Stendhal/Florence Syndrome

An ex lover once said to me, “I can’t believe you are real.”  Without getting too much into it, we were complete opposites of each other.  Not knowing what he meant at the time, I only responded with a look.  He proceeded to tell me a story from his childhood where a loving couple in his neighborhood were critically judged by others, being polar opposites, which left everyone scratching their heads, and were even ridiculed. Then my boyfriend looked into my eyes and said, “Now I understand.”  I realize now, looking back, that my then boyfriend was trying to tell me how strongly he felt for me.  I was absolutely smitten with him, too, but back then I could not comprehend to what depths of emotion he was feeling for me.  And I, like him, can now understand but most importantly, FEEL, the depths of passion when he said that he could not believe I was real because this is EXACTLY how high I feel when I travel.  To travel far, to Italy, where all my  senses were delightfully exploited, I cannot believe my trip was real.  Because I can recall with precision the exact moments of the 1,154 photos taken in Florence when reviewing them here, in Chicago, I felt like I’m in the movie, THE MATRIX, where the characters were physically in a chair while their minds were connected to a source where they could travel to anywhere.  Of course, confusion ensues.  Sometimes when you are ecstatic, happy, or in love, you question your reality.  As my heart and head are not in Chicago since returning from my trip, and I’m not exactly sure what happened to me in Italy to cause my feelings of disorientation and confusion, I decided to look on line if others experienced the same.  Yes.  Stendhal syndrome, also called Florence syndrome, is a psychosomatic disorder named after the 19th century French author, Stendhal, when he went to Florence and felt confusion, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat after seeing too much beautiful art all at once, especially at the Uffizi!  Thank goodness this feeling, this affliction I have,  was felt by another!  I felt better knowing that I am not crazy (well, maybe a little but in a good way!).  Since I felt more grounded today, a whole week since my last day in Italy, I can now write about my trip to Florence…

The high speed train ride to Florence on Saturday, March 9th, was less than an hour and a half long, and the scenery was stunning.  I had a seat all to myself by a window with very large windows, and I was excited that there was WiFi, drinks served, and I could charge up my iPhone!  I was really excited, still incredulous that I would actually BE in Florence, and couldn’t WAIT for my day to start.  However, I had much to do and I was a bit anxious all day long that there was a possibility that I would not get to see everything I came to see.  It was about 10 a.m. when the train arrived, and I immediately started walking toward the main center.  Unfortunately, I saw some boots at a window and decided to stop in.  I spent at least a half hour in there looking at the Italian boots and even bought a pair.  However, it was time for me to refocus and start my tour of Florence.

When I continued walking and saw the Duomo, the main church in Florence, I was moved.  I could not believe I was there, and I still can’t.  Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, it is a sight to see.  (If you knew the history of what these artists and architects faced in terms of their competitiveness at the time, you would be intrigued).  The dome is famous because it was actually a design competition that Brunelleschi won…over Lorenzo Ghiberti.  There was fierce competition between these two at their time so it makes it more fascinating to see.  I only took a quick tour of the inside so I could get to my next pleasure.

Right across from the Duomo is Lorenzo Ghiberti’s famous bronze doors of the Florence Baptistery.  The doors were also a competition where Ghiberti won, and Brunelleschi came second.  (How interesting since each other’s masterpiece is RIGHT across from one another).   It took 21 years (21 years!) for Ghiberti to complete the doors which depicts the life of Christ from the New Testament.  These doors are SO beautiful that even THE Michelangelo referred to them as “The Gates of Paradise.”  Yes, simply stunning.  But again, I had to be on the move.

I then walked to an art lover’s dream–the Uffizi Gallery which is one of the oldest and famous art museums of the Western world.  My mind still can’t wrap myself around the fact that I was there!  The view from the windows were spectacular, especially the view of the Arno River overlooking the Ponte Vecchio, another dream of mine!  Of course, too much famous art for me to list here, so I will just mention that I saw Botticelli’s THE BIRTH OF VENUS!  Perhaps two hours were spent here.  Feeling guilty buying souvenirs at the gift shop, I was anxious for my next adventure.

