The Grand Tour

June 26, 2012

I’ve recently returned from an artist’s dream trip, a tour encompassing Rome, Florence and Venice, Italy, where some of the world’s greatest art is on display.  The tour was sponsored by Road Scholar, who arranges tours for senior citizens that are both great sightseeing opportunities as well as a chance to learn from experts about what you are seeing.

I would highly recommend this particular trip, but only if you are very fit.  Two of our group who had pedometers said we walked six to eight miles a day sometimes up and down stairs and on cobblestone streets in temperatures that often exceeded 90 degrees.  But it was worth it and plenty of other people must have thought so too.  All the major sites were swarming with tourists.

This journey was like an art history book coming alive, hearing about the lives of the artists and seeing their greatest works.  We learned Michangelo had begun his career early being apprenticed at the age of 12 to a popular painter.  He continued sculpting until a week or so before his death at the age of 89.  In the Vatican in Rome we saw his amazing Sistine Chapel and “Last Judgement” paintings with their sculptural human figures.  In some of his other works the religious subject matter was the same as that other artists of his time, such as the Pieta and his statue of David, but his had an unparalleled majesty.  Seeing a photo of the “David” in a book is nothing like being in Florence and standing in front of a white marble David that is 14 feet tall.

In Venice I was astonished at the sheer size of some of the paintings by Tintoretto.  In some of the churches were huge mosaics made of an incredible number of tiny pieces.  Such works of art would surely keep many artists employed over long periods of time.

Most of the churches wouldn’t allow photos but there are art books and the internet for that.  What I brought back in my head is awe at the creative genius of these artists who lived so long ago who devoted their lives to expressing the religious ideals of their time.  Their work is still communicating with those like myself who are fortunate enough to see it.

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