Friends & Family
Finally made it
into Firenze at about 7.30pm, just in time to find the one and only camp-site
full up. Which, in the circumstances, was just as well cos we
wouldnt then have experienced the phenomenon of the Piazzale
Michelangelo. We were on a road above Firenze, just past the camp-site, when we
came across this large car-park with a monument to Michelangelos
David in the centre and a semi-circular balustrade that looked out
across the city, across the river Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. A breathtaking
view and very moving, 'cos here was the city of Petrarch and Dante - of Giotto,
Uccello, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Vasari, Galileo and
Michelangelo, etc., etc., ad gloria.
There were one
or two caravans and motorhomes about that looked as though theyd come to
rest for the night so we promptly rolled into a space and settled in. It was
fairly crowded, lot of people about, but not uncomfortable. However, remember
the Spanish habit of going paseo? Well, here they do it en-mass! By
about 9pm the car-park was packed to the seams, the spaces in-between and
everywhere else was packed with people; a vast imbroglio of light and shade and
noise, a veritable tower of Babel with every language under the sun to be
heard. A meeting place for street artists, street musicians, peddlers,
teenagers and tourists. Coaches poured in and disgorged docile crocodiles of
tourists whilst the local buses emptied noisy crowds in a seemingly unending
stream - incredibly this went on until at least four am. When I finally fell
asleep from sheer exhaustion.
At 6am everyone
was woken up by a forceful shower from a sanitation wagon that liberally
sprayed the road and anything in the way with a fierce jet of water. Then the
sweepers and road polishers moved in and the Piazzale was soon as devoid of
dirt and litter as a newly polished floor. The whole place is just astonishing.
Called on friends, Peter and Rosemary Diamond, my OU tutor and Chris and
Guys Eng.Lit. tutor, only to discover theyd left four days ago!
Must have heard we were coming - theyve been here since bloody
exhausted! Have walked and walked around Firenze. Have drunk in cafes, eaten
enormous pizzas whilst walking the streets. Have seen the David -
Im not ashamed to say that I stood in front of the David and the tears
rolled down my cheeks - it was the highlight of the whole holiday for me. And
Botticellis Venus and bloody near everything else, except
that it would take weeks to see everything. One had to be selective, so Maggie
chose the galleries and I chose the cafes! Guess whos pished?
that we finally got on to this morning, is reminiscent of Spanish camp-sites at
their worst; I wont say its crowded, but when we leave well
take at least three tents with us, two of them have hammered their pegs
practically into my tyres! Florence is incredibly beautiful, despite the
turistos, and it is still possible to imagine the artistic patronage and
political divisions that made the renaissance movement not only possible, but
inevitable. There will be a renaissance again soon and, I believe, it will
again come from the artists and writers.
God! but this
is serious stuff on only two bottles of cheap Italian vino, which
is a myth 'cos the cheapest Ive seen so far Im drinking and that
was about 70 pence a litre - 1400 Lira, bloody monopoly money here. Well, I
mean, with 100 lira equal to 5 pence and 22,250 lira for 6 gallons of petrol
what else is one supposed to think?
Florence is a
student city, a hippy city, outdated as that word might be. It is
full of young people, mostly bumming fags, food and money off the turistos.
Like Spain, Italy has its quota of beggars and there is nothing more
incongruous or pathetic than a beggar outside a Gucci shop; wealth and poverty
side by side and each ignoring the other, each so close and yet so far apart as
to be in different worlds. I dont know whats the matter with me, I
keep getting bloody serious and beginning to sound like one of those airy-fairy
sociologists; I had a very emotional moment around the David, I
think that must be it. Despite my flippancy the David is for me
sheer magic, created by a human-being whose power and insight has been
unequalled by any, except perhaps his own contemporary, Leonardo da