From the title, you might surmise that I have had a really good Monday! However, the reality is that I felt drawn back to the travel journal I am creating, after the recent trip to Italy. As I wrote about previously, I didn’t have time to journal the way I thought I would, during the trip. Instead, I decided to journal about the experience after the fact.
I am appreciating how the acts of sketching and writing are allowing memories to surface. Like bubbles, they rise up and pop, surprising me and making me smile.
On day two of our tour, we left Rome, and entered Tuscany. We stopped at the little medieval village of Lucca for lunch, and later enjoyed a wonderful tour and five course meal at a vineyard. As I flipped through photos on my phone today, I felt inspired to capture Dayan’s first Italian pizza in a sketch. I also drew the bell tower of Lucca, with the trees growing at the top, creating the illusion of hair.
Although I would not learn about the significance of Italy’s bell towers until later in the trip, Lucca’s towers were the first to catch our attention and our interest.
We capped off our day at Fattoria Il Poggio, a Tuscan farm featuring vineyards and olive groves. What a magical evening. Our group dined al fresco, at long beautifully set tables under twinkling white lights. The wine and the food flowed freely. I learned that night that I would be fine, eating plant based in Italy. The food was marvelous.
As I wrote in my journal, I realized the true magic that wove itself through the evening involved relationships. That night, over a long and delightful dinner, strangers became family. Perhaps because of the wine, or the music, or the incredible beauty that surrounded us, 43 people bypassed the acquaintance and friendship stages and connected on deeper levels.
We laughed, we sang, we danced, we dined on amazing local foods and drank wines created right there at the vineyard. We fell in love with Italy and ourselves and each other.
The memories from that night warmed my heart and made me smile as I wrote in my journal.
And then they jostled another memory, that sent me searching for a piece of paper.
My family! My Globus family! Judy and Chelsea and Hilda, Norm and Rohini… We all wrote our names and email addresses on a piece of paper labeled “Traveling Companions”. Let’s all stay in touch, we said. I’ll email you, I promised.
I have not contacted my traveling companions, my new family, since I have been home. I found my paper with their names and email addresses. Perhaps this is why I was drawn to journal today. Perhaps this memory needed to surface. Regardless, I am grateful for the reminder that this day of the trip was full of so many good things, including gaining 41 new family members.
I will begin emailing them tonight. It is time to catch up with my family!
I had a great idea, before I left on the Italy trip with my daughter Elissa and grandson Dayan. I bought each of us a journal, with unlined blank pages, to use as travel journals. I had a romanticized vision of sitting on a hotel balcony each evening, while in Italy, capturing the day’s memories in delightful sketches and meaningful words and quotes.
It wasn’t a bad idea. But it didn’t happen. I’ve never traveled before with a tour group. We were busy from early in the morning until late at night, experiencing all that we could of the country we were visiting. I never once sat on a balcony. And although Elissa used her journal to write down thoughts and collect mementos, I never opened mine. At all.
After I returned home, I tucked my unused journal into a drawer…and left it there, until today. This morning, as I asked the Divine, How shall we play today?, the journal came to mind. The answer to my question seemed to be, Create a travel journal…
My response was something along the lines of, I think that horse has already bolted out of the barn… which was a cheeky way of saying, I think it is too late for that. I felt a wee sense of sadness about that fact that I had not used my journal.
Time has no meaning to the Divine. Was it really too late? My thoughts returned to the journal throughout the day. Create a travel journal…Create A Travel JOURNAL. There is no barn. There is no horse. Create.
This evening, I pulled the journal from the drawer, grabbed a drawing pencil and began a travel journal. Although I didn’t capture the memories each day while we were in Italy by sketching them, I did capture them. I took photos with my phone. And I wrote a daily blog post.
I started with a two page spread of Rome, where our adventures began. I included a quote that I love, We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” Using photos as inspiration, I sketched some of the highlights of that first day of our tour. I reread that day’s blog post and wrote out the phrase that so caught my attention as we wandered through the Vatican, Conquer your own space.
I sketched quickly, so as not to overthink what I was doing or doubt my ability. I had fun. The images I drew are symbols that remind me of special memories: Dayan’s first morning in Rome, looking out on the city from the hotel window, flowers growing atop a building, the Colosseum, which represents all the historical monuments we viewed, and a statue overlooking the Tiber River. It too is symbolic of the many amazing sculptures we saw while in Rome.
