Florence, A Delicate Case

Florence, A Delicate CaseDavid Leavitt

Bloomsbury USA, 2002
ISBN: 1582342393

David Leavitt brings the wonders and mysteries of Florence alive, illuminating why it is, and always has been, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

The lively account of expatriate life in the ‘city of the lily’ begins by asking why Florence has always proven to be such a popular destination for suicides, then moves into an analysis of what makes the city, in Henry James’s words, such a ‘delicate case’ for locals and visitors alike.

Moving fleetly between present and past, Leavitt’s narrative limns the history of the foreign colony from its origins in the middle of the nineteenth century until its demise under Mussolini, and considers the appeal of Florence to figures as diverse as Tchaikovsky, E.M. Forster, Ronald Firbank, Mary McCarthy, Mrs Keppel (mistress to King Edward VII) and Henry Labouchère, author of the Labouchère Amendment, under the provisions of which Oscar Wilde was convicted. Lesser-known episodes in Florentine history – the moving of Michelangelo’s David, and the construction of temporary bridges by battalions of black American soldiers in the wake of the Second World War – are contrasted with images of Florence today (its cast pizza parlors and tourist culture) as well as analyses of the city’s portrayal in such novels and films as A Room with a View, The Portrait of a Lady and Tea with Mussolini.

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