The third in the critically acclaimed Writer and the City Series - in which some of the world's finest novelists reveal the secrets of the cities they know best - Florence is a lively account of expatriate life in the 'city of the lily'. Why has Florence always drawn so many English and American visitors? (At the turn of the century, the Anglo-American population numbered more than thirty thousand.) Why have men and women fleeing sex scandals traditionally settled here? What is it about Florence that has made it so fascinating - and so repellent - to artists and writers over the years? Moving fleetly between present and past and exploring characters both real and fictional, Leavitt's narrative limns the history of the foreign colony from its origins in the middle of the nineteenth century until its demise under Mussolini, and considers the appeal of Florence to figures as diverse as Tchaikovsky, E.M. Forster, Ronald Firbank, and Mary McCarthy.
Lesser-known episodes in Florentine history - the moving of Michelangelo's David, and the construction of temporary bridges by black American soldiers in the wake of the Second World War - are contrasted with images of Florence today (its vast pizza parlors and tourist culture). Leavitt also examines the city's portrayal in such novels and films as A Room with a View, The Portrait of a Lady and Tea with Mussolini. David Leavitt is the author of several novels and short story collections, most recently The Marble Quilt. With Mark Mitchell, he has co-written two books about Italy, Italian Pleasures and In Maremma. He is a recipient of grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and was recently named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library. David Leavitt divides his time between Tuscany and Gainesville, Florida, where he teaches at the University of Florida.