The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed are wonderfully vivid and perceptive descriptions of two great Italian cities, told through their history and art, revealing Mary McCarthy to be one of literature's greatest travelling companions.
Here she depicts Florence through its tempestuous past, from the reign of the Medicis to Savonarola's bonfire of the vanities. Her account is dominated by the splendours of the Renaissance - the statues of Michelangelo and Donatello, the architecture of Brunelleschi, the paintings of Giotto and Botticelli - but she also shows Florence as a living city with a bustling street pageant of sounds and smells. A 'gold idol with clay feet', McCarthy's Venice is a city of illusion and spectacle, carnival and commerce, entrancing visitors with its grandeur and richness, its reflection glittering in the waters of the Adriatic.
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