Florence Duomo, Baptistry and Galileo Museum

Market47AM train from Rome to Florence.
The streets are jammed with stalls selling tourist junk, even at 9AM. I suppose it was much the same in the Renaissance, but I don’t have to like it.

Florence has a fabulous food market. B orders and eats cod, shrimp, octopus. FRESH and cooked in front of us. Lots of goodies for vegetarians too. Formaggio (cheese). Piles of fruit. No wonder Italian food is so good.

On to the Medici Chapel. Can see why Machiavelli dedicated The Prince to one of them: in their portraits they look like brutes – big noses, crumpled brows.

Back on the street we pass a real leather-working shop. leather

Next San Marco – a former monastery – decorated by Fra Lippi. I was expecting his beautiful women, but it’s a monastery (duh, no women). Each monk’s cell had a painting, many of the crucifixion. Blood pooling at the base of the cross. Spurting from the side wound. B comments that Jesus must have had great blood pressure. Photos not allowed – even on the web I found none of the gory frescos. Use your imagination.

Duomo 2duomo10Next the Accademia for Michelangelo’s David. He was 28 when he finished it. What to say? It’s just stunning, even given its familiarity in photos. Irreverently I note that the buns are cute and his eyes alive. Again, no pictures.
The Duomo. A BIG WOW. The side is dirty but the front has been cleaned. A wedding cake – all the frills and statues and pink and green marble. Inside it’s empty – the most empty church we’ve seen. All the glory on the outside, like a teen-aged girl.

Over to the Baptistry. I’ve been in Florence before but only admired the famous doors on the outside, never went in. What a mistake.
Here is what I expected in the Duomo! Gold touched ceiling. Mosaics everywhere, from floor up. The old Biblical stories. Like the stained glass only in stone. Another WOW.(Click on the little pix twice to see a full image.)

Last stop of the day (oh, my feet), the Galileo Museo.
Filled with old scientific instruments. Globes. Telescopes. Things I’ve only heard of. Early electricity generators. Compasses. Astrolobes. All beautifully presented. closeup

A walk along the river, then a fabulous dinner. Crespelle (crepes) made with pasta dough and filled with spinach ricotta. Mmmm good. And the room in the hotel is quiet – such a blessing. Tomorrow another big day in Firenze.

Italian Dogs, Cats (and a Horse)

1 egyptian cat
Today is a short break from our sightseeing to take a look at the cats and dogs (and one horse) in Italy.

To my pleasure, Italians love their dogs.

I’ve been in places where I’ve cried at the treatment of the animals, but Italy was awash with happy dogs. And cats, don’t forget the cats. Some living, some carved or woven or even cut out of colored stone.

My mother could never travel without taking pictures of every toddler she saw. I tend to be the same towards dogs, although I was a cat person until I married. Still love them – I guess I’m bi where pets are concerned, although we have two dogs, no cats right now. I draw the line at snakes or gerbils or even birds.

The first cat was in the Vatican museum. She’s from Egypt and a haughty little thing.

1 pompeii dog The dog I encountered in the Pompeii ruins was a cutie, but hungry. I told him I had a cracker in my purse, but oops. I don’t remember eating it! Poor thing couldn’t believe it, staring his dismay down the street.
1 howling dogs One of my favorite Roman sculptures was of howling dogs. Or maybe they are about to be fed. I knew the Romans could sculpt realistic faces, but the dogs really tickled me.

Then there was the cat following a bird on a piazza filled with restaurants. The bird pecking at crumbs for dinner; the cat hoping for the bird. I watched it slink and crouch, getting ever closer, but finally the bird was scared away by Italians enjoying a passagiata (walk).
1 bird prey
I saw a dog standing on a stump in the Borghese park, evidently surveying his territory and one wet from a swim in the sea. Surprisingly, there were several dogs in churches, one little guy curled up on the cool marble, sound asleep. I also saw a big dog tucked onto a moto, but was so surprised, I missed the shot. And it wasn’t all dogs and cats, at least in Rome.

1 romulusIf you consider the wolf as a dog, Rome’s history contains one of the most famous dogs of all (after Lassie of course). Without that she-wolf, Romulus and Remus would have perished and there’d have been no Rome…

In a parking lot, a cat was enjoying a snooze on a lavender car. When I returned, it had moved to a blue car and was awake.
1 cat sleeping1 car catIn the same town, Casperia, a dog with baleful eyes captured my heart.
1 chained dogPrecedent exists for the modern Italians and their dogs. A favorite subject during the Renaissance they were set in precious stone (chasing a bear) on the face of a cabinet, carved on the edge of a church, or worrying a bone in the corner of a tapestry.