I enjoyed creating a travel journal entry, even if it is after the fact. I know it touched a deep place within my heart, because emotions were evoked. My eyes filled with grateful tears. I’ll include a quote about Rome in the bottom left corner and call these first pages good. As I sketch future pages, capturing the Italy journey day by day, I will be kind to myself and forego criticism. I will have fun, creating a visual representation of a wonderful shared adventure.
Perhaps a I’ll sketch next time while sitting in the backyard garden. It is the closest thing I have to a balcony.
On our last day of travel in Italy, as we journeyed back to Rome where our adventure had begun, Fabi our tour director shared a story. She directed our attention out the bus windows to a bell tower in the distance.
Long ago, she said, pilgrims made their way each year to Rome. Most were on foot. As they traveled, they watched for the bell towers in each village or town to appear. Sighting a tower meant they were close to food and water and shelter. The bell towers became a way of tracking their journey. They knew how far they had come. And they knew how far they still had to go, as they noted the towers.
I was captivated by Fabi’s tale of pilgrims on a journey. We were traveling to Rome as well, by bus, thankfully, rather than on foot. However, I began to watch for the bell towers as we rolled along, tracking our pilgrimage.
A bell tower in Lucca.
Perhaps the most famous bell tower in the world, the leaning tower of Pisa.
I realized our Italian journey over the last 11 days could be marked by bell towers also. I had taken pictures of the towers in each city, town or tiny village, without understanding their significance at the time. Most of the towns had more than one bell tower. Previously associated with certain wealthy families in the region, the height of the tower indicated the importance of the family.
Siena bell tower
San Gimignano bell tower in the distance
The villages’ towers were often near the center of the towns, in piazzas. Each one was uniquely different, ancient, and often still in use with working bells. Elissa and Dayan climbed a couple of them, trudging up hundreds of worn steps, rewarded with gorgeous panoramic views at the top.
I thought about how pertinent the pilgrimage story was to our Italian journey, but also how significant to my life journey as well.
Florence bell tower
Verona bell tower.
The word pilgrimage means a pilgrim’s journey, usually toward a holy city, such as Rome. Pilgrim came from the Latin word peregrinus meaning foreign or foreigner. As I discovered during my Year of Journeys two years ago, journey literally means the distance one can travel in a day.
Pilgrimage then means the distance a foreigner can go in one day, day after day. Or from bell tower to bell tower. The deeper meaning became apparent to me. I am a pilgrim, a foreigner, on a daily trek. In Italy I was a foreigner. And here on the playground that is Earth, I am a foreigner too. My ultimate destination isn’t Rome, or Edinburgh, or any earthly city. It will be a return to the Divine, a return to pure Love.
Venice bell tower
Burano bell tower. It was leaning too.
For now though, I travel…to amazing places around the world, and through life. I mark my passage by the events that happen, times of growth or upheaval, the symbolic bell towers showing me how far I have come and how far I still have to go.
On my journey, I have amazing companions who are traveling alongside. Some have been with me throughout my lifetime, some walked with me for a short time only. All teach me something about who I am and the journey I am on.
My family in Italy.
During my time in Italy, I was surrounded by traveling companions. We started off as strangers, except for my daughter and grandson of course. By journey’s end we had become family, a family whose members came from across the globe. Our guides for this part of the journey were a quiet and exceedingly charming man called Luciano, whose driving skills enabled our pilgrimage, and a wise, joyful woman named Fabiola, who introduced us to Italy and deeper aspects of life.
Like the long ago pilgrims, moving from bell tower to bell tower, we arrived at last in Rome. But that bustling city was not our resting place. Rather it launched us all abroad to continue finding our way in the world. I am so grateful for my Italian travels and the impact it has had on my life and on my journey.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me, touring Italy, was how much I enjoyed visiting the churches in that country. I had the thought, early on, that if you’ve seen one cathedral, you’ve seen them all. And there are many to see. Every city, every tiny village, has at its heart a mighty cathedral or basilica. But how wrong I was in thinking they would be the same, or even similar.
The first thing I learned from our tour guide is that the word “cathedral” isn’t interchangeable with the word “church”. A cathedral is the seat of the regional bishop. A basilica, a commonly used word for churches in Italy, is defined as a large church. The Italian word for cathedral is duomo. I saw that term used frequently as well.
