The lights of Florence lived by some protagonists from the world of fashion and cinema. In occasion of the 30 th anniversary Silfi honours the town of Florence with a book and a video entitled ‘Lights of Florence’, edited by the film director Romeo and Valentino Conte and photos by Duccio Burberi.
FILM DIRECTOR AND EDITOR, AUTHOR OF THE BOOK AND VIDEO LIGHT OF FLORENCE
“I still remember the moment when I realized that Florence is beautiful even by night. All what can seem given for granted revealed itself in its beauty during a night of November, when I was alone in Signoria Square. Completely absorbed in the silence and in the loneliness of the square, I turned my eyes to the sky: it was impossible to stop the gaze to the top of that light lauchpad to the sky, which is Arnolfo Tower. Trying hard not to get a stiff neck, I look around and, completely immersed in the silence, I go toward the Uffizi Gallery, trying to imagine these palaces, monuments, and alleys as some no longer daring guys sitting in a table during the night to talk about the absurd events happened during the day. In this way the evening becomes their own moment: the tourists take the last picture with these hundred-years- old vip: nobody else is disturbing them and yet they stand there, lit up as if they were waiting for something.
In fact, they’re enjoying their own moment: Ponte Vecchio polishes greedily its jewels; the other bridges stretch themselves for all those persons and cars which passed on them; from their bell towers all the churches tell jokes about priests, while the squares quarrel about who had more tourists in the local markets. It’s a great circle of friends, where everybody shows its better light and the Santa Maria del Fiore Lady complains about all the scaffolding which cover its sides. The sun is rising, the lights dim and we still don’t know who, between Giotto Belltower and Arnolfo Tower can see further: never mind, we’ll know tomorrow night! Now the sun has risen and my last daydream fades away with the last light of the riverfronts. Tomorrow night I’ll have to come back to know what the large square thinks about all the noise which is here every night.”
“A sign of love for my town. An expression of gratitude for what Florence has represented and still keeps on representing for me, my family and my company. This is the reason which led me, since the beginning of my activity, to try to improve the perception of this town, rich in elegance and charm. A town which participates in seducing the attention f its cosmopolitan guests, and which has contributed with its beauty to the success of my collections. Everywhere in the world, from New York to Shanghai, from the heart of Africa to the Groenlandia glaciers, with everyone I spoke about Florence, every time his eyes were sparkling. It’s for this reason that in occasion of the 40 th anniversary from the foundation of my company and thanks to the privilege granted me by the direct supervision of Cristina Acidini, I could set the fashion show in the Uffizi Gallery. As a consequence I felt like having to honour this privilege by donating a new lighting system to the Loggia dell’Orcagna, also called Loggia De’ Lanzi by the Florentine people. I still remember the emotion of all the nights spent trying the new illumination together with the Superintendent Alessandra Marino and all the other skilled workers. Also, I remember the great joy to welcome the improvement of the open air museum, between the ‘Perseo’ and the Rape of the Sabine Women. I illuminated the Ponte Vecchio, symbol of the town, with its history made up of stones and persons who founded the town, thinking about a party open to everybody with a show along the river Arno and the voice of Andrea Bocelli. I hope not to have disturbed anyone!
Still today, every time I pass near our Bridge during the night, or when I go back home from a business dinner I get thrilled thinking about how a shaped light can contribute to spark our imagination, in that great jewel case called Florence.”
“The publication of this book arises from the wish to celebrate the 30 th anniversary of activity by SILFI spa in the management of the pubic lighting in Florence. This story has deep roots in the past: it started from the first oil lamps which only emitted a faint light, continuing with the gas lamps, up to getting to the use of electricity, which has changed our habitudes by definitely conquering the night. Even being the anniversary the official reason, the real aim of this book is to contribute to the promotion of a new, unknown image of Florence which testify the heartfelt work done to allow the citizens to benefit from it.
