The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and The Pantheon in Rome

Day 73, Thursday November 16, 20217

The Spanish Steps are first on the agenda today.  They were built in 1723 for King Louis XV and they are a favourite spot for tourists and locals.
This is an image from 1752. The same buildings are still on either side of the steps. The one on the right is the Keats-Shelley Memorial House, where the poet Keats died in 1821.
We climb the steps all the way to the Trinità Dei Monti Church where we find this beautiful statue inside and an Egyptian Obleisk outside. The city of Rome has the most obelisks in the world. There are eight ancient Egyptian and five ancient Roman obelisks in Rome, together with a number of more modern obelisks;

Of course I need my photo on the steps…  but I am not quite as acrobatic as this guy. He stayed in this pose for almost two  minutes while his wife fiddled with the camera!This is the view of the street below the steps with the fountain of a sinking ship.The colonna dell’Immacolata is new the Spanish Steps. Ever since 1854, the firefighters of Rome place a wreath of flowers on the Virgin every December 8th.  We can see the old wreath on her arm but we won’t be in Rome on the 8th to see it being replaced.Next stop, Trevi Fountain.We made our wishes and tossed coins into the fountain over our shoulders, to ensure that we will return to Rome for another visit. This fountain is one of the most familiar sights of Rome, and is often seen in movies. It is also very crowded.While walking  along the streets I peek into a foyer and see these old printing presses. Check out the ‘legs’ that are used to move the press bed.Rome isn’t all beautiful buildings and fountains. It has its share of tacky too.There are lots of stands selling roasted chestnuts. We tried roasting them one Christmas and they weren’t very good. Maybe we should try these to see if they are any better? The Galleria Alberto Sordi is an Art Deco building with incredible stained glass ceilings and lots of shops. In front of the Galleria is the Column of Marcus Aurelius. It is 42 meter high with reliefs  wrapped around it. The bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius was replaced, in 1589, with a bronze Statue of St. Paul. The column is hollow with stairs that wind up to the top but it is not open to the public.Just around the corner from this column is another Egyptian Obelisk in front of the Parliament Buildings. I wonder if we will see all the obelisks in Rome during our visit? Maybe we will have to see if we can find them all.We stop at another church on our way to the Pantheon, but the inside is so dark that we can barely see anything.

The sun is setting as we approach the Pantheon and we are treated to this beautiful sunset.the Pantheon used to be a pagan temple. but it became a Christian church in 608 AD.It is very difficult to take a photo to show how huge the Pantheon’s dome is. It is a very impressive building. The dome is the widest masonry dome in Europe and it is exactly as wide as it is high, 43.3 meters (142 feet). The oculus in the centre is 27 foot hole that provides light and the tension around the ring helps support the weight of the dome.The walls are 20 feet thick and the tombs of two of Italy’s kings are inside this Church…and this is the tomb of the artist Raphael.The view from the entrance of the Pantheon, showing the Portico with its16 enormous pink and grey granite columns.The Ramses II Egyptian Obelisk is on the centre of a fountain facing the Pantheon.         We sat on the fountain steps and had tea and cookies, people watching and listening to a violinist who was playing In the square. Just before we left he played Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah,which I found very moving.

As we wandered towards the metro several blocks away, I looked up and saw this lovely little dragon.

Siena, and the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana, Fabriano, Italy

Day 69, Sunday November 12, 2017

I really wanted to visit Fabriano and the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana, (Museum of Paper and Watermarks.) Fabriano is known internationally for its quality paper.The only day we could fit it in was Sunday afternoon so today we drove from Florence to Perugia with a short stop in Siena, and then on to Fabriano.

