Why are Florentines so arrogant

Florence from the inside

The city of the Florentines in an anthology by Marianne Schneider

By Christina Ujma

Discussed books / references

"Florence. A literary invitation" introduces the Florence of the Florentines. The volume brings together short articles, essays and poems that illuminate historically and art-historically significant events, as well as portraying the mentality of the inhabitants, their meeting points and most important places. The booklet, which largely gathers first translations, is ideal reading for readers who already know the city a little or want to follow up on their trip.

The lovingly presented volume from Wagenbach-Verlag primarily allows more or less contemporary writers to have their say and offers a welcome contrast to traditional travel guides, which are primarily concerned with tearing the numerous Florentine sights and works of art out of their context and for the quick To prepare consumption of mass tourism. While this helps to cut a swath through the thicket of Florentine treasures, it also means that in a city of unique artistic wealth, most visitors really only see a few selected sights and usually reduce the city to Renaissance and Botticelli. Guido Ceronetti notes in his "Florentine Notes" that Florence is still a magical city, the flood of international tourists that floods the city every day because of this magic, but makes it increasingly difficult to really enjoy the art and atmosphere.

Florence as a whole, as a living organism, is presented in the four articles in which the authors look down from the hills that surround Florence and explain the urban structure or simply appreciate the beauty of the city. In his contribution "Florence or the geometric scuffle", Giorgio Manganelli explains the importance that the architectural form of the top sights of the cathedral, campanile and baptistery has in the city as a whole. In the essay "The Uffizi", Manganelli describes the legendary mega-museum as a labyrinth from which the famous Vasari corridor under the roofs of the Ponte Vecchio and the Pitti Palace finally emerges, i.e. H. leads to the Boboli Gardens, where the Buontalenti Grotto, the next magical and highly symbolic sight, awaits the visitor.

Numerous other essays deal with the fateful years of the city's history, with moments of extreme need and danger. These include the flooding of Florence in 1547 and 1966, which numerous survivors, including is portrayed by the former Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini. The German occupation of 1943/44 proved to be as destructive as the floods. On their retreat, the Reichswehr divided the city by blowing up all bridges, with the exception of the Ponte Vecchio, in the vicinity of which, however, they destroyed all houses. The Jewish writer Arturo Loria, whose contribution describes the liberation of Florence, himself lived on the left bank of the Arno, he kept his works that were created during the years of publication in one of those blown up houses on the other side. He says that he lost ten years of his work and therefore his life as a result of the action by the German troops. The communist resistance fighter Romano Bilenchi describes the perspective of the right bank of the Arno in the essay "The young Linder". Said young man was a German Jew whom Bilenchi placed in his apartment on the recommendation of the writer Vittorini because he himself had gone into hiding. Bilenchi's essay could not be more different than Lorias, humorous and cheerful he describes the adversities of the occupation, the peculiarities of the German occupiers who were losing their nerve because of the impending defeat, the illegal work and the peculiarities of his house guest.

If one follows Bilenchi's remarks, then during the German occupation opposition intellectuals met openly in the Café Giubbe Rosse, which is also recognized in the contribution by Mario Luzi. After all, it was the most famous artist café in Italy for a long time. Since the beginning of the 20th century theories have been drafted and rejected there, conspiracies planned, literature and literary fashions made. During the years of fascism writers such as Vittorini, Bilenchi, Pratolini, Montale, Gadda, Lorai, Rosai frequented there, reports Luzi. He also emphasizes that the café was not only the place of origin for numerous magazine articles, but also functioned as the editorial office for various publications. War and post-war saw many of the former friends from the café on different, if not opposing fronts, but the time they spent together at the Giubbe Rosse marked a distinctive period in Italian literary history, according to the author.

Giovanni Papini, member of the first Florentine avant-garde and a well-known writer of the Giubbe Rosse, describes in his contribution "Middle Ages in Florence - at the end of the 19th century" some of the archaisms that characterized city life at the turn of the century before last and against which he stands together rebelled against his friends. In the essay "Florence and the Florentines", Carlo Collodi, the creator of Pinocchio, also makes fun of some old traditions that the Florentines stubbornly stuck to in the 19th century. A particular aim of his ridicule is the not insignificant opinion that the "Athenians of Italy" had about themselves and their city, which they rarely left. The Prato-born writer Curzio Malaparte, whose contribution ends with a declaration of love to the neighboring city and its residents, deals with the dubious fame that the arrogant and eccentric Florentines had in the neighborhood and especially in rival cities. The comedian Roberto Benigni, who comes from near Prato, does not comment on Florence in his contribution "Monologue on God and the World", but is represented in the volume because he is a living example for those in Florence and the Tuscany still practiced the art of diatribe, it says in the epilogue.

All in all, "Florence, A Literary Invitation" offers an interesting mixture of Florentine themes and Tuscan authors that is well worth reading, although it sometimes appears a bit unstructured. The life data of the assembled writers are reproduced so succinctly that any further employment with one or the other author is unnecessarily difficult. The mini-afterword is similarly stingy with background information, but on one and a half pages it still provides some of the biographical data of the authors, which one searches in vain in the biographical data. This lack of information will not bother the reader with a good prior knowledge of Florentine culture and history; others may find him uninviting.