High hopes for the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Colombo believes, however, that the building has “enormous potential, enabling us to alternate operas in rapid succession and involve even casual passersby with video projections of rehearsals in the outdoor amphitheater. I feel the house could well become the focal point of a new Florentine Renaissance in the twenty-first century.”

In Florence, there is indeed a feeling that anything can happen, and the great Renaissance of the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries still envelops even the most distracted of visitors.

If one prowls the narrower streets late at night or crosses the Piazza della Signoria as morning rises, one has a real feeling of history still interacting mysteriously with the present.

This was certainly the case for Franco Zeffirelli, who attributes much of the underlying inspiration for his work in the opera house to his upbringing and training in this city haunted by ghosts of the distant past.


Wrapping purchases

The time and care expended by shop assistants in Italy on the wrapping of gifts can be astonishing.


The cost of the purchase is irrelevant. The same care will be taken in wrapping a discounted paperback book or a pair of diamond earrings.


Blithely indifferent to the queue building up behind you, the assistant will patiently fold over corners to form perfect isosceles triangles, use different-colored (but always exquisitely contrasting) wrapping paper to create diagonal stripes across the package, and then tie it with a length of ribbon that is made to end in delicate spirals.

The finished package will then be handed to you with aplomb.

Hooper, John. The Italians (pp. 77-78). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Opera: the quintessential Italian art form


If Pirandello is the archetypal Italian writer, then opera— packed with searing emotion expressed without reserve— is the quintessential Italian art form. Its origins, in the late sixteenth century, are exclusively Italian.

It grew out of the discussions and experiments of the Camerata, a group of Florentine writers, musicians and intellectuals whose main aim was to revive the blend of words and music that was known to have existed in classical Greek drama.

An Italian, Jacopo Peri, composed the earliest recorded opera, Dafne, which was first performed in 1598. And it was in an Italian city, Venice, that the first public opera house, the Teatro San Cassiano, was opened in 1637.


Hooper, John. The Italians (p. 66). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.