Santa Croce Church in Florence.THIS is my second missive from Florence. The weather here has at last become wintery. It is freezing cold with 6 degrees of frost and a tiny bit of snow. I thought we were going to miss out on the really cold, but it has come with a vengeance.
Nanjing Night Net

I am happy to say I have moved in to my new apartment, at Casa Guidi, on Piazza San Felice. As I have indicated before it is a beautiful unit in a famous old palace with plenty of space and lovely furnishings.

For the housewarming, I invited 30 art students, mainly from the eminent art school called Charles Cecil Studios.

We called it a cocktail party and everybody dressed up to the nines. All of the girls, some of who have been sculpting and painting me, looked incredibly glamorous, you could hardly recognise them from what they wear when they are painting!

The young men were also beautifully dressed, including me with a burgundy smoking jacket and hat to match. My wonderful flatmate and her boyfriend did all the catering. So there was super food and plenty of gin at five euros a bottle. The party was a great success.

Sitting for the sculpture students classes was fascinating and an absolute pleasure. Their teacher, Jason Arkles, a leading sculptor here was very interesting in his teaching methods and the end result you will see in due course.

Now to the painting. I get up early every morning and a couple of the students who live close pick me up from outside my house at 8.30am.

It is hard to get up early, but having shaved and showered it is great to walk right across Florence for 30 minutes to the studio and sit or stand still for 30 minutes at a time.

The progress of the work is amazing to watch. One of the girls is entering the painting she is doing of me in the prestigious BP portrait award. It is also interesting when Charles Cecil comes in regularly to do what they call a crit on the painting.

Charles is a charismatic teacher of portraits and a painter, who is an American who has been living in Florence for 35 years. Cecil was trained by R.H.Ives Gammell of Boston, whose teacher William Paxton studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

This tradition extends back throughout the French and British schools to masters such as Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck and Velazquez. Its ultimate source lies in the theory and practice of Leonardo da Vinci. One of his idols is John Singer Seargent, the American painter who made a big name for himself in Victorian England.

In my next blog I will try to explain an expat’s impression of Florence and life here as well as give my impressions of the Italians in Florence.

I don’t like talking about the weather particularly however, it plays big part of life and how you live in Florence.

For instance, in my last blog the cold weather of winter had not really set in. Since then we had a very cold snap with icy winds and snow.

Everybody rugs up and I should comment on the Italian women and their beautiful fur coats. They look so elegant and in fact the young English women that I know have been buying second hand furs in the market and wearing them unabashed.

Recently I saw a beautiful fur coat in the distance and as I got closer a gentleman was wearing it, and I must say he looked very smart.

I have so much to write about. A couple of Sundays ago I went to the Uffizi Palace to an art exhibition and I was charged 18 euros ($30) to go in.

On the Monday morning I went to the Uffizi office and bought a Friends of the Uffizi membership for 60 euros for the year and that takes me in to about 18 museums and palaces plus special exhibitions – wonderful value, I should have joined earlier.

An interesting part of life here involves Italians and their tripe, which they call trippa. There are some little street stalls around Florence that have queues of Italians waiting to get their fill of trippa.

Some restaurants specialise in cooking this part of the beast. I went to one such restaurant last week which was just out of Florence at Montecatinilto which specialises in trippa and I must say the tripe was very nice cooked in tomatoes and garlic.

However, I did not enjoy the first course which was polenta. Next weekend I am going to another hill town restaurant to eat their special beef which I will report on in the next missive.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a dress rehearsal of Tosca a few nights ago. It was a wonderful production of a grand opera, the tenor was a little fat man with a beautiful voice and the American lady who I was with thought he was too small to be on stage but I thought he was a cute little fellow.

A hundred yards from where I live there is a wonderful bridge called Ponte Santo Trinita. It is called the most beautiful bridge in the world and it is just one bridge up from the famous Ponte Vecchio.

I use both bridges three or four times a day to get to the other side of town. The river that flows under the bridge is called The Arno and it is said that the Arno doesn’t divide Florence but brings it together.

Getting back to Ponte Santo Trinita, the German military blew it up when they were retreating from Florence during the war.

It was built again straight after the war, the mine that was used for the original stone was opened again and it was re-built very quickly as the Florentines wanted their bridge back and of course it was necessary for traffic.

The marble statues on each end of the bridge were retrieved from the river except for one head which was found about 20 years later in the mud of the river and put back on top of the headless form.

Just around the corner from me is Santo Spirito Piazza (Square). I will mention this area many times in the future.

It is a village in its own right, you can’t be in the square without meeting someone that you know and having a chat, surrounded by splendid buildings that house residents in the area.

In the shops in these buildings are wonderful artisans making and repairing antiques, making picture frames and all sorts of wonderful art objects. One of the artisans named Nimo made me the most wonderful hat stand for my hall this now carries my collection of hats.

One of my favourite churches in Florence is called Basilica di Santo Spirito. It is a beautiful church and often I just walk through it to admire it.

In 1962 Magrit Lisner on the occasion of a census of Tuscan church crosses found a wooden crucifix kept on the wall of a refectory of the Convent of Santo Spirito and it was later found to be the wonderful work of Michaelangelo. It is now restored and set up in a chapel at this church and it is amazing to be in its presence.

In closing I should mention the expats bible in Florence is publication called the

In my next missive I will talk about Australians in Florence organisations and the wonderful programmes and social activities the British Institute have, keeping in mind that the British have lived in Florence for more than 200 years.

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