Italy

A Day in Florence, Italy

September 16, 2017

Today we took a roadtrip from Fabro to Florence.  We were fortunate that our drivers could drop us off in Piazza della Repubblica which is centrally located between all the attractions.

The Piazza della Repubblica once served as the City’s main food market, but now is surrounded by nice cafés.  There is also a fun carousel for kids to ride.  We didn’t stay in the piazza long, as we had an agenda; for most people in the group it was shopping.  For me, I just wanted to see the sites.

First, our group headed toward the Duomo or Santa Maria del Fiora to see the City’s tallest and most famous building.  Its dome, designed by Brunelleschi and finished in 1463, was the largest of its time.  Its outer shell is supported by an inner shell.

We visited the inside of the cathedral a little later in day along with a steady line of tourists.  The line flowed quickly and soon, the cathedral cleared out so we could enjoy nice views of the nave and dome.  On the left-hand side of the church was a line to climb up the dome.  Outside the exit, was a line to climb the Campanile.  Had I realized these were options, I might have entered the Cathedral earlier as the crowd was much smaller when we were wandering around the outside upon arrival.

Next to the Duomo is the Baptistry with its distinguished bronze doors, dates back to the 4th century making it one of Florence’s oldest buildings.  The doors were commissioned to Ghiberti in 1401 after he won a competition against leading artists such as Donatello and Brunelleshci.  The panels were so different form Florentine art at the time, that the works are regarded as the beginning of the Renaissance.

From the Duomo we headed over to the leather market at Mercato Centrale, just past San Lorenzo Basilica.  Many of the ladies found purses for $25 and a variety of belts.  I almost got a purse, but of course the one I liked the most cost three times the majority of the handbags on the market.  I later learned, the quality of the $25 purses wasn’t great as the color began flaking off in a day!

I had enough of shopping so I talked Joy into visiting the Basilica di San Lorenzo and the connected Medici Chapels.  We only poked our head inside the Basilica as we entered a side door only for worshipers.  We went around the back, however, and paid the 8 euro entry fee to see the Medici Chapels.

The chapels were built in the 16th and 17th centuries as extensions to the church for the purpose of celebrating the Medicis, both parishioners of the church and Grand Dukes of Tuscany.  The octagonal chapel named Cappella dei Principi (or Chapel of Princes) is a mausoleum.  Tombs of six Medici Grand Dukes are spaced around the walls which are inlaid with semiprecious stone.

A corridor leads from the Cappella dei Principi to the New Sacristy which features statues carved by Michelangelo between 1520 and 1534, including the Madonna and Child. Lorenzo the Magnificent is buried here along with his murdered brother, third son, and grandson.

After visiting the chapels, we met up with the group who found more scarves to buy at a vendor on the edge of Piazza della Repubblica to walk to lunch at I’Cche’ c’e’ c’e’.  The restaurant was absolutely spectacular!  I highly recommend it.  The chef won a competition among several others and was rewarded for recreating Renassiance food.

 

We began with truffles and lard on toast.  I LOVE truffles, so I was in heaven eating this dish though it was very rich, so only one piece of toast was probably enough.  Next came soup ribollita which was divine.  I may try to recreate this dish.  Our third course was pasta with radicchio.  I couldn’t imagine this would be good, but I was wrong!  The pasta was excellent.  Our main course included meat, potatoes, and greens.  The potatoes were amazing.  Of course we weren’t through yet.  We finished with a fig and apple tart…delicious!  After this feast, we certainly didn’t need dinner!

From lunch we headed to Ponte Vecchio and the Pitti Palace.  Along the way, we stopped at the Piazza della Signoria.  The piazza is popular among the locals and tourists and is filled with statues that commemorate historical events that took place in the city.

Michelangelo’s famous David statue (a copy replaces the original), represents triumph over tyranny.  The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna was carved out of a single block of marble.

After admiring the statues, we continued to Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in the city.  The bridge, constructed in 1345, is the only bridge in Florence to have survived the bombings in World War II.  Once home to blacksmiths, butchers, and tanners who used the river for waste, it now features jewelers and goldsmiths.  I just liked the fact there were vendors in buildings on a bridge!

