volare, whoaaa, e cantare, whoaooaaooo

by Ellen in ,

So, this time last year, I was traipsing about Italia, smelling smells, tasting foodies, and seeing the unimaginables. I and 6 other adults took 19 young people on a journey across the ocean, where we found new ways to worship, eat, walk, observe, speak, be quiet, listen, and experience. I am confident that each person flew home with something more than just a souvenir (mine was an apron with Michelangelo's David on the front), and by the time we squashed onto our first train to Florence, we had completely forgotten about our cell phones as the Italian countryside filled with sun flowers, grapes, clotheslines whizzed by our windows.

I am missing being there today (well, every day), and I can't wait to go back again some day.

Our first stop: Firenze. Wanna know what I did on those days? Well, I'll tell you.

21 June 2008 (that's how the Europeans write it)

11:08am: We are on top of the Duomo. We climbed 463 tiny stone stairs to get here, and I've never seen anything so wonderful. Seeing all of Florence is like something I am unworthy of. It's hard to describe; it was unexpected, difficult, beautiful, and yet...commodified for all travelers. On the way up, I was close enough to touch Vasari's frescoes.

2:00pm: I just ate the most delicious meal I've ever had in my life ever. It was fresh raviolini filled with fresh pears and (you guessed it) FRESH ricotta cheese. I am at this restaurant called Coquinarius. It's on a side street really close to the Duomo. Perfetto!

3:00pm: I'm in the Uffizi, and I can hardly believe it because it's the only museum I've ever wanted to go to. Now that I am here, all of my hopes and expectations have been succeeded. I'm sitting in front of Andreo de Botticelli's Birth of Venus, and directly behind me sits the Portinari Altarpiece, which, for its enormity, snuck up on me because I forgot it was here. It is hot in here, but there are hundreds of people from all over the world crowded around the Birth of Venus. Everyone is speaking a different language, and my girl Venus is politely covering herself in front of all the spectators. Everything here is alive and moving. Now I'm walking, looking, gaping, and trying to write. Another wonderful surprise: Parmigianino's Madonna of the Long Neck, and for as many times as I've looked so closely at it in my books, I have discovered something new about it that I must look up when I get home.

4:44pm: I'm sitting on a bench in the Accademia, (all 26 of us ran through the tiny streets of Florence at full speed to get here so we didn't lose our tickets) and I'm a casual onlooker of Michelangelo's David. All 13 and half feet of him are large and in charge, and he is beautiful. I'm not as mystified by him as I thought I would be, though. It's not disappointing, because I'm starting to resent the starstruck feeling I've been having everywhere I go here, and we haven't even made it to Roma.

6:00pm: Museo di San Marco. It's the first Dominican monastery...EVER. All frescoes are by Fra Angelico, and portray St. Dominic doing everything awesome, usually with Jesus looking on in approval or dying on the cross somewhere in the distance. I'm sitting in front of a fan on this really tall bench in the quiet hallway of all the rooms. The monastery is about to close, and no one is here. The kids are off having some reflection time of their own, except for one who just stretched out on the bench next to me, to poke and harass me. It is a good interruption, I'm feeling far too serious.

10pm: We are at a restaurant in San Marco and eating the most awesome, long, Italian dinner. It has taken us 3 hours so far, and we're just having the meat now. We are already full, because we are American and we eat everything put in front of us, not expecting 4 more courses to follow. We don't want to be rude, so we're eating everything anyway. Anna, Clay, and I are having the greatest conversation about our day, and I'm so glad they are also soaking up so much of this.

11:15pm: We are in the very crowded Piazza Signoria listening to this one British man play his guitar and sing. We approached, interested, because we heard "With or Without You" booming across the piazza, and to our surprise, found this one man with his one amp filling the surrounding area with his voice. I think he chose this one spot between the Uffizi and the piazza because it has the best acoustics. The sound just bounces off the marble and the brick.

12am: I am in my room after fighting the crowds of the White Nights Festival. I am listening to the most wonderful Celtic band playing outside our window in our piazza. The party is held every year on the Summer Solstice, and to celebrate the longest day of the year, the Italians have the longest party of the year. In every piazza, there is music, vendors selling crepes, gelato, wine, scarves, bags, food, and jewelry, and hundreds of people in the streets. They are dancing, listening to imported music from every country.