Words & Images by Tim Roberts, VP

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After 43 years in the tile and stone industry, my annual trip to Italy for two of the world’s biggest industry conventions is necessary to keep pace with materials, new products, and the very latest in technology. The industry tends to “release” whatever is new there.

For me, each year the experience becomes an inspiring pilgrimage and I relish every moment there.

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It is a very moving and deeply emotional trip for me when traveling in and throughout the cradle of the Renaissance. In some way, whether it’s winding along the Apuani mountains near Carrara, or wandering the streets of Verona, Bologna, Florence, Ravenna, and Rome, I feel connected to the ancient past.

The back alleys of Rome are filled with soul replenishing visual treats: incredible buildings, gurgling fountains and breathtaking colors. Hadrian’s Pantheon is my absolute favorite with its exact interior dimensions and open oculus, not to mention Raphael’s tomb, drops me to my knees each time.

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Bernini’s fountains and his elephant obelisk are like no others on the planet.

Rome for me, captures my soul and walking is the only way to understand our human scale. St Peter’s in the Vatican, the Forum, the Colosseum…all of this done at a time when human hands and rudimentary tools fleshed out someone’s unique design and original vision.

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The countless other antiquities while traveling are juxtaposed by the ever-stylish Italian people and their modern art, architecture, and incredible rail system. Riding from town to town, passing by the Italian countryside, evokes images of ancient Roman or even Etruscan might…aged farmhouses surrounded by the cypress trees.

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For anyone connected to tile or stone, a trip to Ravenna is necessary. Basilica San Vitale is breathtaking and inspires every visitor. Ravenna’s mosaics are stunning, well preserved, and in multiple buildings. Venice isn’t the only place to visit along the Adriatic.

I’ve been able to share Italy with my family, the mountains of Carrara, swimming on the Tuscan coast, Christmas at the Vatican. I will always keep and cherish those memories. The inspiration in Italy keeps feeding my creative appetite, and I hope I’m doing my best to keep my eyes, head, and heart open, returning from here with design inspiration from the ages.

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