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Moon of Honey—Florence

Florence, once considered the most important city in Europe, had its fling with fame—from 1865 to 1870, for one brief (shining) moment, it replaced Turin as the capital of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy. Alas, it was replaced six years later by Rome, even though the Florentines had taken pains to modernize the city by tearing down medieval houses and replacing old markets.

Don’t worry Florence, Mario still thinks you’re the prettiest. Of the three cities we visited on our honeymoon, the one that most impressed Mario was Florence, with il Duomo, broad avenues that encircle the old city, and plethora of Renaissance art. (It’s known as la culla del Rinascimento, or the “cradle of the Renaissance,” after all.) This explains why we have a separate folder for all the pictures of il Duomo, too.

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Florence is the city for Renaissance art. Here you’ll find Michelangelo’s David, the Uffizi Gallery, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), the Pitti Palace, and much more. Some notable residents include Dante Alighieri, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Niccolò Machiavelli, the Medici Family, Galileo, Amerigo Vespucci, and Florence Nightingale.

We took full advantage, of course.

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Il Duomo

Il Duomo, or the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, is Florence’s main church. Its exterior is marble—shades of pink, green, and white, to be precise. During a certain part of Italy’s history, the churches were made up of three separate buildings: the baptistery, the belfry, and the church itself. We climbed up to the top of the cathedral’s dome.

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Don’t you wish this were you?

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We also visited theBasilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross), where some of Florence’s most famous citizens are buried, people like Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Galileo.

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Unfortunately, it was under construction, as happens a lot in Europe

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We enjoyed the courtyard

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Dante’s tomb

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Galileo’s tomb

The Ponte Vecchio, or “Old Bridge,” was and is a site of commerce, of jewelers. In the 16th century, Ferdinando I de’ Medici ordered that the jewelry shops replace the butchers, whose shops didn’t exactly smell like roses and who sometimes tossed their unsold goods into the Arno River below. It is also the only surviving bridge from the German retreat in 1944.

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Another beautiful site, that perhaps many do not know about, is San Miniato al Monte (St. Minias on the Mountain), a church located at one of Florence’s highest points. It has great views as well.

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You can see the church just barely; it’s the white building blocked by the rather wispy tree

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We stayed a while and watched the sun set.

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It was a perfect ending to our stint in Florence. The next day we began our journeys around Tuscany and Liguria!

Stay tuned for more …

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Moon of Honey (Luna de Miel)—Venice

In Spanish, honeymoon is luna de miel; literally “moon of honey.” If you’re my husband (ohhh, doesn’t that sound weird and oh so nice at the same time!), a moon made of honey would be welcome. Mario and Winnie the Pooh love honey about the same amount. If you are what you eat, Mario would be bread, olive oil, and honey. Probably in that order. (I would be tomatoes. Boring.)

Thank you for letting me completely off track. We spent our honeymoon in Italy. Italy! To Spaniards, Italy is a short plane ride away; to me, Italy is a dream honeymoon. I imagined Venice, its canals snaking quietly through the city, Florence with its marble-covered cathedral and Renaissance art invading every church, Rome with its quiet ruins … we got all that. I forgot to imagine the heat.

We arrived in Venice at 10 p.m. and stepped out of the airport in search of a bus. I had forgotten how humidity envelops you, invades your lungs and your pores, causes the air itself to feel heavy and dense. We nearly gasped. Oh yes, the heat was already upon us. Sweat, we would.IMG_1390

Luckily, our hotel, located right on the Grand Canal, had air conditioning. Sweet, sweet, environment-destroying air conditioning. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

We set off to explore the city immediately after breakfast, winding our way down alleys and stopping at numerous dead ends, consulting the map every two minutes. Venice was a maze, but we were determined to conquer it.

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We found our way to Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Square, where the Basilica of San Marco overlooks one of the most beautiful piazzas of Europe, the heart of Venice. To the right of the Basilica is the sea, the bay of San Marco, which was the way the people arrived—by boat. Also in this square is the Doge’s Palace (try not to read that as the dog’s palace). The Doges were the rulers of Venice for over a thousand years.

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There are more pictures of me because Mario is very camera happy

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If you lived in Ancient Venice, you had to be wary of your neighbors. Around the palace we saw these mail slots, which were for nontie serete (secret denouncements), if you wished to snitch on your neighbor for their wrongdoings. And there were no appeals for death sentences. Good luck!

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Afterwards, we wandered around a bit more and tried not to get lost

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Mario’s new boat

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Venice in the afternoon

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Everybody was hot that day

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Next we splurged on a gondola ride. Sure, they’re totally a tourist trap, and they definitely overcharge. But still, you’re only in Venice on your honeymoon once, so live it up. Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, this was a major form of transportation, and there were upwards of eight to ten thousand gondolas in that time period, whereas today there are only about four hundred, mainly used by tourists.

