The world is smaller than we ever imagine. Or in this case at least, timing was coincidental. My friend Ruth Glendining in Austin, Texas, recently posted to my Facebook page about hidden rooms underneath Giambologna’s famous giant sculpture of an old bearded man in Pratolino. Check out the story here:
As luck would have it, artist Roberto Coccoloni had been invited me to his art opening at the Locanda, inside this same Parco Mediceo di Pratolino. Roberto is a stone and wood carver that I met many years ago at a dinner with Italians at Le Giubbe Rosse, the historical artists’ hangout in Firenze. Roberto has many sculptures on exhibition at the Locanda with a group of painters and photographers called Artisti Fiesolani.
Thankfully, Roberto called me last night to tell me to take Bus 25 from Piazza San Marco in Florence. I was visiting a friend in nearby Sesto Fiorentino and hopped on the train back to Florence in the drizzling rain and walked to the piazza. I did not realize that there was a bus that would take one almost directly to this famous park. Pratolino is at the end of the line for Bus 25. Then one walks in the direction the bus goes when it leaves. Make the first right; then right again a block away where the road Ts. The park is a short walk downhill on the left. It is very easy to find. [But to warn you, I caught the 25L bus back and it only takes one to Piazza Libertà in Firenze. The later and last bus [25A] last evening left at 8:45 p.m. It may have returned me to Piazza San Marco.]
I had hoped to arrive in time to see the changes since my first visit five years ago. But between the drizzle and the fading light, I chose to just go see Giambologna’s Gigante again before heading over to the exhibition. Giambologna created his giant old man sculpture titled Il Colosso dell'Appennino (“The Apennine Colossus”) in 1579-1580. It is true that there are rooms underneath his art, but I have not been inside any of them.
Can you imagine the surprise of people centuries ago who traversed this land and stumbled upon this enormous figure in the landscape? Even today, Il Colosso slowly reveals himself behind a fence, tall grasses and large lily pads and other pond plants edging a small lake. You may get an idea of his size by seeing the small doorway in front of the pond.
A pretty cool dragon guards the backside of this seemingly gentle giant. Two levels of grotto or rooms are below. One may see inside the lit room a headless standing marble figure.
I headed into the exhibition in La Locanda building. Roberto greeted me warmly and I went inside to see his art on the ground floor, and then the upstairs for the 2-d art. During the presentation, there was music and a sort of theatre musical performance of a woman dancing and singing in a soulful and mournful operatic voice. Here is an image of Robert’s sculpture Gesto [“Gesture”] in marble and Pietra vacica [the black stone on the head]. It is 30 h x 10 x 10 cm, created in 2006.
Although I received an invitation to join Roberto and his friends for dinner, I was afraid that there was not enough time for me to catch the last bus back to Firenze and opted out. However, before I said my goodbyes, I told them that I HAD to go see again Il Colosso in the dark! I had an idea from the lighted pathways that he might also be lit. I could not imagine when I might be back to Pratolino and if the sculpture were even accessible normally after the sun has set. I snapped what photos I could, without a tripod sadly and in the light rain. I was happy that the others had followed me out a little later and told me that I had had an ottima idée!
The rain was starting to come down more and I was pretty cold. I had no umbrella and was not dressed properly. Sadly, I have not yet been able to retrieve the things I left in storage in Italia. All I have with me is what I packed for the plane ride from the USA. People who pay attention to such things might know that I carry far fewer personal items and clothes than I do computers and art materials, so I have had little to wear this first week in Italia and the weather is dramatically cooler than what I experienced during my time in the States. Whoops… that was not fore-thinking of me!
Here are my posts about this park back in 2010, my first visit. The park has been closed for 3-4 years for restoration. Entrance last evening was free, but they have put out a tip jar if you feel so inclined. That is an amazing offer since it must have cost them a fair amount of money to close for several years to work on the place. I am delighted that it is open again.
Thank you for reading and making it all possible.