Saturday, April 17, 2010


The small plane arced over the countryside and descended toward the Arno river valley, preparing for its landing at Peretola, outside Florence. There were streaks of rain on my window and I looked out, trying to get my bearings in a place I'd never been to before. Wreathed in fog, the shapes of buildings took form- first, red tiled houses, then concrete industrial buildings ahead. A quick view of the river and then looking up, there it was! In the rain and fog I could only see its silhouette, but nothing more than that was needed. I immediately recognized the Duomo with a clarity that was matched only by my ability to remember that split-second now.

All the photographs did not prepare me for how the cupola of Santa Maria del Fiore dominates the city. I don't know why not. The pictures I had seen in art history books show very clearly the scale of the dome in relation to the buildings surrounding it. I had read about its construction, had diagrams projected before me in a lecture hall and remembered Alberti's pronouncement how the dome was "ample to cover with its shadow all the Tuscan people". A bit metaphorical, of course,... herringbone brickwork,... capomaestro,... Sir John Hawkwood,... "Oh my God, LOOK at that!"

But this foreknowledge was something of my mind, this sight was tied directly to my heart.

With gracious thanks to Francesca Birini for allowing me to use her photograph here. You can see her fantastic work under the name of Firenzesca on Thanks Francesca!


  1. Bravo, noblesavage, e buona fortuna! Amazingly, you have captured the same little thoughts that have formed in my mind from the seat of an airplane. Can't wait to know more about your adventures through your very able writing!
    Mary ("nutsabouttravel")

  2. Thanks, Mary!
    I'm looking forward to flying again. I've got to have a window seat!

  3. I am insanely jealous. I do get to take my students to New York on a bus.