March 2, 2014
This weekend, I had a two-day-long trip to Milan, with my art history seminar on Leonardo da Vinci. The real purpose of our trip was to see the Last Supper in person (a rare opportunity, as tickets are notoriously hard to come by and require reservations months upon months in advance – but luckily my professor has both excellent planning skills and a number of connections within the Italian art history community, which helped tremendously). But since we were already going to be traveling, why not make a weekend out of it? The class is very small, only eight students (it’s the most advanced art history seminar that my program offers, so there were strict requirements for admission). This means that we all know each other very well – and it also made traveling as a group quite easy! We met at the train station early Friday morning, and set off.
As soon as we entered the grand Milan train station, it became clear that this was going to be a very different city from those that I had previously visited in Italy. Milan is much more modern – yet still not contemporary in the ugly skyscraper-and-smog sense. Architecturally, it’s very grand and imposing, with wide busy boulevards and tall marble and granite facades. If anything, I’d say it’s more reminiscent of Paris or Luxembourg City than Tuscany. There are hints of both Victorian and Fascist influence – which makes sense, given that the city was heavily bombed during World War II and had to be rebuilt afterwards. Milan has a fast-paced, cosmopolitan feel, due largely to its fame as the world’s fashion capitol. The streets are lined with high-fashion stores, with window displays as carefully curated as art shows, the beauty of the few jewel-bright products displayed throughout the expansive galleries inviting you in, while at the same time the lack of price tags (and the few, impeccably-dressed shoppers within) signal the type of club so exclusive that if you have to question your ability to enter, you know you don’t belong. Nevertheless, even being so close to such luxury (and potentially to some very famous people!) was exciting – and it was certainly fun to peek at all of the windows, as we made our way to the hotel.
(I don’t think we’re in Florence anymore…)
After dropping off our bags, we started off the day at the Museo Poldi Pezzoli. Our Professor’s husband is actually the curator of the museum, and so he gave us a private tour! It’s a house-museum, preserving the palace of Mr. Pezzoli and his eclectic collections within, which include some incredible Medieval artworks – in addition to historic compasses, Japanese netsukes, ancient Roman jewelry, and suits of armor! I was intrigued to learn that Isabella Stewart Gardiner actually visited this museum when she was fifteen, and wrote in a letter home that it had inspired her to someday want to do the same thing with her own house, if she was able to collect any art! (The Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum is one of my favorites in Boston) And Bernard Berenson, the art historian whose own house-museum, the Villa I Tatti, is where I’m interning at this semester, is said to have also been inspired by the Poldi Pezzoli.
Next, we took a walk across the city center, passing through the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II, the famous, grand covered shopping area, all in marble and cast iron, with shining glass ceilings high above. Emerging on the other side, we were met by the even more architecturally impressive Duomo of Milan.
Taking advantage of the sun, we hurried around to the back of the building, getting in line next to a small, nondescript door. Soon, we were riding in a tiny elevator, to emerge moments later on the roof of the Duomo itself! It was definitely a bit scary, being up so high – we maneuvered very carefully across the marble walkways, coming almost face-to-face with the gargoyles! I’ve been to the top of the Duomo in Florence, and to the top of the castle tower in Verona, but I’d never been able to freely walk around and explore on the top of a historic building like this before. The views were absolutely stunning.
Lunch was a quick affair – but definitely memorable! We followed our professor down a sidestreet, where we were met by a crowd of people waiting in front of a small storefront. The bakery’s specialty was panzerotti, a kind of Panini-calzone hybrid – meat and cheese stuffed inside of a roll and fried for just a few seconds. I got spicy salami and mozzarella, the roll still hot from the oven.
(just look at all of that oozing cheese…)
Next, a tour of the inside of the Duomo – which was also vastly different from any I had seen so far in Italy. It was very clearly gothic, with tall, thick columns rising to a ceiling still stained with soot from centuries of prayer candles and incense.
