Barbara's Tuscan Diary
In June 2002 Barbara and I spent almost two weeks in Tuscany, Barbara had been there in 74, 87 (with Cornelius), 94 and I in 52, 53, 74 and 94. Because of the relatively short time, I decided to carefully plan this trip. There are so many worthwhile things to see, that one has to restrict one's objectives. What drove me there this time were a fascination with Piero della Francesca, Benozzo Gozzoli, Jacopo Pontormo, Duccio, Il Sodoma, and Massacio. Many of their frescoes and paintings had very recently been restored - the Capella Brancacci, Gozzoli's frescoes in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, San Agostino in San Gimignano, and San Francesco in Montefalco (Umbria), and Jacopo Pontormo's in Santa Felicita in Florence. In addition I wanted to see more of the enigmatic paintings of Piero della Francesca in Arezzo and in Urbino (Marches). Barbara had the great wish to spend a few days in Pienza and its vicinity, where she had been with Cornelius in 87. In turn this made it possible to visit Cornelius' favorites, Galgano and the Abbazzia di Monte Oliveto, which neither of us knew. My search added to this the old church of Sant'Antimo and the hill towns between Pienza and Siena, which I love even more than Florence. All these places would be joined by a thorough exploration of the exceptionally beautiful countryside south and east of Siena.
Knowingly left out of this itinerary was the popular Chianti - through which I biked in 52 and both of us visited in 74, the Etruscan sites - I was not in the mood of tramping through dusty burial caves, and the country and towns south of Pienza-Arezzo, some of which we saw in 94, and the rest we hope to see when Cornelius and Anne-Cecile will move to Rome in 2003.
There were surprises left! Piero della Francesca's paintings in Urbino were disappointing, like those in Sansepolcro had been in 94. His Frescoes in Arezzo, however, are worth a special visit, particularly after their recent restauration. Piero's cerebral experiments with perspective, composition, and color are best studied in good reproductions at home. The great "discoveries" were the fresco cycles of San Francesco in Assisi and Pontormo's "Deposition" in Santa Felicita (and his "Sacred Conversation" in the Uffizi). Over the years I must have wandered past Santa Felicita a dozen times and never looked inside. Pontormo is known as a "mannerist" and most other mannerists have never captured my fancy - so it happened that Pontormo's paintings, their suspended subjects, his colors and composition became a revelation.... I believe that the people shown in the Deposition are various portraits of one and the same woman - including the dead Christ! Similarily Assisi had suffered for fifty years from a prejudice that it was overcrowded by benighted pilgrims and tourists (which it is at certain days and times). But the extent of the fresco cycles in San Francesco is simply overwhelming, not as much by the famous Giottos, as by the power of the Cimabues and the story-telling of Simone Martini in the lower church.
Most of the paintings and frescoes reproduced here I collected during my preparations - from the Internet at http://gallery.euroweb.hu/ , the Uffizi website, and other places. A few I scanned from post cards. I also copied and scanned the explanatory texts from these sites and Reclam's German "Kunstführer Italien." Barbara wrote a short-hand diary on our trip, which you find below, and took all other photographs - and I put it on the this website. .
Journey to Gelnhausen to Meet the Hammer Clan
28. 5. 2002
Barbara arrives in München. Rolf, Irene, Jürgen mit einer Rose am Flughafen. Offene Arme, Köpfe und Herzen bei Irene und Jürgen.
Opel ASTRA bei National Car Rental abgeholt. Bei Sonne und Regen durch grünes Land über Bamberg nach VIERZEHNHEILIGEN. Umringt vom Chor der vierzehn Heiligen predigt ein kleiner Mönch in brauner Kutte mit lodernden Worten und Gesang einer Gemeinde invalider Besucher das Evangelium. Mit vielen Strophen der Lieder hält er sie in Zaum und Bann. Vorher bei Brigitte und Hans Heinrich in Erlangen. In Bamberg: Hotel Ibis. Abends zu Fuß in der oberen Altstadt (Bamberg), am Dom, über die Brücken der Regnitz, zwischen sorgfältig restaurierten Häusern unterwegs. Dann Abendbrot und unerwartet lebhafte Unterhaltung mit Ulrich und Rita (Zufallsehepaar an unserm Tisch), die, zunehmend animiert, von ihren Reisen (er) und Empfindungen zu Deutschland (sie) erzählen.
