Travel Break 2: Venice and Milan
Piazza San Marco is a traffic free square in the center of Venice. There are two clock towers that chime on the hour. One side of the square by Saint Mark’s faces the Grand Canal. On one of the granite columns there is a lion with wings on it. This is to represent Saint Mark himself. On the other column there is Patron Saint Theodor taming a dragon. The columns were both built in the twelfth century. There was a lot of public torture in Venice at one time, like on Pietro Fasiol. He has a mosaic named, “Virgin and Child of the Poor Baker,” in honor of his murder. Also in remembrance of the people who were decapitated and tortured, there is a statue of four men, huddled together. Their faces are full of fear. This statue is outside the Doge’s Palace. In 1902, one of the bell towers of Saint Mark’s fell. It is now rebuilt and can be climbed by travelers; it is also equipped with an elevator. Saint Mark’s Basilica is one of the most richly decorated churches in the world. Some of the mosaics are over seven centuries old. In the dome of the Basilica, Saint Mark’s favorite horses are depicted. The Grand Canal is lined with all the main churches, hotels, museums, and palazzo. Most of the impressive buildings along the canal have been made into hotels or museums so they have the opportunity to be kept up.
Milan was made in 313 AD for a major center of Christianity. The last supper was painted here by Leonardo DiVinci in 1495. France ruled Milan for years until Mussolini took back over during war. After the war, Milan developed itself as a fashion and design city. There has been a lot of secret service scandals and death around the 1980’s in Milan. The current leader of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, was born in Milan. The construction of the main Duomo started in 1386, and was not finally finished until 1813. It is known for having many different styles of art and decoration; mostly baroque and gothic. The marble used was from Lake Maggiore, and is still used from the same lake when it needs to be renovated. At one side of the Duomo, there is a large crucifix called, “A Nail from Christ’s Cross.” It is lowered once a year in September for a feast. It is lowered by a machine Leonardo DiVinci built. The glass coffin decorated with jewels lies underneath. It is the coffin of Cardinal San Carlo Borromeo; recognized for his work with the poor.
On our second travel break Sarah, Brittany, and I headed to Venice and Milan. I did not know much about either of these places until I actually went. That actually excited me because everything would be new to me so I could learn so much! Our train ride was miserable. We had to sit in an aisle seat for four hours. These seats folded down and were about eight inches by eight inches. There was a movie being filmed in the next seating area over. It felt cool to know what was going on and see the process and security getting the beautiful movie star on and off the train.
We made it to Venice around dinner time. I had the best spaghetti for dinner. It was long noodles with some spicy garlic and oil sauce. It made me miss my family because my Mum makes that all the time. After dinner we went on a gondola ride. Our gondola driver was so cute and round with very good English. He took us around the Venice water ways, giving us history along the way. I could not hear him very well because he was so far behind me. I still cannot believe how Venice even operates. The city is seriously sinking. It blows me away. I hate the fact that someday my children’s children will not get to see Venice because it will be so sunken. What are the civilians going to do when their houses sink? The water has such a drastic change in depth from high to low tide. I just still cannot wrap my head around how people live on the water like it is in Venice. It is just so different than what we are used to in America.
The next day we went to Saint Marco’s square. I remember telling myself, “If I can’t get closer to God here, I don’t know if it would ever happen.” It really is true. Going to all these churches is a Catholic’s dream. We walked into Saint Marco’s Cathedral and I instantly got goose bumps because it was so religious. I got holy water and did the sign of the cross; it made me feel like I fit in with the other Catholics that were there. That led me to feel like I belonged there. The cathedral was really pretty, like all the other churches I had seen. It was the feelings I got from Saint Marco’s cathedral that made such a difference. When we went back into the square, we saw all the pigeons. Those animals are the dirtiest on the planet! I think it is vile that people were allowing them to land on their arms, heads, shoulders, and hands! I could never do that. Honestly, I got bored in Venice after the second day. I think it was mostly because the weather was horrible and we were so sick of seeing museums. It was time to head to Milan.
On the train to Milan, we made a stop in Verona. There was a man who had jumped in front of a speeding train. We saw him laying on the tracks with his head opened up. His brains and guts were spewed all over the tracks. There was police there trying to get information and clean up the body. It was horrific and I do not think I will ever be able to erase the image out of my head. I felt so sad for his crying family who couldn’t yell loud enough to stop him from jumping to his death.
