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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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November 08, 2015

Sunday - A very nice day

As you can see from the first picture, it certainly was a beautiful day and quite chilly in the shade.  I couldn't help wondering what it would have been like to have a day like this in Fiesole.  Before I came on this trip, I thought up a few things I hadn't done yet in Florence (there really aren't very many at least that I know of).  One was visit the Uffizi which now I have and another was to visit more of the Pitti Palace complex.  I visited the Boboli Gardens which are behind the palace and were started by the early Medicis and I visited what I think is called the Treasury and it had all sorts of wonderful treasures - ivories, paintings, statues, ancient artifacts, on and on - the Medicis were compulsive collectors apparently cause they sure had a lot of "stuff".  That's where I got caught taking a picture back before you were allowed to.  And oh, is it nice now being allowed to take them as long as it's without flash. Which by the way, I saw a woman do in one of the rooms she, her husband and I were in.  And I very politely said "no flash" and she said "I know".  It was all I could do not to go tattle on her.  But I did say something about it being a privilege to take pictures and I hoped we wouldn't lose it.

So, anyway, I'm standing in line below.  It didn't last too long - maybe about 20 minutes and I love to people watch so I didn't get bored.

 Every pigeon picks its own block to sit on - they don't seem to squabble over it.  Seeing so many of them made me wonder if there were always pigeons all over the building way back in the 1600's.
 And way over the rooftops is the lantern of the Duomo.
 Here I'm about half way up another huge staircase to the first floor.  They sure had high ceilings - there were four staircases to reach the first floor!  And I was looking at one of the rooms wondering how high the ceilings were and I truly believe they could be at least 20' high.
This is in one of the first rooms - more of a big hallway actually.  These are carvings of the various Medicis and comprise the door moldings.  There are four on each panel and there are four panels so that's a lot of Medicis.
 I am really impressed by the Palatine Gallery.  In each room there is a stand with an explanation of the room and why it's called by the name it's called by.  Then there are heavy cardboard book-sized pamphlets you can look at that identify each painting, statue, table, whatever happens to be in the room.  They also explain the story of the ceiling frescoes.  It's wonderful!  Except in this case, I was marching along with my little map (which they also provide) matching up names that very quickly didn't seem to match.  But my map was in English and the names were in Italian and I thought maybe that was why.  Finally, I couldn't make anything match my map so I asked a docent "where am I"?  I showed him on the map where I thought I might be and he said no, all the rooms in that area are closed off right now.  And if he was right, that means rooms 5 through 15 and 19-22 (not sure which) were not open.  No wonder things weren't matching up!
And I think I figured out one thing about the Palatine Gallery.  The Pitti Palace (including all these rooms I visited today and many, many more - it's a huge building) was built by the earlier Medicis as their residence, as the map discreetly calls it.  It remained theirs until they finally lost power to the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty and then they lost it to the Savoys (I think - I bought a book when I was done and am going to try and make my way through it to learn more about it all).  Anyway, the ceilings are all pretty much as old as the building.  Whichever Medici commissioned the building had the ceilings painted with allegorical frescoes that all spoke of the power and glory of the Medicis.  Then when the Hapsburg-Lorraine family moved in, they decided to make this wing of the palace into a gallery of art and it became the museum it is today.  So I don't think these walls were always covered with all these paintings.  The little brochure says that a majority of the artwork is from the collections of the Medicis but that the gallery was created in the late 1700's-early 1800's and the Medicis were gone by then.

 Amazingly enough, this was called the green room. :)
Another beautiful ceiling.  I was really a good tourist - on a few things I took little notes in my phone.  This ceiling depicts Prometheus stealing the sacred flame from Apollo while Minerva(?) protects him.
 My note on this says "in collection since 1638" and I think they said it was the oldest painting in the collection.
 And of all things, this is Napoleon's bathroom!
 I liked the light in this room and it was a lovely room too.

One of the rooms was originally tiled with Majolica tiles and they have since all been replaced with replicas (and very well done they are because they look worn).  But this one picture in tile is still in place and is original to the room.
 And seeing this picture now makes me realize that this one and the one before the tile picture are two sides of the same room.  I took this picture to show more of the floor.
 I think this is the ceiling of the gallery at the top of a "monumental staircase".  The color isn't right - it was a beautiful dark, rich brown.  And the following two pictures are views from one of the windows in the gallery.  And the third picture below is one of the windows in the gallery.  The wall color wasn't this dark gray - I had to darken the picture to get the glass to show - but it was a lovely pale grey.

Off the gallery is a room called the Tazza Room because of a huge bowl carved out of poryphory from Egypt that sits there looking a little strange cause it's so big.  The guide didn't say anything about it being a fountain or having water in it - just that tazza is the word for a footed bowl.  The next two pictures were also in the tazza room and are some of the tiles from the floor that was restored.

