So, here’s a serious question: With all of the beautiful art in Florence, why in the world would we spend our time rubbing the nose of a pig?
I’ll be brief. We were told if we rubbed the nose of the pig, or the snout of the boar if you prefer, we would come back to Florence. Considering we had six hours to explore everything Florence had to offer, we looked on our nose polishing efforts as a guarantee of a return trip.
Il Porcellino, or Little Pig, as he is known, was sculpted way back in 1612 and was based on an original marble pig of Greek origin dating back to who knows when. The present pig is a copy of the copy. You can tell by his shiny nose that lots of people share our desire to come back to Florence. Apparently rubbing his snout for a return trip dates back to the 1700s.
Little Pig is housed in an attractive marketplace that was built by Cosimo de’ Medici between 1547-1551. Bad merchants, who had the misfortune of going bankrupt, were spanked here before being sent off to prison. I couldn’t find a description on what the spanking entailed.
NEXT POST: A teaser from our present journey around North America in Quivera, our 22-foot RV.
A while back I posted a photo essay on Pompeii that many of you would have seen. This post will include some of those photos but the focus will be on the Roman gods (adopted and adapted from Greek gods) that were a daily part of Pompeian life before Mt. Vesuvius blew its top. Once again, I am traveling back in time and pulling up a post from my archives for my armchair travel series in the time of Covid-19.
It is impossible to visit the ancient cities of the Mediterranean without thinking about the importance of the all-too-human early gods.
Back before they were relegated to the status of myths, they were as alive and real to the people as say Christ might be to today’s faithful Christians. A primary difference was their misbehavior. They became involved in feuds, had affairs, became jealous, drank too much, etc. Other than the fact they were immortal and extremely powerful, they might be your neighbor.
If they liked you, they could be your best buddy. Make you healthy, wealthy and wise. But if they disliked you, watch out! They were like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. “When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.” (From a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
So it isn’t surprising that the ancient folks of the Mediterranean spent a great deal of energy and money trying to stay on the good side of their gods. Some of the world’s greatest art was created in their honor and whole herds of castrated animals were sacrificed and cooked to keep them smiling. Interestingly, the smoke from the cooking meat seemed to satisfy the gods. Mere mortals consumed the flesh. As the old saying goes, “Man is nothing, if not practical.”
The Romans, who lacked Greek creativity, obtained their gods wholesale from Greece, only changing their names to sound more Latin. Zeus with his fiery lightning bolt became Jupiter, his wife/sister Hera, became Juno, and his daughter Athena, who sprang fully armed from his head and gave him a headache, became Minerva. And of course there was a whole pantheon of other gods.
Each of these gods had a role to play. If you wanted to kick someone’s tail, Zeus was your ‘man.’ Juno could help you through a difficult childbirth. If you needed more wisdom, and who among us doesn’t, Minerva was there for you. There was no one stop shopping like today’s church goers enjoy.
The gods did gain more power as they aged, however. They took on the roles, and sometimes personalities, of the earlier gods they replaced. Juno, for example, was responsible for both “loosening a bride’s girdle” and protecting the money of the Roman Empire. In her latter role she was the patron Goddess of the Royal Mint.
Jupiter, Juno and Minerva were worshipped as a triad in both Pompeii and Rome. Possibly it saved time and money. There was also a temple to Mercury in Pompeii. His earlier persona had been that of the super fast Greek God Hermes who carried messages for the gods and had wings on his feet. He was also the god of getting rich, luck, trickery and thievery. Hmmm. Sometimes a fast get-a-way is critical.
I am continuing my armchair series today and for the next for the next three posts as I revisit the fabulous walled city of Dubrovnik on the Adriatic Coast. Many of my followers will have visited this city. For you, let the memories begin, as they are for Peggy and me. If you haven’t been there, I suggest it would be a great reward for the self-isolation you have practiced during the battle against Covid-19. Start dreaming. The pandemic will pass.
OK, I’m in love. This walled city of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea is gorgeous. Once upon a time Dubrovnik was a major sea power in the Mediterranean Sea. At another time, it was the first nation in the world to provide official recognition for the fledgling United States of America fighting for independence.
As recently as 1991 it was under a devastating siege by Yugoslavian forces that laid waste to much of the city’s renowned beauty. Today it has rebuilt most of what was destroyed.
This is one of four blogs I did on Dubrovnik in 2013 and am reposting on my Armchair Series. First up is a look at magnificent medieval wall that surrounds the city and provides visitors with outstanding views of the Adriatic Sea and surrounding country. Second I will turn inward and look down from the walls on the city and its colorful tiled roofs. Third we will visit the city from street level. Finally, I want to feature some intriguing gargoyles we found in Dubrovnik. (Have I used enough superlatives?)
Any visit to Dubrovnik should include a walk around the mile plus (6,360 feet) wall that surrounds and protects the city. Considered to be one of the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages, the walls were named a World Heritage site in 1979. Reaching a maximum height of 82 feet, the walls were never breached during the 12th through the 17th century— providing five hundred years of peace and prosperity for the residents.
A fast walker can easily do the walk in an hour or so but plan on a more leisurely 2-3 hour stroll. You’ll need the extra time for photography, or just staring in awe.
NEXT BLOG: A journey around the walls of Dubrovnik looking down into the city.