Joyce and I arrived in Bologna, Italy for a few days R and R before heading south to our main destination, Florence. This did not stop me from finding a few book stores and picking up some new Italy translations. One of the books I bought, Il Mastino dei Baskervilles, had the introduction by Enrico Solito, one of my good friends that lives in Florence. We departed Bologna on Sunday morning, boarding an express train to Florence. A quick twenty-five minutes later (300 kph or 184 mph) without any stops, we pulled into the Central Station in Florence. We hopped into a cab that took us to our little apartment, just around the corner from the Duomo.
Soon after arriving, we met with Italian Sherlockian collector extraordinaire, Gabriele Mazzoni and his wife Donatella. We had a grand time reuniting and then heading to the small town of Fiesole that overlooks Florence. We visited a small Roman theatre and museum before motoring back into town. We chose a restaurant that looked promising and it was more that acceptable. The owner took us under his wing and made sure we did not leave in need of anything. Gabriele offered to drive us back to our apartment but we assured him we could find our way back there. As it turned out, our apartment was only a block and a half from the restaurant. We were inside before Gabriele could get to his car. We arranged to take the train to Empoli, where Gabriele lives, on Saturday and start round two of our reuniting.
The next day we called in on Gianluca Salvatore at his art gallery. Gianluca is a member of the Baker Street Irregular, so he is also like family. It was a short, impromptu visit and we made plans for lunch on Friday. I also called another friend and BSI member, Enrico Solito, mentioned above. We arranged to meet for dinner on Friday night. Our dance card is filling up on the Sherlockian Front. To fill the time, in between Sherlockian activities, I managed to locate more than a dozen bookshops and load up with a plethora of old and new Italian Sherlock Holmes books, all were new to my collection. I managed to find about thirty translations in total. This is the reason we always travel with an extra suitcase.
On Wednesday, Joyce and I headed to the Uffizi Gallery. This was the collection of the Medici's. They were collecting Roman antiquities since the Fourteenth century and branched into works of art as well. As we were going from room to room, our mouths were dropping further and further as we went along, we came across a painting my Claude-Joseph Vernet - "Waterfall and Fishermen." It is mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes stories that Holmes' maternal grandmother was a Vernet. This painting was by Holmes' great uncle. So, there is always a Sherlockian connection, you just have to dig deep enough to uncover it. Of course there were some other paintings in the Uffizi, such as Rembrandt's and Rubens but a Vernet, well what else is needed to be said.
|Joyce, Don , and Gianluca at Five e cinque|
Friday morning rolled in and we arrived at the gallery of Gianluca right on time. We strolled back across the Arno to a fun little Vegetarian restaurant, Five e cinque, where lunch was as many stars as one can imagine. Wine and pasta and great conversation made the two and a half hour lunch breeze past. Eventually, lunch ended and we parted ways, Joyce and I returned to our apartment before heading back out to meeting Enrico a few hours later.
We found Enrico waiting on us at Heaven’s Door in front of the Baptistery by the Duomo. We strolled through Florence, receiving a history lesson full of Dante references before heading to Ristarante Acqua Al 2, located near our apartment on Via della Vigna Vecchia. We were joined by Enrico’s wife Isa, short for Isabel. We enjoyed a five course sampler of different pasta, two bottles of wine and another five course sampler of desserts. A double espresso topped off the evening. We sauntered back to our apartment before bidding each other farewell. Another successful Florentine day in the books.
|Isa, Enrico Solito; Joyce and I at Ristarante Acqua Al2|
Saturday found us heading to Empoli where Gabriele met us at the train station. It was in the early afternoon so we headed across the Arno to Vinci, home of Leonardo. In Vinci, there is a library and museum dedicated the Leonardo. The library is only open to the public on random days and it was our random day because it was open. We attended a lecture by one of the resident Leonardo scholars that was in Italian. I did understand enough to get the gist about Bill Gates buying some of the manuscripts for $43,000.000. At the end of the lecture, we were able to thumb through all of the replica editions of the original manuscripts and journals.
The museum next door featured actual working models of Leonardo’s ideas for the bicycle, the helicopter, the battle tank, SCUBA gear and many others. From there it was a short drive up into the hills over looking Vinci to the house where Leonardo was born. The country side surrounding his birth place was some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. We watched a short film on Leonardo’s life before heading back to Empoli and a visit of Gabriele’s Sherlockian collection. This was my second time there and I was just as amazed as I was the first time. Gabriele is my brother in collection and although I am chronologically older, he is my big brother in collecting.
He has the most spectacular way of finding so many one-of-a-kind items. His Italian and French sections are superb and nearly complete. He own some real gems and like most collectors, he more than happy to show it to you. His ‘warehouse’ is stocked with all things Sherlockian, not just books like my collection. Time seemed to stand still while there but I was reminded that we still needed to meet Donatella and have dinner. So I was drug away but by now I was floating on air. My Sherlockian head was spinning with thoughts of all of the new (old) items I had seen and now will be trying to find on my own.
The four of us had a marvelous dinner and like all good things, the evening came to a close way too soon. Joyce and I were driven back to Florence by Gabriele and Donatella and tearfully promised to get together again as soon as possible. And just like the dinner, our two weeks in Italy flew past and soon we were back on the big silver bird heading across the Atlantic. Italy is such a wonderful place and having great friend there makes it all the better.
|Just some of my new additions.|
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