Sharecropping

I first went to Italy when sharecropping had been only abolished a few years earlier and contracts still had to run their legal course. It was a way of cultivating the countryside, I was told, that had lasted unbroken since Roman times, so for nearly twenty-one...

Hibiscus

Behind the ruin, which is now the house where I am writing this, were the usual weeds and a few bushes. It was a hot August day, and most were wilting, but on one side I noticed a light purple flower with yellow stamens. Ah, I thought, this is an attractive weed, and...

Fame

Giorgio Vasari has a lot to answer for, like many people with a mission. An artist himself, he covered the ceiling of the huge council chamber in the Palazzo della Signoria in the centre of Florence with earnest historical paintings of battles and heroes, there to...

Visiting Verrocchio

500 years ago Leonardo died in France. In 1452 he was born to a peasant girl in the village of Vinci not far from Florence. His father, a Florentine lawyer, had no legitimate male heir, so decided to adopt him. He probably always felt he was an outsider, so it would...

Florentine lilies

My early enchantment with Tuscany must have been influenced by EM Forster’s ‘A Room with a View’ which took place at this time of year. The month of May caught the last of the nightingales and the very first fireflies that dance over the meadows...