60 Years Ago Today

Monday, 7 July 1952:

I had a continental breakfast with the same dinner napkins from last night. Then I went down to the American Express office. I was the first one in line for the mail. Almost everybody was happy. Likewise I was quite lucky myself with letters from Mom, Twila, Craig and Caroline. Next stop was the bell tower, Campanile of St. Marks Square. It was the new one from 1912 as the old tower tumbled down in 1902. I even got to feed the pigeons in the square.

Then we were off to the cathedral, which was ornate inside and out, and had been rebuilt many times. I learned that the water came right into the building during the high winter sea. In the Venetian Museum of Art, every decade had left its own water mark. The original style was lost and now it seemed overburdened with too much stuff. In 832 a.d. the original structure was created, destroyed in 900 a.d., rebuilt in 978 a.d., and built larger in 1063 a.d. with materials from older structures. Venice had reached its splendor about 1492. There were mosaics in the interior. The building was progressively sinking with the body of St. Mark preserved under the altar. The cathedral was built in the form of a Greek cross.

Next on the agenda was the Ducal Palace that was the seat of the governor for the Venetian Republic and home of Doge, the chief magistrate. There were subterranean prisons inside. However, the importance of the palace was exclusively artistic and its history began in the 9th century. In the 13th century the palace was burned and then reconstructed. It housed the largest oil painting Tintoretto’s Paradise and a remarkable golden stairway of nobility. The stucco ceilings were designed by one of Michelangelo’s pupils. The ceiling of the next room was by Oslagio and had paintings by Titan. There was a room with medieval armor and another with swords and guns with eight to ten barrels each. Some of the rooms were large and others were small. They were decorated with Tintoretto’s dark paintings, I believe. I went onto the balcony where there were busts of Dukes, Dante, Marco Polo, and most everybody it seemed.

The subterranean state prisons were next. We came out and water was coming under the door from the canal. Everybody hurriedly rushed through a door and rushed right out again. It was the WC.

We proceeded to a glass factory. We watched the heating and shaping process of a vase. And then we saw the showrooms. It seemed like a block of the rooms were filled with the most beautiful, colorful, original, and expensive glassware and dishes one can imagine. We drooled over them, but kept our money for the most part. I nosed around the shops on our way back to the hotel for lunch. It sure took a lot of will power to look and not buy, cause there were so many pretty things.

After chow Lido Beach was our next activity. I took the bus boat to the beach, because I always like to try all the different means of transportation. Then I walked from a 1000 lire per person beach to a 80 lire per person beach. That distance covered quite a long stretch of road. The beach and water was wonderful and most enjoyable! Alicia had been left with all the watches, purses, and junk while the rest of us enjoyed the water. One Italian boy tried to teach me to swim. The Italian natives followed us in and out of the water.

Then back on the street to the bus boat to Pensione Conti. At 6:30 p.m we had a date to visit a USS Rodman, a destroyer. A Lieutenant and four men came to pick us up. We had to climb perpendicular stairs to get on the ship. They conducted the tour of the ship’s main points in smaller groups. Then the ship’s photographer took some pictures and we gave him a few pertinent facts about our BYU tour. As a result we missed some of the guided tour.

We talked to many of the fellows and hoped we didn’t make them too homesick. They said this was the first time they had shown off their ship to anyone. Also it was the first time we had been shown around a ship. We ended up in the lounge, I believe, and they gave us some souvenir booklets about the boat. We met the captain and got his autograph. One of the Rodman’s jobs was to sweep for mines. We got to see the guns, captain’s quarters, and movie theater with one screen and half a dozen chairs.

Afterwards we went back to the hotel for dinner. My whatta dirty blouse I had on! Alicia let me wear one of her blouses to go out shopping for the evening. Several sailors were hanging around and we talked to them for a few minutes. Then on to the square and another trip to the top of the bell tower where we met a guy from South Africa.

I drooled over the shops again, but couldn’t decide where my money would be best spent. There were too many things to choose from. At a street stand we met two students from Vienna who were wearing hiking shorts and small shoulder packs. We explored part of the city with them and bid them adieu at the square with a promise to look for them in Vienna. On our way home we met some of our friends from the ship. We talked to them until the boat picked them up to go back to their ship. And then I met a Swede and learned how to say thank you in Swedish. What a wonderful day I had today in Venice, Italy. Such interesting site and people.

