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Medici Archives and Scandicci Fan Page

By Davis Priest

Ciao a tutti! Welcome to my blog detailing aspects of my week in Italy. This project was inspired by the Vermont Italian Cultural Association. Their generous support allowed me to take the plunge (fare un tuffo) into the beautiful nation of Italy. My ambition is to synthesize some details and images from my time to share with friends and family. Thank you for reading!

Another week has drawn to a close. To begin, I want to comment on the place where I am living. The city is called Scandicci, it is located right outside of Florence and it is easily accessible by tram. 

The tram is absolutely wonderful. The tickets are 1,70 euro for 90 minutes of transportation access, which includes buses. Every 4 minutes, yes 1, 2 ,3, 4 minutes, a new tram arrives in the station. 

Anyway, the first night I spent in Scandicci I was enamored by this castle-esque building I saw in the distant hills. Every night it acts as the jewel of the hill, beautifully illuminated with soft lighting. Last Sunday despite a sky filled with gray clouds, I embarked on the walk up the hill to San Martino alla Palma. The walk was gorgeous, I was the only person on the roadways (Sunday being a typical day of rest). All this to say, Scandicci is wonderful, beautiful, and quiet. Also a rare gem because there are no tourists. 

On Monday, we officially start the program. The interns and our fearless leader (Emma) met in the office to discuss our ambitions, anxieties, and hopes for the summer appointment. Kata had the best quote of the meeting, “I do not have hopes and dreams, but I have a plan.”

The first day of the week was especially memorable because we had our first visit to the mythical Archivio di Stato. We got our cards granting access to the building, saw the reading room, and marveled at the space. A significant portion of the archive is available through MAP at On Tuesday, we had a deep dive into how to effectively use and locate documents through the online platform (which is open to the public, if anyone is interested in Medici court correspondences + more ). 

Tuesday was a significant day because I got an official card at the National Library of Florence. The cherry on top was reading a text about lawyers and statecraft in Florence in the special reading room. I was so pleased with this development that I biked to Oltrarno and had a spritz while finishing Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at a cool spot called il Conventino, an old convent now decorated with bookshelves and eclectic tables with an outdoor courtyard playing jazz music. 

Later in the week, I met up with Davide to discuss another aspect of my internship. We met outside of San Lorenzo and walked to a special library called the Riccardiana. The library holds a collection of rare books and manuscripts. Davide works closely with the library and was able to acquire a card for me. The ceiling is frescoed in bright sky-scapes with allegorical figures. Books line the walls from floor to barrel-vaulted ceiling. Davide and I look at a first edition publication of a 1499 book called Hypnerotomachina Poliphili

On Fridays, the interns meet for a weekly seminar in which we discuss our weeks, look at different types of documents, and talk about readings. We read two articles about the mechanics of daily life in the Renaissance focused on soundscapes and communal benches. Soundscapes largely referred to the presence and metaphorical/spiritual significance of church bells. To get a sense of the communal benches (pictures included), we embarked on a walking tour of the city to rank the surviving benches. “Communal benches” refer to benches that were built into the facade of a palazzo (public or private). They were a place to gossip and watch the world unfold.

At night I went to Fiesole, a beautiful town located above Florence where there is a reproduction of a Roman amphitheater on a site surrounded by Etruscan ruins.  I saw the Florence Jazz Orchestra perform in the theater, which was a nice way to conclude the week. 

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