May 2010. After visiting the beautiful art at the Uffizi Gallery in Firenze (Florence), I had seen a poster for a free concert in the nearby Piazza della Signoria. There had been a car bombing some years earlier at the Uffizi, killing five people, injuring dozens and closing some of the galleries. Gianni de Gennaro, a top anti-Mafia investigator, said: "This was an attack in the style of the Mafia, directed toward terrorist ends. It is a strategy of terror."
But the Italians said fuck all y'all and went right on with an annual Verdi concert, which drew thousands to commemorate the loss of life and destruction of art, and subsequent re-emergence of their beloved museum. (Michelangelo's "David," Botticelli's "Birth Of Venus" and Caravaggio's "Bacchus," "Sacrifice of Isaac," and "Medusa" are among the highlights of its collection.)
Marti and I had dinner nearby, then just before 9 p.m. strolled into the square and by a stroke of luck found a couple of seats outside a restaurant with a great view of the orchestra and chorus. (As well as the replicant David's package.) We ordered limoncellos as digestifs and waited for the music to begin.
It was the Verdi Requiem. Directed by a woman conductor: Gabriele Verdinelli. Sublime. In a perfect setting.
Towards the end of the performance, a few tired old farts started evacuating the special seats up front. So we upgraded for the last 20-25 minutes of the Requiem.
The fun didn't end there, though. On our walk back to the hotel we encountered a representative of the Camorra, an Italian Mafia-type crime syndicate, or secret society, that originated in Naples. I later read Roberto Saviano's book and saw the film version, all about these guys.
According to Saviano, an investigative journalist who lives under an umbrella of security, they don't fuck around. At one point guys from the Camorra put a legit sewing atelier manager into the trunk of a car, drove into the mountains and made him an offer he couldn't refuse: teach these Chinese ladies how to sew properly so we can get the top price for our counterfeits.
The guy who had buttonholed us pointed out his lovely collection of women's designer handbags arrayed on a blanket in the street. He already sensed that my bride had her eye on the hot pink Prada number. I asked how much. Eighty euros. I said no way and kept on walking. He caught up and we haggled a bit. Okay, how much you wanna pay? Twenty-five euros. Sold! Marti carried that bootleg Prada proudly for years. The photo above is from our trip to Greece the following year to celebrate Wedding Anniversary #30. At La Luz, the bar/ lounge/ live music venue where we hang at the Palio Limani (Old Harbor) on the island of Spetses.
That afternoon and evening in Florence had been marvelous. Breathtaking art, a fine dinner, a beautiful concert in the open air -- and a bit of off-the-record midnight shopping. How much better could it have been?