An Apartment (?!) in Firenze!!!!

Our friend, Charlene Harb, had provided the contact with Francesca Carrera, where she rents an apartment for a month in Firenze. We rented a ‘two bedroom with bath and kitchen for the two weeks we were to be to Firenze.

When we stepped into the ‘apartment’, we were overwhelmed. We had been given the piana nobile, an entire floor of this 18th century piazza. Here is what we found:

20161013_151953It is a u-shaped apartment with grand halls with black and white marble floors. Each of the walls are frescos with fleur-de-lys meticulously painted on the walls.

20161013_152149 We have a grand living room with fireplace, lots of seating and a very large dining table where we are spending most of our time.

20161013_15220220161013_151920Each of the ceilings have magnificent frescos, hand painted by a relative of Francesca’s.

20161013_151813The back side of the apartment  overlooks a walled garden, 20161013_152357complete with a greenhouse and path and large trees. An inner courtyard has lots of lush plants.

Then we got to the bedrooms! Instead of one bathroom, each bedroom has its own bathroom.

Here is the master suite:

20161013_151900 20161013_15191620161013_151904

20161013_151934

20161013_152013Karen immediately chose this bathroom, after seeing the tub. Bear in mind, she can’t even get it in without sitting on the side and swinging herself around.

Henrietta and Carol will be joining us20161013_151807 tomorrow and will be living in this bedroom with a personal seating area

And then we saw the kitchen, in true Spartan European manner, the stove and oven are inside the armoire. But check out the sink – you have to stand on a stool just to be able to reach the water faucets, which are dragon heads.

20161013_152128

20161024_072548

So, for what we thought would be a small apartment, where we might all fall all over each other, this is where we are ‘suffering’ for two weeks.

Life is good!

 

Posted in Italy 2016 | 7 Comments

We are Back!!!!!

It took us about 26 hours to get back to Pittsburgh. Our plane was routed through JFK and we had an almost 4 hour layover there. But we flew directly from Venice to JFK, so that was better than our hopscotching to get over to Europe (Pittsburgh to Paris to Marseille – and then a long bus ride to board the boat).

Customs at JFK has greatly improved. It took a little over 30 minutes to go through customs, grab our bags, dump them at the Delta carousel, and go through Passport Control. And it is all on one floor; the last time I went through JFK, you had to schlep your luggage down stairs to go through customs and then back up stairs to dump back on Delta. And, TSA-PreCheck certainly helps!

Delta and Air France have some kind of air share agreement, and the service both going and coming was greatly improved. First of all, you get your first bag checked for free (no $25 fee). And liquor and wine and beer are free on the flight – as many and as often as you want. The meals were immeasurably better than we have had in the past. Yea, Air France, or whatever caused the upgrade. Or maybe it is because the flights were going to and coming from Europe, where the standards are higher. We will find out when we fly to San Antonio later this month. . . here’s hoping it is as good in the states.

We landed in Pittsburgh about 10:30 pm (having gotten up at 4 am, which made 10:30 really 4:30 am the next day), so we stayed in a motel instead of trying to drive home that late at night. After the requisite malted waffle (I only stay at motels that have waffles!), we headed back to Columbus and got here about noon. It was good to unlock the door to The Waterford Tower Suite 906. I think this is the first trip we’ve made that we were really ready to come home.

basil.jpgRose had taken good care of the house while we were gone. . . in fact, I thought my basil would be dead, but look at it! The sweetheart even left us a meal, since there was not much in the refrigerator. And thank goodness, Karen had scheduled Blue Apron for this week so I didn’t have to immediately run to the grocery store.

It took us two days to unpack, go through all the mail (we had TWO huge bags – way tooooo many trees were killed), pay bills, for me to troll through 5999 of my emails, and wash almost everything in our suitcases. We both agreed that there are some things that we don’t want to see and certainly don’t want to wear for a very, very long time. But we packed very efficiently and there was not a thing that we didn’t wear.

