Today, my blogging has involved a lot of typing and an equal amount of backspacing. This means I’ve spent a significant amount of time writing about nothing. It’s my first experience with Blogger’s Block, if such a condition exists. And what a curious time for it to strike. I’ve just returned from a whirlwind awe-inspiring 36-hour tour of Rome and Vatican City, and here I am… speechless. The trouble is that I have so much to write about, that I can’t decide where to start. So I guess I will start at the beginning…
Since the opening of the hockey season, we have been planning to visit Italy’s capitol in conjunction with Kevin’s parents trip. We knew they were ending their two-week vacation there and that the dates coordinated nicely with a break in Kevin’s schedule. It would be a great opportunity to spend time with family and to finally see the most talked-about city in the country. We booked ourselves seats on the cheap one-hour flight and anxiously awaited our four day vacation. But then, unfortunately, Valpe got stuck in a losing streak. By the time the streak was broken, playoffs were only two weeks away, and the management and players recognized the need for additional practice sessions. Our upcoming four days off were reduced to two. Despite this disappointing glitch in our plans, we decided that a change-of-flight fee and reduction in trip length weren’t going to stop us from getting to Rome. We knew we would have a jam-packed schedule from our 12:00 pm Sunday arrival to our 8:25 am Tuesday departure, but we also knew it would be worth it.
And it was. In less than two days, and in spite of our shuttle car breaking down on the way from the airport to downtown Rome, we had plenty of time to see several of Rome’s most impressive sights. We took a three-hour guided tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We spent hours exploring the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum. Along with Kevin’s parents, we stopped for apperitivo before embarking on a night walk along some of Rome’s most famous streets, past beautiful piazzas, and breath-taking fountains. And we even had time to relax in the spring-like sunshine while sampling some of the city’s best gelato!
On the flight home, as I reflected on my visit to this historical city, I realized that it had an enormous effect on my Italy experience as a whole. And something about the trip, or maybe it was the air pressure, made me feel a little dizzy. I thought about the timing of the vacation in the course of our six month stay. Though our Rome vacation fell coincidentally into our penultimate month here, I thought about how it turned out to be the perfect place for it on the timeline of our adventures. Coming towards the end of our stay, it was as if all of our previous trips had been prepping us for this one. What we saw, learned, and experienced before embellished the knowledge and experience we gained in Rome and Vatican City.
On my trips to Florence, for instance, I’d visited several museums that contributed to my growing appreciation of art history. In the Galleria dell’Accademia, I'd admired Michelangelo’s David, the sculpture that rightfully demands critical acclaim as the personification of perfection and a benchmark in Renaissance art. In the Uffizi Gallery, I’d loved Renaissance paintings, specifically those by Leonardo Da Vinci and Boticelli. Having been exposed to the works of several great artists, I was all the more impressed by what I saw during this trip. In Vatican City, for instance, I had the opportunity to see another Michelangelo sculpture. St. Peter’s Basilica houses his impressive Pieta, an interpretation of Mary holding the dead body of her crucified son. It was his first masterpiece, sculpted when he was only twenty-three years of age. Then, in the Vatican Museum, I realized Raphael’s artistic genius in his famously painted rooms. Not to mention, Michelangelo’s prestige as a painter! His work in the Sistine Chapel, in my opinion, is incomparable to anything by anyone… ever.
Just as Rome widened my Renaissance art exposure, it also established relationships between architecture I’d admired in Italy. After having been to St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and the Duomo in Florence, it was truly an experience to walk through Rome’s Pantheon. Constructed over two thousand years ago for the gods, the temple’s dome was a model for those two churches. As tall as it is wide, and with a circular opening at it’s apex, the Roman temple is an astonishing architectural feat. I completely understand why the Renaissance architects of St. Marks and St. Maria del Fiore’s sought to bring this impression to the Venice and Florence basilicas.
As I further contemplated these parallels, I realized something. Basically, prior to coming to Rome, I knew the factual underpinnings of the Renaissance time period. I knew what Renaissance meant. Rebirth. I knew when and where the Renaissance took place. From the 14th to 16th centuries in Europe. I understood why the two centuries were given this name. Much of what was produced during the time bore semblance to products from the age of antiquity. Painters branched beyond portraiture to depict scenes from Greek and Roman mythology. Architects found inspiration in buildings from ancient Rome. In my exploration of several Italian cities, I’d certainly developed an appreciation for this era European history; I learned it’s what, when, where and why.
Then, when I went to Rome, I gained the missing piece to my understanding… the how. I learned how painters and architects used ancient works as inspiration for new creations. I saw the ancient Roman marble statues that influenced Michelangelo’s depiction of Jesus in his spectacular Last Judgment. I saw the sculpture discovered accidentally by a countryman that ultimately changed artists’ rendition of human expression. I walked through the Roman ruins, and then through the Vatican Museum where those ruins were given new life in Renaissance art. It was indescribably rewarding to see how an era took shape. How historical characters found inspiration and used it fuel an enlightening. One that made Italy into what it is today.
And so, as much as Rome was an incredible trip in itself, it was also a culmination of my other stops in Italy. Venice, Verona, Florence, Genova, Bologna, Milan, Turin, La Spezia, and even this quaint little town of Luserna San Giovanni all of carry pieces of Roman and therefore Renaissance history. And, in the end, I think that is why I love Italy. Italy is Renaissance, and Italy is, in a sense, my Renaissance.
|I don't know why, but I found this sign amusing...|
|Walking along the river|
|The Trevi Fountain|
|The statue that was found by a countryman|
|Michelangelo's Pieta, now behind glass because someone in the 70s attacked it with a hammer|
|Dome of the Pantheon|
|The floor of the pantheon. You can see it's slanted towards the edges for the water to go out.|
|The Colosseum by night|
|The colosseum as seen from the Vittorio Emanuele monument|
|Looking down on the ruins from a garden in the Forum|