Fall 2016 Newsletter

Florence and Siena: The Past is in the Present

Kate Lenahan
Cohort ’15

Nave of the Siena Cathedral. Photo by Kate Lenahan.

Nave of the Siena Cathedral. Photo by Kate Lenahan.

When I embarked on my journey abroad this summer, I was filled with a sense of excitement and trepidation. This would be my first visit back to Italy in nine years, where I lived in Florence for a summer studying stone lithography and figure drawing. On the eve of our visit to Florence, I had several questions. Were my memories of the city still accurate? Would I finish my presentation on time? Yet the most important question to me was, would I experience the same heart stopping exhilaration walking the streets again?

Michelangelo's David at the Galleria dell'Accademia. Photo by Kate Lenahan.

Michelangelo's David at the Galleria dell'Accademia. Photo by Kate Lenahan.

When returning to a place where a pure experience has occurred, we often look through rose coloured glasses in an effort to relive a time gone by. This was very much the case with my return to Florence. In a city so rich with culture and history, it is almost impossible to not see it without a sense of nostalgia. Within its glorious architecture, and narrow streets filled with shops both old and new, I struggled to find the exhilaration that was experienced nine years prior. Yet, finally, whilst wandering the Uffizi and imagining Florence in it’s glorious heyday during the Middle Ages, the wonder of Michelangelo’s David in the Galleria dell'Accademia, nostalgia broke open into a feeling of timelessness.

In this new mindset, I met the eclectic and jaw dropping architecture of Siena and its jewel, the Duomo. It was here I finally found the heart stopping exhilaration I had longed for in Florence. With its overwhelming interior and exquisite façade, this 13th century structure is simply breathtaking. Just as magnificent were the frescos by Ambrogio Lorenzetti located in the Palazzo Pubblico. What I found most fascinating was that these frescos depict civic life, a stark contrast to the majority of artworks created in the 14th century.

In a world driven on the future, it is easy to forget the past, and the fortune it enabled us. Both Florence and Siena are caught between worlds, old souls that represent a time of great change both culturally and artistically. Their presence reminds me to search for wonder in all aspects of life, because the past is evermore in the present.

Brunelleschi's dome over the Florence Cathedral from the balcony of the Uffizi Gallery. Photo by Kate Lenahan.

Brunelleschi's dome over the Florence Cathedral from the balcony of the Uffizi Gallery. Photo by Kate Lenahan.