Europe changed to daylight savings time last Sunday so we gained an extra hour of sleep. Now we are changing Sunday. Does that mean we really gained TWO hours of sleep? Inquiring minds want to know

We are slowly recovering from the speed of light that we were going while we were away (one day we walked almost 5.5 miles). Each day was packed full of things to do and see that we never stopped. I think when we got home and slowed down slightly, our bodies said ‘stop’.

One thing that we all realized is how much easier it is to live in America. We may get culture and history from Europe, but we have more living space, we don’t have to go to the supermarket every day, it’s easier to drive here and there are amenities that do not exist in Europe. Makes you realize just how lucky we are.

As we think back on the four weeks, there are some things that come to mind: I call them:

‘Notes To Self’

  1. Always, always, always take along a Swiss Army knife (for cutting cheese)  AND a wine bottle opener (of course! – hotels don’t especially like loaning you one when they sell wine)
  2. Always bring the car charger for cellphones and tablets
  3. Don’t pack a suitcase that is any larger than one size above a carry-on (I think both my arms have stretched at least an inch from schlepping the bigger one)
  4. Only pack using packing cubes. . . these are the greatest thing – you can pack all your pants in one, underwear in another, etc. and know where things are in your suitcase without having to take everything out. Karen found a set of five on the internet that worked wonderfully (they do not have to be expensive, but mesh fronts make it easier to see what is in them).
  5. Bring more than one pair of pants with pockets – the pockets come in very handy. Otherwise you are going to get really tired of that one pair of pants
  6. Use a backpack as your carryon – it will hold your purse (or its contents), reading material, a makeup bag, and any other essentials. They mash nicely to fit under the seat or in the luggage bin and are easy to carry. You can wrap them around your luggage if you get tired of them on your back or shoulders.
  7. Bring along extra pens/pencils and at least one unused junior pad (we ran out of paper and started writing on backs of ticket stubs, and then misplaced them)
  8. Take along extra USB cables – you (and your travelling companions) can never have enough.
  9. Try to get a converter that is universal and also has two USB ports. You can charge a lot of stuff with this one converter.
  10. Make sure that you cellphone is internationally capable (GSM SIM card); don’t believe the phone retailer, call the international activation service. We were assured that mine had the capability, but it did not.
  11. Always take geranium oil to combat mosquitos. mosquito-bitesFrancesca said they are really bad in August, but I had at least a half dozen on my face and a lot on my leg. The ones on my face have faded, but the ones on my leg are still there. Why do I have to be sexy to mosquitos?

Helpful Hints

  1. Never pack full size hair spray and mousse – you can buy more if you need it and you can leave it at your final destination
  2. Bring a lot of extra socks if you are going to be walking a lot – we seemed to have lost at least three pairs between us (and the dryer was not the culprit)
  3. Make sure your current adapters are current – we had the old style with the two big prongs and most of the ones in Europe are now have three slim prongs. There are extensions to accommodate that, but it means you can only put one plug in an outlet.
  4. No matter what the travel agent or the travel supply store tells you, you do not need a current converter (in fact, I blew a fuse when I tried to plug one in).
  5. Always bring along empty Ziploc bags; Europe frowns on plastic storage containers and if you can find some, they do not close. You never know what you will need to securely store.
  6. Notify your bank and credit card company that you will be traveling abroad; this will save a lot of time and frustration when you try to use an ATM or buy something
  7. If you have a handicap hangtag, bring it along; these are recognized internationally.
  8. Be adventurous, try foods you have never had before; check out the local cuisine, you might find you really like it.
  9. No matter what the weather forecast, take along a poncho or shawl or sweater – the weather is fickle and you could end up with your teeth chattering.
  10. Carry a copy of your drivers license and passport in your suitcase – comes in handy if you lose either one.
  11. You do not need to carry a camera – all my pictures were taken with my Galaxy Grand Prime. If you want special effects, there are lots of mini lenses that attach to your phone available on the internet for long distance, close-ups or fisheye pictures.
  12. If you have the capability, use Google maps to help navigate. Some of the maps provided are a little vague and don’t have all the streets, so what looks like a short distance may be much, much longer.

