Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Art and Sole of Florence

The art of a city... not just on the walls of its museums...

...but also in the style of its citizens.

Mars and I went to Florence Italy on an Elderhostel to study Renaissance Art - Michelangelo, da Vinci, Caravaggio, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Fra Lippi, et al. We saw their magnificant creations but were not allowed to photograph them. So, since I had a new digital camera with a full gig's worth of empty picture space and a proven inability to appreciate what I'm seeing unless I'm looking through a camera's viewfinder, I also decided to learn about the other major aesthetic product of the Florentine culture (and something more easily photographable) - the works of that city's modern masters, Rangoni, Ugolini and (of course) Ferragamo - the shoes of Florence.

I hadn't even thought about my new pursuit until somewhere during the first full day of the trip when I noticed the footwear of our Art Historian Lecturer and Group Leader, Laura. The literature that we received about this Elderhostel had cautioned us about the considerable amount of walking on uneven surfaces, and everything else we read and everyone we talked also told us that we should wear comfortable shoes. So we did - acceptably styled walking shoes that had carried us pleasantly pain free and reasonably fashionable through our previous Elderhostels to Barcelona and Budapest. Laura had reminded us again of the walking requirements at our welcome meeting the night before and told us she herself would be wearing some of her most comfortable ones.

Which apparently she did - although in comparison to the leather that adorned the rest of our group's feet it looked, at least to me, to be downright stilletto-ish. So, without much more thought than that, I took the picture.

And semi-subconciously I began to glance at the walking utensils of the more native-looking walkers. (The ones walking individually or in pairs, rather than shuffling along en masse behind an umbrella hoisting leader. The ones without cameras dangling from their necks. The ones that were looking straight ahead as they walked - rather than up, up and away. The ones that clearly knew where they were going. Laura had told us, "You won't fit in." We didn't.) And what I saw on the feet of the women striding rapidly across the bumpy potholed pavers, or fearlessly peddling bicycles through both vehicular and human traffic, or balancing motor scooters at stop lights were designer creations that came close to making Laura's minimalist mules look as sturdy as the ankle-high boots of the most hard-core hiker.

So while the others in our group continued to look up as we strolled along the narrow streets and across the piazzas of Florence, I surreptitiously snuck some glances downward. And digitally recorded what I saw.

Now Laura did tell us that the shoe designer Salvatore Farragamo studied the architecture of feet and footwear at the University of California before launching his career. And that supposedly his shoes are so comfortable that once you put on a pair.... She also said that the newest styles are immediately available only here in the Florence area, and do not appear in other places until the next fashion season when they are then immediatly consigned to the lowly status of last year's big thing.

Things we learned in Florence:
  • For some people, e.g. Florentine Fashionistas, comfort is about a lot more than, well, just comfort.
  • Nowadays there is a lot more to being a Renaissance Man or Woman than just the Renaissance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jim, own one pair of Farragomos... with acrophobia inducing heals. These were bought against my better judgement but have proven to be one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes I own. Not to mention how great they make ones legs look.