Sunday, 8 June 2014

italy week: renaissance men

Here are some more images and impression from what we did for our summer vacation (the first installment): though I know intellectually that there is little to no elbow room in the lands of Italy when it comes to historic and cultural significance and the locations of important events and the famous and infamous sons and daughters of the towns and villages have to hail from somewhere, I was pleased and surprised to come to the village of Vinci, a little settlement amongst the groves of ancient silver-leaved olive trees and craggy vineyards where Chianti is produced.
It was here that one of the world's most influential individuals, regarded with the due awe of super-genius, was born in 1452 and baptized (though out of wedlock, his sire was no dead-beat dad) as Leonardo da Vinci. We toured the church and later the birth house (Casa Natale) and the town was regaled with icons of da Vinci's creativity and endless curiosity.
Another leg of our adventures brought us to a nearby village where literary figure Giovanni Boccaccio retired (and also was possibly born) after finishing his seminal work, the Decameron—a story within a story, like 1001 Arabian Nights or the Canterbury Tales, a century earlier in 1353 called Certaldo Alto. The Decameron is a collection of a hundred fables exchanged by ten companions who fled plague-ridden Florence during the height of the Black Death. In this fictional, though semi-autobiographical work, the refugees, waiting for the sickness to pass were holed up in an abandoned villa on the outskirts of the city.
After we settled in at our final campsite in Tuscany, until next time, we discovered that the village of Fiesole, with a breath-taking view of the metropolis of Florence sprawling below, was Boccaccio's setting. A compact but complete conurbation in itself, people have been escaping the city for the hills for centuries—including Frank Lloyd-Wright, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and other expatriates, Fiesole enjoyed city-rights and even was a rival to Florence below.
Not having known beforehand, we could speculate on which of the many fine and ancient villas that inspired the author. There was an open field just up the hill from the camp-grounds, known for its unique veins of marble with a bluish-grey hue, and another luminous individual in the person of Leonardo himself visited that field and experimented with his flying machine. Da Vinci, though never discouraged, apparently made wider forays into all disciplines, and though errors were recorded as well as something visionary—he did not bother disclosing his studies that he felt did not further the arts or sciences. I wonder what other connections we stumbled over without even noticing.