Four Days AwayMonday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday had me traveling from place to place with an old college friend, Allison. She actually arrived June 1st, but our initial days in Italy had us basically near where I live (with a two-day trip away to Sulmona in Abruzzo), so this past week, since Monday, has been a change.
The four days went like this: Florence (2 days), Orvieto (1 day), Rome (an afternoon). The distribution of an afternoon in Rome was a little off, but it gave us enough time to hustle through the main sites (she had already seen the Colosseum on arrival back on the 1st) and take a breath crossing the Angel Bridge at night. Two days in Florence were plenty, it turned out, and Orvieto ended up being the gem of our trip--quiet and stunning, with a guest-visit by Antonello in the late afternoon.
This was Allison's first visit to Italy, and it was interesting to see what she was drawn to. Florence, I think, although it had been her one "must-see" on this trip to Italy, ended up being almost too much for her, with the mad roar of tourists drowning out even the most beautiful frescoes by Giotto and the red flame of the Duomo's outstanding cupola. It turned out that the best parts of the day happened when we got off the tourist track: a morning's visit to Florence's impressive Synagogue, wandering through side streets just a little ways from Piazza Signoria, dinner at a restaurant on the other side of the river.
And the next two days passed by in Italy's new found summer heat, as we enjoyed the cliff-top views from Orvieto, along with its amazingly ornate duomo and little alleyways of shopping. We even stayed in Orvieto a little later than we'd planned--slurped up gelato the next morning in the main piazza and watched loads of teenagers, on their last day of school, cram their way into the little, and wonderful, gelateria by the Duomo.
But one of my best memories of Allison's 11 days discovering Italy will probably be from last Sunday, the day before leaving on this whirlwind four-day tour. We took a makeshift hike on the foothills of the Appenines where Le Marche and Umbria meet, and you could see the fog rolling in around us. It was not necessarily a hiking day--rain was in the forecast, and the mountains were barely visible under their cloudy skirts. But somehow it seemed perfect, and slowly you could make out more hills, see little patches of sky open up. Allison stood there, halfway up the hill as Antonello and I hiked along behind her, and she looked out onto everything.
And she said, with little hesitation, "It is here that I am the happiest." She smiled brightly and gazed around her, taking everything in as it emerged from the clouds around us, the greens and blues of early June in Italy.
Update: I recently posted over on The Long Trip Home's new travelblog about our experiences in Florence, specifically at the synagogue.