The IPC Choir and followers embarked on their trip to Italy on Sunday, June 24, 2007, flying from Atlanta to Florence, via Paris. We arrived in Florence late Monday afternoon and had a wonderful group dinner Monday evening at a café near our hotel. Altogether there were 54 people on the tour – 27 choir members and 27 “groupies.”
Waking somewhat refreshed Tuesday, we set off on a guided walking tour of Florence. Highlights included the Duomo, and Piazza della Signoria. After lunch we set out for Pisa. Driving through the countryside, we saw our first glimpses of olive trees, cypress trees, and vineyards. What a breath-taking sight to walk through the arches of the “Field of Miracles” and see the beautiful Cathedral and Leaning Tower.
Wednesday morning there was a lecture at the School of Music in Florence on the history of Italian music, followed by free time before the evening’s performance at the Chiesa San Felice a Ema. San Felice is a beautiful little parish church in the outskirts of Florence. The appreciative audience heard the same music that the choir performed at their June 10 concert at IPC.
We left Florence on Thursday morning, with a stop at the Piazza Michelangelo for one final glimpse of the city. As we headed away, we were met by the priest from San Felice, who once again thanked the choir for their beautiful music and offered a blessing for a safe journey. Enroute to Siena, we stopped at the Florence American Cemetery. More than 4,000 American soldiers who fought for the liberation of Italy during World War II are buried there. Joe Chesnut, a member of the choir, has done extensive research on World War II and he led us as we found the graves of Alabama soldiers. Joe placed small American flags throughout the cemetery as part of our visit.
Siena is a beautiful little medieval town where we walked through the narrow streets marveling at the exquisite architecture of the Duomo, towering above the red tile rooftops. The choir performed an impromptu concert in this massive structure before continuing on our tour. We spent the night there before continuing our journey to Assisi.
Friday morning the choir sang for an 11:00 a.m. Mass at St. Francis Basilica in Assisi. While the Mass was spoken in Italian, the music from the choir made us feel right at home. Once again, the priest thanked the choir for such a beautiful addition to the service. After lunch we had a guided tour of the city, leaving for Rome in the late afternoon. This time the bus ride brought us glimpses of medieval hilltop towns, surrounded by fields of sunflowers.
The wakeup call in Rome on Saturday morning was all too early after our late arrival in Rome the preceding evening. Even though we had advance tickets for the Sistene Chapel and Vatican Museum, we still had to queue for an hour waiting to enter. The line was well worth the wait, as each museum gallery was more exquisite than the last as we were shepherded through the galleries and into the Sistene Chapel for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. As we entered St. Peter’s Basilica, it was hard to believe that the choir would be singing there the next afternoon! Saturday afternoon we continued our guided tour through the Colosseum and on to the Trevi Fountain.
Some of us chose to continue touring on Sunday morning, following our guide to the Spanish Steps, Pantheon, and Piazza Navona, before returning to the hotel for our 3:30 departure to St. Peter’s for the choir’s 5:30 singing of the Mass. The Mass was held at the main altar of the Basilica, with the choir singing from a gallery to the left of the altar. The choir once again provided beautiful music for such awe-inspiring service. After the Mass we left for our farewell dinner at a delightful restaurant, tucked away in an alley in the Travestere section of Rome. We ate a delicious multi-course meal, and were entertained by an Italian wedding party and instrumentalists from another restaurant across the cobblestone alley.
We left Italy all too soon on July 2, grateful to have had the opportunity to visit and to follow the choir singing in so many wonderful places. I speak for the choir when I thank you, the members and friends of our congregation, who made this trip possible. Your continued support of the fruit sales, golf tournaments, note card sales, and other fund-raising activities made this dream a reality and we will always cherish the memories of our singing tour of Italy.
Administrative Assistant, Music and Fine Arts