The drive from Florence to Siena was beautiful. Lots of rolling hills with little towns perched high on the hilltops. It is definitely autumn and the trees are turning colour, but as Bob said, it is like our September autumn, and it is November here.We enter Siena by walking though a gate in this wall. You can just see the arch of the top of the gate.We wanted to visit the Sienna Duomo but it is closed to tourists until 1:30. I ask the guard if we can visit for a quiet time to think about Baba and she lets us enter. There is a mass taking place so we sit and have some reflective time, listening to beautiful singing and the Italian sermon. This is the inside of the Duomo with its black and white striped marble pillars and incredible inlaid marble floors.We wander the  streets and pass this little gallery with all the horses. Quite appropriate for Siena as the Palio is held here twice a year. This is a bareback horse race that is held in the Piazza Del Campo. Check out the link for some great photos of this event. I toss a coin and make a wish in this ancient well, and admire the paintings on the ceiling which are outside and exposed to the elements.The streets are narrow with tall buildings on either side…with wonderful sights tucked away in courtyards and…at the end of this long sloping road we enter a large open square. It is the famous Piazza Del Campo where the Palio is takes place.We didn’t have a lot of time here as we need to be in Fabriano this afternoon so all too soon we head back towards our car, which is parked outside the old city. The buildings here are all beautiful shades of sienna and ochre. Loved the horse.There are great views.These six very long very steep escalators were a great help getting us up to and down from the old town. I was feeling a bit weary today and quite happy I didn’t have to climb all those hundreds of steps.  Here we are, leaving Siena, there are no flat roads here!We have time to check into our Airbnb and then drive to Fabriano, almost an hour away. Our tour of the paper mill was at 4:30. We arrived at 4:00, just in time to watch an English video about paper making as the tour was only in Italian!  I didn’t think to check that when I reserved way back in August, however, after our video a very nice woman gave us a tour in English! I think the fellow at the ticket office got her especially for us. She was great, very knowledgeable and very pleasant. This is a photo of her from a show that National Geographic made about the Fabriano Paper mills and paper making. I can’t remember her name, but she was very knowledgeable and spent quite a bit of time with us.We got to see the old hammer mills in operation and a master papermaker came and pulled some sheets of paper with watermarks to demonstrate the process. I just loved the old wooden press. It is just a bit bigger than the one I use at home when pressing my handmade paper. The museum has a fantastic collection of very old papers and papers with watermarks. Their Fabriano Mill makes watermarked paper for bank notes for several countries, but I most fascinated with their with chiaroscuro watermarks .

For those unfamiliar with watermarks, take a quick look at the link above which simply explains what they are and how they are made. For a more detailed explanation take a look at this link from the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana

I get myself a souvenir from our visit to Fabriano, a piece of paper with a watermark of two angels called Il Primo Bacio (The first Kiss) by William Bouguereau. I just need to decide how to display it, as the watermark only shows when it is held up to the light.

Image result for il primo bacio painting
There are a couple art shows in the hallways of the museum and I absolutely adored the work of Valentina Verlato.   This link takes you to her Italian website but if you type her name into Google you will have the option of translating the website into English. Of course, the photos on internet just don’t compare to the actual paintings.
As we left the museum the street lamps lit up the leaves above us.Day 70,  Monday November 13, 2017

We spend a quiet day at home. We have been travelling for ten weeks and I am just a bit tired. Bob did go out exploring the town of Perugia but most of the sites were closed today so he came home early.He did get some great views of Perugia which he said is ‘lots of steps!”

Tomorrow we are on our way to Rome!

Day 71, Tuesday November 14, 2017

Our drive to Rome went well and we arrived at our Airbnb early afternoon. We were very relieved that it is not a ‘smoking allowed’ apartment as that is what showed up when we checked our booking a couple of days ago. I was so worried that it would smell awful and that we would have to find another place at the last minute. It seems that the Airbnb site ‘updated’ and incorrectly listed the apartment as ‘Smoking Allowed.” This was also a surprise to our host who assured us that it was indeed a non smoking apartment. It is a lovely place and I think we are going to be very happy here for the next two weeks.

Day 72, Wednesday November 15, 2017

We spent a quiet day at home today, resting, organizing and planning what we will see and do in Rome.