30. 5. Fronleichnam
Blauer Himmel, Sonne. Morgens am Domplatz laute Predigt und Volksansammlung. Die Abgeordneten der Kreise mit Kreuz, Blumen, Wimpeln gruppieren und formieren sich zur Fronleichnams Prozession. Rolf und BA im Dom. Rita und Uli tauchen auf.... Fahrt über Autobahn, dann über Hinterland nach Gelnhausen. Kaum Verkehr, schönes Franken, dann Hessen, der Spessart. Im "Blockhaus" (Gelnhausen auf dem Berg) treffen wir alle Hammers versammelt:
und Heidi Hammer
Walter Blum (ehem. Mann von Ilse Hammer)
Irmela Blum (seine 2. Frau) und Karin Blum (Tochter v. Ilse)
Siegfried und Renate Gebäuer (Tochter v. Ilse)
Bärbel Eden (Stölzel)
Brigitte (Stölzel) und Hans Heinrich
Franca und Udo Hammer und Söhne Frederico und Marco
Spaziergang auf Rundweg durch grünen Wald und Steinbruch oberhalb von Gelnhausen. Geschichten, Reminiszenzen, Begegnungen, allgemeine Aufgeschlossenheit. Kaffee wieder im "Blockhaus". Knurrige Bedienung. Abendessen und über Nacht im Hotel "Zum Schelm von Bergen" am Obermarkt.
Überall Feiertag, Glockengeläut, sommerlich gekleidete Menschen. Rolf zum Zahnarzt. Friedhof. Grab der Großeltern Groß (1981), Urgroßmutter Hammer, geb. Laffert, Tante Grete Laffert, Tante Irmgard Hammer (gest. 4.12.1999). Wie zu finden?
Von Leipziger Straße (oberhalb) kommend auf Mittelweg bis zur Kapelle, vor K. links in Verlängerung des Glasvorbaus nach links bis zum 3. Weg parallel zum abschüssigen Hauptweg, dann rechts, wieder rechts, unterhalb der Hecke, Kiefer, Lebensbaum, Rose.
Picnic bei Mespelbrunn. In MAIDBRONN (bei Rimpar nord-östlich von Würzburg) Sandstein Altar mit Kreuzabnahme von Riemenschneider. Dann MARIA IN DEN WEINBERGEN Nähe Volkach. Von Weinbergen umgeben liegt die kleine Kirche mit einer romanischen Pieta und Maria in ovalem Kranz schwebend (Riemenschneider?) in der Apsis. Die junge Frau an der Kasse nimmt schweigend unser Geld. Wir vermuten, daß sie moslem ist.Wir kaufen zwei gute Fränkische Weine für Jürgen und Irene. In VOLKACH finden wir alle Gasthäuser und Hotels besetzt. Auf Wegen und Straßen liegen langsam welkende Rosenblätter, Ranken und Gräser die den Weg der Fronleichnams Prozession andeuten. Festliche Stimmung in der Hitze des sonnigen Nachmittags. Die Giebelhäuser der Stadt als Kulisse.
Wir übernachten im Autohof Geiselwild östlich von Würzburg (Euro 60.00 + 2x 5.00 für Frühstück), sauber, praktisch. Abendessen im Autobahnrestaurant mit den nächtlichen Lastfahrern und freundlicher Bedienung! The whole affair is a copy of American truckstops including a chapel and personalized advertising, amazing and well-run. The overall aesthetics by far superior to the prototype.
Fahrt nach München. Auto abgegeben für den erstaunlichen Preis von € 25.00 pro Tag plus Benzin. Astra fuhr gut.
Wetter heiter, sonnig. Mittags gehen Rolf und ich in die ASAMKIRCHE, die nun vollständig restauriert wie blankgeputzt erscheint. Auch die Fassade ist gesäubert. Ba zu Dieter und Marlen, Rolf zu Großkreutz nach Fürstenried. Irene und Jürgen G. treu und aufmerksam bis zur Aufopferung. Ich komme spät dazu. Im Garten über Käse und Rotwein sagt Jürgen klare, kluge Dinge. Ich höre ihm zu.
