elegantly prepared. The menu is carefully selected, changing each month to provide the best possible presentation of fish and shellfish available. Of course, there are some choices for non-seafood lovers. They also have a nice wine list to accompany the menu. Another aspect I like is that tables are spaced out, not all crammed together, and the décor is relaxing. A rare find in Florence!

So, the chef-one-of-us just started his month-long cooking stage there – experiencing the restaurant from the kitchen itself, and loving every minute of it.

Baccarossa is located just north of Santa Croce. Staring at the front of Santa Croce, walk around the left (north) side about half-way and then take a left on Borgo Allegri (going north). Baccarossa is at the corner of Borgo Allegri and via Ghibellina.

Questura – Going for the Permesso di Soggiorno

Questura - Now Serving Ticket Board Ticket Number in Hand
Our appointments for the permesso di soggiorno were today at 11:50 and 11:55am. The office is located at Via della Fortezza, 17 – near the Fortezza da Basso. Our thinking was that we would show some courtesy and show up 10 minutes early and everything would go fine. Well, we arrived took numbers B219 and B220 and walked into a large room of 200+ other people waiting. A glance at the ticket board indicated that they were serving B153. It took 10 minutes to get to B154. Some quick math indicated that we could be waiting as long as 10 hours. In reality, probably more like 3 hours. However, we had other things to do.

When you walk into the Questura, you stop at the sportello (glass window) and show the person there your letter. That person hands you a ticket. If you can’t make the date your letter has indicated, you can’t just show up the next day. You have to consult a table and figure out the next appropriate day to come. It works like this: you pick the column in the table (see photo) that corresponds to the date you were summoned. Then you choose the row based on what month you were summoned. That indicates the week and day of the next month you are to return. So for April 28th then next return date is venerdi (Friday) of the 2nd settimana del mese (the 2nd week of the month) = May 16th. Complicated?

Lesson: regardless of the time you ticket shows, we would recommend going earlier unless you don't mind waiting. In the least, bring something to do. If the "guard" won't give you a ticket because you are too early - tell him you have an appointment and need to get through early?

We called it off and went for a little stroll and a bollito sandwich. I guess we’ll return on the 16th very early to pull a number. Maybe we’ll bring some knitting. We might try this afternoon after 3pm. The office takes lunch between 2 and 3 we were told.
Table for Determining Return DateInstructions for Reading the Table

Friday, April 25, 2008

Liberation Day

April 25th is Liberation Day in Italy and is a fixed (not moveable) public holiday. (See public holidays in Italy.) It celebrates the end of World War II in Italy in 1945. This year it fell on Friday so everyone was taking a long weekend. Florence was packed to the gills. The weather has been fabulous so everyone is out walking and lounging in cafes.

Cleopatra at the British Institute

Cleopatra at the British Institute Cleopatra at the British Institute 

The British Institute puts on different cultural events that are open to the public. I happen to catch the Thursday April 24th event Cleopatra – Exploration to Performance, An Actress’ Process by Bari Hochwald from the Florence International Theatre Company. The event was part of Shakespeare Week 2008 at the Institute. It was an interesting one hour overview of how the speaker studied Shakespeare’s play and constructed for herself the character of Cleopatra. The speaker pointed to various passages that gave insight into what kind of person Cleopatra might be. In particular, we spent some time looking at the very last lines of Cleopatra before she applies the asp to herself. ‘With thy sharp teeth this knot intrinsicate of life at once untie…’

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kate Bush – Aerial and Via del Canneto

Kate Bush - Aerial Album Cover

On the post Via Del Canneto Sounds we forgot to mention two important other bird sounds heard on this tiny street: blackbirds and mourning doves. Maybe they went somewhere for the winter or maybe our windows are open more or maybe we are just listening more, but these bird sounds are more obvious now than in the winter. Every time we hear the blackbirds and doves in our mind Kate Bush’s double album Aerial gets switched on. On this album she uses these bird sounds. The mourning dove sound can be heard for example in Prelude, the song that starts the concept part of the double album. The blackbird sound can be heard on the sixth song of part two, Aerial Tal. The sound wave of the blackbird is in fact the album cover art. Travelmarx’s pick on the albums: Sunset.

