November 15, 2001
One of our favorite artists is a native of Firenze named Bruno Paoli. Now in his late eighties, Paoli was an art professor at the Art Institute of Porta Romana in Florence for more than 40 years and has had a long and distinguished career. We learned from another local art dealer that Poggiala e Forconi Galleria D'Arte represents Paoli in Florence.
When we entered the gallery and inquired about Paoli, we were greeted by an elderly gentleman who ran the gallery and was at that very minute looking at one of Paoli's exhibition catalogs. We were shocked when he told us he was five years older than Paoli. "Yes, I am ninety-one years old," he smiled. "Bruno Paoli is only eighty-six!" We were grinning from ear to ear.
Due to our limited command of the Italian language and his limited English, our conversation consisted of a comical montage of partial sentences, the flipping through of an Italian phrasebook, and much gesturing, but we ended up having a wonderful visit with this man. He said that his gallery hosted an exhibition of Paoli's ten years ago. He also spoke of his love for art. "Art keeps me young," he told us. Food for thought....
We were told that Paoli, who usually paints women or caffe scenes, often visits one of the caffes in the Piazza della Repubblica and, once he finds a figure or scene to his liking, will make a quick sketch of it, then return to his studio to paint it.
He happily showed us a half dozen of Paoli's paintings that he had, none of which were on display, but he brought them out to us from a storage area. I'm sure he had several more, but we didn't want to impose upon him further.
Poggiala e Forconi Galleria D'Arte (tel: +39 055/287748, email: email@example.com) represents many artists from Italy and elsewhere in Europe, and is open daily from 9:30-1:00 and 3:00-7:30 (closed Sunday).
We found on our trip to Florence that many art dealers are very friendly and if you engage them in conversation, they will be very happy to talk with you about art, even if you are not a "potential buyer". We also met very nice people at Ken's Art Gallery, Via Lambertesca 15r/17r (near the Uffizi), tel: +39 055/239.65.87. You can check out their web site here.
The point of all this is that whether it's art or something else that interests you (or nothing at all, for that matter), striking up conversations with the local people can be among the most enjoyable experiences in your travels.
From journal Florence in October