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Day 68, Saturday, November 11, 2017

We changed our plans to visit the town of Siena today so that we can go to the Uffizi Gallery. In hindsight I think we should have planned for more time in Florence, a week was just enough to be a tease. There is so much more I would have liked to see here. ‘sigh’

It is so easy to miss the small sights when surrounded by such majestic ones. I thought the artist who added his or her touch to the official street signs was very clever, especially David carrying the big white ‘do not enter’ bar.
Florence is the birthplace of Carlo Collodi, the author of Pinocchio. I made a new friend but I think Bob has been telling a few fibs lately!We tried to visit the Library again. We were told we could come Saturday morning and the library is open until 1:30. However when we arrive just after 12:00 we discover that ‘visiting hours’ ended at 11:30! No library visits in Florence for us.

This ‘statue’ on the steps at the Uffizi Gallery surprised a few people when it moved!

We are lucky and there is no line up at the Uffizi Gallery. In the summer the wait to get tickets can be as much as five hours! I discover some Italian artists whose work I really like. These paintings seemed to call to me from across the room, begging for a closer look.This drawing by Bellini from 1500-1506 is about three feet long!I think this incredibly beautiful painting ‘Madonna and Child With Two Angels’ 1460-5  by Filippo Lippi is my favourite. A photograph doesn’t do it justice.

The Uffizi is a ‘U’ shaped building with two long wings connected at one end.
The ceilings of both upper wings of the Uffizi are beautifully painted, each panel different from the next…and they are very long hallways!There are many Medieval paintings…  I particularly liked all the detail in this Adoration of the Magi from 1423 by Gentile Da Fabrianoand the wings of these little angels. They make me think of parrot wings.I was surprised to see this large Roman copy of an original bronze sculpture from the 3rd Century. I drew a sketch of the original bronze when we visited the Correr museum in Venice. Different angle, same boar.We stopped for tea and a yummy fresh fruit tart in the museum café. Two pots of tea and one tart were ‘only’ $30.00 Canadian, but we had a great view!  Rested and refreshed we continue our visit. I saw many paintings that I ‘know’ from reproductions. I feel very fortunate to be able to stand in front of the originals.

Francesca’s The Duke and Duchess of Urbino.
La Primavera, 1480, and…

The Birth of Venus, 1485, both by Botticelli.

Michelangelo’s The Holy Family, known as the Doni Tondo painted in 1507, and…Titian’s Venus of Urbino from 1538. This painting was considered so risqué at the time that it was concealed by a sliding panel until the end of the 16th Century!The ceilings in many of the Gallery rooms were also beautifully painted.We had a great view the Ponte Vecchio from one of the second floor windows.Bob read that this painting was badly damaged by a Mafia car bomb explosion in 1993 and was later restored. I did a bit of research if you want to read about it.There are several paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci in this gallery but I am most interested in The Adoration of the Magi San Donato in Scopeto. Da Vinci never finished this painting so it gives insight into his creative process. I found it fascinating. The painting was being restored for six years and was only returned to the Uffizi in March of this year. This link allows you to zoom in for a closer look.

We managed to see a lot in the 4 1/2 hours we spent at the gallery.  Several of the rooms were closed, which was probably a good thing. We never would have managed to see it all if they would have been open. On the way home we pass this rather small, curious door to apartment #9.

One last view of Santa Croce. We learned that a Spanish tourist was recently killed here on Oct.19th, by a piece of masonry the fell from the ceiling. 

Hilltop View of Florence

Day 67, Friday November 10, 2017

The Piazzale Michelangelo gives panoramic views over Frienze. We can see the bridges over the Arno River…The Duomo…and some of the ancient town walls. There is a copy of David here but it doesn’t have the same impact as the original.I love the feet on these old lampposts on the Piazzale. We visited this spot on our first trip to Firenze one hot summer night long ago.

