Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

18 September 2009

At Fiesole, Above the Smog of Florence

Fiesole is a hill town eight kilometres north of Florence where the familia Medici used to weekend away from the vengeful Savonarola and the smelly proletariat. Driving up the wide curves of the Via San Domenico past stately houses in terraced grounds I can feel the air clearing and see clarity emerging as the sunlight penetrates the thinning filter of Florence’s air. It gets prettier: the sloping green fields on either side silvered and shimmering with olive groves. Fiesole is older than Florence. It was founded by the Etruscans, who seem to me to have had it all over the Romans but don’t get quite as positive a historical spin.

In the plane-bordered, sun-beaten, sloping square there is one of the nicest statues I’ve yet seen of the much memorialized Garibaldi. On horseback in this 1906 monument he’s in expansive mood, greeting and meeting King Victor Emmanuel II at Teano, north of Naples, in 1860. They’re a genial pair, it must have been a great encounter for them: Garibaldi had conquered Sicily and Naples and presented Vittorio Emanuele with half of the kingdom which would come fully into being in 1870 when Italy, ending fifty years of risorgimento, became unified.

In the Zona Archeol√≥gica are the excavations of the Roman theatre where a guide tries to summon up the past to a group of visitors seated on the auditorium’s curved stones. I wonder how much history seeps up through their bottoms from the grey granite that must have supported thousands of others in its time? Beyond are the Roman baths and earlier, Etruscan, remains of a third century BC temple. Notwithstanding the age of the remnants I feel no ghosts here, just a pleasant park to walk in; but I’m grateful for Fiesole, it lifts my spirits after the miasma of Florence.

From ‘Antipasto’ random samplings from various writings made over a few years of visits to a ‘New Zealander’s Italy’


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By Don Donovan