Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Tuscany Journal: Florence on $5 a Day

La bistecca alla fiorentina, 55 Euros per KG (photograph by Hallie Cohen)
When you think of Florence, you may recall barely being able to notice Michelangelo’s “David”due to the crowds swarming around it like gawkers at an accident. The Uffizi, the Duomo (designed by Brunellesci), Berenson’s I Tatti in Fiesole and the Pitti Palace are all the Florence of the official imagination. Florence is also famous for its Fiorentine steaks and for Ribolitta or bread soup. But what is it like to live a city that's the Fort Knox of artistic masterpieces? And what about the flood in '66 and the army of art restorers who constituted a virtual crusade? But there’s also another story and that lies in the evolution of tourism to this famous mecca in which every summer in particular the city is flooded with seekers, after what? A destination, beauty? Sometimes it’s just a party in one of the small locandas, situated on one of the winding cobblestoned streets down from one of the many landmarks. Package tours to Florence merit the same kind of scholarship allotted to the studios of the masters. Remember Arthur Frommer and books like Italy on $5 a day and Let's Go? And lurking behind the whole panorama of a modern Italian city is the history of the great families who were the patrons of artistic production. Back in the l9th century another tourist the Swiss art historian Jacob Burkhardt wrote The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy which is required reading for anyone journeying to the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region. Like Amsterdam and Venice, Florence’s importance as a center of commerce set the stage for the emergence of great painters and sculptors who, if nothing else, found many of their subjects amongst a growing merchant class. 

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