The theme this month being Calabria, I was going to tell you, in detail, about the Bronzes of Riace, two magnificent statues that were found in the waters off the Calabrian coastal town of Riace. But I'm going to let it suffice to say that any plan for visiting Italy should include these must-see bronzes--they are fabulous. I saw them in Rome at the Quirinale, the Prime Minister's residence.
The bronzi are now on display at the Museo Nazionale in Reggio Calabria, but the museum very kindly (albeit reluctantly) allowed them to come to Rome for a brief period. There, along with the prime minister, senators, deputies, Cabinet members, their spouses, and other lucky guests, I circled the two great metal warriors for a long time, utterly mesmerized. Please visit Calabria to see them: I'm sure you too will find them awesome.
I promise you it's better to spend your entire time in Europe in only one country, be it Italy, France, Spain or wherever. It's impossible to get the feel and flavor of a place and its people if you're hurtling at breakneck speed through its cities because you have to get on to the next country. And, if you do decide to restrict yourself to only one country, such as Italy, my advice to you is to not rush pell-mell through museums and churches, dashing from Michelangelo to Titian to da Vinci to Botticelli. After a half-hour of this, you aren't really "seeing" anything anymore, and you're wearing yourself out to the point of exhaustion.
If, for example, you're in Florence at the Uffizi, it's foolish to gallop from room to room past masterpiece after masterpiece until your eyes glaze over just to be able to say that you "did" the Uffizi. Make a pact with yourself to see and absorb only two small rooms of paintings. Spend some time in front of each work of art to absorb it. Ask yourself if you like it and, if you do, ask yourself why. Then, instead of going forward through countless more rooms, turn around and go back outside. Take a seat at an outdoor cafe, order an ice cream or a cappuccino, sit for an hour and watch the Italians stroll by. The waiter won't ask you to move on. Look around. See what you're looking at. After your coffee break, take a relaxed stroll, wander through a few streets and try to pick up a few words of Italian. Then use it with the Italians: they love it when foreigners make even the lamest attempt to speak their language. If you get tired, find a quiet little trattoria where the patrons look like Florentines and have yourself an unhurried lunch.
When you get back home, it's true you won't be able to say you "saw" every masterpiece in the Uffizi, but you'll be able to describe in detail one of the Raphaels or Canalettos that took your fancy, because you will have truly seen it. And maybe you'll be able to talk about some Italians you met one day while sitting over an espresso in Piazza della Signoria or dining in the sweetest little restaurant.
You might not have a box full of photos to show your friends, but you will have warm and lasting memories etched into your mind. And I'll bet you'll already be planning your next trip to that wonderful country that you took the time to really see.
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