David Maraist’s Journal: Spring Break 1961 Tour of Italy


David Maraist’s Journal

By David Maraist

Postscript 2013: Gazing back over the past half century one sees many peaks and valleys in a lifetime. Spring Break of 1961 is definitely one of the highest peaks on my horizon. The time in Italy was fabulous. Life was really good. We had terrific weather, great Italian food, companionship and conversation. We saw the major works of the Renaissance first hand and strolled through incredible ruins of the Roman Empire. We were so young and so carefree. It is hard not to wax nostalgic in thinking about that springtime of our lives. Simon and Garfunkel would express this sentiment precisely on one of their albums.

Time, it was
Oh, what a time it was
It was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences
Long ago,
It must be
Long ago
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you.

Click on photos for a larger view.


VERONA: Sat March 25, Hotel Academia, Room 104, 11:20 pm

We departed Vienna from the Institute of European Studies office at Neuer Markt at 6 am. The much anticipated Italian trip had begun. Altogether, we were about 250 students divided into 5 buses labeled A thru D. Our minds had been crammed with Italian art history for the past several weeks and we were about to see the real thing. The weather was very good and the scenery magnificent, especially the Alps in northern Italy.

We crossed the border from Austria to Italy at Villach, an old Roman town. It was a very long bus ride, but everyone was enthusiastic and we whiled away the time singing, playing word games and eating oranges. We arrived at Verona at 9 pm. The boys unloaded the buses and we turned in after a snack. Phil Arnold and I are sharing a room. The hotel is very modern, bath and all. It’s the best one of the entire trip, New York included.

Verona, March 26, 1961
Verona, Palm Sunday, March 26, 1961

VERONA: Palm Sunday, March 26, midnight

The morning was free, so Phil and I walked all over town–the Arena, Piazza Erbe, Basilica of St. Anastasia and Ponte Pietra. We saw the famous Juliet house and balcony and crossed Ponte Nuovo. Our tour began at 3 and we went to the Basilica of S Zeno and the Roman theater. There was a procession from S Anastasia to the cathedral for Palm Sunday. After supper walked to the other hotel and met others for more walking, sat in the park, went to a sidewalk café near the market. We had a drink and listened to the juke box. They sell these delicious dough puffs in the market for only 20 lire (3 cents). Everything here is typically Italian and looks like a stage prop for an Italian opera. The hotel service and meals have been excellent. Thus far, I’m very impressed with Italy.

IES Wien students at Roman Theatre, Verona, March 26, 1961
IES Wien students at Roman Theatre, Verona, Palm Sunday afternoon, March 26, 1961

FLORENCE: Mon March 27, Hotel Corona d’Italia, Room 2, 11:30 pm

We left after breakfast about 9 and arrived in Mantua shortly after. Saw S Andreas cathedral (Alberti) and S Filippos. We departed for Bologna at 11 and arrived at 1 via a four-lane superhighway. We left at 2:45 and arrived in Florence about 5. I’m in a triple with Tom Wolfe and Bob Earle. After supper we walked to the other hotel (Castro) and from there walked all over Florence–S Lorenzo, the Duomo, Palazzo Riccardi and Ponte Vecchio. The streets were lighted by torches because of the holiday. Had hot chocolate and tea on the Piazza della Signoria. Coming back we passed by the P della Republica, Pallazzo Strozzi, S Gaetano and S Maria Novello.

Philip Arnold and David Maraist, Florence

FLORENCE: Tues March 28, 1:20 am

This morning went on a tour of the Uffizi Gallery and had a city tour after lunch. Saw the Medici Chapel, Duomo, Baptistery, Piazza Michaelangelo, S Miniato al Monte and Santa Croce where Michelangelo, Galileo and others are buried. Returned to the hotel and had a bath for 300 lire. After supper, we took the city bus out to Fiesole (a small hilltop suburb at end of bus line) for a beautiful view of Florence by nite. Went to a bar for chocolate and cake and dancing. (Oddly, I remember there was only one American song on the juke box which we played over and over, an instrumental called Apache which can still be found on iTunes) We caught the last bus back into Florence at 11. Then, we found a pizza place and had a few beers. Some Italian students came over and began a conversation. We talked till closing time. Weather was beautiful today.

