Idling in Italy (Florence)

The Duomo, Florence

Last week, in a spirit of spontaneity that’s entirely uncharacteristic, I went on a last-minute trip to Florence. Work has been very intense this year, and that looks set to continue, so I was in desperate need of sunshine, gelati and the scent of pine, the chatter of cicadas and the quiet grace of frescoed churches. Fortunately I had a marvellous excuse. This summer everyone has been talking about the exhibition on Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino, subtitled Diverging Paths of Mannerism, at the Palazzo Strozzi. Not that I needed much of an excuse to return. Florence has been a very important place for me ever since I first went there with my parents at the age of fifteen, my head full of A Room with a View and the Medici, Leonardo and Michelangelo. I managed to get there three more times in my student days, but it’s been eight years since I was last there at the age of twenty-one. It was time to go back.

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A Gift for the Magus: Linda Proud

★★★½

You may remember that a few months ago I spoke of my admiration for Linda Proud’s wonderful Botticelli Trilogy, which follows the circle of painters and philosophers who gathered around Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence in the 1480s and 1490s. Her newly-published book, which can also be read as a standalone novel in its own right, forms a prequel to that trilogy. Looking back to the foundations of the intellectual and artistic world described in the Botticelli Trilogy, it moves between Florence and Prato over a span of some thirty years, from 1434-1469.

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The Botticelli Trilogy: Linda Proud

★★★★

The three books in Linda Proud’s Botticelli Trilogy provide a powerful, moving and life-affirming insight into Renaissance Florence.  Essentially they are three instalments in the same book, so it makes no sense to speak of them individually: they need to be read and appreciated together.  Following the life and career of Tommaso de’ Maffei, the books begin with his boyhood and his journey to Florence, where he earns his living as a scribe.

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