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Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Shoes in Florence

After Rome the shoes hopped on a train to Florence, or Firenze as the locals call it, about an hour North of Rome. It is on the hills side of Tuscany and the capital city of this region, greener and cooler than Rome.

The Arno river crosses Florence, and passes below the Ponte Vecchio (the old bridge). The bridge was built to allow people crossing the river from Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery to Pitti Palace. Along the passageway on the bridge there are shops on both sides selling jewelries and gold since the medieval time, and an opening midway at the bridge offers view to the Arno river and shore. It was very busy during day time, like in a flea market. In the evening after the shops were closed the place was still alive, people walking-by and watching street performers singing Italian songs on the bridge, the still water of the Arno river on the background. The sun slowly went down changing color and Italian songs were sent floating into the pinkish sky, while the river Arno quietly flow under the panorama.

The shoes followed the coble streets from the bridge alongside the river heading to the Uffizi gallery and to Piazza della Signoria, an L shape Piazza in front of the Pallazzo Vecchio (old palace). Many sculptures are displayed outdoor on the piazza, every statue tells its own story taken from Greek or Roman mythology. Effectively it is an open air gallery of renaissance art.
Most recognizable is the famous statue of David by Michael Angelo standing at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, flanked by Baccio Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus. Next is the Neptune’s fountain by Ammannato, and on a platform stands Perseus with head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini.

All of them are the original sculptures, only the statue of David is a replica. All of them nakedly exposed in the open air, exposed to pollution and birds flying around and sometimes land their feet and dropping on the head of the famous statues.
They are displayed in open air like that by the rulers maybe as an exhibition of power. The statues resemble a common theme of victory over powerful dangerous enemy, like the giant Goliath beaten by a stone by David, the monster Cacus strangled by the hands of Hercules, or the snake haired Medusa beheaded by the sword of Perseus. A show of power indeed, however as they are displayed together in an open surrounding like that, there is too much to see and observe , none of them seems to stand out. It would be more attractive to display the statues individually in a small piazza or garden. That way, the statue would enhance the surrounding.
In the evening, after dark Florence is still alive, the shoes walked the streets from the Ponte Vecchio bridge lead to narrow alleys with various shops and cafes. There were almost no cars on the streets after dark, people walked in the summer nights. After all Florence used to be a medieval town, people walked everywhere that time. The few cars on the streets were small cars like Minicooper suitable for the small streets.

Hidden behind the streets at a small courtyard stands the Chiessa (church) di S. Stefano al Ponte Vecchio, named that way to indicate the close location to the bridge. On approaching the courtyard, the sound of piano could be heard from inside the chiessa attracting the shoes to come closer to the front door. At the door a concerto programme was displayed, apparently every night local musicians performed in the chiessa playing various concertos for violin, trumpet, orchestra or operatic songs.

That night the performance was for trumpet and piano concertos from Bach to Telemann. The high tunes of the trumpet engulfed by the piano broke the silence of the night, clear and crisp helped by the good acoustic of the building. It must be for that reason that the building was chosen for the concertos, night after night the whole year.