Venice, Pisa and the benefits of guided lecture tours…

As I wrote earlier we were planning to travel to Pisa and see the basilica, the campanile (the Leaning Tower), the baptistry and the Campo Santo.  We did all of these things and more.  One reason I am learning so much this session is the way that the teachers have mapped out our travels.  Yes, it would be easy to take the train to Pisa, then a bus directly to the site, but instead we took the train to the station and then walked through Pisa.  On the way we looked at and analyzed the architecture of this old city, architecture that tourists rarely see or if they do have no knowledge that they are looking at, let us say, a 13th century palazzo or church.  We stopped at a fantastic cafe and had a snack before heading off into the blazing sun and the historical sites.

That was last week and as of an hour ago we have just returned from a three-day tour of Venice.  Amazing, really.  Bellini, Titian, Donatello, Piazza San Marco, San Giorgio di Maggiore, and on and on…What has impressed me the most in the wider scope of this experience is the understanding that between the 13th and 19th centuries (we concern ourselves with just the 13th, 14th and 15th) those we now consider ‘artists’ did not think of themselves as that at all. They were craftsmen, constructionists, designers and builders.  ‘Skilled labor’ is a better definition.  They did no work of their own and did not express themselves in the selfish fashion that many so-called ‘artists’ do today, myself included, by the way.  It was all under contract and they were all competing in a business.    This is a mind-altering thought for me and what its ramifications are I do not know yet.

As to the benefits of guided tours by knowledgable and interested guides and mentors…Most, if not all the tours one sees in these towns and cities are not run or organized by people that really care.  they are only in it for the money and ramble off spurious facts dragging their charges through crowds and making sure they all get a gelato break.  Our guide, Jeffrey Carson, is knowledgable and fun, gearing his lectures for his group of 20 or so students.   His facts are accurate and reasoned and he tells us important aspects, allowing us all to come to our own conclusions through research and enquiry.  I could easily look at al of these things myself, but the confusion has been cut away like so much brush and bramble, revealing the heart of the matter.

How lucky and I to be living this life!



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