I want to close with my favorite animal shot of the trip. I couldn’t see what captured the attention of the cat. Maybe after the rain, she just wanted to be let into her apartment, but she’s a beauty. Maybe we should get a cat!
Next week we travel on to Florence.

1 rain cat

Saudia Arabia and Italy Celebration

column top

We get back early from the Villa d’Este; there’s some light left so we decide to go to the Campanile museum which we missed. It was closed for a diplomatic event – 70 years of Saudi/Italy relations – but the plaza was more crowded than the day before.

garda2We see a lot of dignitaries in “costume” as B says. african
They unload from busses and mingle with the tourists on the stairs Michelangelo designed for horses to mount. The crowd is under the watchful eye of the Garda (police) who have their own costumes – check out the chic hats.
two emborideries

B claims the Africans have the best clothing, the patterns, the colors. I love dignity of the these men, but look! No women – are you surprised?

As is probably obvious from this blog so far, I feel shy and intrusive taking pictures of people.

Sometimes when I danced, we would perform outside and flash photos were taken, despite requests not to (the light is disorienting). It was odd to know my picture was in the album of some unknown tourist.


That said, I couldn’t resist this cosmopolitan bunch, but I took my shots from a distance and cropped the pictures. (Hooray for the camera B bought me – a Canon Powershot. It’s a beaut.)

I note that my father, who was an excellent photographer, had the same sensibility. He always asked permission unless it was with telephoto.

two asians2

In one famous encounter, he asked an Indian in the Southwest if he could take his picture. “Fifty cents,” the man said.

“Ok,” said my father. “Could you step out in the sun.”

“Fifty cents in shade, one buck in sun.”


Back to this lot…

Check out the dignified man with the pink shopping bag.


If you’ve been following this blog, you know the condition of my feet at this point, but we have two more things we want to do in Rome: visit the Spanish steps and eat at a recommended restaurant – Il Margutta.

Of course, we walk.

On the way we pass an irresistible courtyard…a Renaissance interpretation of Pompeii.

The Spanish Steps are like the Trevi Fountain – packed. (Everybody’s feet hurt…) It’s kinda nice to sit at the fountain and people watch.

spanish steps2 Even though it feels like midnight, it’s only 6:15 when we arrive at the restaurant and it doesn’t open for 45 minutes. Luckily we’re in an interesting, non-touristy neighborhood (because it’s vegetarian?)

Finally we eat one of the best meals of the trip. I have homemade gorgonzola-filled ravioli with a spinach sauce.

Perfect ending to Rome.

Tomorrow it’s on to Florence.

Galleria Borghese and the Fountains of Villa d’Este

Gallery Borghese scheduled at 9. If you aren’t there on time, too bad. They don’t let you in. It’s rush hour and 5 trains pass before we can board; they really pack ‘em in.
galleria borghese
In the crush my hubby is pickpocketed. We guess the thief had dry eyes,sensitive skin and an upset stomach since he got eye drops, tums and sun screen. Hahaha. We were warned. All valuables carried under our clothes.

1 berniniWe are very late so we run, literally, through the park, arriving just in time.

Hubby is bored, and the paintings aren’t really to my taste either but the sculpture is fabulous. I’m a new Bernini convert.

I took a picture of a postcard of the rape of Proserpine. You can’t really see the detail but his eye is pushed sideways by her hand and if you look closely, you will see that his fingers dimple her fanny where he’s clutching her. This in marble!

There is also an Apollo and Daphne – I love that legend: she turned into a tree to prevent the god from raping her; Bernini sculpts her fingertips into leaves. And a David – so young and determined that I can imagine him with his tongue out the side of his mouth. Real people made in stone. Fascinating.

Walk back through the park – guy playing accordion. Not my favorite instrument but he plays Mozart. Hubby complains the guy knows only one tune, but then he changes so we give him a tip.

cloudy window

Next stop Villa d’Este of the famous fountains. Getting there was a change from feet: a nice long metro, then a bus ride through small towns and past dusty green olive groves. (Click on the thumbnail if you want to see it full sized.)olive trees

The Villa of Water! Because the fountains are gravity fed (technology limited in the 1600’s when it was built), the villa is placed on a hill and looks out over the huge garden. stairs

Laid out under the sky are myriad water delights: pools, fountains, spouts. It’s so cool, not in the modern sense, although it is that, but in temperature. I imagine it in summer when it’s really hot. Oh, come on up to my villa. We’ll eat grapes.

Below is a slideshow of some of the delights of this garden. I loved the curving wall running with water along a staircase. Some hilarious faces spouting water   — the woman with the “pipe”, a fern mustache, fellows wearing dumbo or donkey ears. Then there’s the man climbing out of the pool.

After all our city ventures, this was magical.

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