We are home for a little bit (we leave for Karen to do masterclasses in Houston on 15 November and then are having Thanksgiving with Jim and David in San Antonio). Then, we swear, we are staying home for a while! Travel is fun, but can be exhausting.

So, this closes the 2016 Travelogue Tilly adventures. You can find a lot more pictures on Facebook at

Italy 2016  https://www.facebook.com/revdeniray/media_set?set=a.10154424261650733.1073741884.735200732&type=3

Switzerland – Land of Cheese and Chocolate  https://www.facebook.com/revdeniray/media_set?set=a.10154397408740733.1073741882.735200732&type=3

Viking Buri Cruise  https://www.facebook.com/revdeniray/media_set?set=a.10154379795645733.1073741881.735200732&type=3

Enjoy!

These pictures would count as outtakes and bloopers:

Would you like some wine? Why, yes I think I would:

20161003_154450

 

Does this need a caption?

20161003_155829

Want a cookie, little girl?

20161004_14001520161004_140230

 

 

For the Liberty Belles!

 

You have not had fondue until you have it at Gruyère!

20161010_13354120161010_13443320161010_133539

 

 

 

This precious little boy that stole our hearts:

The infamous sink – reminds us of the time we were little and had to stand on a stool to help with the dishes

20161007_204745

New found friends who just happen to live in Cincinnati and just over the border in Indiana – I see travelling companions in the future

 

roberta

Who’d a thunk there was a leather store in Florence named ‘Roberta’? Of course, we had to get some gloves. . . and a purse. . . and a wallet

 

One wonders how you can eat with Goldoni’s big ole nose hanging 20161030_152134over your head . . .  just fine, it turns out – note the droopy eyes from a fully tummy

On the street, a man was playing classical music on glasses filled with the ‘magical water’ from the Grand Canal.

20161029_112335

So ends the travelogue!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Italy 2016, Switzerland - Land of Cheese and Chocolate, Viking Buri - Sailing the Rhone | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s been great, But it is time to go . . .

As we were having out coffee this morning in the room, we felt the building sway. We looked at each other, thinking we had had too much coffee, but, in fact, it appears that we felt a result of the second 6.6 earthquake near the La Marche district. A little unexpected entertainment.

palazza-malipieroIt has been a wonderful four weeks, but I think we are both ready to get home. But there is still time to see other unseen sights – that is, if our legs and feet can handle it. We scoped out what was of interest and decided to visit Casanova’s palazzo, Palazzo Malipiero. Casanova was exiled to Venice at least twice for gambling debts and other licentious activities, he became a ‘man around town’, hosting and attending many Venetian parties.

The palazzo has a walled garden and formal entry with a pool with a turtle and large koi fish in it. (The turtle is for you Francesca).

The palazzo is really about ceilings; I have never seen such ornate frescos in each of the rooms.

Modes of transportation: a single carriage and box carried on poles by four men and a gondola. The gondola has a brazier in it keep the people warm. . . guess if the brazier set the gondola on fire, they could always jump in the river.

Some other interesting parts of the palazzo: the grand ballroom which is the entry point into the palazzo:

20161030_111124

Would you care to use this as your everyday dishes?

20161030_1118120

 

Or have to sit in this  chair?

 

 

or polish this stair railistairs-lion-headng?

 

 

 

 

pianoforte

 

Or dust and tune this pianoforte?

A typical bedroom of the time – no wardrobes or much room. There were connecting doors to a 20161030_115150‘hidden’ hall that connected to other rooms (where ‘gentlemen’ could leave their room and visit ‘someone else’).

 

In Venice, Carnevale begins the day after Christmas and continues until Ash Wednesday. . . parties are held frequently, with everyone masked

so that no one knows who they are consorting with. There were several rooms dedicated to Punchinello, the hunchback clowns that pervade the Carnavale, creating all kinds of mischief.

According to legends, Casanova was probably very busy at casanova1.JPGnight – so 20161030_110913busy that his own personal Prie Dieu seems to be very worn. Church doctrine at the time was that you could sin and then ask forgiveness and then go do it again, as long as you repented in the morning. There are deep crevices in the kneeler where Casanova must have spent much time.

