Haven’t heard from me lately? It’s because I’ve just been Observing Italy…
Day 1 or 2 (there is a 9 hour time change so I’m not really sure)
The beginning… We wake at 4:00am catch a flight from L.A. to Atlanta to meet up with family who we will be spending the next eleven days with — laughing, touring, dining and drinking together.
Leaving for Rome with a duvet, pillow, champagne, head phones and sleep aid – could this be heaven? I awake to the coastline of Italy and my tour of amazement begins. Flying over geometric patterns dotted with cotton-ball clouds and in First Class – it is heaven.
The next thing I know — I get the FIRST EVER stamp on my passport! We check into the hotel and head out to start observing Italy. First on the agenda, the Vatican. Tears, architecture, the serenade of the Italian language, Michelangelo, the calmness of Italians, wine, alleys filled with colorful doors and plants and cobblestones.
English signs, English speaking Italians plus the Euro, so simple. Travelling with my sister-in-law who grew up in the South, creates the signature saying for our travels – Ciao y’all… It’s going to be a fun trip!!!
We’ll call this Day 2
Walking seven miles seems like nothing compared to the thousands of years we view and touch and sense. Bricks, mortar, marble, stone, life and death – all make up a Coliseum.
Music, gelato, cappuccino, pizza and people, lots of people, all wanting to experience this history – all make up Italy. Cars so small they seat one and squeeze into any possible open spot on the street, even if it’s vertical in a horizontal row. Colors, flowers, laundry hanging from balconies, all highlighted by cathedral bells ringing…celebrating Sunday, the beginning of the week! Throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain should ensure my return, correct?
Off to Tuscany, rolling hills, Cyprus trees, and towns as I imagined – rustic, but vibrant. There are children, old people, stories, lots of stories. Then in the middle of the rustic surroundings a Prada outlet appears, welcome to the 21st century (and a cute little purse, thanks Carrie!). Florence is the destination for the day and it IS right out of a Fairy Tale.
It’s the light in Florence, the light that draws artists to it’s heart for centuries.
We view so many works of art and countless numbers have been created right where I am standing. I stare at a Michelangelo and can feel his spirit in the painting.
Then by chance we visit a cathedral that is home to a crucifixion he carved, which again leaves me breathless.
Gardens, food, cobblestones, art, and the language. Then after you think you can’t walk another step you turn the corner and view the statue of David… no words, just another teary moment.
We end the day with stories and food and wine and family and again, that dreamy language.
Landscapes, stone walls, wine, olive oil, balsamic and more wine. Breathtaking historical buildings that actually invite you to brush up against them as if to absorb their history. A passion for religion, family and community that I have never felt, this is Sienna.
Cathedrals or Duomos as they call them are everywhere. So majestic, artistic, commanding, inviting, vocal and breathtaking. I wonder, if there is no God as many want us to believe, why did they build them?
A walk down the path of someone’s dream… A visit to an Italian winery, where we are drawn in by the rosemary hedges, the aroma of their olive oil and 30 year old balsamic. The rows of grape vines invite you to saunter after a homemade lunch created from what is grown on the farm. Why does the truffle oil or the balsamic on ice cream taste so divine … Perhaps heaven is in Italy?
As we prepare to leave Florence I reflect on the kindness of the Italian people. Yes we are probably their main source of income as visitors, but there is no attitude like someone is “making” them work in a gelato store, or serve cappuccino at a corner shop. They truly enjoy what they are doing and it shows.
Fields that could be filled with corn from my hometown are filled with rows and rows of grapevines. Castles on hilltops to defend towns against invaders and a balcony where Juliet supposedly wept to Romeo are just a few more things to absorb. Ancient stone pavers helping pilgrims cross the country now covered with asphalt to preserve them – how funny. A quick stop in Maranello to see where those beautiful red Ferrari’s are built and we are back on the road. After a scenic drive we across a bridge, and as the sun breaks through the rain-filled clouds it highlights our next destination — the floating city of Venice.
A Venice market is an explosion of colors and textures and the sharing of a morning with people who do this daily. Walking is a way of life in Venice, but water taxis are handy to have after a delightful dinner with lots of wine — especially when it is pouring.
St. Mark’s square is like being in a movie set – the pigeons, the Doges and Napoleon. Its enormity, the history and atmosphere, live music playing, children running about and people just standing taking in the history. On a side street there is Harry’s Bar, home of the Bellini and a hangout to Hemmingway. But of course we had one!
A short boat ride to the island of Murano where you are humbled by the talent of the master glass blowers and then on to Burano, known for its lace, but is home to a delightful color wheel of houses, of which you can’t stop taking pictures.
Gondolas, water, alleys, food, wine, and more water. Walking the Grand Canal to stop into Peggy Guggenheim’s home/museum. Standing inches away from the creations of Calder, Chagall, Dali, Picasso and Pollock. Knowing that many were in this very home, transcends you to a different time.
Goodbye Venice, off to Rome via a train that travels 150+mph. We delight in wine, of course, on the train as the mountains and vineyards and castles fly by. After Florence and Venice, Rome now seems so crowded. No fields of grapes, no gondolas, just the beautiful architecture and history. My God I’m already taking it for granted … can’t believe I used the word just. A restful day and then on to the celebration of my sister-in-law’s 60th Birthday. We are all recipients of her birthday gift – the trip to Italy!
Sadness fills my heart as we leave this place that is centuries older than my homeland, but which hasn’t forgotten to be kind, friendly, grateful and beautiful. Grateful for Carrie and Kirk for including me on this trip of a lifetime and sharing it with Joy, Chris and my husband Jeff.
And grateful for you,
Ciao y’all – Sarò tornare un giorno l’Italia (Goodbye ya’ll — Italy, I will be back one day)