THE CITY OF FLORENCE by R.W.B. Lewis

THE CITY OF FLORENCE

Historical Vistas and Personal Sightings
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A charming personal tour through the history, art, and architecture of Florence. Having lived there on and off for the last several decades, Lewis (The Jameses, 1991, etc.) sees the city as an inhabitant rather than a tourist. Keeping a journal during his many extended stays, he eventually found himself ``writing what was in effect a partial biography of Florence, essentially the story of its shaping; combined with...personal reminiscences of life in the city.'' It is precisely this interweaving of the personal and the historical that lends the book its great charm. Few places can match the layered history that makes Florence a palimpsest of European and Italian civilization. Lewis notes that the city is not just the cradle of the Renaissance but a synthesis of the Roman, medieval, Renaissance, and modern, where the sacred and the profane have coexisted in creative tension for over a millennium. Particularly strong is the description of the river Arno's importance, including a history of the several bridges that span its sporadically violent waters and of the achievements of generations of architects whose designs ensured that the city exists in harmony with the river. Despite its division into fiercely independent quarters, writes Lewis, Florence remains an insieme, a word that roughly translates as ``a together-ness.'' Reflecting the 15th century's civic humanism, the city today is still res publica (the people's thing) and eminently livable. At a time when many of the world's urban areas are in crisis, this book reminds us that cities were once perceived as works of art, reflections of all that was best in the human spirit. Combining scholarship and humanity, Lewis has crafted a wonderful book that gives voice to the city. (Illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-374-12404-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995




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