Our final stop of the day was what in some ways the entire trip had been leading up to: Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church containing the Last Supper. We began with a tour of the interior, which is quite beautiful in its own right.
(Lovely little inner courtyard)
We had a bit of time before our viewing appointment, so we stopped into the current show that the museum was holding: the actual pages of the Codex Atlanticus, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous mathematical treatises. This is the side of da Vinci that I haven’t studied very much – but looking at the thin, stained pages, with his actual handwritten notes, was pretty neat. I definitely recognized some of the geometrical proofs from my high school AP Calculus class!
Finally, it was our turn. Due to the incredibly fragile state of the painting, there are the highest imaginable level of security and preservation precautions surrounding the viewing. We entered the first of a series of glass-enclosed rooms, squeezing in tightly as the doors shut behind us. We stood for a few moments, and I could feel the air in the room change, sucking out harmful chemicals. Then, the doors in front of us opened, and we moved into a second glass room – where again the doors shut behind us, the air changed, and then we were let through. This process occurred three times, before we reached the final door. Behind it was the Refectory of the convent of the church – and Leonardo’s masterpiece. The doors slowly opened, and we were informed that we had exactly fifteen minutes. I entered the high-ceilinged room, turned to the side, and there it was. The Last Supper. Words absolutely could not do it justice, so I’m not even going to try. But it was truly incredible, viewing it in person – wholly different from what any image or photograph could capture. The colors seemed to glow, each figure alive with energy and emotion. I stood in front of it for several minutes, simply in awe, then walked up close and back, each angle revealing new details. The room was filled with a hushed, reverent silence, our footsteps echoing in the cavernous space. What seemed like seconds later, I was roused from my trance by a soft bell, and a group of stern guards approached to quickly usher us out. Back in the chilly Milanese rain, I took a moment to compose myself (and to start breathing again!). Wow. Though our time was far too short, I know that this is an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
This was the end of our teacher’s plan for the day, and most of the other students were tired and just wanted to go back to the hotel. But my friend Annalie and I were still full of energy – after all, we were in the fashion capitol of the world! So, as the sun began to set (and the lights in the shop windows burst to life), we wandered down the main shopping street, Via Montenapolitano, for some serious window-shopping.
(Fashion, fashion, everywhere – and not a thing within our price range!)
Finally, though, even we had to call it a day – and began to head back toward the hotel. Everyone else had already gone out for dinner to a nearby trattoria, so we consulted my handy guidebook to see what was nearby. To our surprise, there was a very highly-rated sushi restaurant just blocks away! Both of our eyes lit up at the thought of simple white rice and raw vegetables. It feels a bit sacrilegious to be craving sushi in Italy, the country with arguably the most amazing cuisine in the world – but after nearly two months of nonstop pasta, bread, and cured meat, I was definitely ready for something different! Ethnic food doesn’t really exist so much in Italy – you can find it in cities like Florence, if you look hard, but it’s never good or authentic, and has only recently sprung up to feed the tourist (and American study abroad student) demand. But because Milan is unique as perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in Italy, with so many wealthy tourists and luxury shops, restaurants and events, it actually has a pretty good ethnic food scene. The restaurants are definitely much more upscale – but we decided we’d splurge a bit, for the experience! The restaurant was very fancy, with dark lighting and seats on cushions on the floor – and the sushi was incredible! Even after edmame, miso soup, and one big sushi roll apiece, we couldn’t resist sharing another roll.
The nightlife in Milan is also supposed to be excellent – but after all of our adventures during the day, and having noticed earlier that our hotel room was complete with a massive bathtub and complimentary lavender-scented body wash, Annalie and I decided on a much more pleasurable course of action. Returning to the hotel, we spent the evening taking long, hot baths and reading in bed. All in all, an absolutely perfect evening!
