So much for continuing to write while in Italy; I am once more safely ensconced in Coulommiers after gamboling far and wide in Rome, Florence, and Venice.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise or disappoint a tourist when the places he goes to visit attract other tourists. Nonetheless, the sheer number of tourists still prompts a melancholy reflection when one considers the former might and vibrancy of these destinations, where the concern was not in mummifying the glory of the past, but melding it with the glory of the present. When the Romans built their Coliseum, the Florentines their Duomo, the Venetians their San Marco and their canal system, I doubt they considered that it would eventually create an economy relying on the curiosity and prosperity of foreign tourists.
But since what they created was so magnificent, how can we modern tourists help but be drawn in droves to bear witness to their memorialized former glory. When you go there and marvel at the Coliseum, or gawk at the statue of David, or lose yourself in the labyrinthine streets and canals and bridges of Venice, your struck with wonder, “I’m here where it all happened.” But then you realize the bitter-sweetness of the thought, the sadness of that past-tense—“where it all happen-ed.”
You must avoid the thought, when all these tourists come and snap a few photos and move on, that they are somehow insulting the memory of these places with a lack of respect. The simple fact that these places draw such crowds is homage enough. It’s probably impossible for any single tourist to comprehend and appreciate fully the depths and heights of grandeur and beauty with which these monuments and artworks are endowed, so the more people who come and contribute their own reflections to the massive collage that is the modern appreciation to these former glories (and maybe just Former Glory in general) the better.
I’ve been so busy thinking myself in circles that I haven’t even told you about my trip! I ate lots of pizza and lasagna, drank lots of vino rosso della casa, indulged in Florentine gelato a half-dozen times. Jordan (my Newfoundfriend) and I walked endlessly across Rome, Florence, and Venice. We met some fun people at the hostel in Florence and saw some sights and ate some meals with them. We met an older French couple on the train between Rome and Florence; Both teachers, they were initially shocked by how well we spoke French, and then genuinely interested to hear about our experiences teaching in the French school system. On the train from Florence to Venice we met a woman from “Missouruh” who was strangely obsessed with Under the Tuscan Sun. She had just visited Cortona and talked about certain scenes from the movie and was disappointed to observe that certain aspects of the actual villa were not the same as in the movie. I didn’t know what to tell her, other than that sometimes directors change things for the sake of the film… Jordan and I also had an extended conversation with the owner of the hostel in Venice who regaled us with jokes about Berlusconi’s bunga-bunga parties, and enlightened us about Italian sentiment towards Monti, the new Prime Minister. I got the feeling that he would happily talk about nearly anything.
Oh yeah, and we some art and some old buildings.