Traveling, events, people: Florence, Italy (9/2018)

I arrived Florence on Friday night so I had the whole Saturday to do whatever I liked. I was happy to be back. My husband and I visited Florence on New Year 2016 to see the symphony gigs and fell in love with this beautiful and historical small city. I wanted to revisit some of the places we saw that time. I like building routines in foreign places, that way it’s easier to learn to know the city and I feel I can have a proper relationship with it.

I woke up early and headed to the Boboli gardens and had the most beautiful start for the day. The weather was sunny and hot for September but the morning was still fresh and the park was practically empty and I almost felt I was there alone, saw only a handful of runners during my walk. I got the similar feeling I get when I walk to the Montmartre Hill in Paris early in the morning, like it could be possible to feel the essence of the whole city just by going to one particular place. I walked in the park at least two hours and took some pics. I made special effort to find the green little building I could remember from our last visit. I think it’s an old coffee house, sadly not open for public anymore, and my imagination goes wild when I see it, a very special and pretty small building.

After my morning walk I took care of some practical things. I went to Palazzo Vecchio to get my wristband for Sunday and then walked past the Duomo, officially called the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, to a travel agency to book a guided tour in Uffizi for the afternoon. It would be impossible to visit the Uffizi Gallery without buying a tour, the place would be too crowded, and I thought a small lecture could be useful. I needed something gluten-free for lunch and googled a small gluten-free pizzeria right next to the Duomo and had my lunch there.

After the lunch I decided to return to the book cafe my husband and I discovered during our previous visit. The place is called Todo Modo and it’s cozy and full of books and the kind of place I would visit every week if I lived in the city. Most of the books are in Italian but they have also a collection in English and different kind of notebooks available. I bought a small traveller’s notebook and had a chat with the guy behind the desk. He told the place would be crowded during the afternoon as filmmaker Terry Gilliam (who was talking at the Wired event that day) would be there signing his books and I decided to be back a bit later after my Uffizi tour and have something to eat as well.

I continued my walk to meet Federica. She is one of the Italian girls and lives in the center of Florence and was organizing an animation festival at Theatre Odeon next to the Palazzo Strozzi that day. Fede came to meet me in front of the theatre and invited me in to see the building – Odeon must be one the most gorgeous old film theaters in the whole Europe – and then to listen to international lecturers they had that day. I felt a bit embarrassed to disturb her as she was obviously busy hosting their guests but she just kindly said “you come, you come” and took me to follow a Q&A at the big theatre hall where John Pomeroy, known for Disney films like Pocahontas, answered student questions and talked about his career and some highlights and future prospects of it.  After that I joined Fede and her team for coffee and then listened to another lecture.

I so much enjoyed this possibility and can’t thank Fede enough for being so kind and generous in the middle of her busy day! It’s things like this I find most interesting when I travel, meeting people I’ve met during my concert trips, being able to see their every day life and work and even having a possibility to learn something totally unexpected, this time secrets of animation.

The second speaker was Victor Navano who has worked for Pixar and done animation on numerous films like Monsters inc., The Incredibles, Cars, Finding Nemo – just to mention a few – and he talked about characters and their goals and obstacles and generally the basic structure of the film scene. As an example he showed a raw scene from the film Finding Dory, analyzed the characters in the scene and pointed out the challenges in it and then showed the final version. I’m not very familiar with the animation genre and found it interesting to notice there is not only equally much but maybe even more analysis behind the characters than there is in regular films. When the film is done well it’s easy for the audience to momentarily forget the structure, the analytically built characters and the work behind every scene and just enjoy the story.

Naturally that same goes with music as well and listening to the lecture made me think of this old interview Mika has given for Wired at the time NPIH was out about writing music and building a show and the science behind it all (the article and translations inside the link).

I left the film theatre to be on time for my Uffizi tour and was glad I had my ticket bought, the place was so crowded it was difficult to even find my group but finally saw the right person and got my ticket and an ear piece to listen to the lecture. An obviously very experienced tour guide took our group and started to spot suitable possibilities to see as many of the most important paintings as possible and I was pleased to receive a lot of information and listen to the lecture which was as much about the Medici family and the history of the time as it was about Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo.

This was only my second visit in Florence so it was good to hear the facts again. I’m horrible at memorizing details, dates and names. My mind works differently, it looks for connections and analogies. So it was not only Flora’s dress in Primavera or that cute tiny baby foot on Raffaello’s painting that reminded me of something familiar, I paid attention also to wavy patterns in colorful angel wings and small buildings that looked exactly like the time machine at Casa Mika and I felt a bit guilty my mind wandered that way. I was looking at classical art after all and many of the topics seemed somehow holy. Of course it wasn’t all holy that time either. The artists painted their patrons in the paintings as well. There’s always been a connection between artists and important, influential people, there’s always been money or privileges involved.

I spent wonderful and extremely informative two and a half hours in Uffizi and after that felt quite exhausted. I walked next to the river back to the book cafe and saw the bridges, all of them but especially Ponte Vecchio, crowded that time. I asked the nice lady at the cafe a glass of pleasant wine and something gluten-free to eat and she smiled and brought me both including hummus and some gluten-free snacks and I just sat there an hour watching books and thinking how lucky I was to spend that Saturday in Florence and hoped everything would go smoothly the next day (and it did, see my report here).

Below a few pictures of Grazia magazine that Grazia (also one of the Italian girls) kindly carried to me to Florence. The whole special edition magazine is both in Italian and English so the interesting conversation between Mika and Pierpaolo Piccioli is easy to read. Special thanks to Grazia not just for carrying this giant magazine all the way but also patiently answering my questions on Sunday during the Wired event. Hope to be back in Italy soon X