Monthly Archives: May 2009

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Mapplethorpe, Michelangelo & Patti Smith

Visitors to Florence this summer should keep an eye out for special events in special places.

Update (9/11/09):

Patti Smith in the Palazzo Vecchio
Patti Smith at Palazzo Vecchio

Patti Smith came back to town this past week for her i. was in Florence tour – a tour limited to the city limits, including unannounced stops to sing on street corners and small piazzas. She spoke to a large group of NYU students at Villa La Pietra and rocked the house in the Salone dei Cinquecento in the Palazzo Vecchio where, to an invitation-only crowd, she recited Ginzberg’s footnote to HowlHoly, Holy, Holy (a glance at the lyrics makes clear that this grand Renaissance hall had never heard the like before). The frescoed walls and Michelangelo’s statue quaked  as she belted out People Have the Power, backed by guitarists Lenny Kaye and Tom Verlaine.

The three, joined by a bass player and drummer, appeared the next night in front of 50,00 people, framed by the facade of the church of Santa Croce for a return concert – exactly 30 years after her 9/10/79 appearance, of which she has said, “At least once a day, every day since September 10th, 1979, I think about that memorable concert, probably the best, without doubt the most powerful of my whole artistic career.”

30-Year Reunion Concert at Santa Croce
30-Year Reunion Concert at Santa Croce

Patti Smith performed to a packed house at the feet of David

This past Sunday (May 24), Patti Smith rushed to Florence from the wedding of her son Jackson (to Meg White of the White Stripes) to honor her friend Robert Mapplethorpe at a benefit for AIDS/HIV at the Accademia.

Patti Smith at the Accademia
Patti Smith at the Accademia

Although few in the audience actually saw Smith, who stood in the deep shadows at the feet of the David, no one went away unhappy after her superb performance.

She talked about her first evening with Mapplethorpe when they poured over a book of Michelangelo’s sculptures and the nascent photographer wondered if he would ever see his own work in such a book. Smith described his encouragement of her singing and the impact of his death from complications of AIDS twenty years ago on May 22, 1989.

Patti Smith performing at the feet of David
Patti Smith performing at the feet of David

She recited Sonnets by Michelangelo, Psalms of David, her own poetry and sang a choice selection of her songs, either a cappella or accompanying herself on guitar. At one point she forgot some lyrics and gracefully blamed it on the awe she felt for the marble giant standing behind her. Highlights included her recitation of “People Have the Power” and the show-stopping “Because the Night Belongs to Lovers” that brought the audience to its feet, singing along.

Mapplethorpe and Michelangelo together for the first time

This week the Galleria dell’Accademia opens a new exhibit “Perfection in Form” juxtaposing photographic images by Robert Mapplethorpe to some of the most iconic Renaissance pieces in the world – Michelangelo’s David and the four non finiti Prisoners. The two artists seem to engage in a dialogue beyond time, space, and cultures.

photo by Ann Reavis
One of the Photographic Images in the exhibition

“My work is about order”, Mapplethorpe once said,adding, “I am looking for perfection in form”. Michelangelo would have understood the sentiment.

The 91 works by Mapplethorpe are joined by several pieces by Michelangelo (four drawings and a sketch, in addition to the David, the four Prisoners and the painting Venus and Cupid) and the plaster model of the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. The exhibition is completed by works by artists that Mapplethorpe referenced throughout the course of his life and work (Brice Marden, Man Ray, Ettore Spalletti and Andy Warhol).

The Slave – Mapplethorpe’s homage to Michelangelo

Mapplethorpe’s double photograph with a knife, entitled “The Slave” (1974), is of a Michelangelo sculpture that is not in Florence, but rather resides in the Louvre in Paris, where it is known as “The Dying Slave.”

The Slave (1974)
The Slave (1974)

One of two such sculptures in the Louvre, the Dying Slave was included in the design (1505) for the initial project for the tomb of Pope Julius II. Michelangelo began to carve it in 1513. After the pope’s death, it, among others, was rejected for financial reasons. Similar figures, including the four marble Prisoners in the Accademia of Florence – carved and also left incomplete (non finiti) in 1532 – had been part of the original design for the grandiose tomb. Julius II, who had dreamed of a freestanding mausoleum at Saint Peter’s in Rome, was buried in San Pietro in Vincoli in a wall tomb, adorned with one grand statue – Michelangelo’s famous Moses.

