Appreciating two Florentine Classics

When I haven’t been writing grant applications, researching my dissertation, or reinforcing an understanding of la concordanza dei tempi (don’t ask), leather schools and vintage theaters have filled my days recently. Cinema Odeon Firenze and la Scuola del Cuoio to be precise. The first is a GORGEOUS early 20th century art nouveau movie theater with marble on top of marble, gold, and glass. The second is a leather-working school behind Santa Croce that has been around for decades in a locale that has been known for leather production for ages and ages.

all movie theaters should look like this

The Odeon might just be the loveliest place to see a film in the entire world. The seats are yellow velvet, and there’s a glass dome in the center of the ceiling. During longer films there’s an intermission so everyone can grab a coffee or a smoke and talk about the film, which is basically the most civilized way ever to watch a movie. Additionally, there are NO PREVIEWS. The film actually starts at it’s listed time. The loveliness of the setting and the civilized approach makes movie-watching so much more relaxing than in the US.

this photo really doesn’t do the Odeon justice, because it’s stunning
this photo doesn’t either

I had been to the Odeon before, so I knew what to expect when going there, but it is so nice to be reminded that amazing things like this are only a few blocks away. It might sound crazy, but after living here for nearly five weeks, I’ve already become a bit immune to all the splendor around me. My all-consuming work and the mundanity of quotidian activities like going to the grocery store, needing to buy bathroom cleaner, or having to do laundry again, (and while I’m carrying heavy groceries, why are there all these people in my way?!)  does draw attention away from the wonders of Renaissance art and architecture or the glories of the Tuscan environment.  But the gracious elegance of the Odeon forced me to appreciate the beauty that’s surrounding me. I also saw the movie “Brave,” in English with Italian subtitles (“Ribelle” in Italian), which probably helped, because my love of Pixar knows no bounds.

above the screen it says “Chi vuole essere lieto sia, di doman non c’e certezza,” a line from a poem by Lorenzo “il Magnifico” de’Medici about being happy because there’s no certainty in tomorrow. Aw.

Another quiet reminder of the awesomeness of my surrounds was the Scuola del Cuoio, which is peacefully tucked back behind the church and seems miles away from the madness of Piazza Santa Croce. And unlike the innumerable leather stalls that litter the city, which can feature leather of debatable provenance, at the Leather School they actually make the leather goods by hand and you can watch them do it:

the courtyard of the scuola
you can see the leatherworkers down the hall on the right

The point of the school is to continue a longstanding artisanal tradition. Like in many cases of artisanal craftsmanship, the tools are nearly as lovely as the objects they produce:

pretty pointy objects!

The quiet productivity of the Leather School inspired me to try to work carefully and methodically and without the melodrama or histrionics that can often accompany grant-writing and frustrating periods of research/writing. These two Florentine classics reminded me to take a break, a minute, a breath, and look around to appreciate what’s there.


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