The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed
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Two classics of travel literature in one volume.
cincture to kneel down and pray to God. At a later period, the hills were planted over with olive trees, grapes, cypresses, parasol pines; near the cities, handsome villas were built, with gardens, terraces, lemon trees growing in tubs. Yet the peculiar beauty of the Tuscan landscape is in the combination of husbandry with an awesome, elemental majesty and silence; the olives’ silver and the varied greens of the growing crops appear an embroidered veil on a wilderness of bare geology, of cones
and daubed with mud if not. This ‘revenge’ on the god (who, Davidsohn thinks, was actually an equestrian statue of the Emperor Theodoric, though the Florentines did not know it) was again typical of Florentine extremism, of the attitude of either-or. The orations on the piazza often ended in horrible tumults, in which people were torn to pieces. In 1343, after the fall of the Duke of Athens, a man was eaten on the Piazza della Signoria. Much later, after the thwarting of the Pazzi Conspiracy,
tourists get in the way of this diversified commerce. The Florentines, on the whole, would be happy to be rid of them. The shopkeepers on the Lungarno and on Ponte Vecchio, the owners of hotels and restaurants, the thieves, and the widows who run pensiones might regret their departure, but the tourist is seldom led to suspect this. There is no city in Italy that treats its tourists so summarily, that caters so little to their comfort. There are no gay bars or smart outdoor cafés; there is very
mutely, not being fluent enough in Italian to argue further. Left to myself in the kitchen, I have tried feeding them bread crumbs. But they refuse this nourishment, rising languidly to inspect it and then turning their heads aside like peckish invalids; if they ingest a morsel, their flaccid jaws wanly seeking a purchase on it, they at once sink, inert, to the bottom, where they lie, spent, on their silvery bed of coins. Doubtless, they are accustomed to their diet, which keeps them in a state
cleanliness, and that is the chief sight of the place – the Scuola Merletti, under the patronage of Queen Margherita… thousands of girls, pretty girls too, some of them, with their black massed hair and olive skin and all so neat and happy. Specimens of their work, some of it of miraculous delicacy, may be bought and kept as a souvenir of a delightful experience.’ A different age, you might say, but here is André Maurel in Quinze Jours à Venise, published the same year: ‘Ce n’est pas ici la