Ever since I saw the announcement about Palazzo Strozzi’s exhibit “Americani a Firenze,” I had been wanting to go. I love how the mostre (exhibits) at Palazzo Strozzi present many different aspects of my beloved city. The current mostra definitely intrigued me, not just because I’m an American in Florence, but because I too came to Florence the first time in 1997 to be inspired.
Because I was invited to go on a private tour with the Friends of Florence organization, I stopped myself from going to see the mostra on my own. I generally enjoy museums by myself, but there is something to be said about having a guida turistica (tour guide) who gives you more background information and who can answer all of our questions.
Our tour started tonight with a brief presentation by Dr. James M. Bradburne, the Director of the Palazzo Strozzi, who reminded us that Florence has had many rebirths since the Renaissance. He told us that the mostre organized by Palazzo Strozzi is for people who return to Florence and want to discover even more. I agree with him that the Palazzo Strozzi isn't the first museum people will visit, but it certainly is one of the only museums people continually visit over and over thanks to the mostre.
I knew that this mostra would cover a special time in Florence’s history when many American artists and writers came to come study art, discover the "Old World", and be inspired. Inspiration is probably a unique gift that Florence has continually been offering anyone who comes here. The natural beauty, the artwork, the architecture, and the light all intertwine to touch each one of us in a personal and special way.
The guida turistica we had spoke to us about the details in many of the paintings as well as the background of the different artists and writers who were present in the mid to late 1800s. I found it interesting that so many American artists came to Europe. Very often they studied in Paris and then came to Florence.
In Florence, they mostly stayed in hotels, but then ventured out to the Tuscan countryside where they stayed in villas. There, they enjoyed the “Italian garden magic,” as Edith Wharton described it. Everyone seemed to be smitten with the Italian gardens containing potted lemon trees and rose bushes with sculptures in the background.
It seems that most of the artists were inspired by everything that was different, like the Italian gardens, olive groves, oxen, the Arno, and, of course, Florence itself. Maybe that which is different allows us to open our minds and hearts and embrace the differences that surround us.
I was certainly inspired by the mostra and plan on returning for another visit. I feel that just by being in the same rooms as the paintings by American artists was inspiring. To see Florence and Tuscany through their eyes over 150 years ago is a joyful experience. Many parts of the city remain the same although other sections no longer exist, like the ghetto that was transformed into what is now Piazza Repubblica.
I find that the more I learn about Florence, the more I appreciate it. Its richness and complexity only inspires and enriches me as a person as well as a writer.
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