The next day began with a trip to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, another museum with some incredible works of art, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Musician and Raphael’s School of Athens cartoon. Having just seen the actual fresco in the Vatican several weeks ago, it was fascinating to see his preparatory sketch, and compare the two. Up close, you could see each individual charcoal mark and erasure.
We also went by San Satiro church, famous for its groundbreaking nave with an illusion of depth – when you enter, it looks like the building extends far behind the altar… but after walking around to the side, it becomes clear that the entire backdrop is just an incredibly detailed painting! Really impressive, especially given how long ago it was painted – it definitely fooled me!
(the front view – it looks like you could just walk around behind the altar, right?)
Lunch was again a rather hurried affair – so much to see! But after a quick plate of pasta, with a few minutes to spare before rejoining the group, we stumbled upon the most incredible gelato shop in the world (and I do not say this lightly!). Let me explain how this works. You pay first, and get a ticket (as most stores in Italy operate). Then you walk up to the gelato bar. A chocolatier in a baker’s hat and uniform approaches you, grabs a cone (there are no measly dishes in this establishment!), and asks you what type of chocolate you prefer. I chose dark. Then, he turns around to the three spouts behind him, from each of which is flowing a steady stream of thick melted chocolate (white, milk, and dark). He fills your cone halfway with your chosen liquid. Then, he gets to the gelato itself. The shop had fifteen different varieties of chocolate gelato! I chose rose gelato with white chocolate chunks, and dark chocolate with sea salt. He artfully forms the scoops on your tall, thin cone, plops a wafer on top (as if the treat wasn’t decadent enough already), and hands you what is bound to become the most intense chocolate experience of your life. It. Was. Incredible. Both of the flavors were delicious and utterly unique – and by the time you got to the bottom of the cone, the coldness of the gelato had caused the chocolate to solidify, so you basically had an entire artisanal chocolate bar within the cone to enjoy. We left the gelateria buzzing on a sugar high, with a few errant drops of chocolate still on our noses.
The last stop of the day was Sforza Castle, the residence of the ruling family of Milan for much of the 1400s. It’s absolutely massive, and very medieval-looking, and much of it has now been turned into (you guessed it!) an art museum.
The highlights here were Michelangelo’s last Pieta, which he was still working on when he died (and thus remains unfinished today), and da Vinci’s Sala delle Asse. It’s a whole room within the palace, for which Leonardo painted the ceiling with an elaborate pattern of intertwining tree branches. I actually did a presentation on this painting for my art history class the previous week, so it was very exciting to now be seeing the work that I had studied so much in person! This is really one of the most incredible parts of this entire study abroad experience – I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been intrigued by a painting or fresco in our textbook, only to learn that we were going to view it in person a few days later! Pictures can never do a work of art justice, and the feeling of standing in front of a masterpiece is absolutely unlike any other. I can’t tell you how much more I feel like I’ve been learning, just from having the opportunity to experience everything in person! I’m absolutely so fortunate to be studying (and living!) in such a culturally and artistically rich place.
Venturing back out into the rain, we made one more quick stop – to Santa Reparata, another beautiful church, completely covered in frescoes by Bernardino Luini. Our professor regaled us with gruesome stories of the ways in which the numerous saints on the walls died – a hint: the items that they are carrying are usually somehow related to their awful fate. The mostly-female class let out a groan as we rounded a corner and came upon a painting of Saint Agatha – yes, those are her own breasts that she’s carrying on a tray!
(St. Agatha’s the one on the right… Ouch!)
Somehow, the day was already quickly coming to an end, so we made our way back to the train station and headed back to Florence. Though our time passed by in a whirlwind (as these weekend trips always seem to do), I really enjoyed our time in Milan. The city was so very different from any of the others – and while I definitely prefer the quiet beauty of a small, medieval Tuscan town, the energy of a cosmopolitan city is always infectious.
