FILMING FILIPPO

Home to dome

by David Battistella   (issue no. 150/2011 / October 13, 2011)

TF's new column is by filmmaker David Battistella, who moved to Florence from Canada earlier this year to pursue his dream: writing and producing a feature film based on Ross King's 2000 book Brunelleschi's Dome, about the life of Filippo Brunelleschi and the building of Florence's cupola. A transplanted Italian-Canadian, David will share stories about being a ‘reverse immigrant,' an Italian who was born abroad and returns to an Italy that is vastly different from the one his parents left in the 1950s. The column will chronicle David's pursuit of his dream, including anecdotes of his new life in Florence and his efforts to finance and launch his ambitious project. 

 

 

Florence in January is balmy, damp and what Italians call ‘cold,' but for me, coming from Toronto it felt like early spring. With two days to find an apartment, I quickly settled into a little attic place just east of the Cupola and Santa Maria del Fiore. The greatest feature in this place is a tiny porthole window with two steps up to it; revealing a perfect view of Brunelleschi's Cupola. 

 

From here, I observed the Cupola in different light, daytime, nighttime, dawn, dusk, rain and fog. Every morning I look to it and say, 'Good morning Filippo.' The building never disappoints. Something within the design creates an optical illusion in different lighting conditions. Florentines will even agree that the egg shape takes on different qualities. On blue-sky days it seems to stretch upward, cresting taller toward the heavens, like a soldier called to attention. On rainy days it seems shorter and takes on a stalky-bulldog character, as though it carries the burden of the day's weather on its proud shoulders. Just before bedtime, I'd peak out the window, marvel at it's magic and say good night to the Cupola.

 

On an early January night, the Christmas lights still illuminated the wet pavement along via dei Servi. Walking the city and breathing the damp cool air while feeling the worn cobblestone under my feet put life back into my body. The energy here-one might call it a force-is something that all great cities have. It could be described as a personality, a place with a specific vibe.  Florence spews this kind of fascinating creative energy, like a wellspring from the ground water, the creative veins run quietly underneath it all.

 

It's cheerful and morose at the same time. The people are very friendly (when smiled at) and cordial (when you are not in their way). More than this, Florence feels like a compass point on planet earth, acting like a magnet for a specific kind of human. The essence of this place demands rigorous thinkers, stoic citizens with grit. Like New York in the seventies, it's not for pushovers.

 

During my first week in Florence, my first order of business was to climb the Cupola again. My companion was my camera, and I made a little film documenting my walk from my new home to the world's most famous dome, enjoying the privilege of a view that I am certain has evolved over 600 hundred years. Take a look for yourself: http://www.vimeo.com/18575635.

 

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