Friday, August 12, 2011
Taking a rest after four trips to Tuscany in ten months. We tried to get some sympathy but no one wept, so might as well admit that it was tremendous fun. It was like that song in Kiss Me Kate: We Open in Venice, except that we opened in Pisa last September, and then Florence, Livorno and Florence again, with side trips to Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Volterra, Arezzo, La Spezia, Montepulciano and San Gimignano, plus some writing and more research in between. Now that the research and writing on the Literary Guide to Tuscany is just about complete and the draft is almost ready for submission, I guess I should feel relieved, but can’t get rid of the feeling that there’s so much more of Tuscany waiting to be seen and that we just ran out of time.
Florence especially always has more to see. The great Sinclair Lewis – first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature - in his World So Wide called it “a city of ancient reticences and modern energy” – meaning it’s not just one city but several: Florence, the birthplace of banking, the city whose name became the first international unit of currency – eight centuries before the Euro; Florence the museum, existing thousands of years before the Romans arrived; Florence, cradle of the Renaissance; and of course Florence, the birthplace of Dante, Galileo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci. All this genius from a city the size of Blackburn. Question: How many geniuses can you name from Blackburn? Answer: Nat Lofthouse.
There’s a large rock in the square by the cathedral, on which Dante is reputed to have sat in the 14th century while waiting for inspiration. It’s called Il Sasso di Dante – Dante’s seat - and it has since inspired many a poetic posterior: Browning, Wordsworth, Dickens - and me. (Well at least it worked for them.) A new marble Sasso di Dante appeared in the piazza recently, reputed to be a PR event promoting an adjacent bar, the name of which is, of course, Il Sasso di Dante. Now, to avoid confusion, the signage on Dante’s original granite seat has been changed. It is now labelled Il Vero Sasso di Dante - “The true stone of Dante”.