These last two week have been an absolute roller coaster. We traveled, worked, studied, and played and now I am ever so slightly perished and sweating as the rain falls in strings from the sky. Let me start from the very beginning, a very good place to start.
For those of you who don’t know, my dad served a church mission in Italy about 30 years ago. The same things I did in Germany for a year and a half, he did for two years in Italy. Growing up, my dad would sometimes pray in Italian or try to teach us simple words from things around the table. He would make lasagna the way Italians would make it, scoff at ice cream in the States as if it was some elementary sugary abomination, and as he spoke about the things he loved most it was not uncommon for him to get a little teary-eyed. It was always my dream to see the place which was so special to his heart, to taste of the heavenly gelato and see the houses tucked behind Tuscan hillsides, and finally, guys,
I did it.
Thursday morning, I arose at 4 am to get to the airport. We met all our people there (it was a group trip-how convenient??) and soon we boarded the plane which, in less than 45 min, had us landing in Venice (Venedig, Venezia), Italia. We swooped down over the turquoise Adriatic sea and the terracotta housetops seemed to beckon us in. The moment we landed, it was if someone had turned on a machine in my soul that hadn’t been plugged in, but I had always had. Something between nostalgia and excitement, as I wandered around a place where no one spoke English and I wanted nothing more than to see it with my dad. Thank the heavens for Whatsapp because as soon as we had any type of internet I began recording little videos for him to see, mostly things that were mundane, like buses or just people talking. These are the things you miss about a place you love.
We arrived in Venice after a bus ride and a water-taxi voyage. As soon I caught my first glimpse of a little water-street lined with colorful houses, I felt like I was on a different planet. A super cute, old, magical, tiny planet.
We stayed in a Youth Hostel on the island of Giudecca. It was hip with an assortment of young adults from an assortment of many countries. We slept in bunk beds and shared a communal shower. I am glad I can say I did it. I am glad I can say I would rather not do it again.
That being said, it made wanting to be out and about a lot easier as we weren’t wanting to be shut in all day. So, after we arrived on Thursday, Elda, the twins, and I went to the main island in Venice and decided to just get lost.
Getting lost is my favorite.
We walked down streets until we came to a dead-end, and any time we came to a fork in the road we would pick the most interesting (sometimes the most narrow) streets. We soon found ourselves in a square, empty of tourists, with a group of Italians on yoga mats doing Taekwondo. We sat and rested our feet and listened to the distant chatter that comes with an island packed with so many people.
When the day was done we decided the best way to end it would be to watch the sunset. So, we followed the shadows which were casted by the setting sun and found our way to the edge of a dock, looking over the sea. We sat and watched the sun melt behind boats and passing gondolas. And let me tell you; it was magic.
The next morning, we decided that as much as getting lost was great, there was purpose in crowded tourist attractions, so we decided to hit all of those things as well. We first went over to Lido beach. It in and of itself is just an island of beach, and feels completely separate from its Venetian brothers and sisters. The sand was soft, sandy, hot, and white and get this:
The water was warm.
For those of you who don’t know, I am terrified of open water. Animal Planet ruined me for life by watching though shows where pet crocodiles gone mad get put into a lake somewhere and sharks eats people. But, as soon as my toes touched the water I smiled. Never before in my life have I experienced warm, clear sea water. Growing up on the Oregon coast, the idea of water warmer than the air whipping around you was impossible. So, the Adriatic sea took me in and wrapped me up. I didn’t get out for hours.
After this we went back to the main island with salty air and sun-kissed faces to see the ‘must-sees’ of Venice. We walked by the Bridge of Sighs (what poet names these places??) where the prisoners of times older than ours caught one last glimpse of the watery street of Venice before being led to their cells, we ate gelato (it was ok), and I had gnocchi. It was full and good and I was burnt to a crisp, dehydrated, but happy.
Whilst planning for this trip to Venice I was so sad I wasn’t going to get to see Florence. It is a bit smaller in terms of tourism, but there is so much art and history to that place that has always been my dream to see. So, I put my ear to the ground and found RIDICULOUSLY cheap tickets for a train to and from Florence the Saturday we were in Venice. Seven other people bought tickets with me and so, Saturday morning at 3 am we arose and headed off to Florence.
We had to ride the water taxi to the mainland through Venice during the periwinkle hours of the morning. When the streets, water and cobblestone, were empty and the light that hit the buildings of was understated but magnificent in its own sphere. Though we were tired, the energy of a city full of so many stories kept us awake in anticipation.
We arrived in Florence at 7:30 am after riding a train through the sunrise lit Tuscan countryside. Immediately, we found and map and, I kid you not, we stayed until 8 pm and sat down maybe 30 min that day.
We high-tailed it to the Accademia where we beat the historical lines to see Michelangelos David. I am a history and art maniac, however, I never got the hype around the David. Of course, I understood it’s importance in the embodiment of the Renaissance and Michelangelo was a total dude, but I didn’t understand the draw. That is, until I walked in and at the end of a hall lined with half-finished Michelangelo sculptures, and beheld the most awe-inspiring figure I have yet seen in this life.
There are no words.
I stood at his feet for minutes on end admiring the delicacy of such a hard and immovable medium, and my heart was tainted for all other art after this. Nothing would ever be the David.
I get it now.
After this, we wandered over to the Plaza where the first ever Renaissance dome was built in Italy. We found a gelato place recommended by a friend of a friend. The place is called ‘Edoardos’, and guys…
It changed my life.
After seeing the David I didn’t think I could ever be so moved again in my life, but as I partook of the hazelnut, Nutella, and pistachio gelato, I was proven wrong. I was ruined for all other gelatos and ice creams until the end of time and I understood why my father cringed at Dreyers ice creams; he had found his ‘Edoardo’.
After this we went to the Uffizi where we again managed to be blessed by the great God above and were able to skip the entire line. As soon as I walked in, I cried. Giotto and Cimabue’s Madonnas were IN THE SAME ROOM. TOGETHER.
AT THE SAME TIME.
The next room held Boticelli’s Spring and Birth of Venus. I cried and smiled and embraced anyone who would embrace me back and even those that wouldn’t. I saw works of Leonardo Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Raphael, and more.
Whilst there I accidentally left my camera in the bathroom. Ok, let that sink in. I left my camera in the bathroom of the UFFIZI. I didn’t even realize it was gone until suddenly one of my travel friends ran up and asked if my camera was gone. Sure enough, in my enrapturement of the works around me I had failed to notice it’s absence. But, by some miracle of my Heavenly Father, someone found it, and seeing that the battery was dead….PUT THE SD CARD IN THEIR CAMERA, LOOKED AT THE PEOPLE I HAD BEEN TAKING PICTURES OF ALL DAY, AND THEN SEARCHED THE ENTIRE MUSEUM TO FIND ME.
IN THE UFFIZI.
Someday, when I am not in shock, I will find them and I will kiss them over and over again, for enriching and saving my day in Florence. That was more magical than any art in any ancient city.
For lunch, we went to a famous sandwich shop where I told the loud Italian guys to make me what they thought I would like. It was a beautiful creation of porchetta, artichoke hearts, eggplant, zucchini, and arugula in between two perfect slices of focaccia.
It was cheap. It was life changing. It was perfect.
On the way back to the train station we got more gelato, of course at Eduardos, and my life was changed,
So, that was our day in Florence. Of course, there were many more things, but the day after walking 19 miles and sitting for 30 min, was sacred and a dream and perfect. The people I went with and those I met were a dream.
But, for now, I say ‘Ciao’ and look at the pictures for the further not detailed adventures of Daniela in Italy.
Salzburg coming up.
Much love to you all,