Paintings of Great Masters Viewed in Tour of Florence

Editor’s note: This is the eighth in a series of letters written by Mrs. Afton A. Hansen of Provo on her impressions of an European tour she is making with a group of 36 college students from Weber and BYU.

Dear Friends;
It is only a day since we left Italy, but we are still talking about how much we like these people and their country—those curiously friendly people who so adeptly mix the human and sublime, as is shown in the name of a commercial bank in Rome—”Bank of the Holy Spirit.”
Wouldn’t you like to know something about Venice (Venezia) and Florence (Firenze)?

The city of Firenze is not beautiful at first sight, and we wondered why so many tourist loved it so much. The beauty, so rare and excellent of this old city is found in its treasures of art. It is the world’s greatest art center, and in the 13th century was the greatest money market.

Big money often makes bad art, but the historically prominent Medici family of Florence loved beautiful things and knew them when they saw them.

They made Florence a beautiful city. Their vast collection and creations are possessed now by the Italian government for the world to enjoy.

da Vinci Sketches
San Lorenz, the private church built by the Medici family contains rare and original manuscripts of the masters. In the chapel are the pen sketches of Leonardo da Vinci. He is perhaps the greatest of the masters of his time. The world is still paying tribute to this genius born 500 years ago.
In a small church in Milan, (Santa Maria de la Grazie) we saw what is now left of da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper. The building itself, bombed during the war, is now reconstructed. The painting though somewhat protected from bombs is being restored. It is told that when da Vinci was searching for a model for Judas in the picture, he found him on the street and approached him. The man answered, “Yes, I will pose for you. It is I who posed for you many years ago when you painted Christ.”

Leonardo da Vinci’s pen sketches of art subjects, music, architecture, engineering and science still hold good. In the library of the San Lorenz church are original manuscripts of Dante’s Inferno, Petarch and Laura and account books dating back to B.C., choral books with their square notes and four-lined staff, a wise sayings book by Cecco D’ Ascoli, a book of Greek poetry by Boctchio and Sappho.

The palace where the Medici lived, called Petti Pallzzio, has since been used for government office, but now houses the rare and costly treasures which the Medici used to show their guests when entertaining.

Works of Masters
We stood aghast at the vases, bowls, goblets, etc., which were made of semi-precious stones and decorated with gold, rubies and pearls. Figurines carved from ebony, ivory, coral and shell were numerous. Original paintings from da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, del Sorto Murillio and others adorned the walls. It was breath-taking. On the ceiling in one room were scenes from the Iliad, done in such superbly rich colors that we felt like lying down on the huge covered ebony table beside the statue of sleeping infants to gaze forever at the ceiling.

The choice picture for me was of young John the Baptist by Murillio. Sometime, maybe, my newly found lady friend, who is a copiest of masterpieces will do one for me. She was a delightful person who was doing a reproduction of del Sorte’s Madonna.

Reluctantly leaving Pitti Palazzio, we walked across the oldest bridge the Arno river. It was protected from bombs during the war by sentiment and by blowing up the entrance to the bridge. Shops on either side of the street on the bridge have for more than 300 years now bought and sold some of the most alluring merchandise in silk, linen, wool, silver, leather, etc., that anyone could ever imagine. All we needed to more thoroughly enjoy it was more money.

Up the steps to Michelangelo Square, we stood near another statue of David (the original of which we saw in the Academy and Tribune of David) to see the city of Florence and locate the various spots of interest we had seen.

Impressions as well as expression come thick and fast on such a trip as this. Writing seems so slow compared to experience, but recollections are always enjoyable.
What a commotion we cause in Milano (Milan) when our bus load of 32 American girls and four men were unloaded in front of a boy’s dormitory — Casa delo Students! The boys were eating their evening meal at the time, but soon their severe dining room was buzzing with excitement, and then it was practically empty for about 54 of them came out to talk to the 12 girls and two men who were left. The others were to stay a block away. The manager of the dorm was concerned so he stayed up all night patrolling the corridor. The girls enjoyed good conversation with these fine college students who were studying engineering. We were on our way again by 7 a.m. Venezia (Venice) with its waterways and gondolas, 100 islands and 400 bridges, was enchanting. It took six gondolas to transport our group from bus to hotel, but what delightful transportation. Gliding smoothly along in a cushioned carpeted gondola, made of some kind of dark wood, we noticed the pretentious buildings, somewhat rusty and adorned with moss. White marble steps so close to the water were draped with green moss.

