Monday, July 27, 2009

The Pilgrimage Posts: Fun in Florence

Someday I will have to be sure and thank Pier Giorgio for choosing to admire holy men and women who happen to be from such great Italian cities! His interest in Girolamo Savonarola would take us to beautiful Florence for what would be a rather fun part of our journey.

On the way, we encountered a major hailstorm with spectacular lightning. The driving conditions were so bad that a car had gone off the road and traffic was backed up quite a bit. But one of our daily gifts on this trip was how the weather would be perfect by the time we arrived at our destination. Florence was no different. We reached our hotel in the early evening and a group of us headed out for a walk along the river to the famous Ponte Vecchio. It was a such a full and somewhat surreal day – starting out in Rome, spending the bulk of it in Siena, and ending the night with pizza in Florence.

We were off to an early start the next morning with our Florentine guide Cristina. The church of San Marco was closed for restorations (a common situation when traveling in Italy) but the museum/convent next door was open. This was really our main destination in Florence. Not only is it the home to the many great works of art done by Fra Angelico, but upstairs you can visit 44 cells of the Dominican community from the days of Savonarola. He was the head of the community and was quite a controversial figure at the time. We were able to see the cells he occupied, his mortification belt, his cape, his preaching standard, his rosary, a piece of the wood from where he was burned and so on. Our guide was very knowledgeable about Savonarola and did a wonderful job discussing the controversy, the role he played in Florence politics and the effect of his execution. After getting to know Savonarola a little better firsthand, it is all the more fascinating to think about Pier Giorgio having such a devotion to this somewhat radical friar that he even took his name upon becoming a lay Dominican.

Our tour of Florence took us also to the main cathedral in Florence (the basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore), the Gates of Paradise and the Piazza della Signoria where Savonarola was executed. We celebrated Mass in the Franciscan basilica of Santa Croce – the location of the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo and a beautiful sarcophagus dedicated to one of Pier Giorgio’s favorite Italian poets Dante Alghieri. We prayed day four of our group novena outside of Santa Croce and then had time to explore a little more of Florence without our guide. Some went to see the original statue of David by Michelangelo in the Galleria dell'Accademia. Some took time to shop. I tagged along with the youngest member of our group to climb to the top of the Duomo cupola and enjoy a spectactular view of Florence.

Pier Giorgio made his presence known that evening when we regrouped for dinner at a place not far from our hotel. At the end of our meal, the server brought us a complimentary bottle of limoncello – my favorite Italian drink after cappuccino! In true Tipi Loschi fashion, we each took a photo wearing a paper hat made from our placemats. It was a good round of spontaneous silliness and fun that Pier Giorgio would have approved of. One of the attractive qualities of Pier Giorgio’s spirituality is that he could appreciate the art of Michelangelo, the poetry of Dante, the charism of a fiery Renaissance preacher such as Savonarola, and the joy of friendship. We managed to do the same in our visit to Florence. Off to Bologna tomorrow. Verso l’alto!

1 comment:

DaisyRose000 said...

What can I say about Florence? Walking at the center of Renaissance Arts where the great masters had walked and created their masterpieces, is a dream of any artist. This is the city I've been hearing a lot about in college and so this place has a special meaning to me. Funny of all the cities I have came to visit, this is the one that seemed to have vividly taken me back in time. I can see so clearly, the people in that time period wearing the outfits of their time going about their business as they walk the streets of Florence just as we are at that time...

But of course this is a memorable place. This is the only city where through the help of a most well learned tour guide we all had came close to see hell and be in front of the gate of paradise at the same day!:) The surreal moment though, was seeing the tombs of Galileo and MichelAngelo. But especially the latter. Somehow, I thought to myself, as I think of all the great arts he did, that even great artist would one day put down their brushes. But I think what truly made them great was not in the beauty of their masterpieces. Because GOD made all of those. What made them great is their freewill in allowing GOD to use their thoughts, their hands and their hearts. They were EXACTLY what GOD had intended them to be. And so in the end, by the grace of GOD, they left as they put down their last easels, paints and brushes, as they carved on their last sculptures ( as I am sure in their minds there are more things to be done and finished and in our earthly minds a lot were "unfinished") but in reality that is their destiny under the heavens, there were actually no easels left to paint or stones to carve that would add to the glory they had already given their creator whose gift to them they used so well.