 There was this very large terrace outside the tazza room and this very nice view too.
 Incidentally most of the rooms had one or several tables i them and they were all inlaid or mosaic or whatever other methods were used to make beautiful tables.
 This ceiling depicts Jupiter telling all the various gods and goddesses not to meddle in the Trojan War.  One of the sexy goddesses is trying to distract him cause she hates the Trojans.
Such a little painting among all the giants.
 Another incredible ceiling - this one even more so because of the enormous amount of stuff around it.  It just explodes with decoration.  In this picture alone, I count 6 white figures and two little gold ones.  And all the gilded moldings...unbelievable.  Oh, and I just found my note saying this was the Grand Duke's throne room.  After we left that room we went through I think three more just about as fabulous rooms that were waiting rooms in descending order for people needing to meet with him - nobles down to "general public".

 This is part of one of the tables I mentioned above.  I liked it because it had a sort of cardinal looking bird in it plus which it was beautiful. :)
 I took the close up to show how many of the individual pieces were outlined with hairlines of gold.

 I took this mainly to try and show as many of the doorways as I could - I think I count six.
 This would be the room of the niches and is obviously having some work done.
 This is another throne room that a docent explained to me was more of a private one than the other which was for all those nobles and the general public.  I don't quite understand that but that doesn't matter.

 This is the original silk wall covering and it is showing some signs of age.
 I took a picture of this guy cause he looks like actor Tim Curry, at least to me he did as soon as I saw him.
 This beautiful chandelier is the only chandelier still around that was commissioned by Cosimo Medici II created in 1697!!  It is carved out of wood which could be a little dangerous with candles.
 And this is a little chapel area in a room that started out with the Medicis using it for a game called trucco which the guide said was similar to billiards.
A stove to keep things warm.
 A painting that I find kind of hilarious and maybe I'm just not seeing it right.  But to me it looks all out of proportion.  For one thing the room looks positively enormous and I think it's because the people in it are so little.  The three sitting in front of the canvas (which is much bigger than them) are especially small.  And way back in what looks like it would take a little walk to get there sit the little people at the table.  Just somehow doesn't work,  IMHO.
 This was I don't know what for the Medicis, and was a drawing room for the Hapsburgj-Lorraines and was the Queens bedchamber for the Savoys.
 And there's the bed to prove it.
 Here's the Arno, lovely as ever - hadn't seen it until today.
 And it just seems wrong to see this incredible building and not take a picture or two of it.

 And miracle of miracles - I decided to see if I could get anywhere near the Ghiberti bronze doors that Michelangelo or DaVinci called the "gates of paradise" and there were a bunch of people but I was able to get between some of them and at least shoot a few panels and such through the iron gate in front of them.

 Then I moved back out of the group and realized they were a tour group and decided I would wait and see.  In a couple of minutes they all moved, I had my camera raised and ready, and voila!!  I got the entire doors with no one or any part of anyone in front of them!  Four times I've been to Florence and that's the first time I was able to do it.
Forgot to mention that before I got to the Duomo piazza, I had a sandwich and glass of wine at what I call the "hole in the wall place".  It's on a tiny little side street and there is literally about a 3-4 foot opening in the wall of a building with a counter on a base going across it.  You stand there and order and from somewhere they get the incredible rolls and in my case, the incredible porchetta, slap it together, pour your wine and you wander off to stand somewhere and eat it.  The porchetta was absolutely delicious today and the wine was good too.  Not bad for 5.50E.

Came back to the hotel and started editing pictures.  At 5:00 I had a "date" to meet Loretta and Luciano, the couple who owned a hotel I stayed in in 2010 and have not retired and with whom Chris and I met up with last year.  It was nice to see them - we seemed to have plenty to talk about and I urged them to come to the states one of these days.  They even have friends who live in New York and urge them to come for a visit, but they haven't done it yet.  They suggested going to the Mercato Centrale because they've changed it since last year.  They've now fashioned the second story of the market into mostly a lot of different eating places all in one big space.  There are a few vendors selling things like pasta - dried and fresh and bottled sauces and such but mostly it's stuff to eat there. So that was interesting to see - had no idea that had been done.  I was planning to go there tomorrow anyway and I may just have to go upstairs and have a little something when I do.

Tomorrow is when I fly back to Barcelona but the plane doesn't leave until 8:00 p.m.  I'll probably get a 6:00 bus to the airport and get there around 6:30 or so.  I pretty much packed to tonight but if I get some of the liquid stuff I'd like to get tomorrow at the market, I may have to repack some because I'd need to have it cushioned.  We shall see.

For now, I have rambled on so long I'm worn out and I imagine anyone reading this is too.

Buona notte!

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