Wir fahren im Bus mit den Großkreutzes zu Margit May in Gauting, die sich sehr über den Pulli freut. Ihr Haus und Garten eine Insel. Viele schöne Sachen, ein Sekretär, den Kiras Mann für Margit entworfen und gebaut hat und neue Bilder. Uli ist in Ungarn. Beide Großkreutzes sind von Margits Bildern angetan und von der sprudelnden Margit. Wir fahren über Landstraßen nach Herrsching, dann mit Schiff nach Dießen. Splendid! And open! Straubs Engel hängt gegenüber dem Eingang. Er wird nach Kirchenjahrzeiten umgehängt. Prächtiges Drama mit einfallenden Sonnenstrahlen. Schiffahrt zurück und dann nach München. Jürgen und Irene gehen ins Konzert. Claudio, Fritz und Sigrun Keilmann kommen. Im "SCHWAIGER" Biergarten unterhalten wir uns diesmal bis wir zum Zug müssen....
Italy at Last
.....Nachtzug um 23:00 nach Florenz der älteste Zug der Deutschen Bahn! Liegewagenabteil mit zwei anderen. Frühs am Morgen Firenze bei mildem Wetter, mit "D" Bus nach Santo Spirito.
Wir finden "Fourth Floor Homecoming", 16 Via Santo Spirito für Euro 80.00 per Nacht, ohne Frühstück. Casual lodging, Maria welcomes us competently in English. She studied at the Manicure School in LA, she says. Noisy, nice place, however, not to be recommended. Fine view from roof garden. Wir erkunden die Nachbarschaft OLTRARNO und finden die CHIESA di SANTA FELICITA in der nahen Umgebung. Die Entdeckung der Fresken von Jacopo (Carucci ditto il) Pontormo (1494-1556) erfüllt Rolf mit großer Genugtuung und uns beide mit Erstaunen: Zentral eine Beweinung-Kreuzabnahme. Gebauschte, flatternde Gewänder, die sich um die schreitenden, tänzelnden Figuren winden, welche im Begriff zu sein scheinen, sich vom Boden zu lösen. Zu eigensinnig um wirklich "manieriert" zu sein. Die Gesichter gleichen sich. Rolf sieht in ihnen ein und dieselbe Frau. Abends suchen und finden wir "Il Ristorante del Carmine", das uns gefällt. Ich rufe Marga an, nachdem ich eine italienische Telefonkarte erworben und schließlich auch begriffen habe wie man sie gebraucht.
Selbst versorgt zum Frühstück in Marias Wohnzimmer. Wir finden die CHIESA SANTISSIMA ANNUNZIATA, Maria und der Verkündigung gewidmet, mit Sarto und Castagno und wenigen Pontormo Fresken. Castagnos "Hieronymus in Verehrung der Trinität" verfolgt mich nicht so sehr als Thema, vielmehr durch seiner waghalsigen Raumgestaltung und der zwingenden Spannung, die durch die statische Haltung der drei Gestalten, die alle drei ihre Blicke nach oben richten und die wie im Flug heranbrausende Dreifaltigkeit entsteht.
Dann PALAZZO MEDICI RICARDO mit Benozzo Gozzoli Kapelle. In prächtigem Gold und Bunt die Heiligen Könige mit Gefolge - die Medici Familie darstellend und befreundete Kaufherren, Verwandte des Lorenzo. Endlich Karten fuer UFFIZI, nach vergeblichem Anstehen in langer Schlange schließlich per Telefon. Abendessen wie gestern Nähe SANTA MARIA del CARMINE, in "Trattoria del Carmine". Good and not too pricey, about Euro 38.00 for the two of us.
Morgens MARIA del CARMINE und CHIESA BRANCACCI: Restauriert betören die Farben. Die Darstellung bleibt so rätselhaft wie zuvor. Masaccio (1401-28) gestaltete Dialoge zwischen Paaren und Gruppen; Thema ist das Leben St. Peters.
GALERIE dell'UFFIZI. Dusty halls in bad need of repair, poor lighting, crowded positioning of paintings, no folders, no info or visitors except those for sale in store. Euro 8.15 pp not worth it, we decide. Nevertheless we revisit some beautiful paintings. Emphasis on the late 14th, the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries of Florentine painting.
Barbara to MUSEO dell'ACADEMIA. Michelangelo's DAVID very powerful, near perfect all around.
