Nostalgia and European Wanderlust

Florence: the birthplace of the Renaissance and one of the original golden ages of Europe. The place where geniuses like Donatello and Michelangelo sculpted pieces like the David, Brunelleschi created the largest freestanding dome in the world, Giberti created bronze doors guilded in gold for an ancient baptistry, Leonardo da Vinci painted one of the most iconic paintings in the world, Arnolfo di Cambio was the architect behind so many of the political and Catholic buildings in the Mediterranean, and Giotto di Bondone planned the most memorable bell tower in the Tuscan world. Normally this city is just as bustling as it was back then, complete with leather venders around every corner, the smell of fresh cornetti and coffee, and cured prosciutto and cheeses in the small windows.

A poet once said that cities like this are more wonderful in the rain and I would like to agree, and this one is no exception. My flat mates and I took advantage of this rainy Saturday to study for midterms. In the midst of studying, we took a much needed break to enjoy a film called “A Midnight in Paris” written and directed by Woody Allen. In the film, there is a sense of nostalgia for Paris in the 1920s.

Being a History major and having a love of history, I have noticed I have this sense of nostalgia for a different time, this other supposed golden age. But the thing is, is that everyone has a different idea of the golden age. People in our present look towards Paris in the 1920s as the Golden Age, people in Paris in the 1920s looked towards the 1890s, those looked towards the Renaissance and the great thinkers of the Renaissance looked back at Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.

I also have this sense of European wanderlust for these cities of culture, painting, literature, architecture, sculpture, history, food. It’s this unhealthy idea of these romanticized cities, cities where things happened and people made history. Cities that are known to be beautiful beyond wonder and gave way for geniuses like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse.

I suppose I’m really hoping that if I go to these places, I’ll see what they see and understand the inspiration and need for change that they had felt in their time. It’s this sense of unrequited love with the intangible, the ideas and the love for a city that cannot possibly love you back.

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