About Me

My photo
West Virginia
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.

Get my posts by e-mail

September 26, 2010

Was it Worth the Hassle to Get Here? YES!!

First off, I'm pleased with my little hotel room.  It's a little strange cause I DO have my own bathroom, only I have to leave my room and walk to the next door and that's my bathroom.  But, it's worth the walk I guess cause it is SO much better than the bathroom in my Florence hotel last year!!  No shower curtain for one thing and a much larger shower stall.  And a window, and all looking pretty much brand new.  The people who own/work here are all very helpful and pleasant, speak English quite well which, again, embarrasses me with my lack of Italian.  Last night I asked about trains to Riomaggiore and the man said he would look it up for me.  Called a little bit later and had pages printed out with different times, etc., which was wonderful!  So then I worked up my nerve and explained how after Riomaggiore I wanted to come back here, pick up my big suitcase (which they are storing for me) and then train to Perugia.  No problemo - he looked it up and picked a connection that would allow me time to come to the hotel and get my suitcase, so I'm all set.  I ran into an American man last night at the front desk and there are two ladies from Canada staying at the hotel on the top floor, so it's nice to know that I'm not being crazy selecting such inexpensive (and slightly different from what I'm used to) places.

I put this picture here to show you my "neighborhood".  There's a longish flat grey roof on the left of the dome (that's the train station) and a longish, greenish room on the right (that's the Mercato Centrale).  My neighborhood is probably right in between the Mercato Centrale and the yellowish buildings to the left of the dome.

So, yesterday morning I didn't wake up until about 10:30 Florence time which was wonderful but very surprising!  And as stated in my first post, it took me a while to get out and get going.  Walked towards the historic center and found a little place to eat and must confess, I had three little pastries (one really small, mind you and one with red raspberries, so maybe not too bad?) and a pot of tea.  I knew I was pointed in the direction of the Duomo and came to an intersection, turned to see the street name and there it was, peeking around the corner at me.  I actually gave a little lurch back, like a double take or something.  People must have assumed I'd seen a ghost. :)

Just sets my heart all a-flutter!

Walked on to the Piazza della Santa Maria de la Maggiore and took a minute to sit (I had eaten standing at the bar cause it's cheaper that way).  While sitting, the campanile (bell tower) and I took each other's measure and I decided that I would indeed climb it.  After climbing the dome last year, I knew I wanted to climb the campanile sometime and now was the time.  And here is the campanile:

So, after resting up, taking several deep breaths (and a few pictures) I found my way in and started up and either I'm in worse shape than last year or this was a harder climb. I think it was partly being in worse shape but also the flights of stairs were so long before coming to a little spot where you could stop and breathe for a minute.  It was much more straight up than in the dome which I think at least some of the time was going up in a circular pattern. At any rate, it's a few less steps than the dome but I was pretty much completely winded when I got to the top. 

Looking up....

Looking down...

And right now I'm on paid internet so the next batch of pictures have no text - they were all taken from various look-thrus on the way up.

And, finally I got there and here's the picture to prove it (in which I seem to have slits for eyes!)

And a view of the duomo (be glad I'm paying for this - I'm really limiting pictures so you're only seeing one of the duomo).  Then after those will be pictures taken from the top - a few with text.

The blue domed building is the Jewish Temple which I wanted to visit last year and it was closed.  So I hope to see the inside this year.

I believe my hotel is right around where the yellow buildings are that are to the left of the dome.  The green room on the right is Mercato Centrale that huge market where I bought my cheese, olive oil and balsamic last year and the grey line on the left is the roof of the train station where I'll be traveling from and to several times.

The Tuscan hills and the tiny building in the center with a dome is the Kaffee Haus in the Boboli Gardens which I visited last year.

The tall tower building is the Palazzo Vecchio which I hope to tour this year.  Last year, I just did the free first floor and it was beautiful.
The yellow building with the dome I'm pretty sure is Chiesa Santo Spirito which is on the Piazza Santo Spirito near where I "lived" last year.

