End of the Day

Unabashedly missing the 'Must Must See'

The Sienese cathedral from a distance. Photo: Sowmiya Ashok  

On two consecutive days on our trip to Italy last month, my parents and I unabashedly, missed the historic sites that were clearly listed under the 'Must See' sections of our guidebook. The continuous nature of these misses strangely intrigued me while my parents dealt with it in a matter-of-fact manner.

It was on a bright morning in Siena when we first caught sight of a beautiful cathedral in the distance and began instantly photographing it from various angles. I own a Nikon D70 with a 50 mm lens which does wonders only when the subject matter is up close and personal. Naturally, shooting a distant cathedral was proving to be a tough task.

So while my step-father and I stood training our lens towards the distant cathedral, my mother who has no interest in photography whatsoever put her Master's in English Literature acquired from Presidency College, Madras to good use and loudly quoted Shakespeare.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to mark out the route we were about to take on the newly acquired street map we purchased from an Italian man who claimed to know "little English", we allowed the wind to carry it away. So grumpiness overtook the step-father who spent his time retrieving it from the clutches of an unused balcony in what looked like a large fortress.

But I digressed. We caught sight of that beautiful cathedral several times after. Once, near the church dedicated to Saint Catherine where the woman with a crisp voice living in an old-school audio guide that swallowed my 1 Euro told me that it held the Saint's head, her finger and the chain she used to flagellate herself.

We caught sight of that cathedral once again as we trekked across town. Me in my delicate sandals which generously ate into my feet and my mother in her slippers that may have been one size too small. Then, as the clock marched towards lunchtime, these travel weary tourists took an innocent lunch break... *with some wine*.

Hours later, convinced we had seen all of Siena, we sat on a park bench under a fine canopy. I spent the time teaching one parent how to Instagram while the other snoozed in the shade. With a fair number of hours till 18:29 when our bus took us back to the villa we had rented for the week, we found new ways to kill time: slow-motion shopping for cheese, wine, bread, and wax strips and my mother must have looked at linen pants for hours.

Thirty minutes to departure, I pulled out the children's book I had bought my niece hoping that the little wizard that lives amongst its pages will provide a lovely recap of a satisfying day I had just had. The wizard instead threw up shockers about the lovely paintings inside the beautiful cathedral and the Zebra-stripped tower that stands next to it.

So when my parents came back with their hands filled with Ciabattas and paninis they found me rather distraught and perhaps, panic-stricken."WE MISSED THE HOLY PLACE DEDICATED TO SANTA MARIA ASSUNTA aka beautiful cathedral WHICH WE HAVE BEEN PHOTOGRAPHING ALL DAY!," I yelled. They laughed heartily, mumbled that they had had a good time nevertheless and assured me that someday I will have enough money to visit the same place twice in one lifetime.

The trio left for Florence the next day, only the birthplace of the Renaissance, no biggie! I was determined not to make the same mistake twice and led the pack to the famous, Duomo, which is really the Must MUST see around here. I was also a little scared of my sister who after hearing the previous day's debacle had marked the relevant pages on the guidebook and had explicitly stated that we would be denied dinner if we returned without seeing the cathedral.

A couple of hours later we were headed to the National Museum of Bargello which had some Must See Michelangelo, focusing particularly on four masterpieces between 1475 to 1564: Bacchus, the relief representing a Madonna with Child, Brutus and David-Apollo.

Our holy Italian guidebook was sadly left behind in the cloak room which left us finding the great Mr. M on our own. First, the mother asked me to walk up to an Italian man and say "Michelangelo?" The man, grunted, and pointed down. Second, she went off in search of her husband who went off in search of Michelangelo and I too, of course, went off in search of Michelangelo.

Having run out of luck, the trio re-grouped under a naked statue and took a unanimous decision to break for lunch....*with some Italian beer*.

But here-in lay the problem: as we collected our bags, left the Museum, and turned the street corner there was a naked marble bottom staring at me in the face through the glass front. I was staring at Bacchus' bottom in MICHELANGELO'S ROOM.

A week later, I was back in Delhi regaling my flatmate with my travel exploits and he says: "I really hope you saw Michelangelo's David while you were in Florence?"

I crunch up my face in utter panic. "Hmm..." I mumble.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 8:27:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/blogs/blogs-end-of-the-day/article6225614.ece

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