by Sandra Massai Fallaci, ph. Alessandro Gambinossi
A different Florence under the snow
Is it magic or reality? This question pops to mind walking along the snowed streets of Florence, hidden beneath a blanket of cotton wool and maybe with a light mist which “blurs” things and people. The enchantment begins immediately in the morning when, opening the windows, one is fascinated by the city whitened with snow rendering it all the more unique. The rarified air, scented with ice and purity and the palaces and monuments which are so well-known, take on an extraordinary aura where the landscape is like something out of a fairy tale. A splendor, where not only tourists but the very same Florentines are left open-mouthed. It has often snowed in the last decades and each snowfall has its own special story. In January ’85, the coldest of the last century with minimum temperatures of minus twenty, even the Arno was frozen. There were contrasting opinions about the snow which had reached 40 centimetres in the city: from the children’s eagerness to the car drivers’ imprecations and the shop keepers’ disappointment, passing through painters’, photographers’, intellectuals’ and poets’ appreciation. Snow is always fascinating because, just like magic, it transforms the scenery inspiring paintings, tales, stories, fairytales, poems, proverbs, anecdotes, aphorisms, metaphors. From the world of art to literature to the rural saying: “Sotto la neve, pane” (Beneath the snow, there’s bread) it has always stirred interest, curiosity, wonder. Russian literature is an example: Tolstoj’s “The Snow Storm” or the great blizzard which hit Anna Karenina. Not to forget Chekhov, Pushkin, Pasternak, Gogl, Turgenev. It is normal to talk about snow in Russia, of course, but we’re not lesser than them: maybe we did not have the “screaming silence” of the great Russian winter nor the bells of Trojka but listen here to the Poet: “dilated flakes, falling slowly, like snow in the windless mountains..” (Inferno, XIV). It feels like being there, under the soft falling flakes. A sensation that repeats itself in front of certain paintings: how much does it move us to see snow with the eyes of Monet, Bruegel, Chagall, Cézanne, Sacharov? What is certain is that snow, like fog, creates a strange sensation of mystery, an atmosphere not to be missed sometimes like something out of Pascoli, suspended between reality and the unreal. It seems like a dream, but it isn’t: it’s Florence under the snow, and among the misty veils which wrap around it, it reveals a secret soul. An oxymoron? No, because mystery and reality merge. Because Florence is all this, and more. An eternal, extraordinary city.