Saturday, January 10, 2009

Last day of trip, Florence

I know it's taken me a while to get this done. My enthusiasm for blogging about the trip has waned. LOL But here it is...

We started out the day heading from the hotel to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. We stopped right outside the city where there were excellent views. By the way, the weather was cold. Bitter cold.

We then headed into Florence. Our first stop was
Accademia dell'Arte del Disegno or the Academy of the Art of Drawing aka the home of the Statue of David. Our tour guide briefed us on the statue and mentioned to notice his face and the focus of his eyes. I thought, it's a statue. But I was amazed! So impressed by this sculpture of Michelangelo's. When I looked at his face/eyes I really felt as if their was a brain inside this statue, as if he was really thinking, focusing on defeating Goliath. Just amazing for marble. I ranked the Statue of David as #2 on my list of faves of the Italy trip.

The other works of Michelangelo in the Academy are unfinished. But they're still so amazing b/c they look as if the sculpture is trying to crawl out of the marble. But Michelangelo was known to have believed that every block of marble had a sculpture inside, and he had to uncover it: "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

Next we headed to the cathedral of Florence, The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore , begun in 1296 and completed in 1436. It's well-known for it's dome. The crest of Florence is a red fleur di lis...they're everywhere in Florence.

Click on the pic below so you can see the whole pic with the dome of the Cathedral, that's the bell tower that's showing

Random picture on building in same area

We then headed to the Straw Market which is an open-air market (aka outside LOL) that dates back to the 16th c. According to, "Florentines call this market Il Porcellino (Little Pig) due to the wild boar fountain located at the market’s south side. The statue, created in 1612 by Pietro Taccas, was cast from a marble Hellenistic original that is now housed in the Uffizi Gallery. Many tourists come to rub the pig’s well-polished snout and throw a coin in the fountain. It is believed that by doing so it insures a return trip to Florence."

Charlie rubbing the snout of the pig

It was here that the trouble starte. ;) Some guy was trying to get our tour guide Stefan to stop and talk. He was hassling Stefan and he blew him off. We didn't know what was going on. So we kept walking. We headed to the Piazza della Signoria where we found the Fountain of Neptune.

But it was here that Stefan got hassled by a cop! LOL Italy is really strict about hiring their local guides. They want revenue. I mean who doesn't? LOL The guy in the Straw Market noticed that Stefan was a tour guide. When Stefan blew him off, he went to the Florence police, who tracked Stefan down to the Piazza. Stefan was so funny, though. He wasn't really stressed and just kept telling us about places to go in the area and meet him back in the piazza at 12:30p in case they arrested him. LOL The guy on the side was taking pics and the cops told him to stop, but I didn't. The police took all his info down and eventually let him go.

Next we walked to the childhood home of Michelangelo

Then we went to the Piazza di Santa Croce

Across the Piazza di Santa Croce

In the piazza is theBasilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross). It is here that 2 famous Florentines are buried, Michelangelo and Galileo Galilei.

IMG_7825 - inside the Basilica Di Santa Croce

Tomb of Michelangelo

Tomb of Galileo

Next we grabbed some lunch (I have a few pics, but will have to edit b/c blogger is being weird and won't upload)

Then we went and met the rest of our group at the Piazza di Neptune. Okay, so not the name of the piazza but that's what I remember it as. LOL It was while we were waiting for the rest of our group that we started seeing snow flurries! Our tour guide said he had never been snowed on in Florence. Nor had he ever almost been arrested. LOL AFter we got back on the bus the next few hours it was slow going b/c the snow started coming down harder. We ended up losing 2 hours b/c of the snow. We finally got back to the parking lot at 2am. We were happy to be home!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More videos

Here are the 2 videos that I couldn't put in the other entry. I hope they work.

Here is the guitarist playing his version of, well, you'll know... ;) You'll hear the other tour guide singing along (our big group was divided into 2 smaller groups).

And here's Roberto singing Ave Maria: (sorry about the kid at the end)

I'll start the next, and last, entry later.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 5.5, Tuscan Dinner, lots of video! :)

I left off yesterday when we got on the bus to ride from Rome to Florence. One place that we passed by that was so cool looking was the town Orte. EU Italy Orte

But it wasn't on our tour, so we kept heading to our hotel which was 15 k outside of Florence, Park Hotel Chianti. Since we arrived in the early evening we had one destination for the night and that was dinner. It was well worth the extra money! I'm still don't know the name of the restaurant that we went to. I wish I did, so I could recommend it! When we walked into the restaurant we were first given Fragolino, a sparkling aka fizzy strawberry wine. YUM-MY!! There was music playing and the whole mood of our whole group seemed to change...everyone seemed happier. :)

Here's a pic of our group:

We started w/ appetizers...a vast array of mostly fresh veggies prepared in different ways. As well as the customary bread:

As the food started coming out we were serenaded by our own opera singer! His name is Roberto and he used to sing opera, he's a tenor. He was awesome!

Our next course was a ravioli (i think it was spinach, but I can't quite remember) and a penne pasta w/ fresh ground meat. The restaurant was great b/c they did bring out pasta for Charlie w/ no meat.

Here's what we did in b/w courses. Charlie started it when he "learned" on another night while in Italy.