High definition images show different versions of the river Arno by night, with its bridges, its monuments, its palaces, squares and streets. All of this is emphasized by the various perspectives and panoramic views that show up the urban structure shaped by lines and the points of 46.000 lights. The shining ways are focused from the centre to the periphery, exalting the search for technical ideas to obtain the right compromise between the realization of a public device and the respect due to a city of art. The importance of the various elements that have to compose the final image has also been acknowledged in the past by a relation wanted by the European Council about the valorisation of the architectural patrimony which has defined the lighting system of Florence as a ‘Sensation of comfort and wellness mixed with poetry and dynamism’.”
MAJOR OF FLORENCE
“A more illuminated town is not only a safer town, but also more beautiful. Lighting Florence also means to create an essential element of the urban equipment, improving our great cultural and artistic patrimony. Our public illumination carried out by SILFI spa has been planned in order to exalt our monuments to point out the perfection of our marbles, to celebrate our masterpieces and to make our skyline a perfect one.”
PRESIDENT OF SILFI
“New days are coming and they run faster than ever! The pubic illumination service of the most beautiful town in the world is knowing a new and ambitious season. The evolution of the European provisions about the management of the local public services will determine, at the end of this year, the realization of a happy and positive experience for SILFI spa, as Florence has known growing fond of it in the last 30 years. “
FILM DIRECTOR AND SCRIPTWRITER
“Florence by night seen from the sky looks like all the other towns: a lighting system made of long filament circuits or optical fibres which weaves themselves as the throbbing veins of a millenary body spread to the History. Today, looking at Florence so electrified could even seem a contradiction: the town was built without electric light. The sun and the torches have lighted it for centuries, without interfering with its structure. The revolution of electricity has also given it a night life, making it a different town. Yes, during the night the towns change, becoming a different world, nearly a space world. Looking at Palazzo Vecchio festively lit was one of the greatest and peculiar vision I’ve ever seen: I don’t really know if I liked it or if it was trash, but I only know that it was something new and modifying the nature of that work must have required a lot of courage. Well, this is the nature of men: they don’t fear History and sometimes they don’t even respect it, daring bold and brilliant fireworks which shock the nature of untouchable works of art. The light wakes up all what has slept forever. Rich in masterpieces which drive us crazy, during the night Florence is illuminated in men’s own image and likeness: it represents the future, thanks to its images of a town without sun and clouds but with the soft upheaval that makes it more eternal than ever. As regarding my perspective, when I focus a portion of the world where there’s such a cumbersome masterpiece as, for example the baptistery, I sit down: it’s in that moment that I realize I need the film director’s chair, that I have to keep the silence, trying hard not to be wrong in front of all this beauty: that chair is necessary to sweat drops of shame, to look spellbound, to even doubt about myself and to take time.“
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
“Taking a picture of an endless architectural masterpiece is a very difficult job: it’s necessary to respect someone else’s work trying to enhance it in the best way. It’s necessary to study and understand its structure with appropriate lights and creating light and shade effects which exalt the artistic value of the monument. When we go inside Florence Cathedral we feel so small in front of its architectural majesty. For the photography it is useful to keep the austerity mixed with sobriety: photography is a sentiment which describes the human’s moods, so the light has to respect and reveal them. When we go in God’s Temple to pray, we completely isolate ourselves, plunging in a world made of absolute mystery and full of imagination and faith: the light has to create an aura which may represent the magic of that moment!
Anyways in Florence there is not only the Cathedral: there is a collection of masterpieces, such as Signoria Square with its wonderful Palazzo and the Loggia that create an unforgettable effect of greatness; the Uffizi Square and Giotto Bell Tower, which thanks to its beauty doesn’t have equals in the world. Again, Ponte Vecchio with its jeweller’s shops and a long list of other great monuments. In the film ‘Amici miei, atto II’, by Mario Monicelli the choice of filming these places I’ve mentioned is not by chance: their background could in fact distract the spectator’s look from the scenes we were filming, up to even competing with the actors. Moreover, I will never forget the wonderful hospitality and the intelligent humour of the Florentine people during my 3 months stay in Florence: they represent proudly their town which, according to me is Italy’s bonbonnière.”
