travelog 5

Mar. 2nd, 2016 10:26 pm
[personal profile] winterlive
my goodness. look at the time.

a few more things before we left florence. we toured il duomo, the jewel at the heart of florence. we saw the baptistery first, and i had a feeling i would have later on in the pantheon in rome. they were roman temples before the church took them, and they had been left perfectly round, as they were made. i imagined i could feel it under my feet - hundreds of years of martyrdom and guilt layered over hundreds MORE years of something different, something else. in those moments, even though the new art was beautiful, i wanted the old temples back. i felt their loss, as though it were my loss.

the uffizi - boy, the uffizi. i took a video that begins with a field of gorgeous painting, and as it moves you can see that it's actually painted on a square ceiling. and then the picture moves some more, and you see square after square after square down a long hallway filled with statues and off which there are rooms and more hallways, and that's what the uffizi is like. you could spend a month in the uffizi, trying to see every detail on every surface that someone toiled for hours over, trying to get just the right shade.

we girls ate out on the rooftop cafe with the pigeons. we had walked so long, and there were no tables for all of us, so we sat on the concrete. it didn't matter. we were together. there were, what, five of us by then? seven? there came a point where i stopped counting.

the dutch went through this period of experimenting with directional light in their paintings that i LOVED. there's this van schrieck with one luminescent flower against a background of inky abyss and a snake pooled at its roots... awesome. it's so morbid and melodramatic that it made me think of the dutch as renaissance goths, and i'm never gonna get over that.

in and among the thousand bits of art i saw were the super famous ones, like. the botticellis. judith slaying holofernes (action packed!). the venus of urbino. by this point, seeing them was kind of a relief - at last, something beautiful which i would not be thoroughly overwhelmed by. it was a bit like seeing old friends.

the next day, il duomo propria. i had never been in a church that big in my life. hell, i think our legislature might not be that big. the little candle trees. unlike santa croce (which had people everywhere, something to see in every corner), nobody had to be shushed in il duomo. the dome itself was covered in art, but the walls and floors seemed bare and somber by comparison to the rest of the city. you should watch your step here, it seemed to say.

and THEN, there was a stairwell down into the underground caverns where they had unearthed an early christian church from the damn dark ages, when florence was even more of a postage stamp than it already is.

hey - florence is the size of my thumbnail. you can walk across the city, from one side to the other, and maybe it'll take you two hours. like the museums, it is so jam-packed with stuff that you'll never see it all, but it's just so, so teeny weeny compared to home. america and canada, we are that dude on the train that just has to take up three seats with his legs.

anyway the church; there was this mosaic with a peacock on it, and they said it was evidence of trade with persia at the time, which just blew my little mind. i mean, i knew international trade was a thing, but to see it right there in front of you making a pretty thing with little tiles, i don't even know why that was such a big deal to me.

the latest arrival brought our merry band up to eight, and it was almost time to leave. it began to rain off and on, it got a little colder, and i thought i might get sad. but to our latest arrival, who i will call Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who had never been anywhere ever... well, she put a fresh shine on the old city. she loved everything, and took pictures of everything, and it was fun all over again. everywhere i went, i went with friends. whatever i wanted to do, someone wanted to go do it with me. it was starting to feel like i had hoped for, when i signed up for this whole thing.

did i not tell you why i went to italy? no? we're going to pause for an aside. be warned that none of these links are safe for conservatives.

this trip was organized by my friend star, who is a photographer. this is her website. if you are in the edmonton area, and you have a few hundred dollars to spare, you need to call up star and let her take some pictures of you. once a year, she and two other photographers (jen in virginia, and meg in mississippi) do a retreat at some unspeakably beautiful destination. the dozen or so women that come along will get some pretty sweet pictures of themselves, but it's more than that.

the day to leave finally came, and we had many hours to kill between checkout at our apartment in florence, and check-in at our destination. lucky for us, we were in one of the most fun places on earth. at my continued insistence, we went to the little town of assisi, which was on the way anyway. assisi is the home town of st. francis, who i think is probably the best example of what christians can be when they put their minds to it. i've always loved him, and you should go read up on the things he did, because they're great.

assisi is like two towns - there's the medieval half up at the top of a big hill, and then there's the, uh, newer half with the train station. this half has buildings that only go back to the 1700s, unlike the hilltop half, which had fucking roman pillars outside one of the buildings. first we toured the basilica at the top of the hill, which has several tiers; there's the top church, the bottom church, and the tomb where st. francis and a few others are buried. the whole town is a pilgrimage site for many, and you could pick them out from the tourists easily. there were several monks around as well, doing their monky business. in the tomb, a thousand years of solemn prayer had sunk into the stones, but it felt different than the baptistery in florence; people brought their pain to st. francis.

i bought two medals from the gift shop, and i had intended one to go to [livejournal.com profile] traveller, but i promptly broke it in the washer. that's what you get for a couple euros i guess. D kept sneaking pictures even though you weren't supposed to, and i saved them all off her later.

we toured the medieval town, and bought some sandwiches and gelato and a macaron the size of my head. we met up with yet more girls, to make up for the others that had peeled off earlier.

as evening came, we made our way down to the other half of assisi, and the santa maria degli angeli. this half of town, you see, used to be the very outskirts of assisi. and when francis was alive, there was this teensy little church no bigger than a bedroom that somebody built all the way out there. it was mostly falling down, so francis went and fixed it up, built himself a little hut a few steps away in which to sleep, and ran his ministry from there. they called it (or at least they call it now) the porziuncola. and when francis died, some genius up at the vatican said, you know what we should do? we should build a fucking MASSIVE cathedral with poverty-loving francis's porziuncola at the center. heck, make the church big enough to house the cell he lived in, too. so that's what they did, and i went there and saw francis's teensy church with my own eyes, and touched it with my own hands. there is something good about christianity, real christianity like the kind jesus talked about. the kind that doesn't need gold or jewels, the kind that just wants to help people who are in trouble, or sick, or hurting, and would die to spare others pain. the kind that loves peace, and animals, and earth, and their neighbors. the hippie christians, that's what i'm talking about - and let me tell you, if i know anything at all about st. francis of assisi, it's that he was an examplar of that kind of life. everything he did, he did out of a church that could only seat 8 people.

as we exited, it was sunset, which meant vespers were ending. the service let out, and with the churchgoers we walked out to a sky filled with trails of fiery sunset. that was a powerful moment for me, and i think the moment in which i felt the most connected to italy, at its very best.

more train. so tired. we hadn't eaten more than those sandwiches all day. it was even a little chilly, and NTW and i had an impromptu dance party at the train station where we switched off. at last our train arrived at... orvieto? orte? even now i can't remember. but the alviano station was closed for the night, so star had to drive all the way out to one of the o-towns to come get us. it was a half hour to the impossibly small town of guardea, and five hair-raising minutes driving a bus up a goat trail to the top of a mountain... and the huge, private, five-bedroom villa where we would spend most of the next week.



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winterlive

March 2016

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