Reliving the Dream 2

Christine Lebline (far left) with her sister and parents at about the time she undertook her travels to Europe in 1911

Journal Entries from Christine Lebline’s 1911 travels in northern Italy

In June of 1911, Christine Lebline, just  22 years old and one year removed from her student days at Indiana University, began the biggest adventure of her life to that point.  She had just completed her first year of teaching German at the local high school during which time she made plans to travel to Europe that summer of 1911, the first in her family to do so since her ancestors had emigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1800s.  She began her experience by traveling to New York City from which she departed for Italy by steamship in late June.  Her travels concluded in Scotland when she sailed back from Glasgow to Montreal in late August.  She mostly traveled alone, although she made a number of friends along the way.

In 2005, a journal that Christine had written during her trip miraculously appeared.  No one even knew before then that a journal existed.  To commemorate the 100th year anniversary of her amazing adventures, I have chosen to publish selected excerpts of her journal during this centennial year (2011).  I previously offered selections that give an account of her voyage across the Atlantic from New York to Gibraltar on her ship.  In this piece, I quote from entries she wrote while traveling in northern Italy during that July.

I also have included in this piece some photographs that help illustrate her writings.  Some are of postcards she acquired during her time in Italy and brought back with her.  Others are photos that I took when my wife Mary Ann and I traveled to northern Italy in October 2011 to retrace Christine’s steps through Florence,  Venice, Milan and Como.

Although she has been gone over forty years, I regard even now some of my writings to be a “joint venture” with my grandmother.  This is an example of such a collaboration; it consists almost entirely of her words embellished with some of my pictures and a few reflections.  Christine’s writings offer another perspective on this amazing woman during an especially formative time in her young life.   I trust that her words, coupled with the pictures, give understanding and meaning to the impressions she gained through her adventures.  As with my initial  Reliving the Dream writing, I hope that you will be impressed, as I am, by her vitality and wondrous engagement with the places and people she encountered along her way.  Once again, let’s relive the dream.

Reminder of travel in another time on a vintage poster in an Italian hotel



Postcard showing view of Palazzo Vecchio and Duomo from Uffizi Gallery (c 1911)

[Hospice] matron repeatedly saying the same thing, “that we should give Florence more time.”     —Christine’s journal, 18 July 1911

Duomo, Campanile, Battistero and afternoon shadows (2011)

In the morning [went] to Palazzo Vecchio, Duomo—beautiful windows, dark guilt, delicately adorned…     —Christine’s journal

Uffizi Gallery

Ceiling paintings in the Uffizi Gallery

“Madonna and Goldfinch” in the Uffizi Gallery

Postcard of La Tribuna in the Uffizi Gallery (c1911)

Over the Ponte Vecchio…     —Christine’s journal

Postcard of the Ponte Vecchio bridge (c1911)

…to Pitti Palace [with its] many masterpieces.     —Christine’s journal

Postcard of Pitti Palace (c1911)

Pitti Palace – then and now (2011)

Door to Pitti Palace (2011)

Crossed [back over] the Ponte Vecchio, bought nothing.  Home in a carriage…          —Christine’s journal

Writing in journal at entrance to the Ponte Vecchio bridge (2011)



Long dirty [train] ride—35 tunnels, smoke terrific, the rich African, the wily Turk, the ruse in the First Class compartment, the row in the corridor…but fun and experience.  Reached lovely Venice late at night; went to Hotel in a gondola, beautiful lights on water, dreamland.     –Christine’s journal, 20 July 1911

Boarding modern Italian train (2011)

Gondolas and lights on Grand Canal in Venice (2011)

Gondola ride along Grand Canal past many old and picturesque palaces…fish and vegetable market…     —Christine’s journal

Gondola on Venetian canal (2011)

Palace along the Grand Canal (2011)

Vegetable market along the Grand Canal (2011)

Rialto Bridge—crowded with shops…      Christine’s journal

Rialto Bridge and gondola on the Grand Canal (2011)

Went to St. Mark’s Square…     –Christine’s journal

Postcard of St. Mark’s Square (c1911)

…through the church…     Christine’s journal

Ornaments and spires on St. Mark’s Basilica (2011)

Entrance to St. Mark’s Basilica (2011)

Interior of St Mark’s Basilica (2011)

Floor tile design in St. Mark’s Basilica (2011)

Ancient horses of St. Mark’s Basilica

…fed pigeons, took pictures, shopped…     –Christine’s journal

Clock tower over St. Mark’s Square (2011)