St Peter’s Basilica, Rome
What I wasn’t prepared for was how incredibly beautiful the cathedrals and basilicas of Italy would be, or how much they would impact me. The architecture was amazing and inspiring. Victor Hugo wrote, “Architecture has recorded the great ideas of the human race. Not only every religious symbol, but every human thought has its page in that vast book.”
The immensity of the structures was mind boggling, as was the age of many of the buildings and the length of time it took to complete a cathedral. It typically took more than 100 years to build a cathedral, and sometimes 200 to 300 years before the work was finished. Imagine the generations of builders and architects who created such enduring magnificence.
Basilica of St Mary of the Flower, Florence
They weren’t all elaborate structures, but each one was unique, and each told a story. As we wandered through the streets of villages, we would suddenly step into a piazza, a square, and there was usually a church housed there. They never failed to capture my attention or my appreciation, these keepers of history and art.
Basilica in Lucca
St Francis Basilica in Assisi
That is what I came to realize about the churches of Italy. They were museums, full of paintings, mosaics, stained glass and sculptures. They housed relics, in some instances. The worn floors told of the passage of many feet. That dark line across the marble was from generations of drowsy heads resting against the wall.
St Peter’s Basilica
Basilica in Ravenna
Cathedral in Orvieto
As I entered the cathedrals and basilicas I was often moved to tears. The quiet spaces felt sacred. These churches are still in use. Services are held daily in many of them. However the Divine invitation felt deeper than a call to worship.
It felt like an invitation to join with the countless souls who had sat or knelt within these walls throughout the centuries, and contemplate the expansiveness of life and the intricacies of the heart. There was the bittersweet realization of the permanence of these gorgeous stone cathedrals and the impermanence of human bodies.
Oh, how glorious were those places.
“The cathedrals and churches architecturally prepare our souls for the beauty of the Eucharist.” Allen R Hunt
I love that quote in the context of the cathedrals of Italy. The eucharist is the sacrament of the Holy Communion, the drinking of the wine, the breaking of bread, signifying union with Christ through his sacrifice.
For myself, viewing the cathedrals of Italy prepared my soul for the wondrous beauty of creative inspiration. And they opened my soul in unexpected ways to a deeper communion with the Divine.
This evening’s post is more a visual story, an opportunity to share a collection of photos showcasing Italy’s love of flowers and plants. One thing I noticed in the cities and villages was a lack of grassy yards. The charming cobblestone streets were lined with interesting shops that opened directly off the lanes. People lived in the floors above the shops.
In the more residential areas, large wooden doors also opened directly off of the streets, without porches or yards. There were paved courtyards and wide piazzas made of bricks or stones, but no areas of lawn.
Typical residential lane in Lucca, Italy.
In spite of a lack of yards and green spaces in urban areas, I was delighted to discover that the Italians love their plants and flowers. I only had to look up, away from the ground, to find the gardens of Italy.
Balconies become miniature gardens in Italy. Geraniums were favorites for containers. Notice Lucca’s bell tower in the background, and in the pic below. There are trees growing atop it!
Clever plant holder in the village of Monterosso.
Vines and containers in San Gimignano.
Jasmine is very common in Italy, clinging to walls and archways. It was in full bloom when we were there, scenting the air.
Beautiful window boxes
Tucked into a courtyard in Venice.
Flowers along a Venice canal.
Garden in Burano.
A street in Orvieto.
In the Tuscany region, there were fields of vineyards, groves of olive trees and clusters of tall, skinny cedars and umbrella pines. In those rural areas, there was an abundance of flora and lush, green growth. I loved the Tuscan countryside.
However, I also appreciated the amazing beauty found in villages and towns…flowers and trees, vines and shrubs, all planted in containers. My gardener’s heart was filled with joy as I wandered the narrow streets. I often lagged behind as our group walked, my head tilted back, taking in the tiny gardens of Italy.
It seemed there was always a way to bring nature into a space, no matter how small that space. A balcony of flowers here, a single potted plant there, a stone archway covered with sweetly scented jasmine…the people of Italy are people after my own heart.
They surround themselves with growing, flowering plants. They surround themselves with incredible beauty.
One of the reasons I switched to a plant based lifestyle last summer was because of the trip to Italy this year. Before I embraced eating healthier, I had trouble walking without pain and I was using a cane. My hope was to walk without a cane and without pain, during the trip.
