A man raised in a little town becomes Pope. He returns to find his hilltop town to be run down and deeply impoverished. He decides to rebuild (renaming it in the process – after himself) as a miniature, and first, model Renaissance town. This is Pope Pius II in Pienza (formerly Corsignano) in the middle of the 15th century.
A man raised in a little town – actually in an other-side-of-the-tracks village near a little town -- becomes a dictator. Inspired in part by Piena, he returns to his hometown, and merges the village and the town, makes his home an object of veneration, and provides a model for new town planning of future towns built south of Rome such as Sabaudia. This is Benito Mussolini in Predappio (which absorbed Dovia di Predappio, Mussolini’s birthplace) in the 1920s.
Which all goes to show you: that so much of history’s actions – and certainly many of the worst actions – can be traced back to childhood trauma and insecurity, and inability to move beyond it without acts of grandeur and violence. Tongue in cheek hyperbole, certainly, but with a touch of earnestness.
On our way home from Predappio and Cortona, we took a spectacular drive through Tuscany and stopped in Pienza for coffee and photographs. We were there on a special flower and plant market.
I picked up a slab of their specialty, pecorino, with bits of truffle inside. And four tiny cacti. Perfect, miniature worlds, like the miniature renaissance town that is Pienza, and like the rich pictorial and emotional world made by Cortona’s brilliant native son, Luca Signorelli’s, whose hand captures the reflection of burgundy (apologies: this color should be called “Montepulciano” in Tuscany) on the gold of a saint's dress.
Dietrich Neumann and Ruth Lo
Luca Signorelli, Lamentation over the Dead Christ (1502, Museo Diocesano, Cortona)