Florence, Day 2


English: Michelangelo's David (original statue...

Image via Wikipedia

Ponte Vecchio shops

A young Italian girl at our B&B, Le Stanze di Sante Croce, fixed us a wonderful Italian breakfast with bruchetta, cheeses, hams and bread, served in the inn’s terrace.  Afterwards Jack and Brittany met up with our B&B host for a morning walk to the local Farmers Market and a cooking class.  Though a cooking class would do me good, Austin and I instead walked down Florence’s cobblestone streets to Piazza della Signoria, just a few blocks away, to meet our Context Walk guide for a 3-hour tour of the Galleria degli Uffizi.  Along on the tour with us was a family of four from the Bay Area…I guess we Californians like Context Walks!  We started with the art from the 14th Century — mostly of Madonnas with Jesus and abundance use of gold — through the art of the 1800s.  My favorite painting at the museum was Botticelli‘s Primavera, pictured below.  Not only is it beautiful, it also shows the “circle of life,” reaching up to the heavens and the heavens reaching down for you.  A close second favorite was Da Vinci’s The Annunciation… but then I like almost anything by or about Da Vinci.

Primavera

My son’s ill-timed cold was getting worse after three hours on our feet of art history, as was my jet lag, so as soon as the tour ended we headed for the only place we could find with seats, which was the very small museum cafeteria.  It isn’t the best choice for lunch, given that the selections are minimal and fairly expensive —  Coca Cola light (dt coke) was 5 euros– but at least it gave us the opportunity to sit and rest on the terrace and enjoy a beautiful day.  After a light lunch we headed to the Ufizzi’s first floor — the tour can’t cover the entire museum, and there were a few things on the first floor we had wanted to check out, despite our tired feet.  We didn’t really do the art on the first floor justice, walking pretty quickly through to get to the  Caravaggio paintings I wanted to see.   I fell in love with Caravaggio’s work a few years ago in Rome when we spent a Sunday afternoon at the Borghese Gallery, and now I look for his art in every City we visit.  After a short visit to his paintings Austin and I were more than ready to head back  to our B&B for a nap.  There, we found Jack, Brittany and my newly arrived stepmother, Anna Marie, sitting down to the meal they had shopped for and made in the terrace of our B&B.  They invited us to join them for some pasta with pesto sauce along with other dishes they’d created.  So Austin and I sat down for a 2nd lunch, this one much better than the first.

Cooking Class at Le Stanza di Santa Croce

To the left is a picture of Brittany rolling out the pasta on the terrace of Le Stanze di Santa Croce.  It was a long process but the results were well worth it!  She bought her Dad a pasta machine earlier this year she enjoyed the class so much, and Jack used it just last night to make he and I a wonderful meal with fettucine and homemade red sauce with herbs from our organic garden, complete with thin crusty slices of bread on which we had learned in Tuscany to rub garlic cloves and then top with homemade olive oil and a little kosher salt.  Delish!  To the right is the picture of Jack with the owner of the B&B, leading them in their cooking.

After our lunch we headed over to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David in all its glory.  We’d had the B&B owner reserve us tickets, which cost a few more euros but was well worth it.  The line for those who hadn’t reserved stretched around the block, and had to have taken 45 minutes if not an hour in the hot sun.  In contrast, we were able to walk right up to the lobby and wait only a few minutes for the crowd inside to clear before making our own way inside the Galleria.

Once we walked in and handed over our tickets, we turned to the left to go into the 2nd, main, room, and there, down a long hall lined with other sculptures, stands David, under a glass dome built especially for him.  It’s a majestic sight and well worth the visit.  We walked past the other statutes and stood, transfixed, staring up at David.  We took the guide’s advice and walked slowly around, looking intently at each portion of the sculpture.  The stone is so lifelike I couldn’t help but be amazed at how Michelangelo was able to carve life into cold, hard marble. The right hand is bigger than his left, thus drawing attention to the stone David is holding as he prepares to put it in his slingshot and slay the giant.  His expression looks different depending on which side of him you’re on.  After we’d all finished our walk around Michelangelo’s majestic work we heading back down the hallway and stopped at the various sculptures that line both sides, and then briefly toured the adjacent room, before heading off to dinner of pasta, pizza and red wine.  And, of course, a walk to get gelato for my daily nightcap.  I am somewhat obsessed with gelato when I’m visiting Italy, and insist on a cone after lunch and again after dinner as the perfect ending to the meals.  Yet despite that, and wine with lunch and dinner, and loads of pasta and pizza, I have never gained weight on my trips to Europe.  It’s all the walking, I suppose, versus all the sitting at my desk I do at home.  My perfect diet, then, would be to spend most of my life on vacation in Europe!  Definitely sounds like a good plan to me.

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Firenze for the First Time


Our arrival in Roma was quick and smooth, other than our initial encounter with a rude shuttle operator who fought with our first taxi driver, led us back to the airport’s shuttle counter and seemed to want to force us to take a shuttle.  We found another taxi.  Since my husband ended up getting sick and having to stop the car during the taxi, that was an excellent decision on our part, and we negotiated down to 50 euro for the ride.

One arrived we lugged our luggage up two flights of stairs to the hidden doorway of the B&B Best Pantheon where our children had spent the night.  It is quite a find (from Tripadvisor.com) — very well located, well-priced, and, according to our kids, with amazing croissants for breakfast, along with a plateful of fruits and other goodies.

With a 10 a.m. checkout time we had no time for R&R, so it was on to the taxi stand near Largo Argentina — the only ancient Roman site I had time to visit before heading to the Termini station for our trip to Firenze.

Purchasing our tickets to Florence using the machines was easier than I feared.  Finding our train’s track was slightly confusing because Florence was only a stop, and Milano showed up on the boards.  But through the kindness of strangers and a more thorough examination of our ticket to find the train number we found it and were soon on our way.  Our seating companion, an Italian businessman, helped me hook up to the wi-fi on the train (you need an Italian phone number to get the passcode, but the wi-fi is free), so I checked emails during the trip, and the ride was smooth and painless.

It was a 10-minute taxi from the Firenze train station to our B&B, Le Stanze di Santa Croce.  The B&B is on a tiny road well-located for sightseeing.  Our kids shared the beautiful bedroom pictured here.

Our bedroom had a small balcony, though we never used it.  And although it was in the middle of the City, just off the Piazza di Santa Croce in one of the most happening parts of the centro storico, it was quiet at night.

We walked to Ponte Vecchio, where jewelry stores line the bridge with an enclosed hallway on the very top designed so the d’medici family didn’t have to mingle with the general masses, or risk assassination.  It is so beautiful that it was the only one of the bridges not bombed by the Germans … rumor has it that someone high up in the German army loved to watercolor, and didn’t want such a perfect watercolor of a bridge destroyed.

On the way to Ponte Vecchio we admired a boat race on the Arno River,

then stopped at the Galileo Museum for a quick tour (which wasn’t very interesting, probably because I had no guidebook to lead me through or explain what I was seeing).

After a long walk on the bridge, and a long day given that we hadn’t slept since our night in Atlanta, many hours before, my feet in pain, we headed for dinner at Baldovino, just a few steps from our B&B.  It was excellent — great pizza, good house wine, and a nice atmosphere.

Then to bed to get ready for tomorrow’s adventures!

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