Long day’s journey…

September 18, 2010

Have you ever laughed about some rock star who, in the course of a long tour, begins to jumble up city names and welcomes the audience with “Good evening, Edinburgh!” when performing in Glasgow? Well, I most certainly have, but last week I learnt a lesson and now I understand just how those people must feel…

I was on what is best described as an art historical field trip all over Italy with a bunch of other art historians and we actually visited eight different cities in nine days. Now, I’m not complaining: It was a great experience seeing a lot of really amazing works of art while being surrounded by a group of really amazing people. But still, eight cities in nine days is a bit much. It does get you confused… Seriously, when I woke up on the third day I found myself in a hotel room at Ferrara, even though I could have sworn I’d went to bed in Venice. And just why, I was wondering, was there a receipt from the Caffè Pedrocchi in Padua – halfway between Venice and Ferrara – in my wallet?

Even now that I’ve been back home for a few days my memories of the trip are still somewhat blurred, and it feels like the whole journey took place in just one single day – a very long, strange day, that is…

7:30, Florence. View from my hotel room. In the background you can just about make out the lantern of Brunelleschi’s cupola on the cathedral, the golden cross on top of it gleaming in the morning sun.

9:18, Orvieto. The Cathedral facade, still resting in tranquillity and solitude. Twelve minutes later the church’s gates will be opened to the public, and within half an hour the place will be swamped with tourists…

10:38, Rome, or rather: Città del Vaticano. The Cortile della Pigna with Arnaldo Pomodoro‘s “Sphere within sphere” (1990) in the centre and, behind that, the enormous pine cone, dating back to Roman antiquity, that gave the Cortile its name. Both are actually worked in the same material, i.e. bronze, and one wonders how long it will take Pomodoro’s shiny “Sphere” to assume that some green tarnish of age-old bronze as can be seen on the pine cone.

11:52, Florence again. The well known view across the city from San Miniato al Monte. It’s a bit of a steep ascent to get there, but I always rather enjoy it, especially the part where a small plaque indicates the spot where Saint Francis of Assisi first set foot on Florentine ground in 1211 (if I remember the date correctly). What I love about this is that merely ten yards away there’s another plaque indicating the house where the English art historian John Pope-Hennessy (1913-1994) used to live. I wished that art historians were held in such high regard elsewhere, too!

13:45, Perugia. A quick lunch break, a slice of pizza and a bottle of Danish beer. Definitely not the best meal I had on that trip, but it came with an amazing view across the Umbrian hills stretching out around the city.

15:40, Venice. To the right, the angle of the Ducal Palace with the sculptured figure of the archangel Michael standing guard. To the left, the bell tower with the golden statue of the archangel Gabriel on top. Two old friends, so to speak, presumably talking about the good old days, high above the rumble of the Piazza di San Marco.

17:46, Foligno. Evening light falling through the gothic window tracery at Palazzo Trinci, illuminating fragments of early 15th century frescoes.

18:59, Ferrara. Another view from yet another hotel room. Roofs covered by a regular forest of TV aerials are certainly part of Italian folklore, but, seriously, don’t they have cable?

22:57, Padua. One of the great things about Italy: No matter in which town you end up in the evening there will always be a nice restaurant or inn, a trattoria or osteria, serving the most delicious food (at a reasonable price, too), waiting for you. After that, as one of our group put it in a proverbial manner, you’ll soon be sound asleep come i grassi storici dell’arte – like a bunch of fat art historians.

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