Sensations while walking around him:
From every angle, always from below, all gestures integrated into whole. Proportions, balanced positioning of limbs, torso, implements, decors around genitals, hair. Lean, muscular, of sinew muscle, a trained body, hands. (Left raised to hold sling, not touching body, right held low, almost touching powerful thigh, cradling stone, hiding it) Relaxed yet pensive, considering his deed. No indication visible of Goliath's head. David beginning to fathom the immensity of his victory. Creased forehead, he is looking ahead and to his left (45 degrees) , muscled neck bulging, veins pronounced, also on his hand, the right. Full lips, serious gaze, intelligence expressed in his stature, raised, high oval buttocks, powerful thighs, right leg stationary, weighted, left extended with heel lightly raised, ball hugging the marble. The statue was carved from a leftover piece of Duomo marble. His right calf is hugging a treestump, 3 fingers hiding the stone, 2 covering front of it, middle finger touching leg (skin). Touch and strength traveling throughout.
Diese Notizen als Gerüst für ein Gedicht gedacht.
Separate Impressions in Florence: Women dress well, aware of being looked at but also for themselves. In Florence they ride to and from work in dresses and high heels or snug-fitting pants, with jewelry and helmet, an elegant sac or purse slung over their shoulders - one with a young child on seat in front with helmet. Often they hold hands going around corners as couples on motorbikes, mopeds, bicycles. Slender young and not so young women and men - what a relief to notice.
Station in Florence: While standing in line for our tickets to Pistoia I see 2 wide half circles of spectators around a huge TV (screens on both sides). Men mostly, watching, silent, intent, a soccer game. The men are mixed, Black Africans, Asians, Caucasians. In relaxed postures they are concentrated on the ongoing game, one of the soccer semifinals. Occasional quick exclamations like a giant communal breath released! On train later I talk to two Africans from the Ivory Coast on their way to work, tall healthy looking men who speak an African French with colloqialisms woven in.
PISTOIA - LUCCA - SAN GIMIGNANO
Off early by bus (#36) to station and train to Pistoia (Euro 5.10 per person and retour). Car rental ASTRA stationwagon (Diesel, silver, ok) for Euro 560.00 for 11 days, plus gas!
I meet two tall Africans from Sierra Leone on the train on their way to work. We became engrossed in a conversation in French. Theirs is a Sierra Leone French mixed with native intonation and colloquialisms. By noon in LUCCA, a walled inner city with pkg. outside near ring. We walk to center of Old City and to ST. Michel's with ornate marbled curly-cued fassade and to the Duomo. Inside: Roman cross as floor plan, large well-proportioned space. Much under construction. A Last Supper by Tintoretto (1518-94) intrigues me. All of the apostles are old men! (1592). Close to his death Tintoretto may have seen himself as one of them. - Housed in an ornately fashioned housing the VOLE FACE is the object of pursuit for believers. The commanding Christ figure (dated 13th century but not confirmed) with inclined head and long, extended fingers and feet is thought to have been brought by Nicodemos through Divine guidance from the Holy Land. Here it is an object of adoration. St. Martin on his horse dividing his coat near entrance to Duomo.
Afternoon ride to SAN GIMIGNANO. Cypress and sycamores, marbled stone houses with red brick roofs near Lucca. San Gimignano crowded, terrific downpour with light running across fields, yellow heather in thick stands along roadside and hills, red poppies profuse in well-tended fields, some olive trees, vineyards, and many hill towns. Narrow roads require alert driving! Close to San G. landscape now is Tuscany and lovely under dark clouds after another wild rainstorm which was preceded by a tempest carrying millions of linden blossoms. Overnight at VILLA ALBA in outskirts below San G. Interior pleasantly modern, with kitchen. (Euro 62.00). Violent thunderstorm. Linden blossoms are rising and falling in the wind. I knock off housing of left side mirror which Rolf fixes, dearly. Dinner at "La Stella" where we meet very same woman who received us the Villa Alba, with a raspy, smoky voice. She is very efficient and quick as a waitress. Good food, poor wine, animated conversations among a group of Italians and tourists.
