I had an amazing time during my first visit to Italy. There's too many pictures and too much to tell, so I'll start off slow with some iPhone photos while I sort through the 1200 on my camera. We visited Florence, (Cinque Terre, Pisa), Venice and Rome on this trip. Rather than a true digest, this is more of an introduction.
The flight there wasn't too bad; as usual I spent the time catching up on movies. We transferred in Amsterdam, where I got to sit on some cool Danish Modern chairs. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel once we reached Florence. Our taxi driver was an impeccably dressed elderly Italian man in a purple sweater. In Italy, the lanes are a suggestion: 4 cars, 2 scooters and a bicycle easily drive through a three lane road. It's all traffic circles in Italy, which just added to the chaos.
"lemon and wisteria" -- one of the many leitmotifs of my trip in Italy. Flowers blanketed daily life in Italy, unlike North America where they are too often relegated to appearances on special occasions only. They overflowed on balconies and you were bound to find a flower market on weekends.
And the food! Not just pasta and pizza, although there were many, for me on this trip. I didn't imagine pasta and pizza could taste so much better as they did in Italy. There was absolutely wonderful seafood in Venice and Cinque Terre, and of course I hunted out the local specialties, like tripe (trippa and lampredotto) in Florence. I've had more gelato in two weeks than I normally eat during an entire summer.
This is just a small sample of the overwhelming spam of food pictures to come.
Italy was a wonderful mix of the modern and the old: cars and scooters racing down narrow cobblestone alleyways, wooden shutters on leaning old buildings selling cellphone sim cards, and modern concrete buildings straddling the ruins of empires gone by. Very different from the sterile newness that pervades North American cities.
Rome in particular was an amazing millefeuille of Baroque wrapped Renaissance churches built on Roman Republic plazas built on early Roman ruins built over ancient pagan temples.
The architecture is of course undeniably magnificent. The churches are draped in decadence: mosaics, paintings, marble and sculptures cover every surface. There's a mixture of styles spanning years and countries. I did start to get a bit of church fatigue towards the end and my neck was hurting from straining to see the frescos on the ceilings. (A quote from Mr. Demwell, my half Italian high school teacher: "ABC, another bloody church".)
I was incredibly happy with all the wonderful and amazing artworks I was able to see. Similar to my trip to the Louvre, there's an incredible sense of excitement at seeing paintings and sculptures I've studied but so far only seen in pictures. By the end of our meander through the Uffizi, I had taught my mother to recognize the Annunciation and baby John the Baptist in paintings.
(Another credit here to Mr. Demwell for his explanation of the Assumption which I used: you can't have Jesus' mother dying, especially not growing old or with sickness. No claims to dogmatic or theological correctness.)
In Venice, everything was a boat, even the traffic jams. I'll probably harp on this point again later. Garbage boat, postal boat, ambulance boat, police boat, taxi boat, construction boat...
A highlight of my trip: seeing the Pope! (I think. Does it look like the pope?) We happened to be in St. Peters while they were wrapping up a mass.
Next up: Cinque Terre and Pisa! (A fair warning now that there will be almost no food pictures because I was too excited and ate everything before I remembered.)