On our way to the train station to visit Cinque Terre we pass street cleaners who use the same ‘witchy’ brooms as they do in Paris. It seems especially appropriate today on Halloween.We are rather surprised that most of the train ride to the Cinque Terre villages is inside tunnels! I guess, in hindsight, that makes sense as these towns are only accessible by train, boat, or walking. We are visiting Monterosso al Mare, which is the town furthest away from La Spezia where we are staying. Cloths for sale spread out on the sand. There were lots of sellers but not many buyers.We have seen a few Halloween decorations here and there but this is the only real pumpkin jack o’ lantern we have seen.This huge rock was a popular spot. We walked all along this beach… and through a narrow tunnel to reach the oldest historic part of town. Monday is wash day and we see lots of laundry hanging outside windows.We have noticed that churches in Italy are all quite different from each other. When we were in Spain a couple of years ago the churches seemed much more alike than they do here. These four churches are all in Monterosso al Mare.We walk down this street on our way to find the footpath that leads to the next Cinque Terre village of Vernazza about 3.6 km away.
We aren’t exactly sure what we were expecting but we were definitely surprised at how many steps are on this path. By the end of the day we calculate we have climbed about 1,420 steps!! and of course what goes up has to come down. That is a lot of climbing up and down! These photos were taken on flights of stairs that had between 200 and 350 steps all in a row. Yes, I had to stop several times to catch my breath and rest my legs, but I did it! I am rather proud of myself.The path is also fairly rough in places and sometimes only just over a foot in width. It was quite an adventure. About half way along the path we found an older gentleman making fresh orange juice for € 2.00 a glass which seemed like a bargain! It was delicious. Way down there is Monterosso where we started our hike.We saw this little rat on the path. He didn’t want to get out of the way, despite being prodded with my hiking pole. I didn’t think he looked very healthy which may explain his strange behaviour.We even crossed a cute bridge over a small creek.There is our destination, the village of Vernazza.We found these little cat houses along the trail along with big containers of food and instructions to fill the cat’s dishes if they were empty. Someone here really loves stray cats.Finally, we are almost at Vernazza, after 2 1/2 hours of climbing up and down, and down and up.It isn’t a very big village and has a population of less than 900 however the Cinque Terre villages see more than 2.4 million tourists a year!I love peeking inside doorways and today I was rewarded with this interesting collection. We arrive in Vernazza in this narrow street but…we have to climb down one more long narrow set of stairs to reach the main piazza, or public square, where we find an ice cream shop for a much deserved treat. The fruit sorbet in Italy is amazing, so creamy and delicious.Children in Italian towns play in the squares or on the streets, or in small playgrounds. Green spaces are far and few between. I think about how different their childhoods are compared to children at home who spend so much of their time playing outside in grassy yards and parks.After watching the sun set over the we take the train and then a bus home. We need to get off our bus a couple stops early because an accident that has tied up all the traffic. Two young people on a motorcycle have had a collision with a car. It looks very serious as neither of them are moving and there are several ambulances on the scene. It is very sobering to think of how quickly life can change.
In yesterday’s post look at the windows in the last picture of the boat. One of them is covered in black plastic and duct tape. Not what we expected to see on a boat that costs millions of dollars.
We are now in La Spezia on the west coast of Italy. We went for a 4 1/2 hour walk this afternoon to the harbour in La Spezia. This was our view for our tea and cookie break, before we went to check out all the boats.In the distance there are two big cruise ships that dwarf everything around them.We check out the fishing boats, and our shadow selves take a closer look.Then we pass all the sail boats…on our way to where the ‘big boys’ dock.At least we thought they were the big boys, until we saw these! See the men on the sailboat? This gives some idea of just how huge these boats were.Hard to imagine that a boat this big is privately owned. This one has three more boats inside!Bob noticed something rather strange on this boat. Can you spot it?
We caught a bus home which stops right in front of our apartment. I was happy as I didn’t want to walk another 15,000 steps to get home!
After packing the car we take the metro into town to see about lining up at 2:00 this afternoon for last minute tickets to The Last Supper. We have been unable to get tickets anywhere. We find out that these tickets, if we were lucky enough to get them, would be for after 7:00 pm tonight which doesn’t work for us. We have a three hour drive to La Spezia, which is our next destination. Too bad but “oh well.” We should have booked three months ago! I guess we will just have to try to get back to Milano some time.