Kate Bush - Aerial Album Liner Note

Fattori e Il Naturalismo in Toscana

Villa Bardini Fattori Exhibit Brochure Villa Bardini Fattori Exhibit Brochure

We caught the exhibit Fattori e Il Naturalismo in Toscana today at Villa Bardini. Fattori is the last name of the Italian artist Giovanni Fattori (1825 – 1908) who was the founder of the important Tuscan painting movement called Macchiaioli. The Macchiaioli movement took place in the second half of the 19th century in Italy and is considered by some to be the forerunner of the Impressionist movement in France. The Macchiaioli painters painted nature as they saw it in the Tuscan countryside and even cities. The name of the movement derives from the word “macchia” or spot.

The exhibit contains 35 paintings – many never on public display before. The Roberto Capucci exhibit can also be seen on the same entrance ticket but not the garden, unfortunately. Be sure to stop and enjoy the view from the top floors of the museum back on to the city. The Bardini museum sits quite a bit above the city, yet isn’t that far away.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Travelmarx Florence Gelato Recommendations

Gelateria La Carraia
There is no shortage of gelato places in Florence. Some advice: avoid the shops that have a pile of gelato that looks like a beehive hairdo crossed with a fruit basket. (We don’t know for sure, but suspect that an awful lot of air is used to whip it up.)

Vivoli is everyone’s guide book and is consequently packed (tourists and non-tourists). It opens onto a tiny, pleasant piazza, so what’s not to like. The gelato is often ranked as the best in Florence. We often stop by when in the neighborhood. Did you know you can get take-out in a small tub? It would be dangerous to have that around the house.

GROM is a relatively new chain (founded in 2003 in Torino) that has good gelato as well. The chocolate-extra noir is very good and doesn’t have a drop of cream in it (if we understood and tasted correctly). It is located just south of the duomo’s campanile. It is usually packed as well. In the warmer months be sure to try a granita. We are hooked on the granita di mandorla (almond granita).

Gelato La Carraia is our favorite in the San Frediano area. It is located at the south end of the Ponte Carraia bridge (2 bridges west of Ponte Vecchio).

Here’s a map of all three shops.

Chiostro dello Scalzo

Andrea del Sarto - Baptism of the People c. 1517 Interior of Chiostro del Scalzo

The Chiostro dello Scalzo is a small space that contains a series of monochrome frescoes by Andrea del Sarto. He worked on and off on the frescoes between 1507 and 1526 (except for two). They are interesting because you rarely see monochrome frescoes (at least we haven’t) and it gives an idea of the progression in an artist over twenty years. For reference, Michelangelo entered del Sarto’s studio as an apprentice in 1524.

The cloister is located at Via Cavour, 69 just north of Piazza San Marco. It’s free to get in and is worth a stop if you are in this part of the historical center on a weekday morning. (You can easily combine this with the Cenacolo di Santa Apollonia which is nearby.) The space was used at one time by the Company of the Disciples of St. John the Baptist, nicknamed “dello Scalzo” because they would walk barefoot in processions.

(Excuse the cell phone pictures…)
Outside of Chiostro dello Scalzo

Il Carosello dei Carabinieri - Carabinieri Horse Display

Carabinieri Parade in Piazza delle Signoria Mascot Dog
We were in the Palazzo delle Signoria (last Friday) minding our own business when into the piazza comes a complicated three-part parade of Carabinieri on horses and on foot. First a riding band on white horses showed up. Then a came a group of riders on black horses brandishing sabers. Then another band came on foot. The mayor and several other officials showed up and there was much fanfare. From what we read, the parade was homage to the city and the Florentines and a precursor to a dedication ceremony the next day. Whatever it was, it was fun and is a perfect example of the Florentine’s love of a parade. (There seems to be at least one parade per month.) I liked the guy who played the drums while on the horse. The reins were attaches to his stirrups because obviously his hands were busy. There was a little mascot dog who marched around in his little uniform as well.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Renaissance Florence Wedding

Florence Renaissance Wedding Florence Renaissance Wedding Information
If you decide you want to get married in Florence, you can do it at the Palazzo Vecchio and hire people in Renaissance costume. We picked up this brochure the other day in the Office of the Calcio Storico Fiorentino. Looks to be about 52 Euro per character. So as to not look like a cheapskate, you should hire at least 8 characters.

The woman on the brochure is Maddalena Doni. Her wedding portrait was painted by Raphael in 1506 and is in the Pitti Palace Galleria Palatina. She married Angelo Doni and it was quite the wedding or so we were told. Check out that necklace. For more on her “pose” see this post.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Casa Guidi

Painting of the Casa Guidi Drawing by George Mignaty
Casa Guidi is where Victorian English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband English poet and playwright Robert Browning lived between 1847 and 1861. There are now four rooms of the apartment which can be toured.