Sinking City
Parts of the city seem to be sinking into the Adriatic sea. One American benefactress, noting this has collected money for supports for San Marco church were Saint Mark is supposedly buried.
Gondolas anchored to blue and white striped poles conveniently await the lady for her shopping tour, to get fresh vegetables or other household supplies. Her private gondolier calls a warning as he approaches an intersection, or turns a corner. We would hardly believe our eyes, seeing directional street light anchored in the water— red, yellow, green, stop and go.

Transportation by motor boat is faster, but not nearly so interesting.

Docked in port was a ship flying the American flag. Cheers from the girls soon brought all hands on deck. “Hi-ho, anyone there from Arizona?” —”Yes, and Utah too.” It didn’t take long to get acquainted with these sailors from Trieste. They entertained the group on board ship the next day.

We’ll soon be in Switzerland gazing at the Matterhorn.

Afton A. Hansen

P.S.—Having received some of the first copies of these articles printed in the Herald, I notice the names of Senator and Mrs. Arthur V. Watkins were inadvertently missing. They did so many nice things for this group including opening their office to us where we parked our suitcases and bags. They took all 36 of us to dinner in the senate private dining room, gave each of us a souvenir menu card, directed us to the senate in session where Senator Watkins gave a nice speech about Provo, the BYU and this tour. They also arranged for six private cars to take us on a tour of the city. They were most generous and gracious.

60 Years Ago Today

Saturday, 5 July 1952:

Knock, knock, knock! At 5:30 in the morning no less. I didn’t get off until 6:30 a.m. though. We went up through the hills and found an Arrow Route War Cemetery and olive groves. Next was Fiesole which was a thriving Etruscan town in 5 b.c. Fiesole had always been of great importance throughout history because of its high scenic location.

The Villa Medici at Fiesole was one of the oldest Renaissance residences with a garden and also one of the best preserved. Villa Medici Cathedral in Fiesole was dedicated to Saint Romulus. They had an early mass with a beautiful glass chandelier. All early churches faced west.

Also, there was a tower like the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Once more in the tower we saw a panoramic view of Florence. At the Franciscan Mission and Museum the Italians were burning something for their early mass. Then we saw more archeological relics.

Next on the tour was the cemetery where Elizabeth Barrett Browning was buried. Then the Michelangelo Square where there was a copy of the statue of David. We journeyed back to the hotel for breakfast. I had red hot donuts in the alley and fresh orangeade at the corner joint. It was cooler and cheaper than the first one we had gone to. At 10:15 a.m. we were off for new fields to conquer.

We trekked to the San Marco church where Christ is surrounded by medals. And then to the National Museum. Now back to my favorite café for lunch. It was just like home now. I had every meal here—breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Buca Niccolini Ristorante.

Dante’s Inferno hit us as we stepped onto the sidewalk. We passed the Palazzo Vecchio. David Neplone and the rest of the crew were standing ready to greet us. Still there were buildings that were mined by the Germans in World War II. The bombs were electronically controlled under buildings, streets, cathedrals. I saw a man repairing the street with bricks. We drooled over the luscious shops built along both sides of Vecchio Bridge.

Then we moved to the Pitti Palace where the pillars were painted to look real in room one. There was a green huge marble Medici bathtub in the middle of room four and later a jewel case presented to Catherine II. In room seven there was a stunning chandelier.

Along the river we passed kids swimming in the Arno River. Some of us went back to the hotel and six of us took off for Santa Croce. However, I decided to follow an American speaking guide around. He opened a painting to show old murals behind the painting. He also pointed out all the graves of the famous men buried here.

Then Henry acted as a guide to get us back to the hotel. One street over from the cathedral I bought a pencil at a street-side shop. Left behind I had to find my own way back. I went through a street market covering several blocks clear to the hotel corner. The kids were waiting in the lobby to go with Herr Watkins to visit his teacher.

