Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Our European Adventure: My Last Thoughts on Florence



The Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy
The Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy
I mentioned in my last blog that although the Germans blew up all the other bridges crossing the Arno, bridges that connected the two sides of the city, they spared the historic Ponte Vecchio dating from the twelve hundreds. What I forgot to say was that in retaliation for “sparing” the Ponte Vecchio, they blew up two blocks of palazzos and houses dating from the same period and even earlier, on both sides of the bridge – in all, four city blocks of the city’s history. This wonton act of destruction of irreplaceable architecture had no military rationale. Nothing was lost militarily to the advancing armies by this, nothing was gained by the retreating army. It was a childish “tit for tat”. It lends credence to the tales that the goldsmiths of the Ponte Vecchio did indeed buy off the German authorities.

This information came from a British art-historian, Chris Dobsen, two of whose lectures we were fortunate enough to hear while we were here.

Italian Banco
Italian Banco
We learned two other pieces of interesting historical trivia as it were. The first deals with the word “bankrupt”, a word all too common in today’s fiscal reality. It seems the major powers in Florence, the Guelphs, the Ghibellines, the Medici, were all bankers. They made their wealth by lending money. To do this they each sat behind a bench. An actual wooden bench, a “Banco” in Italian, that became “bank” in English. In those days, as in these, bankers sometimes made problematic loans, lending more money than they actually had assets to cover. (Sound familiar? There’s nothing new under the sun!) When a bank failed, couldn’t meet its obligations because it was overextended, the city fathers came around with something resembling a sledge hammer and physically bashed in the banker’s bench. 
Bank—rupt.

Wouldn’t you think we’d learn something from history?

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Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.  

To purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and select the vendor of your choice.


The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality


.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews


..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations 
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 

It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?






Monday, 28 October 2013

Our European Adventure: Days 27, 28 and 29 - Florence


The Duomo, Florence, Italy
The Duomo, Florence

I’ve left the two most iconic monuments of Florence for the last: the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio. The cathedral in Florence is unlike any other in Italy or indeed in Europe. Its wedding cake-like exterior, all green and white and pink marble (the colors of the Medici), can be seen from almost every place in the city. Its dome, a masterpiece of engineering even by today’s standards, is incredible. It is the highest free standing dome in the world, higher even than St.Peter’s in Rome. The designer and builder, Brunelleschi, back in the fourteen hundreds, would not divulge how he did it. And architects have been trying to figure it out ever since. He built it without any scaffolding, brick upon brick in a herringbone pattern. There are actually two domes, an inside one and an outside one. The intrepid (and physically sturdy) may walk between the two if they can climb all the steps it takes to get to them. I satisfied myself with merely admiring it from a distance.
 
The Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
The Ponte Vecchio, Florence
The Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge crossing the Arno River, was built in 1345 on the site of an older one that burned. Actually bridges on or near its site go back to hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. What makes this one so picturesque is that it’s covered with buildings. From its earliest years this bridge was home to the Guild of Florence’s goldsmiths. They had shops at street level on the bridge and lived over their shops. The Medici family had an enclosed walkway built on top of the goldsmith’s houses so that they could cross the Arno without having to mix with the rabble at street level.
Michelangelo's David

When the Germans were retreating up the boot of Italy toward the end of World War ll, they left a trail of destruction behind them. They burned bridges everywhere as they retreated. But they didn’t burn the Ponte Vecchio. Whether it was because they felt they couldn’t be responsible for the wanton destruction of one of the world’s great architectural masterpieces, or as some have suggested, they were bought off by some of the gold secreted by the goldsmiths, we will probably never know. Whatever the reason, we’re grateful. 

On our last day in Florence we took a taxi up into the hills.  Florentines do love their Michelangelo David. They have the original in the Academia, a full sized copy in marble in the Piazza della Signoria, and a full sized copy in bronze high in the hills overlooking the city, at the Piazzalle Michelangelo. The statue stands some fourteen feet high, and that’s not counting its high pedestal. To see this one at sunset is an incredible experience. But today we were there not so much for David as for the view. From that vantage point, the whole city is spread out below like a feast, with both the Brunelleschi’s dome and the Ponte Vecchio clearly visible.
View of Florence, Italy
View of Florence

We’re back in our hotel room now, facing the challenge of cramming our ever increasing stuff into our ever decreasing bag space. (We spent time in Florence’s great outdoor leather market this morning.) Tomorrow we take the train to Rome.









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Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.  

To purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and select the vendor of your choice.


The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality


.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews


..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations 
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 

It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?






Our European Adventure: Day 26 - Florence



Oh to be twenty and rich and thin!  Here I am in one of the great fashion capitols of the world, gazing in wonder at clothes I actually could have worn some decades ago—but if course I could never have afforded them then. What ill-natured god decreed that when we are young and slender we can’t possibly afford high fashion, and that when we are old enough to have at least some money – well, let us say I could never even stand, let alone walk, in Salvatore Ferragamo’s shoes, and his lovely short dresses would look ridiculous on me. Where and how I live, to “dress up” means we iron our jeans.
 
Italian shoes in Florence, Italy
Italian Shoes - I yearn for these!
But I can look. Here are the shoes that I yearn for. 

And here are the ones Ferragamo made for Brigitte Bardot in 1966. You can buy them for a mere 700 Euros. The matching red velvet purse is a thousand.

Ferragamo’s shop in Florence is on the ground floor of a very grand palazzo and it takes up a whole block in the high rent district of Florence. Just down the street are Gucci, Fendi, Dolce & Gabano and myriad others. 
Brigitte Bardot's Shoes and Purse, Florence, Italy
Brititte Bardot's Shoes & Purse

And men’s clothing is not ignored. Italian suits bear no relationship to those worn in New York or even in London. Jackets are nipped at the waist and snug through the body. Pants are pipe-cleaner slim, tight, and stop around ankle length, well short of the shoe. Which is, of course soft supple Florentine leather, highly polished. When the Masterpiece Theatre series based on Michael Dibden’s Roman detective character, Zen, was shot in Italy, Rufus Sewell, playing the lead, had all his suits made to order here, knowing nothing else would look right. 

Men's Italian Suit, Florence, Italy
Men's Italian Suit
But here as everyplace else in the world, jeans are worn by more people than any other kind of clothing, and what’s in the windows reflects only rarely what’s being worn on the streets. Still, I can dream of lovely shoes the color of fall leaves, and handsome young men in form fitting Italian suits.











............................................................................... 


Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.  

To purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and select the vendor of your choice.


The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality


.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews


..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations 
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 

It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?