Thoughtful U.S. travelers approach Europe with a sense of pietas. Europe is no Disneyland but the home of our fathers.
That’s the attitude I take, anyway, and never did I feel more pious, in the classical sense, than on this recent trip to Florence. Within the previous year, discovering the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri had changed my life””saved it, I would say, because it drew me out of a dark spiritual wood.
I wanted to go to Italy to see the city that nurtured the poet who had been the spiritual father of my new life, the same city that threw him out in disgrace and in so doing seeded the creation of an immortal work of literature. For me, the trip to Florence was very much a pilgrimage, as much a spiritual journey as an intellectual and cultural one.
But then, they all are. For well over half my life, I have been going to Europe at every opportunity, drawn mostly by its art, its architecture, and its culture. (And, well, its food.) It was in Europe””inside the Chartres cathedral, to be precise””that I rediscovered the Christian faith that I, as a know-it-all teenager, had rashly discarded as an ideology of either bourgeois dullards or televangelistic vulgarians.