Francesca’s Footprints – Forte Belvedere Reopens after Five Years

The very sad reason why the Forte Belvedere was closed for so long was that two people died, Luca in 2006 and Veronica in 2008. They both miscalculated the height of the walls thinking on the other side there would be grass and not a gorge many meters deep between the fortress walls  (not enough light at night, not sufficient security measures, some say). Mayor Renzi, inaugurating the Forte on the 8th of July, said: “This is a painful party, it is a contradiction that renews itself and repeats itself because we cannot forget that there are two young people dead”.

View from Forte Belvedere (foto F. Boni)
View from Forte Belvedere (foto by F. Boni)

Last Sunday, it was the “Domenica del Fiorentino” which means that everyone, like me, who is Florentine or a resident, one Sunday a month, can enter different places of interest in town for free.

The card is called “Un bacione a Firenze card”  (from a very famous song written by Edoardo Spadaro in 1938) and it allows free entrance to Palazzo Vecchio and all the City Museums. So today, for the first time, Forte Belvedere was included, and I was really looking forward to seeing it reopen after such a long time, plus I was curious about the Exhibit “The Soul and the Matter” featuring the Chinese artist Zhang Huan.

Three Heads Six Arms, a copper sculpture by Zhang Huan (foto by F. Boni)
Three Heads Six Arms, a copper sculpture by Zhang Huan (foto by F. Boni)

Actually for me it was an excuse to go back to one of those places that I used to go to in my younger years, especially at night, in the summer, when inside the Forte there were two cinemas, yes two: Arena Grande and Arena Piccola. Just imagine this: 2 open air cinemas, Florence in all her beauty and charm as a background, starry sky, warm summer air, maybe a secret kiss or two on the grass, and then back to watching the film, which, if you didn’t like it, you could just move to the other ‘Arena’ and see something else. It was always such a smart programming: Festivals, Cineclub, Jean Vigo, Joris Ivens, Pasolini, the Taviani brothers, Russian films, Fellini, Buñuel, Buster Keaton, Monty Python.

Arena Piccola - the former small open-air cinema (foto F. Boni)
Sad empty screen in Arena Piccola - the former small open-air cinema (foto F. Boni)

It was the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the films never started before 10 pm, (they had to wait for the sun to go down). The chairs were very hard, but it didn’t matter, you could always sit on the grass, and when the lights were turned on during the intervallo, you were blinded for a minute.

And then the film ended and I never wanted to go back home, a last chat, a last joke, a last kiss, a zipped up k-way and broooom broooom down Costa San Giorgio, on my white Vespa Primavera.

Chiang Kai-shek and Hu Hanmin made of temple ash by Zhang Huan (foto F. Boni)
Chiang Kai-shek and Hu Hanmin made of temple ash by Zhang Huan (foto F. Boni)

On Sunday, I asked one of the security guards if at least one of the cinemas was going to be reopened, but he looked at me surprised, obviously there would be too many safety measures to be taken, too much money to spend on guards, impossible. It will be possible to visit it every day, except Thursday, from 10am to 8pm. No more no less. And the exhibit “The Soul and the Matter” by Zhang Huan is definitely an extra plus that adds to the magic of Forte Belvedere.

One thought on “Francesca’s Footprints – Forte Belvedere Reopens after Five Years

  1. Lovely article. Look forward to visiting this area on a future trip.

    We have a summer outdoor cinema in Fairhaven, an historic area here in Bellingham, Washington. I think they should do the Sound of Music sing-a-long.

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