Venice has a flooding problem so they have stacks of risers 20161030_155547available if Saint Mark’s gets flooded – which it has in the past. One of the amenities our hotel offered was hip boots, flooded-saint-marksas necessary. Thankfully, we were high and dry.

After touring the palazzo, we wandered through Saint Mark’s Square, just revisiting familiar places (to renew them in 20161030_131651.jpgour mind for cold winter days!)Some of our favorite places. We found an artist who did wonderfully unique charcoal drawings of Venice, so now we are the proud owners of three originals which will dictate us having to rearrange wall so that they will fit on the ‘Venice gallery’.

Here is a hodgepodge of our favorite sights:

We ended our trip to Venice by eating at our favorite restaurant, Bistrot de Venise (Jim and bistrot de venise.jpgDavid, you should remember this one). It is off the beaten path, elegant and the service is impeccable. We took pictures of our 20161030_152126meals, except for  dessert, which we slurped up before we could get a picture. Beautiful chamber music accompanied the dinner and the waiter assisted in selecting the dishes and wine. We started with an amuse bouche of thinly-sliced cod over an artichoke fondue, then mixed grilled fish and foie gras. Karen had ravioli and I had pumpkin gnocchi in duck and lamb sauce.

What a wonderful way to end four marvelous, glorious weeks in Europe!

Tomorrow we pack and start the 26-hour trip back to our ‘little bubble in the sky’.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Italy 2016 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Karen & deni, (as in Dora the Explorer)

accademiaAfter a hearty breakfast, we headed out to see things that we had never seen before. First stop was the Gallerie d’Accademia, right down from our hotel.

The museum has been around since 1750, as an art museum. What I found hard to believe is that, with all the national treasures, there is very little security in the building. You could touch the art/paintings and no one was monitoring the rooms. It also appears that some of the building hasn’t been modified since it was initially built.

But the art is phenomenal; one of my favorite pieces is Titians ‘Presentation of the Young Virgin’. It covers an entire wall, with a portion of it cut out to accommodate the door.

presentation-of-mary

There are some renown master, including Titian, Bellini, and Leonardo da Vinci.

The Feast feast-at-the-house-of-levyat the House of Levy was originally called ‘The Last Supper’ and commissioned for a convent. It was considered too secular, so the artist changed the title with a stroke of the paintbrush.

Here are some of my favorites: visions-of-hereafter

 

Visions of the Hereafter

 

 

crucifixion-of-peter

Crucifixion of Saint Peterraising-of-lazarus

wisdom-of-solomon

Raising of Lazarus

 

 

The Wisdom of Solomon

 

footwashing

 

 

Paris and Helen – the two who started it all!20161029_11042120161029_110355

 

 

 

 

And of course, you need to have some guardians.

After the Accademia, we trucked over to Santa Maria della Salute to get tickets for a saluteconcert this evening. While we were at it, we visited the church. It has statues of the four apostles on the outside, but much simpler inside. Salute is also know as Saint Mary of Health, because of people of Venice prayed here in 1630 for Mary to stop, or at least minimize the plague that ravaged Europe. As a result, only 1 out of every 3 Venetians dies, compared to the rest of Europe.

The inside is arranged so that you can only see one of the chapels at a time, each one decorated in a different style.

In November, the people of Venice construct a wooden bridge from Saint Mark’s to Salute and everyone walks over the bridge to say prayers for their deliverance.

20161029_121444Thought this might be a good replacement for our bishop’s chair at Saint John’s. What do you think?

The high altar is really ornate and the floor is designed to reflect sun from the dome.

20161029_122026

All sides of the basilica is ornate on the outside and the statue of Mary on top is dressed in an admiral’s uniform, for protecting the people from threat from the sea.

I said we went to get tickets of a concert. . .it was sponsored by the Emilio and Annabianca Vedova Foundation. Karen saw the brochure by chance at the hotel and it featured a program of 23 American songs, some newly composed by a local composer named Lucca Mosca, intermingled with songs from American movies of the 30-40’s. Her interest was piqued, and we hunted down the concert and went. Because of lack of information it was not easy to find location or price of tickets, and the search took us walking through areas of Venice we would have otherwise never seen.

