Florence is drenched in art. It is on every corner, down every cobbled street, in every piazza and palazzo. Never mind Tony Blair’s genteel “hand of history” on your shoulder. In this Tuscan city, history pulls you into her arms, kisses you passionately, then swings you around and around until your head spins.
For some people, this is more than a metaphor. The myriad masterpieces in Florence actually make them ill. Symptoms of “Florence Syndrome” include nausea, dizziness, fainting, panic attacks, hyperventilation, tachycardia, temporary amnesia and disorientation. Some hallucinate. Some end up in hospital, literally overwhelmed by beauty.
Despite sounding like something from a romance novel, the psychological disorder is an actual thing, documented, and with the victims to prove it. …
The Romans. Famous for their straight roads, underfloor central heating, emperors, gladiators, cities, togas… Ask who invented something ancient and clever, and a spectral Roman arm will rise up from the annals of history and stake claim.
But none of the above ideas are Roman, even though they want us to believe they are. They have tried to erase the real founding civilization from getting the credit they deserve.
Well, enough is enough.
Step forward Etruscans. It’s your well-deserved turn in the spotlight.
The Etruscans were an ancient and powerful pre-Roman civilization who lived in Etruria. If Italy is a thigh-high boot, then Etruria is an inverted triangle which begins just above the front of the ankle and swoops upwards and across the thigh to the Veneto. Although there is evidence of Etruscan inhabitation at either end of Italy, the real focus is in north Lazio, Tuscany and western Umbria. …
When award-winning Dutch innovation expert Henk van Oosten retired, he wasn’t interested in taking up golf or bridge. Instead, he decided to solve one of ancient history’s most enduring mysteries.
Using skills acquired over many years in foresight studies and his experience as a sailor, he took on the knotty topic of the Trojan War and Odysseus’ travels. Were they just myths conjured up by Homer to entertain his Greek audience or could they be something more?
He treated the search as if it were one of his innovation projects, using wide spectrum thinking and knowledge from diverse fields. And in doing so, he has come up with a tantalising hypothesis. He believes that the Trojan War was not fought over the breathtakingly beautiful Helen of Sparta and based in the Mediterranean. …
On February 24 this year, I wrote one of the first articles about the Coronavirus as I watched dramatic scenes unfold from our apartment in the historic centre of Florence, Italy. In front of my eyes the city closed down, changing from a bustling, vibrant, tourist-filled Tuscan icon to a ghost town in a matter of days. On February 24 the death toll in the whole of Italy was two souls. It was pre-lockdown, but I knew from the unprecedented events I was witnessing that something very big was happening.
Apart from describing the situation on the ground from what turned out to be the hardest hit country in Europe and the first to lock down, the article was about fear-mongering and how that could be a greater potential danger than the virus. To my surprise, the piece went viral and to date has had over 264K views. It was very much a case of right place, right time, if that doesn’t sound too trite. At times as the numbers of views literally went up as I watched, I felt quite scared of its “success”. Who was I to be writing such forthright stuff anyway? …
The legendary lost island of Atlantis. Everyone’s heard of it and everyone’s got an opinion.
Was it just an elaborate fiction given to us by the Greek philosopher Plato in 360 B.C.? Or was it a “mother culture”, a real place with an advanced Stone Age civilization?
The answer is a bit of both.
The legend of Atlantis was passed down by word of mouth thousands of years before Plato first heard it, so it’s hardly surprising that some details got distorted over time. Truth became history, history became legend and legend became myth. Plato’s account is exaggerated, contains historical errors and even combines two separate locations. …
I once mistook a red tractor for a flowering shrub. “Look! A rhododendron in the middle of all that corn!” I shrieked happily to my friends. “Nature is so amazing!”
Their understandable response was to suggest I had my eyes tested.
Seeing clearly was helpful. But it also made life less blurrily beautiful. Freed of its task of turning indistinct trashcans, stones and shopping carts into fairies, magical objects and random flowers my brain started delivering life as it really was, with all its sharp angles and hard edges.
I hated my glasses with a vengeance. I still do. In my opinion they are only attractive on librarians in movies, who suddenly take off their specs, release their mane of unexpectedly wild curls and gaze seductively (if short-sightedly) at some entranced physics professor returning a book. …
It’s time for some blue sky thinking about air pollution.
What if we stopped trying to put the wispy genie back in its bottle? Stopped trying to cut pollution and instead accepted it as inevitable? What if we considered salvaging it instead of eliminating it?
American futurist R. Buckmaster Fuller wrote: “Pollution is nothing but resources we’re not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.”
Now there’s a revolutionary thought. Pollution as a valuable resource.
It would be wonderful if the swift action that closed the world down in four weeks could be applied as decisively and collectively to solving the pollution crisis. But the urgency of escaping a mad axeman is always going to eclipse slow death by a thousand cuts. …
We’re having “virtual aperitivi”: me, my husband and two friends chatting over Zoom in four separate locations in Italy. My husband, a chef as well as a vicar, has actually made mini bread, cheese and olive canapes which he holds up to the screen. We reach out to take a pretend portion, then toast each other with our assorted drinks.
Inevitably, we start to talk about the virus and how we are coping. We take turns to explain what it’s like where we are. It’s my go. “Well, even though the death rate nationally is 9.9 percent, with Lombardy at 13.6 percent, our numbers are low here. …
Fast forward a year. You’re watching the Hollywood movie of the Coronavirus pandemic. The troubled but charismatic detective has “followed the money” and is about to reveal the culprit. A woman in green is standing with her back to the camera. “OK, you had me fooled for a while, but now the game’s up, it’s all over,” says the detective, who is fond of a cliché or two.
“Oh, now that’s where you’re wrong” says the figure quietly, as the camera slowly pans round to reveal her identity to a collective gasp from the movie theatre audience. …