Non perfume-people, you have to read through this this to get to the pig! This place is pure magic. You enter through cascades and garlands of flowers. I am already enchanted, walking in a dream through clouds of scent. It was formerly a 12th century church, so that’s a nice storefront. Inside, women wander with looks of bliss and men with looks of discomfort— except the Italian men. I will generalize here. Italian men are comfortable with animated shopping for fashion, shoes, perfume. They’re well trained; after all, this place has been open 800 years. It was originally a hospital, where the monks gave you cures: rose water against the plague and so on. And then they made the perfume for Catherine of Medici, Queen of France. Through her, perfume was introduced to the French Court in 1533. Yes, Italy invented perfume as we know it! I have a small sample of that perfume. Whooof!
The scents are strong; they are based on the herbs, the monks’ noses, and hygiene needs of the past. It’s a three part process to choose. You sniff the perfumes you like in the funnels, then get them spritzed on cards. If you still like them, you choose one only to have applied to your wrist by a young, beautiful Italian woman. It took me over an hour. Reader, I bought one. They smell very unusual, and the cologne lingers as long as a modern perfume would.
After all this ethereal scented beauty, I decided to visit a famous pig. Pork is big in this city; it’s a meat heavy cuisine. I am not going to try the Florentine beef steak. I am always let down by European steak. Yes, even the French kind. I grew up in Western cattle country. You call that a steak? It’s like me being proud of my pasta. An Italian might have a few things to say. Giant sides of beef and pork hang in windows.
Il Porcellino eats the coins of visitors who rub his snout for luck. Forget all about the art treasures of the Western world. The Boar is where it’s at. Pietro Tacca, 1654, sculpted the original, but no one remembers him; the artifact eclipses the artist. It’s magic, hilarious and a very fine sculpture. I didn’t feed him a coin, but I might before I go. I did rub his golden snout. The place is thronged. People are laughing and screaming with joy. The coin drops from his open mouth either into a little grate (desirable and lucky) or to one side (not as lucky but hey you tried).
The sculpture is excellent and I enjoyed it. It was easy to enjoy the beautiful swampy base filled with snakes, frogs and toads. I have noticed this about painting and sculpture. We only get screwed up when it comes to humans. People have always made naturalistic, gorgeous animals, birds and plants, no matter what the religious and aesthetic dictates of the time. Even the Egyptians made perfectly accurate bird and animal paintings when freed from having to make the pharaoh and his god-court in a certain sideways style. We marvel at Donatello, who, gasp, made the first naked guy statue since the Greeks, un-damming the flood of Naked Guy Statues. But animals have always been pure and vigorous, and joyful.