FLORENCE: Wed March 29, 10 pm

The morning was free so did more walking. Saw S Maria del Carmine with frescoes by Massaccio and S Spirito. Then we climbed the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio for a beautiful view of the city. After lunch we left for Pisa at 2 and enjoyed the excursion thoroughly. We climbed the leaning tower and could see the Mediterranean off in the distance. Then more walking around Pisa. We returned to Florence and were all very tired from the day. After supper several of us went out for pizza and beer. Then I turned in. Beautiful weather again today!

Pisa, March 29, 1961
Pisa, March 29, 1961

FLORENCE: Thurs March 30, 12:20 am

Morning was free so we went to the outdoor market and shopped around all morning. After lunch we went to the Pitti Palace and gardens. Then, to the Natl Museum and saw Mich’s Brutus and Donatello’s Mercury. From there to the Orsanmichelle, S Maria Novello and S Lorenzo. After dinner we walked along the Arno River and back to the P. Vecchio. Turned in at midnite.

Outdoor market, Florence, March 30,1961
Outdoor market, Florence, March 30,1961

ROME: Fri March 31, Hotel Lux, Room 403

We departed Florence for Rome after breakfast. Stopped at a medieval walled town, San Gimignano. Had lunch at Siena and visited the striped cathedral. Left for Rome at 2:30 and were separated from buses A and B. We arrived at the Hotel Lux shortly after 8 pm. Phil Arnold and I share a room and everyone has a bath. Went out for supper and then walked to the Coliseum. It was beautifully lit up with golden lights and was as impressive a sight as we had anticipated.

San Gimignano, March 30,1961
San Gimignano, March 30,1961
San Gimignano, March 30, 1961, with one of our IES tour buses in background
San Gimignano, March 30, 1961, with one of our IES tour buses in background

ROME: Sat April 1

The tour began at 9:30 and we went to S Mary Major, S John in the Lateran, the Capitol and S Peters. The afternoon was free so I planned a trip for tomorrow with Phil Arnold and Dan Hess. Instead of Easter in the mob at S Peters, we decided to take a train to Naples so we could see the Isle of Capri and Pompeii. Took a train arriving in Naples about 10:30 pm and found a cheap room (Room 37 Albergo Nuovo Rebecchine). Didn’t sleep well as room was cold.

St. Peters Cathedral, Rome, Easter Sunday, April 1, 1961
St. Peters Cathedral, Rome, Easter Sunday, April 2, 1961

NAPLES: Easter Sunday, April 2

The desk woke us at 5:30 and we caught a city bus for the port where we took the 8:30 hydrofoil for Capri which was fabulous. We took a smaller boat for the Blue Grotto excusion, then a cable car to the village of Capri atop the hill. Returned to Naples by the 11:40 hydrofoil. We found the train station and took a 2 pm train for Pompeii and we could see Mt Vesuvius in the distance. When we arrived at Pompeii, the grounds had already closed for the holiday. At this point we were not to be deterred by a locked gate. We decided to sneak in by walking around the perimeter until we found an inconspicuous spot. We poked around the ancient village for a couple of hours until we were chased out by guards. After this, we had supper in Pompeii and started back to Rome by train arriving back at the Lux at 12:30 am. Again, beautiful weather all day.

David Maraist and Dan Hess on the island of Capri
David Maraist and Dan Hess at Pompeii

ROME: Mon April 3, 12:30 am

We were awakened by the desk at 8 for breakfast and a city tour. Went to S Peters and saw Mich’s Pieta and the sarcophagus of Pius XII. Took elevator to roof and then climbed to the top of the dome. Beautiful view! After lunch, another tour to the Coliseum, Baths of Caracalla, Temple of Vesta, Theater of Marcellus, Fountain of the Tortoises and the Roman Forum. After supper, went to the other hotel (Minerva) and met friends to go on a tour of Rome by night which was very enjoyable. Saw the Spanish Steps, threw three coins in the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Caligula’s house. All of the fountains and landmarks were lilghted up. It was a very pleasant evening.

Roman  Forum, April 1, 1961
Roman Forum, April 1, 1961

ROME: Tues April 4, midnight

Went to the Vatican Museum and saw all the art, painting, sculpture and the Sistine Chapel. After lunch we went to Castel San Angelo, Piazza Navona, Churches of S Agnes and S Ivo. Then, the Piazza d’Espagna with the Spanish Steps and then the Pincio Gardens. After supper, met others at the Hotel Minerva and walked all over town–Castel S Angelo, along the Tiber River, back to Victor Emmanuel’s Monument, Trajan’s column and halfway back to the Coliseum. Had a very nice time!

