During a trip like this, you know that every single moment is important. Getting to know each other, these cities, the history – it’s all meaningful. However, when it’s 80° outside, you’ve been walking around looking at a map for hours, and just a little tired, unfortunately that can be easy to forget (even though those certainly don’t make good excuses).
Florence is a beautiful city full of hidden gems and most of the time I am so enraptured by everything that it has to offer, but occasionally that slips. In my small group here in Florence, we accidentally let our focus slip a little. We had spent the morning in the Uffizi, then walked toward the train station to buy train tickets for Venice, and found lunch along the way. We then traversed back across the whole city to go to Santa Croce Cathedral. We still had a ton of stuff to do on our schedule for the day that was quickly passing. The day before we had seen the Duomo and the Santa Maria Novella Cathedrals so our group decided to “split up and meet at the exit in 15 minutes.” We knew we might not give this cathedral everything we had, but we figured it would be ok, there was still a lot of Florence left to see.
As we walked in, three of us went to the right, and the other one continued straight. We took in the art, the ceiling, all of the magnificent detail, and some of the tombs when we found ourselves halfway through the cathedral, 10 minutes in. About to quickly move through the rest, see the altar, and get to the exit, we look up to see one of our other groups standing in a huddle with Dr. Pitcock. We stop to say hi and chat. Dr. P pointed behind us to where we came from and asked us how we liked Galileo Galilee’s tomb. What?! We had no idea what he was talking about. He saw the incredulity on our faces and pointed directly in front of us. “And that’s where Michelangelo’s body is.” Again, what?!
We had been seconds away from walking right out of this cathedral without having had known even in the slightest what was really important to know there. As we continued, this time a little slower and more carefully, forgetting our 15 minute meeting time, we also found the tomb of Machiavelli. Three incredibly important men in history, especially in Florence, and all four of us almost missed out. When you take even the smallest second to look at these tombs again, it is obvious who is there. Above Galileo, included in the tomb design, is a telescope. Above Michelangelo is a magnificent painting. It was not hard to notice, but it did take time, time we hadn’t given this Cathedral.
I learned an important lesson in Santa Croce. None of this history will be meaningful if we don’t take a second to really take it in. Walking through and snapping a few pictures does none of this city, our country for that matter, justice. Each and every place that we are sent serves a purpose, and just because we don’t realize it right away doesn’t mean that we can ignore it. On this trip, it is our duty to dig down and really discover what these places have to offer. Team Dante forgot that for a few minutes, and we really could have missed out because of it. Luckily, team Michelangelo got our heads screwed back on straight, and we won’t be making that mistake again any time soon!