SAN GIMIGNANO- SIENA
Next morning we find our right front tire flat and discover bruises on the side wall. Spontaneous help from a big Italian man who just happened to walk into the yard. Nearby mechanic and Rolf decide to send us to Siena for Michelin special tire. Shop there no longer contracts with Michelin. We take hotel outside south wall at HOTEL MODERNA , for Euro 98.00 for 2, incl. Breakfast. Old-time service, pleasant. Across the busy street Rolf finds escalator going up to la Citta inside the mountain, a fabulous affair, even for wheelchairs. We emerge near S.Francesco. This Franciscan church shares with all others the open spaces inside. No naves, a large rectangular hall faced by a spacious transept and several open chapels. The unadorned high walls express the Franciscan attitude towards architecture. They show the surface of the material and the erected form of the structure. - In and out of the late afternoon rain we walk up to the Duomo, the Piazza, and the recently opened Ospedale Maria della Scala. This Hospital which is now a museum served the disabled, the infirm, the sick and the poor of Siena for 800 and more years. It occupies a prominent place on the Piazza del Duomo and was established, paid for and kept supported by the wealthy and civic-minded families of Siena. It was refuge and food kitchen for many and administered by the sponsors. The monks eventually wrested the management from the well-intended but firm rule of the donors. They demanded self-rule and the voting rights for a superintendent which were granted them. The Ospedale was an institution of good sense and progressive attitude. For those it was known throughout Europe. Frederico de Montefeltre sent emissary to study it as a model. Inside: Frescoes relating to history and events. Oratorio de Santa Caterina in subterranean chapel. Also: fine exhibition of Gothic Religious Art of Siena region and beyond into France, Southwestern Germany, the Rhine Valley. - A new Archeological Museum built into vast subterranean spaces below and still being enlarged exhibits Etruscan relics and artifacts as well as the original figures of the Fonte Gaia which are badly eroded by time and weather. Each is paired with a plaster cast remodeled to suggest its original shape. A C-D rom shows work in progress. The figures of the Fonte Gaia in the Piazza del Campo are also reproductions. Original design of fountain and figures by Jacopo della Quercia. The Mother Mary in antique attire and posture is the central figure. She was seen as civic guide to Siena.
SIENA-SAN GALGANO - CASOLE D' ELSA -SAN GIMIGNANO - SIENA
Sunday. We drive to ROSIA to exchange the car at Maggiore agency. From there south to the ABBAZIA SAN GALGANO, on Cornelius' advice. Situated in undulating green Tuscan June landscape ruins impressive. Setting ideal for agriculture which is what Cistercian monks did. Early irrigation system. Thriving during 13th century. Later destroyed by English condottori and his mercenaries. Abbey deserted by 1397. Legend of Saint Galgano attached to church on hill above. - From there on small roads and almost deserted countryside to CASOLE D' ELSA and picnic above near cemetery. Later pretty drive to SAN GIMIGNANO (?). Rolf is happy to have finally seen the Collini Metallifere disdained by Pari. In S.G. we visit CHIESA SAN AGOSTINO with its serene, quiet inner courtyard where the while lilies of the Virgin are blooming. On to the MUSEO CIVICO, a splendid, tall medieval structure with Torre, murals, religious paintings, icon-like wooden altar pieces. The Virgin is everywhere. Also: often seen the "Bridal Chamber" with bed, bath chamber, groom in red hat. A gentle day. Evening rain which by now arrives regularly and moves off later. (Like in June of 1988 with Cornelius).
Siena: Clouds traveling above, brilliant sunlight breaking into town. We walk to BAPTISTERIO. With mirrors I view the lively frescoes of the ceiling. Donatello and Ghiberti reliefs surrounding the baptismal font as beautiful as anticipated but so much smaller! - MUSEO DELL'OPERA. Duccio's panels, tender and detailed. The black, laced sandals removed by one of the disciples still look like a delicate beetle at first sight! Duccio's panels were carried from his studio through town to Duomo where they resided until the end of the 16th century. A few pieces got snatched and now are in London, Paris, New York. The rest was reassembled in the 19th cent. in Museo dell' Opera. - Sienese artists in darkened rooms. - Pisano sculptures of religious and antique figures, brocades, church robes, pictorial rendering of Duomo marble floors.- Then to DUOMO. St. John in St. John's Chapel as hairy and intent upon his mission as in Niels' book. The mad, single-minded pursuit of his mission. Pecci's tomb not accessible. Pisano's pulpit impressive, even massive but carvings not clearly visible because ropes keep the gazing visitors at a distance. Floors, ceilings, columns, dome monumental. We buy a good book: The Arts of Siena, for ourselves! - Later I walk alone to SANTUARIO CATERINIANO and CHIESA S. FRANCESCO. Here again the spacious house of reverence conceived by the Franciscan order. Alone, I ponder the realities of religious reverence, attachments, the habit of ritual.
