June 21st, 2011

Calcio Storico

I had planned to take my students to see Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel two days ago, but the whole of Santa Croce (the church in Florence to which that wonderful chapel has been conjoined) was closed for the annual historical football tournament. So, desperate for some way of turning our disappointment around, we went to the match.

I will confess, none of us were quite aware that the outbreak of fighting, all over the field, was actually the start of the game. The object, we soon figured out, is to flatten everyone standing between your team mate holding the ball, and the defensive "end zone", thus allowing your team to advance without hindrance. Fabulous stuff. Fabulous, truly. The crowd comprised Florentine ruffians, of the worst order.
Even after 3 weeks of gentile activities (lectures, sketching, watercolour rendering), my students—I am proud to report—have not lost their common touch. In fact, they blended in amicably. Perhaps even too much. I am also pleased to report that I managed not to be sick when a leg was broken not far from where I was standing (as near as I could stand to the exit, as only seemed prudent). Only 4 stretchers left the field during the game. Play goes on around teams of medics, who don't get a rest. I only hope the winning team will have enough walking players to field in the final next Friday. Yay for Florentine football! And yay for Florence, the city that gave us the Renaissance, and perhaps the world's most bloody ball game. 

Walkable cities belong in the past

Simple preci: the medieval period gave us walkable cities. The twentieth century gave us drivable cities. Architects and planners holidaying in places like San Gimignano, in the 70s and 80s, saw an antidote to the whole world becoming like Houston, and tried to replicate those kinds of places in the boring cities they lived in. However, they had to water them down, eliminate the potential for tripping, give separation to houses facing the alleys, etc.. The result was too banal to be much fun for walking. What they ended up building, is better for cycling. And that is how cyclists inherited the post-industrial city.