If you’ve followed my healing journey, you know my health has been transformed by adopting a plant based lifestyle. No more cane and no more pain have been just two of the positive outcomes as a result. However, as the trip drew closer, I wondered if it was possible to eat plant based in Italy.
Breakfasts were easy while in Italy. Every hotel we stayed in offered a large breakfast buffet. I could choose from a selection of fresh and baked fruits, juices and even veggies such as green beans, mushrooms and tomatoes.
But what about lunches and dinners, in a country famous for pasta? A Divine opportunity brought the answer. Because of severe weather in the US and being diverted to London, we missed the welcome dinner the first night of the tour. The next day, chatting with our tour director, Fabi, I asked if it was considered rude to request gluten free pasta at restaurants.
Elissa, Dayan and I were about to head out into Rome for our first dinner. Fabi happened to be giving Dayan directions to nearby cafes. Otherwise, I would not have asked. And I felt reluctant to ask at a restaurant. I didn’t want to be perceived as a picky eater. That was my issue though.
Fabi assured me that most restaurants did indeed offer gluten free pasta and vegetarian or vegan meal options. My first dinner was in a delightful cafe with outdoor seating, located on a narrow street lined with restaurants. I enjoyed roasted potatoes and freshly grilled veggies. No one looked at me oddly or questioned my choice.
The ease of ordering that first meal encouraged me to stay within my plant based diet during the entire trip. However, I have to praise Fabi for taking charge of my meals. Our tour included some lunches and dinners, at various restaurants and two different vineyards. Without me asking her to, she called ahead to every venue and explained that I was following a restricted diet.
Without exception, at each place I was served delicious, freshly prepared plant based meals. No gluten. No meat. No sugar, dairy or eggs. Instead of a sweet dessert, I was presented with a bowl or plate of sumptuous fruit. The chefs or head waiters introduced themselves to me before the meal, delivered each course with a flourish and a smile, and checked with me after to make sure I was happy with the food.
Happy? I was thrilled! And those who brought me my special meals did so with a noticeable sense of accomplishment and pride that was endearing. I felt so well cared for, and not at all a burden.
When we were free to eat on our own, I did fine ordering from the menu. Dayan noticed the small print that read gluten free available. From Rome to the coastal villages in Cinque Terre to Venice, gluten free pasta and/or vegan options were readily available, making it easy for me to stay plant based.
Was it difficult, eating differently from everyone else? Not at all. Was it boring? Absolutely not. I enjoyed a variety of delicious foods. And it was crucial for me. If I had abandoned my plant based lifestyle, even for a few days, I would have risked feeling unwell or opened myself up to discomfort. It was important to me to feel my very best.
And I did do well. I walked with ease, 4-6 miles a day. I flew for hours and hours, without my legs locking up. I climbed stairs, which a year ago would have been impossible. Stairs can still be a challenge for me, due to years of pain and inflammation that has caused muscle tightness around my knees, but I am continuing to improve. I kept up with the tour group and I was extremely pleased with my level of fitness.
My experience was encouraging. I found that it is possible to eat a plant based diet while on vacation. My tips are: make healthy eating a priority, drink plenty of water, get enough rest, and don’t be afraid to ask for specially prepared meals.
I am so grateful for Fabi, who went above and beyond to ensure that I ate healthy meals. And I am grateful for each chef who took the time to create magnificent meals for me. I’m also so thankful for my grandson and daughter who frequently asked if I was finding healthy options on the menus and often checked ahead before choosing a cafe, just to make sure I had plenty to eat.
Surrounded by such caring and conscientious people, how could I not do well on this trip? And that would be my last suggestion for maintaining a diet while on vacation…surround yourself with supportive people. They may not eat what you eat, but they can certainly offer encouragement and love and compassion as you care for yourself.
Healthy eating is a choice…a daily choice. Whether dining in my own home or in a fine restaurant in Venice, I am the one who decides what I will eat. I chose well. And my body thanked me for it.
While I was in Italy, my blog posts focused on each day’s adventures and photos that captured the beautiful landscapes and treasures around us. Honestly, by the end of the long, fun packed days, I barely had the energy to write anything more than that!
Home now, I want to share some of the stories of Italy, providing depth to the experiences we had. Although this first tale didn’t actually take place in Italy, the events that unfolded enabled us to get to our destination in a timely, and miraculous, way.
Let me tell you about Jason.
