Thursday, March 31, 2011

James's post

We are having a great time here in Florence. Today I saw 15 horses and we got lost near the duomo.

Visiting a Palazzo

I felt the need to remedy our not having visited a single palazzo in Venice.  Having read about a Palazzo Davanzati in the tour book thoughtfully provided in the apartment, and noticing that it was on our way back to the apartment, this seemed to be an easy way to achieve this.

I had the kids' passports with me, so they were free. Michael & I paid 2 euros each to get in, and it was well worth it.  It had frescoed walls, a lace gallery, a WELL in the palazzo (built into the wall, no less), potties, showers (a large metal pan and what looked like watering cans), china, and furniture.  It was really great, and I do recommend it.  It's in the area just west of the Duomo in the (surprise, surprise) Piazza Davanzati.

For more information



The Uffizi

We left a clutch of astounded docents in our wake as we made our way through the Uffizi galleries.  The kids were wonderfully interested in the different paintings.  We compared French, Italian, and Flemish paintings from the early Renaissance.  We discussed Michelangelo's musculature.  We talked about brush strokes, realism, chiaroscuro, and more.

Two docents were particularly tickled by us.  The first was when I asked about Caravaggio's work, and explained that James had been studying the artist.  His eyes bugged out, and with a smile he commented that it seemed rather early for the kid to begin studying Caravaggio! 

In the next gallery, James was asking about a painting entitled "The Slaughter of the Innocents."  In it, the soldiers' arms and legs were much darker than the torsos; in fact, it appeared as though they were wearing pale flesh-colored short-sleeved tunics.  I asked the docent about this (he'd been eying us with a smile), and he explained the symbolism of the darkness that the arms and legs were carrying out -- the evil of their actions.  He then told me about a book that we might enjoy that explains the allegories and symbolism of many Renaissance paintings. 

On our way out, young James's eyes were caught by a painting.  In the most piping voice possible, "Isn't that St. Sebastian?"  Sure enough --

Florence was great with explaining symbolism and perspective to James, and Jeremy was very impressed with some of the early art.  Everyone loved the frescoed ceilings in the galleries.  And a bonus:  I had been told that the Birth of Venus might not be on display because of the renovations.  But it was!  Hurrah!

On the way to the Caravaggio galleries, we all loved the galleries that were under renovation:  the Uffizi personnel had hung painting-sized photographs of work site, individual crew members (in their cute little uniforms), and so on. 

One last giggle (?) before we left:  when we were going to the restrooms, we went down some modern metal steps over some excavation work.  I looked down, and saw -- a femur.  No joke.  There were human bones just sitting there next to me.  Who knows how old they are?



Leaning towards Lucca

Yesterday was a field trip day:  we went to Pisa (which, frankly, is a one-time type event for tourists, as far as I'm concerned -- but the Duomo really is pretty).

We emerged from the train station.  And walked.  And walked.  And felt like Pooh as we stopped for "provisions" at the local grocery store. 

Sta. Maria della Spina
And then we came across Sta. Maria della Spina, a Gothic confection that's very plain inside to make up for the decoration load outside.

A happy James in the sunshine!
The building was leaning, not me!
On the way, we saw a leaning building.  Apparently, the name "Pisa" comes from some language (Greek?  Etruscan?  I don't remember) meaning "marshland" -- in other words, "don't build here."  No wonder the campanile didn't even make it to the third floor before it started going cattywonkus!

After a few more steps, we saw the tip of the campanile (the leaning tower) over the trees.  I sped up to go to the ticket office, and arrived there at 11:45.  The reserved ticket time we received was 12:00-- in other words, no wait to speak of!  There was just time to feed the children some of the provisions to prevent meltdowns on the way up (can you imagine a puddle of bad temper oozing down those steps?).  Promptly at noon, the children and their daddy went bounding joyously to the tower, while I "usefully" watched all the bags, knitted, and read my book.  Any guesses on who was the happiest?

Waving from the Top!
Ceiling of Duomo
A few waves down at their mother apparently flattened against the pavement, and the kids zipped back down the stairs.  Then into the duomo -- which is really, really pretty.  Really pretty.

Florence and James getting Holy Water
Typical Catholic church, though:  it's like a family home where stuff has accumulated over the years, and no one has the heart to get rid of the sentimental favorites, even though they no longer "go" and so on.  Quite dear.  I have more pictures below for those who are photo gluttons!
Quite a pulpit!

