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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Retroactively: Florence, Italy, May 28 - June 1, 2018

After Cinque Terre and a two hour train ride we arrived in Florence at 5 p.m.
 and looked for a place that was open to purchase the 3 day Firenze card.

We got a sense of the old city as we made our way to Palazzo Vecchio, where we got them.  They were worth every step and every Euro!  With this card we had free and expedited museum entrances.

Then it was off to our Airbnb room, where we slept four nights,  This is inside the house!  We entered at a street level locked door, walked through a long dark hallway filled with bikes, art supplies and boxes, then through another locked door to a long narrow stairwell, then through our hosts apartment, then up these stairs in their enclosed sun room, to a 2 bedroom apartment we shared with two art student sisters.  We shared the bathroom and the kitchen with them, which went very smoothly even though they understood no English! 

We began the next morning with the Academia Museum and Michaelangelo's David.

Also very interesting were two rows of his unfinished sculptures, now called "Prisoners".  Powerful!
It's difficult to describe the impact of all the art we were to see, admire, and learn about in Florence.  I'm not going to include much here, rather I'll mention the places with a representative photo to serve as a reminder for Jack and me.  Come visit us and see our pictures of these marvelous works of art.

Museum San Marco, where we learned all about the monk Savonarola, 
who threw out the Medici and their culture and sponsored "The bonfire of the vanities".

The Innocenti was very different because it told about the history of dealing with children, orphaned or sick and also about the history of this famous building which sits at this piazza.

 Piazza SS. Annunziata exemplifies Renaissance architecture and is surrounded by beautiful porticoes

 The Florence Cathedral - Duomo

 Doors to Duomo

On the 30th we started at the "Uffizi" with a fascinating museum tour.  This is just one hallway!

and another!

We spent many delightful hours in the Uffizi Museum. 

Michelangelo's "Adoration of the Magi"

Then for a real change, and after a lovely relaxing meal, we went to the Gallileo Museum. 
 It was totally different and filled with new information for us (above a 1457 World Map).

Museums began closing, but it was still plenty light and we started the Rick Steve's walking tour.

  It involved some sitting while enjoying outdoor art and snacking...

posing ...

checking out places that were still open ...

and enjoying Firenze!

May 31 was our third full day and we still had a list of must-sees.  
At 8 a.m. we were at the Pitti Palace entrance and even though it only opened at 8:15 they allowed us in.  The rooms are opulent and filled from floor to ceiling, both included, with art! 

 Here is a view of the castle and the city as we walked through the enormous Pitti Palace Park.

Next, we visited the Brancacci Chapel, not knowing that we were in store for one of the best art history lessons yet!  A Sarah Lawrence art class assembled just as we also arrived and were kind enough to let us remain with them for an hour as their professor explained the frescas and art in a lively way.

 We'd heard so much about the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, 
which the Nazis had spared because of its ancient history.

It is filled with shops and tourists!

The sculpture museum Bargello was unique and filled with works of famous artists.

Imagine our surprise when we next toured the Palazzo Strozzi, 
a renaissance palace that includes contemporary art exhibits!

In 1465 this tombstone was built into the existing pillar in the crypt of the San Lorenzo Basilica. Inscription: Here lies Cosimo de Medici Father of the Nation by public decree.

Santa Croce Church was our last visit of the day.  It was Michelangelo's childhood church.  
And the surrounding neighborhood seems to take you back in time as well.  As you exit on the side 
you walk between the tombs of Rossini (Barber of Seville) and Machiavelli (The Prince)!

June 1st after taking the convenient streetcar ride to the train station, 

we still had time to enjoy a yogurt breakfast before boarding at 7:30 a.m.

Our trip home to LU was 11 hours long, but it was never boring with constantly changing scenery.

White marble mountains, not snow!

marble quarries

Ciao can also mean GOODBYE!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Retroactively: Cinque Terre, Italy, May 25 - 28, 2018

Cinque Terre is a National Park along the northern west coastline of Italy and winds around five old towns, clinging to the cliffs.  The earliest historical documents date to the 11th Century!

Welcome to Volastra!  Here I am waving out our little apartment.  The houses are so close together and "on top" of each other that walkways go every which way.

Our Cinque Terre town is Manarola.  From there we take a small bus up into the hills to Volastra.  

The street goes a short way into town; then there is a place to turn around.  All else is done on foot!

We prepared a lot of meals in our kitchen and ate out on a patio surrounded by grapevines.

Following are typical views, which repeated in the different towns 
and seemed lovelier around every bend on the paths.  

On the 26th we took the train to Vernazza and hiked on the Nat. Park trail to Corniglia.  We started so early that the Park wasn't "officially" open yet.  It was a beautiful hike!

We returned home earlier than we expected and after a meal and a short rest we were ready for another hike.  This one was from our town Volastra to Corniglia and it was a new experience. 

At first we just walked through vinyards and enjoyed a gorgeous view of the Ligurian Sea.  Then the path became narrow, steep, and untended with bolders here and there. 

Find Jack in the bottom right.  The rock slide had covered a part of the path!

It was some of the most challenging hiking we've done.  Steep down hill!  

At the very end of this hike we had a difficult time finding the train station since we were coming from a path few tourists use.  Finally we came to the 350 steps which take you down to the station.

 Sunday morning we toured Riomaggiore and then took the train to Monterosso and hiked to Vernazza - incredible views, but also the most people we'd encountered on a path.

One advantage of meeting people is that they can take your picture!  See Vernazza in the distance.

Even on this well groomed path we encountered a  broken bridge that was handled in Italian fashion.

This is already so long and I feel like you haven't even seen a fraction of the vistas!

The food was particularly tasty with wonderful seasoning.  
Jack thinks it might be because we were always starving by the time we finally ate!

 We bought some of their very special wines.  You can't imagine how proud they are that already Pliny the Elder was extolling the virtues of their wine back in Roman times!!

And we tried as many unknown pastries and dishes as possible.  

Not a day without gelato!

That night we were happy to be back at our bus stop waiting for the bus to take us to the top of the hill and our apartment.  There is no bus stop sign.  Everyone knows it's by the water wheel.

Monday was our last day and we'd saved our closest town of Manarola for last.  

 We learned that the whole town was hit with a flood / landslide in October, 2011.
All these shops have rebuilt since then.

It is just as picturesque as the other four Cinque Terre towns, but each has its own character.  We were sorry to have to leave on the afternoon train.