Monday, May 1, 2023

A Brief Overview of My Italy Adventure

The Duomo at the heart of Florence.
It began last fall as a gift from my daughter on my 70th birthday. The gift came in the form of three envelopes. The first envelope contained a pre-paid flight on Delta Airlines to be used for a trip to Italy. (Plus instructions warning me that I cannot give this away, lest I be tempted to decline.) The second envelope contained Airbnb instructions to cover all my room and board expenses. The third envelope contained 700 euros. 

After several months of thinking about what, where and when, I settled upon an April trip to Florence and Parma. I'd originally considered Milan, Torino, Genoa and even a brief trip into France. Ultimately, I decided to reduce my Italy footprint and chose two smaller cities, one of them being amongst the most significant in history, Florence, where the birth of the Renaissance occurred during the reign of the Medicis. The cultural, economic, artistic and political events that took place in that era. New forms of literature and breakthroughs in science shaped, and continue to shape, much of what we experience today. 

Ultimately, my travel schedule looked like this:

Duluth to Florence via Amsterdam     Apr 16    

Florence to Parma                                      April 20

Parma to Florence                                      April 23

Florence to Duluth via Paris                     April 27       

 My Day-by-Day schedule unfolded like this:

Monday, April 17 
Arrive at 
Florence Aeroporte. 

Take a taxi ride with Giuseppi to my Airbnb on Via Borgo Ognissanti with Superhost Mariantonietta. Walk around the neighborhood... meet people, check out the Arno (River). First thought: "I'm home."

Tuesday, April 18   
For my first full day my aim was to locate the Bargello and Uffizi museums. The Uffizi is Italy's answer to the Louvre in Paris. It has been argued that the Uffizi is the oldest and most mesmerizing museum in the world. The Bargello is a sculpture museum of the highest order. I planned to visit both the following week  On that first full day in Italy I just walked the streets, inhaling the sights, sounds, and smells as I got oriented to the layout of the city. The Gallileo Museum is located just around the corner from Uffizi. Spending some time there was an imperative.

Wednesday April 19

My second full day in Florence began with a walkabout. After lunch I visited the Uffizi Gallery/Museum, which was indeed a total "Wow!" 


Thursday, April 20     

Traveled from Florence to Parma by bullet train. Parma is a couple hours to the North, famous for its prosciutto and cheese. I arrived at my Airbnb on Strada Garibaldi, located directly across from the National Gallery.            

When I first arrived in Parma I had momentary doubts...  "Why am I here?" Fewer  people spoke English, it seemed, and I feared becoming isolated. The next morning, however, under sunny skies my spirits were lifted and there was no turning back. Parma would be wonderful.

Friday, April 21            

Parma, too, is home to a lot of history. The Monastery de San Giovani Evangelista, the Baptistery and the Duomo attest to the enduring power of centuries-old architecture. The Baptistery was dedicated in 1059, and may have been an expanded version of a baptistery built in the 400s. It's an amazing feeling to see the scale of this building that is more than a thousand years old, and it's deocrated interior.

April 22 

When I stepped outside Saturday morning, the city had come alive. A market had sprung up to the left of the National Gallery and there were people everywhere. After a half day of walking aimlessly, enjoying the sights and sounds, I visited the National Gallery.

One of the bridges near the Uffizi, crossing the Arno.
Sunday, April 23 

I took the train back to Florence via Bologna. On the second leg I was seated next to a bassoon player from the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, one of many interesting people I got to know on this trip. Usually, a short while into many of these conversations, I am asked where I am from and I reply, "From Duluth, Minnesota where Bob Dylan was born." Numerous conversations about Dylan would ensue, and in this case the professional musician said, "Bob Dylan is my hero." 

Thanks to my daughter's guidance, all three of the Airbnbs I stayed at were a ten minute walk from the train stations, in the heart of each city. I checked into my Airbnb on Via dell'Ariento, about a block from the Medici Chapel, and returned to exploring Florence.         

Monday, April 24  

This was my day designated to seeing Michelangelo's David at the Accademia. This statue is deservedly a wonder of the world. More another time about this and the other treasures here.

I'm not sure whether it was Sunday or Monday that I encountered a parade of Peruvians protesting what they were calling a genocide of indigenous peoples in Peru. This is something I will also write about later. 

Tuesday, April 25          

There were gaps in my schedule to allow for options at various points. On the 25th I'd not established a plan but was considering a day trip to Pisa. I'd learned that the Leaning Tower was not entirely breathtaking, but there were other things there that many are unaware of. 

An impressive crowd gathered to hear speeches 
praising America for helping rid Italy of fascism.
The David statue is a replica, not Michelangelo's.
The day trip was cancelled because of a more important event. April 25 is Liberation Day in Italy, a day in which they celebrate the American soldiers who liberated the country from Mussolini and fascism. It was a major holiday and all the museums were free that day, though I was most impressed by the two gatherings I attended and the size of the crowd that went to hear the mayor and other important speakers. I had several opportunities to share that my father-in-law had served in the U.S. Army during its two year climb up the boot from Sicily to Torino. (Copies of his war memoir  And There Shall Be Wars are still available for purchase. You can learn more about the book here.)

Wednesday, April 26

My last day in Florence included a visit to the Medici Chapel, which I'd walked by many times during my last three days in Florence. Many people are unaware of the numerous statues by Michelangelo there. 


Thursday, April 27
I arrived at the airport a little before 4:00 a.m. to catch my flight back to the USA. After 26 hours with no sleep I arrived home, unpacked and found some rest, though a few hours later I woke again. My body was apparently on Italy-time. An hour of reflection passed and I began to yawn again, slumberland just beyond the horizon.


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Stay tuned for more.

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