Venice…

We headed to St. Mark’s this morning, via a vaporetto (water taxi) which is much cheaper than a gondola. The gondola is 80euro for 30 minutes. That would be about $45 each for me and Karen and we’d both rather buy Murano glass.

It’s nice to see the city from the Grand Canal. One thing that you really notice is how much the water affects the buildings. It is wet, wood gets rotten, there is mold and moss. That is part of what makes Venice look the way it does, but maintaining these structures must be nearly impossible.

We are here in the off season. It is cold and damp, but I like the light crowds. Shops are open, as are restaurants, and there are some deals to be had. I keep forgetting to take pictures of my purchases (maybe I’m trying to not think about that too much?) but here’s a thing I didn’t buy:

I collect Santas but not clowns so he’s not coming home with me. Although now that I look again, I kind of like him.

We went to St. Mark’s. The square was not crowded at all.

Photos are not allowed inside, but I climbed up to the dome and was able to take some photos there:

I kind of hate to be a selfie taking tourist, but everyone up there was doing it so I thought I’d join in.

We walked and shopped and ate our way back to the hotel. It was a nice day.

PS: Last night after I wrote my blog post I got to feeling queasy. And then it got worse. I suspect food poisoning from some bagged salad I ate to go with soup we had picked up. It was a rough hour or so but I am so lucky that the nausea medicine I travel with worked. I woke up feeling OK.

It’s going to be a while before salad looks good to me.

Venice, my last stop in Italy…

We rode the train and it was easy, clean, on time, and very civilized. This view greeted us as we left the station in Venice:

Of course we stopped to take pictures, and then it was a short walk to our hotel. Our rooms were not quite ready so we headed out to explore. We mostly explored the shops :-).

Venice is the place to buy Murano glass… and we did. And I know we’ll shop more tomorrow.

We did not buy a clown. They are everywhere. Maybe they’ve never read any Steven King?

There are also many shops with masks. Carnival is coming but perhaps masks are sold all year round here. I’ve not been before so don’t know the answer to that question.

We bought a meringue and ate a little of it. It was hard and very sugary.

The pastry looks fantastic, sad I can’t eat it.

I love these olive oil bottles.

I like the looks of this vegetable but have not eaten any yet.

We are finally getting the hang of selfies!

More tomorrow!

Florence, last day…

We spent all day outside, exploring. It’s 8:14 in the evening and I’m happy but a little tired. We leave each arly in the morning to catch a train to Venice so I’m mostly going to post photos of the day. First stop was the Academia to see Michelangelo’s David. What can I say other than he looks better in person than in a photo.

He’s naked. He just is, nothing I can do about that. If you don’t want to look, scroll past quickly, or squint.

You may not have seen his backside. What was new to me was the strap across his back that is part of the sling. And the rocks that he is holding in his hand.

His toes are a little gnarly but that might be because of the years spent outside in the weather.

The Academia houses many, many statues…

There was a room full of plaster models that sculptors worked from. I watched a video that explained the how the plaster casts were made and how small models were used to make the larger sculptures. I suspect you can find that information if you google it.

Then there was the madonna with glass eyes. Unusual, and better in a photo than it was in person.

I have decided that I like paintings and sculptures of reclining women, nude or clothed. I don’t actually recline much… it must be the idea of reclining that sounds nice.

We walked a lot.

I liked some of the graffiti with faces…

We went to Santa Croce. If you come to Florence, be sure to go around to the back of this church to the School of leather. Students learn to make leather goods, and there are wonderful pieces for sale. I bought a lovely, large black leather purse. As I explained to Steve, it may have cost of lot but it would have been a whole lot more in elsewhere. I’ll ask Karen to take a photo of me carrying it tomorrow.

This is the back of the church, the School of Leather is nearby.

The inside of this church is prettier than many other churches. Our Segway tour guide, Andrea, told us to be sure to visit it and he was right. There are many famous people buried here… Machiavelli, Fermi, Galileo, maybe da Vinci…

Some of the floor tomb covers (there’s bound to be a better name for that but I can’t think of it now) were deeply carved and had obviously been walked on in the past.

This is where Michelangelo is buried.

We went to a street market…

I climbed the dome of the Duomo. Lots of stairs, narrow in some places…

The view of the inside of the dome is nice. There’s not a whole lot to see in the church below.

The view of the city from the top of the outside of the dome is amazing!

And then you walk back down with is easier on the lungs but harder on the knees.

We did a little more shopping… I regret not buying the Fabriano colored pencils but maybe I’ll find them in Venice. We had hot chocolate at a famous place, dinner, and now we are chillin’ and getting ready for tomorrow!

I hope there’s a tower to climb in Venice :-).

Florence, day 2…

Let me begin with the end. We took a 3 hour Segway tour and it was totally fantastic! I put this on Instagram and FB. If you’ve seen it, just pass it by.