This is the church where the Last Supper is located. I somehow thought it would be a bigger Church. I couldn’t seem to find a spot where there were no power lines to take the photo.Walking towards the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana I spot this little balcony with an orange tree full of fruit. I’ve never seen that before.We pass a little church and I decide to peek in. We are really glad, because it is absolutely amazing. The Chiesa di San Maurizio was built in 1503. This room is used as a public church and we when we went through a little odd shaped door in the back left corner of this church…we find another church that was used as a cloistered church. I think it was called the Nun’s Hall. There are over 4,000 square metres of pictorial decoration in this church. If you look carefully you will see a painting of the Last Supper on the back wall. We had a little laugh about that. At least we get to see a painting of The Last Supper even if it is not Leonardo Da Vinci’s!Here is a close up of the beautiful painting in the arched area of the above photo. It was stunning!The shops are closed today but we can still window shop a bit. I have enjoyed experimenting with a few different fountain pens this trip, but I certainly can’t afford any of these.We arrive at the Bibliotheca Ambrosia only to see a sign saying we need to go to a different address to buy our tickets. I peek into the door and find someone who explains that the tickets are available at the front of this building, and that this is the exit. Of course there are no signs explaining this to us, or anyone else. This is actually a very nice art gallery, and not really a library at all. There are 26 rooms of beautiful paintings, sculptures and other objects including an exhibit of Ambrosian Liturgical Codices which is very interesting. The oldest one in the top left corner below is from the 9th century and is usually not on public display.I quite liked this little group of sculptures from the 17th century. They’re about a foot tall.We get to see yet another Last Supper, and …finally we find a room that looks like a library. It contains the exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbook pages that we had come to see.There are 16 pages on exhibit. I am surprised at how small they are. I have a book of Leonardo’s drawings at home and I always thought that the pages of his sketchbook were much larger. His writing is a special kind of shorthand that he invented himself. Da Vinci also mirrored his writing, starting at the right side of the page and moving to the left, so if you want to read it you must hold the page up to a mirror to reverse it.All too soon it is time to leave. We walk past the Duomo one more time, just as all the pigeons decide to take flight. What a commotion! There were kids laughing and kids crying and adults ducking to get out of the pigeon’s way. It reminded me of the movie ‘The Birds.’I wanted to see the gargoyles on the Duomo. There is so much to look at on this building that I didn’t even notice them yesterday. There are lots of them high on the side of the church.On our drive to La Spezia we pass some interesting buildings, including several of these oddly angled high rises with very strange windows.It was getting dark as we pulled into La Spezia and the very dark clouds were backlit with the setting sun. I have never seen a sky like this before, it was quite eerie. The colours in this photo are true to life, not enhanced at all.Our new Airbnb is very nice and I think we will be quite comfortable here for the next week.
On our way to the Duomo we come across a fashion photo shoot. This rather strange man with the oversized sweater and furry slippers was giving the model directions on what to do. He was very bossy!The Milano Duomo, or the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente, is one of the largest Gothic Churches in the world. It is very impressive.The view looking towards the altar. It is a bit overwhelming, placing my hands where so many other hands have worn the stone smooth and shiny over the centuries. There are 52 of these massive pillars.The stained glass windows are stunning, especially these ones behind the altar.I thought this sculpture was rather unusual. It is Saint Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles, who was flayed alive and then beheaded. He is carrying his own skin!Looking down one of the side aisles. This church is very big!This is a copy of the Madonna of the Duomo. The original is on the highest point of the church. There are many large paintings hanging in the church. Many of them look as though they need restoration work.Each of the pillars is topped by an ornately carved capital, and each one is unique.We go into the crypt of St. Charles Borromeo who lies in a crystal coffin below the altar. We also visit the archeological area which was excavated under the plaza in front of the Duomo. The black and white photo shows an aerial view of the excavations before they were covered by a new plaza.Then we climb 250 steps up to the roof top terraces for a close up view of some of the churches 135 spires!The flying buttresses are beautiful as well as functional. This church is decorated with 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles, and 700 figures in the marble reliefs, There are decorations everywhere, each one different from the rest. We were thrilled with this visit to the rooftop, but then…we discover that we get to climb even higher, to the very top of the church, 75 meters above the ground below! You can see the golden Madonna statue above us.The views are amazing but it is a bit hazy which is too bad. Apparently on a clear day you can see the Alps in the distance.Looking down at part of the plaza in front of the Duomo. Soon it is time to return the ground far below.This lion looks rather annoyed at all the pigeons who are perched all over him.We walk through the Vittorio Emanuele II Galleria which is lined with high fashion designer stores…on our way to the Teatro La Scala where we get to watch a little bit of a rehearsal, and then we visit the Theatre’s museum.The second floor of the museum is dedicated to Maria Callas and displays many of the beautiful costumes she wore while performing.Back to the Duomo for a couple more photos. Here I am in front of part of the incredible front door.The plaza in front of the church is a gathering place for tourists and locals alike.To really appreciate the size of the Milan Duomo you need to see a three-quarter view of the building..Next stop is the Duomo Museum, which has many of the original sculptures from the church. They are slowly being replaced by copies so that the originals can be preserved.This room was incredible! The brown sculptures are terra cotta studies for marble sculptures.I love gargoyles so I was delighted to get a close up view of these before we leave the museum and head home.We have been exploring for 8 hours today and we are both tired.
