Posted by: seasin | July 6, 2009

About Stendhal Sydrome or crying your eyes out like a big girl’s blouse :)

In the winter of 2008, I had the chance to cross out a major thing from my List of Things to Do Before I Die: visit Florence. DB and I went for 10 days in Italy, in the dead of winter, and we visited Florence, Rome, then Sorrento, Capri and the Amalfi Coast. The whole trip was amazing for several reasons; first because I was on cloud nine as I was completely smitten with the above-mentioned individual-I’m still in the same rather embarassing situation, if you’re wondering :); then because Italy was doing what it does best  i.e. being breathtakingly beautiful, even at the end of January; then because I love speaking and hearing italian-it’s literally music to my ears; and last but not least because we had there the most amazing restaurant meal that we’ve had since we’ve been dating (more on that later). (oh, and also because BD was, at the time, so smitten with me that he accepted to rent a…Convertible Micra for out time in Sorrento. I have pictures to prove it! he sobered up a bit in the meantime, and I became slightly less demanding 🙂

But one very very weird thing happened when we got to Florence. We checked into this small B&B that I had found online and looked amazing in pictures/descriptions. It was a major letdown (dirty and the rooms looked nothing at all like they looked online) so I was already begining to feel like Florence will be a bit of a let down as well. We went out, started walking around in what was frankly a beautiful old city, and then we stumbled into the Piazza that is home to David. (for those of you that don’t have the art bug, that would be David, the sculpture by Michelangelo-and no, David Beckam still doesn’t live in Florence). After a gasp and a stare, we made our way, with no particular target, through a maze of ever nicer little streets, only to end up on the banks of the Arno. From where we got, we could see the Ponte Vecchio about 300 m away upriver. Evening was coming, and the riverscape with the Tuscany hills, the river, the old buildings around and the bridge lit in the background, was incredible. So I had another stare, an oooh and an aaah, got DB to take some pics (he’s much better than I am at that), then we made our way towards the Ponte Vecchio. As we got on the bridge, it happened. I felt all of a sudden I could die right there, holding my boyfriend’s hand, and I would die happy. I had trouble breathing, but not in a major-asthma-attack kind of way, I had a weight on my chest and I started crying like a fool. It just felt so perfect it hurt. I had the man I loved right there, and I was surrounded by pure beauty. Man-made beauty, but utterly perfect.

Needless to say, this moment provided endless source of banter and light-hearted mockery from DB for years to come. And although I knew it will be hard to ever feel as happy again, I couldn’t help feeling foolish, too. I’ve been through quite a lot in life, and many things occured that would have required me to be emotional-and I wasn’t. I would have never imagined that a bridge in Florence, bathed in a gentle, golden light on a cold January evening, would do that to me.

Then about two months ago, while browsing online, I stumbled upon this article in Wikipedia:

“Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome, Hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome, is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly beautiful or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world.

It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal (pseudonym of Henri-Marie Beyle), who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.”

Blyme, I say to myself, according to them, I wasn’t happy, I was just sick!!!!

The jury went out to ponder on this for a while-and I can happily inform the world that’s just utter doo-doo. There’s not ilness involved-it’s what one gets when everything, for a few seconds, is so utterly perfect it hurts.

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