On Sunday, I awoke with no plans and the golden Tuscan sun streaming in though my window. I spent a leisurely morning at home, reading a novel and trying to get in touch with my friends to see if anyone had ideas for the day. I couldn’t get ahold of anyone, though, and by lunchtime the day was beginning to look like a bit of a bust. But then Anna Maria came back from her usual Sunday-morning errands, and told me that there was a big farmer’s market going on in Piazza Repubblica, one of the main squares in the old center. Why? “Perche… bo!” One of my favorite Italian expressions, this means simply, why not? Farmer’s markets are absolutely some of my favorite events, so I threw on a coat and scarf (my usual “blending in as a native Italian” costume) and walked on over. I spent an enjoyable few hours at the market, tasting the fresh cheeses, meats, olive oil, and honey – all organically made by the vendors themselves, less than twenty miles from the very spot where we stood. I definitely felt like a local: I carried on an entire conversation with the lovely old honey-seller, entirely in Italian – she teased me for my surprise that there was more than one type of honey! (and at my expression upon trying the strong, almost bitter millefleur honey!) After tasting honeys from a wide variety of different flowers, at her insistence, I was soon convinced into buying a small pot of the most unique flavor I’ve tasted so far: acacia honey infused with truffle oil. The vendor made me promise that I would try it with aged pecorino cheese – according to her, it would “change my life.” Well, I’ll never say no to an excuse to buy more Italian food! I returned to my favorite cheese-seller, and splurged a bit on a sliver of his oldest pecorino. Picking up an apple from a fruit vendor as well, I made my way over to a bench on the corner of the piazza, and spent a contented hour in the sun, people-watching and eating what indeed may have been my favorite lunch of this entire trip. It really doesn’t take a lot to make a good meal – just simple, fresh products, made with care.
(my new friend, the honey lady)
From there, I began to just shop a bit in the city center, peeking in and out of stores, when I suddenly heard loud drums and the sound of a crowd. I rushed out of the shop, and was immediately met by a parade! It was apparently an event for Carnivale, celebrating the famous Banderai, the world-renown Tuscan flag-throwers, keepers of a tradition going back to the Middle Ages. The streets were filled with men in Medieval garb, holding large flags bearing the symbol of Florence, the red lily. I was soon caught up in the crowd, and followed the procession to the Piazza Signoria, where the Banderai proceeded to hold a flag-throwing performance, with a massive crowd of Florentines (and a few confused tourists!) looking on. It was absolutely incredible – they threw the flags incredibly high but with such precision, catching them with a flourish, as the drums and horns played behind.
(dueling – with flags!)
By the time the performance was over, with the troop marching back through the streets to the cheers of the crowd, the sun was beginning to set. I quickly peeked into the museum of the Palazzo Vecchio, the old palace of the Florentine nobility during the Renaissance, inspired by the historic display that I had just witnessed. Then, all too soon, it was time to head back home for dinner. Somehow, a day with no plans had turned into a wonderful adventure. I guess it goes to show that, while I’m usually the type of person to obsessively plan out every moment of the day (in fear of wasting time or missing out on an experience), sometimes it’s okay to set out freely, and just let serendipity happen.
February 22, 2014
As the spring weeks pass by ever faster, the time of Easter is drawing closer – and in many Italian (and European) cities, that can only mean one thing: Carnivale! It’s a tradition taken very seriously by the fervently-Catholic Italians, a chance to let loose and have some crazy, silly fun before the strictness of Lent takes over. There are signs of this even in Florence – recently, I’ve been noticing patches of brightly-colored confetti strewn on the cobblestones, on my daily walk to class. My host mom explained to me that during this season, Italian children will be given bags of these little, colorful paper scraps, which they will carry around with them and throw at each other whenever they have the chance, as a way of playing and having fun (instead of a game of tag or follow-the-leader). It really is sweet to watch, and it’s quite nice to stumble across these occasional unexpected bursts of color and merriment, bringing you out of the drudgery of just another walk to school and reminding you how simple it can be to find a bit of lightness and fun within the everyday.
(shops getting ready for the season — a hint of what’s to come!)
