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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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October 05, 2009

Sunday - Which Didn't Go Exactly as Planned, but That's Okay

Today, as I said in my group e-mail when I posted Saturday's "issue", I had decided to visit the Jewish temple.  I had found a new map here at the hotel and was looking at it to see what I might have missed that would be interesting and there was the Temple Israelitico which hadn't been on any of the other maps I had been using.  I looked it up on the Internet and discovered that the only day it was closed was Saturday (the Jewish sabbath) and also discovered that it has the big blue dome I had seen when I went up to the top of the dome at the duomo.  So that seemed like a good project for today.  And there was a very nice park shown on the map also.

So after my little breakfast, I started off (kind of late) on yet another incredibly beautiful morning.  I just stay amazed at how fortunate I've been.  And this turned into one of those mornings (and days) when I just sort of took pictures of everything.  I think it's cause I know I'm not going to be here to look at it all much longer.  So this post is probably going to have a whole lot of pictures, although I haven't edited them yet so am not sure how many there are or how many I'll feel compelled to share.  So I'm just going start getting them on here...


This was the first of my "walking pictures".  I've been showing narrow streets ever since I got here.  They have even narrower alleys of which this is one.
 
That little white bit up there by the tower is San Miniato that I climbed up to one evening and about died.  But it was beautiful once there.
 
This turns out to be a statue to the fallen of Mentana.  And there were two American men there, one doing the picture taking, who I ended up talking to for quite a while.  I think they were as eager to talk as I always seem to be.  They told me that this was a battle that took place during Italy's fight for independence in the late 1800's or early 1900's.  I told them that when I very first saw it, even though I knew it couldn't be, I thought "my gosh, it's the wild west!" cause it just sort of has that look.  The had just arrived in Florence 3 days ago and but had been here 17 years ago for 4 days.  This time they're staying for 2 weeks and, wisely, have an apartment.  Sure wish I had nailed one.  So, finally, I said I'd better move on.
 
Don't know if I've mentioned the grafitti in Florence, but it is everywhere.  Every reachable surface seems to be slathered with scrawls, scribbles, messes, etc.  But this one just sort of delighted me.  You probably can't tell that the little bit sitting beside the man is a pigeon, but it is.  This was painted over a seat-high ledge running along the side of a building (there are a lot of these which is nice for when you're tired), and so that made it even more appropriate cause there they are sitting on a ledge.  As best as I've been able to transcribe it, it seems to say "normality is the prison of all psychiatric assassins" which doesn't end  up meaning much to me, but I still like it.



This was a neat triangular building with a restaurant at street level and I decided to remember it and come back this way and stop for lunch.
 
And this is the restaurant closer up.
 
This is a street named for Giuseppe Verdi (did you notice that?)  I had asked the two men this morning why I was seeing streets and theaters named for him, but hadn't found like his house or anything.  They explained that he didn't live in Florence, but that he was a national hero because during Italy's battle for independence, he continued to write his opera scores but in such a way that the people knew they were revolutionary, but apparently the censors didn't.  And people would scrawl "viva verdi" on the walls because of something to do with his initials that wasn't real clear to me, but they enjoyed telling me about it.
 
I arrived, finally, at the Jewish synagogue only to find, surprise, surprise, that it was closed because of today being a festival day.  Just in the short while I was there, there were a number of people who came to go in, only to find that they couldn't.  I talked for a little bit to an elderly couple who were I think Dutch or Belgian and we agreed that it would have been nice to be able to go in and see something besides annunciations and crucifixions.  But here are a couple of pics of the outside and it is a beautiful building.  It was completed in 1882 following the granting of citizenship to Tuscan Jewish people in 1861.


There's a lot of clutter in this one although the lighting is better than the next one which I poked my camera through the fence to take.


 
And another Florentine cat, hanging out at the synagogue

So, I was kind of at a loss as to what to do next and started back towards that restaurant.  It was too early to eat lunch yet, so I sat at Santa Croce for a while, taking some pictures and feeling smug cause it was closed today for a Festival of St. Francis and people were being turned away, while I had already been there.


It's not enough that the entire piazza is nothing but vendor stalls, this guy was up at the front door with his "art" laid out on the pavement.  Wouldn't you think maybe someone would tell him to move on?  The giant pretzel wasn't on display in the vendor stalls though, so maybe it's not allowed on Sundays (or maybe someone poked a hole in it!)

 
Apparently, there was some special event in connection with the St. Francis celebration and there was a whole lot of "schmoozing" going on.  Reminded me of where I used to work when they would have some of their fund-raising functions.

Did a little people watching but didn't see too many really intriguing ones.  There were these though...
 
