[COLUMN] The glory of Italy and Greece’s ancient history

The author with wife, Myrna E. Nino in the heart of downtown Florence.
Photo by Denver E. Nino

Travelling to other countries like Italy and Greece is culturally and intellectually  very enriching and stimulating. It rekindled my interest and passion in history especially ancient history and antiquities of both countries. The first time I was in Italy was in 2009 but only visited Rome, San Marcello in the province of Ancona.

Our recent trip to these two great countries of Europe had broadened my knowledge of classical history. What we learned in school were limited or scant. Learning is more effective when  tour guides explained in more details our featured destination’s history replete with videos, real artifacts, statues and reinforced with Q&A.

My family journeyed to Italy with Florence as our base to primarily fulfill an obligation. Wifey Myrna was one of the ninangs or godmothers of the bride and groom while my only adult child Denver was one of the groomsmen for  this wedding destination. Tim Mamoyac, the groom and a relative, is an IT guy while his lovely bride, Cydney Purificacion is a physician. I considered this as luxurious wedding infused with a 30-minute fireworks after a lavish and overflow of cocktails with enormous cold cuts and other appetizers – amid a trio of Italian musicians with their acoustic guitars providing non-stop entertainment.

With the hors d’oeuvre alone, I felt I was already having gluttony – a full meal. Thereafter, a formal dining reception followed. The whole wedding entourage and guests who mostly came from the U.S. were having fellowship awaiting for the wedding cake to be served  when all of a sudden, fireworks erupted outside of the hall’s lush gardens. It was like the 4th of July on March 13 which coincidentally was also my birthday. I almost stole the thunder when a portion of the guests began singing the “happy birthday” song. I had to scuttle it for obvious reason.

After a quick layover in Zurich where its mountain ranges were still packed with snow, we arrived in Florence after an-hour flight at 6 p.m. on March 9. My first impression on our way to our hotel on Via Aprile were most of the streets are narrow and one-way. Our driver, reminded us that walking around downtown Florence is faster than taking a cab or uber.

The following day, we ventured out to downtown Firenzia, the Italian name of Florence, specifically to Piazza San Giovanni (St. John Square), and Piazza Signoria and Piazza Duomo (Cathedrale Square). This urban nucleus  is the civic, political and religious center of this historic Italian city.

My primary interest were the historic sights and icons and museums of Florence, considered the bastion of the Renaissance Period in Italy. This preeminent city whose history began in 59 B.C. under Caesar Augustus of the Roman Empire produced world renowned artists and personalities like Donatello (the father of Renaissance, bronze David, St. John the Baptist, etc.), Michelangelo (The marble statue of King David found at Galleria dell’ Accademia, frescoed painting at Sistine Chapel ceiling at the Vatican, etc.), merchant and explorer-navigator Amerigo Vespucci whose name the term America was derived from, master painter Raphael and architect (Madonna painting, frescoed Vatican Palace), the powerful and fabulously wealthy Medici family that produced two popes: Giovanni de Medici who became Pope Leo X and cousin Giulio de Medici who chose the name Clement VII. When Rome was sacked in 1527, the Medici family lost power.

We also explored the original Gucci Store show window in Florence. When my son inquired how much does one shoulder party bag cost, the well-dressed sales lady revealed, 49,000 euro. I stormed out and just bought three fine leather goods amounting to 150  euro (about USD 200)  at the open pavilion or flea stores which is still expensive by American standard. I found out later that my son Denver bought two Gucci party bags totaling 2,800 euro for his mom and cousin.

The one-lane in U.S. streets is equivalent to two lanes in Italy. I figured out,  Italy during those ancient years, transportation were by carriage or wagons pulled by horses. The narrow streets and alleys were safe despite the invisible cops.

In downtown Florence across Palazzo Vecchio, I even met here 29-year-old newcomer Philippine actor and model, Gabriel Paolo whose last name in real life is Lagman who mentioned that he starred in the     TV series “Halik”. It took him two hours on board a train from Rome to Florence.

Florence derived its name from the Latin word “florentia”, which means flora and  flower that began when Caesar Augustus founded this colony. During the first century A.D., Florence encountered all problems related to the propagation of Christianity replacing its pagan or mythological god, Mars to St. John the Baptist in the second half of the third century. Its first Christian martyr was Saint Miniano.

Located in the Tuscany region known as Italic settlement, it became a Roman town then became Florentia, a city-state during the Roman empire  and under the Barbarian rule. Slowly, the growth of Florence in the 10th or 11th centuries dubbed as “general awakening” by the Italian people became autonomous around 1115.

Then the Renaissance period of cultural, political, economic and artistic rebirth of Europe emerged from 14th century to the 17th centuries. The renaissance began in Italy with the powerful Medici family very supportive of the Renaissance artists.

There were conflicts between papacy and the imperial troops, the aristocratic faction versus popular faction. Florence was also governed by internecine fighting among the feudal lords, nobles and the richest merchants and between Cardinal Albornoz against Pope Gregory XI  known as Eight Saints War (1375-1378).

Italy was ruled by Byzantines,  the French the Hapsburg-Lorraine family of Austria up to 1860; the Byzantines, the Lombards, a Germanic Tribe and the Savoy Royal Family Dynasty from 1861 to 1946.

Next stop, we’ll explore other great destinations of Pisa, Venice and Athens.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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