Ah … a great night’s sleep. GREAT night’s sleep. Did I say, we slept great? Anyway, our new room was cool and quiet and comfortable. In fact, we slept in a bit longer than we had planned … after all, what’s a vacation for!
Last night, after posting my blog to you, we both had a hankering to walk a bit. We took off to enjoy Florence at night. And, as beautiful as it is at day, at night it is even moreso. Magnifico!
The Duomo, Campanile, and Baptistry of Santa Maria del Flore
We finally ended up on the Republic Square and found a cafe for a light dinner. We people watched, were amused by street vendors and performers, enjoyed a delicious dinner of bruschetta, fresh baked bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic, fresh pasta with a cream sauce and mushrooms (yummy) and a glass of an excellent local Tuscan wine.
During dinner and desert, we (and all those in the square) were serenaded by an opera singer who was standing in a nearby portico. The acoustics were marvelous. And, her Ave Maria put us in the mood for the wedding we’ll attend Friday at St. Peter’s in Rome.
By the way, desert was Vin Santo and biscotti … or Sacred Wine with biscotti. We have not had this special European desert since enjoying it in Southern France when we were students over 30 years ago. There it was called Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) wine and was a sweet red wine. Here it was a sweet white wine. But, my oh my oh my … bueno.
It would be hard to imagine a more romantic evening … and reminded us of another just over three decades ago … but, more on that in a moment.
After our wonderful sleep, we were up and off to the Uffizi Museum. We were SO happy we had studied the guide books and had made reservations for tickets. The line to get in was endless … but, at the appointed hour we breezed right in.
The Uffizi is said to have the greatest collection of Italian art anywhere and was a wonderful lesson in the history of art from medieval times through the Renaissance … from Giotto, Lippi, Botticelli, Da Vinci, Duerr, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, to Rembrandt.
Barb loved Boticelli’s Birth of Venus, which she calls Venus on the Half Shell …
But, my favorite was the Baptism of Christ by Andrea del Verrocchio. I loved findin and studying this large painting for a reason that may surprise you … it certainly did me.
It’s not that the painting itself is so well-known (it’s not), or that it’s a masterpiece (it’s not), but it signals something amazing in the art world Notice the little angel in the lower left hand corner of the painting …
I’m sorry that the picture does not really reflect the stunning beauty of this little angel. And, here’s the story behind him or her. It was painted by a 14 year old student of the old man … one Leonardo Da Vinci.
Legend has it that when Verrocchio saw that some kid had painted an angel better than he ever would … he hung up his brush for good.
After the Uffizi, and lunch at a trattoria packed with locals (thanks, again, Rick Steves), where we enjoyed grilled pork, freshly hand-made pasta with butter and garlic, fresh-baked bread dipped in olive oil, and a very enjoyable Chianti … followed by delicious gelato at Vivaldi gelato (my friend, Len Frommer, says it’s the best in the world. The servings are small, and expensive, but pretty good, Len.), we were off to the south bank of the Arno River again.
This time we climbed above the Oltrarno area to a Benedictine church, San Miniato al Monte, overlooking the city. According to legend, the church’s namesake, Saint Minias, was beheaded on the banks of the Arno in 250 A.D., whereupon, he stood up, picked up his head, and walked up the mountain to this point where he died.
I’ll tell you this, it would have been a tough hike with our heads on. So, we took a cab. Inside the church, under a carved pillar holding the pulpit …
… was a VERY unusual sculpture of a cat whose eyes seemed to follow you as you walked around. And, the cat could watch more than one person at once. Creepy …
We then walked down the hill a bit to our favorite overlook of the city, the Piazzale Michelangelo. Here we encountered our second copy of Michelangelo’s David …
Yep, even the copies are pretty good. Looking forward to revisiting the real one tomorrow.
And we just dwaddled for a bit, living in the memories of camping overnight in this same Piazzale Michelangelo in March of 1978. We had just been skiing for 10 days or so on the Italian/French border (at Tignes Val D’sire) with a bunch of single friends from England. We drove from Northern Italy to Florence only to find the camp was closed for the evening. They directed us to camp here.
Well, that was the first week of March in 1978, and Kate, our first child, was due November 25, 1978. You get the idea. And, thus our smiles and recollections of a Piazzale with much significance to our family …
Even though Kate decided to come early (October 30, 1978), we reminisced together the wonderful gift that our children have been to us … the two we have (Kate and Scott) and the four we’ve lost (who we’ll one day meet in heaven). And, we’re grateful to the gift of God our children represent.
We walked back into town, had a rest time at the hotel, and then an evening stroll around the Palazzo Vecchio. We stopped in at the Fescobaldi Wine Bar. Frescobaldi is one of the better known wine makers in Italy and we sat for a long visit, tasting super-Tuscans and a wonderul Chianti Reserva … along with carpaccio prosciutto and shaved parmesan drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a dash of sea salt. Oh, Nellie …
The chef must have seen how we were enjoying our feast, so he made us a small plate of crostini (grilled Tuscan toast) covered with sushi-grade Red Tuna (from the Mediterranean) dashed with olive oil and herbs. It was fabulous.
