Monday, April 4, 2011

A Week In Italia 2011

just a note from verona before i go upstairs to get ready to go out for a last dinner in the charming and radiant town of verona w- grammy and leah.

shakun and i just came in from a lovely late afternoon visit to the san zeno maggiore church, said to be one of the most beautiful romanesque churches in northern italy.

well, they have our votes, as well!

there was a charming, closed cloiser outside the main 12th C. basilica cathedral. slim double columns surrounding a gentle green garden, like the sanctified medieval monasteries that this, too, once was for centuries... before napoleon or the austro-hungarians, those early 19th C. self-proclaimed 'reformers' shut down catholic monasteries across europe.

the church's nave was open and spacious, like an old roman basilica design w- a towering ship's keel wooden roof, nearly 30 m. above. there were giotto-like frescoes of the life of christ along parts of the walls.

but the piece de resistence were the main doors with 48 bronze panels w-sculptures from the hebrew scriptures on one side and the life of jesus and st. zeno on the other. not as brilliant as the reknown ones on the firenze duomo doors, as these are more naive and rough, but magnificent and awe-inspiring, nonetheless.

after an hour and a half in san zeno maggiore, shaku and i walked back along the quickly flowing adiago river that comes out of the alps and served as a moot for medieval verona. the dominating castelvechhio (old castle) built by the scaligeri family with a 14th C. bridge over the river served as our landmark, we strolled in the early evening light along the river quay.

then we turned down the precious walking streets of verona town, full of charming, casual and elegant italians dressed in their individual style as if for a public party, families, grandfolk, kids all mixed in with the many tourists here for the gentle beauty of this historical n romantic veneto town.

while we were at st. zeno's, grammy n leah came back to the hotel after a full day of sightseeing in the old town visiting romantic juliet's mythic home, the truly charming piazza erbe and the monumental roman arena which still hosts summer concerts n opera.

we met a georgetown couple taking their junior year in firenze: 'the best year of our lives', they said -- if it's not too late, i'm ready for my junior year abroad, as well...

all's been very good among the four of us this past week while meandering among the lakes and milan. lago como was so amazingly relaxing w- our rooms overlooking the lake (literally) and botanical gardens each day to explore and enjoy.

we had one moment of serious tension in milan when we got separated walking to the castle. leah n i were ahead, then we realized that the moms weren't behind us. we went back to where we had seen them last, but they were not there. we tried going left the other main road, but couldn't find them there, either. so we went to the castle, where we were heading, and waited 30 mins. there for them by the large fountain. they never came. then leah thought it best to walk the 30 mins. back to the hotel, where they were not. we waited there for over an hour (while leah enjoyed reading her book...), left them a note with leah's personalized drawings, then went out.

i dragged leah to 4-5 old, charming milanese churches in the afternoon (a spectacular one designed by bramante), but leah was actually quite good, as long as i promised to stop w- her at benetton for some shoppping on the way back. (she has learned already to negotiate wisely, this nearly ten year old...).

well, you can guess... when we got back about 6 pm, both grammy n mom were livid with us, blaming us for losing them, not paying attention, coming back late n the rest. they weren't wrong, but they weren't all right either. this kinda affected the mood before heading out for the evening at the scala, esp. as grammy hadn't eaten all day n the restaurants didn't open until 7:30, too late for our 8 pm tix for the Magic Flute, so we could only get a snack on the way there...

however, moods were better by the time we got to the scala for the epic performance. altho, let's be honest, after 3 hours of opera, leah was squirming in her chair and ready to go on strike if the performance didn't end soon. but we enjoyed and i think she may have even liked parts of the arias (one soprano's voice was absolutely remarkable!). the 21st C. stage and computerized lighted sets were fantastic.

after all, an opera at la scala in milano: another dream to tick off the bucket list...

tomorrow we drive to venezia by way of padua to see the most famous and beautiful giotto frescoes in italy. probably the most magnificent chapel paintings we will have seen since the piero della francesca frescoes in arezzo in tuscany some years ago. those, too, i'll never forget...

then we'll have five more nights in venice, which should be remarkable, unique and beautiful. i can't wait!

we'll take it a bit slow as grammy is, after all, 82 -- as hard as that may be to believe! and even though she's going strong, matching us step for step across the country, it's a long trip w- a lot of walking to churches, through piazza, around art museums, through the daily life of these ancient, atmospheric, inspiring towns.

for me, i could stroll these cities, towns, churches and lakes for months, i'm sure, and never get tired...

how can there be so much radiant beauty in one country, only g-d knows...

ecco homo.

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