May 25, 2010
Unfortunately, I didn’t get much sleep last night. Before I left for Italy, my mom not only raved about gelato, she also told me Europe does not have an insect problem. She recommended I leave the windows of my room open at night in order to “experience the cool Italian breeze”. Following this advice resulted in my room and body being attacked by hundreds of mosquitoes. Common sense should have told me that where there is a river there are mosquitoes! I probably slept for an hour, and rose the next morning covered in bites and smashed insects.
Although I only slept a little, I was ready to tour Florence. We were again led to Santa Croce, where we began our day with mental prayer. Santa Croce was at one time the second-largest building in the world, and its architecture and art are, as Jeff Gardner would say, “simply phenomenal,” not to mention the vaulted ceiling and high-rising walls reminded me of my home parish. After mental prayer and Mass, Dony led us on an extensive tour of the Franciscan Church during which we saw the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Lorenzo de’ Medici and even Machiavelli. I know why most of them were buried in a church, but Machiavelli still leaves me scratching my head.
After Santa Croce, we saw the Church of Philip Neri, and went to a former Benedictine Abbey with loads of frescoes and even the original Angelus painting. At twelve noon we gathered at the painting to pray the Angelus, which was a powerful experience. We also saw where Lorenzo de Medici, the most powerful man in the world, used to go on retreat. It was a small cell, with a stairway that led to a room with a cozy little chapel. In the chapel was the depiction of the rich young man, to remind Lorenzo that power in this world is not everything.
After visiting the museum, Dony took us to a socialist dining hall where rebellious art students convene — the board of health would not have been pleased with this place. Next, we visited Dony’s studio, where he showed us some of his Church projects and instructed us how to properly go about creating art with soul. It was an educational experience that gave me even greater respect for the young artist.
Dony took us to the Duomo later in the afternoon, and we had the chance to see what was at one time the largest building in the world. The Duomo is known for its massive dome and beautiful fresco of the Last Judgment. As soon as I saw the enormous structure I knew I had to find a way to the top. Thankfully, we made it just in time to scale the dome and see all of Florence from its cupola.
That night, we had dinner with seminarians from Florence. I expected them to be very different from seminarians in the United States, but they really weren’t. Many of the personalities in the seminary mirrored the personalities of our group, and we had a wonderful dinner with them that consisted of pizza, spaghetti, wine, and of course gelato.