What are you thankful for these days?
Hello gorgeous! Is this a beautiful place or what? This is the inland view from the apartment we rented in Riomaggiore. And this is the view to the other side, our balcony looked out over the Mediterranean's Gulf of Genoa and it was more than perfect.
Multiple times a day we took a maze of stairways to get from the town's main drag to our apartment. That is a lot of stairs ...and no elevators!
After World War II, the trail was renovated and became known as a meeting point for the boys and girls from the two towns. A journalist, who noticed all the amorous graffiti along the path, coined the trail’s name: Via dell’Amore.
Closing a padlock with your lover onto a cable or railing at a lovey-dovey spot—often a bridge—is the current craze in Italy, having been re-popularized by a teen novel. And to profit from this, the hardware store in Riomaggiore sells these locks.
The owner of our apartment met us at the train station and offered to take us on a little stroll to show us around. She met us that afternoon and then... proceeded to walk us over to the next town over! And she has grand children. And she was in heels.
Manarola may be the oldest of the towns in the Cinque Terre, with the cornerstone of the church, San Lorenzo, dating from 1338. Manarola is known primarily for its fishing and wine-making. The local wine, called Sciacchetrà, is especially renowned.
The town of Vernazza wasn't accepting visitors due to the flood that destroyed the town last October so we took the train to Monterosso instead.
It was beautiful but shocking to see how the flood devestated the town.
Siena, like other Tuscan hill towns, was first settled in the time of the Etruscans (c. 900–400 BC) when it was inhabited by a tribe called the Saina.
The medieval Siena Cathedral (Duomo) dates from the 13th century. The exterior and interior are constructed of striking white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes. And yes, all of the cathedrals started to blur together but I never tired of seeing them! Isn't this Duomo gorgeous?
Statue of Sallustio Bandini outside the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena.
Siena is famous for its medieval cityscape and has been divided into wards since medieval times. Each ward (contrada) is represented by an animal or mascot and has its own boundary and distinct identity. Ward rivalries are most rampant during the the Palio, an insane horse race held here twice yearly in the Piazza del Campo. (If you're not squimish there are many youtube videos to watch the race but too many horse crashes for my taste!)
Isn't the Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") beautiful?
We learned that there have been shops on the Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century! Initially there were all types of shops located here-- butchers, fishmongers and tanners--but together they created a bit of a stench so in 1593, it was proclaimed that only goldsmiths and jewelers could have their stores on the bridge. We visited the bridge on Christmas day so the shops were closed but it was still a bustling, busy day with people everywhere.
View of the Ponte Vecchio from the Uffizi Gallery.
The Uffizi gallery is one of the most important and most famous art galleries in the world. And we were there! Luckily we had tickets for another skip-the-line guided tour because we heard that in the high-season the lines can be up to five hours long. Yikes!
The Uffizi gallery was built in 1581, under the request of Granduca Francisco de’ Medici. The original design was that of Giorgio Vasari, one of the leading painters and architects of the 15th century. The space brought together under one roof the administrative offices ("uffizi" ="offices") for the Florentine magistrates, the Tribunal and the state archive.
The Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo da Vinci.
Over the years, parts of the palace evolved into a place to display many of the paintings and sculpture collected or commissioned by the Medici family.
The Doni Tondo, sometimes called The Holy Family, is the earliest of only three surviving panel paintings by Michelangelo Buonarroti, and the only one to be finished.
The Uffizi gallery had been open to visitors by request since the sixteenth century, but in 1765 it was officially opened to the public.
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, Beanie's favorite painting.
Michelangelo's David was created between 1501 and 1504 and is currently housed inside the Accademia Gallery. We weren't allowed to take any photos- flash or no flash- and they made that quite clear. But it was odd because there were plenty of security guards on hand whose only job appeared to be yelling at people for taking photos of the David.
This is the 13th century location of Dante Alighieri's birthplace and around the corner is Dante’s Church. The church itself actually preceeded the poet by many years but he did in fact worship there. It's one of the oldest churches in the city dating from 1032!
As a child in 1274 Dante first saw Beatrice Portinari, the woman who would become the love of his life. But they were never destined to be together, both marrying other people. Still, Beatrice remained the subject of many of his poems and was cast as the heroine of his Divine Comedy in which Dante called her the ‘True glory of God.’ Beatrice and her nurse are both buried in this church and often next to her tomb you will see flowers and notes with messages to Beatrice written by lovers who, like Beatrice and Dante, are unable to be together.
The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the burial place of some of the most famous Italians and features sixteen chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and his students.
