Distant Fire, Delightful Gleams

I have come where I have long desired to be…. – Charles V

Within the wide Piazza della Signoria and its Loggia dei Lanzi (1), the open-air museum on the southern side, there are many sculptural art from a time when Arts enjoyed extensive prosperity in Firenze (Florence), Italy.

This area was frequently bustling with activity before the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic took over globally and triggered significant precautionary restrictions such as traveller mobility, health-related formalities, border closures, travel bans, etc.

As in the case of Italy, the world’s fifth-most visited destination, the crisis inflicted a heavy toll on its tourism, plunging it into the worst recession since World War II. But the recent popular expression, “Even George Clooney doesn’t come anymore with this pandemic,” is now giving way to optimism among the population as there are efforts to reopen the country to tourism from June forward owing to the progressive easing of restrictions and the awaited EUDCC (EU Digital COVID Certificate) Gateway for safe movement between countries.

Being constant visitors, Firenze is always linked to our minds with summer and sunshine. When the blue Tuscan sky is magically clear or whenever we do not entertain any intention to swap Firenze (its palaces, monuments, galleries and piazzas, etc) for a full-field investigation of the towns and cities nestling in the hillsides of Tuscany, this here is one of the places where we often spent time during the Florentine leg of our visits.

A certain pleasing ambiance prevails at this sprawling Piazza with its public-space displays which are more conducive to us for serious reflection than just to sit elsewhere in Firenze and people-watch – even though, at times, with the pleasure of listening through earphones to the delightful masters of Italian opera: Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848), Vincenzo Bellini (1801-35), Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901), or Giacomo Puccini (1858 –1924), in their home settings.

Compared to the public squares of Firenze such as Piazza del Duomo, Piazza Santa Croce, Piazza della Repubblica, the show-place of Firenze is Piazza della Signoria. This is reputedly the place where almost all the Florentine history probably has passed.

Adding to its plus side are all those strenuous sculptures executed with the most delicate mastery, as well as the great “Neptune” fountain (Fontana del Nettuno/il Biancone) of Bartolommeo Ammanati (1511-92). In many instances, it leaves distinct impressions and memories on the visitors.

During high tide of visitors in the Piazza, few may fail to notice an inscribed circular plaque on the pearl grey Pietra Serena (2) paved pavement which marks the spot of the Cimento di Fuoco, the ordeal of fire on April 7, 1498 when Girolamo Savonarola (1452-98) was hanged and burned.

Before the Loggia became a day-to-day controlled area for certain hours following an episode of vandalism to the marble statue of Pio Fedi’s “The Rape of Polyxena” (3), we used to sit on the left stone-terrace that runs between the two Corinthian columns, closer to the lion by F. Vacca (4), one of the two colossal marble Medici lions which flank the entrance of the Loggia.

The imposing Palazzo Vecchio loomed to our right. Its principal doorway with an overhead decorative fronton is conspicuous in the center of the two “termini” posts, which formerly served as supports to the chain to bar the entrance.

From where we sat, it was easier to clearly admire the topic of my present write-up located on our right side of Palazzo’s entrance: the white marble sculpture of the most celebrated of all the heroes of antiquity in the Renaissance’s colourless view of the Classical nude: Hercules.

Continued in Part 2: “A Procession of One

Notes:

  1. The loggia was variously known as Loggia dei Priori, Loggia della Signoria, Loggia dei Lanzi, Loggia di Orcagna, D’Orcagna – not necessarily in this order. By Benci di Cione and Simone di Francesco Talenti, the Loggia (1376-82) was originally designed to shelter the Signoria from adverse weather conditions during civil and religious ceremonies or to accommodate the Priori for their convocations of the people. In contemporary times, it suits as a venue for Live Orchestra concerts, etc.
  2. Pietra Serena: Sandstone typical of Florentine Renaissance architecture and building mainly extracted from the hills of Settignano and Gonfolina area/Lastra a Signa, in the northeast and in the west of Firenze.
  3. Pio Fedi’s “The Rape of Polyxena” (1865/6) depicts Achilles receiving Trojan princess Polyxena when she offered herself for the return of her brother Hector’s body. Having secured Polyxena in his left arm, Achilles’ sword is raised to beat Queen Hecuba, who is desperately trying to protect her daughter. The dead person under Achilles’ feet is the corpse of Prince Hector.
  4. The right lion is of Grecian origin brought from Rome together with the 6 antique sculptures placed against the inner wall.
  5. This is for Carina, my travel companion and wife, who understands perfectly what ‘dedication’ means.

(© Joseph Sébastine/Manningtree Archive)

12 thoughts on “Distant Fire, Delightful Gleams

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this post.
    Florence is beautiful.
    I remember sitting on the steps of the Loggia, and I also remember that there were two security guards there. 🤗🌷

    • Thank you. Yes, Sally, Florence is beautiful. Thoughts about Florence would find myself sliding into the past.

      I have pictures of two security guards who were doing the rounds at that time. Probably the same ones you were referring to. 🙂

  2. I shall always remember Firenze as the city where I left my expensive camera I’d just gotten from my father for Christmas, in a bathroom, never to be recovered. 😦 But I also bought my mother, Florence, a mug that said Firenze. It took her a minute to get it, as I recall. 🙂

    • Thank You, Betsy. I am sorry to read about your camera. Such are part of the life of travelers.

      During my first visit to Florence with my wife many years ago, we had an issue on arrival at the hotel. Our Travel firm had mixed up the place and wrongly booked our room at this hotel’s branch at Napoli. Since they were fully packed but wanted to accommodate us, we were allotted a spare room for the night which, of course, needed preparing.

      So we left our bags with the Reception and went out and had a lovely time around Florence ending up with a feast at a Trattoria at Piazza della Signoria. Bistecca alla Fiorentina including antipasti and prime and lots and lots of Tuscan wine can be a very glorious combination! That left us sleeping right through till dawn in the spare room. Our day had a sad start with the discovery that our bedroom was flooded with water from the faulty tap of the bathtub. They had apparently opened up the water taps on the mains in the night to make water available in this generally unused room. Such things happen. 😃

      • Oh dear! Well, as I’ve often said, it’s the bad things that happen to us on trips that make for the best stories. Our honeymoon mishaps made for some great stories. Simply saying, “Everything was wonderful,” is hardly entertaining. 🙂

  3. There is so much history in that occurred in the Piazza Della Signoria! . Jo – your detailed posts are full of treasures that give me a deeper understanding of how Italy influenced our lives. Consider that this year we are celebrating Dante’s 700th anniversary of his death. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to meet up in the Uffizi Gallery? I understand that there will be many excellent exhibitions that celebrate Dante in 2021. As you noted, travel will be coming back. Now that we have experienced lockdown, I believe that we will all be mindful that travel is a gift. On June 3, 2021, I read that Air Canada will begin operating Covid-19 tested flights to Rome next month. I especially appreciated your words: “This is for Carina, my travel companion and wife, who understands perfectly what ‘dedication’ means.” Thank you for a most excellent post!

    • Thank you, Rebecca, for your kind words. Meeting up at the Uffizi Gallery or the Louvre is a great idea.

      Research for this post was an exciting re-learning process. I have ventured to collect all that I can get on European and British history during our travels – an essentiality for one who lives far from great libraries. Florence being the cradle of the Italian Renaissance, the subject is fascinating and highly flavoured.

      Carina sends you a big SMILE!🙂

  4. Great set of photos, Jo, with an interesting and informative narrative. I haven’t seen anything of Florence but remember stopping at the station on the overnight Palatina train. It took me a while to work out that Firenze was Italian for Florence!

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