December 2, 2012

A Dream Come True

Schricker,-Mary-Dec2010By Mary Schricker Gemberling

Italy, with its rich heritage, its picturesque landscapes, charming villages and magnificent architecture has been the inspiration of poets, musicians, artists, and writers for thousands of years. In October, our tour of this relatively small country, about the size of Arizona, was the fulfillment of a lifetime dream. I truly felt I had stepped into the pages of a history book. I emerged knowing so much more about religion, architecture, art and history but somewhat overwhelmed by the vast amount of information.

Since it is impossible to describe the entire trip within the confines of this article, I will focus on what most impressed me. I will begin with the Italians themselves. What a warm, loving, welcoming and proud people. They embrace visitors, anxious to share their foods, wine, culture and history. Because tourism is a major economic asset, their language has become Americanized and English is spoken and written frequently throughout the country from the small villages to the big cities. Family and faith is the core of their existence. Italian children are impressively well-behaved, and the portrayal of Italian men as handsome and charming is accurate. Daily life for many of the inhabitants of the hillside villages is simple, but they are not simplistic people. They are bound to a web of generations of historical and cultural mores.

The topography of Italy is varied from its coastal seaside towns to the mountain villages, to the densely populated cities. The thrilling coastal drive along the Amalfi coast revealed steeply terraced villages of stuccoed housing clinging to jagged cliffs. Found nestled between the Mediterranean’s blue waters and the rugged coastal mountain is Cinque Terre, the “five lands.” For 100s of years, these tiny fishing villages were accessible only by sea. We were able to travel by train to the villages. The quaint narrow streets with colorful houses perched over shops selling wine, olives, cheese, and local wares were so characteristic of a traditional image of Italy. The beauty and uniqueness of this area remains emblazoned in my mind.

Italy, although rather temperate, experiences four seasons. Throughout the country, the fall foliage was colorful, but never as pronounced as in the golden landscapes of Tuscany. The stereotypical picture of rolling hills dotted by small villages, with steeples rising high above the horizon, accented by the rows and rows of grape vines was our breathtaking view for miles upon miles. We visited Orvieto, touring the Duomo, one of Italy’s greatest cathedrals known for its magnificent bronze doors and amazing frescoes created by renowned artists. We toured the medieval town of San Gimignano with its 14 towers and Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. Each town seemed to outdo the last with its impressive display of architecture, art and historical significance.

My favorite city was Florence. As the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, it contains buildings, churches, paintings, and sculptures, which changed the face of the world forever and still influence our modern ideas of aesthetic beauty. Built and maintained by the opulence of the Medici family, Florence is the showcase for the works of Giotto, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Botticelli, Donatello, Michelangelo, da Vinci and dozens of others.