Enroute to the Charlotte, NC airport, on our first travel day, the pilot suddenly announced that we were being diverted to Chattanooga, TN. Severe weather in the Charlotte area posed a threat to incoming aircraft. Airports in Knoxville and Chattanooga filled with airplanes, and deplaned passengers, as we all waited for clearance to proceed.
Most of us on board these planes had connecting flights in Charlotte. In our case, my daughter Elissa, grandson Dayan and I needed to catch our international flight to Rome, Italy. As time ticked by while we were grounded in Chattanooga, it became doubtful that we were going to make our connection.
We didn’t. The plane to Rome took off two hours before we made it to Charlotte.
We weren’t the only passengers stranded in Charlotte. As more and more planes arrived late, the airport filled with displaced travelers, intent on finding another flight to get them to their destinations. Imagine that scene. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people scrambling for seats on the few planes that remained at the airport. And imagine the moods of those desperate passengers. There was crying. There was anger. There was frustration.
We were concerned as well. We had a tour that started the next evening with a welcome dinner.
And we made a conscious decision. The weather couldn’t be helped. It wasn’t anyone’s fault that connecting flights were missed. We were determined to treat the American Airlines employees with patience and kindness.
We also took the action steps that we could. Dayan got on the phone with our Missouri travel agent, seeking advice. Ken attempted to book a new flight for us. There was an airplane leaving for London shortly. However, although he could see that there were seats available, he was not allowed to reserve them for us. We were required to speak to an American Airlines employee and arrange that ourselves. The problem with that was everyone was being told that flight was sold out.
As we moved slowly toward the help counter, a 45 minute process, chaos roiled around us. The three women in line ahead of us were trying to get to Rome as well. Dayan’s dad and stepmom offered helpful suggestions via phone. And Ken called back with this advice: Ask in a kind and authoritative way for seats that were still showing as available on the London flight, even if we were told it was sold out.
The series of events that happened next was miraculous to us.
As we moved closer to the help counter, the situation sounded grim. There were simply no flights available until the next day. It seemed probable that we would not arrive in Rome until Friday, missing the beginning of our tour. The ladies in front of us didn’t seem to be finding seats as they spoke to a representive. We stepped up to speak to the next available rep. Dayan spoke confidently and kindly, explaining our situation. And then he asked for the seats on the London plane. The woman looked at her computer screen, and told us she didn’t want to waste any time. “Go quickly,” she said, “get to the departing plane’s gate and see if they can help you.”
We had not heard those words spoken to anyone else. With a spark of hope, we trotted through the packed airport, dodging people, pulling our carry on luggage behind us.
At the gate we were given conflicting information. No seats available. Get in another line. The plane had already been boarded and was preparing for take off. I got in the other line indicated while Elissa and Dayan stayed at the gate, talking to the women behind the counter there. When I turned around to check their progress, I saw Dayan talking to a young dark haired man. My grandson waved me over.
The man’s name was Jason. He was an American Airlines employee and he took it upon himself to get us on that plane. I don’t know where he came from or why he decided to help us, but we were so grateful for his assistance, even if it didn’t work out.
Jason moved to an empty counter and using the computer there, got to work. And he was determined. Others said there were no seats available. The computer kept freezing or getting bogged down in a loop. Jason kept working. He called out repeatedly to the two women, “These passengers are supposed to be on that plane. Hold the plane.”
The time for departure came and went. The airplane remained at the gate. Jason kept working. The women came to believe we were supposed to be on the London plane. One woman even took responsibility for accidently deleting us from the system, sure that we were on the original passenger list. A rep kept checking on our status. The plane needed to leave.
Jason kept working. He assured us we belonged on the flight. As he worked he shared with us that he was of Italian ancestry. Ah, the reason perhaps, that he was helping us so diligently. He said he still had family in a little town in northern Italy that we had probably never heard of. Lucca, it was called. “Lucca!” we answered, “Yes! We are visiting Lucca. We know of it.” And it turned out, Jason had been on vacation. This evening, this night of chaos, was his first shift back at work. He didn’t know it when he reported to work. We didn’t know it when we hurried to the gate. But he was there for us.
One by one, Jason got us entered into a system that didn’t want to accept us. They were victories worth cheering over as each boarding pass was printed out, and gratitudes were expressed each time the captain was told there were passengers still coming on board.