Casa Guidi hours are 3:00 to 6:00pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from April to November. It’s free to get in, but there is a donation box on the dining room table that you should chip a little something into. Why the funky hours? Because the apartment is part of the Landmark Trust and can be rented. If you rented it, would you want people traipsing in at all hours? Didn’t think so. Casa Guidi is located in Piazza San Felice, 8 near the Pitti Palace. Afterwards, head to Dolcissima nearby for something sweet.
Casa Guidi Floor Plan

Rosa Dei Venti – Giampaolo Talani

Talani Exhibit Palazzo Vecchio Talani Exhibit Information 

The free exhibit Rosa dei Venti (Compass Rose) by the Italian artist Giampaolo Talani is in the Sala d’Arme (Weapons Room) of the Palazzo Vecchio. Basically, this is the north (original) entrance of the building. His work is familiar and vague at the same time. The colors and seemingly simple themes are very appealing. Talani is an expert in fresco painting and many of the works on exhibit have the look of a fresco without being one. He produced the very large mural for the Santa Maria Novella train station (Florence’s main station) called Departures. (Travelmarx is ashamed to say that we are not sure we can recall the mural at this moment, but promise to pop in and check it out ASAP.) The Talani show runs from March 7th to April 27th 2008. 10:30 - 6:30 every day.

Cina – Alla Corte Degli Imperatori

Cina - Alla Corte Degli Imperatore - Palazzo Strozzi Cina Cina Cina! - Palazzo Strozzina
The exhibit Cina – Alla Corte Degli Imperatore (China – In the Court of the Emperors) is at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence from 7 March to 8 June, 2008. The Palazzo Strozzi is a beautiful Renaissance palazzo to see an exhibit in. The lighting and the signage are good. The exhibit space is on the piano nobile (next floor above ground floor) in a series of eight rooms around the main courtyard. The courtyard has a huge Buddha greeting you as you enter the palazzo from the west. 10 Euros for a ticket.

The exhibit focuses on the Han Dynasty (23 – 220) and Tang Dynasty (617 – 907). The Tang Dynasty was considered “l’età d’oro cinese” (the golden age of China) when there was a period of progress and stability. We liked the exhibit and learned a little about Tang Dynasty. I think we can tell the difference between a Buddha (big ears, simply dressed?) and Bodhisattva (usually with jewelry?) now and understand how strangers were portrayed (long noses and goatees?). One interesting point was brought up in the audio guide (5 Euros) on a group of statues of women riding horses: that women’s rights during the Tang era were fairly liberal compared to later periods or other countries at the time. For example, the three statues showed the women riding horses astride in the saddle and not sidesaddle.
For more information go to the exhibit site at

In the Strozzina there was an exhibit called Cina Cina Cina! – Arte Contemporanea Cinese Oltre Il Mercato Globale (China China China! – Chinese Contemporary Art Beyond the Global Market). The Strozzina is basically the basement of the Palazzo Strozzi. It’s an odd space that lends itself to more modern shows, for example, the previous show Sistemi Emotivi. The current exhibit makes a lot of use of video, some banal, some spooky. The show tries to explore the question of what the China phenomenon is by looking through the eyes of three Chinese curators. The curators give the viewer a chance to see three points of view of how current Chinese artists are impacting the international art system. To tell you the truth, I didn’t get this until I reread the pamphlet for the show about five times later. And, I’m not sure the viewpoint came across to us. Maybe we were saturated from seeing the top floor exhibit and this was just too much?

The previous shows in the Strozzi and Strozzina were Contro Moda and Sistemi Emotivi, respectively.
Buddha in the Palazzo Strozzi Courtyard

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Come to My Garden Mr. Glass

I haven’t said anything about music for a while. Of course I’m still listening to music. I can’t go a day without it. I know I should be listening to Italian music more - given that I'm living in Italy, but I haven’t. Instead I’ve been listening to way too much Minnie Riperton and Philip Glass.

Come to My Garden Front Cover - Minnie RipertonCome to My Garden Inside Image - Minnie Riperton 

I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved Minnie Riperton’s first album “Come to My Garden” – every song is like a secret pleasure. She had a cool, high voice before you-know-who. The album was released in one of those good years for music, 1969. Take a listen to the track titled Memory Band

For Philip Glass, I’ve been listening to everything I own (which isn’t much, hint, hint), but the “Fog of War” soundtrack (2003) is my favorite for studying and thinking. Take a listen to the track titled 100,000 People.