Two American ladies -- maybe West Virginia?
 
these guys opted for red jackets rather than red pants

I really wish I could have managed a better picture of this guy.  His jacket was a black satin type of fabric and was ornately embroidered on the back.  Here he was getting ready to help someone out of the back of the cab who turned out to be a quite old woman, but smartly turned out all in black with silver chains and such.  They never did turn to face me but as they started walking around the cab, I noticed that he either had an orange eyepatch or was wearing small orange glasses.
 
Not people, but a steeple visible from Santa Croce and I can't seem to figure out what one it would be.  I think I even remember going to one on a visit that I said was the first church I had seen with a steeple.  I'll have to read my own posts...oh, noooooo!
 
And again, not people, but just the very top of my dome.

still at Santa Croce and I bet the people on this balcony wish their view was as nice as the one at the botanical gardens

So, having wasted enough time that I could eat lunch by the time I got to the restaurant, I made my way there.  And boy, did I make a mistake on that choice.  I had been wanting ravioli and they had it on the menu which most places haven't.  I was pretty sure the words meant that it was stuffed with potato (oddly enough) and served with a meat tomato sauce.  I checked with the waitress and I was right!  So, odd or not I ordered that with just a little house type salad, insalata misti they call it here and it's always just a nice little salad.  When I first sat down, the sewer smell was pretty bad (did I mention you pretty much smell sewer off and on all over Florence?  But then you do in Huntington, too...) but that seemed to die down.  Then a couple came and sat down beside me and there was this really strong smell of manure - I finally decided that the man must have stepped in one of the many piles of dog droppings that  are also everywhere in Florence.  Once he got all settled and got his feet under the table that seemed to die down too.  Meanwhile here came my salad and a bottle of oil and a bottle of balsamic.  The balsamic was like no balsamic I've tasted and I think was basically vinegar and the lettuce had that old lettuce flavor that I really don't like.  So I kind of picked around at that and then came my plate of ravioli.  About 6 of them probably in a little bit of sauce, which if they had been good, that would have been nice to not have more food than I could finish.  I've never had Chef Boyardee, but I decided this is what it would taste like.  It was really pretty bad.  So, I asked for my bill (which was depressingly high) and left.  I've not been thrilled with the food here the whole time, but anything I've had has mostly been tasty, fresh, nicely presented, etc.  I am always amazed at the cost though and I'm eating at the low-end restaurants that aren't in the guide books.  But even at those, a plate of pasta usually starts at 8E which is around $11.00 and that's only pasta - you order everything separately.  So if you add a little salad and a little wine, you're up to I guess around $22.00!!  It really doesn't pay to think about it.  Oops, I was on  the soapbox again, wasn't I?  :)

But I survived and moved on, thinking that I would walk by the Ufizzi on the way back across the river to take a look at the line and see if maybe I should go there.  Here's a picture of the line - they had just let  in a batch of people right before I took the picture which made it a little better...


But my feet and I decided we wouldn't get in line and instead I had fun taking more pictures.  I had been in this courtyard one other time and took pictures of the building itself and maybe  a statue or two, but I decided to do it right today.  These first pics are of the "living statues" that are there.  They vary as to how many and who they're representing.  I think they're pretty neat, some more than others.  One day I saw one sitting down eating lunch and visiting with a buddy which sort of caused a second look.

don't who this one was supposed to be and I think maybe it was a girl doing it...
 
this one was Leonardo DaVinci and really quite good

Along the whole length of both sides of the Ufizzi, there are statues in niches of various Florentine notables and I decided to take pictures of all the ones whose names I recognized.  And I can't believe I didn't find one of Brunelleschi, since he seems to have designed and built half of Florence.  A little bit of one side was behind scaffolding so I tried to tell myself his statue was probably there.


 So this is Leonardo DaVinci - that living statue did a fairly good imitation I think.


This, as the statue says, is Donatello


Niccola Pisano - only learned that name on this trip and can't remember now why, although I think it was something to do with the Duomo


The Medici patriarch, I believe - the first Cosimo.  Not sure how many there were.
 
And this is one of the Lorenzo Medicis.  I know that there were at least two of them.  This one, as you can see was "Il Magnifico"
 
And this is Michaelangelo - you'd think maybe they'd show him with a palette or a sculptor's tools or something


Macchiavelli and he's got a slightly shifty look

  
Dante
 
Galileo
 
Boccaccio
 
and, last but not least, Amerigo Vespucci

Phew!  With that task accomplished (and just be glad I didn't recognize any more of the names), I decided as long as I was right there, I'd take a look at the Palazzo Vecchio which I thought I remembered hearing was a free, self-guided tour.  But when I went in, it wasn't free and there was quite a line waiting to get in so I took some pictures of its courtyard and went back outside.  My guidebook says this was a fortified palace and the town hall built by the Medicis (who else?)



It's a beautiful courtyard, mostly because of the columns
 
which as you can see are pretty incredible!
 
then, there's the ceiling, which ain't bad either.