The original structure was built in the 1200s and the building's design reflects the simple, austere approach of the Franciscans. The Gothic marble facade was added in the mid-1800s by a Jewish architect named Niccolo Matas who incorporated a prominent Star of David into the composition.
It is the largest Franciscan church in the world and legend says that Santa Croce was founded by St Francis himself.
Machiavelli died in 1527. The epitaph honoring him, in latin, reads: "So great a name (has) no adequate praise."
Michelangelo died in Rome at the age of 88 and his body was brought to the Basilica of Santa Croce, fulfilling his last request to be buried in his beloved Tuscany.
Such was not the case for Dante Alighieri. He was exiled from Florence after taking a stand against the Catholic church's interference in Florentine daily life. He was sentenced to pay a fine and to serve a two-years exile but he didn’t pay the fine and was therefore sentenced to death. He lived various places including Ravenna where he died in 1321 at the age of 56. Eventually Florence came to regret Dante's exile but requests to return his remains to Florence were refused. Nevertheless, in 1829 the tomb above was constructed but remains empty.
Galileo Galilei is considered the Father of Modern Science. He, like Dante, ticked off the Catholic church and therefore was tried by the Inquisition, found "vehemently suspect of heresy", forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. He died in 1642, at the age of 77.
You're just walking down the street in Florence, minding your own business...and then BOOM! The Duomo is right there in front of you! I never tired of seeing bits of the cathedral peeking out from behind the buildings in Florence.
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) is the cathedral church of Florence. The Duomo, as it is usually called, was begun in 1296 and construction lasted 170 years, the collective efforts of several generations. It was engineered in the Gothic style of Arnolfo di Cambio who was also architect of the church of Santa Croce and the Palazzo Vecchio. The dome was engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi.
The huge dome is the iconic image of Florence and Filippo Brunelleschi's raising of this dome, the largest in the world in its time, was no easy architectural feat. He invented hoisting machines and lewissons for lifting the 37,000 tons of material, including over 4 million bricks.
At the base of the dome, just above the drum, Baccio d'Agnolo began adding a balcony in 1507. One of the eight sides was finished by 1515, when someone asked the great Michelangelo what he thought of it. The master reportedly scoffed, "It looks like a cricket cage." Work was immediately halted, and to this day the other seven sides remain rough brick.
Santa Reparata was the old cathedral of Florence until 1412, when it was replaced with the current building of Santa Maria del Fiore. And luckily you are able to go beneath the Duomo to see these amazing relics.
So, in a nutshell, Florence amazed us. It exhausted us. It inspired us.
And I wasn't sure if taking a 12 year-old on such an expensive vacation was a good idea, I mean would she really care if were were in a 13th century church? Would she rack up a $200,000 phone bill from texting without an international calling plan? But, alas, she raved about the art. She drew everyday. She loved the food. And after awhile she admitted she didn't even miss texting her friends!
Beanie, me, my brother Justin, Brandi (Bean's sister) and my husband Bert
Today is my birthday. My fortieth.
Truth be told it has taken me several months to adjust to the word "forty". Why is that? Why is it that my big birthdays- my 30th and 40th- were a bit harder to swallow but birthday 39 was just a walk in the park? Why is it on these birthdays we step back and look our lives and take stock: what should I have accomplished by the age of 40?
“WHAT I DO TODAY IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE I AM EXCHANGING A DAY OF MY LIFE FOR IT.” –HUGH MULLIGAN
I googled "bucket list" and man, people have some odd ideas of things they *must* do before the kick the bucket. I have no desire to scuba dive, go to Burning Man or own a Capuchin monkey... but here is my list:
And since I have so many culinary aspirations I decided to come up with a culinary bucket list as well:
Today has been a lovely day. Went out to breakfast, saw the latest Sherlock Holmes movie, had ice cream for lunch, got Cold Play tickets (yahoo!) and this cookbook, bought some books, went out to dinner and now am crashing: new books + sugar coma = bliss.
Tomorrow I start a new decade.
Lovely Christmas cottage by Magpie Ethel.
Olive dreams in Bokeh... (If you are a geek like me you have already perused the "Christmas Bokeh" section of Flickr... I highly recommend it.)
I love seeing people's homes all decked out for the holidays, don't you? I like the idea of putting so many lights on my house that it's visible from space. I am all for having a little santa village in my bathroom. What I can't get into however is the lugging of the twelve huge storage bins up from the basement. So, alas, we have a tree and are calling it good.
So do you guys go all out and decorate your houses inside and out? Does your electric bill triple during the month of December? Do you have baubles and snowmen and tinsel in every room in your house?
Felted sweater fingerless gloves...
One more felt ornament for a dear friend.
We're on a roll!