Fall has officially arrived.We explore the streets in the Oltrarno area on the south side of the Arno River. There are lots of interesting little shops and art studios. We also see a lot of interesting street art in this part of Florence.The Ponte Vecchio is now the home of Firenze’s jewelry shops

We visit this little book binding shop…and see these very large albums in another shop window. I am so glad I bought my sketchbook in Venice. I haven’t seen another one with good drawing paper.We cross the Arno admiring the reflections on our walk to the train station to find bus to take us home.There are lots of interesting windows along the way.. and a garage that parks its cars one on top of the other!We were also lucky enough to see a murmuration of Starlings near the Santa Maria Novella train station.  It was getting dark so I didn’t get the best photo but there were thousands of birds flying above us, swirling, swooping in intricately coordinated patterns.  They were also very noisy as they settled into the trees for the night!

Michelangelo’s David

Day 66, Thursday, November 9, 2017

We arrived at the Galleria Dell’Accademia with our tickets for 11:15 and a very kind guard let us in a half hour early.  Our first view of David is pretty wonderful.We walk past Michelangelo’s ‘prisoners’ forever trapped in their unfinished state, on our way to David. There are a lot of people but we take a photo, me and David!

David is even more spectacular than I remember from our visit in 1980, although when we were last here there was no barrier between us and the statue. Of course that was before someone took hammer to David’s left foot!

This 17 foot tall masterpiece is mesmerizing. I sit and draw David. It is still a bit intimidating to sit in public and draw, but people were very kind and very curious about what I was doing. I was aware that there was usually someone standing behind me, watching and taking photos and many people came up to talk to me and ask if it was OK to take a picture. One lady went and got her parents to come meet me and another woman looked at my drawing and said “God Bless You!” Bob wandered off to an exhibit of musical instruments so that I had time to sit and draw. We spend a bit of time going through the rest of the museum. This room full of plaster casts was amazing.There are several more rooms with beautiful iconographic paintings… and a fifteen foot long embroidered altar cloth for the main altar of the Santa Maria Novella Church from 1336. This was the work of one man. I can’t even imagine how long it would take to completely cover such a large cloth in the embroidered stitches.

In the evening I attend a life drawing session at the Florence Academy of Art in the evening. I planned on arriving early to introduce myself and get settled, however our bus was almost 40 minutes late so I arrive about 15 minutes late. That was quite stressful. I decided to ‘christen’ the nice new sketchbook that I bought in Venice.Unfortunately I also had to leave a half hour early because there was going to be a transportation strike starting at 9:00 and it is too far to walk home.  I still enjoyed the session even though I wasn’t all that happy with my drawing.  I met a couple very nice artists, including a woman from Smithers B.C. who was attending a six-week workshop at the Academy. 

Pisa, Italy

Day 65, Wednesday November 8, 2017

The train to Pisa takes about an hour and Bob is happy to relax and watch the scenery instead of concentrating on driving. We cross the Arno River walking into the old town.While trying to decide which way we needed to go I looked up and figured it out. We could just see the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa over the roof tops.It really does lean a lot! It is interesting to see how one side of the tower has sunk into the ground.On our way to get tickets we pass this very large sculpture called The Fallen Angel by Igor Mitoraj. There are windows in the tower as we climb and it is rather disorienting to see pillars at a slant.The marble steps have worn away with more than seven centuries of use.251 steps later and we are at the top of the Tower with the seven bells that chime in the morning and at noon every day.The views from the top of the tower are wonderful.  We spend quite a bit of time up here, just enjoying the views and the fact that we are sitting on top of the ‘Leaning tower of Pisa.’ I remember feeling like I was more tilted when we were here so many years ago and I just realized why. The tower was still tilted at 10 degrees off vertical then and now it is only 5 degrees. The lean was decreased by 14 inches in 2010 so that it was once more safe for the public to climb. We were here in 1981 when it had more of a tilt.
Follow the horizon line along the fence grid and you can see how much of a tilt the tower has.I am surprised that I don’t feel at all uncomfortable even standing so close to the edge of the tower!Here are the steps leading down from the top, just 251 of them!The Pisa Duomo is very impressive as well.This shadow on the pillar caught Bob’s attention…
and I once more marvel at stone pillars that have are polished smooth and shiny from countless hands over the centuries.The church walls are lined with enormous old paintings. The big image of Jesus is actually a covering for an area where restoration work is taking place. It is a replica of the real image that it covers.We always need to remember to look up, and here we are rewarded with a view of this incredible ceiling.I needed to take at least one photo of some of the tourists getting their picture taken “holding” up or “pushing over” the tower. They do look quite comical. We were way up at the railing just at the base of the narrower area where the bells are located.
There is a shop near here called Il Papiro, that sells marbled paper and hand made books. Their paper is pretty but the marbled paper my friends and I make is really just as nice. That was a bit of a surprise and made me feel pretty good.It is starting to get dark as we head back over the Arno towards the train station for our trip back to Firenze.  

