Some of you may have seen a strange photo we posted on Flickr of a person holding the head of Ronald McDonald. It’s a statue we saw in the courtyard of a modern art gallery in Venice:
However odd it may seem to you, it’s actually a reference to Greek mythology, the story of Perseus and Medusa. After killing the snake-haired woman by reflecting her petrifying gaze with his shield, Perseus cuts off Medusa’s head as proof of his conquest. Although it’s always been a popular theme for sculpture, this moment is depicted most famously in Benvenuto Cellini‘s statue in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence:
The question we haven’t answered is: Who is holding Ronald’s head? Is that a reference to someone else in mythology or (more likely, in my opinion) a reference to someone in pop culture?
At the Duomo entrance this morning, we are 8th and 9th in line, but the door is closed. No employees, no official persons of any kind stand by to throw wide the gates. Not even a sign graces the entrance telling hopefuls what time they will be allowed to make the trek to the top. We wait.
When finally I am standing at the apex of the Florence dome, I imagine myself in the heavy boots of a 15th-century mason. Even were I master stoneworker at the time, it’s likely I wouldn’t have fully understood the engineering of the structure beneath my feet, for those mysteries are still largely unsolved today. The vistas around me are more spiritually inspiring than the church upon which I stand. Terra cotta brick roofs, broken occasionally by a crenelated fortress or bell tower, fade gradually into the mist-shrouded hills that are the trademark of Tuscany.
Just the two of us and the Beatles
View of Giotto’s bell tower from the Dome
The piers and walls of the dome’s lantern, which rises another 40 feet over my head, are covered with graffiti, sadly. Most of it is not crude or opinionated, just names. I realize that each of us wants to make our mark on this world. Filipo Brunelleschi did it with the Florence dome; all these other people are trying to do it with a pen, leaving a record of their presence on a lasting monument.
The dome of the Florence cathedral is no longer just an object, owned by someone and unable to be claimed by another, but is now a part of the countryside, a challenge to be scaled and conquered, the tallest hill in Tuscany.
After visiting the Duomo, the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Fiore, and the Medici Chapel at the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Laura and I popped into a local supermercato. The major differences between it and the American version were:
More varieties of plum. I’ve never seen so many!
More local cheeses. They had about as many varieties as a Whole Foods or Fresh Market.
Much cheaper wines. In America, a $5 or $6 bottle of wine is at the low end of the spectrum. Here, it seems much more common.
We bought bread, fresh mozzarella, a lambrusco secco (which we didn’t realize meant ‘dry’ until we got to our apartment), some fruit, and some Italian beer. Weary from our walking, we made a mid-afternoon snack from these ingredients, which we enjoyed at our window table, the only sour note being the incredibly loud and invasive sounds of moped motors below.
Our mid-afternoon feast in Firenze.
Until we left Venice, we didn’t realize how much we loved the absence of cars and mopeds. Boat motors are inescapable in Venice, but they somehow sound less aggressive.