Yet there are some cities which truly embrace the spirit of Carnivale – and Venice is perhaps one of the most famous. The costumes and masks, along with simply the magical atmosphere of a city on the water… Well, my friends and I knew that it was something that we simply had to see. So, on Thursday afternoon, Sam, Emily, Cristina and I rushed right from class to the train station, arriving in Venice just as the sun was setting. Even though the sky was dark, walking out from the train station and immediately being greeted by the twinkling refection of city lights on water made our hearts race a bit. We hopped on a vaporetto (a water taxi), and rode down the Grand Canal to our hotel.
It was located in a teensy little alleyway just off of a main street (yes, they do have some streets – and many, many tiny alleys – in Venice, interspersed between the canals. This is nice because it means that it’s actually possible to walk to a fair number of places, without having to take a vaporetto – although as we later discovered, to say that the streets are maze-like is a major understatement!). Small and family-run, the place was a real find, with all of the charm and comfort of a hotel at hostel-like prices. By the time we got settled in, it was dinnertime – and the receptionist recommended the restaurant right across the street (which, given the width of the alley, was literally no more than a meter from the hotel doors!). So, we hopped on over. Osteria ai Promessi Sposi (the “Restaurant of the Happily Betrothed Couple”) was little and decorated like a home, but packed with locals – always a good sign. I had an absolutely incredible orichette with broccoli, walnuts, and pecorino.
(our hidden hotel, with the restaurant literally feet away!)
(oh, that pasta…)
We were too excited to go back to our hotel so soon, so armed with a map, we set out to find the Rialto Bridge. Tall and gracefully sloping over the Grand Canal, the bridge’s white marble glowed in the night, accentuated by the rows of tiny blue lights strung overhead.
Friday morning, we woke and immediately set out for San Marco. The main piazza of Venice, it houses many of the most famous (and visually stunning) sights of the city. It would also be the main site for the Carnivale festivities, which were set to begin on Saturday. (We chose to come to the city a day earlier, so that we could enjoy the sights before they were mobbed with tourists and revelers – and then still have a day to take in the atmosphere of Carnivale. And we were quite glad of our decision – while there were of course some tourists on Friday, the streets were relatively uncrowded.) Trying to navigate the knots of streets and canals proved near impossible (even reading the map was a challenge – what you thought was a conveniently-located avenue might well turn out to be a canal! We had more than a few moments of wishing to be able to walk on water.). So, we simply followed the signs pointing towards San Marco, passing through claustrophobic alleys and open piazzas, and in passages under houses and loggias, always a bit surprised to suddenly find ourselves on a bridge and surrounded by canals.
We stopped for a bit of mask-shopping along the way – after all, we would need to be properly attired for the weekend! And indeed, even today, the streets were filled with people in masks, as if it was simply their usual attire. It definitely added a bit of magic to the atmosphere!
(do I look suitably mysterious?)
San Marco was absolutely stunning – an enormous square, surrounded by wondrous architecture: St. Mark’s Clocktower, the Basilica San Marco, and the Palazzo Ducale (the Doge’s Palace). The final side faced directly out to the Mediterranean Sea, lined with gondolas and boats. The day could not have been more perfect, with a clear blue sky above accentuating the scene. I could have spent all day simply standing there and taking it in, watching the passers-by in stunning Carnivale costume, scaring the herds of pigeons as they swished by in ever-more elaborate gowns.
(Such Venice. So architecture. Much wow.)
(p.s. if anyone gets the above reference I will give you ten bonus points and a lollipop)
(St. Mark’s Belltower)
(Basilica San Marco)
(just some locals, out for a stroll…)
(even the dogs are getting into the spirit!)
(the edge of the Piazza, facing out to the sea)
We hopped in line and soon were inside of the Basilica San Marco. And, wow. The ceiling was entirely covered in gold mosaics – with the midday sunlight streaming in from the upper windows, the entire nave simply glowed. It was stunning.
