On the Italian Riviera

My husband and I just returned from three weeks in Italy, and while jet lag has disappeared, my night dreams and daydreams continue to be dominated by the magnificent art and architecture I have been exposed to.  I don’t usually do travelogues here, but I can’t resist sharing some of the richness of this experience.

The protagonist in Crazy aspires to be an artist, and in the book she is heavily influenced by modern and impressionist artists such as Van Gogh, Hopper, Picasso, and Monet.  Obviously these made it into my book because they are personal favorites of mine.  And now, having basked in the richness of the Renaissance greats such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, Fra Angelico and Brunelleschi, I have a whole new list of favorites.


Michelangelo’s second Pieta, completed fifty years after the first

In fact, we had a fortuitous opportunity on two occasions to witness the old and new juxtaposed to each other, and it was unexpectedly powerful.  The first was in Rome at the Villa Borghese Gallery where forty of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti’s spindly skeletal forms


Giacometti’s “Walking Man”

are scattered around such classics as Bernini’s “David.”  The contrast is nothing less than dramatic, and for me, unsettling.  I know Giacometti excels at showing the fragility of man, but I didn’t want to be reminded of that when I stood before Bernini’s work that so exquisitely depicted and celebrated the human form, down to rippling muscles, bulging veins and fingers that appear to leave impressions on soft skin.


Bernini’s “David”

The same thing occurred at one of the great museums in Florence, the Palazzo Vecchio. Sixteen works by Jackson Pollock, the American abstract expressionist, were tucked into a room surrounded on all sides by Michelangelo and fifteenth and sixteenth century frescoes by many of his lesser-known peers.  The exhibit, titled “The Shape of the Fury” literally stopped me dead in my tracks and gave me goose bumps for all the wrong reasons.  No offense, Jackson, but your garish red drip painting felt like it had been hurled in my face, and my husband and I couldn’t move on fast enough.


Jackson Pollock, title unknown

This was my first trip to Italy, and the first time I’ve experienced so much Renaissance art and architecture in such big doses and so up close and personal.  With all due respect to Pollock, Giacometti, and their modern peers, I left feeling sad and haunted that NOTHING that even comes close to the genius of Michelangelo exists today.  That’s my opinion, of course, and I’m certainly not a seasoned art critic so please chime in, art experts!

As far as architecture is concerned, we got to climb all 463 steps to the top of the dome of Cathedral Santa Maria dei Fiore (the Duomo) and marvel for myself at how this fifteenth century massive, Florence cathedral dome was constructed.  We know Filippo Brunelleschi was the mastermind architect and to this day, architects marvel at how the double-shell, herringbone brickwork was erected and how it has stayed intact over the centuries.  It is thought that Brunelleschi used a flower pattern, but since he worked largely alone and secretly, the details went to the grave with him.


Brunelleschi’s Duomo in Florence

I could go on and on.  Suffice it to say I am in love with Italy and all that it has to offer, and I didn’t even get to tell you about the four-day Tuscany wine tour!  That’s a story for another day.


The frescoes in our room at Hotel Morandi Alla Crocetta, formerly the chapel of a fifteenth century convent in Florence.  What a find!








  1. I enjoyed your travelogue and traveled with you vicariously. Italia is at the top of my wish list. I’ve been taking art hx classes so I can better appreciate it when I finally get there. Glad you enjoyed it. Loved every photo and I will note the name of your Florence hotel. I agree about Pollack. I tried to appreciate his work but he just doesn’t move me at all.

    • Hi Jill,

      Thanks for the comments. Taking art classes prior to going is an excellent idea. Lucky for me I had my historian hubby who pointed us in the direction of all the things we needed to see. And the hotel was a total fluke. I literally stumbled upon it, and then we bought a tour book that featured it! It’s buried on a not-so-great street, but is totally lovely inside.

  2. Ooh, I would love to visit Italy someday! Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos of artwork.

    Also, I meant to comment on your last post about Stargirl. Loved that book too, and so did my students. Jerry Spinelli has put out a sequel, but I was disappointed by it. It’s written in journal form. Love, Stargirl is the name if you want to check it out and see what you think of it.

    • I hope you can visit Italy sometime. The history and art and architecture were like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. As for Spinelli, I knew about the sequel but haven’t gotten around to reading it and appreciate your heads up. Makes him more human to know he misses it sometimes, ha! I want to hear about your book soon, too!

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