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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 29, 2017

Monday and Chris does the bell tower!

But not me, thank heavens, because I did it on my second visit to Florence. :)

Monday agenda included visiting the baptistry, then have Chris climb the tower, then the Medici Chapel at San Lorenzo Basilica, then San Lorenzo Basilica and its cloister, and then Badia Fiorentina on the way back to our hotel.  Phew!

On the way to the river to cross over to all the action we passed this building and I thought "now, there's a flat iron building!  It totally comes to a point and I just wish I could have fit in the whole building.
Crossing the river on the Ponte Vecchio bridge we paused to take a couple of pictures and when I opened my pictures tonight to edit them, I couldn't believe I had taken the picture below.  As an amateur photographer, I have to say I am very pleased with this picture.  I didn't even edit it!
The next picture is looking down a street toward the Palazzo Vecchio tower.  Chris and I visited this when we were here in 2014 and I liked looking down the street and boom, there it was.
And look at this mini woodie wagon!!  And sitting in it is a really large man on the phone.  Pretty darn cute!

So now we're in the baptistery where all the ceiling areas are mosaics - not paintings.  And the background of all the mosaics is done with gold mosaics.  This arch doesn't show how brilliantly the gold shines but it does.
These two give a better idea of how gold the gold is.   It is a thing of beauty and I can't imagine how long it would have taken to finish it.  They say Michaelangelo worked 4 years on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (painted fresco) but I don't know that I've ever heard any mention of how long this took.
After visiting the baptistery Chris went off to the bell tower and I said I'd wander around inside the duomo and then wait at a chocolate shop located across the piazza if I got done first.  So, in I went and I was so disappointed.  I've gone into the duomo on every one of my visits and never has it been like it was this time.  You go in the entry door and instead of just starting to wander around, everything is pretty much roped off.  You can walk down that side in a probably about 15 or 20 foot wide area between the wall and the ropes and since there are still large crowds, it's congested and not at all conducive to stopping and studying what you're seeing.  The only people who do much stopping are the tour group folks and then you have to work your way around them or wait until they're done and move on.  You can no longer walk under the dome - that whole circular area is fenced off - so everyone stands there trying to get a decent picture of it.  And then you can't even walk down the other side of the church - it's roped off from that sides' chairs to the outside wall - again about 15-20 feet.  That means that you can't to visit any of the side chapels.  You just walk down between the two sides of chairs and when you're across from the exit door, they give you a roped exit path to that or to the crypt downstairs. Since it's so awful upstairs, everybody goes down to the crypt which is not that big a space.  I went down so I could go to the gift shop and it was like sardines so I went back up and out.  It's amazing how something can change so much in 8 years...It was just sort of like "herd 'em in, herd 'em out".  So no picture of the dome this time - I just couldn't get one that was any good.

Went outside to wait for Chris and discovered the chocolate store was closed for the day!!  It had been maybe half an hour or so since we parted so I thought it wouldn't be too long a wait and texted him to let him know I wouldn't be in the shop but just standing in that area in the sun (it was and is really chilly here - especially in the shade).  So I waited awhile and began to think maybe I should look for another shop or small bar type place where I could sit down and be out of the cold.  About that time (about an hour since we parted) I got a text from Chris saying "Just reached the top!"  But he wasn't up there too much longer so I survived.  Spent most of the remaining time watching a young couple who had sat down on a bench in front of me and were all lovey-dovey.  She finally turned sideways towards him and threw her legs over his lap and I thought "oh, great - we're in for a real necking session".  But what she did was start massaging his head and I'm pretty sure she must be a trained masseuse because the longer I watched the more I wished I could go over and say "do me next".  And his head just kept sinking lower and lower (as mine would have had I been lucky enough to such treatment).  I said to him in my head "if you're smart, you'll hang on to this one!"

After Chris came down (with very sore legs!) we set off for the Medici Chapel and the bit of graffiti above caught my eye.  Got there and had to put our stuff (purse, camera bag, etc.) through a security check and walk through the thingie to see if we beeped.  That was new too.  I've not been too fond of the Medici Chapel in past experiences with them and this trip did not change my mind.  Even Chris said as we were leaving that it's like they're trying to discourage people from visiting.

But we saw what there was to see (my first visit there, a large portion of the big circular room with the 6 Medici tombs was blocked from view and this visit it was that way again and I sort of think it was the same portion.  I need to check my old blog to see what I have to say.)  Anyway, I did take a few pictures but wasn't very inspired.  Chris had told me about a process called Pietre Dure where they make pictures, tabletops, basically anything with a mosaic-like process except there is no grout used - the pieces fit up against each other perfectly and look like a very beautiful painting.  That was another thing on his list was to go to a museum here that is all Pietre Dure.  So in the Medici chapel, I discovered that some of the decorations were made using this method and have a couple pictures of that:

The entire piece (except for the greenish framework) is done in Pietre Dure which means even the tiniest things like the tableware, their beards, etc., are all made from stone and/or marble.

This was a really pretty piece - had to take it at an angle but it shows how pretty the art form can be.  When I saw the mitre and stole in the pictures below, I at first wondered why it would be in the Medici Chapel until I remembered that one of the Medicis managed to become the Pope for a while and this was probably his.  
We weren't there too long and they shooed us out at closing time.  Went around to the front to go into the San Lorenzo Basilica and found that it was closed too.  So we went into the cloisters attached to the church and that was an enjoyable visit.  There was a beautiful orange tree in the center of the square cloister and it was filled with oranges.  And it was very peaceful and quiet - no big crowds.

On the lower level I saw a sign about an exhibition and inquired of the woman sitting outside.  She actually was friendly, had a nice smile (unlike the chapel folk!) and said there was an art exhibition downstairs so we thought we might as well take a look and I was glad we did.  It was mixed media and I especially like these pieces:




The exhibition helped make up for the somewhat so far disappointing outing.  I think we had lunch after we finished here at a restaurant that when I ask Chris where we ate, he always says "the one with the sour-faced woman" and then I know.  We were sitting at our table when a man, woman and their daughter came in and she was a sour faced woman - I can't help it.  Looked like everything she looked at was beneath her.  Finally towards the end of their stay, something her daughter said seemed to tickle her and there was a brief smile.  But I guess that will always be the "sour faced woman" restaurant - kind of hard to give it a review on Trip Advisor!

We hiked off to Badia Fiorentina after lunch (which was very good, by the way).  The Badia is one I had never even heard of in all my visits to Florence so that was nice to see something new.  It's an ancient church, established in 978 by Countess Willa of Tuscany (a woman!)  At that time it was one of the chief buildings in medieval Florence.  Inside it is a small smallish building and I wasn't able to get many good pictures inside.  There is also a lovely cloister and I've included several photos of that.  The interior photos are all too dark but that's because the places that are well lit are too well lit and just wash out unless I darken them.






Frescoes on the cloister walls...
 Another pretty orange tree and a beautiful little well.
And the last photo is a shot of their steeple or tower.  I forget where I was when I saw it but it's the only spot I've seen it.
After that it was back to the hotel to consider dinner plans and get rid of all our excess baggage.  We ended up eating at a very local and small bar/cafe type place and really enjoyed it.  We've been very happy with all our eating experiences really.  Although I have to say, our hotel breakfasts both here and in Venice did not impress me.

Came back well fed and wined, worked on pictures and blog for a bit and went to bed.  I've been sleeping really well on this trip probably because I'm so exhausted by the end of the day.

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