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03 July 2010

Fourth of July, Tuscany
Brendan Hart, the monks Giovanni and Giuseppe, David M.

On the fourth of July the parish of S. Cresci in Valcava (near Borgo San Lorenzo) will celebrate the feast of their little known saint, the "evangelist of the Mugello." They will also be opening to the public my recently completed frescoes of the last days of the saint and his companions, martyred in the third century under the Emperor Decius. The church, ably maintained in the face of a dwindling congregation by the Silvestrine (Benedictine) monks Giovanni and Giuseppe, has benefitted from the support of several loyal parishioners, among them Lynn Fleming Aeschliman. What is delightful for me about this year's choice of day for the celebration is that, as an American born of second-generation immigrant parents (Slovak and Italian), implicitly acknowledged on the day of our independence is the inter-dependence of Italian and American culture, by no means a one-way street. For all of our museums enriched by Italian paintings, our classical buildings built by Italian craftsman, our cuisine and our couture, Americans have given back not only our dollars to the birthplace of the Renaissance, we have invested our sweat equity--of course in the War, but also the "mud angels" of the '66 Florentine flood, the many farmhouses lovingly restored by stranieri, and now in one ancient, small, remote church a new cycle of frescoes hinting at a new renaissance. And not just there: in Florence the multitude of Anglophone realist art programs are largely American in impetus, faculty and students.

But so many places in this richest of cultural landscapes are struggling through tough economic times. So, if you want an off-the-beaten track trip to a verdant, culturally rich landscape (nearby Vicchio being the birthplace of Giotto, Beato Angelico, and Lully) for a little peace, quiet and beauty, visit the monks at San Cresci in Valcava (t. +39 055 849 5612), who can offer accommodations, fabulous simple food, and good company (although they speak very little English). Nearby Capitignano is also a lovely place to stay. It's wonderful to see the original Renaissance, but there's something to be said for keeping your eye out for the new one afoot in and around Florence. And this time America has something to offer.

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