SO much has happened since the last missive that I am not quite sure where to start. So I will start from today, the 1st of June and move backwards.
Over the three weeks I have been to a concert virtually every second night. So yesterday, which was in fact the 31st of May, I went to a concert at Tatti, which is a country villa which is owned now by Harvard University.
It has a very special garden designed by Scott & Pinsent. It is a magnificent villa, full of beautiful 14th Century furniture and a very beautiful collection of paintings.
I have visited this beautiful villa many times, but on Thursday I went to a concert there with my good friend Suzanna, who has been associated with Tatti for more than 40 years.
We went to hear a very famous violinist, Peter Spisskey, play at a private concert. I must say the aperitivo was amazing and the wine was flowing.
I was fortunate enough to represent the Australians and New Zealanders in Florence at the United States of America Memorial Day, held at the American Cemetery, just outside of Florence.
Four thousand American soldiers are buried there, it was a moving ceremony, not unlike our Anzac services, in the main cities in Australia. After the service, myself and friends went to a fabulous Italian restaurant in the hills, we ate Florentine steak plus trimmings, I didn't need to have dinner that night.
The next concert, going backwards was in the cloisters of Basilica di San Lorenzo. A baroque music ensemble with players from the major Florentine Symphony.
The next concert, which was a disappointment, was at The Duomo. It was an organ concert, it went from 9pm to midnight and I was so much looking forward to it. I had been to a similar concert the week before and it was magnificent. So I will sort of lump the two together and explain the situation.
The Duomo has purchased a magnificent new Organ Console, plus a new set of organ pipes. These powerful new organ and pipes are strong enough to add the other four sets of pipes in the cathedral. So when they are played together, the organ sounds fill the whole cathedral.
The first concert, when they introduced the new organ system, was incredible, with a German organist playing magnificently. The second concert was as I said a disappointment. There was very modern organ music, I felt with not much tune.
The reason why I am complaining about the second concert is that we missed a concert the same night at Santo Spirito Church. However, with my friends, we managed to go to the dress rehearsal of Santo Spirito on the Friday evening, and that was truly magnificent.
My friend Suzanna's children were playing the cello and the violin. Also her very good friend was the conductor of the orchestra and choir. I also knew an Australian Soprano, Serena, who was one of the soloists.
I should mention that I went to another concert, Mid May at the Duomo for choir and orchestra. This was a wonderful concert with a Baroque orchestra and the choir made up of the chorus of the Florentine Opera.
It was a stirring concert and with 100 people in the Duomo and me sitting in the front seats, I felt very privileged to be there. My friend is a good friend of the director of music at the Duomo, so I am very fortunate to be taken to these magnificent concerts.
There are so many other concerts I have been to, I am afraid to say that I have lost touch.
My friend has a box and there is a concert every week during the season, so I have seen a wonderful English trumpeter, some incredible piano recitals and some wonderful trios. I first started the concert season at a concert in the beautiful Church of Osan Michele.
The British Institute that I mentioned in my last missive, has run a Shakespeare and his contemporaries season. There were some interesting lectures on Shakespeare and his life. There was also a film festival of Shakespeare. And would you believe that I went to three nights running to films on Romeo and Juliet. From very early films, to very modern, I think I know the story reasonably well now!
Australians and New Zealanders in Florence
WHEN I first arrived back in Florence I was invited to a dinner in a restaurant to celebrate Christmas with Australians and New Zealanders, which was very enjoyable. They needed a new leader and by some coincidence asked me to do the job so I am the new president of the group.
We have pot luck dinners each month and organise other entertainment. There are 125 members on our mailing list who live in and around Florence. Pot luck dinners, for those who do not understand the term, is where everybody brings some food and a bottle of wine to where we are invited and we all have a great time.
One thing I should mention is that most of the Australians and New Zealanders have Italian partners, therefore we are not just expats mixing together, we have Italian participation, which is so important as we are guests in Italy. There is a dinner at my place on the 8th of June and the next dinner will be some time in July, in a magnificent apartment that some New Zealand friends have.
Anzac Day in Florence
WHEN I was in Warrnambool and knowing that I was coming back to Florence, I thought it would be interesting to run an Anzac Day celebration in Florence. As Anzac day was a holiday in Florence we ran the evening commemoration the week after.
We held the evening at the British Institute which was very apt since they got us in to the war. We had an Australian trumpeter to play the Last Post and other music and a pianist and an opera singer to sing the British, Australian, New Zealand and Italian national anthems, plus and Australian lady reciting Banjo Patterson poems.
The supper included pies and sausage rolls, vegemite sandwiches, lamingtons, pavlovas and Tim Tams. I must say it was a very successful evening with more than 100 people attending. The honorary British Consul was there, as was the American vice Consul and his wife. You wouldn't believe it, the Australian and New Zealand Consulates said they were too busy, which everybody was very annoyed about.
AS you know I have been sitting for portraits for senior students at the Charles Cecil painting studio. The latest picture is of me sitting in a chair smoking a cigar, it will be finished in a few weeks so I will add pictures of the various portraits done, in the near future.
The portraits will be taken to England and be entered in to various competitions and used in their studios as examples of their work. Very soon I will have a young lady take decent photos of these, so I will have a good record of the paintings done.
The reasons for my comments on paintings is that I had a strange experience a week ago. The system is that you are sitting on a chair and there is a large painting on either side of you. The students walk backwards for eight feet or so to view the painting from a distance.
This gives them perspective and to see the whole shape. They then walk forward and put paint on the canvas. This is repeated many time during the sittings. Every half an hour the painters and the models have a stretch and a chat and a little rest.
This particular day I got out of my chair and as I walked away from the paintings I turned to look at one of them and low and behold there was my brother looking at me. I just couldn't believe it, it shows how deep a portrait painter looks into ones inner self. I must say the next sitting, when the artist was still working, the image of my brother left the painting.
Weekends away on the coast
I HAVE been spending many weekends away at Monte Marcello. It is a small village which can be walked around in two minutes. The town was started by the Etruscans and then the Romans. Of course there are no cars in the village and beautiful houses from many centuries and a beautiful church.
The house I stay in was originally a tower so it has four floors, each with a room and bathrooms. The terrace overlooks the marbles of Carrara and the sea on the other side of the Tuscan Coast. It is not far to travel to Cinque Terre.
There are boats leaving from this area starting the Italian Riviera from lovely Lerice, 10 minutes away. I expect to spend a fair bit of time over the summer there and of course many of my visitors will come and stay with me there. I even hope to get my grandchildren there at Christmas in the winter.
Poppies and smell
THE fields around Florence in the last three weeks have been covered in wonderful wild poppies. When you walk in any green areas you smell the Wisteria, the linden trees and other flowers. Something I will never forget.
MY birthday happened to coincide with a lunch I was invited to, given by a lady from the Corsini family, a very famous noble family from Florence. She happens to be a princess but doesn't use the title. The party was in a magnificent vineyard overlooking olive tree groves. It turned out to be a wonderful party, so it made my 73rd birthday very memorable.
A COUPLE of nights ago after a wonderful dinner party, I walked home across the Ponte Vecchio with a friend. The bridge was crowded with people listening to buskers. As we passed he broke in to song. And this is what he sang…
"Guarda questa coppia elegante, che sembrano uscite da un film di altri tempi…"
"Look at this elegant couple, who seem to have come from a film from the past…"
I did not understand what he was saying and my friend told me what he said after we went past. If I had of realised what he was saying, I would have left a huge tip in his hat.
This is all from Italy. Until the next missive.