A little of what I learned in Italy

View of Olive Groves in Tuscany from Montepulciano
 I returned recently from my maiden voyage out of the country to explore the arts and landscape of Italy. For a first time international traveler, the journey was especially novel to me, filling my senses with new landscape imagery, sumptuous ethnic foods and the lyrical sounds of Italian in the air. I realized how the benefits of traveling to different cultural regions are important for many reasons beyond the obvious desire to relax and see new sights. It is a break from one’s comfort zone, opening your eyes to different perspectives and ways of seeing the world. Here are a few of my “ah-ha” moments that I wanted to share.

People are people everywhere. We met individuals from around the world, each person open, friendly and ever so helpful; from the kind Asian woman who took time to help us decipher the automated train ticket machine in Florence: the New Zealand man who helped us find the correct bus, two couples who graciously shared their cab, to a young Seattle couple who journeyed with us in the dark, up ancient stone stairs and through the narrow streets of our hill town to make sure we found our hotel. Thank you!

Rosso Fiorentino - "Descent from the Cross" in Volterra, Italy
Inlaid stone floor design in the Vatican, Rome Italy
Art and design immersion: As a student of art, I had long ago studied the great Renaissance masterpieces. That didn’t come close to preparing me for seeing the art in person. After we explored the Pitti Palace and Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Borghese Gallery in Rome and a dazzling array of Renaissance historic sites, I was stunned by the magnitude of art and design that must have embraced those who lived amidst the wealth of Renaissance paintings, sculpture, tapestries and the architecture of their time. I wasn’t sure what to focus my sights on between the masterful paintings, the equally intense imagery on the frescoed walls and ceilings, the ornately carved doors, or the multi-colored mosaic stone floors of the quintessential Renaissance architectural masterpieces.

View of Vernazza in the Cinque Terre (sadly, this beautiful town
has been virtually destroyed by a severe flood this October)
 A tour group can be a very rewarding: We had tentatively booked our tour through Rick Steves, at first unsure if a tour group was for us. We loved our group and so enjoyed getting to know and traveling with our varied group of personalities from all different walks of life. We felt that we made lifelong friends! Having a larger group (but not too large and cumbersome!) also adds great diversity of interests so you can always find someone in your group who wants to explore that obscure site with you during your non-tour free time. The Rick Steve’s travel concept also melded perfectly with our desire for more active and independent travel.

One of our great Italian dinners with new found friends

The Italian passion for food and eating: The Italian way of enjoying a fine, multi-course meal with family and friends as the star event is a wonderfully fulfilling time indeed. We so enjoyed reveling in our good eats and company with no need to rush off to the next activity as us Americans are so used to doing.

Italian Ice Cream! Gelato is a very special treat and quickly became our perfect lunch in every exotic flavor!

The Caprese salad: Such a fresh and wholesome combination of flavors and my new favorite salad with sliced tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Yum!

Bicycling in Lucca, Italy
 The value of friendship: You never know if you can travel well together until you are immersed in the trip. We were so happy to discover that a couple of good friends can actually travel together for 2 weeks and still like each other afterwards!

Crossing a street in Rome is a hair-raising exercise in risk-taking and assertiveness training. Not for the faint hearted! Make eye contact with the drivers and bravely claim your right to walk across in spite of the throngs of “toy cars”, Vespas and tour buses storming your way.

Pizza delivery in the hill towns of Italy!

Beautiful David! Accademia Gallery, Florence Italy

Borrowing creative ideas from the past: I was reminded how so little of what we create in our art and design today is every truly new. Many of the designs and concepts are rehashed and renewed for a younger civilization. Etruscan earrings from 2000+ years ago were in designs similar to our modern hoop earrings. Renaissance painters explored the use of abstract shapes and bright vibrant colors in dynamic compositions filled with motion and emotion. An apparel exhibit in Florence displayed fashions through the decades with many designs in styles we might wear today.

Thank you for reading these little tidbits on my Italian experience. This, I hope, will be my lifelong journey, to always strive to learn and discover from both the ordinary at home and the more extraordinary abroad.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome your feedback. Please let me know what you think!