Maurits Escher has visited Italy several times before, but when he boards the train to Florence on 5 April 1922 things are a bit different. Where he used to travel with his parents, he is now accompanied by his friends Jan van der Does de Willebois, Bas Kist and Jan’s sister Alexandra (Lex).
Worried mothers and fathers wave them goodbye (‘Son, don’t smoke too much‘, ‘Son, please eat enough‘, ‘Son, don’t drink too much’) as they board the night train to Basel, before finally arriving in Florence. The group does not remain intact for long, however. Bas and Jan return to the Netherlands first and after visiting Volterra, Poggibonsi and San Gimignano, Lex also leaves Maurits on 2 May. Escher doesn’t mind this very much; he continues his travels on his own and visits places like Siena, Assisi and Ravenna. He goes for walks and draws a lot, visits highlights like the Cathedral of Ravenna and the ‘wildly undulating hills’* surrounding Urbino and enjoys the sun. The 23-year old is completely at ease. Via Venice, where he visits the Biennale, and Padua he arrives in Milan on 12 June. There he takes the train back to the Netherlands, with a folder with freshly made drawings tucked under his arm. He doesn’t stay home for long: on 13 September, he takes the boat for a sea voyage to Spain.