Show a little courtesy, per favore!

Saw this sign on the street the other day and thought it was interesting and entertaining. It points out that this place on the street, which just happens to be near a major supermarket, is a spot for “Pink Parking,” un gesto di cortesia (a courteous gesture). It’s obviously meant to call on the public’s morality and generosity to save this space for pregnant women.

 

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I can promise you that in the many times I’ve walked by it, there is never a space saved for a pregnant woman.  Too bad!

San Marco, Firenze

The monastery of San Marco, which stood just two blocks north of the Palazzo Medici, had been founded in the thirteenth century. However, it had been completely renovated and considerably expanded by Lorenzo the Magnificent’s grandfather, Cosimo de’ Medici in the 1450s.

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Cosimo had used his favourite architect Michelozzo Michelozzi, and incorporated the work of the resident monk Fra Angelico, one of the great early Renaissance artists.

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Michelozzi would be responsible for some of the finest early Renaissance architecture in Florence, including the renovation of the Palazzo della Signoria and the design of the Medici villa at Careggi.

For his part, Fra Angelico’s ethereal paintings would heavily influence Michelangelo, whose depiction of God’s finger passing on life to Adam in the Sistine Chapel was directly inspired by the artist-monk.

The work of Fra Angelico and Michelozzi came together at San Marco in the delightful shaded San Antonio cloister, whose delicate pillars and colourful frescoes enclosed a tranquil green garden in the midst of the monastery.

Cosimo de’ Medici had undertaken the renovation of San Marco late in his life, intending it as absolution for the sin of usury, which had enabled him to accumulate his fortune as a banker. Yet there had also been a less manifest reason for Cosimo’s benevolence, one that explained why in particular he chose to lavish his wealth on San Marco, rather than other similarly prestigious monasteries in the city.

Before the 1433 coup which had removed Cosimo from power in Florence, almost costing him his life, he had managed in the nick of time to transfer secretly to San Marco a large quantity of the funds held in the Medici bank in Florence.

After Cosimo’s banishment into exile, his enemies had raided all Medici premises, as well as those of known supporters, but had been unable to discover the whereabouts of these funds, which had been held on trust, without a word, by the monks at San Marco.

In consequence, Cosimo had spared no expense on the rebuilding of San Marco, which eventually cost 30,000 florins – an unprecedented sum at the time.

The monastery had been furnished with a library, together with many hundreds of religious manuscripts, intended for public use – the first lending library in Europe.

Instead of the usual communal dormitory, each monk was assigned his own cell, many of which contained frescoes painted by Fra Angelico and his assistants. These were mainly portrayals of angels and biblical scenes.

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A special double cell, sumptuously frescoed, had been created for Cosimo’s personal use, to which he would often retire for periods of contemplation.

However, he had taken a more active role in the creation of the gardens across the street from San Marco: as a man who delighted in retiring to the countryside, he had done his best to create a pastoral space here within the walls of the city. These gardens would in turn become a favourite spot of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who began decorating the shady spaces with pieces of ancient classical sculpture.

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Strathern, Paul. Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonarola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City, Pegasus. Kindle Edition.

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Lucrezia de Medici

The major influence on the young Lorenzo (de Medici) would undoubtedly be his mother, Lucrezia, an intelligent and resilient woman in an age when females for the most part had little opportunity to assert themselves beyond the restricted domestic sphere.

Lucrezia came from an old and distinguished Florentine family, the Tornabuoni, and although her arranged marriage to a Medici was undoubtedly contracted for political reasons, she appears from her extant letters to have been genuinely fond of her husband, worrying over his health and betraying her concern that he should not ‘give way to melancholy’.

Yet these letters are not the only evidence of her writing, for Lucrezia de’ Medici was also a talented poet and hymnist. Although the conventional religiosity of her verse is of little modern interest, such piety did not stifle the warmth of her sympathetic personality.

Her verse appears to have been the outlet for a wider creative sensibility, which was used to some effect in guiding her husband’s discriminating patronage of such leading early Renaissance figures as the architect Michelozzi, who had designed the groundbreaking Palazzo Medici; the sculptor Donatello, whose innovative realistic sculptures included the first free-standing nude since classical times; and the troubled artist Fra Filippo Lippi, whose colourful larger-than-life portraits echoed his own larger-than-life personality.

All three of these artists Lucrezia came to regard as personal friends. The Medici were amongst the first patrons to recognise that artists were now becoming something more than mere craftsmen, and the family did their best to accommodate the increasingly difficult temperaments and wayward behaviour of these emergent genius-figures.

Lucrezia was also known to have influenced  would be she who persuaded Piero to allow certain members of the Strozzi family to return from the banishment they had suffered for opposing Cosimo. This would prove a particularly astute move.

Of similar impact was Lucrezia’s formative influence upon the youthful Lorenzo, who quickly began displaying precocious brilliance in a variety of fields, ranging from classical literature to horseback-riding. He was also said to have had an exceptional singing voice, accompanying himself on the lyre.*

Strathern, Paul. Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonarola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City, Pegasus. Kindle Edition.

 

June 2, Republic Day in Italy

Festa della Repubblica (Festival of the Republic) is a national holiday celebrated in Italy on June 2 each year. It celebrates the day when Italians voted to abolish the monarchy in 1946 so their country could become a republic.

The day commemorates the institutional referendum in 1946, in which the Italian people were called to the polls to decide on the form of government, following WWII and the fall of Fascism.  With 12,717,923 votes for a republic and 10,719,284 for the monarchy, the male descendants of the House of Savoy were sent into exile and Italy became a republic.

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Each year, a wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Republic Day. The tomb has an eternal flame that was added on November 4, 1921, even thought the tomb, which was designed by sculptor Alberto Sparapani, was not completed until 1924.

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To recognize this holiday, official ceremonies are held, as well as military parades, and the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, inside the Altare della Patria in Rome.

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The Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II) or Il Vittoriano, is a monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy, located in Rome. The monument occupies a site between Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill.

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Republic Day is a federal holiday in Italy and organizations and businesses that close include government offices, post offices, banks, schools and other educational institutions.