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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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September 22, 2009

On Monday, Mary Lynne Does the Dome!!

This morning I took my little “food voucher” to my free breakfast bar and lived La Dolce Vita – had a chocolate croissant type pastry and it was nummy, And, of course, my nice pot of tea. I still haven't tried a coffee over here – I know all my favorite barristas will be quite disappointed in me!

My plan this morning was to go to the Basilica de San Lorenzo mainly because it is attached to the Medici Chapels which sound pretty splendiferous and I always enjoy splendiferous. My very slight understanding of the Renaissance is that the Medicis were the ruling family in the Tuscan region for about 200 years (and don't sound like too bad a family, although I'm not all that well read about them). Anyway, I think they liked things to be pretty splendiferous and apparently the reason these “chapels” were built was to serve as their burial places.

So I set off on one of my walks that I enjoy so much, finally crossing the Arno and actually heading into Florentine proper. The street I chose was also quite splendiferous with Pucci, Armani, Bulgari, Tiffany's, and names I don't know but knew I'd never be shopping there. So at least I wasn't slowed down by window shopping very much. But the streets themselves are what get to me – I sure don't remember Rome being so very, very “Italian”. Maybe I just wasn't old enough then to appreciate it. Now I'm old enoigh to appreciate most anything!

I stopped at a church I happened past on the way – the Chiesa de S. Trinita. I hate to say it, but I found it kind of ho-hum. I think that's partly because there are very seldom any English explanations for what you're seeing. For that matter, there aren't always Italian explanations, just Latin titles. I know we shouldn't expect every country in the world to speak perfect English, but seems like if a city's major industry is tourism, they should give the tourist a little consideration. Stepping down from my soapbox, I will say I took a picture of a picture which I'm pretty sure portrayed the risen Christ and he certainly looked to me to be quite feminine and not just because of his slender waist. I'm talking lack of “naughty parts” as one of my guide book authors refers to them. I'm wondering if it was considered indecent or worse to portray a naked Christ as an actual man, but it really was quite strange.

Moving on from that fascinating note, I kept walking. Took a picture of another church I came across cause its front was kind of interesting and I liked the name – Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano. It dates back to the 11th century but has had lots of restructuring, of course. (These couple of paragraphs will be my first batch of photos)

So, finally I get to Piazza San Lorenzo. I knew that there was an outdoor market around there that sells cheap leather and cheap everything else, but I was totally unprepared for what I found. The basilica and Medici Chapels are pretty much surrounded on three sides by I'd guess probably between 100 to 200 “booths”. Sure made me think of the money changers in the temple! And trash everywhere! And the Medici Chapels were closed because it was the third Monday (I know, I should have caught that). So, after two tries I bought a ticket which admitted me to the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana which has a wonderful reading library with an incredible carved wood ceiling. Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Brunelleschi all had a lot to do with creating the basilica as it stands today. It was a rebuilding of what had stood there since the 4th century!  And the outside has never been finished!  So it's quite unprepossessing.

Aside from the library, I wasn't terribly impressed (again, didn't know what I was looking at most of the time) and was kind of depressed by the whole area, so it was time to move on to Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. (the second batch of pictures will be from San Lorenzo)

My book says that this is one of the first homes designed to be beautiful rather than a fortress. It was started in 1444 and the Medicis lived there until 1544. The Riccardis acquired itin the 17th century and remodeled it. I enjoyed this -you come in off a busy street and it's very peaceful and quiet. It has a lovely garden with upper story balconies looking down over it and out towards.... another bit of the Duomo. I hadn't realized I was that close! (third batch of pictures)

I decided I would at least go and get my first real look at the Duomo and see the whole thing instead of just the top of the dome. It was getting on in the afternoon and I had already done a lot of walking, but I could go on home from there quite easily. So I did. And, guess what? I was impressed!! I took this picture and that picture, wandered around the Piazza and took more pictures, read a little in the guidebook about what's in the duomo, what's in the baptistery, what's in the campanile (not much but stairs), studied the weather – beautiful! and, unbelievaby enough ... TA DA!!! made the decision to climb to the top of the dome!!! I was afraid I might die in the attempt but hoped I wouldn't and I knew it was kind of insane to do it after a day of walking, but what if it rained the whole rest of my time here? and so in I went, bought my ticket, and started up. There are 437 steps and, at least in my book, that is a whole lot of steps. But a couple of times we would pass a window you could see out of (well, actually an about 2 foot deep opening in the dome) and that was an excuse to pause and take a picture and also an inspiration, cause we kept getting higher. There was also a point where you got out of the staircase (for want of a better word) and walked around a galley that circled the interior frescoed celing of the dome which was pretty stunning. And there was an open area (don't know how) where they had a number of the tools actually used in the construction, a lot of which Brunelleschi had to invent as the building progressed. I had been reading the book “Brunelleschi's Dome” before I got here and it was wonderful (when I could catch my breath) to be in it.