Michael and Ashley in the gallery, for scale
Into the baptistery.  Just in time, too:  a few young men came in who apparently thought that "silenzio" translated as "laugh at the top of your voices."  The guide book says that the acoustics in the baptistery were amazing and that you can ask a docent to sing.  No docent being nearby, I proceeded to mortify the adolescents in the group by checking out the acoustics for myself.  They are excellent.

 Lunch, then on to Lucca, a little fortress town!

Ashley was NOT impressed with the toilets at the train station
Out of the station, we were confronted with a 30-foot wall within a few steps.  Tell me if this isn't adorable:  you curve around the corner of the fortification, go through a little archway, up a ramp (curved), around again, up some more steps, and into the sunlight!  You're now on top of the wall!

We had read about a gelateria, so this was a high-priority item.  And it really was good, I must say.  Then we wandered into the duomo (under restoration, so filled with scaffolding), and went up the main street, which is an outdoor mall of overpriced items.  I mean, really -- 310 euros for a pair of shoes

We found a really cute piazza -- La Piazza dell'Anfiteatro -- used to be a Roman amphitheatre, and had been changed into housing, shops, etc.  Really cute.
Aren't the curved buildings sweet?
Piazza dell'Anfiteatro with my favorite family!
Closeup of the best part of the trip....
And then home to Florence in a double-decker train! 
Our train from Lucca.  We were in the top!
Dinner -- and bed.

Love, Alexandra

The cupola in the Duomo

Main altar in the Duomo

Floor leading up to the main altar

A side altar in the Duomo

Inlaid stone to the side of the main altar

Isn't this a wonderful depiction of the Fall?
The baptismal candle

Florence according to Alexandra

It's hard to believe that we were in Florence the day before yesterday -- the days are moving by so quickly!

As reported, we went to the Duomo, to the Boboli Gardens, and various other spots.  It was so sweet to see the men of the family walking around hand in hand again!  The boys have missed their daddy.

The kids definitely respond better to the smaller towns.  The crowds, constant vendors, and beggars flummox them, and they keep asking how much longer before we get back to Todi.  We'll be going to the Uffizi today, and then we'll head home in the morning.

Here are some of my pictures (we hope you're not tired of them yet!):

Frescoes in the Duomo

The Duomo's lantern

Closeup, showing required distortions

This "small" sack was about 3 feet across.

From the Boboli Gardens

More signs of spring!

A family reunited!

Quite a view!

I think the Tuscan countryside is just beautiful!

And another shot -- this is just outside of Florence, seen from the gardens

Some tired feet with their owners still attached

More garden views

My three men

An alleyway of trees -- so pretty!

James making sure he has good luck!

In the baptistery -- the Fall

The floors here are so ornate!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pisa and Lucca

Today we went to Pisa and climbed the tower. We had a snack first and got in the line. The line didn't take too long because we got reserved tickets. We only had to wait for the people to open the gate.  It was fun to see the worn away steps and go up the staircase as it tilted. Once we got to the top we could see all of Pisa.
Then we went to the Duomo and saw there were paintings covering the walls. We went around, looking at all the pictures involving saints and continued on.
We went to lunch and waited for the table because they didn't have enough tables for us. Then we ordered on the limited menu and waited about fifteen minutes before the bread came out. After that, our food came out in about thirty minutes. While we waited we watched the people pass by and the cat above us. The building's window was opened and a cat came out on the window sill. He wanted the pigeons that were flying next to him but he would have to fly to get to them. We watched him crane his neck and almost fall off the window sill.
Then we went to Lucca, which is a small town were everyone rides their bike. We stayed only for a couple of hours and went in a few churches. I had a fun time, but I went straight for a drink of water and then to bed!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jeremy's pictures from the Boboli Gardens

One of the buildings in the garden

View of Florence from the garden

We think this is just crazy modern art

They're trying a bit too hard to keep this tree alive, in my opinion

A gate with a fountain behind it
What do you think this statue is of?


The water comes out of his mouth and goes...

...into here, and out the spout on the left...

...and lands in this pool, which has a drain...

...which pours into the pond!

Mummy thinks this is a dolphin.  The rest of us are doubtful.
Some of the flooring at the fountain

Designs in the Garden

The Duomo, seen from the gardens