The Dying Slave by Michelangelo
The Dying Slave by Michelangelo

Despite being unfinished, the two great marble Slaves were already admired. Michelangelo donated them to the Florentine exile Roberto Strozzi, who presented them to the French king. The Slaves thus reached France during the sculptor’s lifetime, and first occupied two niches at the Château d’Ecouen before Cardinal de Richelieu took them to his château in Poitou.

Perfection in Form – the Exhibit

The Galleria dell’Accademia, known to accompany it’s drawing card, the David, with good exhibits in the past, has outdone itself with the Mapplethorpe show – Perfection in Form. Patti Smith, reportedly, helped select the photographic images created by the artist.

The exhibit runs from May 26, 2009 to mid-January, 2010.

Don’t stand in line.  Call for reservations well in advance at +39 055.294.883.

Dove Vai? – The Galleria Ferrari Museum, cars and more cars

Enzo Ferrari was the man who said the Mille Miglia is “La corsa piu bella del mondo” – the most beautiful race in the world. This year, a decade after his death, he certainly would have agreed because a Ferrari won the 2009 race with Carlo and Bruno Ferrari in a 1927 Bugatti Type 37. A vintage Ferrari also came in second with a 1926 Bugatti Type 35A.

2009 Mille Miglia Winning Car
2009 Mille Miglia Winning Car

Any fine car enthusiast (or someone trying to make a Ferrari fan happy) who happens to be visiting or driving by Modena should take a detour to Maranello and visit the Galleria Ferrari Museum. Opened in 2005 for those who wish to get into the factory or on to the test track, but can’t, the Galleria Ferrari is a fully satisfying visual and learning experience for Formula One and sports car aficionados and a fun time for those who are not.

Ferrari Museum

The first floor is a celebration of the Grand Prix – from Ferrari’s first Formula One car to the 2004 cars that gave Michael Schumacher his championship title. The cars are displayed as if in pit lane to provide a behind-the-scenes experience of Formula One. Nearby is an homage to Enzo Ferrari, including his office, which was moved, piece by piece, to the museum.

Vintage Ferrari

But Ferrari’s racing prowess is not limited to Formula One. A range of historic sports cars, displayed around a dramatic amphitheater, represents its many successes in road racing.

Amphitheater of Ferrais

The second floor is dedicated to Ferrari engineering, including displays on aerodynamic performance and wind tunnels. There is an entire wall of Formula One engines, tracing their development from the 1950s to the present day. Product development is also represented by styling bucks, development models and the tools used by Ferrari designers.

It is also here that the newest Ferrari models are on display, including the Ferrari Superamerica and the Ferrari F430, alongside classic models such as the 365 GTB/4Daytona, the Ferrari 288 GTO and the Ferrari Enzo. There will probably be a line to try out the virtual racetrack machine.

Galleria Ferrari

A cinema shows films and videos from history of Ferrari, and don’t miss the photo display of the many famous people who have owned Ferraris and visited the factory. Of course, as you leave, there is a gift shop and a cafe.

The Galleria Ferrari is open seven days a week from 09.30 to 18.00.  It is located at Via Dino Ferrari, 43 in Maranello (20 miles south of Modena). Email: 
 Phone: +39 0536 943-204 
Fax: +39 0536 949-714 Tickets: 9-13 euro.

Not only Ferrari
Not only Ferrari

Nearby, outside the main gates to Ferrari itself, is the Ferrari Store and close by is Ristorante Montana. The Montana not only boasts its own display of Ferrari Formula One memorabilia (don’t miss the hedge cut in the shape of a Formula One Ferrari), it also is alongside the Ferrari Fiorano test track, so meals can be accompanied by the sound of a Ferrari Formula One car at full speed. For an “only in Italy ” experience click on the “Table Napkins” link on the Montana’s web site.

