I thought it might be fun to post some excerpts from the diaries I kept on my trips with my father. They go from 1984 to 2000. Keep in mind that I was 22 in 1984!
I spent part of 1984 with my father, mother, and younger sis (who was all of 13) in Siena. Dad was working at the University there for a few months, and the rest of us just came along for the ride.
[Notes in square brackets are from the current version of Me.]
March 4, 1984
The courtyard of the Uffizi [in Florence] was covered in graffiti, almost shockingly so. There was really too much to take in at the gallery itself, but the unforgettables for me were the Botticelli “Spring” and “Birth of Venus”, which were breathtaking & could make you cry, they are so exquisite, and the wonderful 5th century BC Venus, which looked so alive and so beautiful you could fall in love with her. There were also two wonderful self-portraits by Rembrandt, one 30 years after the other. In the older portrait, he looked very dissipated indeed!
Florence is quite small (600,000 people) & all the historical buildings and art galleries, etc., are close together, so just walking around is an experience and you get a feel for the city and its people. We explored the market in the Piazzo San Marco, which was a great deal of fun and full of lovely things – lace, scarves, shoes, jewelry and gloves all jumbled together.
It was a long drive to Pisa, but it was a radiant day. When you leave a town in Italy, they have its name on a sign, crossed out! We drove through the chianti wine-making country, through groves of trees and up & down hills. You seem to climb imperceptibly in Tuscany, and then you look down on a splendid view of the country beneath: farms, vineyards, houses.
I can’t get over the way they still live in these medieval structures; they just shove in new windows & that’s it. Sometimes you see an ancient crumbling building that no-one could possibly live in, and then you see the inevitable line of laundry hanging from a window. Yet this doesn’t seem to indicate poverty, just a fidelity to the land or the house itself.
Some delightful details en route: two carved wooden dragons over a doorway; a forsythia tree in full bloom at the base of a palm tree. One English word the Italians seem to have taken to is “Jolly” – there are Jolly hotels, cafes, restaurants, even garages!
In Pisa, the only thing to see is the [Leaning] Tower, which was much smaller and prettier than I imagined. 60% of Pisa was destroyed in WWII, so most of the town is new and not very interesting. The Tower is white and grey, and Dad, Meg, & I climbed it – Meg even went up the part you had to climb a ladder to reach. [Megan has always been completely fear-free.] You get a token and go through a turnstile to get in, just like the subway.