If you've been following me on social media, or you're on my email list, then you know I went to Florence, Italy at the beginning of this year. I spoke on those platforms about how I felt after the trip and touched on my experience with the jewelry teacher I studied with but for this post I'd like to share some of those things that make a place worth visiting.
To get everyone on the same page, I went to Spain and Italy for 7 weeks to travel, see family, and to take a class with a jeweler from Florence. The teacher was someone I have admired since the beginning of my jewelry career and I had the idea of going over there and taking a class with him. The timing of it all was almost too coincidental: I went during low season for tourism because after living abroad I was well aware of the fact of how hectic places like Italy can be (it was still surprisingly crowded) and I hoped that maybe it would increase my chances of having the class to myself (which I did, eek!). It was also extremely lucky because I returned just 3 days before the coronavirus was big news in Italy, and my family and I thankfully did not become ill after so much exposure to crowds of tourists. The class was amazing too, one of the best classes I've ever taken, and I've since returned eager to create and use the new technique I learned. I will, hopefully, talk about the technique in another post.
But Florence. My goodness gracious, what a place!
It changed me. I had gone there alone in the summer of 2015 and I wasn't really a fan of it at the time. It was too expensive, too hot, too humid, too confusing and too crowded. I was overwhelmed by it all, but I could also tell that it was a special place that needed to be appreciated and that I needed to give it second chance.
Since that trip in 2015, I've become obsessed with history, particularly Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Byzantine, and Italian Renaissance history (basically anything involving the Mediterranean) and realized that Florence has been a center for learning since the mid 1400s. There was a family of wealthy merchants named the Medici who turned Florence into a powerhouse for knowledge and creativity, and students from all over the world still flock there today to study everything from museum curating to learning a specific craft.
Some of the most important names tied to Florence, besides the Medici, are Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Sandro Botticelli, Filippo Brunelleschi, Giorgio Vasari, Benvenuto Cellini, Donatello, Dante Alighieri, Caravaggio, Niccholo Machiavelli, Tintoretto, Artemisia Gentileschi, amongst so many others. Florence is abound with artworks, museums, churches, and history in relation to all these names, and they are the men (and one woman) who revolutionized the way art, architecture, and literature is created now. They had a major impact on mathematics, music, spirituality, reviving Ancient Greek philosophy, and it's just an incredible area of history to study.
The thing I was most struck by was the concept of time in Florence. Obviously I was studying with a jeweler who took a more artistic approach, but it seemed like everyone I met took craftsmanship to a whole other level. Something that's often taught in many art classes in the US, at least from my experience, is how to do something by hand but then you're immediately taught all the shortcuts. I've been taught on multiple occasions that many art forms can be done faster by using a computer or by skipping several steps to make something "appear" the same as a piece that's done meticulously. There were moments in Florence where I realized that I've missed out on a lot of those details, or little techniques that make a piece truly handmade, because we've gotten so used to the shortcuts/use of computers.
It was perplexing. After I was brought into that world of small details and precise techniques, the art in these museums, and the architectural features all over the city took on a whole new meaning. My mind was transported to another place, before me was one example after another of the beauty that human beings are actually capable of creating and I shuddered to think of that immense task that some of the old artisans and artists had to overcome.
The terms that kept coming up for me were harmony, perspective and illusion, finding the truth in beauty, breaking creative boundaries. Much of the art and architecture was sponsored by the Medici who decided that those 2 fields would bring them the most power and wealth and because everyone during the Italian Renaissance was motivated by faith (ie Catholicism), they were inspired to recreate their sense of of faith through their craft. It was truly moving, I've never had this realization before and it just made that trip so much more meaningful and powerful and intense.
Anyway, that's it for now. You'll probably see me speak more about Florence in the future as I'm always trying to remember thoughts like this and posts like this one are special because I get to explore the deeper impact travel has on my jewelry.
As always, thank you for reading,