We got to Milan in the pouring rain. We got lost, asked about four people for directions, and finally found our hotel! It was pouring rain while we were lost too. I already liked Milan because it was so clean compared to Rome and Florence. We were hungry so we asked the man at the front desk of our hotel where the good food was. He said there were Chinese food places around the block; we were deprived of any food other than Italian so we decided to try it out. By the time we got to the fourth one he listed, we realized that “Chinese” food means Italian restaurants owned and operated by Chinese people. We were so tired and hungry at this point we just at it anyways. It was the worst pizza I had eaten in Italy yet. It was so soggy.
The next day we visited the main square. The cathedral was really pointy; I did not like it as much as the other style cathedrals I had seen. I got bored there really fast. We went to the main shopping street. It was very fancy but did not take us long to figure out that we could not afford anything there. We left to find the “Last Supper” painting. We found out that it was sold out and you had to book a ticket at least a week in advance. Not to mention it was at least sixty Euros to buy the ticket. We left Milan with a little bit of a frown. It was a lot of fun overall, but we were glad to be back in Sansepolcro.
For my first travel break, Sarah, Brittany, and I headed to Rome. Sarah’s mother, Becky, and sister, Amanda, came along with us. We went to The Coliseum, The Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain, The Ruins, The Pantheon, and The Vatican. The weather was great, the food was better, and I had the most wonderful company.
The first place we went was the Coliseum. The Roman Coliseum used to be a place for entertainment. It stands 159 feet tall and could hold about 55,000 people (A View on Cities, 2011). Gladiators would fight until death in the center. Gladiators could be paired with other gladiators, prisoners, slaves, or even animals. Animals like bears could be forced to fight a lion or wolf. Romans shipped animals from all over the world to watch fight; they liked the idea of an exotic animals no one had ever seen before. The floor of the Coliseum was made from wood. This is where they fights would take place. The wood is now disintegrated and is not visible to view. You can see what was below the original floor. There are cells where the Romans kept prisoners and the animals. They are falling apart to ruins, but still have an authentic look. Another fact I learned from our trip is that if a prisoner won the battle, the audience would be asked if they liked the way he fought or not. If the audience disapproved of his fighting, he would be killed anyways. The Coliseum was destroyed mostly by age and a huge earthquake which destroyed the Coliseum and the area surrounding in 847 A.D.
The Coliseum was my favorite place I visited in Rome. I loved the feeling of almost a dreariness when you walked through it. I was having a hard time grasping the concept of why people enjoyed watching such bloodshed for entertainment. After I thought about it a little longer, I realized it was not as crazy as I thought. If gladiator fights were the only thing to do in 2011 in America I am certainly sure people would pay to watch it. We find it fascinating to watch scary movies where people get chopped apart and watch WWE. I know it is not as severe as fighting until someone’s death, but I think we would find that entertainment mesmerizing if it was the only thing to do for fun. It also boggled my mind how something that is so old is still standing. This structure has been through an earth quake and hundreds of years of ruin, and it is still stable to walk on.
The Trevi Fountain was another beautiful sight I saw. The fountain was build for the end point of an aqueduct called Acqua Vergine. Neptune is the central focus of the fountain. He is riding a chariot pulled by two horses that are supposed to represent the differing moods of the sea (A View on Cities, 2011). This 15th century build fountain is the largest in Rome. It has been restored since the original building because of invaders who destroyed it. The restoration was finished in 1762 (Jessica, 2009). There is a reason that people come to the Trevi Fountain, other than the fact that it is beautiful. If you throw a coin with your back facing the fountain, with your right hand, over your left shoulder, you are believed to come back to Rome at some point in your life.
The Trevi Fountain was another favorite spot to visit. We went to the fountain in the late afternoon. The sun was going down and the lights in the fountain began to turn on. It truly was a beautiful sight. We got gelato and went to find an area to sit for a while. There was so many people there but we managed to get a pretty decent seat to just sit and watch people. It was fun to people watch. You can tell an American by just the way we take pictures. We smile in pictures, even though it is a fake smile. Other countries have a straight face in their pictures. When I threw the coin in the fountain, I thought I was supposed to make a wish instead of the meaning of returning to Rome. Coincidentally, I wished that I would return to Italy at some point in my life.
