“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” –Mohammed
This past week was a whirlwind of traveling and sightseeing. On Thursday we left at 7:45 and drove to Arezzo, walked through Pierro Della Francesco’s Legend of the Holy Cross frescoes, drove to Siena, hung out in the Palazzo Pubblico, went in the town hall, then were shipped off to Monte Olivetto Maggiore and saw the Life of St. Benedict. We got back at around 6:30. The next day we were up for an 8:04 train to Florence, ran from there to Museo di San Marco, walked over the Medici palace, visited the Brancacci chapel, and after a brief stop at the Santa Trinita church, we were back on the train to Orvieto. After two crazy days, we were all exhausted and fighting colds, but the excursions were well worth it.
Probably the aspect that struck me most culturally was the contrast between the big city life of Florence with the small-town quaintness of Orvieto. It reminded me that no matter where you go, no matter what country you’re in, there will be city’s that are infiltrated with the globalization that some would argue is taking place across the world. Being in Florence, there was a much greater diversity among the people that we saw walking down the street. We heard Chinese, French, German, and many other languages in single locations. The number of Asians I saw made me think I was closer to Asia than I actually am. In the piazza in front of the Florentine Duomo, there was everything from Ben and Jerry’s to travel exchange places. All of this made me thankful for the local nature of the town that we are housed in–more of Italy without the tourist atmosphere.
But of course there is a reason that those cities as towns have sprung up as tourist centers–the artwork is fantastic. So far my favorite has been Piero Della Francesca’s Legend of the Holy Cross, followed closely by Fra Angelico’s frescoes in the Museo di San Marco. It is exciting to learn about the symbolism and meaning behind each of these paintings–something that I would never realize if I was viewing these paintings by myself through my own eyes.