From the bridge, I wandered over to the Pitti Palace which was originally built for banker Luca Pitti who wanted to out do the Medicis.  Ironically, the building costs bankrupted Pitti, and the Medicis purchased the palace!  Now it exhibits many of the Medici collections and includes the Boboli Gardens.  I had hoped to visit the gardens, but the line to purchase tickets looked about twenty to thirty minutes long which would have only left me about thirty minutes to explore.  While disappointed to miss, just sitting in front of the palace is a nice place to people watch.

Soon we had to return to Piazza dei Repubblica for pick up, but not before we made a quick stop at Il Porcellino to rub its snout to ensure a return trip to Florence!

One place I would have liked to have visited, but didn’t as I ran out of time was Santa Croce where Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli are buried.  They actually have more meaning to me than the Medicis so I probably would have liked it better than the Medici Chapels though the chapels were beautiful.  Had I cut out shopping and shortened lunch by one hour, I suspect I could have seen all the sites mentioned, but I would have been on a march rather than enjoying the company of all the girls.  Florence is wonderful and leaving a few unseen sites will be an excuse to return!  ETB

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Colorado

The Cultural Side of Denver

During my year and a half in Denver, I haven’t spent much of my spare time checking out the cultural scene as I always head to the mountains.  With Suellen in town, we visited museums and attended festivals all within a few miles of my house…some in walking distance!

We started at the Cherry Creek Art Festival that is held annually.  It is an outdoor festival, with tents set up over multiple blocks displaying art and jewelry.  In addition, bands play and several local restaurants serve their best fare at food tents.  We didn’t manage to get any pictures of the art, but we did get a picture of a T-shirt a patron was wearing.

After visiting the art show, we stopped in at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum.  The air and space museum, an airplane hangar, is located at the old Lowry Air Force Base that is now converted into condos, restaurants, green space and the like.  The museum is across from the gym I go to and has a giant RB-52B airplane in front of it. This plane is the most photographed plane in the state!  The RB designation means, the plane that is 48 feet high and 156 feet long, was used for reconnaissance.  It has a wingspan of 185 feet, carries six crew, and can reach a max speed of 630mph.  It can travel 3,600 miles at combat weight of 272,000 lbs and reach 47,000 feet.  It’s maximum take off weight is 420,000 lbs and empty it weighs 185,000 lbs.  The plane is definitely eye catching!  It is right next to the gym I go to, and it always catches my attention enough to make me think I need to visit that museum at some point…the time finally came with Suellen!  Personally, I think the plane outside the museum may have been the best part, and we could have saved our $11 entry fee.

The map provided to us, with the location of the of each plane in the hanger, was incorrect.  In addition, certain machines along the side of hangar weren’t labeled, so we didn’t know what they were…neither did the volunteers!  Inside the hangar, the Star Wars X Wing Fighter was pretty fun to see, since we grew up in the Star Wars age.

According to the information placards, the most famous plane in the museum’s collection is the Lockheed  F-104 Starfighter, a single-engine, high-performance, supersonic interceptor that served in the USAF from 1958-1969.

From the museum, we walked next door to the Lowry Beer Garden and enjoyed a burger and beer before we headed to Jazz in the Park.  Jazz in the Park is a free music series on Sunday night from 6-8 during the summer, in City Park, Denver’s largest park.  I live nine blocks away from the park, so I’ve been this event multiple times.

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Our tour in and around Denver continued the following day at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.  We went in the morning, but it was still very warm, so there wasn’t too much wildlife to see…one deer, some buffalo, lots of prairie dogs, and some pelicans is about all I can name.  There were a few flowers in bloom as well, but it was mostly prairie grasses.

After a morning driving and walking around the refuge, we visited 16th Street Mall downtown and stopped in at the pavilion to see an exhibit comparing Michelangelo and da Vinci.  I had no idea they were such inventors.  I thought of them as sculptors and artists. Da Vinci invented the universal screw mechanism as an effective and safer way to lift heavy objects.  This was one of many inventions.

The following day, we visited the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.  It is located in City Park, and it is absolutely fantastic.  We spent at least five hours there and didn’t even finish seeing all the exhibits, much less attend an IMAX movie or the planetarium.  I loved the space exhibit.  There were so many interactive parts to it.  I used a computer to create a star and watched it grow the size of the sun and explode.  The gem exhibit was also impressive, though I am a rock hound.  I actually became a member at the window before we even went in and it was a very good investment…I will be going back!

Anyway, Denver offers quite a bit of culture, and I feel like Suellen and I made a small dent in it during the few days she was here!