In 1632, some 380 years ago this month, Galileo Galilei was ordered to Rome to stand trial for holding the then heretical idea that the sun was the center of the universe. We now know that his theory was but a step on the way to understanding the greater size of the whole shebang. What rang a bell when I read again about the association of the date was our visit to the Santa Croce in Florence, where Galileo is entombed.
Before we traveled to Italy with our daughter-in-law we asked for trip suggestions from her colleague Liliana who later took us on the wonderful gustatory tour in Liguria. Liliana suggested that in Florence we pass up the Duomo and head for the Basilica de Santa Croce. I’m so very glad that we took her advice.
Though I’ve never been inside Westminster I know of the many, many royals and other notables buried there. The names Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare do, after all, strike a familiar note. Still, to me the Santa Croce isn’t just another of the world’s big churches. Never in my whole life have I been so awed as I was there. It’s not that I didn’t believe that these men really lived, but whew, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo! Most awe-inspiring was the tomb of Michelangelo. I can’t explain why, but I just stood and stared at it for quite some time, having a surprising sense of being in the presence of greatness. That sense of something special, all in my head and imagination as it may have been, has stayed with me. I hear or see a reference to Florence or the Santa Croce and the feeling is there again. Even a reference to the Duomo elicits a fleeting thought of “boy I’m so glad we didn’t go there.”
So my advice to you, should you be going to Italy and have, as we did, just a brief time in Florence, do take yourself to the Basilica de Santa Croce – and then have a great Margherita pizza in one of the outdoor cafes on the Piazza della Signoria.