A revisitation of the Grand Tour, observations of tourism and the lack of it during the lockdown months, two years of a growing friendship with this land, however it may be described, this is the record that I have to show. I present a selection of 10 images, a recollection of my journey through and with Tuscany.
Over these past 2 years I have spent my time getting to know Tuscany. Like a good friend, it goes in waves and flows and it takes time but we hit it off immediately. The visual beauty captures you, no one can deny that. But there is a depth to the journey that you take if you wish to take, which goes beyond that. I have been taking that journey and probably always will as I feel it may be a lifetime connection. The hot summers merge into cool autumn days and the colours change and come as you could only imagine. In fact the way they come you could only imagine them, but in reality they are even better. Since my arrival I also lived through a lockdown and that was a very different perspective to come upon. I was lucky though, as a photographer, to find this place so empty gave me an unusual space to discover. That space was essential and I was gifted with the opportunity to live beyond the 'circus', which was not my word but that of a local Florentine as he described the city to me during those early months. I had started working on a project called 'The Florentines' as I wanted to discover the real local people so I was interviewing some to ask about their experiences. In a culture where tourism has taken its grip and toll, you have to dig to find the authentic sometimes and I was looking for that depth, the origin and what that meant.
The 'circus', as it was described to me, was justified. The city was alive in the summer it seemed purely for tourism, like a performance. But what did that really mean, I asked myself. How was it that way and what may be lost within that, what happens to things? The space which was there after the tourists had left, during the lockdown months, gave me the clarity to see for myself. My 'getting to know' period was a unique experience as I found myself at times alone on the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge, which you normally can't move on. Vasari's Corridor silently content within its own space during the afternoon sun and Hercules stood looking over the Piazza della Signoria with nothing but pigeons to take his gaze. Then slowly during 2021, I watched the travellers and tourists return. It was busy enough but nowhere near as busy as previous years, before 2020.
It was mainly Europeans that we found that year until the students arrived in the Autumn to resume their studies. From there it slowly returned to a 'normal' tourist city, arriving in 2022 with their numbers even greater than before and they say the season longer than ever. But amongst all of this movement I felt the beat of the city, walked amongst the people all year long and saw it within, above and beyond the tourism too. Tuscany amazes me with its resilience, the culture and traditions which continue to survive and even thrive and the beauty of the nature that reveals itself month after month, stronger than ever. Those hills and sunsets, the seasonal shifts and the produce that it brings. Truly a heartening place, a place which may invite you to go into depth and put your feet on the ground. When the tourists came at the height of this summer, we would sit at the bar and it was fun to meet with so many interesting people, travellers who came to experience what Tuscany promises, the dolce vita. People chase that dream and I don't blame them. But what they may discover is that in order to find it, you may not need to rush around seeing all the famous icons, queueing for hours to do so. These are all great things to do and have their place, but it seems that the true essence of the Tuscan dream, the true dolce vita, lives in the slow moments when it seems nothing much happens but you just breath and feel.
We did it this way during the summer months and many people who passed by, did it too. Friendships were formed, wine was lived and breathed, discussed and stories told. Corks were smelled, cheeses were paired, sunshine was a given and we let it live the way it was. You don't find the dolce vita, it finds you if you are quiet and patient enough to let it. The photographs in The Tuscany Collection are some of those moments, each one breathed, each one lived, fleeting and eternal all at once.
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