The Pantheon was the last of my top three sites in Rome. It was built for the gods of Olympus. This structure had the largest dome in the world until the Florence Cathedral was built (A View on Cities, 2011). The dome has a hole in the center. It is meant to be a sun dial when the light passes through the hole and casts a shadow on the walls of the circular structure. The height and the diameter of this building are the exact same measurements. The building contains the buried body of the famous artist Raphael and other Italian kings.
This was a beautiful building in Rome. When I walked in I immediately felt goose bumps from the sheer nature of a religious place. It was one of the only churches where everyone was really quiet. It still blows me away how old these structures are and how much they seriously are still standing. Outside the pantheon there was a guitar player. He was playing Christmas carols in the beating down sun. It was very funny to me that they sing holiday songs year round; I am not sure if they realize it or not. The more I see of Italy, the more I realize how Sarah and Brittany are always going to be my best friends. I have other best friends at home, but experiencing Italy’s beauty together is something that has brought us even closer than we were before.
Cathedral de San Giovanni Evangelista and The Cathedral Journal
Sansepolcro’s main church is located in the main square. This church began being built in 1012, and was finished in 1049. The Camaldolite brothers took ownership of the cathedrals in the second half of the twelfth century. It had to be enlarged in the fourteenth century because there was such a population growth. In 1352, there was a huge earthquake which knocked down the Cathedral’s bell tower. The Cathedral had to be renovated and the bell tower was completely rebuilt. In 1515, Sansepolcro got its own diocese, who decided to decorate the church even more; it has more of a Romanesque-Gothic appearance because of it. In 1934 through 1943 was the Cathedral’s last renovation; where the duomo was made to its original form again after the quake. The inside is three parts, or naves, separated by columns. There is a beautiful white marble Baptismal Fountain in the far left nave. Also in this nave is “Younger Assumption of the Virgin” painted in 1602 on canvas by Jacapo Palma. Raffellino dal Colle’s “Eternal Father with Angels” sits right above. There is also a wooden crucifix representing Jesus as the King. Pilgrims brought the crucifix to Sansepolcro when they came from the holy land between the eighth and ninth centuries. It sits in Saint Augustine-anther church in Sansepolcro; until 1770 when it was moved to the Cathedral. The crown from the crucifix is in the Civic Museum so it can be well preserved.
These churches blew me away! The Cathedral was so intricately designed. My church at home is beautiful, but it was nothing like this. At my church at home things are built in a factory and then put into place at the church. You could tell that these churches were so old, hand crafted, and made with such love. The elderly people in Sansepolcro adore church. It is so much more popular in the older generations than the younger ones. I talked to a lot of locals in the younger population and they blame their lack of faith on Italy’s poor economy and leadership. They do not understand why people have to go to church to believe in God. A lot of members of this generation just do not believe in God period, they gave up on faith. I wish I had a chance to talk to the older generation about this. I would like to know if they are upset by the fact that the faith of Italians is dwindling.
While I was in Italy, not only did I go and look at the churches, but I attended a church service. I was blown away by the service. The priest literally was so passionate he was throwing Jesus from his fingertips. My priest at home does not have this powerful of a sermon. Even though I did not understand what he was saying, I feel like I got so much more from his sermon by just watching him. The passion this Italian priest possessed was something my priest was lacking in America. I was mesmerized by him. I felt like I could understand his message because you could see in his eyes how connected to God he was. I loved mass, and I wish I had another chance to see him. I have grown up Catholic, and probably have gone to about a million masses. My favorite part of this service was that even though I didn’t speak Italian, I could still follow along. I knew what each part of mass was and could follow along in English. I knew what prayers they were saying, and when they were saying them. This made me feel a piece of home and have a sense of belongingness here. I also was one of the only Catholic girls to go on the trip. It was fun being able to be the person to come to about information that I was an “expert” on.
The atmosphere in the church is completely different than in America. At my church in Cary, North Carolina, the second your baby cries, you run out of the church in embarrassment. Your children have to be on their best behavior and now make a peep while the priest is talking. In Italy, children are running around in the back. They don’t care if the children cry, laugh, scream, or talk. People come and go as they please. There is no exact time when the service starts and you can leave before it ends if you want to. In America, you have to be on time, if not early for mass. If you are late, the whole church stares at you with pity. There is also no leaving before mass is over. It is highly looked down upon. I don’t really know why all of these things are expected. There are no written rules about it, I guess it is just a sign of respect.