St. Mark’s Square viewed from the Lagoon (2011)

Ride on Lagoon–very beautiful…     –Christine’s journal

Public gardens viewed from the Lagoon (c1911)

Lagoon viewed from St. Mark’s Square (2011)

Sunset over the Lagoon (2011)

I went to the Lido—cost 3 cts—met Tony and Joe.  We all went swimming in the Adriatic; glorious, superb, got hair wet but it got dry soon.  The boys were perfectly grand—just like two ideal brothers…     –Christine’s journal

Ferry stop for the Lido (2011)

Tony took me to the Rialto bridge.  Shopped on the way home.  Another gondola ride after supper for one hour (10 cts); grand, beautiful Italian songs in lighted gondolas.  Then Tony took me up on the square—a big concert with superb music, millions of happy Venetians dressed “fit to kill.”  Gelate, then home at midnight.  In love with Venice.—Christine’s journal

Rialto Bridge and gondola at night (2011)



Hot, dirty, sleepy, monotonous [train] ride till 1 PM arrival in Milan.  Had a good dinner in the most beautiful arcade in the world.  Beautiful cathedral outside and in; third largest in the world.  Rode in a rubber-tired carriage.  Made 4 PM train to Como… —Christine’s journal

Cathedral edifice in Milan (2011)

Entrance to Milan Cathedral (2011)

Interior of Milan Cathedral (2011)

Milan’s “Galleria” arcade (2011)



…arrived at Como at 5:00.  Como is a lovely little town on edge of Lake Como, beautiful mountains all around—good water, beautiful lake and lights.  The square viewed through the deep windows of my room is lovely. I’d like to stay here a month, get acquainted with the natives, and grow fat.     –Christine’s journal, 23 July 1911

Railway station in Como (c1911)

Town square in Como (c1911)

Standing for coffee at Piazza Cavour cafe (2011)

Saw the cathedral and had good supper—delightfully sleepy place this time of night (10:00 PM), which is a shame considering the loveliness of the night and surrounding beauty—but no John, no Tony, no anybody here.  Leave at 9:55 AM on boat for Lugano.—Christine’s journal

Statues over door to Como Cathedral (2011)

Bell tower in Como (2011)

Hotel and cafe on Piazza Cavour in Como (2011)

Wonderful lights on lake and mountains tonight in the blue darkness; the outlines of mountains not seen nor buildings not there.  Lights stand out like a constellation of stars in the sky.     —Christine’s journal

Excursion boat leaving Como harbor (c1911)

Shoreline of Lake Como (2011)

Sunset over Lake Como (2011)


…exceedingly restless if seemed after the accomplishment of the one thing I had dreamed of for so many years…Now at intervals I take spells of homesickness or something for those lands across the sea, those interesting, kind-hearted natives and happy experiences.     —Christine’s journal, 30 September 1911

One month after returning from her European adventure, Christine penned a final journal entry as she reflected on the meaning of her experience.  Her final word, “Finis,” translates “Finished” in French.  Christine had lived her dream.

Final page of Christine’s journal (30 September 1911)


Epilogue For My Great-grandchild

Varenna on Lake Como (c1911)

Varenna on Lake Como (2011)

A final stop during my time in Italy in October 2011 was a small, idyllic village named Varenna located on Lake Como.  I don’t know whether my grandmother visited this town–there is no record of it in her journal–but it’s possible the boat she took up the lake on her way to Lugano from Como may have stopped there.  One of the days I spent in Varenna was rainy, so I went to have some quiet time in a small church (San Giorgio), which was located on the village square near my hotel.  During my time in that sacred space, an epilogue came to me.  It is my final word as I reflect upon the meaning of this amazing experience of reliving Christine’s dream–and I also add an exultant “Finis”!

“Regina” of San Giorgio church (1553)

The feature in this church that is most meaningful for me is a fresco of a woman named Regina from 1553…That her image has been presiding over this space for more  than 450 years is an amazing thought.  How many people have sat in this same place through the centuries and regarded her faint smile and hand of blessing?…Of one thing I am sure; if my grandchild or great-grandchild should sometime choose to relive Christine’s (and now my) dream, Regina will likely still be here to greet her or him.  After such a long time in one place, what’s another fifty or one hundred years?  And she or he can also be assured that Christine and I will be with them too—and smiling all along the way. —journal entry, October 2011

Grandfather and grandchild


This essay was written by Steve Robert Simmons in 2011.  All rights reserved.

