Bees: a public service message

I love reading the posters that are found around Florence. They are both art and public service messages. Although my photo isn’t the best, I hope you can see that this poster celebrates the bee!

The text tells us (roughly translated by me) that “thanks to the untiring activity of the bees, life goes forward: they travel about 150,000 kilometers to produce a kilogram of honey. They gather nectar from a combined surface equal to 4000 times the surface of the Florence cathedral dome.”

That’s a very big dome!

The temporary installation at the Piazzale Michelangelo

If you are lucky enough to arrive at the Piazzale Michelangelo, just above Florence, right now, you will get to enjoy this pretty temporary installation of the “gigli” which is the floral symbol for Florence.

The floral shape is generally said to be based upon the lily (as is the French fleur-de-lis), but there are many in Florence who are convinced the symbol is based upon the iris. Chissa?

The detested, necessary evil, part of living in Italy

Once a year, expats like me must go to the police station, or the Questura, in order to maintain the privilege of living in Italy. One is required to visit the police station to submit passport pictures, sign a form, and have your index finger prints checked against the full set of your fingerprints that were taken the first time you applied for a Permesso. I love Italy. I hate the Questura and Italian paperwork.

All of this is to get a renewed “Permesso di Soggiorno,” which is my permit to reside in Italy. It is good for one year and must be renewed annually. If you fail to renew and you get into any kind of trouble in Italy (car accident, etc.) things could get serious. You will probably have to leave the country, post haste, and, unthinkably, they could revoke your privilege of ever returning to Italy even as a tourist. Horrors!

Things get very Italian even once you have a renewed Permesso. For example, my “current” Permesso, which I picked up in person at the Florence Questura last summer, after standing in line on a July morning and afternoon for 6 hours straight in the summer sun (and I am not exaggerating), expired in October. You got that right. I picked it up in July and it expired in October. The same year.

So, before the end of October of 2020, I had to start the process over again.

This is a 3 part process and can take almost a year to fulfill.

  1. You start with paperwork that you can only get from one or two particular post offices in Florence. Sometimes they don’t have the paperwork available. Honestly. It has happened to me. You wait and keep trying.

When you finally score the correct forms, you fill them out in black ink only, go to a tobacco store (seriously) to buy a special stamp, then go back to the particular post office and submit the form, along with some fees. They give you a receipt and you must carry that around with you, along with your expired Permesso, in case you get into any trouble.

2. The receipt you are given at the post office, which was in October in my case, gives you a date on which you must show up at the Questura to present these 2 passport photographs of yourself, supply your new signature, and have your fingerprints tested. Why you couldn’t just submit the extra photographs when you submit the form at the post office, I will never understand. The fingerprints, I get it, but really, couldn’t they be tested at visit 3?

In my case, I told you I submitted my newest application for my renewed Permesso in October of 2020. Can you guess when my next appointment, Step 2, was for? May 3, 2021 at 11:38 a.m. That’s deeply ironic as well. I arrived at the Questura on May 3 at 10:30 a.m. because this ain’t my first rodeo. The 11:38 time reservation is just a vague suggestion. I got my number for entering the actual building of the Questura at 12:30 and I was seen at the window for my actual appointment at 1:45 p.m.

But, that’s right, it took 7 months from step 1 to get to step 2, for a Permesso that is only good for 12 months to begin with!

3. Then, sometime later you will receive a text or an email telling you the date on which you must return to the Questura to pick up your new Permesso. For me, it will probably be sometime this summer and the new one will probably expire again in October of this year, and then I get to go through the whole rigamarole again.

We all hate it. The Questura is chaos. Confusion reigns. No-one seems to be in charge, although the police that stand outside the doorway are technically in charge. They seem to hate their job. They are gruff and short-tempered, but they control the numbers that you will eventually get, and they allow you into the building on their own schedule.

Here is the questura once you get inside. You watch the red lighted board for your number. They are on A070 as you can see.

Here’s my ticket. A092. It will be a while before I get to the window, to be mistreated by an irate clerk.

The French tradition of giving muguet des bois for May Day

Did you know that in France there is a long tradition of giving lily-of-the valley on the first of May, as a way of wishing good luck?

And did you further know that the tradition was begun in the Renaissance?

In 1560, King Charles IX was traveling with his mother, Catherine de’Medici, and they stopped in the town of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, where they were given lily-of-the-valley on their arrival on May 1. The King was so taken with the gift that the following year he gave the same floral gift to all of the ladies of the court, and he let it be known that he wanted this custom followed every year from than on.

And so it was until at least the late 19th-century. Interestingly enough, the customer was revived by couturiers in Paris in the early 20th century, who began giving lily-of-the-valley to their best customers.

The French clothing and perfume designer, Christian Dior, loved the small flower as his favorite “fortune” flower. He chose the flower as his personal symbol and designed a perfume using it as a strong note in his “Diorissimo,” launched in 1956.

“The nose behind the “Diorissimo” fragrance is Edmond Roudnitska. Top notes are Green Leaves and Bergamot; middle notes are Lily-of-the-Valley, Lilac, Jasmine, Lily, Ylang-Ylang, Amaryllis, Rosemary and Boronia; base notes are Civet and Sandalwood.

“Diorissimo is a romantic fragrance of the 50’s. At its heart, a gentle lily of the valley, blooms as Dior’s favorite “fortune” flower. Diorissimo is fresh and clear, just like a dewy, spring morning in the woods. Top notes include lily-of-the- valley and ylang-ylang, the heart is composed of amaryllis and boronia, leaving a jasmine trail.

“Christian Dior believed that lily-of-the valley is the symbol of hope, happiness and joy. French consider lily of the valley as the legendary flower. According to the legend a brave and fearless fighter, called Saint Leonard wanted, to spend his days among the flowers and trees and live a life dedicated to God. He asked permission to go live in the woods. A dragon called Temptetaion lived in those woods. They fought and blood was spilled. Leonard bravely fought the dragon until it was defeated. Poisonous weeds began to grow where the dragon spilled his blood, but beds of lilies of the valley started to grom wherever the ground was moistened with Saint Leonard’s.

“The French believe that lily-of-the valley is a holy flower and so did Christian Dior which inspired the creation of this wonderful fragrance. The creator from Grasse, France, Edmond Roudnitska, wanted to create a perfume that would be revolutionary and break the trend of sweet perfumes that were dominating the market. The goal was to simplify perfume’s formula and create a perfume that’s simple and luminous. He dreamed of perfume similar to that of muguet that enveloped his senses when he was resting in his garden.

“Dior and Roudnitska met in 1955 and made their dream come true in 1956- Diorissimo was created! The perfume was represented by an illustration by René Gruau. According to Christian Dior, Diorissimo is the perfume of his spirit, or, ‘the scented expression of his soul.’ “

Source: https://www.fragrantica.com/perfume/Christian-Dior/Diorissimo-224.html

The importance of the flowers, lily-of-the-valley, goes back much further of course. For Catholics, it symbolizes the Virgin Mary, for her tears were said to have transformed into these flowers at the foot of the cross.

The ancient Greeks believed the flower was created by Apollo specifically to carpet Mt. Parnassus, so that the tender feet of the nine Muses would not be hurt.

What a lot of history and significance for this lovely little flower, a harbinger of spring.