Time was running out, I felt, so I speed walked toward the Basilica of Santa Croce.  This is where the most famous Italians are buried.  My main goal for my visit was to pay my respects to Dante since he is THE reason I fell in love with Italy in the first place.  Because Dante was exiled from Florence and actually buried in Ravenna, there was just a monument at the Basilica.  Of course, Florence came to regret Dante’s exile and repeatedly asked Ravenna to return his remains, with Ravenna refusing to do so.  Since I was in awe of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, I had to pay my respects to him, too, at the Basilica.  After reflecting on the passing of the most illustrious Italians, I was reminded that our time here on earth is so very short.  These thoughts only ignite my fire to travel even more so.  WanderLust is king!

By now, it was getting dark, although it could have been the bad weather.  It was about 4 p.m., I believe, when I was rushing toward the Galleria dell’Accademia.  This is where the real DAVID by Michelangelo is housed.  You see copies everywhere, though, but you MUST see the real one when you visit.  My biggest regret in Florence (besides not spending another day there) was not taking the picture of the gorgeous little boy, maybe about 3 years old, riding a little tiny antique blue Vespa in his green rain poncho crossing my path.  Because it was raining and I had an umbrella in my hand with the bag of my boots in the other, I didn’t have enough time to put my umbrella down (it would have flown away, anyway) or my bag of boots AND get my camera out.  It would have been a stunning picture as I love taking pictures of kids at random, and I still think about him as he was singing a song, too.  His gorgeous presence still lingers in my mind…

Then, there HE was.  He looked like a white god.  Seeing DAVID was a surreal experience.  After studying the life of the artist, Michelangelo, during college, and seeing depictions of his work copied during my entire lifetime, you cannot imagine, once again, HOW spectacular HE is!  DAVID is much more grand in scale in real life.  Again, my brain could not wrap around the fact that the artist knew, he KNEW, that his DAVID would be admired from the ground looking up at his large presence. Michelangelo had to take this into account and, therefore, carve DAVID with certain exaggerated forms so that he would look “normal” from the perspective of the admirer!  Simply put, GENIUS.  STUNNING.  AMAZING.  GORGEOUS. SPECTACULAR!   I felt strange.  Where was I again?  Did I just see a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph amongst Greek and Roman sculptures?  Yes, but I don’t believe it…

When I got out of the museum, it was pretty dark but not quite.  My second regret in Florence (or is this my third?) is not being able to climb Giotto’s Bell Tower beca
use it was closed.  This was high on my list with 414 steps to climb, assuring me of heavenly views of the skyline of Florence.  Looking back I didn’t even climb the Duomo which, again, would have given me opportunities for exceptional photographs.  I was, really, quite distraught by this.  To fly all the way to Italy, then take a train to Florence and not climb the Duomo or the Bell Tower really, honestly, made me feel sick to my stomach.  There was only one cure, of course.  Shopping!

Another dream of mine was to go on the Ponte Vecchio, a Medieval stone bridge famous for still having shops on it.  If you ever saw pictures, it is beautiful.  Since all the museums were closed, I could only shop at this point.  Nothing wrong with that!  Well, after only going into one shop I ended up buying a watch, a gift for a friend, and a couple of other things for myself.  They stayed open later for me but all the shops closed at 7 p.m.!  By the time I got out it was 7:30, and the rest of the shops were all closed.  I felt sad and heartbroken that my day in Florence was over.  What was I to do now?  Eat!

Still raining, I sat outside under the heaters underneath a large awning.  I was feeling very sad at this point.  I didn’t get to do all that I wanted to do.  I decided that I would return one day starting with a couple of days in Florence, then travel to Milan, and then to Venice.  I had my dinner (being distraught, I don’t remember what the hell it was), and I had my glass of red wine.  Feeling a little better I started to walk toward the train station and stopped by a gelateria to cheer myself a bit more.  The store, Gilli, will be visited again when I return to Florence.  I had a pistachio gelato with two kinds of cookies on top along with a beautiful, plump chestnut as well as another sweet something that is Italian.  Yes, I felt better, especially since I checked off another item on my Bucket List.  Walking back to the train station in the rain, I kept looking back and taking pictures of the Duomo, still beautiful at night.  Yes, I shall return to Florence…



Not a bad shot from a
high speed train…


  Wow!  What beauty!

The Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno River
taken from a window at the Uffizi.

Detail and close up from Ghiberti’s bronze doors of
The Story of Joseph.


Dante, I bow to thee…


Imagine what the real David
looks like in person if this picture
is just a photo from a postcard…

About Blogatrixx

I took a solo trip to Istanbul in May, 2012 that changed me forever. It started my passion for travel, and it also ignited my passion for photography. This blog was created to express and appreciate the beauty of life through my travels.
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