I decided to stay back and get things done. I went for a bath and the bathtub water gushed out really strong. I managed to squeeze in the small bathtub (Italians are much smaller) and washed clothes before leaving for the concert at 8:30 p.m.

We found our enclosed way across Ponte Vecchio to Pitti Palace. It was 250 lire for non pesti or enclosed seats. There was a beautiful huge yellow moon that hung just at the corner of the building. It looked like a magnificent painting itself.

The concert had Italian music with three soloists singing under a concrete arch. The conductor played the piano as well as leading the orchestra. The concert didn’t start till almost 10 p.m. We met some art students from Stevens College who were spending most of their time in Florence. It turned out to be a nice evening.

60 Years Ago Today

Friday, 4 July 1952:

In the morning we hurried off to the fruit market. Afterwards we journeyed to see the San Lorenzo Church of Medici, Old Sacristy Cloister and library. The library had a 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci with an exhibition of his works. He was an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, and writer.

Leonardo da Vinci’s designs were really ahead of his time. He painted many self portraits and there were study sketches of pictures, Madonna on the rocks, and proportions of human body, face, and eyes. I saw designs of battles, weapons, and tanks. Other works included: Design for the Cathedral at Paris, study for horse equestrian statue, sketches for Santa Anna, manuscript of Divine Comedy, writing done backwards in mirror to keep it secret, study of Christ going to Calvary, sketches of Ceasar Borgia a friend, study of the flight of birds, manuscript of Divine Comedy, study for the last supper, wooden carved ceiling, manuscripts collected by Medicos family, pictures of Laura Petrarch, original poem written on vase by Sappho who was an ancient Greek poet, and huge music books written by monks from the 15th century.

Next we saw the Medici chapels in the Basilica of San Lorenzo Medicos Chapel and the crypt. The chapels included the New Sacristy and Chapel of the Princess. The Florence Baptistery had Ghiberti’s doors. The first set of Ghiberti’s four panel doors took twenty years to make. The second set of doors took the rest of his life. Seeking refuge we went in the cathedral to wait for the sun to shine on the right spot for a picture of the Cathedral Brunelleschi of Florence.

The cathedral church of Florence was the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as El Duomo. It was started in 1296 a.d. in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio. Later the church was completed structurally in 1436 a.d. with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi.

The exterior of the basilica was faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white. It had an elaborate 19th century Gothic revival facade by Emilio De Fabris. The cathedral dome was engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. He received his inspiration from the Pantheon. Later we passed from the cathedral back door and into the baptistry.

Then we had lunch at the same restaurant where we had eaten the night before and at the hotel we had a cool siesta. Afterwards we traveled to Dante’s house, an Italian poet of the Middle Ages, and Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall. The guide was English speaking and helped us to see all of it in an hour and a half.

Next we reached the Uffizi Gallery. It had masterpieces from the 11th to 18th centuries and 10th and 12th centuries from Tuscany. The Christ on the cross was painted by an unknown painter. Giotto and Cemabore both painted a Madonna and child paintings. Starnina was a follower of Giotto. Angelico from the 15th century painted the coronation of Virgin Fillipo Lippi. The first painting on canvas by Botticelli was the Birth of Venus. Next was the only painting in Italy by Michelangelo done in wood.

I walked down to the end of the courtyard to take pictures with Herr Watkins and Dick. When we got back to the Vecchio bridge everyone had taken off. Here was little old me waiting to climb the tower. Lisa popped out of nowhere and I talked her into going up with me. I had difficulty finding the stairs again, but success! We climbed the tower together.

There was a beautiful view of the city at the first platform all around the tower. We continued upward through the locked door and tower. There were peep holes at different intervals and I found another platform with an equally incredible 360º view of the city. On the last lap I ran into some congestion of the winding stairs. Then onto the top.

At the top we met two students from Chicago and New York. Both were traveling alone with their travels concentrating on Italy. We compared notes on our travels to see who could outdo each other. It was time to close the tower, so we went down on the street again.

We stopped at a sidewalk café for an orangeade, our favorite drink in Italy. I told them about our cute, cool, and cheap restaurant. While our meal had cost 500 lire a piece, the students last meal had cost 1400 lire a piece. We showed them the way. They had to go back to their hotel so we ate. They came back before we were through, so we chatted with them some more. And we met a Texan as well. Then home to bed.