Thursday, 4 August 2011
Unlike the Italian countryside we saw on Tuesday, most of the areas we've visited in the city of Rome are full of tourists and the kinds of things that accompany these hot spots in any city - crowds, long lines, cheap trinket gift shops, pan handlers and relentless street vendors. But our enthusiasm challenges us to push past these minor annoyances to see the rich, historic treasures all around us. What I love about it all is the way the old sits solidly in the heart of the new.
In the center of the bustle of city traffic sits the Colosseum. The date carved into the wall reads, Anno VII. Trekking past trendy Italian shops, our feet step on cobble stones more than two thousand years old. Pastel colored scooters zip past us as we stand at the base of huge Roman columns in front of the Pantheon built around 118 A.D. I look at the centuries old marble still standing and think of the much newer brick building in my Atlanta neighborhood, recently reduced to a pile of rubble after comparatively short years of decay.
We wander these streets, looking at the old juxtaposed with the new and wonder how the fruit of our lives will fare. What will crumble? What will last? On the streets of Rome I am sobered and inspired.
Sunday, 31 July 2011
This year our travels have taken us to Rome Italy. Our apartment is just a block away from St Peter's Basilica. We are immersed in the rich sacred culture of the church. Stores close on Sunday. Statues, crosses and monuments abound. We walked into the cathedral and I was immediately moved by the beauty of the artistry, again reminded of why the artistic gifts were given - to glorify God. The swirl of languages around me whisper prayers and I hear God's diversity, see His face in shades of tan, caramel, pink and brown. He sings through the pipes of the organ and the voices that blend in harmony from the choir - Latin and Italian, chorus and chant. This is why we travel, to see and experience God in new places and faces, to be lifted out of the grind of the everyday ordinary and reminded of the miracle that is this life.
Growing up going to catholic school and weekly mass made today's time at the vatican seem to connect deeply within. The incense, the chants, the robes and communion all connected in a way that made me feel like part of knowing Jesus is to become part of something much larger than myself, the overwhelming sense of God in a place that has been offering worship to Him for centuries is quite cool. The character of this old city speaks as you wander through the streets and encounter history at every turn.
Friday, 12 June 2009
Yesterday (Tuesday) we made our way from Pisa to the countryside of Tuscany. It was a welcome change. Pisa was a somewhat grungy city, grey and graffiti ridden, lacking the joy of Cinque Terre. We hopped a train at Pisa Central and an hour later we were arriving at Gallicano, a quiet little Tuscan town at the base of a beautiful mountainside.
The train station appeared to have only one employee who sold the tickets, provided information, called the taxis and whatever else was needed. When we inquired about a taxi she offered to call the owner of the Bed and Breakfast where we held our reservation. Not long after Umberto, the owner, arrived to personally take us to his home. It is a beautiful, old house, 7 km up the mountain, with a breathtaking “panoramic view,” as Umberto proudly describes it. There are beamed ceilings, antique furnishings, a pool and patio. After settling in our room we headed out to find the pizzeria Umberto suggested for dinner. It is in fact the only restaurant near his little village, a 1 km and 600 meters walk back down the mountain.
I suppose the food was worth the hike, delicious as usual, but I did not look forward to the trek back up. We passed several B&B’s on our way and I wondered aloud why we didn’t stay at one that was closer to the food. We made the hike without stopping since night was falling fast and the little road had no streetlights. I’ll take the sirens, barking and occasional loud neighbors of the city over the silent, pitch-black darkness of the country any night. Several of the places we passed had grapevines growing in the yard which prompted Leroy to again insist how easy it would be to start a vineyard in our inner city neighborhood. Oh, Lord.
Monday, 8 June 2009
Plans for Sunday were to continue our hike of the cities of Cinque Terre but fortunately Leroy agreed to spend the day at the beach instead (enough with the hiking already!). Our first day of blue skies and sunshine since our arrival at Cinque Terre demanded a day of play in the water and lounging in beach chairs along the rocky shore. Thankfully, a relaxing paperback provided a welcome distraction from the numerous grey-headed men in Speedos.
Later we enjoyed another delicious meal at a beachside bar. In Italy a bar is a small local shop serving a light meal, snacks, drinks and coffee. Meals are different here. Food is savored, conversation enjoyed. There is no hurry. Waiters come only when called. “Happy Hour” includes an assortment of folks gathered in the village square to laugh and converse. Children run and play. Groups of women and groups of men are seen chatting leisurely, seemingly enjoying the company of friends and family.
After sunset we walked some interesting trails, taking pictures of the full moon and nightlife. At one point Leroy disappeared up a dark path, curious about where it led. I declined to follow. I don’t have that kind of need to know. After a few minutes I called after him with no response. He reappeared just as I was planning how to break the news to the children. I’ve seen enough movies to know how these things can turn out. I’m an American city girl. We don’t go into the darkness looking for the man you warned not to go there. Fortunately it all turned out well. Ciao Bella.
Monday brought a change of scenery from the beautiful beaches of Cinque Terre to the fast life of the city in Pisa. We arrived into Pisa and the familiar sounds of the city, we checked into the hotel and headed to the leaning tower. The 20-minute walk there from the Hotel was interesting as we passed many street venders through the familiar small streets. We crossed the river and there it was the leaning tower of Pisa. It was leaning a lot more than I expected. I don’t know what I thought it would look like but it was another great site. It is hard to believe this structure was built in the 15th century and still stands tall (except for the lean) today. We headed back to the hotel after viewing and took in Dinner with more amazing food and wine. I have no idea how I am going to eat Italian food in the states again after the great meals here. We are off to Tuscany tomorrow.
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Saturday we decided to walk our way through Cinque Terre, which is 5 cities all within a few miles tucked into the mountains along Italy’s coast. The scenery is amazing. There is a path that leads to all 5 complete with murals (although not as good as the Sweet South Atlanta mural but they were ok) We started in Riomaggiore walked through Manarola and ended up a few hours later in Corniglia. Once we got to Corniglia we decided to call it quits and hopped on the train back to Monterossa. These cities are small yet full of beauty, and culture. We watched children playing soccer, women working in small shops, and men in the Barber shop all nestled into small winding streets with clothes hanging out to dry from the porches of most homes. It’s like beauty and simplicity are tied together here in a wonderfully creative way that leads one to dream. You almost lose track of time except it were for the wonderful chimes reminding you that the day is moving along as they ring each hour from the clock towers in each city.
Leroy (the King)
Of course, as we hiked along the footpath between the villages of Cinque Terre, Leroy got to dreaming. At one point, upon noticing the vineyards planted up the side of the mountain, there was the epiphany that we could plant grape vines in the south Atlanta community garden and produce our own neighborhood wine. I insisted that it was improbable since none of us know anything about planting or caring for vineyards. As usual he failed to see any problem with his idea and was certain that it could be done. Personally, I don’t think a vineyard the size of our small plot could produce enough grapes for even a good glass of wine. But, again, what do I know?