So, here I am in Parma, soaking up the heat and the art, and I can't help but notice that a lot of people in Parma seem to have problems controlling their skirts!
Or at least, controlling their clothing from the waist down.
Now, I'm a bit sensitive on this issue because there was some Unpleasantness last fall in Montefalco, when I strolled across the main piazza with my skirt tucked into my waistband. I didn't do this on purpose, mind you, and the memory has haunted me; I'm now like a dog with a sore tail, constantly swivelling around to check the rear view.
So, as I follow the Correggio trail in Parma (the Renaissance artist is extremely popular here, despite the fact he has been dead for roughly 500 years) I've been struck by how much of his art involves sacred figures soaring upwards with their skirts or robes flying up around their ears.
Consider the above work which I just saw in the Duomo di Parma, an important 12th-century Romanesque cathedral filled with Renaissance art. Its ceiling fresco by Correggio is considered a masterpiece of fresco work and the cathedral's most famous work of art. This Assumption of the Virgin by Correggio is in the central cupola, and it almost has to be seen to be believed. Painted in 1534, the fresco features the Virgin Mary ascending through a sea of limbs, faces and swirling drapery.
I've said before that this doesn't seem to be the most dignified depiction of the Virgin Mary -- it gives me the sense she is being sucked up towards The Light, like a figure in some overwrought drama. In fact, it seems that this imagery of the Assumption has created some bemusement over the years, with one contemporary of the artist comparing it to a "hash of frogs' legs" and Charles Dickens suggesting that the scene was such that "no operative surgeon gone mad could imagine in his wildest delirium.''
And I've seen Correggio do the same again, and again. In his Vision of John the Baptist, he has Giovanni shooting upwards through the dome of San Giovanni Evangelista, mere steps from the Duomo. Giovanni looks a bit less helter-skelter than Mary in the Duomo. This morning at Parma's National Gallery, I saw several angels and cherubs flying upside down in Correggio works. And Diana, the goddess of hunting, looks ready to take flight, in a Correggio fresco in the delightful Camera di San Paolo.
Finally, this Sunday afternoon in Parma's beautiful Romanesque Baptistry, a well-dressed lady about my own age sat down in front of me (and a collection of other visitors.) But before sitting on her linen skirt, she lifted it up gracefully --showing us all her black underpants -- before parking her butt directly onto the chair, rather than sitting on her linen skirt. Presumably, this was to avoid wrinkles -- at least on her skirt. My forehead is still wrinkled in puzzlement......
All I'm saying is, I'm not the only one who has the ocassional problem with unruly skirts.
Now that I've run the flying skirts story into the ground, I'll just add that this is my second full day in Parma, and the city is delightful. The weather has been really hot, but the air conditioning at Hotel Torino is very good.
The food and (window) shopping in Parma is fantastic, and the art here is wonderful. I'll be a bit sorry to leave here for Bologna tomorrow.
So far, my trip has gone very smoothly. My plane landed in Rome on time last Friday, my luggage and nerves intact. I left my luggage at Termini train station (which charged a shocking 4 euro for my suitcase AND another 4 euro for my small carry-on!) and had a good lunch near Termini before strolling around, soaking up sunshine to re-set my body clock.
Oh, and looping back to the subject of underwear, I have to say that both new bras have stood the test of global travel and have come out with top marks. The Stasi-issue number in particular has done very well under hot, stressful conditions, revealing no lines, no chafing, no stress at all.