How often do you express gratitude to a fictional character for something real in your life? If it wasn’t for Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the vibrant and brilliant killer in the book Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, I might never have enjoyed the beauty of Florence, Italy. Before you decide I’m out of my mind and set this blog aside, let me clarify things.
If you haven’t read any of the Harris books featuring this classy and tasteful psychiatrist you’re missing a lot. Even if you have seen the movies, you need to get into the meat of Hannibal’s world. Other than his penchant for devouring, and occasionally sharing, bits of his victims as anything from appetizers to desserts, Hannibal is just a man with an experienced palate. He enjoys the finer things; good food, pleasant fragrances, intelligent conversation, good books, and fine art. Add to this his ever courteous and respectful demeanor and he becomes someone I could easily be friends with. Yet it’s his love of art that brought us together in something of a lover’s embrace.
In the film Silence of the Lambs, Lecter has a charcoal sketch on the wall of his bizarre and barren cell. Pinned, like a window to a sorely missed world, it attracted my attention almost immediately. What would a man who was confined to a windowless cell, with no privacy for even the most personal activities, choose as a subject from the world he could no longer explore? While the sketch is actually a clue to the location of the serial killer Buffalo Bill it aroused my curiosity about what Lecter missed most.
The Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo seen from Forte di Belvedere and Lecter’s love of Florence in later films sealed the deal for me. I had to see it. Firenze, as the Italians call Florence, rose to the top of my must visit list. It lingered there with Venice and Vatican City for a while. It lingered there and teased me; whenever it slipped a spot or two, replaced by Vancouver, BC, or New Orleans, Louisiana or some other city I’d think I’d seen the last of it. But Firenze was not to be denied.
Ten years ago if you asked me where I would live if I could choose anywhere in the world, I would have immediately said London, England. I’d visited the city and fell in love with the blending of old and new, bustle and fuss, the accents, the Underground (tube), and the architecture. That was before I saw Florence.
In the end it was the art, the small restaurants, the gelato, Dante, the Uffizi, the Piazza della Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchio, Galleria dell’Accademia – heck it was everything! I fell in love with Firenze. And I owe it all to Dr. Hannibal Lecter and his impeccable taste.