Our main course was prime rib. Now, I'm not a big red meat fan. I do eat ground meat about once a week, but as far as steak, etc...not so much. But the prime rib was fab.u.lous! Here it is coming out...presentation is almost everything. ;)

A couple of random pics:

I have 2 more videos but I'll put them in the next entry b/c I think I'm at my video limit. I'm not sure b/c I'm being given some message in German. ?!?!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Day 5, The Vatican Tour

When I was a kid I did a book report on Michelangelo. Of course, that made me want to one day visit the Vatican. Thirty years later, there we were...

First of all, the day we went was a typical day touring the Vatican...crazy! People lined up to get in. Thank goodness we were part of a tour and had a specific tour time which meant no waiting. Unfortunately, it didn't keep us from the crowds. We met up w/ our tour guide, I think her name was Maria, where we got our little headphones so we could hear Maria as we walked through the Vatican. We started out in the museum. We went through a few (I think) long hallways, one was lined w/ tapestries in which the eyes seemed to follow you (one was Jesus watching all. the. time. :D ), another is the Hall of maps (16c maps cover the walls). Here are some pics:

Vatican Museum
Originally uploaded by Dragon Weaver

Vatican Museums
Originally uploaded by *Checco*

Vatican Museums - Ceiling
Originally uploaded by *Checco*

It was incredibly hard to get a feel for beauty of teh works in the museum. The crowds were so big and it was like being in a cattle drive, just shuffling along.

We left the museums and walked outside before heading into the Chapel. There was this spring-fed fountain that Michelangelo used to drink from when he worked on the Sistine Chapel. He lived until his 80's and that was back when living into your 40's/50's was considered good. So, we all drank, too. Can't hurt. ;)

*sigh* It didn't get any better in the Sistine Chapel with "feeling". I don't want to sound like it's not breathtaking, b/c it is, but it's so hard to "feel" the work when you're sharing it with hundreds of other people. Also, you know how when you're talking on a walkie talkie and the other keys his mic to talk and therefore breaks into what you're saying. Well, I couldn't hear half of what Maria was saying b/c we kept getting those breaks. Finally, I look at Charlie and HE'S PRESSING THE SPEAK BUTTON!!!! Argh! It was him the whole time!! On my "radio" my speak button was covered w/ a sticker, but his wasn't, so he didn't realize what he was doing, but oh. my. gosh. I was so annoyed, not b/c I couldn't hear, but b/c he was interfering w/ everyone else. Later on I did notice another kid doing it, so it wasn't all Charlie, but good grief!!! It's kind of funny, now, but at the time I was annoyed!!

The Sistine Chapel The ceiling are paintings, by Michelangelo, of the stories of Genesis. The back wall is the Last Judgement. Two very interesting parts are Michelangelo's self-portrait with him holding his "flayed" skin (b/c of the criticisms he was subjected concerning his work) and the pic of "the Pope's own Master of Ceremonies, Biagio da Cesena, said "it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully, and that it was no work for a papal chapel but rather for the public baths and taverns,"[31] Michelangelo worked da Cesena's semblance into the scene as Minos, judge of the underworld" which included the ears of a donkey. When Biagio da Casena complained to
the Pope, the Pope said the painting couldn't be changed b/c "his jurisdiction didn't reach hell." LOL

The Sistine Chapel
Originally uploaded by Schumata

sistine chapel
Originally uploaded by petebeck

Sistine Chapel
Originally uploaded by Bucket2005


Sistine Chapel

Next we headed to the grottoes of the Popes, where we were able to see the stone of Pope John Paul II, the crypt of St Peter, below the altar which the floor above in the Basilica (how do you even wrap your brain around that??) and Pope Pius XI (91 Popes in all as well as some other revered Catholics). I didn't know this, but Pope JPII was buried in the space which was vacated in 2001. Seems the space used to be the tomb of Pope John XXIII. When he was beatified by Pope JPII in 2000 he was moved to St Peter's BAsilica and was interred in a glass coffin b/c of how well-preserved his body was. Interesting.

Tomb of Pius XI
Originally uploaded by Fred_711

St. Peter's grave
Originally uploaded by stiphy31

Pope John Paul II Grave
Originally uploaded by stiphy31

Next we headed up to St Peter's Basilica, Guide to Ste Peter's Basilica:

View from the Basilica at St Peter's

St. Peter's Basilica

Michelangelo's Pieta which he sculpted at the age of 23! It is behind bullet-proof glass b/c a crazy guy came into the basilica in the early 70's and damaged the Pieta.

Rome, Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica, The Pieta

We were able to take pics in the Basilica b/c all the "paintings" are actually mosaics. Look at this pic and you'll be able to see the tiny pieces that make up this work:

Below this picture is the body of Pope Innocent XI, another pope in a glass coffin. What's amazing is that Pope Innocent died in 1689!

Picture of the other glass enclosed Pope John XXIII:

Confessionals (at one time during the year the Pope will receive confessions, although no one knows which confessional he's actually in)

St Peter's Basilica

Interior pics:

St Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica

Dome of St Peter's

Bernini's tomb of Pope Alexander VII.

It is a tradition to rub or kiss the foot of the statue of St Peter in the Basilica. When doing so the are asking for St Peter to open the gates of Heaven for them when they die. Notice how worn it is.

Pic of us in the Basilica. Yes my hair looks awful. Please disregard it. ;) Thankyouverymuch.

When then left the Vatican, got back on the bus and headed toward Florence.