Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Firenze è come un albero fiorito...
The Italian sun has been hot the last few weeks, reaching 35 degrees Celcius nearly every day. But I'm learning how to keep cool; hand fans, closing the windows in the morning to keep the cool air inside, walking slowly, and drinking lots of water. But the sun here is not as brutal as in the states, and for the frist time in my life, I have something that resembles a suntan. You may ask, "What?! Pale Nordic Lydia has a tan?" Oh yes. You won't recognize me.
You wouldn't have recognized me on Monday night either. During Italian class, Corinna, one of the teachers, came into our class and told us about a variety show that night. She needed 4 or 5 people to be models for traditional international clothing. I knew Francesco was involved with this variety show, so I thought "Why not?", and volunteered. Corinna's mother was in charge of the show, and told us where to go for trying on the costumes. I thought I would remember where to go, or that someone else would have remembered, but I was wrong. We all had the general area (By the tourist office, Sunrise Cafe, La Loggia, and that area)...but no one knew where to acutally go. We wandered around for a while looking for Corinna's mother, but didn't find her. I finally went to the cafe and asked the barista if he knew Corinna's mother, and said that we had a reahearsal, but didn't know where it was. An old man happened to be there, and knew exactly where to go.
This is a photo of Francesco and I before the show.
I ended up wearing a Spanish costume (think Carmen). The other blonde took Holland, the only thing either of us would have looked "authentic" in. So I took Spain. I had a good time, though, hanging out with Italians, and listening to Francesco's sketch. I think it was funny, but there was a lot I couldn't understand. But he's a great comic actor, and I anjoyed it. But the fashion show was fun, even if I got ordered around by Italian children.
Wednesday was our other program of opera scenes. In this program I sang Dame Quickly in the Letter Scene from Falstaff. Quickly is very low, and the whole scene is quite demanding. The two measures of laughter (chromatic pitches, yes!) was very hard to put together, but after finally getting a consistant tempo, I belive it worked. After the program, Judy told me, "You know, I'm going to have to change my mind about you. I don't think you're a soprano anymore, you might be a contralto!". So there's that discussion again...chi sa?
The biggest event of the week, however, was out Thursday trip to Firenze (Florence. I like to use the names of cities in their language.). We left Urbania at 8.00 am for the 3 hour bus ride. Since driving anywhere in Italy is a beautiful drive, I wanted to look out the window on the way. However, this was difficult, as we drove through Umbria, which is right in the middle of the mountains, and the motion sickness kicked in. And I wasn't alone. But once we arrived in Toscana, and the ground once again became flat, I was fine.
Because there is a high fee for buses to come downtown Firenze, out bus dropped us off in the suburbs, and we took public transit into town. There was slight panic as our Italian teachers figured out the bus schedule, and they finally just asked a lady in her apartment for help. After we arrived downtown, people went their separate ways to enjoy the day. I stuck with Andrew, Rachel, Amanda, and the two Lucias, as we all wanted to see some of the same things. After getting some lunch and a gelato (omg gelato in Firenze...)we went across the road to the Duomo (cathedral). What struck me first about the Duomo is how colorful it is on the outside, the stone decorated with different shades of green and red. The Duomo began construction in 1296 and was consecrated in 1436, and is simply stunning. Next to the Duomo is the Baptistry, where Dante himself was baptized. I didn't go into the Baptistry, but I did see the beautiful doors on the outside, called "The Gates of Paradise" because of what Michelangelo thought of them.
The Duomo is as beautiful inside as outside. Services aren't really conducted here anymore, so there are no pews to sit in, leaving the interior open to walk about in. The most splended and beautiful part though, in my opinion, is the inside of the dome, which is a painting depicting Judgement Day. Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven are all shown in the painting, with those in Hell being eaten by monesters or being beaten over the head by a frog-man (what the frog-man is, I don't know), Purgatory being a small place where people aren't haveing a great time, but there's also no frog-man, and Heaven being a great place. The beauty of the Duomo was almost overwhelming, and I could hardly belive I was there.
After we left the Duomo, we decided to climb to the top of the cupola. Normally, I'm terrified of heights, but I couldn't miss this opportunity to have this view of Firenze. There are about 463 steps to the top of the cupola, and many are small spiral staircases with little air. This is what actually made me the most nervous, and the spirals made me a little dizzy. Lucia counted all the steps, and she and Amanda cheered me on as I tried not to overheat. But once we reached the top and I saw Firenze in all of its splendor, all dizzyness melted away in the heat, and I was stunned by what I saw. Firenze is, as Rinuccio says in Gianni Schicchi, a flowering tree, and there may be nothing that can compete with it.
