Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Breakfast at the Savoy.

I've just come back from a week in Florence, visiting old favourites and discovering new ones. After the restoration of Verocchio's David at the Bargello in 2003, they are now doing the same to Donatello's bronze of the same subject. The difference being, it is happening in full view of all visitors. David lies on his back in a cradle while a restorer works on fine detail and a microscope relays it to a TV screen.

We visited Michelangelo's statue in the Accademia too. It is so different in that setting from seeing the copies in the Piazza della Signoria and Piazzale Michelangelo. But it always makes me despair the way visitors make a beeline for him, ignoring the prisoners and St Matthew and the pieta. Not to mention the 14th century paintings.

We had no English news at all except what La Repubblica gave us, though that was full of Harry Potter and Princess Diana. I was researching two books that can't be talked about but one involved having breakfsat at the Savoy in the Piazza della Repubblica. We'd booked it for 8.30am and sat outside (our flat was only just round the corner in Via della Condotta). It was very good - freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, good coffee, scrambled eggs, wholemeal toast and even a wholemeal croissant. Jess managed smoked salmon and chocolate croissant too. This is the kind of thing that gives research a good name.

I saw Pygmalion in Bath with Tim Piggott-Smith as Higgins and Michelle Dockery as Eliza. It was a very traditional production and we all enjoyed it. But the actor playing Alfred Dolittle dried spectacularly in the first Middle Class Morality speech and had to ask for his line. The Prompt was so quiet and ineffective he had to go off stage and consult the script!

I heard a concert in Florence of countertenor, violinist and organist, playing/singing Bach, Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Pagannini and Schubert. The countertenor looked like a navvy, in a black T-shirt and jeans, but had the most eerily powerful voice.

I read The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault, the sequel to The King Must Die. Just as in the first book the section on the Bull Court in Crete was best, so in this one the whole section of the story on Theseus's love for Hippolyta and their son Hippolytus stands out. Also Ascanio Condivi's Life of Michelangelo, an account by a younger contemporary, written in response to Vasari.

I saw the Cezanne in Florence exhibition and Michelangelo the Archtiect, Also visited the Bargello, San Lorenzo, the Medici Chapels and Laurentian Library, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Felicita, San Miniato al Monte, Orsanmichele, Museum of Florence as it used to be.


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