October 14, 2019

Dispatch from Tuscany: October 6, 2019

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in Romeo and Juliet (1968). Banner in the Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza, Italy.

Dispatch from Tuscany: October 6, 2019

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you’re getting this down.

• Sonia, in Woody Allen’s Love and Death

We have made our way to Italy, by means of less efficient trains and rental car (scary!). Our hosts here in Pienza, in the heart of Tuscany, are Andrea and Manuela at the sublime Fonte Bertusi agritourismo holiday house, where the themes are hospitality, art, and nature.

Yesterday we ventured into the city of Pienza, an ancient city that was rebuilt in the 1400s by Pope Pius II as an example of the ideal Renaissance city. We walked its labyrinthine cobblestone streets and viewed panoramic vistas from its city walls such as this:

Pienza is one of the locations where Franco Zefferelli shot his lush film Romeo and Juliet, which Robert Ebert called “the magical high point of his career.” Ebert notes how this movie, focusing on young love and its resistance to the traditional conflicts of the older generation, opened in 1968, one of the most tumultuous years in history with regard to those themes.

As for me, let me just say I fell head over heels in love with Olivia Hussey, the 16 year-old Argentine girl (not yet an actress) who played the 13 year-old Juliet, brilliant in the blush of first romance. I was 12 going on 13, and coming of age, and she represented the ideal of female delicacy and mystery that I was beginning to notice around me. The simple beauty of the score (“Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet,” by Henry Mancini) only enhanced the sense of love’s longing for that which it cannot hold forever.

 

And this is what it means to visit Tuscany. It is to fall in love again for the first time.

Comments

  1. romantic Tuscany, land of Italian cypress trees, poppies, sunflowers and the FOOD

  2. rhymeswithplague says

    I was on a month-long business trip to Stockholm in February 1969 when I saw Zefferelli’s film with Swedish subtitles. To me the movie will always be Romeo och Julia.

    Lush. Romantic. Tuscany, I mean.

  3. I visited Tuscany many years ago. The memory still tugs at the heartstrings. So glad you’re getting to experience it.

  4. “To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you’re getting this down.”

    There’s gotta be a loophole in there somewhere.

    Also, Woody Allen is an ass.

  5. Burro (Mule) says

    You weren’t the only one to fall in love with Olivia Hussey in the spring of 1968. It was well-nigh universal at my high school. The girls, on the other hand, were pretty well divided between Romeo (Leonard Whiting) and Tybalt (Michael York).

    All of them are still beautiful, as is Tuscany

  6. Love and suffering

    The Sufis, in that marvelous and often fierce way they have of turning everything over on its head, tell the story of Satan (Iblis), not as God’s enemy, but as the one who loved him best. How so? When God created Adam he commanded the angels to bow down before this his greatest creation. Satan refused, not out of spite but because he loved God so much he could not bear to submit himself before any other. For refusing God’s command Satan was cast into Hell. The Sufis ask, what sustains Satan in his eternal agony of separation from God? The memory of the sound of God’s voice when He said, “Be gone!”