Correspondence

Papal Soap

The domiciliary organ of the host to which I have now attached myself is the cavernous Renaissance of every spiritual parasite's dreams, most of it still inhabited, in that Cherry Orchard kind of way which keeps grand English country houses tottering but not always falling to the National Trust, by the descendants of the Florentine merchant prince who, in 1620, bought what was then the Palazzo Acciaiuoli, designed by Buontalenti shortly before he completed the Palazzo Uffizi. Some years later, the family acquired from the waning Medici the much larger Gasino di Parione, which became their principal residence and is today the most important private museum of art in Florence. The lesser palace, however, has a private garden, a Baroque jewel set in box and lemon by Gherardo Silvani, where I can stroll, pick persimmons, and occasionally think of something to say in this letter.

Naive as this may seem to anyone who has made a day trip to Florence or owns an encyclopedia, I do not want to name the princely family. The fig leaves carefully placed, at some sticky historic moment, on all the male statuary in the palace once known as the Casino di Parione, which now bears the family's name, do not diminish the pleasure of the proceeding. There is a hint in this for our times, one which I myself heeded but little in the course of a perversely frank and shamelessly prolonged adolescence. Now I know better. Unfortunately, I'm...

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