Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Newlyweds in Italy: Florence, Ravenna, Milan, and the Sea

July 10-15, 1996

There is much more in the travel journal about our ongoing adventures, as we traveled to Florence, then to Ravenna, then to Milan and Monza, and finally to Liguria on Italian Riviera. Most of this time we visited friends, and benefited from their hospitality. I wrote about art and faith, the vistas of Florence and its tiled rooftops, Michelangelo (of course), Beato Angelico (of course), the spectacular Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna, and the incredible food that we ate everywhere we went.

Friends who knew these places well would take us to the local restaurants where there was real regional cuisine (like the fresh fish and seafood outside of Ravenna), or even better, sit us down to something right from the kitchen (like a "coniglio cacciatore" at a country farm -- "coniglio" means "rabbit" and in this case we are talking about fresh rabbit).

My journal from these days is priceless in its recording of details that evoke vivid memories. Perhaps I'll post more of these reflections another time. I want to conclude these reminiscences with a vivid memory of a moment spent by the Mediterranean sea on July 15, 1996. Our trip was coming to an end, but of course our journey together continues.

[Walking with our friends], we traveled to the lookout tower on a jutting cliff near Vergognia. After a fairly brief but strenuous hike, we arrived at the clearing at the base of the tower.
Here, some 40 years ago, a young Italian priest used to take his students during their retreats, to show them the beauty of the sea. The clearing at the edge of the cliff looks smaller in life than it does in those early photographs of Fr. Giussani and his little group of "Student Youth." But we were able to relive the breathtaking sense that they must have had looking at the utterly clear blue water and the coast stretching out in either direction.
Three of us decided to climb the tower. But Eileen preferred to stay in the clearing. The tower was used as a lookout in earlier centuries. Berber pirates would attempt to raid the coastal towns; from the towers placed at various points, their approach could be seen on the horizon and the towns alerted by means of fire signals.
From the top of the tower we commanded a slightly more amplified view. We stayed there for a few minutes before rejoining Eileen. From the tower, I looked at her -- alone and thoughtful -- sitting on the low rocky wall at the edge of the clearing, gazing out at the shiny, aquamarine sea with the breeze lifting the dark strands of her hair, and with heart filled with quiet wonder and awe. This is the woman I love.... 

So ends the journal of June-July 1996, with an ellipsis that indicates a love and a journey that are far from finished. Now, in the year 2013, we carry on with both.

Today we travel in places more amazing than the mountains or the sea or any work of art: we travel with these five miraculous human beings, each of whom is a person called into existence by God's omnipotence and love, created in His image, worth more than the whole universe, destined for eternal glory. The faces of our children continue to be signs to us that our love for each other is a gift. It is not our possession. It has been entrusted to us.