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Italy 3. Florence.

Continuing my Italy posts here. #1 was Pisa, #2 was mostly Lucca (plus an intro to The Matrix), this #3 is Florence, and there’s a #4 of Genoa.

The Duomo, the cathedral at the heart of Florence, made of multi-colored stone, like a huge confection, massive yet weightless, like a thought made solid. After doing the outside, the builders were perhaps worn out, and the inside is very simple, almost stark.

There’s a plaza in Florence near the Medici Palazzo, with an outdoor array of large marble statues. I’m always amazed how fleshy the marble becomes, how doughy. Here’s Hercules beating the living shit out of a centaur. They say the Florentines and Medici were fairly warlike.

In the evening everyone goes out and walks up and down the streets. This shot is actually in Lucca. I love this old couple with their Afghan hound.

Wonderful light in the Florentine Basilica di Santa Croce. Seems like in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the churches were, like, the big art-form, the museums, the gathering places, the meditation halls, the houses of worship.

Sylvia and me on the Ponte Vecchio, the Old Bridge. It has shops on it, classy jewelry stores, not T-shirt stands.

Love this woman arranging one of the Ponte Vecchio windows, with her leather gloves matching the window’s decor.

In the Palazzo Medici, they have a small side room that was a miniature personal art gallery for one of the Dukes. The Studiola of Francesco I. No widows, the size of a narrow bedroom, the walls and calling divided up into panels with a different painting on every panel, done by a variety of Renaissance painters from around Florence. In the original installation, each panel on the walls was in fact a cabinet door, generally with some treasure or curiosity stashed in the cabinet, and the object was often connected to the nature of the painting on the cabinet door. Francesco would hang out in there; it was right off his bedroom. Like sitting down with your lap top. You go in there and browse and ponder.

The image shown here is of Diamond Mines.

Wall decoration in that Palazzo Medici, it’s a huge square building by the sculpture plaza, like I said. This is a harpy, from the Odyssey, I think. Love the graceful curves of the lines.

View out the Palazzo window, a bit of rain, the tourists. Not too many of us in October, but still plenty. We didn’t even try to go to the Uffizi Gallery, the main art museum, where Venus on the Half-Shell lives.

They have this cut of meat called Florentine beef or steak. Bruce Sterling ate one while we were with him, it weighed maybe a pound or a pound and a half. I got to gnaw the bone (kind of symoblic of our careers) …tenderest beef ever. The deal is that they age the beef for a month in a cooler, on display in the restaurant or on the street, and as the weeks go by, the big old chunks of beef migrate downward from the top shelf, level by level, and when they’re at the bottom, and kind of black on the outside, then they’re ready.

I loved these mausoleums where the person is in a stone bathtub and there’s an eternal stone mourner.

Went to a wonderful little medieval monastery that was decorated by Fra Angelico. About fifty monk cubicles with a mural in each of them. So insane, being in a bare room week after week with a painting of the crucifixion or some such. It struck me more heavily than ever what an insane religion Christianity is. Certainly the moral teachings are most admirable but…living in a cell with no company other than a painting of guy being tortured to death on a cross. Odd. This one here is an extra painting by Fra Angelico, not a mural, a monk saying Shhhh.

We hit the Galileo Science Museum, kind of interesting, with old mechanical science instruments. Hot in there with our unfolding climate change. Sat by the window for awhile, taking in the breeze off the Arno, enjoying the swaggy sags of the curtains. Note that in Europe they tend to have windows in public places that…open.

Science on parade!

Portrait of the artist as a blank.

Scullers by the Ponte Vecchio. Lovely skies, soft clouds, wonderful old buildings reflected, pink and yellow.

Detail of the weirdest of Fran Angelico’s monk-chamber murals. This is the Scorning of Christ before the Crucifixion, with the Roman guards spitting on Him and striking Him. In His sensorium, only the hands or heads of the guards are present. Cool phenomenological shorthand.
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The monastery had some medieval books with those great hand-done “illuminations” of the pages. Love this one, the protractor-like shapes. the wiggly efflorescenses.

A sundial pocket watch in the Galileo Museum. The deal with a sundial is that it’s only accurate if you hold it in the right orientation vis-a-vis the direction of North. So you build a compass into it as well. Kind of like pushing your outmoded tech beyond practicality. It’s how chips are going to look to us in fifty years, when quantum computation, biocomputation, and the chaotic computations of matter have changed the game. Cf. my tome The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul.

Copy of my book shown above in original binding.

We hated to leave Firenze! And our cozy room at Hotel Silla with the alley view on the quiet side of the Arno. Love those little streets, and the human ehcoes of voices.

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