ROME: Wed April 5, 2:4 0am

After breakfast went to the general audience with the Pope. My seat wasn’t very good, but I got a few good glimpses of him. After this, took bus 64 up to Victor Emmanuel’s Monument and climbed up and then went to the Pantheon. After lunch at the hotel we went on a tour of the catacombs and Appian Way. After supper, went to Jerry’s American Bar on the Via Veneto with other IES kids. Then, we went to Pipistrello’s, a very nice dance club. The band was really good. We left about 1 am, but it was 2:30 by the time we got back to the hotel due to slow bus service. Beautiful weather again today!

RAVENNA: Thurs April 6, Hotel Centrale-Byron, Room 12, 9:30 pm

The desk woke us at 5 am! After a quick breakfast we bid farewell to Rome. We drove through the Olympic village on the way out of town. Last night, a girl from the group had her purse stolen with her passport, cash, trav checks and jewelry. We reached Assisi at about 11 am. Had a tour of the church and cloister by a witty Franciscan. Saw the tomb of S Francis, Our Lady of the Sunset by Lorenzetti, the Flight into Egypt, Nativity, etc., by Giotto and also the life of S Francis in the upper chapel (sermon to the birds) by Giotto. (I think many of these artworks were destroyed by the earthquake several years ago). Had lunch at a small restaurant and left about 1 pm. We had a rest stop on the shore of the Adriatic about 4:30 just south of Pesaro. We arrived here in Ravenna about 7. This hotel is the poorest one of the tour so far. Everyone was tired from the frantic pace of the last few days so we turned in early.

Assisi, April 6,  1961
St. Francis’ Church, Assisi, April 6, 1961

VENICE: Fri April 7, Hotel de la Ville E Austria, Room 102

Woke up at 8 after 10 hours of much needed sleep. After breakfast, we went on tour. First it was S Appolinare in Classe, then S Appolinare Nuovo. As advertised, there were beautiful mosaics everywhere in these churches. We left Ravenna after lunch and had a stop in Padua about 5 pm and saw more chapel frescoes by Giotto. We arrived at our hotel in Venice about 7 pm. The rooms are very nice, no baths though, beautiful lobby with a piano. After dinner, we walked over to St. Mark’s Square, listened to the bands playing and had a couple of drinks. Then we found the old Hotel Luna (where my family and I had stayed in 1950). We walked back to the hotel and turned in at about 1:30 am.

VENICE: Sat April 8

Went to the Academy of Fine Arts where we were shown around and had a lecture by a famous art historian. Went to St. Mark’s briefly and returned to the hotel for lunch. After this, we met the group at the Palace of the Doges and had a complete tour including the Bridge of Sighs. Then we toured S Mark’s Basilica and went to the top of the Campanile for a commanding view of Venice. Then, did a little shopping and caught up on the log book. After dinner, we took a boat out to the Lido, but we couldn’t see much due to a heavy fog that had rolled in. It gave the night a very eerie air. Took the boat back to the hotel and turned in about midnight.

VIENNA: Sun April 9

We had a quick breakfast and departed for Vienna. We reached the border at about 11 and met up with buses D and E. The customs official asked us for American stamps and postcards for his sister’s collection. We had lunch about an hour later in St. Veit. Later we stopped for a break about 5. We arrived in Vienna shortly after 7. The trip had been so much fun that it was sad to see it come to an end.

Photos courtesy of David Maraist and George Trask.

Comment by George Trask, March 24, 2013: David Maraist sent his journal in early March 2011 in response to my request on this website for memories of our Vienna days. At the same time David was writing his daily entries in 1961 I was taking Kodachrome photographs with my trusty Leica, oblivious to David’s effort. Now, 52 years later, I am pairing my photos with his words to give an illustrated narrative of those days we IESers experienced long ago. This is the second of what will be four of David’s journal episodes that will be published here.


2 thoughts on “David Maraist’s Journal: Spring Break 1961 Tour of Italy”

  1. That was wonderful! What great memories of that trip to Italy. Thanks for keeping that journal, David.

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