Next, I had hoped to go to the Palazzo Ducale, the historic palace of the ruler of Venice, the Doge. My friends were a bit tired, and didn’t have as much interest – this can definitely be the difficulty that comes with traveling in a group; not everyone always wants to do the same thing. Thankfully, however, the girls are absolutely lovely, and understood my passion for history, so we were able to find a perfect compromise. They went off to find a café, and I headed in to the palace, with plans to meet beneath the statue of the Lion of Venice in an hour. The palace was wonderful, full of sumptuous rooms and masterpieces – including the largest single-canvas painting in the world, “Paradiso,” by Tintoretto.
(being a bit artsy…)
(Paradise in the Grand Council Chamber)
From all of that luxury, the tour path then made a sharp turn, leading into the prisons. I wound through the claustrophobic underground stone passageways, lined with cells, before briefly emerging into a small pool of light, from a window on a covered bridge. This was the famous “Bridge of Sighs,” the bridge leading from the prisons to the execution room – and this window gave many prisoners their last glimpse of the beauty of Venice before they went to meet their fate. It was indeed a lovely panorama – yet I couldn’t help but feel a bit of a cold shiver down my spine, as I leaned over to look out.
(peeking through the window)
I met back up with my friends, and we decided to head nest towards the southern point of Venice, to see some of its renowned art museums (I certainly didn’t need much convincing here!). We navigated once more through the maze of streets and canals – every bridge led to another beautiful view of a canal, lined with brightly-painted houses, with the occasional shining black gondola passing by. It was still always a bit of a shock to realize that we were truly on the water! We made a few stops along the way, first for a caffe shakerato (a sweet, frothy iced coffee drink, served in a fancy glass) and a fritelle Veneziana (a traditional Venetian Carnivale pastry – fried dough filled with sweet raisins and nuts, and covered in sugar, served to passersby, straight from the baker’s oven – heaven!).
Finally, we were close to the museums – but to get to the southern part of Venice, we had to cross the Grand Canal. So, we became true Venetians, and simply hopped into a gondola! Now, a note for accuracy: I didn’t actually ride on a true “gondola.” These are the smaller black boats filled with plush cushions, navigated by professional gondoliers, young (and usually fairly attractive!) men in black-and-white striped shirts and straw hats with black ribbons. You can find these at nearly every bridge or intersection in the city, calling out to the passersby and offering their services. We had made friends with more than a few during our explorations thus far, meeting their serenades and joking catcalls with flattered laughs. One even had taken a special liking to Cristina – he whipped off his hat and placed it on her head with a flourish, commanding her to help him increase his business. She happily played along, striking up an impromptu dance as we sang, “Gondola, gondola, gondola-a-a-a-a-a!” (The anonymity of a Carnivale mask does wonders for one’s sense of spontaneity!) However, we never actually took one of these charming young men up on their offers, tempting though they were – as the standard set price for even the most basic private gondola ride is 80 Euro! (Likely the result of high tourism demand) More than a bit out of our budgets, unfortunately.
But we did indeed ride on a sleek, thin black boat navigated by a single man, across the canals! We chose instead to ride a traghetto, which is basically a gondola used for public transport. They are located at certain key spots on the Grand Canal, and simply ferry passengers back and forth across its significant width. We had heard from many that it was the best way to get the full experience of riding a gondola – and still have enough money for dinner that night! So, we waited at the marked stop, handed over our 2 Euro each, and gingerly stepped aboard the small, elegant vessel.
(the traghetto — we’re next in line!)
The ride was a great experience – we rocked back and forth on the waves with the sea breezes in our hair, guided by the steady hand of the gondolier, soaking in amazing views up and down the Grand Canal along the way.