SIENA - MONTE OLIVETO MAGGIORE - MONTALCINO - MURLO - PIENZA
A fine day out of Siena through Southern Tuscany. The small roads Rolf chooses are taking us from green shrubs and bushy trees country to the more typical bare and abstract regions. Poppies in green fields, yellow broom, black cypresses. We stop at ABBAZIA DI MONTE OLIVIETO MAGGIORE, a Benedictine monastery and retreat, kept in neat order, with gardens and stations for contemplation. White-robed monks here and there, engaged in guiding visitors and later conducting a prayer and chanting service in seclusion. Any serious applicant is welcome to retreat here for extended periods of time. (St. Andrews, CA offers the same). We find remarkable, modern stained glass windows, with deep blue, green, red and yellow designs, done 1965, by Lino Dinetto. The monastery is known for frescoes by SODOMA, a quirky painter who recorded the life and deeds of St. Benedict in a fashion found objectionable by the abbot. Also 9 frescoes by LUCA SIGNORELLI. The Olivietans or white-robed monks went out in pairs during the plague to nurse the sick and dying. Monastery praised by Pius II for setting and beauty of gardens and buildings. The surrounding MONTALCINO region known for its wines. New vineyards cover the hillsides. We have lunch on wall near PIEVE DI MURLO, under overhanging, dry oak trees with marching bands of ants. Arrive in PIENZA and find our pleasant accommodations at Hotel Corsignano, for three nights, a gift to me from Rolf. Euro 98.00 per night for 2, brkfs incl.
PIENZA - CASTELLO DI VELONA - SANT'ANTIMO - MONTA AMIATO - PIENZA
Most beautiful day, blue sky, later white puffy clouds, red poppies in fields all around. Rolf designs our day. We find ourselves surprised by CASTELLO DI VELONA on a hillside near Montalcino, gaze in the hot sun over new vineyards below, have a sleepy lunch. Exploring the buildings I find the interior ready to open as a hotel. Prices see brochure. I find a renovated and redesigned layout, a swimming pool blazing bright blue under the noonday sun with a view into the Tuscan distance and a young woman managing the premises until opening. Private owners engaged in revitalizing the region with the promise of more to come. - We continue on to ABBAZIA SANT'ANTIMO, a Benedictine monastery and retreat like Abbazia Olivieto, with similar features and ritual observances. Legend: Charlemagne on his return from Rome in 781 stopped here and found his prayers to save his sick troops answered - consequently he founded a church! Romanesque. Capitels with fabled animals, 3 naves, quiet sanctuary, unadorned, powerful to behold.
PIENZA- AREZZO - PIENZA
To AREZZO to view the church of S. FRANCESCO, where PIERO DE LA FRANCESCA took over from Bicci di Lorenzo and created a fresco cycle depicting the legendary story of Adam and the wood from which Christ's cross was fashioned. The arrangement in the BACCI CHAPEL is visionary and presented with symmetries in content on opposing walls, a new and intellectual rendering for which Piero was known.(about 1447). - Arezzo industrial town but good to see because the locals are out and about. On way back over small roads with several detours we are content. - Later Barbara out alone at "golden" hour of a summer evening. I buy 2 pretty plates for Jenny and Kelly.
Impressions: This is the soft hour of an early summer day. Everybody is outdoors, tending the animals below the city wall in a garden roofed by nut, loquat, and fig trees. Shopkeepers sit on their steps talking, 2 nuns promenade up and down the main street of Pienza between the two town gates, a mother with a toddler proudly shows them her child, her pleasure and also her respect due the holy sisters are apparent. People visit each other, the old men sit in rows on stone benches near cathedral, old women with thick legs and swollen feet protruding from shoes gone tight over day's work. Some sit in front of their houses, just gazing, with varicose-veined legs sorely planted in front. Birds clamor up from the surrounding fields. Even the tourists talk in quiet manners - a moment of peaceful sensations for many. Then the 7h bells chime. - We have a good and reasonably-priced dinner and marvel at a father and young daughter having dinner next to us. The girl may be about 11. There is comfortable bond between them. They both seem excited about being out together, without Mama or siblings. But then, how do we know? Rolf delivers a sweeping compliment at them which heightens the color in their faces..