Jason did it. He got us on the plane to London. He gave Elissa the name of his great aunt, who owns a hotel in Lucca. We gave him our deepest thanks. As we took our seats on the airplane, among passengers who were, amazingly, not upset by the delay, I marveled over what had just happened. I can’t explain how it happened. I only know that we kept our hearts open and our attitudes pleasant and we asked. We asked and we received. And we flew to London overnight, and from there to Rome. Jason made that connecting flight happen as well.
We thought of Jason often during the Italy tour. We talked about him as we wandered through the magical village of Lucca. Could that older woman unlocking her door be his aunt? Did his family live down this lane? We loved that beautiful, medieval town. We loved the connection between it and the angel who came to our rescue in a crowded airport full of upset travelers.
We are grateful to the Divine, who met us where we were in the journey, and heard our request for help. We are grateful for our travel angel, who appeared with the intention of getting us on the plane. He created a pocket of calm and assurance around us, and brought together a team of people who worked on our behalf.
Grazie, Jason. Grazie mille. A thousand thank yous.
This is a first. I’m writing my blog post from an airplane, that has been sitting on the tarmac for almost four hours. Emotionally, we’ve said “caio” to Italy and we have our hearts and minds turned toward Joplin, Missouri. However, physically, we are still sitting here in Italy.
We don’t know what has caused all the delays. A technical issue was reported, and a necessity to reroute to Bangor, Maine. Our destination is supposed to be Charlotte, North Carolina. There are thunderstorms in the US, which may be causing delays to incoming flights.
All I know is…here we are, still in Italy. During this beautiful tour, discovering the Treasures of Italy, we haven’t had a hitch, except in getting here…and now getting away from here.
It is all part of the journey, yes?
Greg is keeping me informed from the US. For whatever reason, there are almost 200 flight delays and 12 cancellations so far. Something is keeping us grounded.
So this isn’t the blog post I intended to write. But it is the post being written because this is the adventure we are having. We may end up staying in Italy one more night. We may eventually get into the air. We may miss our connecting flight in Charlotte and spend the night there. Or we may make it back to Joplin in the middle of the night.
We will get there when we get there…more or less. This is the Italian way of marking time. More or less. We heard that expression so many times the past 11 days.
As Dayan said about an hour ago…these are the continuing adventures of Dayan and Yaya…and Elissa. We never knew exactly how our stories were going to turn out, when Dayan and I would create them, when he was a little boy. We never know how they are going to turn out now.
But our stories were always interesting. They are interesting now. Life is interesting. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Today we explored the city of Florence, after checking into a hotel here last night. Our group met Andrea (which is a common man’s name in Italy) for a day of sightseeing and visiting museums.
We saw some amazing sights as we journeyed into the heart of Florence. The Cathedral of Florence was magnificent. The duomo (Italian for “house”) is huge, and took more than 140 years to complete. The ancient church, completed in 1536, still holds daily services.
This afternoon we walked through the Uffizi Gallery, which houses one of the most impressive collections of Italian Renaissance art in the world. Our knowledgeable guide, Andrea, who has a deep passion for art, led us room by room, calling our attention to works of art by Michelangelo, Di Vinci, Botticelli, Raphael and Rembrandt. Andrea shared about the symbolism and history within those paintings, bringing deeper meaning to the works.
Cathedral of Florence
Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo 1507
Andrea took us to another museum early in the day, the Galleria dell’Academia, where Michelangelo’s marble statue David is on display. I have been familiar with this 17 foot statue, representing the biblical figure, David, since childhood. To walk into that domed room, specially built around the statue, was surreal. This experience became the pinnacle of a day full of wonderful adventures.
However, before we got to meet David, Andrea introduced us to four unfinished sculptures, works that will forever remain incomplete after Michelangelo’s death at age 89. These pieces are called “slaves” because the figures are seen as trying to free themselves from the marble.
Michelangelo was unique among sculptors in that he purchased solid blocks of marble and using hand tools, created the sculptures by working from the front of the block to the back. He didn’t use models. He worked from his imagination and from sketches he drew. Michelangelo believed God gave him the gift of releasing the figure from the marble.
He was incredibly gifted, that is evident. After studying his unfinished sculptures, we were taken into the next room to meet his David.
What an amazing sight. What an extraordinary work of art. Andrea is extremely passionate about this statue. As we quietly gazed upward, he told us that Michelangelo was only 26 years old when he began this sculpture, which was commissioned as a statue to be placed on the Florence Cathedral’s eastern roofline.
