Hotel hopping and academics leave me with little internet access and even littler free time to update this blog. I write to you now from a little skiing village in the Alps in Northern Italy called Cortina d’Ampezzo, the cool mountain air a blessing for the moment. Tomorrow we set off for Germany so I’m left here with time to reflect on my two weeks in Italy and to share some of the other adventures I’ve had.
Since I last posted I’ve been to Siena, Florence, Ravenna, Padua, and Venice. Most were day trips into these cities but I did spent a lot of time in Florence and some in Venice, so I’ll elaborate on these two glorious cities here for you.
Florence was an absolute whirlwind. We visited churches after museums after churches after museums. There was even a day we hit up three separate art museums in one day to study Renaissance sculptures. But I can only consider myself lucky because I have truly seen some really famous works by Donatello, Michelangelo, Brunelleschi and Alberti. Pictures of things in every art textbook I have now seen in person, be they fresco or building or statue.
However, I think I just liked the atmosphere of Florence the most, for it was quite a refreshing change from the busy streets of Rome. Being enclosed by the mountains I felt more at peace. My favorite moment in Florence was on the last full day when a few of us hiked up (really, it was a hike) to the San Miniato al Monte as a required church to visit. Our group leader told us of a little detour right beside the church that was his favorite view in the entire city and so I offered to take the extra ten minutes to hike around and see it. We began walking and then suddenly the scenery changed and we were in a forest of pine trees neatly planted in rows. He explained to me that it was a World War II memorial site, where a single tree was planed in honor of everyone from Florence who was killed in the war. For such a beautiful and serene place, I never would have found it or understood its meaning on my own and I was very moved by the experience. There was a stillness in the air that I’d gone for so long without hearing.
Of course, Venice found a way of trumping my experience in Florence. I’d always wanted to visit Venice, enamored as I am by the ocean and the idea of living in a city where there are boats instead of cars, bridges instead of crosswalks. I can easily say that it lived up to my expectations perfectly. The elegance and beauty of the city completely took me in; leaving Venice was probably the hardest goodbye to a city so far. Sitting by San Marco at sunset while eating calzones and listening to a nearby accordion player does not happen to me every day, nor do I suspect it ever will happen again in quite the same manner.
My favorite day in Venice was our free day. The program paid for everyone to get a free 12 hour boat pass (in Venice there’s a boat system that works like a bus system) to go and explore. Well, you didn’t have to tell me twice to go! I was wonderfully happy to be on a boat again, smelling the salt air and feeling that crisp wind in my face, and I was very surprised at just how blue the Mediterranean water was around me. My friends and I went island-hopping most of the day, changing boat lines and riding around from island to island off the coast of Venice. The first stop was on the island Murano, the place most known for their glass-making, and also for doing damaging things to my bank account. A bit further out was the smaller island of Burano which is known for their lace-making. I think Burano was my favorite because it really had a small-island feel to it, and the houses were all painted in bright fresh colors that popped against the picturesque landscape.
I could deliberate all night about Italy but unfortunately there are too many other things to do and see yet! My only hope is to give you glimpses of these places I’ve lived in and been changed by.