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Our gondolier talked to Mario about Italy’s defeat in the Eurocup and then took a few phone calls

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We came back to a big leak in our room, so we headed downstairs to reception to ask for help. They changed our room … to a suite overlooking the Grand Canal, which normally costs approximately a gazillion dollars per night. Score! They told us we would have to change the next day, but in the end we got this amazing room for two whole nights. Needless to say, we didn’t complain.

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We also couldn’t complain about our breakfast setting. The breakfast itself was superb, with everything from tomato juice to yogurt with toppings to scrambled eggs to meats and cheeses. And, of course, lots of cappucino.

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Back in Piazza de San Marco

We spent a lot of time in Venice exploring. Besides the Piazza de San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, there’s not a whole lot of “sights” to see, but there are a lot of places to be explored. Including a very interesting bookshop that I thoroughly enjoyed. But don’t ask me how to get there.

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Venice is not made for the busy tourist. Instead, it’s for the tourist with time and patience, the one who wishes to be and not do. It’s hard to accept for some, but once you do, Venice grabs hold of you and stays with you.

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Photo by Mario

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Photo by Mario

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Photo by Mario

So Here’s the Deal

So here’s the deal, you guys … in two days, I’m off to Spain. I know, right? What/why? it’s so confusing. It might have something to do with this guy.

He’s pretty awesome! He was hired by a sah-weet law firm, and so we’re moving to Madrid. We won’t eat hot dogs, but we will eat lots of salchichón, That’s a fact.

Right now, these are my emotions:

  • Excited
  • Nervous
  • Scared
  • Crazy

Is “crazy” an emotion? I feel it 24/7. I’m so excited to return to Spain, to marry him, to move with him to a new city (Madrid). I’m nervous to leave behind everything I know. I’m scared to spend 2+ years in Spain. I’m crazy about him. Anything else? I feel it all, la verdad.

Please let me know I’m not alone. What have you done in the name of love? How has it paid off?

I’m the Foreigner, or Is He?

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been away from Mario this year. [Sadface] I came back from Spain in June and haven’t returned since (although I’m going back in May!). He did come to visit for one glorious month, one full of tailgating, barbecues, football, and eating in general. We ran countless miles with my dog Molly, cooked dinner together regularly, and learned yet again how precious time is. Especially time together.

It’s easy to forget about time, its omnipresence. Time flies, time doesn’t stop, time drags … cliché phrases that convey cliché ideas. Nonetheless, this year I’ve learned to cherish it. How? By dating Mario, by being away from Mario. It’s not that taught me this because he really gets it (although he does) but that we’ve had very little time to spend together. We’ve had even less time without a date looming over heads, a date that tells us this is gonna end, now be sad. He’s good about living in the moment, not worrying, and trying to get me to do the same. But I’m not the type of person to just let worryable things pass by without, you know, worryingabout them. Give me something to worry about—I’m the world’s most consistent worrier.

So when Mario came to Indiana in late October, I couldn’t help but keep thinking about November 29, the day we’d drive him to O’Hare airport, the day I’d inevitably end up in tears, the day I’d watch him walk past security, a wry smile on his face as he struggled to be the strong one. (He always is. Last June, I saw him almost tear up, and—believe me—I never want to see that again. I’m the crier in this relationship, damn it!) He would try again and again to tell me to forget about it, to live in the moment, to just be. I did my best, and I deem this time more successful than the last. Hey, at least I’m improving.

 

Every moment of that month seemed significant: chopping vegetables at my kitchen counter, coming home to see him dressed in my brother’s sweatpants and sweatshirt (he was deprived of his Spanish house clothes), laughing as we drank wine at the dinner table, snuggling up next to him on the couch after a long day.

There are moments you’ll remember all your life: the day you graduate from high school, your first night in a college dorm room, the day you say yesto the love of your life, the day you stand together at an altar and pledge to live this life together, the day your first child (and second and third) is born, the day someone close to you passes away … these days you’ll not easily forget.

But I maintain that being with Mario has taught me to make “mental photographs” of the everyday, the mundane, because it? It matters too. In the end, it might matter most of all.

So here’s to Mario, here’s to being in a sometimes-incredibly-difficult relationship with a man born thousands of miles away from me, here’s to appreciating what life’s given us, here’s to the future we’re building together. Here’s to you doing the same, no matter if you have a significant other or not.

Kaley Mario Camping

Cherishing the moment.