Thursday we stopped at Cremona on our way to Milan. Bob wanted to visit the Mouseo del Violino which tells the story of five centuries of violin making in Cremona including the violins of Antonio Stradivari. I wasn’t sure it would be all that interesting but I did enjoy it as well. Bob was surprised and pleased to discover an exhibit on guitars as well. This guitar was made by Stradivari in 1679, and it is the only one of his guitars that is still playable of the five remaining today. The frets are made of sheep gut tied around the neck of the guitar. This guitar has five double strings instead of the six strings of modern guitars.There was a room full of instruments, and when we punched their number into the audio guide we heard the instrument being played. It was a really nice feature, and we listened to several of the violins and these violoncellos, some of which were from the 1600’s. I took this photo for my daughter. She has a cello, but it isn’t quite as fancy as this one from 1639 made by Piero Galbani. This is the Cremona Duomo and its bellower, which is said to be the tallest Medieval tower in Italy. Unfortunately both were closed so we didn’t get a chance to visit either of them.There are still several violin shops near the Duomo, in the same locations as in the 1600’s. Here is one of the shop windows we pass on the way back to the car.All the side streets are paved with the old cobble stones and marble paving stones .We arrive in Milan about 3:30 and it took forever to find a place to park our car. The free parking for our bnb was on the street. We ended up parking bit further away and then moved our car closer later in the evening when there was a space available. We get settled into our Airbnb. and we are both rather tired and happy to stay put for the rest of the day.
Day 53, Friday October 27, 2017
I had a much needed ‘jammie’ day and Bob checked out the metro and got us tickets to the Milan Duomo, which is one of the largest Gothic churches in the world. We wanted to see Da Vinci’s Last Supper which is known here as Cenacolo Vinciano. That is actually the reason we added Milan to our travel itinerary but I totally forgot that someone told me we needed to reserve tickets online well in advance. Well, they are all booked up until sometime in late December! I guess we will have to try to return some day if we want to see it.
We drove to Verona today mostly to visit Juliette’s balcony, which is a balcony on the family house that was the inspiration for the story of Romeo and Juliette. Verona is a beautiful city and it had a relaxed feeling, it felt much calmer than Venice. This garden at Piazza Bra is a popular meeting place in Verona. We found bench in the sun and had our lunch before going to find Juliette’s balcony.