After visiting the Duomo and having a leg work out, we went to the Piazza della Signorina, which is a sculpture paradise. Most in the piazza are copies of the originals and have been put there for some reason or another. For example, the copy of Michelangelo's David is in this Piazza (And no, I didn't have time to see the original). However, that is where Michelangelo actually wanted the original to stand. One of the sculptures that is an original, however, is Benvenuto Cellini's bronze sculpture of Perseus holding the head of Medusa. It's a bit grusome, but at the same time fascinating, especially when I think about that this sculpture is about 500 years old.
We walked about town for a bit before deciding to have a go at the Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi has some of the world's most important paintings, and certainly there is no better place to see Italian Renaisance art. The Gallery is famous for its long lines, and waiting two or three hours is the norm, but there was no way I wasn't going to spend a day in Firenze without seeing art. However, we were extremely fortunate, and only waited for about 20 minutes to get in. From what I hear, this never happens, espeically without a reservation. Inside the Uffizi, I saw some of the world's most famous paintings: Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" and "La Primavera", Raffaello's Self-Portrait and Madonna of the Sparrow, Michelangelo's painting of the Holy Family, Da Vinci's unfinished Adoration of the Magi, Caravaggio's Medusa and "The Sacrifice of Issac", and Artemisia's "Judith Slaying Holofernes". In my opinon, the two most captivating were the unfinished Da Vinci and the Caravaggio Issac. The Da Vini is a hauntig piece, as the Madonna is content, while those around her have tormented faces and are climing up to see her. No one knows why these people look like this, or what Da Vinci's intention was. Caravaggio's Issac is powerful, and you can see the panic, fear, and sense of betrayal in Issac's face as his father prepares to kill him. The feelings of Issac in this story are often ignored, and seeing them displayed in such an open and naked way was more powerful than any words.
Sadly, we had to rush through the Uffizi because of time, but I'm more than glad that I was able to see it. As I felt when walking through Urbino's Palazzo Ducale, part of me finds it hard to believe I'm here, and that my eyes have seen these priceless pieces of history (because no matter what anyone says, art is history). Some of the pieces have been in the Uffizi for over 400 years, and when I see these paintings and think out their history, and the history of those who created them, and the history of the city where they are, I realize just how little I am in this world, but at the same time how one person can leave a legacy that can last for hundreds of years. It was humbling and uplifting.
After the Uffizi, we sped to Ponte Vecchio, where there are many jewelry shops, selling some of the worlds msot beautiful gold and silver. Ponte Vecchio is famous for many reasons, and is even mentioned by Puccini in Gianni Schicchi: "Andrai sul Ponte Vecchio, e per buttar mi in Arno." After a admiring the jewelry and taking a few photos, we ran to Santa Croce, even though it was closed for the day. But I got one photo! Soon after we baorded the bus for the journey back to Urbania. Needless to say, I was exhausted when I came back to the apartment; Francesco was still awake and doing some work, and we talked for a bit, although I didn't understand a word he said. I was that tired.
The rest of the week was fairly relaxed. Saturday afternoon Francesco and Leonarda's kids and grandkids came over for lunch, and I had a good time entertaining 2-year-old Tobbia, who might just be the most adorable child on the planet. That evening, Cate and I went to the Orotorio (school) play, where her English students were performing. The play was about the life of Saint Francis, and had music and break dancing. Yes I said break dancing. Her English students asked me how to say their names in English; Marco, Alice, Frederico, and Elena, and they laughed when I told them.
I went to Mass on Sunday morning, mostly because I wanted to see what it was like. I found that I could understand parts of what was going on, and maybe got the general idea of the sermon. As I was walking home, I heard a car horn sound and someone called my name. It was Cate; she had rented a car for the day and had been looking for me to take a day trip. So, we went to the beach town of Fano for the afternoon. It was a very hot day, and the Adriatic felt wonderful. I ended up with a huge sunburn covering my entire back, but that's what happens when you're pale like me.
This is my last week in Italy, and I can't believe how quickly the time has gone. I'm exhausted, but in no way ready to come back. There's something about this country that has captivated me in a way that no other place has. My next post will probably be after I come back to the States, so look next week!