Monday, February 21, 2011


For the summer of 1982, I decided to live in Florence.

My interest in Italy began about eleven years ago with a spur–of-the-moment trip to Europe with Bill Murphy and his friends. Bill, an architect, was responsible in the main for me wanting to become an architect during our high school days and has become a lifelong friend. We all kidded about living in Florence at the time, but I never dreamed that it might happen.
Taking a four-month leave of absence, I embarked on an adventure that was to become the most pleasurable time of my life.

   ---Italy, Oh Italy—how the pleasures call!


My Mom and I talked about travelling around the world—a pipe dream I guess—but when I mentioned it at work, everyone thought it was a great idea. Jim Webster, my boss, said I could have the time off (after my mother called him) as there wasn’t much work in the office. But in thinking it over, Mom thought it would be hard to leave Dad because he wasn’t feeling well—let alone the costs involved.

I was naturally disappointed.  But since I had already gotten a four-month leave of absence approved at work, I began to think of doing something else. Then it struck me:


Nothing seemed so right so quickly.

While preparing to go, I noticed an article in Attenzione magazine about a course on Italian Art and Architecture. It was being given by the Parsons School of Design of New York during July in Rome, Florence and Venice. Perfect! And, just when I was going to be there! I enrolled immediately.

One has no idea how complicated one’s life has become until a major change occurs. Ed Crowley, my roommate, agreed, thank goodness, to care for my worldly possessions and feed Liza—the cat.

---On May 11, 1982, I left home for an experience that I often recall so fondly-it gives me a warm thrill whenever it comes into my thoughts.

Off I flew to Paris on Pakistani International Airways—for they had the cheapest fare. When leaving New York over Long Island, I thought I might have made a mistake.  People gasped because the engines suddenly cut back in power to such an extent that it felt as if something was wrong. What a way to begin!

I decided to take a week just to get to Florence (the length of some people’s vacation)! A few days in Paris is always nice. It’s a gorgeous city and I’ve never had the trouble with Parisians that so many Americans report. The weather was perfect, and I enjoyed strolling in that beautiful capital and enjoying the outdoor cafes. (One of my favorite pastimes is to sit at an outdoor café and watch the world go by.)  I revisited the Sainte Chapelle on the Ile de la Cite—one of my favorite experiences for its beautiful, huge, blue-stained glass windows. 

Saw the Jeu de Paume for the first time and loved the impressionist works.  While wandering through the torn-up Les Halles food district, I came upon the Centre Pompidou, a very stark contrast to its mansard-roofed neighbors. What an experience—especially the jugglers and the crowds of hippies!

Since I’d never seen the Alps, I didn’t want to take the through train to Florence because I’d be in the Alps at night. Luzern (Lucerne), Switzerland was recommended to me by my travel agent as a nice place to stay along the train route to Florence, so I had had a reservation made for two nights. The countryside of eastern France was surprisingly mundane—like the American Midwest. But soon the scenery changed rapidly. Before reaching my night's lodging, I remember seeing cows with those huge Swiss bells around their necks, against a backdrop of chalets in those beautiful mountains.

Luzern held some surprises. Two days were not quite enough for this old Germanesque town.  Luzern, itself, straddles a lake in a valley of the Alps and could not have been better conceived by an artist. Crossing the lake is a circa 1700 wooden bridge with colorful, but subdued paintings of the town’s history. The oldest part of town, across that zig-zag bridge from my hotel, contained that concentrated, European assortment of restaurants, bars, shops and old buildings that can keep one fascinated for days.

The next day had an outdoor bazaar by the lake to browse and glorious weather to enjoy so I could crowd-watch. Ate Weisswurst with mustard. (Ummm, getting hungry!)



Mark in DE said...

Wow, this sounds fantastic! Can't wait to read more.

Don Voth said...

Mark, Thanks. It's a long and interesting story. Hope you enjoy the whole adventure!