My friends wanted to see the Accademia museum, full of Renaissance artworks – but I was carving something different. So, we split up yet again. I chose the Punta Della Dogana, a well-respected contemporary art museum, which is involved in the famous Venice Biennale. I do love the Renaissance, but I’ve certainly been getting gmore than my fill with all of the museum and churches I’ve visited thus far – and I also am really fascinated by contemporary art! The collection was fascinating – definitely different and thought-provoking.
On the way back, I stopped in another church, Santa Maria della Salute – and a little courtyard, where a man in Carnivale garb was sitting, playing the lute, looking like he had been plucked straight from the Middle Ages.
After meeting back up, my friends and I made our way back towards the hotel as the sun began to set, stopping along the way in San Marco, where we made friends with several groups of revelers on their way to enjoy the nighttime Carnivale festivities.
We met up with some more friends (including my roommate Rachael) for dinner at another nearby restaurant, with amazing seafood.
(all of the girls!)
The city was alive with the spirit of Carnivale, and the hours spun by before we finally made our way back to the hotel, hanging up our masks (and shaking off more than a few stray sparkles!) for a much-needed rest.
The next morning dawned bright and early for me – I had made plans to meet Rachael and spend the beginning of the day in Murano, a neighboring little island world-renown for its glassblowing studios. So, while my friends slept, I snuck out, catching a vaporetto and speeding away from Venice.
Murano was truly beautiful, very small and residential and quiet, with brightly-colored houses and big glass sculptures everywhere. There was not a tourist in sight – and hardly any people at all, just a few shop owners raising their awnings for the day, and old ladies watering the flowers on their balconies. Much as I love Venice, I was so glad to have decided to leave it, ever so briefly – here, in this hidden away little spot, here was where people really lived and worked. Rachel and I wandered aimlessly, just enjoying the morning.
Peeking down an alleyway, we happened to meet a master glassblower – who invited us back to his studio! An unmarked door led to the massive room, dominated by a series of red-hot furnaces. After several moments of chatting, the craftsman proceeded to give us a full glass-blowing demonstration! He made a vase, and then a little horse, blowing and twisting the glass as if it was putty. The works were so hot that a piece of paper placed inside the vase spontaneously caught fire! It was such a lucky coincidence, a rare opportunity to peek into the contemporary continuation of a complex, ancient tradition.
(the artisan’s studio, full of works that he made by hand!)
In another studio, an artisan was sitting at a small forge, making trinkets, and he asked me if I wanted anything. Intrigued, I said something small and pretty – and he made me a custom ring! He measured my finger, and asked me what colors of glass I wanted, then formed it right before my eyes! It was really special, the perfect souvenir.
(making my ring!)
After a brief stop by a beautiful little church, with a floor covered in lovely, simple stone mosaics, we took a boat back to the main island, intending to meet up with the other girls for lunch.
…And this is when I get to the part of my weekend that’s not so good. As soon as we got to San Marco (which was now absolutely jam-packed with people in Carnivale costumes), I started feeling funny. We pushed through the crowds and got off to a side street, trying to find a place to eat. By the time we got inside a restaurant, I was feeling really really awful and nauseous – I ran to the bathroom and immediately started throwing up. I have no idea what happened – if it was a stomach bug or food poisoning – and I had been just fine even that morning. But I just felt so sick, all of a sudden. Rachael was really great – she got me back to the hotel and explained to the receptionist, who let me stay in an extra room. I stayed there all afternoon, trying to rest and not be sick. Sam and the other girls came when it was time for us to go to our train, and they got me to the train station and back to Florence.
I spent all of Sunday at home, resting. Anna Maria was so sweet, checking up on me and doing everything she could to take care of me. Now, it’s Wednesday, and I’m only now really beginning to feel normal again. The last few days have been pretty yucky and scary at times – it’s always hard to be sick, especially when you’re halfway around the world from everything and everyone that is comforting and familiar. But I’m so grateful that I was able to have the better part of three amazing days in Venice beforehand – and to be on the mend now. It’s good to know that no matter how bad things seem, you will get through them in the end – and that there will be people who care about you to help!