Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Irresistible Italy

My wife and I, along with our friends Jim and Mary, just recently returned from a 10-day trip to Italy, where we were doing logistical advance work for the 2012 World to the Wise Cultural Tour. It had been 17 years since our last visit there, and Becky had never been to Rome, so there was much to see. 
I could have spent a month in Rome. It had a similar effect on me as London and Paris -- the word that comes to mind is gravitas. It's difficult to overplay the presence of the city's ancient history -- I've never been in a city that has succeeded in preserving so much of its ancient reminders. But Rome is much more than Roman ruins, more even than the Vatican and the symbolic yet paradoxical shadow it casts on the local culture. And it is virtually impossible to move about the city without noticing the astonishing attention -- and priority -- given to works of art. Even Florence, in all its Renaissance splendor, can't compete with the countless piazzas adorned with elaborate Bernini fountains and statuary.

Reluctantly leaving Rome behind, we trained to Florence, where we picked up a rental car and drove to a retreat center called Poggio Ubertini, about 30 kilometers outside the city. As we climbed the suburban hills in our peppy little Opel, the view of the Tuscan countryside below brought ooh's and ah's from the wives while I forced myself to keep my eyes on the winding road. Each day in Tuscany brought its own set of adventures, from the obligatory and timeless Renaissance masterpieces in Florence to the picturesque hill towns of Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni, from the magnificent Duomo to the salt-of-the-earth Ammirabile family and their wine and olive enterprise we were able to visit. 

We cannot WAIT to introduce our tour participants to this magical land, where you are tempted to forget that the rest of the world exists -- and that's only one leg of next year's tour!

1 comment:

Linda said...

David, This brought back my most wonderful memories of Italy, including our stays at Poggio Ubertini, and stomping grapes at the Ammirabile family vineyard after helping in the harvest. We also loved the train ride to Sienna, listening to the chimes of the duomos from a hotel rooftop in Florence, and drinking in the tuscan countryside. Those tours sound fabulous!