With a new season of ‘Game of Thrones’ hot off the global downloads last night, there is a palpable renewed nostalgia for the incredible. An imaginative history full of magic and unsolved mysteries. A world where improbably beautiful villains conspire against the unlikely righteous, (who, as fate would have it, just happen to be of equal improbable beauty). Whispers are always meaningful and long stares even more so. The landscapes, the outfits and modes of travel, collectively hark back to time predating our own earthly industrial revolution by a few centuries and men and women both have long hair. In fact, the only obvious attribute that appears to differentiate between the haves and the have nots is down to how much mud you have on your face.
The objectives of this elusive ‘game’ are themselves a bit muddy, even if they do appear to revolve around a throne (singular).
Evidently, It’s really all about watching the pretty people get hurt and then take revenge. Sometimes this will involve dragons.
Thus a fantasy world is brought to life for millions of viewers across the world. The formula is solid – it is based in our collective unconscious. The dreams we all shared, the memories, we all agreed to forget.
I sometimes ponder if I am the only one who, when listening to a particularly anthemic piece of music, imagine myself on horseback galloping with the wind in my long, medieval hair? (Again the exact purpose of this race is unclear, but there is little doubt that it is of upmost importance). It’s a hangover from a girlhood spent fantasising about being a knight. Possibly inspired by d’Artagnan, Luke Skywalker, and a general penchant for dressing up and horses.
Silly as it is, the fantasy is still there, buried perhaps, but easily awoken with the mere hint of a thunderous piano accompanied by some frenetic drumming. Think the intro to Kate Bush’s ‘Deal with God’ or better still, the aptly named Florence and the machine‘s ‘breath of life’ (which truly borders on the hysterical).
So if I told you there was once an old convent nestled in the hills just outside of Florence…
That if, you happened to be a traveller in the 16th century, on a journey to Florence from Rome, on some important mission say… and you had the misfortune of being delayed, (perhaps attacked by improbably beautiful villains) and didn’t quite make the curfew before they shut the city gates – this convent would be your last chance for a safe place to spend the night.
Would you be stunned to discover that among your fellow travellers, some were known by the names of Leonardo and Michaelangelo?
Would you be even more amazed to discover that this once-convent is now the house where we live?
This is the sort of mythology that one might believe is best kept for silver screens. Because to the cynical of mind, the romance of such tales just seems too convenient to be true. One might wonder just how many other hotels and inns across the southern roads of Tuscany lay claim to such legends. But the truth is, both Leonardo and Michaelangelo were extensive travellers, whose presence were requested by their respective patrons across the lands. So is it really so unlikely that our converted-convent would be shelter to these pioneers of the Renaissance?
After all, there may even be some concrete evidence to back this up.
A landscape painting depicting the exact view from our window, sporting the telling Da Vinci brushstrokes?
Although, to find this unmistakeable piece of evidence, I would hazard a guess that it might involve a high speed horse chase and a bit of dragon slaying. (Or at least I secretly hope it does.)
But who needs concrete evidence when the tale is told to you by an ageing woman who lives in the nearest house down the well-travelled road, with crazy hair and a glass eye? She offers you tea, she serves from a cauldron hanging above the fire. While you politely decline and turn towards the door, you just happen notice from the corner of your own (healthy) eye, that on the back wall in the adjacent room, there is a familiar looking fresco…