Our winter school term has just ended and we have made the seven hour drive up to Canberra to meet up with Daughter Number Two and her husband. No, it can’t be compared to Florence, however, since Canberra celebrates its Centenary as our capital, we have come to see its yearly tulip festival, Floriade and some its culture as well.
Last September we were fortunate to take a school trip group to Italy. Travelling through Rome, Siena, Verona, Turin, Milan and Florence, we experienced a memorable time together. One year on, our thoughts turn to that remarkable excursion. I guess it has something to do with the fact that we are coming out of winter and the weather is not dissimilar to the beautiful weather we also experienced in Italy.
Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Forgive me if I indulge in some iconic Italian reminiscing…
Il Duomo, Firenze
The white marble statue of Michelangelo’s, David in the Uffizi Gallery. (Did you know that an electronic device measures the amount of movement of the marble in the statue by nano millimetres!)
The marvel that is Florence cannot be compared to any other place in the world. It is a man made splendour. Whilst in Canberra we hope to visit some lesser forms of man made art, however, for today we turn to the splendour that is nature in Spring – a celebration of floral splendour and time with family.
The tulips are out in force
We enjoyed a perfect sunny day, basking in the glory of tulips in full bloom. While our thoughts may return to the memories of Italy, we revel in our present time together. How do you keep your memories alive?
Although I have only been blogging since September, I have found it one of the most rewarding outlets for my writing and thoughts on gardening, travel, pets and the every day happenings of life. So it was with much amazement that our blog has been nominated for the Liebster Award. As a newcomer, I have been buoyed by the feedback and kind words of my regular followers and visitors. My nominator was Nitty Gritty Dirt Man, whose blog I follow from the other side of the world, and one which never ceases to inspire with its heartfelt, entertaining and socially aware commentary – danke schoen to you Kevin!
It really is impossible to see Milano in two days! However, we did a vast amount of walking from our hotel into the centre of the shopping district. As I continue to reflect on our journey throughout Italy, I have discovered many things about traveling with others and their wonderful and varied personalities. (This needs further exploration in another post.) Journeying as a group has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of course are that one is in familiar and safe company and have shared similar experiences in special places. One disadvantage can be that these special places can suddenly conjure up feelings that are emotionally overwhelming and quite embarrassing. The second part of our Milan visit did exactly that for me as we entered the grand Teatro alla Scala or La Scala.
I am the daughter of northern Italian and Czech parents with some Hungarian and Swedish influences. Most of my life I grew up listening to stories about life under the Austro-Hungarian Empire – stories of art, music and history. As a child and teenager this was probably the last thing I really wanted to listen to. However, during this visit to the northern regions of Italy, I finally understood the beauty, the art, the architecture and the history. This in turn created an overwhelming link to my ancestors. As we walked in to the grand theatre, the home of opera and ballet, and entered the viewing platform where a rehearsal was underway, I became so overwhelmed by the artistic beauty that I began to cry! Quite embarrassing when one is with twenty other people! Colin was just as bemused by my antics, quickly shuffling me out of sight as I incoherently sniffled into his sleeve, “now I know what my family was on about this place”.
Dating from 1778, La Scala has been home to all the famous operatic and ballet artists. In fact, the museum, also located on the site, reveals the past performers in all their glory: Rossini, Bellini, Toscanini, Maria Callas, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev and of course our own Dame Joan Sutherland, to name but a few.
In my last post I depicted Milan as a place of self discovery through fashion – a somewhat artificial enterprise. However, it has now become a place where I have found a connection with myself and my ancestral past. Indeed, I will never forget Milano for this gift of understanding. Have you had a similar profound experience of place?
As a continuation of my previous post, our visit to Milano, the last major city before we left Italy was a mixed affair. The weather was hot one day and rainy the other. The hotel we stayed in was a twenty minute walk from the Duomo and a tee shirt displayed en-route revealed to me what Milano was really about – Mi Mi, the pursuit of the self and all its adornments.
One of the major department stores which we apprehensively walked into was seven floors of glitz, gloss and glut. Called il Rinasciamento, you too could be reborn as a fashion icon, for the right price! We decided what the heck, let’s go right up to the top – the food floor. Anyone for chocolate shoes or sushi train or Moët Chandon and oysters? Wild mushrooms and truffles were readily available, though no prices to be seen.
The magnificent Duomo was a billboard for famous brands and a perspex kiosk inside the magnificent cathedral sold expensive religious icons. Indeed, Milan is the fashion capital of the world and if one wants to be the first to see what we as Australians will be wearing next winter, then please come to Milan. However, if you want to seek out history, art and opera, then you may need to share your search with the frantic shoppers eager to be swept up by the glamour and irresistible call of the credit card.
In addition, you may like to load your purchases into a Lamborghini, Ferrari or more to our budget, The Twizy. Colin tried it out for fit.
Despite my skepticism, Milano left its mark on me. Yes, ultimately it did come down to me. There was one other very famous venue which had unexpectedly overwhelmed me. Can you guess what that was? I will leave this to the next post.
For three days our group spent a delightful time in Trento. Located in the Trentino Alto Adige northern region of Italy, Trento is skirted by the majestic Dolomites. For Church history buffs, Trento or Trent in English, is also home of the Council of Trent which saw the Church’s Bishops come together to address social impacts and reforms in 1545, especially rising Protestantism.Trento had a strong Roman influence and its Roman name, Tridentum, depicted of course by Neptune, is a strong symbol for the town.
Our main aim in Trento was to attend school. Our sister school adjoins the building which hosted the Council of Trent. The group attended classes as part of a gemellaggio or sister school reciprocal visit. We, as teachers, also went to class – Latin and Ancient Greek at 7:45am which was extremely stimulating and very enlightening. All enjoyed the hospitality and genuine good humor of the Profs. We were even more privileged to have met the dirigente and be invited into her magnificent office for coffee. Later she joined our group for a farewell dinner. The young members of our group responded to her very positively and engaged in much polite conversation in Italian!
While meeting with the dirigente we viewed the school’s remarkable collection of ancient manuscripts. A volume of Petrach’s poetry dated 1554 was exhibited before us in all its delicate and ancient state. The text was completely in tact and quite robust for its age. It was quite amazing to be touching this manuscript which was as old as the discovery of the Americas. It was gently returned to its grand 1812 bookcase!
Trento is a Medieval town, of course. One of the highlights is the Castello del Buonconsiglio. A magnificent fortified castle built in the 13th century and later extended to include a palazzo in 1530. The castle was the defense of the town which stood on the main road linking Italy to northern Europe. It is the repository for many religious icons and works of art as well as housing an extensive exhibition of Medieval Knights. However, it was the Aquila Tower and its wondrous depiction of the twelve months of the year (March is missing) which really impacted on me. These charming frescoes were painted in the 14 century and depict the cycle of the seasons. Today they remain a wonderful and romantic depiction of life in the Middle Ages under the feudal system. A definite must see if you are in Trento!