Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Beautification of Italy

Italy is beautiful. In the past few days I have seen quite a lot of it.

I am currently living in the Corsi-Salviati Villa. The Corsi Salviati Count and his family live on the same plot. On Sunday, the Villa allowed tours to come in and view its famous gardens; I was sun bathing and reading Galileo on the front lawn as they gawked by. Why yes, I do live here. The gardens contain fountains, statues, and potted lemon trees that
are housed in the small onsite greenhouse in the colder months. I was told that we are not suppose to play sports on the front yard because the pots that the lemon
trees are in are worth approximately 1000 Euros each. And those are just pots.

The Villa is located in a little town called Sesto. It is a 30 minute bus ride out of Firenze (Florence in Italian); ten by train. The first view of the city, walking to the top step of San Miniato (a church built 1000 years ago) and seeing out ...

The first day we went into Firenze we took a quick tour of the city to get our bearings. One of our teachers, who is our guide (one of the most amazing!) every time we go into the city, had previously taught us some Florentine history. At one point in the tour I asked for clarification about what she had called the 'Beautification of Italy': I was confused about why Florence would have taken down many of its surrounding walls to make the city more beautiful. She looked at me strangely, at this point having just met me and not even learned my name, and told me that it was the 'unification' of Italy, not the 'beautification'. Good first impression.
I still think that beautification is a fitting term.
There is a beauty to Florence that you cannot find in America. The city is big, stretching out to the sides unabated, but it is small enough to catch your bearing in. We have gone into the city four times already for my Renaissance Art class and I am really beginning to feel an understanding of the city and a sense of home. Its grandeur cannot be diminished though: the city has a sense of unity and depth that is unrivaled. Its unity comes from the continuous Florentine style of red roofs, shuttered windows, and stone streets, buildings, and sidewalks. Where as in New York City, for example, the buildings fight for height and the sky is pierced at all different levels, in Florence it is the Duomo and the other symbolic landmarks that protect the skies and watch over the city, the rest creating an even skyline. These Florentine monuments also give the city a depth that comes from age and from greatness. Where else do you run into an important site every block? We will be visiting Firenze almost every day for the next three weeks and I am worried that we will not get to see it all.
Last Friday we took an amazing trip to Siena and Pienza. Siena, a rival of Florence in the time of the Renaissance, was immensely beautiful. After climbing up to one of the top peaks of the Sienese Museo, one of those French Catherdral-like, spiral staircase climbs where you hope no one is coming down, I could not stop saying wow.
It was one of the most breath stopping views. Siena has a distinctive pink tint leading to a unification (beautification?) like in Florence. From the great height I could see the city stretched out like fingers into the distant hills.

And for the entirety of the ride to Pienza, I smashed my face into the bus windows, just filled with how the wind made the fields ripple like water forever into the distance. The land was just grass: tall, luscious fields. Spotted throughout the hills are majestic villas, standing alone in the deep, green waters.

On Saturday (you can see how tiring this is since we leave before 7 in the morning and get back late and spend the rest of our time at the villa studying- I'll get to those details in another post), we went to Cinque Terre- five small coastal towns creeping up the mountains.
It took about 2 hours by bus and then another 2 hours by boat to get there. Throughout the day we laid out on the beach and rocks by the water (don't romanticize it- I was diligently reading my books on Galileo), and took the trains as well as walked through the different towns toward where the bus would meet us at the end of the day.
One of the walks I took was la via dell’amore- the walk of love. The view was beautiful but my favorite thing was the locks. Every possible place on the walk was covered with locks- little locks from all over the world, some with initials, some simply locks.
I assume they were the local way to represent love. Together forever? You and me fit? Please lock my heart away with yours? Your heart is safe with me? At first it was weird to see this unfamiliar custom but I realized that throughout the world there must be many different traditions used to show love, ways that are simply different from ours in America. I'm sure that in that same way every person has their own way to show their love. Maybe a perfect couple is just two people who represent their loves in the same way; two people who both want to write their initials on a lock and close it so that it will always remain in the beauty of Italy.


  1. So sweet! I think you should start a tradition like that in Traverse City. It'll be kind of like the shoe tree.

  2. Love all the pictures! Everything sounds so amazing! You are enjoying Italy and its "beautification" as I prepare for exams; I am jealous. Love you!