When the statue was unveiled in 1504, the people saw how gifted and promising the young sculptor was. The powerful work of art was placed at the entrance to the Cathedral instead, where it remained until 1873. At that time, it was moved to its current location, to protect it from corrosion by the weather and from vandalism. A replica took its place.
We slowly walked around the statue. I have rarely seen a photo of David’s face. I was struck by the intense look in his eyes, the slight furrow on his brow. I could see the muscles of his chest and abdomen, see the ribs beneath. This wasn’t just a shepherd boy Michelangelo sculpted. This was a young warrior, naked to show his vulnerability and his complete trust in God…muscled to show his strength…confident that his simple weapon could take down a giant enemy, because he was not fighting alone.
I stood with tears in my eyes, listening as Andrea spoke with strong emotion about this young man who became one of the most well known artists, ever, and his sculpture, David. It was a very moving experience, and one I will not forget.
When asked how he created David, Michelangelo is reported to have said that he simply chipped away the stone that was not David. He revealed David, in all of his glory. I am so grateful that he did. And I can carry that lesson away from Florence, as we head to Venice tomorrow. I can let all that is not Cindy be chipped away, to reveal the masterpiece that already exists there.
When Dayan and I met with our travel agent in January, and discussed our Italy 2017 trip, Ken asked my grandson what cities and areas he wanted to see, as that would determine which tour we joined. Dayan shared a list of locations that were high priorities to him, “must sees” on this upcoming adventure.
Near the top of his list was the coastal region in northwestern Italy called Cinque Terre. Dayan had been telling about these villages for years. The architecture stood out to him, along with the villages’ unique locations along mountains with nearly vertical drops into the Mediterranean Sea.
Among all the tours available, only one included a stop in Cinque Terre. Called Italian Treasures, this 11 day tour is the one Dayan selected.
On Day 4, we spent a good portion of our day exploring Monterosso, the largest of the five villages in the region known as Cinque Terre (pronounced chink-a-terr-a, which literally means five villages). Dayan was excited that this long held dream was becoming reality.
Here are highlights of our day:
The villages are only accessible by boat or a train that chugs through the mountain. We traveled by bus to La Spezia where we boarded a boat with our local tour guide, Andrea. Our morning cruise took us down the coast, as Andrea told us about Cinque Terre’s history and shared interesting facts in a fun and playful way.
Andrea had an easy to listen to humorous delivery during our tour along the coast.
Leaving La Spezia.
Approaching Port Venere, which is not one of the five villages. Entering the sea, we turned to head up the coast.
Port Venere’s bay. The five villages, in order as they appear moving up the coast: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Cornigla, Vernazza and Monterosso, where we spent the day. The villages cling to rocky outcroppings or march up the mountain in miniature inlets. This area has become a National Park. The villagers grow and harvest grapes in terraced vineyards and supplement with other crops. Because the villages attract tourists from around the world, they also have shops and ristorantes for the visitors, bringing revenue into the area.
We explored the largest of the five villages today, Monterosso. This is the church, faced in stripes of local black and white marble. The colors for the houses and buildings are chosen to correspond with the colors of native flowers.
We had lunch at a little ristorante on Via Rome. I enjoyed gluten free pasta with pesto. Yum!
After lunch we waded into the Mediterranean Sea, where I captured the moment. I’m changing my profile photo and cover photo daily on Facebook, using highlight pics from the day. This momentous snapshot became today’s profile pic.
I love this series of pics, taken as Dayan waded in the Mediterranean.
Looking across at Old Monterosso. The silver train crossing the bridge is similar to the one we took back to La Spezia.
The incredibly beautiful Monterosso Bay.
The new part of Monterosso with its stunning bay. The train station is located here.
These two are sharing such a grand adventure. I am grateful to be journeying with them.
We had such an amazing time exploring Monterosso. From boat ride to walking through the village to catching a train out, it was fun and educational and peaceful. The turquoise sea casts powerfully calming energy over this whole area. I was thoroughly enchanted.
I could stay on Monterosso for a month, and I would enjoy every moment. Not this time though. Tomorrow we are off to Siena and San Gimignano. After exploring those villages, we will reach Florence by nightfall. So much more awaits us.
We made a stop on our way back to the hotel in Lucca. Elissa captured Dayan in a classic pose with the Leaning Tower of Pisa!