PIENZA-MONTEFALCO - ASSISI
"Forget about Perugia": Rolf is pushing for a quick drive to Assisi. We continue on to MONTEFALCO where we visit the MUSEO DI SAN FRANCESCO and find good lighting and excellent restoration of Benozzo GOZZOLI'S frescoes. Also: exhibition of Gozzoli drawings and copies of works found elsewhere. The show is part of an art historic reevaluation of Gozzoli and his station among other Renaissance artists. High entry fee of Euro 6.00 was worth it. - Back to ASSISI. "Hotel Berti", immediately inside Porta Santo Pietro and close to general parking outside the walls, excellent with regard to upper town and CHURCH OF S. FRANCIS. Nice and reasonable. Euro 70.00, bkfts for 2 incl. A noisy town but quiet at night. In the late afternoon we visit the Upper and the Lower church, leisurely. I descend below to tomb and vault and see people reach through the protecting grate which surrounds the tomb and soak snippets of cloth in the trickle of water which you hear more than see running over the tone slab behind. Their gestures are purposeful, determined. Some have brought plastic bags to store the wet rags. Above on transept walls and ceiling frescoes by Giotto, Lorenzetti, Cimabue and others. The architecture is imposing, the inner sanctuary spacious. The frescoes create a lasting impression for Rolf. In spite of the milling crowds small groups of devout visitors conduct their private services in niches and chapels roped off for worshippers. Monks keep their vigilant eyes throughout. The site is a solid fortress for the modest saint, whose life and brittle bones lie in Assisi. This monument serves as affirmation of the church as an institution. The feeling, however, arises from the people who seek solace. I saw it. - We eat well and are served well by our hostess from the "Berti" at "Ristorante di Cecco" close by. Good white wine by Lungarotti: Torre di Giano. Walking up to the church alone after dinner I am aware once again - my dear man again and again returns to places of reverence and always makes a point to not revere but look for the Art! It is a gentle night with a round moon.
ASSISI - URBINO
Barbara up early for a second visit to SAN FRANCESCO. The frescoes by Cimabue, Lorenzetti, Giotto create strong impressions at this hour. St. Francis is rendered with tenderness everywhere, in the frescoes, on T-shirts, in shops, on towels and mugs. So are Mary Magdalene and the Mother Mary. - We leave Assisi for Urbino. A different landscape, rougher, more mountainous near coast. We approach the Abruzzi. Pine, conifers, and deciduous trees now mixed. We begin to apprehend Umbria, a landscape charted by fields and single dark trees. In Urbino we find simple accommodations on the outskirts, Hotel Panoramic, not to be recommended. We ride up to town on an ascenseur and walk up to PALAZZO DUCALE.. Urbino is a university town. Young and very young people everywhere. They wear pants, no elegance. The Palazzo is spectacular. Its vast rooms have marble floors, wide, beautiful staircases, fit for a rider on horseback to climb to the top! We find many regional paintings of the Madonna, some historic stonework, 2 Piero de la Francescas, 2 Raphaels, 2 Titians, gobelins by Raphael and by Raphael's father Santi. Room after room in their enticing vastness with white curtains billowing in the afternoon wind. The guards appear to be figures placed in an imagined setting that Piero painted in almost surrealist fashion in his cityscape. FREDERICO II exerted his power and influence beyond his life for 200 more years until the church claimed the allegiance of his descendents and their possessions. Urbino was historically aligned with the Northern countries. As Ghibelines they were adversaries of the Pope until the ambassador from the Pope in Avignon claimed the region for the papacy in Rome. - Town abuzz with students at night. - To the widening eyes of the serving host Rolf orders more than we can eat that night.
URBINO - LA VERNA - POPPI - PIEVE ROMENA – STIA - AGRITURISMO MONTEMEZZANO
On the road early towards the Alpes de la Luna. Our frail host emerged in his underwear when summoned by the loud bell. Disturbed, shaky on his feeble legs, apologetic, he hastily pulled on his pants and received our money, Euro 42.00, no brkf. He finally smiled in distress (who knows what kind of a night he may have had, next to his nearly blind and not coherent wife?). He gratefully accepted my hands and assurances that everything, or at least we were alright without his attention. Sad little man, made so by circumstance. He might have been a strapping, gregarious young fellow once, not given to tragedy.