The composition is meant to be sung without pause (Winterreisse) by one singer and fourteen instrumentalists, including guitar, harp, electric keyboard, accordion, piano, and several traditional brass, strings and winds. The audience were all upscale locals, probably musicians and ‘conescenti’ of the arts world. No one spoke to us . . . it was okay!

The singer, a soprano named Christine Zavalonni, is obviously a local favorite who specializes in multiple vocal genres, but not in singing well. Her performance style was way ‘over the top’ and was a bit like a hummingbird on crack. All the songs were in English, but that was not clear in many cases. The concept was interesting, the instrumental ensemble (entitled ‘Uberbrettl’) was excellent and the conductor was amazing. This concert allowed us to glimpse a slice of contemporary Venetian life beyond tours and tourism, and we were glad we went. Miss Zavalonni best not quit her day job.

20161029_205415After the concert we went to Saint Mark’s plaza and listened to an orchestra at Laverna (the Florian has already covered their piano). The orchestra (flute, violin, accordion and piano alternated between show tunes and operatic fare.

Sitting there sipping Irish coffee (Karen) and Cheri Cheri, under the muted light of the basilica, it came over us that this could be the last time we were in Venice. Each time we have been here, we always knew that we would return. Not that we think anything untoward will happen, but . . .20161029_205430

This was our fullest day, by far. . . my Fitbit said I walked 12,680 steps!!!  a new record for me. That is equivalent to 5.4 miles.

Tomorrow  is our last day, and our legs and feet will determine what we will be doing. There are still lots of things we have not seen; you could probably stay a week and still leave with sights unseen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Italy 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Off to the ‘Land of Water’

It was a sad time when we said good-bye to Francesca and Claudio. But Karen surprised francesca-taping-karen-singingthem by singing Quando men vo and Francesca recorded it (obviously Charlene didn’t give them very much information about us, because Francesca also did not know Karen was a singer or I was a reverend).

We ad to leave the apartment early in the morning because Francesca had someone else coming in, so we got to the  train station a little early, which meant we spent a lot of time there. All the trains from Venice were delayed from 40-25 minutes. Italian trains are not as efficient as French and Swiss ones. By the time we finally left, I can pretty much tell you everything that is in the Florence train station.

When we left the train station, here I am with a large bag, and Karen has her little hotel-alacarry-on. A kind gentleman carried her bag down the stairs (there are a LOT of them), while I had to bump-bump down.  We found the correct vaporetto to our stop, Santa Maria della Giglio. The hotel is a three star although not in the heart of San Marco square and the Grand Canal where we usually stay, we didn’t realize how close it was to everything, including La Fenice.

The room is compact, but very nice, and besides, how mu20161027_16373320161027_163724ch time do you really spend in the room? I do have to say, Europeans don’t believe in giving you any room in the shower – I can’t even put my arms out to wash my hair. But we persevere.

Not a bad view from our shuttered window 20161027_163803– they have a warning in the room about mosquitos (which I took seriously, since I still about a half dozen bites on my face). 20161027_163749 We capped the bottle of Chianti Classico we had brought from Florence and decided we needed to eat (I chianti-classicostill do not have selfies down!)

We were so tired that we took the first recommendation by the concierge and went out to dinner. It was a very quaint place called ‘Vino Vino’ which sounded like a good idea. The atmosphere and décor were very pleasant, but the food was mediocre. . . but by that time, all we wanted to do was eat and go to bed. . . what two pitiful old ladies!

After a good night’s sleep, we were raring to go. The breakfast here has a lot more pastries than I have seen at other European breakfasts, and the scrambled eggs are bright yellow and really rich (that can happen if you free-range chickens and don’t force them to lay eggs).

I have to say, in the 5-6 times that we have been to Venice, this is the lowest the water has been. We had been warned that some places required walking on platforms, but everything was dry as a bone. In fact, the stacks of platforms around the city are being used for people to sit on while waiting to get into sites (especially on Saint Mark’s square. There are still a lot of people here, but once you get off the beaten path, there are not as many. This is an ideal time to visit Venice.

