Laetitia’s group crossed the Arno and walked up the many steps to Piazzale Michelangelo where they had panoramic views of the city. As the group headed back toward the Ponte alla Carraia to cross the Arno again and return a hotel they passed a house with grotesque graffiti. Over the years the terms “grotesque” and “graffiti’ have evolved new meanings very different from what they meant originally. The term “grotesque” arose during the fifteenth century when Renaissance artists explored Nero’s former palace, then buried and overgrown with rooms that resembled underground grottoes or caves. They began to produce works inspired by these fanciful forms of humans and animals that decorated the palace walls and this style of art became known as “grotesque.” Later the word’s meaning evolved to “comically distorted.” In Italy, a graffito was a drawing or inscription on an outside wall or other public surface intended as decoration. The term was not originally associated with vandalism as it is today.
When Laetitia mentioned to her group that they were going to see graffiti, one man looked aghast apparently afraid that his wife would be exposed to crude sexually explicit drawings. Laetitia stifled a smirk, suppressed making a sarcastic comment like “We’re all adults here,” and explained that in the original Italian sense of the word, graffiti was simply decorative art. The exchange was the source of the limerick of the day.
When you’re thinking you’ll make an entreaty
Against going to look at graffiti
Don’t expect genitalia
Here in old Italia
Where it’s art, enjoy it with your sweetie.