I am not coordinated. It took me a bit to get the hang of it but my oh my… Segways are fun! This is low season, crowds are light, so it was not hard to get around. Our guide, Andrea, in red, was very good. And we made a new friend, Shalom, in pink, from London. Karen is in the white vest.

Karen concurs… Segways are amazing. (Side note: see my red leather gloves? I got them today and they are fantastically warm and flashy. They will be easy to find in my bag for sure.)

We started the day at the Uffizi. Botticelli’s Venus was on the top of my list of things to see but there is so much more.

As is true in many museums, the Venus has glass in front of it. The glass here, and throughout the museum, was clear and clean, but it is not like looking directly at the painting. There is always a bit of glare and/or reflection between you and the painting. I don’t love it, but that’s the way it is.

I believe this is by Titian. I remember the painting from my college art history classes. I do love her self possession. That woman appears to be just fine the way she is.

I am still actively noticing the shadows cast by frames in museums. Look at the shadow on the wall below the painting. It is part of the show.

Rembrandt! Right there, on the wall!

We were not alone at the museum… these two gentlemen were reading about the painting to the left.

Which was another version of the Venus story.

Karen was particularly drawn to these two little images. Even now I am unable to tell you what they are.

I took photos of ceilings, because I like them. This one looked like it was embedding with big shells…

The next ones are painted.

I am particularly fascinated by trompe l’oeil. That is a flat surface painted to look like it has depth. The blue dome above is not indented.

It’s painted to look indented onto a barrel vault. Pretty much that whole ceiling is a flat, rounded surface. Amazing.

After the Ufizzi we had a quick lunch at Mister Pizza (I love that place) and then I hurried to the tomb of Lorenzo de Medici to take a photo of the statues of Crepusculo and Aurora for Steve.

I think this is the correct tomb…

Unless it is this one:

In either case, I think I go the photo. After this, we headed off to join our Segway tour. What a great day! Tomorrow we will see Michelangelo’s David and more. I can’t wait!

Florence!

We rode the train from Rome to Florence. The hardest part was figuring out how to read the kiosk so that we went to the correct train. It was simple once we did sort it out. It’s nice that Karen is a good and willing subject in so many of my photos :-).

I did sew on the train. My Block 1 of the Hand Sewing Adventure is nearly done!

Our hotel, Hotel Centrale, is near the Duomo, which is in the city center.

After a bit of unpacking we headed out. It didn’t take long for us to be happily surprised by the view.

I did a search for gluten free food in Florence and there is a lot of it. Honestly, it may be easier to find good GF here than it is in the US. The pizza for lunch was great (as with the Florentine steak for dinner).

After lunch we followed Rick Steves’ walking tour of the city. We decided to go ahead and climb the Campanile, which is next to and sort of part of the Duomo complex.

The view was spectacular!

Florence is a very walkable city and it is lovely. We strolled to the Piazza Della Repubblica. The arch was triumphal, the carousel was pretty…

.,, port a potty was in the way of my very fine photo.

We went into the Orsanmichele (a church with many famous statues). I climbed more steps for more views of the city.

I may not love the stairs but I do love looking at a city from high up.

The Uffizi Gallery was closed today so we headed to the Galileo science museum. It was interesting, and hard to take good photos of

Then we walked to the river…

Here we are doing the Charlie’s Angels pose 🙂

We headed back to the hotel as the sun was going down and golden light bathed the dome. Not bad for a first half-day!

Rome, day 2…

My first adventure of the day was shared with two of Hunt’s students, Clint and Cole. We walked to the American embassy, a block from our hotel.

I have never to one of our embassies when I’ve been out of the US. I thought it might be interesting to go inside for a quick visit.

The Italian guards outside were perplexed, but nice, as they said we could not go in. Only employees and probably those with appointments could go in. I’m sure there are many, many reasons why drop-ins are not welcome, plus today was Sunday. That said, I hope it’s easier for an American citizen to get in if help was really needed.

Next Hunt, Karen, and I went to the Colosseum. Imagine a football stadium that seats 80,000 people and you get an idea of the scale involved. It’s a well-maintained ruin. `

Notice the people in the photos and it puts the scale in perspective.

There’s a lot to be said for visiting Rome at this time of year. The crowds are much smaller and it’s not hot.

Hunt, a historian, shared the backstory of many of the places we went. I wish I remembered more but the biggest takeaway for me is that as the city evolved, new structures were built on top of older structures. Dig down, and there’s likely something built by man below.

The Romans knew how to move and manage the flow of water which was a key part of their empire building. They built sewers, aqueducts, baths, and lots of fountains!

We ended the day at the Spanish Steps. It was more crowded today, which made the people watching more interesting. Looking up the steps…

Looking down at the crowd coming our way…

Tomorrow Karen and I head to Florence on the train. Hunt and his class are flying to Tunis. Adventure awaits!

(That’s me, below, tempting fate by standing on a travertine post to get higher for the photo.)

I’m really not sure how Karen got me in a photo with no one else around because there really were a lot of people there.