Then back out to the Piazza della Signoria (which, thanks to my son, I just discovered isn't the Piazza Vecchio) and a couple more pictures.  I took one of a statue of whoever it was that killed Medusa holding her snake-haired head high for all to see and discovered when I edited my photos that I had it all but her head - the best part!  Maybe that's how I'll use up some time Monday - go back and do it right...anyway, here's what I did get.



The Rape of the Sabines
 
Marking the spot where Savonarola was hanged and burned
 
One of the buildings surrounding the piazza - I liked all its shutters closed up tight.



Leaving the piazza and on the street along the Arno, this is the start of the covered walkway the Medicis built which runs from inside the Ufizzi over the top of the shops on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge and into the Pitti Palace.  That way, they didn't have to get wet after a hard day at the office.  They knew how to live, that's for sure and I'm glad they did - they made a beautiful city.

I finished my walk back to the hotel, taking just a few more pictures...
 
So it does get cloudy in Florence!  I was beginning to wonder.


How many pictures have I taken from the bridges?  But it's just so lovely...
 
This is the dome of Chiesa di Santo Spirito.  I went inside it either the Saturday I arrived and was exhausted or the next day when I was grievously injured so either way I wasn't in my best tourist mode and, plus which, I didn't know I was going to love all things Brunelleschi and he designed this church also.  That's why the dome is a mini duomo dome even to the lantern and golden globe on top.  I'm going to go back in tomorrow and show it the proper respect.

So that was my day.  Back at the hotel, I finished Saturday's post and started wading through all these Sunday pictures.  With the look of the sky, I figured it was going to be cool and maybe even raining so I decided dinner would be another bowl of ribollita soup.  And it did rain, and it was cool and I did have another bowl of soup and it was, again, delicioso (I have no idea if that's a word in Italian, but that's what it was).  I've got to learn how to make it that good at home - it's more like a casserole than a soup.

I will say buona sera and check in again tomorrow evening.

6 comments:

vrmichie said...

What a nice wind-down kind of day. Little of this, little of that, lots of good pics, watch the world stand in line and be glad you aren't among them, nice, nice.

Did your living statues expect a gratuity? I'd never seen living statues until we went to Barcelona and I took some pictures but they scolded me, literally, so I gave up some coins and quit taking pictures of them because there were dozens and I'd have gone broke. Rather an amazing occupation. Can't imagine getting all duded up like that every day.

I think you'll have to stay in DC for awhile so your kiddies can help you eat all that cheese which I'm happy is going to be so easy (tho heavy) to bring back. Also, I'm putting "Lady Liberty" on my Netflix list.

Hope today's another good one.

Christopher said...

It remains pretty impressive how much territory you're covering each day... that's a lot of walking! I love all the crowded "long" shots you get (often with the duomo) and I think that shot of the long stretch of river-facing buildings, which you shot from a bridge, with those buildings reflected in the water, is one of my favorites from your trip.
Too bad that all food in Florence isn't as satisfying as the city itself... But then, I think you can visit anywhere in the world, even places famed for food, and find bad (or at least totally mediocre) versions of that food. Anyway, I'm glad you ended on a delicioso note! Have a great final day, and I'm looking forward to seeing you (and sampling that parmesan! ;)

Mary Lynne said...

It was a nice day and today is being another one. I did put coins in the first one I took a picture of and she went through this strange thanking thing which kind of made me wish I hadn't. But the second one I took I stood further back and zoomed in and I don't think he noticed me - if he had, he would have had to jump down and run after me.

Chris, that picture is one of my favorites too and there's another similar one (shoot, might be the exact same view) where, when I saw it, I thought "okay - I nailed that one."

So, what are we thinking - maybe Friday night for our Italian festival of goodies?

xo to both of you

January said...

That seems like a great exploring day! I'm going to be so excited to hear even more about all of this when you get home (and to eat some of that cheese!).
Enjoy one last beautiful day! xox

Jamie said...

All I can say is "wow"! I'm so proud of you. Wish you had worn a pedometer so you would know how many hundreds of miles you have walked! I loved the living statues! How neat. Sorry the one dinner was such a dud. Was the wine at least OK? Be careful on the trip home and I can't wait to hear more when you arrive.

Mary Lynne said...

Thanks you guys, for chiming in. I need to make a correction (not that it really matters, I suppose) but the very last picture here which I identify as the dome of Chiesa Santo Spirito is not that. It's the dome of yet another church, the Chiesa di San Frediano in Cestello - with a name like that, I bet you'd hope not too many people would ask you what church you belonged to! It's a "newbie" - built in the 17th century. The dome was added later and it sure looks to me like the designer pretty much copied the Duomo's dome. I took another picture of this church recently and think again, I misidentified it. Counting Santo Spirito, there are four churches all quite close together in that area.

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