The hotel arranged a water taxi for us to visit the Signornetti Glass Company on Murano.20161028_115645signornetti-glass-blowers We had a great guide who spent a lot of time talking about their history (they have been blowing glass since 1346 – the oldest factory). This factory is much nicer than the other one we  visited on a prior trip, specializing in one-of-a-kind pieces. Glass blowing used to be done in Venice until an ordinance was changed to move all factories off the island, because of risk of fires destroying the entire island. One of the reasons Signornetti uses a black rooster as their logo is because when they moved to Murano, the only things on the island were black roosters. One of their specialities is chandeliers (the one in our hotel lobby is like those they make).murano-chandellier

After we visited Murano, Signornetti water taxied us over to Burano, the site of lacemaking. We were met by a guide, Georgia, who talked about how Burano was formed – it is a man-made island by driving wood pylons and boards into the salt marsh to make the foundation of the land. Because there is no air underwater, the wood basically turns to stone. They continued to do this until they had ground they could build on. However, the island continues to sink at about 1 cm per year. O20161028_121237ne of the interesting sights is their church tower; whether because the bedrock is not as strong, or just natural shifting, the tower leans at the same 5 degrees as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They have shored it up at that angle so it will not sink anymore.

We visited the lace museum and saw intricate lace pieces, including a fan carried by Louis XIV. louis-xiv-fanThe amount of work and time that it takes to make a piece is monumental. We watched an 85-year old woman work on a piece – she had been doing this since she was 8! They trace a pattern on a piece of waxed paper and machine stitch around the pattern. Then the waxed paper or pinned to a round pillow, and the stitches burano-lace-schoolare done by sliding the  needle on the paper. Million and millions of knots or other stitches are done to create a piece. Unlike other arts like glass blowing, there are still young women who are interested in making lace. Here are some of the lace pieces we saw:

They, of course had some lovely pieces for sale, at what seemed to be exorbitant prices until you know what it takes to make each piece. We would have like a table runner and placemats, but half the federal budget was not in our budgetbaldassare gallupi.jpg.

The town of Burano is colorful, with houses painted bright colors. There are only about 2000 people there so it is peaceful, and not crowded, except when the cruise ships come in. Italian composer Baldassare Gallupi was born in Burano and is honored in the square (and on half the buildings).

20161028_121903We found a wonderful restaurant that has been in business for over 100 years. It started as a small place to feed the local fishermen and become a huge success and developed into a great restaurant. White tablecloths, white-coated waiters and impeccable service. And the grilled mixed fish is delicious!If you are every in Burano, we highly recommend  Trattoria Da Romano for its great food!

trattoria-da-romano

20161028_141039da-romano

Burano, like most Italian coastal cities has its own campanile, and this lovely statue at the vaporetto stop:

It is really tiring seeing all these marvelous things, and we were still stuffed from our lunch, so we went to the bar in the hotel for a drink. You sometimes forget that Europe is about 20 years behind the United States until you see Rusty Nails, Gold Cadillacs, Sex on the Beach and a myriad of other 70-80’s drinks on the menu.

 

 

Posted in Italy 2016 | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Arrivederci, Firenze!!

Today is our last day in Florence. Carol and Henri left early this morning for Rome, sad to20161026_082757 leave this lovely place.

Karen and I decided to visit some of the sights we had not covered, and stroll down the expensive shopping streets.

We walked to the Piazza della Republica, a little further than we all had gone in the past. The prime sight in the piazza is the large arch commemorating the restoration of the republic in Italy. This has been the town center since the times of the Etruscans; it piazza-della-republicabecame a forum in the times of Roman rule.

One of the best spots to overlook Florence is from the Café Terrazza on the fifth floor of the La Rinascente department store.

Although there was a lot of fog and mist over the city, it was a great place to take a final look at the grandeur of Florence.

20161026_110935 20161026_11082020161026_111506

We had a coffee and some gelato before moving on to the shopping district.

