Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hail 2014 & Farewell 2013, New Year's from Florence

The above would seem an unlikely New Year's greeting from Florence, Italy since it is a view of the ocean from the Caribbean.  I chose it for two reasons:  exhibited here in the city at Palazzo Medici Riccardi, to me it symbolizes gazing toward the future with serenity and unwavering faith.  
And it probably was not be chance that the first New Year's greeting that I received this morning
was from my heart-sister, Mary Louise D'Orazio, who hosted me at their family vacation home 
 on St. John's, U.S. Virgin Islands.
We saw sunsets from the deck.

This beautiful photo was taken by Kori Endo at the show.  The Philippine American artist,
Lolita Valderrama Savage, also trained at Florence's Fine Arts Academy under Professor Silvio Loffredo.  She spends part of the year painting in Tuscany, and her works can be found in private collections and in exhibitions in the U.S.A.

Like a long-time (25+ years) lover, I had a moment of tiredness, one of the very few, in 2013 with the Florence of  Beautiful Florence.  It is no secret that Italy, and of course Florence, is experiencing the most challenging moment in recent history, probably since the flood of '66 -- represented by a deep financial recession and unprecedented political crisis.  The mood was gloom, which was reflected by some of my posts.

Then, at year's end, I suddenly looked up and saw what was to become one of Beautiful Florence's most visited posts, the story of a Gothic Madonna and Child sculpture, the original having been 
carved over 500 years ago.
A crisis is temporary, beauty, goodness and forward thinking are always there.
I just needed to be aware--and lift my head.
My gloom had deepened with the unexpected passing of a dear pet and companion,
Puff, who died at home of kidney failure on Nov. 30.

My work soul mate, Andrea Pistolesi, gave him to me, a small ball of fur, in summer 2000.  I named him Puff as he resembled the cat that belonged to Dick and Jane (remember?), in the series of books that taught generations of American schoolchildren to read.  When I picked him up at Andrea's, on nearby via del Podestà, he was panting from the heat (it was August).  I lifted him up and said, "i'm your new mother."  
With nary a lament,  Puff never looked back and spent first night curled up and
 happily snoozing next to my cheek on the pillow.   

I still have Pearl, which a fellow photographer of Andrea's and friend Guido Cozzi gave me in 2012.
I will be looking for a playmate.

I will take the opportunity to introduce Grazia (right),
the faithful cat tata.  Living five minutes away from my home, Grazia lovingly takes care of my cats when I am away, and also when they are sick.
A sort of an Italian Mary Poppins for animals.
Grazie was born in the neighborhood -- San Gaggio, via del Gelsomino, Due Strade -- and has always lived and worked here.  Salt of the earth, with an open mind, although she confessed to my heart sister
Mary Louise, when she was visiting here,
"Yes, I have seen many strange things in this house!"
(Keep in mind that even banana bread, pane di banane, is strange in Italy).

Grazia choose to pose next to my 1910 German Black Forest clock, which was the subject
of another one of Beautiful Florence's most popular blogs ever, the one I did exactly a year ago.

                                                        I still need to learn some of the post's lessons...

Above are struffoli, a generous holiday gift from Pino, the Neapolitan chef and owner of 
the Enoteca Verdi deli on via Verdi, close to the office.  Actually, it was Pino's daughter Martina who made them.  Like all Italians, I ate a small portion of lentils on New Year's Eve, which are meant to symbolize good luck and fortune (lentils are supposed to bring to mind a multitude of coins).
Small change is about all we have left with the current recession.

Of course, Neapolitans, a superior breed of Italians, have gone beyond the penitential lentils
(remember Jacob and Esau -- and the birthright sold?) with traditional stuffoli, fried balls of dough, mixed with melted honey and pieces of candied fruit.  Yum!  My later mother always made them, and this is the first time since her passing (2008) that I have had struffoli on the New Year's table...
The tablecloth is a piece of red damask I bought in the Galluzzo market (always in the neighborhood) more or less when I was given Puff, and the mother of vendor Walter, sewed as a tablecloth for me, charging
10,000 lire (5 euro) for the job!

So what do I forecast for Beautiful Florence in 2014?
As I wrote in the blog intro (click book), I just need to look upward to experience
the Italian soul made visible by timeless beauty,
and as seen in the comments above, immense generosity.
Above is no Disney remake but the real deal, the 14th century Palazzo Pretorio in Certaldo,
in the province of Florence.  The building is entirely made of original, local  600-year-old brickwork and sports medieval and Renaissance family coats-of-arms of the local ruling magistrates.  It was close to here that Andrea found Puff's mother, a starving and half dead calico cat, abandoned in a field in the vicinity of where he was photographing.

Andrea took her back to Florence and nursed her back to health, unpoetically naming the cat Guaio (Trouble) because of the shape he found her.  Well, to Andrea's distress, Guaio disappeared, never returning home a short time after I adopted Puff, 
Just goes to show, that trouble is temporary,
and the rest permanent.  We just need to be, lift our heads up to admire scenes such as the one in Certaldo,
and look forward and not backwards,  much as Puff did on his first night in my company.

Buon Anno from Beautiful Florence!
I am also happy to share such an authentic view of a Tuscan village on the first day of the year!
-- Rosanna

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