I've had the most fabulous “culture month” ever. Usually the fun begins on October 1st and continues throughout the month. Oh, you don't know, do you? This is my birthday month and I have reserved the right to party (i.e. celebrate) all month long. I am planning on extending this feeling through the entire year because, well, I can. Why not? Life is short and I plan on sliding into home with a big grin on my face many, many years from now. Life is exactly what you make of it. It can be a bitter pill or an exciting adventure. Why be negative and dwell on those bad experiences? Creating a positive outlook allows me to grab each day with gusto. Does age do this? Maybe. Realizing that I have more years behind me than ahead of me, is changing my perception. My outlook is in a state of flux. How the current flows is entirely within my control, and I choose to look at the bright side of life.
One particular life changing experience began in mid September, during my first trip to Italy. It was a cultural revelation for me. Our small traveling group consisted of myself, my husband, two great friends and our son, Mike. Not having traveled nearly as much as I would have liked – yet, I eagerly approached each destination with unflinching excitement and wild curiosity.
Before our actual tour was to begin in Milan, we kicked off our own tour with a viewing of The Last Supper by Da Vinci. The real Leonardo and the actual painting. Wow! It was incredible, and we hadn't even really gotten started yet. This was gonna be awesome! I could feel it! The next day we began with a fabulous walking food tour. Our tour guide was energetic and welcoming. My husband, who NEVER goes by his given Italian name, Luigi, was forced to embrace his name roots on this trip. His fate was sealed when we were introduced to Jenny, and her husband MARIO. No lie. We couldn't look at either one of the Nintendo namesake duo without giggling. The tour was off with a laugh and it never stopped. I was christened “princess” when Mario and I discovered our love of Grappa together at a nearby liquor store – also part of the tour. It was a lot of fun and it set the stage for the remainder of our day.
The official tour group met that evening, and the actual traveling began the next morning. Vicki, our tour guide, was in her 60's. She came equipped with jokes, inspiration, energy and a real zest for life. We shared our experiences between excursions and Vicki succeeded in keeping us entertained and in high spirits.
The tastes, sounds, and feel of Italy's deep history still gallop through my brain. We walked through Cathedrals dating back hundreds of years. The majestic marble Duomo in Milan is one of the largest in the world. Dozens of magnificent white marble spires, statues, and gargoyles surround the building. It is easy to see why the construction took hundreds of years to complete. This proved to be a huge contrast from the structure on the island of Torcello outside Venice, which we discovered later. The 7th Century Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta was a modest and haunting building. Definitely not a “If you've seen one, you've seen them all” story here.
There were over 400 bridges in Venice alone. Crossing but a fraction of them, I felt like I didn't do my part in finding them all. Even more reason to return, I guess. Italy put me in a very wondrous place, mentally and physically. Art galleries, paintings and sculptures by the great masters of all time were commonplace. They were everywhere. So many great artists and composers walked these streets. I was humbled and in awe. I felt insignificant, but at the same time, part of a huge tapestry of life.
Classical music created here has lasted for hundreds of years. I attended my first Baroque concert in Venice at the church of San Vidal. I love music, but a music aficionado I am not. I do admit to a bit of a panic when I heard the words Baroque Concert, but it was Venice, and you only live once. My fears of being bored and falling asleep were never realized. Not for a minute. The Interpreti Veneziani string ensemble was fantastic and I was energized. There was so much passion and emotion in watching these amazing artists perform. It was enchanting. The musical part of my artist brain was woken up and it will never be the same.
Another eye opener was traveling with our son. It was only after the official tour ended and when we were left to our own devices in Venice that Mike showed his true leadership abilities. I guess I wasn't expecting our youngest son to step up to the challenge of keeping us old folks together. His skill was impressive and I was amazed. I will lovingly refer to his role as herding cats, and it was expertly done. He was a pleasure to travel with and I treasure the time he spent with us.
My challenge to you is to try something new this week. Walk a different path, drive to an unexplored part of the city, buy a coloring book for yourself and get lost in the moment. Blaze a trail, enjoy, make your inner kid giggle.
Looking ahead, I plan on expanding my horizons. It may be more Vivaldi, or seeing The Throwbacks perform at Durty Nellies on Thursday night. At any rate, I will embrace them as part of my newly developing, gusto-grabbing self – the one with the silly grin.