 And this one is just because I love the red tile roofs...

Looking over the roof of the campanile to the tip of the lantern on the duomo.

Santa Croce (I think basilica - I can't always remember which ones are basilicas and which are chiesa and I don't have time to look it up!)  This was probably my favorite of all the cathedrals I visited last year.  The duomo is most special because of how impressed and amazed I was by what Brunelleschi accomplished in building the dome, but Santa Croce is just pretty much fabulously gorgeous inside.

I took a lot more pictures and may find that I've missed putting one on here that I really wanted to share, but time is short.  I spent quite a while at the top, partly to recover, but also it was quite beautiful and wonderful seeing the dome right across from me.

Going back down was pretty much a breeze with those long straight stairways.  There's one section that is a very tight spiral and goes on for quite a while so you run into people coming up and that's tricky since half of each tread is the skinny end of the triangle.  But now I've climbed both and will have to find another challenge for my next trip.

I went inside the duomo when I got back down just to rest and enjoy for a bit.  And it was interesting that I found myself surprised by how fairly plain and kind of small it was.  Of course, the two side chapels were closed and that would make it seem smaller.  But don't worry - it didn't diminish my feelings any. :)

So these next pictures are from the interior of the cathedral:

I then saw people going downstairs to the gift shop and, for want of a better term, the crypt and remembered that I had decided last year that if I got to come back, I would pay to wander through the "crypt" area.  I don't know why it's called that sometimes.  It's actually the site of an archeological dig beneath the current cathedral and oh, it bugs me not being able to go on-line and get the facts.  But what they found were the remains of an ancient church built on the site which was basically razed to accommodate the construction of the current cathedral.  It was named for a 12-year old girl, Reparata, who refused to renounce her Christian beliefs and was tortured and abused and then killed.  That much is fact, as far as I could tell from the audio guide.  Then legend has it that she was placed in a boat and set adrift on the river, ending up in Florence, somehow due to angelic intervention.  And I'm not being sarcastic, I just can't remember what all the audio said and it's frustrating.  Anyway, she was canonized and was and still is a very popular saint in Italy and particularly in Tuscany.  So the ancient church was called the Chiesa Santa Reparata or the Santa Reparata Basilica, I believe.  There are remains of what must have been beautiful mosaic flooring, there is a very damaged frescoe, various "lids" of tombs that were unearthed during the excavations along with items found in the tombs.  And amazingly enough, a very small chapel has been set up and is used for services although I'm not sure when or why.  But there is a small altar, several pews, a little organ, etc.  So I found all of that quite interesting and am just sorry I can't make it more interesting for anyone reading this.  And it turns out that one of the two statues in niches outside one of the doors of the duomo is a statue of St. Reparata which I think was a friendly gesture on the part of the architects and designers of the duomo.

And this is Santa Reparata outside the duomo

By now, it was time for a bathroom break and I didn't know quite where to find one.  I asked the desk lady in the cathedral and she said there was one at #7 on the Piazza across from the Baptistery.  So intrigued, I went in search of it.  Found a #7 on the Piazza across from the Baptistery which was a money exchange place but worked up my nerve to ask the girl what she thought and she said "this is the red #7 - she probably meant the black #7 across the Piazza".  And, sure enough there it was.  It's a public restroom and you pay a Euro to get in and it is  spotlessly  clean.  And you go through one of the hundreds or thousands (for all I know) of courtyards in Florence to get to it!  Pretty neat. :)

After all that, I was feeling very much at home and very Florentine-ish so I stopped at a cafe with outdoor seating and ordered a glass of prosecco and a tiny little sandwich of good bread and wafer thin bits of tasty ham and an even tinier cream puff type thing with chocolate cream filling.  After conquering the campanile, I felt I deserved a special treat.

And that was about it.  I went back to the hotel and worked on pictures and such and eventually decided to go out for dinner.  Chose a different place this time that I had seen walking back from the Duomo and am so glad I did cause I sat next to two ladies who turned out to be from Scotland and we just chatted up a storm.  I really had a hard time understanding the one lady whose accent was VERY strong.  And my food was very good also - better than what I had the night before.