We choose a small and then a yet smaller mountain road with perpetual steep curves, densely wooded with deciduous trees and conifers, then yellow broom, acacia, wild flowers. The morning is filled with jubilant birdsong which reaches our ears through the noise of the climbing car. We smell freshly-moved grass and find heather all around us. Steep but well-tended fields extending upwards from the valleys below. Large and new private homes built onto the hillsides outside of the few villages. Picnic near CHIESA LA VERNA. St. Francis received his stigmata here! (1230) Now a place of pilgrimages. On to Sia. We stop at PIEVE DI ROMENA, a surprise. The oldest part is 11th century, built over Etruscan or Roman foundations. The church is austere and beautiful, of French Romanesc style, especially the capitals Burgundy?). Originals now in museum nearby. I find baskets with grain, dried flowers, woven hangings, a Christ image of contemporary design. - Unintended we end for the night in a farmhouse and restaurant north of STIA, up through dark Woods and onto a small patch of open space, a new farm. Within the hour seven young couples in hiking boots, slender, bright-eyed Italians arrive, with motorcycles or by car. We shall have a communal meal, cooked by the mother-in-law of the host and a brkf. The rooms are kept simple, appointed in wood, with wonderful wool blankets on our beds. "AGRITURISMO MONTEMEZZANO'' and "La vie dell'Ospitalita" is advertised above the door. The evening meal is simple and tasty. The company of the Italian couples of Niels' and AC's age, is a pleasure to witness. One in particular who took the trouble of moving next to us and converse with us in very passable English. Both are environmentalists, Chiara and Marco, he a Ph.D in biologist, she a master in environmental scviences, married, working as private consultants to the Marches regional government. Both trained at the Univ. of Urbino. They confirmed many of my observations and gave thoughtful consideration to our questions and helpful explanations.
Stia - Fiesole - Florence - Pistoia
16. 6. Sunday.
We leave en route to Firenze and encounter the Sunday exodus of the Florentines into the cool hill country. We take a detour via FIESOLE. where we find precious living in beautiful settings confirmed! Firenze below in dense, hot haze. Suddenly we are confronted by police cordons, all roads into Florence closed, no car traffic into city today. We decide to return to Pistoia, take a decent hotel there for Euro 72.00 and a negotiated breakfast.,(Hotel Piccolo Ritz di Napolitano Lorenzo).
Mini breakfast. We return the car. Total charge is Euro 504.00. I buy footsies for shower, bright green and red. Train to Florence. It is hot, very hot there. Near Piazza di Santa Maria Novella at "Le Vigne" we find an airconditioned upstairs room for Euro 80.00 for 2, incl. ample brkfs the next morning. Hotel under construction for another year yet. The management is set up for international traffic, mostly young people. To be recommended. Price and location are reasonable for Florence. - We venture out into the hot midday sun. I notice gypsy women in the piazza busying themselves with their children, occupying the phone booths of the neighborhood, chatting in strident voices and, doing a little business on the side? We take care of bank, post office, then have a coffee at the book store we found earlier. Rolf returns to hotel, I go on to the MUSEO NAZZIONALE (BARGELLO) and find all the Donatellos I longed for: Nicolo di Uzzano, impudent young David (Goliath has stone implanted in his forehead, David's mantle draped for show) and the more intelligent very young David with hat, a cocky fellow, his small genitals still boyish, a Mary and bambino relief work of stone, the head of Barbutta, two St. Johns. The Amore is being restored. Also the Florentine lion or Marzocco, a Michelozzo St. John which I prefer to Donatello's. - I find Rolf stretched out in our cool room. He likes the aircooler and would like to find one like it for himself at home. We rest and take bus to SAN MINIATO. It is hot even up there. The marbled interior of the church, the brilliant mosaic in the apse, a Christ and the 4 evangelists surrounding him, the marble pulpit with the figure of a monk between animals supporting a bookrest above, the looming Christopherus on a side wall, all create the impression of Byzantine severity. The horror story of the Armenian Saint Miniato is depicted on panel by Jacopo di Casentino (1320). In SACRISTY life of St. Benedict executed in story fashion by Spinello Aretino (1387-88) although the Baedeker mentions Ucello and Castagno. Benedict monks chanting below where I sit for a while to just be. - Our last dinner around the corner form "Le Vigne" at Ristorante de la Trebia.
At 10:13 off to Milan and on to Spiez by train.