Friday, June 26, 2015

"The City of Florence - Historical Vistas & Personal Sightings" by R.W.B. Lewis - A Magnificent Look At The Tuscan Gem

I have only visited Florence one time, but that was enough to ensure a special permanent place in my heart for this magnificent Tuscan city.  Author R.W.B. Lewis had a more than fifty year love affair with Florence, and in his "The City of Florence - Historical Vistas & Personal Sightings" he eloquently makes a case for why this was his favorite place to live outside of the U.S.  Professor Lewis won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography "Edith Wharton," which was penned during one of his many long sojourns in Tuscany.  His writing is exemplary - lyrical and precise.

The book is a wonderful weaving together of historical insights into the political, artistic, architectural and intellectual history of the city with very personal reflections on what life in the modern city has been for Lewis and his family.  He first encountered the City of Florence during WWII when his U.S. Army unit entered the city shortly after the Germans had bombed many of the historic bridges.  After the war, he joined the faculty of Yale University and lived in the wooded hills of  Bethany, Connecticut - when he was not residing in Florence.  Numerous academic assignments and sabbaticals gave him ample opportunities to return to Tuscany.

The author's vibrant and poetic style of writing helped to raise to the surface my own vivid memories of sites in and around Florence.  The book also took me down streets and into neighborhoods I had not had the chance to explore in my brief encounter with the city.  Because Lewis and his family always lived in a different neighborhood each time they returned to Florence, he was able to share intimate details of life in the city from several different geographical and experiential perspectives.  His stories of those who had lived in the city before him made each spot, each church, each bridge, each piazze, each trattoria take on almost a human personality.

This is a book that will be appreciated by anyone whose life has been touched by the insieme of Florence, or who dreams about visiting there some day.



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