Dove Vai? – Mille Miglia, the most beautiful road race in the world

I still remember the day in Panzano when I almost plowed down Dario Cecchini, the famed butcher, who was standing in the intersection blowing a horn that once graced the side of an ancient automobile – back in the times when the horn had to be sounded to get the horses and carriages out of the way. Dario was garbed in festive red pants, yellow shirt, red vest, and white apron with a red bandana at his neck. He had a glass of red wine in his other hand.

Dario greets the Mille Miglia
Dario greets the Mille Miglia

Just as Dario blew two long welcoming notes, three antique racing cars crested the hill, tooted to Dario and raced off into the valley to Greve. I got a glass of Dario’s wine and a small plate of bread, lardo and salami from Dario’s butcher shop and joined the crowd of spectators in Panzano’s main piazza.

The Mille Miglia had come to town.

This year it will run from May 13 to 17.

Anyone living in or visiting Italy next week has the chance to be part of the pageantry of this annual road rally of vintage sport and touring cars. The 27th Mille Miglia, a historic replay of one the world’s most famous motor races (the original race ran between 1927 and 1957), is a three-day rally that starts in Brescia, Lombardia, travels to Rome, winding through the countryside of the Veneto, Marche and Umbria, and returning through Tuscany (Pienza, Buonconvento, Siena, Val d’Elsa, Monteriggioni, Poggibonsi, Barberino, Tavernelle and San Casciano) and Florence. Over three hundred antique racing and tourist-class cars will pause for a break in Siena and Florence in mid-afternoon on May 16.

Mille Miglia takes to the back roads
Mille Miglia takes to the back roads

Mille Miglia fever still infects international vintage automobile enthusiasts so that every year hundreds of entry applications from dozens of countries are sent to the organizing committee, which has to choose the final 375 competitors admitted to the 2009 competition.

Possession of a veteran car does not mean that the automobile has all the necessary qualifications for admission. Only cars built during the period of the classic Mille Miglia, 1927 -1957, are allowed to come to the starting line in Brescia. Preference is given to cars that have a particular racing history or which have actually participated in a previous Mille Miglia.

Each car must carry two qualified drivers, one of whom usually acts as navigator. Taking part in the Mille Miglia has always been considered an achievement in itself, but managing to finish the arduous course takes the experience to another level.

The Mille Miglia highlights ancient villages, city centers, countryside and mountains. From the Lombardia and Veneto plains to the countryside of the Marche and of Umbria, Lazio, Tuscany and Emilia, from the Romagna sea to the steep snowy slopes of Mount Terminillo and, on the way back, up again across the Futa and Raticosa passes. The rally also visits almost unknown tiny villages of medieval origin and the famous city squares, including the Campo in Siena and Piazza Strozzi in Florence.

Winner of Mille Miglia 2008 - 1928 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Super Sport
Winner of Mille Miglia 2008 - 1928 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Super Sport

Among the cars in this year’s Mille Miglia is the Mercedes 3300 SLR, the BMW 328 Coupe, both the Ferrari 340A and 212 Spider Vignale, the Alfa Romeo 1750 GS and the Alfa 1500 SS Spider, both the OM 665 TT and the 665 S, the Bugatti T35A and T40GS, the Jaguar C-Type and D-Type, the Maserati A6 GCS and Maserati Monofaro, the Aston Martin DB3 Spider, the Fiat 1100 S, the 1954 Autobleu 750 MM, and the egg-shaped Isetta. Among the most rare cars are the Gilco Panhard 1100 Sport of 1952 and the Chrysler 1951 Saratoga.

Spectators enjoy the pageantry of the Mille Miglia whether they understand the detailed lineage of the vintage automobiles or not. Along the route residents and spectators hold outdoor parties, wave flags, blow horns, ring bells and cheer the racers onward. Car enthusiasts will have the chance in Siena and Florence to examine the cars and talk with the drivers.

Mille Miglia 2009 Route
Mille Miglia 2009 Route

For more information in English (not much) and Italian, review the official web site at .  A trailer for the 2009 Mille Miglia and another video of the history of the race make good viewing.