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Train Strikes and the Poliphili

June 23, 2024

Dear readers,

Welcome back! Another week has drawn to a close. The week began with a small but very Italian disappointment. I was planning to visit a fellow intern friend Kata in Pisa (she is a student at the University of Pisa). There is a month-long celebration in Pisa that begins with a ceremony in which all the buildings along the river are lit with candles. I went down to the station, arriving 2 minutes before my scheduled train, and rushed to the board to see the track assignment.

To my great surprise, the trains on the board read: CANCELLATO, CANCELLATO, CANCELLATO. There was a great air of frustration and confusion in the station, which turned out to be a product of a Trenitalia strike that was transpiring. For those unfamiliar, the Italian constitution stipulates that striking is the recognized and protected constitutional right of workers to collectively withdraw their labor in order to promote their own interests. The strikers are not required to give notice prior to their strike.

And don’t get me wrong, all power to the workers, but I was disappointed to miss the festival in Pisa. Anyways, it’s not a trip to Italy without a strike, or lo sciopero.

On Monday I rebounded from this disappointment. I met Davide at the Lauranziana Library connected with the church of San Lorenzo. The library was opened in the 1570s, funded by Medici pope Clement as a statement of Medician intellectual power. San Lorenzo was designed by Brunelleschi (he also constructed a certain dome in the city) and acted as an important site of Medici piety. The Medici’s palace is situated on the left corner of the piazza.

Michelangelo was also involved with the church in various capacities. I was able to ascend his world-famous staircase to the old reading room (shown above). The staircase lives up to its art historical hype; it is very peculiar in its selection of decorative elements.

At the Lauranziana, I continued work on the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. One aspect of my work with MAP is involved with a manuscript of a novel originally published in 1499. The title translates to Poliphilo’s Strife of Love in a Dream. Poliphilo, the protagonist, pursues his love Polia (the allegory of multiplicity) in a dream. One of the most interesting elements of the manuscript is the 172 woodcuts in the early Renaissance style depicting surreal architecture or beautiful exotic gardens or other dreamlike landscapes.

I am tasked with creating an annotated bibliography of this text. To accomplish this, I must frequent libraries around the city to look at texts about this book. There is a decent amount of scholarship on the book, and I have found some (relatively convincing) arguments that the text was written by Leon Battista Alberti* himself.

On a more recreational note, I have located a pool. In Casine Park, there is an outdoor pool with ‘nuoto libre,’ or free swim, from 7 to 8.30 p.m. I went every day of the week as a desperate escape from the summer heat. My initial surprise when entering the pool was that there were no lane lines! I honestly was unsure how to proceed but I just started swimming back and forth along one of the painted lines on the bottom of the pool. On the third day, some fellow swimmers explained to me the system of movement after questioning my back-and-forth method. So now I understand the Italian free-swimming system. Grazie a dio.

Sterling silver sunglasses

Fried polenta on a shaved radicchio topped with charred green peppers and salt cod sauce

Well, that's all for this week. Thanks for reading!

*Britannica: Leon Battista Alberti (born Feb. 14, 1404, Genoa—died April 25, 1472, Rome) was an Italian humanist, architect, and principal initiator of Renaissance art theory. In his personality, works, and breadth of learning, he is considered the prototype of the Renaissance “universal man.”

P.S. I absolutely do not understand how the blogger photo spacing/formatting works(!)

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