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Note on Florence

Having travelled back through Pisa I wonder whether my strange mood was more to do with Florence than a imbalance of deities.

Back in autumnal England I feel happy and rooted. Italy felt alien – not alien, but not home. I am suspicious (hermeneutic) about Italian mythemes.

Florence’s beautiful architecture, for example. I though the Duomo was rather hideous – like a marble Battenberg cake and the Palazzo Pitti is positively ugly.

Italians dress well. Most of the Florentines were dressed in drab greys and cheap jeans and those silly little trainers. Most looked very dreary.

Italian food is the greatest. It is delicious. But that’s the only thing you can get. Only Italian, no other flavour, no alternatives.

Greatest of all is the myth of Florence’s creativity. Five hundred years ago there was a clot of brilliance around Medici money – but when that ran out all the great Tuscan names went to Rome, to Milan, to France.

Five hundred years ago – a miracle. And then nothing more, nothing at all. Not one artist of note for five hundred years.

There is something stifling about the notion of Florence. This intense conservation – like living in jam, in a jar, pickled in sugar – but in this case pickled in the warm sunny dust of the Uffizi.

It’s no coincidence that the city is full of tortoises. (Supporting obelisks, under Apollo’s feet, bearing a Medici dwarf.) Tortoises: long-lived, hard-shelled, withdrawing into a carapace, moving very slowly.

Where are the bees? Where is the honey?

How much more bearable, Pisa. Free from that choking museum-atmosphere. Lots of lovely 1920-1930s architecture, Italians at the counters (instead of tourists), a breathable urbanity. A living grace not a antiquated grimace.

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