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 17, 2008

Stendhal syndrome

This condition was named after the great writer of Le Rouge e le Noir and means something like "an overactively nervous state of being overwhelmed by the city of Florence" so I thought it appropriate for this post.

I stayed for over a week in a very good apartment in Santa Croce and would go there again. I've always been a bit against it because I dislike that church so much but it's OK from the outside and the smart money is on it is a district. It's a bit like Hampstead. And it's where Sarah Dunant has her flkat though we didn't see her.

But we did find an English bookshop just round the corner from us, where City of Secrets had just arrived, so I did some signing. I was there for publication day. And before I left, I heard that my editor loves Troubadour too, so travelled with a light heart.

Also because I managed to solve one of the worst e-mail problems I had ever had - no thanks to BT who rang from Bangalore and spent an hour and a half giving me wrong information. In the end I had to delete 25,000 e-mails from my Inbox on the BT website, which could be done only 200 at a time. But it worked.

In the end I took William Boyd's restless to Florence because I'd started it and it was so gripping. And then bought and read Beppe Severgnini's La Bella Figura which, in spite of its title, is in English. But I am also reading his "Un italiano in America" which genuinely is in Italian.

I saw the Fra Angelicos at San Marco,the Pieve churches in Borgo San Lorenzo and Scarperia, the Bargello, where I talked to the restorer of Donatello's David about a piece I'm writing for Italy magazine, and the Benozzo Gozzoli chapel in the Medici Palace. We also spent a lot of time in the Piazza della Signoria and the Piazza Duomo as well as Oltrarno.

But we also had a lot of days outside Florence - Borgo San Lorenzo, the Mugello, Forli and Villagrappa and a memorable last day by the sea in Viareggio. We visited a castle at Castrocaro, so named "expensive camp" after Galla Placidia had visited there and found the cost of lamb too high!

Since coming back I have seen an open air production of The Winter's Tale, which was better directed than acted. The director had the idea of acting it out as a told story, among and by a group of gypsies. This worked better than expected, apart from the storyteller saying at the end "and they all lived happily ever after" which Shakespeare is very careful NOT to suggest. Hermione addresses not one word to Leontes.

It always makes me laugh when the king sees the statue and says that his queen looks so much more aged and wrinkled than he remembers her. How ungallant! But even more amazing were the number of white heads in the audience (it was Senior concession night) who did not know the story!

I heard the demo tape of the new musical Only the Brave, which my daughter is going to Edinburgh with as Associate Producer. It will be a big hit, I'm sure.


Post a Comment

<< Home