20161026_120209.Who knew this? Not me!

 

 

We continued down the small streets with lots of vendors to the Mercato Nuovo to pick up most of the remaining gifts we needed, and then crossed  over the Ponte Vecchio.

20161026_131518 20161026_131540

 

 

We hunted for and found a very unique leather shop. . . named’ ‘Roberta’.20161026_192928

We both got some beautiful gloves (Karen’s are red and mine are plum – who would be surprised!)

And for anyone who knows me, they are going to be surprised, because I bought a PURSE! (I hate purses – they are useless except to carry your car keys, phone and money – none of the other stuff most women carry in their purses). But they won’t be surprised that is it purple.

ponte-santa-trinita

 

 

We came back over the Ponte Santa Trinita, where we saw a couple who had just been married.20161026_131733

When we crossed the bridge in the Piazza Santa Trinita, we met two young men from Ethiopia. One of them said Karen looked just like his mother who he had not seen in a very long time. Imagine a young man almost six feet tall and ebony in color, saying a short white lady reminding him of his mother.  She gave him a peck on the cheek, and they gave her a bracelet and carved turtle, and to me an elephant.

As a fitting end to our wonderful time in Florence, we ended with a lovely meal again at Ristorante dei Frescobaldi. We cannot say enough about how wonderful the atmosphere, the food, and the service is. If you are ever in Florence, you need to check out this restaurant. The website is www.deifrescobaldi.it

We cannot recommend this restaurant enough. And ask for Mirko; he is a phenomenal waiter and deserves a generous tip.

We hope, and intend to come back to Florence, and stay with Francesca; it won’t happen in 2017, but we would like to make it in 2018. Maybe we can do the cruise thing and then spend more than two weeks in Florence to delve deeper into the Italian language and the treasures that are here.

Tomorrow we leave by train to Venice, our special place. But we will leave with new-found friends who will always have a special place in our hearts and minds. We are eternally blessed to have met and  enjoyed the warm hospitality of Francesca and Claudio Screti (we owe you big time, Charlene!)

If interested in booking an apartment in this  historic piazza in ‘the heart of it all’ (inside Ohio joke), we would be glad to put you in contact with Francesca Screti. You will not be disappointed.

Posted in Italy 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Bargello-ing We Go!

20161025_1125250I had no idea what to expect when we headed to the Bargello Museo. Karen and Henri were responsible for the planning and we all just went along. It was, however, a pleasant and amazing 20161025_115701surprise. The museum is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Florence that dates back to 1255. It also houses the School for Leather Workers, which you can visit too see leather workers designing and making very unique leather items.

The entire building surrounds a courty20161025_112434ard full of sculptures and shields of provinces and officials of Italy.

One of the most fascinating sculptures is a fountain intended for the Palazzo Vecchio, but was never installed there. Maybe it was because of where the water flowed from.

20161025_1127430

.20161025_115256 20161025_115302

Juno and two pheasants

Juno and two pheasants

There are several other sculptures and artifacts representative of the period.

 

20161025_11284420161025_115444

20161025_1128480

The Fisher Boy

The Fisher Boy

20161025_115533

Inside, there were of series of bronzes and statues of Roman gods and legends.

Bacchus

Bacchus

Leda and a swan

Leda and a swan

Honor triumphant over DeceitHonor triumphant over Deceit

Moses

Moses

 

Michaelangelo

Michaelangelo

There will be  many more pictures (332 to be exact) of sculptures on my Facebook page as soon as I can get them loaded (facebook/revdeniray/photos/albums/Italy 2016).

Here at some highlights of the rest of the museum. There are three Davids which can only been seen here. In my humble opinion the David with the ‘Easter bonnet’ is over the top!

20161025_123401 20161025_123505 20161025_123540

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another interesting sculpture is called ‘The Birds’:

20161025_123007

And who can say that Pan & Olympus (or Leda and he swan) aren’t pornographic?