Fog of War Soundtrack Front Cover - Philip GlassFog of War Back Cover - Philip Glass

Old and New: Ognissanti Last Supper Meets Transcendental Realism

Adi Da Samraj and Ognissanti Last Supper
By the way, what is transcendental realism? According to the Wikipedia page transcendental realism is an understanding that our minds are limited. (I guess I became a transcendental realist after expecting to master Italian after two months here only to find myself many months later still speaking like a baby.) An exhibit of the artist Adi da Samraj is being hosted in the refectory of Ognissanti until June 22nd 2008. The juxtaposition of the modern art and last supper worked for us. To put the juxtaposition in perspective, the last supper fresco was completed in c. 1480. The art work by Samraj was completed, say in 2006. That’s a different of 520+ years.
Brochure of Adi da Samraj Exhibit in Ognissanti - 1 Brochure of Adi da Samraj Exhibit in Ognissanti - 2

Florence Cenacoli – Last Suppers

Ognissanti Cenacolo - Florence Santa Croce Cenacolo - Florence Santo Spirito Cenacolo - Florence
There are a number of last suppers (called “cenacolo” or plural “cenacoli”) around Florence. Many are free. Here is a list. The ones we saw recently are:

- Cenacolo di Santa Croce. Part of admission ticket to church complex. Location: Piazza Santa Croce. Artist: Taddeo Gaddi (c. 1340)

- Cenacolo di Santa Apollonia. Free. Location: Via XXVII April 1. Artist: Andrea del Castagno (c. 1450)

- Cenacolo di Ognissanti. Free. Location: Borgo Orgnissanti, 42. Artist: Domenico Ghirlandaio (c. 1480)

- Cenacolo di Santo Spirito. 2,20 Euro entrance fee. Location: Piazza Santa Spirito, 29. Artist: Orcagna.

- Cenacolo di San Marco. Part of admission ticket to San Marco Museo. Location: Piazza San Marco, 1. Artist: Domenico Ghirlandaio (c. 1482)

All cenacoli are located in what was the refectory or dining hall. After seeing a few, reading the signs and being on a couple of good tours I learned the following (which is no small feat for me considering I skipped most of my Wednesday catechism classes way back when):

- if there is a guy sleeping, it’s probably St. John the Evangelist
- if there is a guy on the opposite side of the table from everyone else, it’s probably Judas
- if there is a guy with no halo, it's probably Judas
- if there is a cat, whoever it is near, you guessed it, is probably Judas (wow, bad rap for cats)
- a peacock is a symbol of ressurection
- citrus trees are a symbol of paradise
- cypress trees are a symbol of death (hence you typically find them in cemeteries)
- a dove represents peace
- a bunch of birds flying around, one is probably sacrificing itself to a falcon to save another
- red food on the table like cherries are a symbol of the blood of Christ
- the apostles shared cutting boards?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rio-Antirio Bridge

Rio-Antirio Bridge from Fort Rion - South Side of Bridge Driving Over the Rio-Antirio Bridge - Greece
We drove over the Rio-Antirio Bridge on February 11th 2008 on our way from Nafplion to Delphi during our Greece trip. A little late to blog about it, but we wanted to show a picture of it. It is a gorgeous bridge. There are old fortresses on either side of the bridge. We stopped on the southern side at the Fortress of Rion which offers a nice view of the bridge. It was free to get in. (Not sure about the fort on the northern side.) The picture attached to this post is from that fortress. It cost us 12 Euros to cross over in a car.

Chiesa Santi Apostoli

Santi Apostoli Outside - Book Santi Apostoli Inside
The church of Santi Apostoli is opens on Piazza del Limbo located just west of the Ponte Vecchio on the north side of the river. The brochure from the Archdiocese of Florence says it dates back to the 11th century – the great period of Florentine Romanesque. For me the church is interesting because it is simple, off the beaten track, and suggests a possible location that Brunelleschi drew his inspiration for his signature design in the Ospedali degli Innocenti, Santo Spirito, and San Lorenzo – the rounded arches ending on columns. At least, I can’t imagine how Brunelleschi would not know about the church and would not have looked at it (ditto on San Miniato). Vasari in is Lives of the Artists says as much – but then again, he didn’t quite always get it straight.
Inside of Santi Apostoli

Horror Vacui and the Accademia del Cimento

Accademia del Cimento Final Publication
It started when I was reviewing the lives of Ferdinando II and his brother (Cardinal) Leopoldo de’ Medici. I then stumbled onto something called the Accademia del Cimento which was a scientific academy founded by Galileo’s students to promote Galilean methods. The Accademia ran for about ten years between 1657 and 1667. The two Medici brothers help found the Accademia and its members met in the Pitti Palace.

One of the theories that the Academy addressed was that of horror vacui – the idea that nature abhors a vacuum. The theory had been kicking around since Aristotle and was finally disproved in an elegantly simple experiment by Evangelista Torricelli (1608 – 1647) - a prominent member of the Accademia. (You can find a nice explanation here. Click "Pneumatics" and then "Barometric Experiment". Make sure you navigate through the Flash pages to get the nice British man explaining the experiment.)

There is a lot of very interesting information at the Institute and Museum of the History of Science web site. Just type “vacui” or “torricelli” or “cimento” in the search box and start exploring. I’m embarrassed to say, we have not yet gone to this museum. It’s on the list. We’d heard that some of the exhibits were closed during some restoration so we’ve been putting it off.

I’ve heard some refer disparagingly to the Baroque style as a form of horror vacui – fear of leaving any space undecorated.

Dawn of the Renaissance Course

Dawn of the Renaissance Course
I just started the four week course Dawn of the Renaissance at the British Institute in Florence. I have already taken the four week course The High Italian Renaissance and the two week course The Medici: Power and Art of a Renaissance Dynasty. I think there will be some overlap of what I’ve learned already but I will use it to review and go deeper. For every two hours of class or tour, it takes me as long, if not longer, to retype the notes, add images, and add my own interesting tidbits. Along the way, there are thousands of little-side-streets-of-trivia to get lost in. For example, today I was reviewing some notes on the Medici and ended up on the Wikipedia page for Horror vacui. How did that happen? See this post.

Here is a sample program for The High Renaissance course that has past. Note, times and places probably change every time the course is offered (several times a year) so only use this to get an idea of the pacing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Via del Canneto Sounds

Via del Canneto Looking East - Florence, Italy
The sound of church bells that waifs over the street. The muted sound of opera practice: a teacher playing piano scales and a student following in voice. The click-clack of a pair of heels. The banter of a mother and child on their way to or from school. The swoosh of the neighbors broom (she is dressed in a smart black and white wool dress with yellow rubber gloves ). The sound of the mailman shoving letters through the slot. The sound of an electric scooter – which has a more pleasing sound compared to a gas-powered scooter. The raising and lowering of tiny garage doors – highly prized on this narrow alley/street. The sound of the dog (who watches from one of the little “bridges” across the alley) as he barks to alert the alley that another dog is approaching. People are not of interest to him. The chatter between the man who cleans the street and a man leaning out the window. The sound of the baby in the tiny courtyard across from our house and the mother saying “amore – attento!” The cooing of a dove that is on vacation from the city center. The chirping of a sparrow building a nest somewhere under an eave. The giggling of lovers slowly strolling up to where Via del Canneto meets Costa Scarpuccia and where they can sit in the tiniest of parks (one bench in an indentation in the street) and makeout for two hours. The sound of rooster (yes), again where Canneto meets Scarpuccia; behind a sliver of a garden that isn’t visible. The bone-jarring slam of a door (the woman in the yellow gloves again).

Friday, April 11, 2008

Would the Real Leonardo Please Stand

I came across this short TED talk (watch it) on the true face of Leonardo da Vinci by Siegfried Woldhek. It was fascinating to me because it seems so simple, yet elegant. I’m sure there will be some controversy. Basically, Woldhek combed through all the images of Leonard and discarded ones that didn’t fit the bill: not a profile, not male, not detailed enough, and too ugly or was a caricature - because Leonardo was always described as beautiful. What’s more is that Woldhek connects the remaining portraits to a statue of David by Verrocchio that some believe is a model of Leonardo. Leonardo could have been the model because Verrochio was his teacher. Here is Woldhek’s post on the identification. The images he connects are in order:

- Andrea del Verrocchio’s David, started in 1473-5, Leonardo age 13-15
- Portrait of a Musican, created in 1485, Leonardo age 33
- Vitruvian Man, created in 1490, Leonardo age 38
- Self Portrait Sketch, created in 1513, Leonardo age 63

Verrocchio's DavidPortrait of a MusicianVitruvian ManLeonardo Sketch