We take a bus home from the train station but somehow managed to get on one going the wrong direction!  So the ride home that should have taken a half hour took almost two hours!  We are blaming our mistake on all the construction around the train station, but we really have to be more careful checking we have the correct bus direction before it is too late. Oh well, if that it the worse thing that happens on our holidays I guess I won’t complain.

Firenze, Italy

Day 64, Tuesday, November 7, 2017

There is so much to see in Florence that we are only going to scratch the surface with the week that we have here. Today we visit the Firenze Duomo, the Santa Maria del Fiore. It is the fourth largest church in Italy and the outside is highly decorated. Our first view of it  is quite spectacular, rising above the narrow street.It is impossible to get a photo of the front of this church as there isn’t room to get far enough back because of other buildings. So here are two photos of the front of the Duomo… and  one of the side.We  are actually a bit underwhelmed by the interior. Many of the areas are roped off and there isn’t a lot to see other than the dome by Brunelleschi which was finished in 1463, the tiled floor and the massive pillars. The dome is quite magnificent and of course the photos don’t do it justice. We find a bench to have our lunch and watch men high up on the crane inspecting the tower.
It rained a lot last night and there are puddles on the paving stones that reflect the church.  I loved the reflections…and Bob took this one of me and the cathedral.We walk behind the Duomo and find this view.Nearby is a little purse shop flanked by these two huge statues.On our way to check out ticket information for visiting the Uffizi we come across this sculpture and capture our strange reflections, and…Bob is not impressed with this modern sculpture called Big Clay #4. Thiere is a copy of David near the Uffizi. We should  see the real one sometime in the next few days.In the Uffizi courtyard the military stand guard. There is a fairly strong military presence in the Italian cities we have visited and in light of some of the things that have happened lately I find it rather reassuring.We walk along the  Arno river and see the Ponte Vecchio and in the other direction is the hill top terrace that we remember from our first visit to Florence 40 years ago. 

We walk to the Public Library, the Biblioteca Nazionale, only to discover that we are not allowed inside!  Hopefully if we can return Saturday morning we will be allowed in. We are not having much luck visiting libraries this trip.Construction on the Santa Croce Cathedral began in 1294 and it contains the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini.This is Michelangelo’s tomb.This is a beautiful cathedral. I particularly like the ceiling above the altar with its dark background. there is a set of stairs and a walkway all around the church high above us.There are so many beautiful details everywhere, including this carved door.There are many other rooms to visit besides the main cathedral, several chapels, the refectory,  a museum and a beautiful cloister. We spent at least a couple of hours here, and did see a Last Supper by Giorgio Vasari. This impressive painting was badly damaged by the flood of 1966 and was just restored and returned to the church in 2006.There is even entrance to a leather workshop from the church grounds and we watch craftsmen making purses and wallets. I liked looking at their tools and patterns.
When we finally finish our visit the sun is setting.
On our way to catch our bus home we pass this little studio with the artist at work and an older man sleeping in a chair. The link is in Italian but it is still interesting.This living wall is on the outside of a car parking lot right next to the bus stop.