20161025_123850

The Bargello may have the largest collect of della Robbia. Here are just a few:

20161025_115944 20161025_115957 20161025_120010 20161025_120021 20161025_120028 20161025_120048 20161025_120114 20161025_120258 20161025_120502

20161025_120210

 

 

We spent most of the day in the Bargello, and then ate, at what I have to call an ‘exquisite’ lunch at the Ristorante dei Frescobaldi. It was an intimate setting with white tablecloths and a very attentive waiter.  And I have to say, to the distress of everyone else at the table, the best grilled octopus I have ever eaten. And, of course, we sampled the local wine.

20161025_140105

Tomorrow Henri and Carol head to Rome, so this was a great end to a wonderful two weeks!

Posted in Italy 2016 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

An Afternoon with Francesca

20161024_150959Yesterday afternoon Francesca drove us around to show us some of her favorite spots. After we were all crammed into a small Fiat, we went to the premiere overlook spot at the Piazza de Michaelanglo. From there you can see the whole city.

If you can see the large green dome hear the center of the picture, that is the synagogue. 20161024_150744Piazza Massimo d’Azeglio is right behind it. So you can see we are right in the middle of everything you want to see.

There is still a lot of the original walls of the old Florence20161024_1518300 existing around the city. In some cases there are long strips and others are only little pieces.

Of course, with a name like ‘Michaelangelo’ the piazza has its requisite statue of David. This one was complete with a pigeon on top 20161024_150845of his head.

It turns out that Francesca is an architect who specializes in building 20161024_151010histories, and is currently documenting the history of a church in the center of Florence. So we had an expert giving us the tour of Florence.

20161024_151412

basilica-di-san-moniato-al-monte1Francesca took us to the oldest basilica in Italy, Basilica San Miniato al Monte, built in 1013. It sits on the highest hill in Florence and has a commanding view of all of Florence. 20161024_153145This basilica was paid for by Bishop Alibrando, hence the eagle on the top instead of a cross. I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess on how many stairs there are to the top – I was too busy just trying to make it to the top.stairs-to-san-miniato

There is a legend about this church: Saint Miniato was an Armenian prince serving in saint-miniasthe Roman army under Emperor Decius. He was denounced as a Christian after becoming a hermit and was brought before the Emperor who was camped outside the gates of Florence. The Emperor ordered him to be thrown to beasts in the Amphitheatre where a panther was saint-minias-head1called upon him but refused to devour him. Beheaded in the presence of the Emperor, he is alleged to have picked up his head, crossed the Arno River  and walked up the hill of Mons Fiorentinus to his hermitage.

Because this is the highest point in Florence, the basilica was not damaged in the great flood of 1966, which destroyed most of the frescos and millions of dollars of art treasures in the lower regions of Florence.20161024_153415

One of the most interesting frescos is of Mary Magdalene. 20161024_155709Stories say that after Jesus’ resurrection, she and Martha of Bethany and the two Marys (Virgin Mary and mother of James) sailed to France in a boat without oars or a sail. The two Marys instantly died when they reached shore, Martha saved the town from a demon, and Mary Magdalene became a hermit in the mountains, bringing people to Christianity. This fresco and some statues show Mary Magdalene with long hair and no clothes – maybe she was our first Lady Godiva.

20161024_154119I wonder if Father Philip and my sermons would be more effective if we preached from this instead of our pulpit?

20161024_155502 20161024_15580420161024_155302

Karen said some little person must have spent hours and hours on their knees meticulously carving this wall to the upper altar.

San Miniato is an active Benedictine monastery and still has the fortress attached with the high walls.20161024_152342santa-minaito-and-fortress

20161024_152540  20161024_153011 20161024_153008 20161024_152953 20161024_160623 20161024_160530 20161024_160520 20161024_160405

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of  course, if there is a Benedictine monastery around, a Franciscan monastery cannot franciscan-church 20161024_161421 20161024_160623 20161024_161102be far away; in fact, it is just across the road from the Basilica San Maniato. In Franciscan fashion, it is very plain.

So ends the wonderful tour with Francesca. . . we gained a lot insight into Italian history and architecture from this wonderful lady!

Posted in Italy 2016 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment