The Importance of Looking Up.

This is NOT a post about optimism or positive thinking; neither of which I am in particularly grand supply. But rather, it’s a post about the literal physical act of looking above one’s head. I read, many, many years ago (in what context, I don’t remember), about how adults rarely ever look up. That children, because of their small stature are perpetually looking up to see adults, or things within the adult-sized world around them, but when humans become adults and everything is at eye-level, we stop. Apparently, adults don’t even really look up at the sky and stars (except presumably astronomers). Again, I don’t remember the particulars of where I got this information (and it might not actually be accurate), but I do know that I read this shortly before I became an “adult” and it has stuck with me ever since. Therefore, I make a point to always look up. At the sky, at the stars, at whatever is right above eye-level; I want to look at these things. While walking around Florence, there are certainly grand things to look up at. Like the dome of the Duomo:

the dome looming over the end of via dei servi

But there are also, if you take the time to notice, smaller things to see right above your head. Florence and Tuscany in general have a long, long tradition of wrought-iron work. You see examples of this all over the city, particularly in lights and lanterns and other decorative flourishes adorning the facades of buildings. You can see a wrought-iron lamp that is completely typical in the photo above. These lovely examples of traditional craftsmanship are certainly worth noticing, but because they are so prevalent, after awhile they do become just part of the Florentine scenery/ambient. However, if you look closely as you’re walking around you begin to notice variation amongst them, and you also on occasion see something amazing, like this:

an iron DRAGON on the edge of the palazzo strozzi. the dragon itself is probably about 2ft tall and at least 12 feet off the ground.

I noticed the above DRAGON, which adorns the corner of the palazzo strozzi, last night while on my evening gelato hunt (or gelato passeggiato as we call it around my house). Perhaps dragons like this are more common then I realize, but I certainly never noticed one like it before. And it is demonstrably AWESOME. While stopping to take this photo, a group of (probably American?) tourists walked passed and one lady amongst them turned back to see what I was looking at/taking a picture of. She clearly hadn’t seen the dragon prior to my drawing attention to it, and she exclaimed over it’s awesomeness as she walked away. Though this dragon is exceptional, there are many distinctive details like this on the exteriors of older Florentine buildings. They are covered with stemmi (coats of arms), which if you’re an expert in Florentine familial history will instantly tell you who lived in that palace. You can see them in buildings too on occasion; sometimes families would put them in their chapels in churches (which didn’t make the church officials very happy). You see the Medici stemma super frequently around Florence, which I noted in my last post, which is a large shield with six 3-dimensional balls (the palle) affixed to it. Once you recognize the Medici stemma, you see it EVERYWHERE around the city– clearly they ran this town.

But it’s not only fascinating old stuff that you see when you look up, but sometimes you see fascinating new stuff too. During the same gelato passeggiato last night I also saw this clever bit of street art on a traffic sign:

only cars authorized by cupid go this way!

apparently there’s more love in Florentine traffic than in other places! And again, while I stopped to take a photo of this traffic sign, another tourist noticed what I was doing and looked up at the art. It is easy, in such lovely a place as Florence to be overwhelmed by the grand sights, like the Duomo and the Piazza/Palazzo della Signoria, Orsanmichele or the Ponte Vecchio, but as the saying goes: god is truly, truly in the details. It is these little things, these small bits of awesomeness or cleverness that I notice when I look up that make me genuinely smile during my wanderings through the city.

A note for the weekend: this evening there’s a festa that I’m hoping (planning? but god laughs when we make plans!) to go to and there’s talk about a baby day-trip up to Fiesole on Sunday. If all goes well, look for posts on these things next week! BUON FINE SETTIMANA!


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