Sirius XM satellite radio launched the Beatles Channel (channel 18) this past week and other Sirius stations joined in the celebration. One in particular was XM Channel 88 NFL Radio who asked listeners to call in and name their Fab Four of Football. This got me thinking what would my choice be for Italy’s Fab Four. The top 4 most fabulous experiences you could have it Italy. It almost seems impossible to choose 4 distinctive touchstones that define the “fatal charm of Italy that can be found nowhere else” but here are mine.
Driving through the iconic landscape of the Tuscany’s Crete Senesi and Val d’Orcia
Florence, Rome and Venice
Assisi and the Franciscan Santuario of La Verna
The mosaics of Ravenna
An amazing list to be sure but here are a few more things in Italy I think are over the top, the star of the group, the best travel investment you can make, the cherry on the sundae, the most dominant person, place or thing you can see in Italy.
If you need a visual image to keep you focused on your Lenten journey you might consider the Italian Renaissance artist Pinturicchio’s Allegory of the Hill of Wisdom (1504). The Greek philosophers Socrates and Crates are caught in a rather tricky balancing act on the top of a steep hill with the Roman goddess Fortuna. A desperate band of travelers are shown trudging upward on a difficult path, supposedly a path we humans have to undertake if we want to reach wisdom.
To view Pinturicchio’s Allegoria del Colle della Sapienza you have to look downward rather than upward as it is part of the floor intarsia in the Cathedral of Siena. A masterpiece underfoot, Giorgio Vasari called the floor of Siena’s Duomo “the most beautiful, big and magnificent that has ever been done”. Normally covered by carpets to protect it, the floor is uncovered for a few months each year when stories from antiquity, biblical scenes and allegories come to life through intricate patterns and designs created in marble as vivid and alive as any Renaissance sculpture. Siena cathedral floor
Siena is one of my favorite cities in Italy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must see when traveling in Tuscany. Siena is located in the Val d’Orcia, a breathtakingly beautiful part of Italy that makes the journey all the more memorable. A perfect image in my mind’s eye to reflect on life’s journey. Pinturicchio’s travelers to the Hill of Wisdom find their fortunes cast from the top as if to say Fortune is fickle and Wisdom lies in knowing so.
This blog is supposed to be a written shot of espresso to inform, excite and encourage you to experience Italy in 30 seconds or less but sometimes I get carried away and occasionally 30 seconds becomes a little more. But I hope you’ll bear with me. After all, in Italy time is relative and more relaxed than it is in the States and it seems it has always been so.
For example when I was in Pienza visiting Palazzo Piccolomini, the summer residence of Pope Pius II (1405-1464), time lingered as I walked through the elegant open courtyard into the gardens that overlook Tuscany’s stunning Val d’Orcia.
Halls of period furniture and memorabilia led me into a room with a huge medieval clock called the More or Less Clock. It seems it’s called that because it works in 15 minute increments instead of seconds! Now, I began to understand the Italian sense of time and why my Italian cousins were always 15 minutes late.
It’s my excuse to justify this blog entry being a little longer than 30 seconds . . . more or less.