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With Covid restrictions lifted this week, I’ve (finally) been exploring Florence.

First things first:

Top row: Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, begun 1296, completed 1887), Fontana dello Sprone (early 17th century), Michelangelo’s David (1501-4)—17 foot statue that launched the Renaissance.
Middle row: Ponte Vecchio bridge (1345) over River Arno—supposedly the only bridge to escape Nazi bombing because Hitler thought it so beautiful, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, ‘street art’ installation by French artist JR showing exploded vision of real/imagined Strozzi Palace interior.
Bottom Row: Baptistry doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti 1401, one of the countless examples of Florentine street shrines, Mario Luca Giusti Shop

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, Florence exploration showed me…

The mysteriously compelling:

It is a long way to the top. And why would you want to go there?

The necessities of life.

Extremely excellent iced coffee from Tamerò Firenze, Piazza Santo Spirito, Florence

The best (and first and okay, only) haircut I’ve had in two years:

I went to the miracle working Simone Marlazzi at ZiZiAi (chosen for his Covid-comforting “One chair, One client, One stylist” motto). He’s been cutting hair since he was 17, mostly in Florence except for a stint in New York, and his entertaining observations would have made the whole experience fun even without his amazing skills with two years of hair neglect. His colleague, Valeria, an in-demand wedding makeup stylist, saw my caterpillars eyebrows as a personal challenge, and insisted on working her magic there. 

NOTE from the Why-I’m-Still-Married-After-All-These-Years files: I didn’t tell the Hub about the haircut, but just waited to see if he’d notice. That night he told me I looked so much younger. Keeper!

And then there are those extra balls and missing penises…

I visited the Medici’s Palazzo Pitti, whose walls are covered with more art masterpieces per square inch than I’d ever seen in one place before. And where there were no masterworks, they added their own. The entire palace is an orgasm of tromp l’oielle on steroids, as in this room from the treasury. I promise, the walls and ceilings are mostly flat, with all the detail painted in. What detail? Well, the ceiling is a supreme example of quadrature perspective designed to draw all eyes to the figure of Grand Duke Ferdinando II sitting on a cloud, as one does, to receive his crown and sceptre from Jove himself. And just in case viewers miss the point about top guy here, a putto waves a scroll inscribed with messages assuring the Tuscan people of how happy they are as the Grand Duke’s subjects. To reinforce, the Medici’s balls are EVERYWHERE. Lots of them, usually in groups of five red and one white. (See the four pediments pointing to the ceiling, each with a crown over the balls. Subtle.) And it wasn’t just their palace: those Medici put their balls all over Florence. 

Something’s missing.

As I was walking through the Medici’s Pitti Palace, I couldn’t help noticing something about all the male statues, such as this one of a young Hercules dating from Imperial Roman times. In classic fashion, most were beautifully carved examples of naked manhood, some Greek and Roman statues, others more ‘modern’ Renaissance-era copies. And every one was missing one essential element. I asked one of the guides, but she just said old statues were fragle. She didn’t meet my eyes. Luckily, a quick GFC (Google Fact Check) turned up the theory a Pope in later years was so offended by the manhood on display that all statues were required to cover up, at least during papal visits. (Since the Medici placed multiple scions into the role of Pope, this was probably more frequent than you might expect.) But those fig leaves just wouldn’t lie flat, so…

And finally:

I’ve looked at dwarves from both sides now.

Morgante by Agnolo di Cosimo, Florence 1503-1572 The portrait is painted on both sides, showing Cosimo I’s favourite dwarf Braccio di Bartolo, nicknamed Morgante, from front and back.  The two scenes capture different moments in a bird hunt, one of the Duke’s preferred pastimes, with Morgante holding an owl on front as the start of the hunt, while the rear of the canvas is also the rear of the dwarf. Visiting popes must have been relieved at the presence of two butterflies providing concealment for what can’t be broken off in paintings.

I also can’t be the only one to stare at that description of the two-sided painting. How does someone have a ‘favorite’ dwarf? Turns out that along with spare balls and penis-less statues, the Medici collected dwarves, at least five at a pop, so they could have a favorite dwarf and a batch of emergency-backup dwarves. I’m guessing they were careful to keep a lot of butterflies around during papal visits.