Travel: Italy (Day Five)

Today began early with a cup of coffee on the roof and then a cab ride to the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. The church opened 30 minutes later than we thought, so we opted for a cappuccino and croissant at La Bottega where I suddenly began channeling St. Francis of Assisi.

We then made our way into the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella and museum. Here we saw some beautiful pieces of art including a “crossover” piece from the middle-ages to the Renaissance, which began to bring depth to the images. The one below of the Holy Trinity is the best example and the most studied.

After seeing so much, I took the time to pray the Rosary in a chapel that is not intended for tourist but for praying: the Capella della Pura (Chapel of the Pure). I don’t know how pure I am but I did feel peace. I was the only one there. Imagine having this place to yourself!

We then made our way to the Duomo museum. This is the stage where I am beginning to be overwhelmed by all that I am seeing. I walk up to one piece that is so remarkable that it has no effect on me and then see another and am on the verge of tears. The one thing that floored me had to be pointed out by Scott. It is the beheading of John the Baptist. It really took my breath away and I don’t know why. It was just so…

Here was also an unfinished Pieta by Michelangelo. You can see the rough bits along with those that are more polished. It is Nicodemus who is standing behind Mary and his face is a self portrait of Michelangelo. How wonderful to have it as is but how amazing to have had him finish! Man proposes and God disposes.

And then I discovered the room of relics (there were many more than what are shown below). I’ll let you decide the authenticity of these, but… yeah… I believe. Perhaps they are not but the prayers that have been gathered around these over the centuries are very authentic. You can feel them and enter into them.

After fighting some crowds and trying to return something from shopping the day before, we decided that it was more than time for a break, so we headed up to the roof of a shop (5th floor) and ordered a tasty beverage. Yes! America needs this. A bar in the shopping centers. Scott took this photo while I was apparently deep in thought and contemplating the reliquary of my own finger bone (I’m guessing it will be in a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar known only by Carnac the Magnificent and kept on the porch of Funk and Wagnall’s until someone pitches it in the burn barrel.)

The remainder of the day was spent in fulfilling Heidi’s ultimate game plan: shopping. And it was great fun. I haven’t found anything that I absolutely must have, but am truly waiting for Roma to make whatever purchase that might be. I may then need my own cargo plane in order to get it all home.

My dogs were barking something fierce by then so I let Heidi and Scott continue to wander along while I stopped at Le volpi e l’uva for a glass of Chianti. I sat at the back and glared at everyone coming in so that they thought better of sitting next to me. It worked for about five minutes (note to self: work on Italian glare).

At the end of the shopping extravaganza, we stopped at to Toscanella Osteria for dinner where I had “The Duck” and the dang duck was delicious. We were fat and happy enough at this point and a mile from home, so we ended the day the way we began, “Taxi!”

Dormi bene. Sognare bei sogni.

Travel: Italy (Travel Day One and it was close to 48 hours long!)

Travel and travel and travel… I almost missed only one flight when I messed up the time zones. Fortunately I was sitting next to the gate when I realized it was boarding, otherwise, I would have only made it as far as New York / JFK.

Any way you slice it, it is a long trip. The backside gets sore, there are NO comfortable sitting positions for an 8.5 hour flight, and the boredom sets in to the point where you’re simply watching the miles click off, but then you hear the engines begin to slow and your ears begin to pop as the altitude decreases and suddenly, those 8.5 hours are a distant memory.

Following the flights, we took a 1/2 hour train to Rome. Between the graffitied walls and towering apartment buildings, you may catch a glimpse of something far more ancient but mostly it will be the orange poppies that grow all long the tracks that will draw your eye.

The 1/2 hour trip (and a WILD taxi ride through the narrow streets of Rome—made Enid drivers look like Mario Andretti) and we arrived at the Roma Termini, which is the main train terminal in Rome. I kept expecting a NY subway but…

It’s an airport on wheels and a zoo but once you figure out the system you will get to where you want to go, which in our case was Florence.

The ride includes a series of tunnels and each tunnel is like a small jump further and further into the country and farmlands. Hay, other crops, and vineyards (we’ll have more of those later this week) and with a train that clicks along at about 120 mph, you cover the 200 miles rather quickly.

We did do some touristy things but for the most part were a bit pooped out, so we walked the streets and just enjoyed being in Italy. What is so remarkable is when you take into consideration how long these places have been around. For example, I decided to take a picture of a beautiful statue of Christ crucified high on a pillar. Near the base was a plaque. The statue was erected in the year 1338.

In addition, throughout the old city there are small niches, mostly at corners, with images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and/or Jesus. These are two of the images that worked out:

What an amazing day and perhaps the most moving bit occurred as Heidi, Scott, and I were sitting at the Cafe’ Cibreo enjoying a light snack and a beverage (they were having a white wine and I was enjoying an iced coffee). Heidi stopped in mid-sentence and said, “We’re in Italy!”

Yep. That about sums the day up. We’re in Italy and… yeah.

Travel: Italy (-1 day)

The flight leaves tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. so I’ll be up and going by 3:30 a.m. That may sound like a complaint but I’m certain no one would listen seeing as how I’m on the way to Italy for fourteen days (a week in Florence and a week in rome). It’ll be tough! The weather sounds absolutely miserable (highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 60s and mostly sun) but I will endure.

I’ve had a passport for at least 30 years and this is the first time I’ve ever used it. That sounds crazy but life happened along the way. As I sit here in a hotel room in OKC I can’t stop myself from smiling. Trust me. I know exactly how fortunate I am to have such an opportunity, so I plan to take you all along with me.

The goal is to post once a day but I’m not going to turn it into a job. I definitely want to enjoy the trip and take it all in, so if I miss a day, I won’t be losing sleep.

Tomorrow I go from OKC to Atlanta to JFK to Rome. I’ll arrive there at 7 a.m. and meet my friends at the airport in Rome. How sexy is that! “Oh, yeah. Just meeting some friends in Rome. No big deal.” HA!

Not sure where I’ll write from next but at the moment I’m thinking JFK. For now…

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