The only reason why Paul started working as a waiter, was that the world still hadn’t discovered his self-proclaimed, outstanding talent as a painter. However, fifteen years later he was still waiting tables at the same restaurant. By then, his certainty of being the world’s next Picasso had transformed into a conviction that he was its leading expert in Italian Renaissance Art.

His interest became his obsession. The only thing he cared to talk about now was his upcoming trip to Florence. While saving his tip money, he confidently shared his book knowledge with anybody who cared to listen.

When the day for his departure came, everybody was relieved. By then, the patient old dishwasher could have dabbled as a tourist guide in the Medici Chapel, some bright servers could have taught classes on Raphael or David, and the restaurant’s steady customers could have found their way from Ponte Vecchio to Palazzo Strozzi.

Once in Florence, Paul was extremely excited. The very first morning, he started out with his favorite, Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery. When finally there, facing the exquisite painting, everything suddenly seemed unreal to him. He felt dizzy and the room started spinning. An intense, bright light exploded in his head, the world turned white, and time itself took wings and flew backwards. As Paul disappeared into nothingness, he heard Venus’ voice: “Time for Re-birth! Happy Re-naissance, Paul!”

He woke up at the local hospital, where a doctor sat down with him. “You suffered from Stendhal syndrome,” he explained. “It’s a psychosomatic condition, which can include heart problems, fainting and hallucinations. It happens to some people when exposed to art objects of great beauty.” The doctor warned him that it might happen again and Paul decided to stay at his hotel until it was time to go back.

It was a different Paul who returned to the restaurant. When asked about his experience, he quietly mumbled, “Botticelli’s painting really spoke to me.”

Paul continued working at the restaurant until his retirement, appreciated by customers and colleagues alike for his humble and modest appearance.

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Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
7 months ago

Having visited Florence, I can totally relate to feeling overwhelmed with its beauty and wonderful pieces of art and sculpture. Especially Michaelangelo’s David. But thankfully I never experienced Stendhal syndrome. It’s amazing what research can uncover Christer and how skillfully you have used it in your story. Having saved and waited all that time to travel only to suffer this condition on his very first visit to the gallery is so unfair and my heart went out to Paul. A well-written story, as always. (I think I may be feeling a little faint  ? )

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Greene M Wills
Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
7 months ago

Nice one, Christer!! Funny that a couple of nights ago I watched a movie from an Italian director, Dario Argento, called The Stendhal Syndrome, something I enjoyed and many can relate to…

Margarida Brei
Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
7 months ago

Thank you Christer for teaching me about Stendhal Syndrome. Interesting how Paul was taught to be humble by Venus!

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
7 months ago

Wow. Good work, Christer. I really enjoyed it. I want to say thank you for the new knowledge about “Stendhal syndrome or Florence syndrome.”

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Christer Norrlof
7 months ago

Yes, I saw the picture of Marie-Henri Beyle, better known by his pen name, Stendhal.

Sandra OReilly
Sandra OReilly(@sandra-oreilly)
7 months ago

Hi Christer, loved this story as it brought back happy memories of Florence and the short time I was there. I love the way that you speak as though you know the place very well. Poor Paul that he wasn’t really there long enough to enjoy it.

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Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
7 months ago

An interesting story, Christer. I hadn’t come across Stendhal syndrome before. It’s always nice to learn something new, even when reading fiction. I loved how your protagonist’s personality changed / matured as the tale progressed. Nicely done.

Fuji
Fuji(@fuji)
7 months ago

Your picture drew me in, Christer. I couldn’t wait to see what you had to say about the Birth of Venus! I was hanging on your every word, couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I was not expecting Stendhal Syndrome! Especially since I had never heard of it until now. How interesting and intriguing. What a wonderful site of world travelers and art connoisseurs we do have here! I feel like I’m traveling to art galleries just reading the stories!

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Heather C
Heather C(@heather-c)
6 months ago

Christer, the opening lines/paragraph were my favorite part of this piece. They drew me in immediately. You are very talented at capturing your reader’s attention! I loved the story. I have heard about Stendhal Syndrome and it was such a nice surprise and twist that you incorporated it here with your character’s experience. I think we can all relate to feeling overwhelmed by something so incredibly beautiful…and timeless. Excellent story.

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Marianna Pieterse
Marianna Pieterse(@marianna-pieterse)
6 months ago

Christer, I have learned something new today. Reading your comment to Linda, I’m glad your protagonist returned as a changed, better man. It is interesting how one event can change who you are and how you view life. I enjoyed reading this.

Julie Harris
Julie Harris(@julie-harris)
6 months ago

This is a great story, Christer – educational as well as entertaining and inspiring. Great art truly can change people’s lives!

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