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Friday, April 6, 2012

Fabulous Firenze

Last month I went to Italy in search of a man I have learned to love. My husband promises he won't be jealous since "the other man" died the same year Chris Columbus arrived in the New World, but he's right that I am fascinated by my new Italian interest.

When I first began reading about Lorenzo di Medici, I couldn't believe he was quite the powerhouse his biographers painted him to be. The first biography began with the statement: "Here was a man born in the Middle Ages who died in the Renaissance. The difference between them was his lifetime."

Really? This man brought the Renaissance all by himself? It didn't seem likely. So I started hunting for the real Lorenzo di Medici, and as it turns out, he probably did.

There are watershed moments in the world's history when all the right people come together in the same place at the same time to effect major change. One such happened when Adams, Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and a host of others each brought genius, personality, and grit to the founding of the world's first new nation.

Another such time happened in Florence, Italy at the beginning of the Renaissance when a group of geniuses--true "Renaissance men" as we've come to know them--gathered to change the world. And change it they did.

My buddy Lorenzo (we're chummy now; I call him Larry) was at the heart of it, using his own experience as a poet, statesman, architect and artist to recognize genius in others and his great resources as the richest man in the world to bring them together in one place. His actions as a statesman and diplomat created the period of peace in the Republic of Florence that allowed that collection of brilliance to shine and he used his influence to export what was happening in Florence to much of the known world.

In one superb illustration of his influence, he took 13-year-old Michelangelo from the studio where he was studying fresco painting, brought in a tutor (the 92-year-old last known student of Donatello) and created a sculpture school, making Michelangelo one of the first students. When M's father objected to his son "becoming a craftsman" and made his life difficult, Lorenzo took him into his own home as a foster son. Without Lorenzo, there'd have been no Michelangelo.

So I became a believer: Lorenzo di Medici was the architect of the Renaissance. That alone was enough reason to want to know him better. Then as I started thinking of what that sharp right turn in the history of the world had meant to human beings ever since, I began to realize what a critical role he had played in making my life (and everyone else's) what it is today. I said "I have to write about this" and I went in search of Lorenzo di Medici.

I found him. I walked in buildings he designed, touched art he commissioned, sat and pondered in his personal office, prayed in his personal chapel, and stood reverently at his grave. I feel I know him now.

"The Medici book," as my family has come to call it, is still on the back burner while I do more reading and study--and, incidentally, finish two other books I'm already working on, but it will happen and it will be the biggest and best fiction project I have ever undertaken.

Stay tuned. My buddy Larry and I have much more to share.