We listened to a marvelous musician play his guitar and sing in the courtyard of the Uffizi and then headed back along the pedestrian walkways, stopping, of course, for a last dark chocolate and coconut gelato. A perfect ending to a great day in Florence.
And, we still have one more to go. Hope you’ll come back and join us for it.
Here’s the entire series:
Dr. Walt and Barb’s Italian Adventure — May 8-25, 2010
If you’ve ever wanted to go to Italy (or even if you have in the past), you’ll want to come along with us and enjoy the sites, sounds, food, and art.
Hopefully, this blog will stimulate you to put visiting these amazing cities on your to-do list. Just click on any of the days or cities you want to visit with us.
- Days #1 and 2 – Flight Nightmares
- Okay, so you think you don’t know anyone whose plane to Europe was canceled due to the volcanic ash … or who were on another plane that blew two tires on take off and had to make an emergency landing … well now you do!
- Day #3 – Rome
- Rome and the Vatican Museum. Come visit the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Michelangelo’s Pieta.
- Day #4 – Venice
- The tourists call it ‘Venice,’ the Italians call it ‘Venezia,’ while the Venetians call it ‘Venexia.’ Barb and I call it romantic and captivating. Come on an afternoon and evening stroll and be quickly drawn into her whimsical wonderment … right to the Rialto Bridge.
- Day #5 – Venice
- We were awakened by the sound of an accordion and an operatic voice, singing to a couple taking a romantic ride in a gondola in the canal just outside our hotel window. Then off to Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Bridge of Sighs, and an amazing discovery.
- Day #6 – Venice to Cinque Terre
- We spent the day traveling to the Cinque Terre. If you’ve never heard of it, you’ll want to visit the next two days with us.
- Day #7 – Cinque Terre Day #1
- We awoke this morning to throw open our shutters and let in the fresh sea air and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. The music of small children laughing in the square, and the smell of fresh-baked bread from the bar below us wafted up and in our window. Today we explored Riomaggiore, the ‘Via dell’Amore,’ Manarola, and Corniglia. Come along with us.
- Day #8 – Cinque Terre Day #2
- Cinque Terre is a remote mountainous chunk of the Italian riveria that is called “the traffic-free, lowbrow, underappreciated alternative to the French Riveria … just sun, sea, sand (pebbles), wine, and pure, unadulterated Italy … exploring, hiking, shopping, and evening romance in one of God’s great gifts to tourism.” Join us as we visit Monterossa.
- Day #9 – Florence Day #1
- A trip by Carrara (home of the world famous marble), Pisa (home of the world famous tower), and then to Florence for quick visits to the Duomo and the Baptistery to see Ghiberti’s bronze doors. And, it was a hot night in Florence.
- Day #10 – Florence Day #2
- Come visit the Oltrarno area, to the south of the Arno River, to get a sense of rustic, old Florence. Then, off to the Santa Croce Basilica and the amazing tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante, and Machiavelli.
- Day #11 – Florence Day #3
- The Uffizi Museum, the greatest collection of Italian art anywhere, was our morning adventure. Then join us at Piazzale Michelangelo, where we saw a second copy of Michelangelo’s David, and relived our memories of romance 30 years ago … followed by an evening at the Palazzo Vecchio and a wonderful meal at the Fescobaldi Wine Bar.
- Day #12 – Florence Day #4
- Join us at the underappreciated Duomo Museum and then the Academy, to meet the real David. Our afternoon was Fra Angelica and the Santa Maria Novalle Church. For our Florentine finale, the Lord was pleased to provide us a riverside, bridge-view table near the Ponte Vecchio for sunset.
- Days #13-14 – Rome Days #1-2 – The Wedding
- We’ve been to a lot of weddings in our lives, but a wedding at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican comes right at the top. We had a magnificent time with dear friends, accompanied by fantastic fellowship and food.
- Day #15 – Rome Day #3
- Join us for a journey through the Trastevere area of Rome, and then to devotions at the Church of St. Cecilia, followed by our amazing trip to the Villa Borghese Gallery. Our evening was capped off at the magnificent Trevi Fountain and the the world-famous Spanish Steps.
- Day #16 – Our Last Day – Rome Day #4
- We’ll start at the Roman coliseum, an tour by the Arch of Constantine, the ostentatious Victor Emmanuel Monument, and Bernini’s Four Rivers fountain in the Piazza Novona. As well as a visit with an amazing young man.
We’ve hoped you’ve had fun accompanying us on this trip to Italy, and that one day you’ll be blessed to experience and enjoy her yourself.