Italy breaks wow meter 

Ranger Rich

ROME — Much has been written and even more spoken — perhaps hundreds of millions of words — about the experience of Italy and its staggering displays of art. But perhaps none have been more eloquent and to the point than those spoken by my very own wife, a humble scholar of art and a former member of the board of directors of our village's own Fine Arts Center, after several days of breathtaking museum tours that included the Vatican's stunning collection of sculpture.

Here now, her words: "We've sure seen a lot of weenies."

And oh sure, you could make the same observation after watching a decade of Colorado Springs City Council meetings. But my wife was referring literally to the male organ, or to use the more formal scientific and anatomical terms, the "thingy" or "Johnson" that adorns many of the most famous works of art.

The great "David," for example, stands proudly in the center of the Accademia, the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Michelangelo's most famous sculpture seemingly proud of his nakedness, left hand on his shoulder, right hand low on his thigh, his, uh, thingy resting, and I do mean resting, quietly for everyone to see, which we did. It was, I allowed myself to imagine, what devout evangelical Christian preacher Ted Haggard must have looked like just before he accidentally hoisted himself onto that gay-massage table in Denver. Except, you know, for the part about his thingy "resting."

We are, as I write this, seven days into a trip across the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, stopping to see history's most famous and amazing art works when we are not eating or drinking wine, which takes up no more than 80 percent of our time unless the wine is really good and the food includes cheese or chocolate or pastry, and then eating/drinking fills 97 percent of our time. This includes the evenings, when we stay awake mapping out the next day's restaurants and wineries. (In a few weeks I will resume a normal day/night pattern and will sleep just like most Colorado Springs residents — when I am driving.)

Speaking of Chianti the wine, we went the other day to Chianti the place, a region in the hills above Tuscany. It was magical: the vineyards, the small outdoor restaurants surrounded by fat purple grapes and a dazzling autumn sun, and cheese and pasta and rabbit meat and wild boar and pasta sauce, all washed down with bottle after bottle of fabulous local Chianti wine until Massimo, our Italian guide, loaded both of us back into his van. (That was just a joke, of course. He only had to load Susie into the van. He strapped me onto the luggage rack on the roof, where I continued singing "Volare" until I passed out.)

We have also been to the port city of Livorno, just south of Pisa, where my great-great grandfather Andrucini Tosches worked as the soils tester for the famous tower. Then it was on to Florence, the jewel of the Renaissance, which means, literally, "chiseling weenies in marble." The city of "Firenze" was beyond our imagination. In addition to David's weenie we saw the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and its massive cathedral dome or "duomo" that was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, whose other great creation was the spaghetti-eating method involving holding a spoon in one hand while twirling a fork in the other.

Another museum in Florence, the Uffizi, is home to Leonardo da Vinci's Annunciation and the Baptism of Christ, which I would make jokes about but frankly I do not wish to be struck in the head by a bolt of lightning again. Oh, and there's a little place down the street called the Church of Santa Croce, built in the 14th century, that contains the bodies of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Rossini and even Galileo, the most famous astronomer in human history who looked up at the sky one night and said, "Lunare de la mozzarella," or "The moon, she is made of-a the cheese."

But nothing, not any of those things or even our travels south of Naples to the base of Mount Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompei, which combines the Italian words pom ("relax") and pei ("it's been doing that since Tues..."), made the wow meter ring like Rome and the Vatican.

At the heart of the holy city, St. Peter's Basilica seems to fool the brain with its vastness. It took 300 years to construct and decorate. By way of comparison, it took 200 years to build our village's own Focus on the Family complex, with a century of that devoted to construction of Focus' ornate and famous Room of Untruths. (Don't miss this month's exhibition: Gay People Make the Clouds Dark.)

And then, of course, attached to St. Peter's, is the Sistine Chapel, named for Pope Sixtus IV who added it to the holy complex in the late 1400s. Its soul is the Michelangelo-painted ceiling of masterpieces depicting the creation of the world and biblical heroes: Moses, the Apostles, John the Baptist and, of course, the Incredible Hulk.

Some 20 years after the ceiling was finished, Michelangelo was hired again to paint another work on the wall behind the altar. That stunning work, "The Last Judgment," shows angels escorting people upward and into heaven while Christ the Judge pushes others down into the fiery cave of hell.

A really tall woman from Romania was blocking my view a little, but up there on the ceiling, in that last group, one of the guys looked just like Doug Bruce.



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