I was called up the other day by my grandfather and invited to go to Italy or whale watching. When I saw the pictures of the boats we would be using to see the whales in – so small that a baby wouldn’t have leg room – we decided to go to Italy. I went to a small town in Tuscany named Cortona where we (Gramps and I) were met by the UCLA Alumni Abroad group in a small hotel called Santa Luca. I am recording a journal.
April 3rd, Thursday
The walking tour of Cortona was led by a fat Chinese lady who was originally from San Francisco, California, but moved to Italy, and married into a fairly wealthy family there. She was very intelligible about the material, so it went quickly, as well as being interesting.
It’s hard to pick out, but my favorite thing of the day would have to be – aside from the gelato or Italian ice cream, of course – the lecture that we received on the Cortonese. I also liked a fair- sized square where there was both an ice cream shop (gelateria) and City Hall bordering. I tried going to a shop to see how much the store owners would ask for a pack of gum. I kept up with the Italian for about – never mind how long I kept up. I still gracefully left; darting out the door. The things that I didn’t like were few, and the main one was an excursion we took to a winery.
April 4th, Friday
Sienna is a large city with an approximate population of 54,000 which is probably about the same as it was when it was flourishing in about 1330 or so, just before the Black Plague. The plague virtually shut down the peak of Sienna’s culture. Florence, Sienna’s rival, flourished after the plague, and is presently recognized as one of the major sights to see in Italy.
The major thing that we saw in Sienna was the church. Everywhere you go in Italy there are churches. I saw maybe 15 churches in 15 minutes while wandering through Sienna. In fact, one of Italy’s problems that still has to be solved is the maintaining of all the churches there. Anyway, the church was a massive structure of pure carvings and decorations. It took 800 years to build, and the only reason that it was built was to prove that Sienna was richer than Florence (which it probably wasn’t) who was also having a large church built.
This church set my heart on fire. If you stared at it for all your life, and looked around at it, you still wouldn’t see half of the details.This church was utterly beautiful, and it probably isn’t worth only a detour, but a trip in itself to see. It was utterly magnificent. A real church of the kingdom of heaven.
After Sienna, we went back to the hotel and ate wonderful food. Italy is worth it. It’s too bad that we can’t go places on our own (to explore and access our natural curiosity) when we go to cities and towns.
April 5th, Saturday
I would like to comment on something: Sienna is a tourist attraction. So are most of the places that we see. A lot of the medieval stuff has been made over into tourist stuff. Although rich in the splendor of its many sites, Cortona outranks the magnificent city of Sienna. I commented on this because I noticed it while visiting Perugia (in Umbria) and Assisi.
April 6th, Sunday
We went to Montepulciano today. Strange name, but not a strange place. Aside from the lack of people, Montepulciano was almost a twin to Cortona: about the same size, the same amount of sights to see, etc. Very interesting place. I didn’t like it as much as Cortona, because it was a little more dominated by tourism, but I still adored it there.
The main place that I went to (while in Montepulciano) was an old church not too decorated, but still far more decorated than any church you can point to in America (an exaggeration, but maybe true). It had an elaborate cross, and very nice windows (the kind with pictures on them that catch the light).
April 7th, Monday
We had today off, so I went for a 2-3 hour stroll in the Cortona countryside. It was down hill most of the way, and I saw many sights, such as an abandoned shepherd hut, and an overgrown outdoor shrine.
April 8th, Tuesday
Today we were supposed to go to Florence, but my grandfather snared me by accident, deciding not to go. Either I go and leave him by himself, or I stay. Guilt grabbed me, so I didn’t go. The one and only thing I did worth mentioning was to go to the countryside again.
April 9th, Wednesday
Today was the farewell day. We celebrated by going to the Cortonese ice cream parlor and reading poems that we had written. I am glad that we went because not only did I learn a lot, but I had fun, and got to know Grandpa better, and I learned not only about Italy, but about him.
David Amateau Petty, age 11, resides in Kensington, California. He visited Italy in 1998
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