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Colazione in Piazza della Repubblica 26/02/2011

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c. 1910

We were still discussing this burning question as we crossed the new, and, we admitted, rather distressing, Piazza, with its very flamboyant statue of King Victor Emmanuel. But we were too hungry to quarrel for long; we wanted our colazione badly, and turned our minds seriously to this important matter. We chose a promising restaurant in the Piazza, one which looked more Italian than Gilli’s establishment, and we sat ourselves down at a table whence we could watch the passers-by and all the varied life of the city-square, and discuss Browning’s amusing poem on the comparative merits of the villa and the town. L. and I also happened to have been reading that delightful comedy in Florentine vernacular, L’Acqua Cheta, by Augusto Novelli, and we seemed to recognise many of those charming popular types with their mixture of wit, shrewdness, and child-like gaiety. We saw more than one young fellow who looked as if he would have hidden up in the fig tree in the gloaming as Cecco did, and dropped the figs on to old Ulisse’s head, and many a girl who looked capable of  ‘playing-up’ like Anita. We took a disgracefully long time over our lunch, and rested blissfully over our coffee. Thus ended our first ramble, which we felt had improved our minds by giving us an idea of how long it would probably take to know anything at all about Florence. Nothing is more illuminating and educative than the consciousness of ignorance.a sprocket found in the backseat

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‘Ring of Gold’ 13/02/2011

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c. 1905

To the men and women of the Anglo-Saxon race Florence is rich in reminiscences, for so many English and American men of art and letters have made it their second home. At San Domenico there stands the fine villa in which Walter Savage Landor wrote and died. The great Medici villa at Careggi will remind them not only of Lorenzo the Magnificent, but also of G. F. Watts and the brilliant band that surrounded him in his youthful days when he worked in Florence. The heights of Bellosguardo speak of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and a prosaic house in the town was once the home of Anthony Trollope, while in some one of these streets, down which the people pass with hurrying feet, Charles Lever wrote his cheery tales. But of all the famous men and women who of late years knew and loved Florence, there are two whose names will be for ever linked with hers – Robert and Elizabeth Browning, whose home was the Casa Guidi, from the windows of which Mrs. Browning watched the stir and stress of the early days of Italian liberty. Above the dark doorway, through which her slight form must so often have flitted, the passer-by may read the graceful tribute that the Italian poet, Tommaseo, has offered to the genius of his English sister. ‘QUI SCRISSE E MORI E. B. BROWNING Che . . . fece del suo verso aureo anello fra Italia e Inghilterra.’ Thy rare gold ring of verse (the Poet praised), Linking our England to his Italy.

 

Ass’s Milk and ‘at least some of the Browning Poems’ 30/01/2011

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c. 1890

In Florence the family was again held back from going on to Rome. In London the baby had been ill, in Florence she was very ill. The patience of Dr. Taylor and his wife was great and their faith strong; yet this was a most trying and anxious time for them. To be ill at home is bad, but to be ill in a foreign land, among strangers and hearing strange tongues, is far worse. The best English-speaking doctors of the city were called in, and they were kind and helpful. The child was put on ass’ milk, the ass coming around every day to be milked at the very front door of the hotel. God was merciful, and the child lived.

While some of the beauties of the city and some of her well-known historic spots were seen, still even the children in the pension as well as Dr. Taylor and his son had less heart and interest in picture galleries and other famous spots almost innumerable, because they were devoted to Susy and at least stayed around, anxious to help if in any way they could. Yet they did have a peep at least at some of the wonders and glories of Florence. There were the Uffizi and Pitti galleries, strung out in a strange way on a strange bridge that spanned the Arno. In these galleries are great pictures that once seen go with one through life, such for example as the Madonna della Seggiola, by Raphael, and La Bella by Titian. Of course each visitor has his favorites. The children loved the Boboli Gardens, while Dr. Taylor rejoiced in the Baptistery, in Giotto’s campanile, and in the Duomo.

In the one or two days after the baby was out of danger, and before they set out for Rome, Mrs. Taylor had some glimpses of the pictures and points of interest in the city. Dr. Taylor and his wife had many a chat as they waited and watched about their great and difficult task in this new and largely unknown land; yet they did not fail to think and talk about many of the great men, such as Dante, Savonarola, Giotto, the Medici, and others who had helped to make Florence beautiful and famous. They managed also to read at least some of the Browning poems.