16 Responses to Reliving the Dream 2

  1. Sharolyn says:

    Oh Steve. I can hardly find the words. This was such a beautiful sharing of your lovely soul and I am so privileged to have you as a friend. And you’ve made me realize how important it is that I begin to journal once more!

    • steverobert says:

      Thank you, Sharolyn. It does my soul good to know that this piece connected so well for you. And let me encourage you to consider using journal writing as a means for reflecting on your life. It will fit YOU like a glove. 🙂

  2. Sage says:

    You have opened the door to the beauty of timelessness. What a wonderful masterpiece painted by the words of Christine and you with the palette of your imaginations! Sage

    • steverobert says:

      “The door to the beauty of timelessness”–I love that idea as resonance to this essay, Sage. I think it describes my experience of reliving Christine’s dream about as well as anything. THANK YOU!

  3. Beth Waterhouse says:

    Hi Steve, I am so happy to have read this. Plus your photo journal is like being there, and to occasionally overlap with Christine’s postcards is a glimpse at immortality. Then your epilogue is absolute immortality, no doubt about it, and Samuel Elliot will be proud to have you / know you as his grandfather. May the world let him journey to Italy in a parallel way to see Regina some 60 years from now.

    • steverobert says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Beth. Not sure what my vantage point will be in sixty years if Sam were to make such a journey (at age 62), but I’m certain the experience would be as thrilling for him as it has been for me.

      And what will the world be like for Sam then? When I was with him in person a few weeks ago, his favorite expression and question (at age 2) is “Who knows?” I think Sam already has answered my question. 🙂

  4. Don Coon says:

    Steve once again you have touch a beautiful part of the soul. I especially liked the way you weaved the original journey with your own journey. I really liked the way you enhanced the journal writings with your own pictures. It really tied the past with the present. Keep the writings coming because I look forward to each and every one.

    • steverobert says:

      Thank you, faithful reader Don! Glad you liked the essay. And thanks for your encouragement regarding pursuing future writings; I DO have a few other irons in the fire… 🙂

  5. Pamela Enz says:

    Steve, Once again you’ve opened your heart and found this wondrous essay! I agree with you and the others who have posted, Christine is with you when you write. How lucky is she to have found a voice these many years later? When you two meet again, in Heaven, you’ll have so much fun comparing impressions of your life journey. I imagine you’ll have a lot of common impressions and she’ll have questions about how things have changed. Thank you again, for impressing upon me, the importance of keeping a journal.

  6. steverobert says:

    Thanks for taking time to comment on my recent essay, Pam. I very much appreciate your affirming thoughts. Yes, my theology agrees that my grandmother and I will have a chance to someday catch up on all of this together, although i also think she has found a way of to make her presence known even now. I have a new essay coming soon that seems to affirm that reality. 🙂

  7. Art Lunow says:

    Thank you, Steve, for inviting us to accompany you and Christine on this awesome, hauntingly beautiful and historic journey to Italia! The creative blending of your thoughtfully crafted words and glorious pictures with hers of a century ago, are indeed heart-warming fare for our eyes, minds, and souls! What beauteous kinship Heaven hath wrought, and treasures rare in such a land, parallelled and enhanced by visitors extraordinare such as you! Makes us want to pack our bags for a return trip, this time telescoping the years, so we might travel with you, Christine, and Sam as our guides!

  8. steverobert says:

    “Telescoping the years” Yes, Art, I think that nails it. Thanks for taking time to read my essay and for your thoughtful comment. I have a “Reliving the Dream 3” in the works now too, so stay tuned. 🙂

  9. Carol Tyx says:

    What a delight to read this doubled journey. I was in Venice with my Italian friend Laura a year and a half ago….brought back memories of my own journey. The photos, both old (through postcards) and new, are spectacular. I adored the final one of grandfather and grandson.
    Carol Tyx

  10. steverobert says:

    Thank you for reading my piece, Carol. We’ll have to compare notes on Venice the next time we are together–a fascinating city for sure!

  11. lisaharrell says:

    I find myself marveling at your desire and passion to reconnect, to honor, to discover more of your grandmother and yourself through this pilgrimage. Clearly your trip, your words indicate your desire, your dream was met like Christine’s. Finis! I love that you keep finding more epilogues within – an indication that the connection does not end. What a sweet paradox, finis! and when we meet again…

  12. steverobert says:

    Thank you for taking time to read my work and post a response, Lisa. I, too, am surprised by how some of these stories keep coming to me. In fact, I am now writing a “Reliving the Dream 5” that should be posted sometime in February. So you can watch for that one. 🙂

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