This marvel of a day

This is actually my fourth idiosyncratic book tour, not my third. That one to the Banff Springs Hotel in "In Search of Marilyn's Room" totally counts, even though it was based on the shortest of stories: an entry in the Marilyn Encyclopedia, because it led to meeting and subsequent correspondence with the hotel historian as we jointly worked to solve the mystery of where in the Banff Springs Marilyn Monroe actually slept during the filming the "River of No Return" in 1954.

A few people already know that this Florence trip is based on the Tom Harris novel Hannibal, though I realize that I am not primarily following the path of Hannibal Lecter as I am following Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi as he follows Hannibal Lecter.

It should also be noted that this is only the second trip of my life that I have taken alone. All my other travels save this one and "Searching for Ken Kesey" (based on Tom Wolfe's The Electric Koolade Acid Test) have been with friends or family. This means that Mariana is the first travel-friend I have ever made.

There are three bunk beds in Room 658 of the Plus Firenze Hostel and Mariana and I shared altitude. We got into good conversations the last two nights as we spoke to each other across the room from our upper bunks. Good enough that we agreed to add each other as Facebook friends when time permits as she departed early this morning for Venice. I wrote my name and email address on a blank page of the memo pad Nicole Bocce used at the July 8 Social License workshop, tore it out and handed it to her.

"You have good paper," she said. I handed her the pad and she scribbled on a random page then handed it back.


A few hours after Mariana departed, I started my day in Chapter 26 of Hannibal at the Santa Croce Church. More than most so far, this location took a little detective work. Until now the scenes Harris has described in the book have matched both the locations themselves and other published descriptions of the sites. But the visitor brochures for Santa Croce do not say anything about the Capponi family or the chapel that Harris describes as being there.

Exploring Santa Croce, I found a funerary monument to the Capponi's, yet on the map I picked up at the entrance there is only white space: no name. No number. So now I'm looking closely at the transept chapels on the map. Only three of eight are numbered and two are in the area shaded out as "for prayer only".

At P.177, Rinaldo Pazzi has tracked Hannibal, who is working under the name "Dr. Fell" at the Palazzo Capponi Library, to the Capponi Chapel at Santa Croce. "Dr. Fell rose from his labours and came out from behind Andreotti's "Pieta" in the Chapel" it says.

One of the transept chapels in the prayer-only section has a statue in it of a woman with a body draped across her lap. A trip to the post card rack in the gift shop confirms that it is Libero Andreotti's "Pieta". So fun!


Next was in Chapter 25: "In Dr. Fell's garbage, Pazzi had seen the distinctive wrapping papers from the fine food store, Vera dal 1926, on the Via San Jacopo near the Santa Trinita Bridge." (P.170) I walked the length of San Jacopo three times; asked the manager of a fashion shop if she knew Vera dal 1926, all without results. By now it was dinner time.

The Cinghiale Bianco's display menu included taglierini with truffles with its first courses so I decided to eat there. P.171, "Florentines say Vera dal 1926, with its wealth of cheeses and truffles, smells like the feet of God. The doctor was certainly taking his time in there. He was making a selection from the first white truffles of the season." Cinghiale Bianco served the truffles in paper thin slices atop a pile of taglierini, thick with butter and white wine. The sensation of eating it was not just the flavour, but the effect, like something aromatic in the truffles was slowly drifting up the inside of my face.

As I ate, wait staff in black rushed about the rapidly filling restaurant. When I finished dining, I showed my waitress page 170 and asked if she knew Vera dal 1926.

"I think it closed,"she said. "But ask the head waiter. He is older than me." The head waiter rushed around faster than anyone. I didn't feel completely good about bugging him.

"It no longer exists," he said rapidly, after a literal second-long glance at my highlighted, annotated page 170, and then he rushed off. I finished my wine.

And then I heard his voice again. "Anthony Hopkins ate here when they were filming," the head waiter said, as he pointed to the four-top table next to mine. "He and Juliana Moore, and another actor. Anthony Hopkins ate fish." Awesome.


I hiked back to Plus Firenze and settled into my upper bunk of Room 658. I sorted my days worth of assembled ephemera and flipped through the memo pad Nicole Bocce used on July 8, looking for Mariana's page where she'd written her contact information.

"Mariana Sanguinetti" it said.

Bloody Mary.

Sooo awesome.