And, finally, we arrived and oh, oh, oh ... it was absolutely incredible. You can see forever, and it's so beautiful – you see out into Tuscany with the hills, the trees... And it was cool and windy and just utterly fantastic. I didn't want to leave and not just because I didn't want to climb back down. I took around 180 pictures yesterday (don't worry...you're not going to see them all) and the majority of them were definitely of the Duomo and from the dome. After I got back down (and it was such a tight spiral most of the time I got quite dizzy), I went outside and took more pictures of it all. Tried to get some that would show the pink, green and white marble that the outside is covered with. It is such a lovely building – somehow truly, truly beautiful without being “look at me!” It just is there and doesn't have to shout – you can't tear yourself away from it. (so, of course, there will be pictures of that too, ending with just a couple from my walk home.)

My walk home was nice but uneventful and then I went out for dinner and at an Italian restaurant had chicken curry which was delicious and which had balsamic vinegar drizzled on it which was also delicious.

Oh, and I did have a disaster yesterday – seems like I'm going to manage to have one mishap or problem each day. I had stopped somewhere on my trek for a sandwich and glass of wine and was sitting outside on a small bench. I went to stand up or shift something or whatever and the bench tilted sideways and there went the glass of wine – all over the khaki slacks I was wearing. I was upset, of course, but once it dried, I just decided if anyone said anything, I'd just say someone knocked a glass of wine over on me (tricky, right?) And, of course, once I hit the Duomo, what did wine drenched khakis really matter?

So, here come the pics... (and this is so long w/so many pics, I'm going to post the Duomo and "rest of the day" pics as a separate post with no text. You've already heard how I feel about the Duomo and I'm sure you'll be hearing more...)

Batch #1:  On the way to San Lorenzo

Second Batch:   San Lorenzo

Third batch of pictures:  Palazzo Medici-Riccardi (the strange heads exhibit was here on a special loan and I thought it was strangely appealing)

These last three are of two rooms used now for meetings - the last picture is the ceiling of the "see-thru chairs" meeting room.  Incredible!


Christopher said...

Wow...! I'm thrilled you decided to brave the hundreds of steps to the top of the dome, and more than that, that it turned out to be so totally worth it! Can't wait to see all the pictures (ie, when you don't have to post them all in a blog) just to see all the other things that maybe aren't "blog worthy"...
So, is this whole post your Monday? (I'm trying to keep track of the days, not going by the date you actually post!)

Anonymous said...

Wow mom, seeing your pictures of Florence (in particular the bridge and the Duomo) bring my trip and love I had of Florence back as well. I don't recall there being all of those tents when I went - but I am sure from your descriptions, your pictures and my recollection, you are having a lovely time with the sites! Glad to hear you are feeling less pain in your ankle! Hopefully it will be fully mended soon. As for the wine on khaki pants - light colored pants always beckon spills. Good thing you packed the extra pants! Enjoy and keep sending more glorious pics!

Love you.


Diane Adams said...

Absolutely awesome pics!!! I'm really enjoying reading about your experiences.

Mary Lynne said...

Hi, Chris, Yes, I did the dome on Monday. I'll have to try and remember to remove that second phto and I'll get up the Duomo and view from the dome photos sometime today (Wednesday). I wish I could get caught up to doing my post the same day I do what I'm posting!

Mary Lynne said...

Hi Heather, Good girl for keeping up! I'm glad the blog is bringing back some pleasant memories... Love, Mama

Jamie said...

Wow! Your narrative is soooo positively Mary Lynne, I feel like I am there! I love, love, love the pics - especially the ones of the garden. Gorgeous. Or, splendiferous, as you say! Hope your ankle is mending - don't know how it could with all that walking! Miss you and can't wait for the next "episode"!


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