City of Florence: Historical Vistas and Personal Sightings

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A New York Times Notable Book

In this deeply personal and learned labor of love, R.W.B. Lewis provides a new look at the glories of Florence, the smallish Tuscan city which has been a prime source for modern Western culture and which has also been his second home for fifty years. With a scholar's eye and a lover's passion, he invites us to share his vision of a city and the way of life it has engendered and inspired.

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Overview

A New York Times Notable Book

In this deeply personal and learned labor of love, R.W.B. Lewis provides a new look at the glories of Florence, the smallish Tuscan city which has been a prime source for modern Western culture and which has also been his second home for fifty years. With a scholar's eye and a lover's passion, he invites us to share his vision of a city and the way of life it has engendered and inspired.

The prize-winning biographer of Edith Wharton and of The Jameses presents an intimate portrait of one of the world's most cultural cities. In chapters dense with detail and personal reflection, Lewis provides a new look at the glories of Florence, casting new light on Florence's cultural patrimony and civic legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
With the same grace and scholarship that marked his recent Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Edith Wharton, Lewis takes us into the heart of the city where he and his wife have lived off and on for 50 years. Their experiences in Florence come alive in his descriptions of the places they have rented, their friends, their explorations and their reflections. The author also shows off the city with quotes from Henry James, T.S. Eliot, the Brownings, Bocaccio, Dante and other writers and artists who have been similarly touched by its ambience. While he was working on the book, Lewis informs us, "even a simple bus ride into the center carries me past strong historical and personal associations... [that] we know we have seen before... [yet] we look at as though for the first time." His fresh view of the city on the Arno makes this a treasurable guide.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With the same grace and scholarship that marked his recent Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Edith Wharton, Lewis takes us into the heart of the city where he and his wife have lived off and on for 50 years. Their experiences in Florence come alive in his descriptions of the places they have rented, their friends, their explorations and their reflections. The author also shows off the city with quotes from Henry James, T.S. Eliot, the Brownings, Bocaccio, Dante and other writers and artists who have been similarly touched by its ambience. While he was working on the book, Lewis informs us, ``even a simple bus ride into the center carries me past strong historical and personal associations... [that] we know we have seen before... [yet] we look at as though for the first time.'' His fresh view of the city on the Arno makes this a treasurable guide. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Forget April in Paris, autumn in New York, and even Disney theme parks; the world's most magical place is Florence. Rare is the poet or novelist who comes away from that Italian city uninspired (even those who may not have enjoyed a room with a view during their visit). Accurately described as a "deeply personal and learned labor of love," this volume is literary historian Lewis's erudite paean to Florentine charms. Lewis, most noted for his highly regarded biography of Edith Wharton (1975), skillfully interweaves his personal associations with the city, which began during military service in World War II, with those of more celebrated visitors over the centuries. A generous portion of history is added. Lewis has a vast store of knowledge about many subjects but never sounds pedantic; he assumes that his readers are also knowledgeable. For those who aren't, or who have never been to Florence, his book may demand too much concentration and commitment. Public and academic libraries with earlier, similar works on the city (e.g., Mary McCarthy's The Stones of Florence, 1959, and, more recently, Christopher Hibbert's Florence: The Biography of a City, Norton, 1993) may consider Lewis's an optional purchase. (Illustrations not seen.) [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/94.]-Mary C. Kalfatovic, Telesec Lib. Svcs., Washington, D.C.
Library Journal
R.W.B. Lewis lived in Florence for many years, and The City of Florence: Historical Vistas and Personal Sightings (Owl: Holt. 1996. ISBN 0-8050-4630-5. pap. $17) is the result of his love affair with the city. Other good books about Florence's art, architecture, and people include Mary McCarthy's classic The Stones of Florence (Harvest: Harcourt. 2002. ISBN 0-15-602763-1. pap. $14). Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Booknews
A delightfully personal and learned look at the Tuscan city of Florence, encompassing its cultural, civic and artistic legacy from the Middle Ages to the present. Lewis discusses Florence's designs and principal designers, special sites and neighborhoods, artistic history, and the feel of this unique city. B&w photographs and a few line-drawn maps. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Brad Hooper
Like all great cities of the world, Florence is a sensual and intellectual experience, and the exact nature of the Florentine experience is spelled out in loving detail by the biographer of Edith Wharton and Henry James. Offering readers the proverbial room with a view, Lewis visits various stages and junctures in Florence's distinguished history, illuminating the ingredients that have gone into the making of Florence's incomparability. His book is an ode to Florence's psyche and physical form; it is travel writing at its best. Factual and personal, backwards-glancing as well as geared to the present, it is a well-written, compelling work. Fulfilling Lewis' intention, we come away with a keen sense of the entire pageant of Florence's civic and cultural life.
From Barnes & Noble
From the Arno to the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, Santa Croce, and other sites of interest, this book examines the principal focal points of the small Tuscan city that has been a prime source of modern Western culture. Filled with b&w photos and illustrations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374124045
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/1/1995
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 351
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.29 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The City of Florence: Answers the Question "What is it about Florence?"

    "RWB Lewis, who has lived in and visited Florence, Italy for decades, provides a masterful weaving of early Tuscan, Renaissance, middle ages and recent history of this influential center of culture, art, commerce, politics and religion. If you have visited Florence, Lewis' words will move you from the streets you know through the passages of time to what existed before. Great insights to a place like no other."

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