Oh, and I almost forgot to include this picture - it just tickled me when I saw it...

So, if you're still here, arrivederci til next time!


vrmichie said...

What fun and how nice to know your destination well enough to be happy seeing old friends and exploring the parts you didn't see last time. And squinty-eyed or not, at least your pretty shirt shows us you are starting out with good weather. I'm glad you had the energy for the campanile since the pictures are lovely and I wonder who the saint? is sticking out from a wall -- seems a lonely place to put whoever it is. Is Riomaggiore on the coast? I looked it up on Google maps and that's what they showed. If you ever get to some place with free internet I hope you'll email your itinerary. And wherever you are, I'm hoping you're having good weather, loving Italy, eating well and NOT having any mishaps. Oh, nice, nice that you've got such good hotel people. xxoo

January said...

What a good day! I'm glad the weather reports were off at least for one day - it looks absolutely sunny and gorgeous! Congrats on conquering the tower. And as for not being sure of all the facts, well, you've just given us enough information so that if we're intrigued we can look it up ourselves with our plentiful internet :) I might do that right now, in fact...
Love you!

Christopher said...

What a terrific first day! So glad you climbed the tower, too... The picture of the dome from up there is pretty magnificent. You've definitely re-cemented the idea that I must make Florence my next overseas trip...!
Did you go into the One Euro store? I wonder if like dollar stores here, they really barely have anything for 1 euro, despite the name... Just don't buy any toothpaste or other ingestible items... There was a big problem here with dollar stores carrying toothpaste made in China that was laced with either arsenic or lead---can't recall which. ;)
Looking forward to your next post---sorry to hear you have to pay for the internet :(

rosanna said...

Looks like you are having fun!!! I'm so glad! While you are in Riomaggiore, BTW good choice, Cinque Terre are wonderful in this season,why don't you make a further 90 minutes of train and come to Genoa and meet me? Genoa is incredible little cisy and we have more museums and churches than Florence. Trust me! if you do, write to me and I'll send you my mobile number.I work but I'm sure we might find a few hours to share Have a nice Sunday, Rosanna

Hi! said...

Hi to my poor dear family who seem to be the only ones posting comments! Believe me, they are appreciated. It's nice to hear from home.

And I think Riomaggiore is the only place I will have to pay for internet which will be nice. I'm having a tough time trying to keep up although I've found I can write my text in the apt., edit my pictures and have them ready and then go to the place, get on line and copy in the text and insert the pictures. However, I came across a little mystery while working on today's post and that is, all the pictures of the sunset were in the file where I looked for them, but they all have names of the pictures I edited for what will be today's post. Which I'm fearing means that I've somehow misplaced the photos for today's post although hopefully only to the extent that I will have to go back into Picasa and export them again. But, hey - it gives me something to do at night! :)

Love to you all and HEATHER!!! are you ignoring my e-mails about the *611?


Hi! said...

Oh, wow Rosanna! Just what I've always dreamed of - an invitation from someone in Italy!! But I don't know that I can figure out a way to do it. Tomorrow (Monday) I'm scheduled to go to the market in the morning in LaSpezia with a man (and I guess a few other tourists) where we will purchase "stuff" and then meet up again in Manarola in the late afternoon for a cooking class and dinner. I was wishing Friday before I came here that I could work up the nerve to e-mail you and see if possibly you would be free, but I couldn't quite manage it. But...since I seem to be compelled to keep visiting Italy until I've seen it all, can I please take a rain check and visit Genoa on my next trip? That would be fantastic!

Mary Lynne

jfalls said...

Wow! Love, love, love the photos from the tower. You describe everything so well, it is almost like I'm there! So, no injuries this year? And sounds like the hotel is an upgrade from last year - with the bonus of nice people! Take care and keep writing!

Love ya,


Italian Word Word of the Day

My Trusty Followers

Blog Archive