Italy is a beautiful place. From the sprawling vineyards of Tuscany to the Milanese models, Italy is a land where one is continually taken aback by the supreme beauty of the world. I have seen long dirt roads lined with cyprus trees and massive churches that are simply awesome. I have seen a Roman arena and levels of fashion I never thought possible outside of magazine advertisements. The whole country amazes me.
I landed in Milan with Edward Hing, Janine Norton, and nine other Williston students on the 2012 yearly Hing Photo Expedition. We all had snazzy high-tech cameras and big expectations for how many fancy Italian things we were going to buy, both for ourselves and as gifts. For me, the flight was a chance to finish an article I was writing for The Daily Hampshire Gazette, for others, it was a chance to sleep.
Milan was a sleep deprived blur to me, but I remember seeing more attractive, well dressed people in one day than I had all year. dozens of men and women in the latest fashion strutted around on their business. I think they were paid to be more attractive than us.
From Milan we headed to Verona, where I had the odd experience of spending a few moments on “Juliet’s Balcony” with my girlfriend as a few dozen tourists photographed us. It wasn’t my idea; at the insistence of just about everybody on the trip we agreed to stand on the famous balcony together and be all cute as the shutters clicked and crowd ooh-ed and aah-ed.
Verona took us to the labyrinthine lattice of canals that is Venice. It was ironic that in a city where water is in such abundance, the shower still couldn’t manage to drip out more than a few drops of warm water. Complaints aside, I saw glasswork be done with such skill and precision that I started to wonder why I feel so snazzy about being able to punch a few keys on a laptop. I also saw the angel of death in an ancient cemetery island.
We traveled by train to Tuscany, where we rented a car and rode to San Gimignano, probably the most beautiful town I have ever seen. It’s a walled off town surrounded by miles and miles of vineyards and farmlands. It had once been at war with everyone – including itself. Throwing burning oil out of the window onto pedestrians was the typical way of greeting house guests.
In San Gimignano I had dinners I cannot even begin to describe looking out onto the countryside as the sun set over the mountains. I woke up to a breakfast of croissants and cured meats and sat down in front of ten foot tall windows so I could see miles and miles of cyprus trees and vineyards. I also went to a torture museum, which was disturbing.
After San Gimignano we went to the leather capital of the world, Florence. I bought a jacket that warms my heart every time I see it and my whole body every time I wear it. What I mean to say is, it’s really hot in every sense of the term. In Florence I ran into relatives, which was surprising because I had no idea they would even be in Italy, much less on the same street, in the same city, in the same region. I shared a delicious dinner with them – roast beef with a Chianti sauce followed by gelato.
Florence turned to Lucca, another walled off city, though this time much less into pouring boiling oil on people and more focused on making lingerie, interestingly enough. I didn’t buy any, surprise surprise, but I did have quite the time biking around the 2 mile wall a few times. I also climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which as it turned out leans more than you’d expect. Especially when one is at the very top and starting to wonder what would happen if the wind blew the wrong way…
We returned for a spell in Milan and then got onto the plane. When I sat down in the cushy airplane seat, I felt sad to leave, but I knew that if I stayed any longer then the huge Italian sausage I bought my brother would spoil and nobody wants that. My time in Italy was amazing – I took over 2400 photographs, learned some simple Italian, bought pretty things, and took half a class on pizza and gelato making. Some day I will return and I will retrace some steps, and forge out on my own to find new paths throughout the extraordinary country.