Florence May 11/18
My three weeks leave is now coming to a close and I expect to leave at six in the morning for Monselice and the will get back to work. I have had simply a splendid time and have learned enough to know the places to go next time I get some.
I think you will be interested to hear about the Pitti picture gallery. I have been there twice now and wish I had the time to go again. I find that in looking at pictures no matter how good they are one tires very shortly so there is the advantage in going more than once.
This PITTI pallery is one of the finest in the world and contains some of the best and most valuable pictures. I met an American there yesterday and he showed me some of the best. I will enclose a copy of what he told me was the most popular picture in the world La Madonna della Seggiala by Raphael. If anyone wants to paint this picture he has to put in his application at least ten years before his turn will come. It has a very interesting story. “One day Raphael was walking outside Rome and he chanced to come across a mother and her child sitting in a chair outside a tavern with some empty beer barrels nearby. Struck by their beauty he persuaded another child come beside them and then and there made a sketch of them on the end of one of the Beer barrels.” Thus was painted one of the worlds most famous pictures and one can see if he looks closely the cracks as they would appear in the end of the barrel.
Another in the Madonna del Granduce which one has to wait eight years to paint. It is by the same artist. One which impressed me very much was San Giovanni by Andrea del Sarto, although not so famous. They say that had he lived longer he would have outrivaled Raphael but he died young of starvation neglected by his fellow Florentines to whom he bequeathed such valuable legacies.
I visited a shop afterwards where carbon prints etc of all the famous pictures are kept. Then I thought you might like one or two as souvenirs of my visit to Florence so I invested in a few and am registering them to you. There is one of each of the three postcards which I enclose, one larger on of Giotto’s tower the most perfectly built and beautiful in the world and one of the Ponte Vecchio the view I have had every night for the past week. I only hope they reach you safely and if they do I may send on a few other little articles. I wish you would take one of them, whichever you like and frame it and give it to Pearl and the Dr. There will be a royal Bank dividend and a war loan coupon coming to my name sometime so please let them pay for it.
Wednesday I was asked out to lunch at Fiesole by the Rev. Canon Knallys an English church clergyman whom I met in Capri and who has charge of a church here. He is very jolly gentleman not at all like our idea of parsons. We had an enjoyable time despite the fact that it rained. There were two British officers as well which made it more interesting.
I told you about the old lady I met last Sunday but I forgot the very pretty story she told me about a certain monument in the Piazza San Giovanni. “Many years ago there was a very very good bishop who used to do all kinds of miracles because of his goodness, and he lived in a large house just near the Cathedral. There was an old fig tree in the Piazza San Giovanni which had been dead for a long long time and had been neglected to be pulled up. Well one day this bishop died and as his bier was taken through the Piazza the carriers stumbled and it knocked against the dead fig-tree. Immediately the fig tree came to life leafed out and bore fruit as if it had never been dead. The people were wonder struck and took every care of the tree afterward. Then a long time since the tree died and the grateful people erected a marble column with a bronze figtree on the spot to commemorate both it and the bishop”. “Let those believe it who like” said the lady “but I always believe in miracles.”
The other night I saw the house of Romola only a short distance from where I am staying. From the balcony of the hotel I can see the ponte Vecchio where Tito was attacked on that last night and jumped over into the river and also where he landed farther down and was strangled by the little old man who knew but the one thought “Vengeance”.
Then I told you about where Savonarola met his death and the church of San Marco where he preached after being expelled from the Duomo and the monastery where he lived. It is wonderful to be walking in the same places and seeing the same things that those great and historical people saw so long ago. For Florence is barely changed from that time. All her old monuments are preserved and she presents just about the same spectacle as then.
I don’t know about other countries but in Italy the poorer people are feeling the war terribly. By terribly I mean that some of them are finding it impossible to keep body and soul together, much less clothe themselves. I met an American here who has been here 4 years and he is working for the American Red Cross with his doing as much as it can for these people. He visited one place this afternoon where there is a family of ten. The father earns 4 lire a day about 50 cents, the mother is sick and one of the girls earns 1,50 lire. The eldest boy is in the army and cannot help at all. That makes about seven cents per day per head for every thing and food and every thing else is twice as dear as it was one year ago. I wonder if the government of the nations especially Germany really comprehended the amount of want and suffering they would cause when they flew at each other’s throats. And the end is not yet, every one is preparing, the preparing and thinking the next struggle will be the last and Germany will be broken. I tell you it is the first time the U.S. did something and people here are getting a little restless. I could tell you a horrible scandal about the U.S. airplanes but I won’t, all I will say is that all American aviators over here are driving other makes of machines. However I am talking too much down. Today’s paper was better and I really think it will be over soon and I will be crossing the pond backwards. I hope so at any rate. I saw some strawberries in a store today and they made me feel horribly homesick. I expect Dad will be buying them when you get this letter.
Well I must close. When I get back tomorrow I expect there will be a bunch of mail waiting for me. I hope so at any rate. Oh have they given up white bread in Canada yet? I hope not for the stuff we get here is dark brown, coarse and tastes just like flour of shavings.
Remember me to anyone interested. Give my love to Dad, Con, Pearl and Co. and Gyp. Then keep an abundant supply for yourself.