60 Years Ago Today

Tuesday, 8 July 1952:

My, the days were going by in a hurry. No bag to pack for me this morning. It was really wonderful to travel light! Breakfast was the same kind today. Well, well, we had some loot this morning! It seemed that some of our crew encouraged a few of the Rodman crew to raid the ship’s larder. We received large canned ham, bread, pickles, and more. Picnic today for lunch!

American Express, who planned our trip, was right on time with the little motor boats or fast taxis to take us down to the Grand Canal to see the biggest bus garage in Europe. I snapped last minute pictures on our way of a gondola, Rialto Bridge, and the pretty white bridge by the station. I caught sight of a gondola food market and house of gold along the Grand Canal. Gee, I hated to leave Venice! I wanted to come back. This trip improved each day and would surely reach the summit soon.

Suitcases were pulled out and flung onto the top of the bus. I succumbed to another silk scarf for 500 lire this time. The man came down from 517 lire. Herr Watkins succumbed too. Guess what—Helen and Margaret got left! We didn’t have to wait for them long though. By the time the luggage was bagged, they came putting along with the canned ham in tow.

I dropped off to sleep not long after we got started. Somehow bus riding was conducive to sleeping. However I jolted awake each time my neck came to a 90 degree angle to my head. Then I took a peak at the gorgeous green landscape and drifted back to sleep.

We journeyed back to Padova, then on to Verona past the beautiful Garda Lake region, and through an interesting beautiful old archway that was high enough for our bus. Somewhere between Milan and Verona we stopped for our picnic near an ANAS (Italian Roads and Motorways National Agency) which was short for Casa Cantoniera. The lunch committee went to work and soon we were munching on bread, ham, and pickles. Our meal ended with a chunk of pastry and a drink from the ANAS.

Then on to Milan. They certainly made use of the psychology of repetition in their billboard signs in Italy. Just like in France there were two or three great big identical signs in a row. We crossed a beautiful clear river, but we were not sure which one. About 8:30 p.m. we were coming into Milan where there was a big new white oblong tenement house. It loomed like a house project on an apartment size scale. I glimpsed a big arch of something similar to Paree Arch de Triomph, spires of Milano Cathedral, and big cathedral square with somebody’s statue. There was a gold statue on the top of the building. Actually it looked like Angel Moroni. This cathedral was really covered with statues and ornate carvings.

During a WC run, I had delicious orangeade and about four glasses of water while waiting for the my turn. I went down to the end of square for a couple of shots of the cathedral. The inside of the cathedral was the most huge, massive church we had seen. It even seemed more overpowering than St. Peter’s Basilica of Rome. I tried to talk to three Italian ladies. It was definitely Gothic and had spires like the Salt Lake Temple. Milan looked quite progressive and clean, at least the section we went through.

Tonight we got the opportunity to stay in a youth hostel. Halfway to the hostel we decided we would like to see the 15th century mural Last Supper first. It would close soon so we decided to go. Everybody was wearing peddle pushers, so we couldn’t get inside the churches. Quickly we traded skirts around and ended up using coats. It turned out to be no cause for alarm, because it wasn’t functioning as a formal church. The church, Santa Maria delle Grazie, was a small bare church that cost 200 lire to enter. It was hit with a World War II bomb, and the Italians were trying to rebuild and revitalize it.

Miraculously Leonardo da Vinci’s mural, Last Supper, was still intact and recognizable. However, it was badly in need of restoration. It seemed that the man who posed as Christ for da Vinci could possibly have been the same man who modeled for Judas a couple years later. The church was bombed badly, but it was still very much alive and inspiring despite the ravages of war and time. Eventually we went back to the cathedral. We had an hour and a half to eat and look around.

Alicia and I found an underground public rest room at the end of the square. It cost 25 lire to use the toilette and an additional 25 lire for towel and soap. The men’s rest room was open with no charge—not fair! We strolled around the Victor Emmanuel Gallery which was very beautiful. The building was like a huge intersection with a glass roof completely covering it. There were shops of all kinds, including restaurants, bars that lined each side of the wide streets.

At the square two tall Italian men in white jackets and dark trousers with sabers on their hips really looked sharp. I found out later they were the special police for the square. We asked them in Italian where we could find a good place to eat. They saluted and tried to help us in French. Then they saluted as we left. We wandered around looking in ristorantes and shops. Finally we came back to a bar ristorante where we could sit at the counter and see what the food looked like. It was delicious. Then I wandered into a book shop—my downfall. I found an interesting language book with a few rudiments of the 25 languages of Europe.

We dashed back to the bus and thought we would be late, but everyone else was later. Whew! Finally the bus pulled up in front of a student hostel. That was what the sign said and believe me there were lots of students around our bus when we stopped—all of the male sex. It took quite some time to find a bed for everyone.

Then we began our Italian language and culture lesson for the evening by speaking with the students in the hostel. Most of the students spoke French and Italian and I felt like an illiterate. Other students spoke Deutch, Spanish and so on. But there was only one boy from Holland who spoke English well. My part of the conversation became a mixture of English, Spanish, German, Italian and French all in one sentence.

Our rooms were on the top floor of a six story building with no elevator. I stayed in room 550. We discovered hard beds, warm rooms, and cold water. Andre and the rest of the crew had to go to another hostel. There were only about 12 of us staying here. We went back down the umpteen flights of stairs to wait for our bags to come. There was a delay because Andre rebelled and got something to eat. Since the day before he had had nothing to eat except for two pieces of bread and wine.

We were surrounded by men of all nationalities, but most were Italian. We had plenty of time to try out our meager store of languages on them. It was a good lesson for all of us. Finally, we went inside to sit down in the terrace off the dining room. I ran back to our room to get the new 25 language book. So guess what just happened? When I returned the fellows came up the stairs carrying our bags. I wouldn’t let them go past the door of the courtyard. Which meant that we carried the luggage up the last five flights of stairs.

It was too hot to stay in the room, so I went back down to go walking with Valentino, an Italian hostel worker. Valentino had finished training to become an architect. He plans to come to America in 1953 to see American architecture. He helped us get bread at the cafeteria and then we went around the corner to the sidewalk café to get orangeade.

A small tornado came up that blew dust all over us. Everyone was rushing inside the hostel just as the lights went out. We all calmed down and went on a tour of the university with flashing lightning on all sides of us. I had another orangeade by a dancing place and resisted the temptation to go dancing. The entire family of the fellow Alicia was talking with was killed by Americans during the war. He lost faith in everything except himself.

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.