Quiet Day in Firenze Italy

Day 63, Monday November 6, 2017

We are exactly halfway through our holiday and we have been having a really good time, but it is hard work too and I am starting to feel a bit weary.  Today I stayed home and Bob went out and about exploring. It was a grey day today with rain on and off so I think it was a good day to stay put. Here are a few more journal pages. The light wasn’t the best for photographing them but it will have to do.Strange how the pages look so different on the computer than they do in person. I don’t like them as well, the texture of the paper doesn’t show, sometimes the colour is a bit off,  and they tend to look ‘flatter’ that they really are.  I think perhaps if I was able to scan them they would look better but I can’t haul a scanner around with me! Too bad.I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to write a comment.  It is so nice to hear from readers of the blog. If you read a post perhaps you could take just moment to press the ‘Like’ button? I enjoy knowing that you liked the post.  Thanks.

Lucca, Italy

Day 62, Sunday November 5, 2017

We passed Carrara on the way to Firenze (Florence) today but didn’t have time to stop.  The white areas on the mountains are all marble quarries. The marble for Michelangelo’s David came from these mountains. Our friends spent time in Lucca a couple of years ago and told us how much they enjoyed their time there. We thought we should stop for a visit on our way to Firenze. Lucca is described as having peaceful narrow lanes that wind among medieval buildings. Well, that isn’t exactly what we found today.
We aren’t really sure what this sign meant at first but decided that all masks and weapons must be in backpacks or sheathed before entering Luca. There are police checking inside bags and backpacks of everyone entering the walled old city.There are people everywhere. We read that 500,000 people come to Lucca for the Comic and Games Convention. This is the 51st year that the convention has taken place.

I soon discover the people love to have their picture taken. When I ask if I can take their photo most of them strike a pose. What great people watching!  Such fun.

People of all ages enjoy dressing up.This convention has a rather strange effect on us…but I made a new friend.
It starts to rain just as we are ready to leave Lucca and make our way to Firenze and our new Airbnb. It looks like the weather may get a bit colder and wetter for the next while.

Manarola and Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy

Day 61, Saturday November 4, 2017

Manarola is one of the five Cinque Terre villages and it has a population of only 400. We stop here and decide where I will park myself for the afternoon while Bob goes for a hike from here to Corniglia. This is Manarola from the top of the steep 20 minute climb at the beginning of the walk.The coastal trail has been closed for five years because of a land slide that injured four tourists, so the only way to walk between these villages is by a longer route with great views. Way in the distance is Monterosso, which was the first village we visited on Tuesday.This is a view of Corniglia and the train station, along with some terraced vineyards.On the way down to Corniglia Bob had to descend these steps for 20 minutes. He was pretty tired by the time he finished and caught the train back to Manarola.I spent the 3 hours that Bob was gone sitting in a little restaurant in Manarola, drinking lots of tea, drawing in my journal and chatting with some of the other restaurant patrons. It was a very enjoyable afternoon. In the bottom of this photo you can see the ramp that is used to haul boats up to the village because…although there are no cars in the village there are lots of boats parked everywhere.This little fountain sculpture was tucked into a nook. The head is sliced into 4 with the ear on the other side of the textured rock .We catch the train to Riomaggiore. This is an interesting train station as most of it is inside a tunnel because there is no room for it anyplace else.I have no idea how anyone reaches the pots on the ledge in the middle of this photo!There is another long tunnel that goes from the train station into the village of Riomaggiore.It is larger than the other villages with a population of 1700, but it is already 5:00 pm and a lot of the shops are closed.Even though I had a relatively quiet day I still managed to log 39 flights of stairs on my Fitbit.  This is why.There are stairs everywhere!This is part of an interesting mural on a municipal building we pass. We decide not to climb up to the castle on the very top of the hill, we have both had enough stairs for today.But, of course there are several more flights of stairs down to the marina and then up again. We wait for the train home standing in the station tunnel. Here you can see the little bit of flat land between where we were standing and the entrance to the next tunnel. This is photo shows how the machine I mentioned in a previous post is used to transport crops up and down the mountainsides.  I think it would be like riding a crazy roller coaster!