Florence, Italy – Day 5

We traveled from Padua outside of Venice to Florence, Italy.  Today we gave our opinions and explanations of our reading from the Divine Comedy.  It was interesting to hear everybody’s feedback.  The particular part of the Comedy that I chose was the beginning of Paradise.  Dante’s description of paradise was very different from the modern, traditional view of heaven which is often associated with Judeo-Christian teachings.  In Dante’s heaven, he explores all the levels of the cosmos which I absolutely loved.  Additionally, Beatrice’s role (the woman he loved on earth) is amazing, also.  The idea of a Relational Love being a part of a Divine Love and an expression of it and that Dante can explore heaven with Beatrice is something I feel that most of us can relate to.  Additionally, her role as a woman is very different.  She is not only described as a physical beauty, but she instructs, corrects, and explains things to Dante – and is respected for her intellect and wisdom.  I very much appreciate his love for her intellect and knowledge.  I like the idea of being able to connect with somebody in paradise and exploring it with them.  Professor Strokanov discussed this concept with us as well.  Paradise, across the board of most religions, is often a place where you receive the things you could not have on earth.

The scenery gradually began to change as we drove.  It became more the rolling hills and vineyards I have always associated with Italy.  The Tuscan countryside is beautiful like that and now I understand why so many movies are made there.  When we passed by Bologna our tour guide talked about the different historical contributions of that city.  The first European university was in Bologna – founded in 1163.  Tortellini, a pasta designed to be in the shape of Venice’s bellybutton, and Angel hair, designed after the blond hair of a bride for her wedding, also began there.  The Ducati and Lamborghini car companies are also in that city.  Lamborghini’s initial success came from building tractors and farm equipment, but he had a lot of insights into mechanics.  He wrote to the owner of Ferrari with some tips for improvement of his product.  Ferrari replied that he was just a tractor owner and he didn’t know anything about anything, so Lamborghini began to build his own cars. He chose a bull for his emblem because Ferrari had a horse as his and a bull is more powerful than a horse.  A little healthy competition is good – especially for cars, I suppose.

We arrived in Florence at an overlook of the city – the river, the towers, the cathedrals – how many ways are there to say how beautiful this whole experience has been?

After lunch, we took a guided tour of Florence – learning about some of the important figures in Italian history; Dante, Cosmo Medici, Michelangelo, Galileo, and others.  We saw the Ponte Vecchio, which is the original bridge from the 1300s.  It was not destroyed during World War II, even though the other bridges into Florence were.  We saw a mark on a city wall denoting the height of the last great flood in the 1960s.  We also marveled at the outside of the Duomo – which is made of green, pink and white marble and took 150 years to build.  The dome, though, that was a construction feat and a half.   For years, there was a hole in the ceiling of the church as people didn’t know how to construct a dome large enough to cover it.  A contest was issued and Brunelleschi – the genius goldsmith and/or architect – proposed a dome within a dome construction that eliminated the need for scaffolding.  Reading up on his creative construction methods, the lifts he designed and his designs are dumbfounding and inspiring.  Apparently even some architects speculate about construction methods because it is so tall and wide and HEAVY!  They don’t know all of the details about it.  Some of these buildings are so unfathomable in design and construction!  It’s just incredible.

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