Even if I was born in Florence I had never set the scene of a film in my town. Probably because a film entitled ‘Christmas in Florence’ didn’t seem so attractive to the executive producers. Later, the film ‘Amici miei – come tutto ebbe inizio’ arrived. Finally I had the possibility to set a film in my town and I could even take it back up the XVII century. In this way I could understand how Florence was illuminated by torches and blazes: yes, the municipality has switched off the ordinary illumination, so we could recreate the magic atmosphere of the plague in front of the astonished tourists and the Florentine people. Someone had even proposed us to leave the lighting this way…but of course that was impossible! In the photos of this book you can feel a modern atmosphere, but I can assure you that the ancient one was not so bad!
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
“I love the sun light: the sun never tires me. I was born and I grew up in a zone of Tuscany in front of the Elba Island, which as we know, enjoys a wonderful microclimate. As a consequence it’s normal for me feeling at my own ease at the shining sun. In my cinema and photographic career, on the contrary, I prefer the night, the darkness and the gloom, rich of all those mysteries that would be immediately killed by the sunlight. The sequences of the night illumination produce in me an incredible energy and when at 04:00 am I only see around me uncertain and sleepy people, I feel I could go on for 24 hours. Moreover, when as happened to Neri Parenti, we had to frame and light up in a narrative function, places and monuments of one among the most beautiful towns of the world, then a great emotion joined up the excitement of the work. Having to throw my powerful lights, so suddenly weak during that night, towards Giotto Belltower, was one of the most striking and outstanding experiences of my professional life. While I was working in a state of guilty trance I was wondering: if the great Master wakes up what will he think about all this reconstruction which is for us aesthetically beautiful, involving and philologically exact?
I was almost feeling his invective: “How do you dare, ignorant worm, even only grazing my masterpiece with your insolent lights? Switch everything off and go to bed!” Of course I believe that in that night atmosphere we were all aware that all our passion and energy, together with some specific historical knowledge, were appearing him as the blurred reproduction of a reality that he knew very well, considering his hard work to leave us through the frescoes and the bell tower the testimony of his time, the mark of his genius and the awareness of our limits: the same ones we were trying to overcome.”
FILM DIRECTOR AND AUTHOR OF THE BOOK AND VIDEO LIGHTS OF FLORENCE
“The first time I visited Florence I was amazed by its beauty, the streets, the alleys and the noble palaces which have made its History with the monumental churches: everything has remained impressed in my mind. In the far 1984 I organized and directed my very first open air fashion show in the Courtyard of the Uffizi Gallery: it was a great event for the town and I still remember very well that my Director of photography Domenico Magiotti planned the lighting of the parade as caressing the façade of the palace and the statues of the Courtyard. It was the first time that the Courtyard showed itself to the town in this new version. There were other shows in 1985 and 1986 up to the last one in 1999 for Classico Italia. In 2012 I could finally organize another one, this time inside the Uffizi Gallery, for Stefano Ricci: in that occasion I planned a new lighting system to respect the place and the art that surrounded us. I also had the possibility to ‘profane’ other monuments of Florence with my work, such as Santissima Annunziata Square in occasion of Slava Zaitev fashion show for Pitti Uomo in 1988 and again in 1987 and 1989 another fashion show in Santa Croce Square. In all these places ‘corrupted’ by fashion, every time I was scared to break the spell that I felt the first time I visited Florence, as if it was a beautiful woman. Every time I’ve lit up these places I imagined that besides the stylist of the moment there would be also Giorgio Vasari, Brunelleschi, Giambologna, Pietro Tacca, Antonio Manetti and Antonio Sangallo. I spent long nights in silence, looking at every corner and closing my eyes I daydreamed about waking these sleepy places with my lights. Having to manage the new artificial lighting of the Loggia dei Lanzi and the video direction of Ponte Vecchio new lighting, (realized by SILFI spa with the great contribution of the designer Stefano Ricci), I could understand more deeply the meaning of lighting up by respecting the past and the present. Directing the project I reflected a lot about these great architects of the past, who would never believe that centuries later their masterpieces would have been lit up during the night, when unlike the daylight, all the perspectives change. Something Divine must have been there: who knows whether during the night they were lit up by torches? This universal patrimony keeps on fascinating us still today especially in the night and each time SILFI spa does it starting from the glorious past of Florence, contributing to respect its memory with the new technologies.”