Pointing the finger…

LoggiaThe Daily Mail reports that Patrick Broderick, a 55-year-old emergency room doctor from New Fairfield, Conn., was attempting to compare his finger with that of the 600 year old Virgin Mary  in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence when the statue’s finger broke off. Worse still he appears to have tried to run off into the distance pretending innocence. Can you believe it!?Statue loggia 2

I have always maintained that tourists behave differently when they are on holidays, and I suspect he would not have dared touch a sculpture in a museum in his hometown.  The lay back, casual air in Italy appears to encourage such behaviour and he is certainly not the first Statue loggia 4to have damaged a work of art whether accidentally – like the time the tourist tripped and smashed through the Picasso or deliberately when the madman bashed David’s toe with a hammer.

The abundance of masterpieces and lack of funding, together with inefficient management often means many are displayed in limited spaces with no protection. If you have ever squeezed your way through the Vatican museum, feet hardly touching the ground, in the hope of being blurted into the Sistine chapel, you will know what I mean. Still I am very fond of the Italian informal atmosphere and am always disappointed to see another protective barrier go up fending us off rather than seeing us being a little more respectful.Statue loggia

Tele cameras are a wonderful invention in this sense although the young Italian captured as he broke the hand off Neptune in Piazza della Signoria in 2005 may not agree. I think the Florentine community was more outraged to discover the offender was Italian than non. For Italians, stupid vandalism on an historical monument is abhorred, and I doubt he will ever live down the incident. Even though locals consider Neptune a poor statue and call it ‘il Biancone’ the big white lump!Neptune

Our American surgeon is very lucky, as the museum has decided not to lay charges (again that lay back approach), aided by the fact that the broken finger was a plaster replacement anyway. I wonder if he noticed that as he scurried off!

So if you are in Florence or thinking of coming over please don’t go to the Museum of the Opera dell’ Duomo just to see the broken finger (I understand visitor numbers have increased) but be overwhelmed instead by the recently restored Paradise Doors of the Baptistery and more.



As one door closes another opens

Door 1It was January, 2012 and freezing, when around 50 artists came from all over Italy to doo12 give colour and warmth back to the community of Vernazza. Locals and volunteers with the help of State, regional and council workers had dug out the buildings from the 4m of mud and debris and the road to recovery was on its way.

But those ground floor premises would need time to dry out, they needed rewiring, new plumbing and floors. It would take at least 6months before most of the shops, restaurants, cafes, banks and door 3post office reopened.

In the interim they had to be secure, so temporary doors were put in place and the artists gave them life and personality, a lightness and brightness to what had for so door 4long soaked in the colour of mud. A favourite of mine was the door left half done, as the artist had got too cold and scribbled a note to say he would be back!

Now they are no longer as the renovations have finished and each premise boasts Door 8a new solid door, hard to see as trading is fierce in peak season and most doors only close late in the evenings.

But the memory lives on in my little beach retreat as photos of all the doors decorate my kitchen wall.


Will the real Mona Lisa please stand up!

Mona_LisaWell Mona Lisa is hardly likely to be able to stand up but there has been a flurry of activity in Florence as on the 9th August researchers opened up the tomb, after 300years, of her husband and children housed in the church of Piazza SS Annunziata. They are hoping that DNA testing on the skeletons will match those of two skeletons unearthed in the St Ursula churchconvent of St Ursula last year.


Their task is not made any easier as only one of the children was actually Lisa’s as her merchant husband – Francesco del Giocondo had been married previously and already had another son. Still

Lisa does have a certain solidness about her and in fact she did outlive them all and joined the nuns in the convent of St Ursula, a rather dilapidated looking building just behind the Central food market and the busy San Lorenzo leather market.Mona Lisa building

She had married at 16, he was 38, and it is thought he commissioned Leonardo to do the portrait to mark his wife’s pregnancy or recent birth of their son. Awful theories suggest that her enigmatic smile may however be because she had no front teeth or that they had gone black from mercury used as treatment for syphilis. Heaven forbid!

Any guide will tell you that the masterpiece was painted in the building next to the Palazzo Vecchio – town hall, although Da Vinci kept touching it up for over 16years.  And the bridge across the Arno that features in the background is not that far from my place towards Arezzo.Mona's bridge

Results of the DNA tests are expected late September.

Will keep you posted!



Didgeridoos and hang drums

Jacopo MattiiWho would think they would have a Didgeridoo festival in Italy, and yet it has been going for  11 years now and it’s fantastic for didg lovers and non!Iban Nicolai                        

Didjin’Oz is held in a beautiful fortress in the centre of Forlimpopoli ( Emilia Romagnia) on a weekend in the heat of July. I have only been twice, invited to put on a stand with Australian products, and loved it. The fortress fills with young and old musicians from all over the world talking and breathing didgs and any other wind and percussion instrument.

So far I have not seen any Australian or Aboriginal play – we got close this year but it seems the band had problems with their flight and were cancelled at the last minute. But having sold didjs for many years I know that Europeans are fascinated by them, Italian fill in bandpassionate about them and play them superbly.

The days are filled with musicians jamming, stand owners demonstrating instruments they have created, box drums, clapsticks, a range of wind and stringed, gongs and jews harps. For a non muso like me, it’s amazing. In the evenings we are spellbound by a mystical hum, swaying to a Spanish beat and left bopping to a rocky rhythm from Austrians.

This year I fell in love with two Japanese boys – Matsumoto Zoku _ playing a didj and Matsumoto Zokuhang drum with vocal percussion, just beautiful to listen to. It was not the first time I had heard a hang drum, but the combination with a didgeridoo and their personal style had me raving about them for days. Watch them here.

And would you believe, my next door neighbour has a hang drum, not a mean feat as they are very difficult to buy and many musicians are still on a waiting list. You don’t need to be a musician to play and I have been lucky enough to have a go!Me + hang drum