Well when we finally get there after a wrong turn or two we are rather dismayed to discover that the balcony is under restoration for the next ten days! What you see below is the canvas hoarding with a reproduction of the balcony. At least Juliette’s statue was still visible. The walls were plastered with notes, many were written on bandaids, or attached to the wall with chewing gum. I think the restoration might have been to free the walls from thousands of these notes.One our way to Romeo’s house we pass this house with lots of planters. Being a gardener in these Italian cities is difficult, there just aren’t many green spaces. So, we got a bit lost again but when we find Romeo’s house, it is a bit of a disappointment as well. There is just a little sign and a locked gate as the house is now a private residence.We thought this staircase was rather wonderful, and later in the day climbed it to visit an art gallery. We also went up to the top of this tower, the Torre Dei Lamberti which was built in the 1172. Its bells have rung the hours for Verona’s residents since1275! I have to admit we cheated and took an elevator about two thirds of the way up instead of climbing all 368 steps. The views from the tower were amazing.We decide we won’t even bother with Juliette’s tomb and go visit Verona’s Roman Arena. This is the world’s third largest arena and it was built in the First Century. We climb to the top tier of seats and walk around, high above the city on a 2,000 year old building!Bob notices all the jet streams above the arena.There are workmen dismantling a stage and seating area on the floor of the arena which is often used for musical productions. It holds about 15,000 spectators today but it used to hold 30,000.We take our photo with Verona in the background…and then go explore some of the tunnels inside the arena.When we leave we take a shadow selfie. Note the roads, they are all cobble stones in curving patterns. I take a photo of these military fellows, and one of them poses for me but it is after I have snapped the shot. I ask them if they are there for anything special and they say no, they are here everyday for security. When I thank them they seem rather pleased.We are treated to a beautiful sunset on the drive home.
Later in the night we received news that Bob’s mother had passed away. She was 93 and we knew there was a possibility this could happen while we were on holidays. We thought we were prepared but I don’t suppose anyone is ever really prepared for that kind of news.
Our Airbnb has bikes so today Bob went for a 34 km bike ride along this river. It only took him 3 1/2 hours, including his lunch break. Much better time than if I was along for the ride!You can see the mountains way in the distance in this one.I had a much-needed quiet day. I did all our laundry and a bit in my journal. I finally was able to take photos of the finished pages. Usually by the time get home it is too dark to get decent pictures. I drew this page in the car on the way to Dubrovnik.When we were in Venice I finally started to draw while I was on the bus or waiting for the vaporettos. I took a hardcover Stillman and Birn Alpha Sketchbook for this trip instead of my own handmade signatures. It is nice having everything already bound in a book but it is much heavier to carry around. The 9″x6″ landscape format is a bit awkward when I draw standing and a bit too big and obvious when I try to draw people without them noticing that I am doing so. I think I will go back to my old system of carrying a signature at a time in a folder and then binding them all together when I get home for any other trips.
I started to draw in a little notebook that is maybe about 3″x5″ and that is working for those times when my bigger book isn’t. I showed the lady in the last drawing her portrait as she walked by on the bus, and she was quite pleased. She told her friends so I held it up for them to see, and lots of other people saw it and were smiling at me about it. Kind of nice. I had a chance to sit and draw the Karaka on location which was fun and challenging.This ‘steam punky’ fish was interesting to draw . I used my favourite Bic pen for this one. I have bits and pieces done on other journal pages, but really I am quite behind. I am trying to draw more on location whenever possible.
We have been on holidays for seven weeks already! Our days fly by, there is so much to see everywhere we visit. Even a long holiday doesn’t have enough time for everything we could do.
We were surprised to see how close the mountains are on our drive to Rivalta Sul Mincio which is about half way between Venice and Milan. A quick internet search tells us that they are the Dolomites and they are part of the Italian Alps.Just one of the many small towns we see on our drive today.
We arrive at our Airbnb and get settled, then we both had a much needed afternoon nap. I plan a quiet day tomorrow, some journal time, some laundry, lots of rest, and Bob is thinking about going on a 34 km. bike ride! Guess who has more energy?
A week goes by much too quickly in Venice. There is so much to see, and although we wandered the streets and rode the canals I feel like there is so much that we missed. Our day started out interestingly. As we waited for our bus we heard lots of sirens and then we watched a police escort for lots of motorcycles, probably more than a hundred of them! It was quite something to see.We have a few smaller museums that we want to visit. Ca’ Rezzonico is first on our list. It was the home of noble family in the 1700’s and once more we see room after amazing room. The ceiling in this room was painted by Tieplol in just twelve days for a wedding! It is so large that I couldn’t even get it all into a photo.Bob was intrigued by the two wooden chandeliers in the ballroom. Imagine having a ballroom your home!The top floor of this museum had thirteen rooms of paintings donated from a private collection and some fantastic views of Venice.There were also several pastel paintings by Rosalba Carriera, 1673-1757, one of the few succesful women painters of this time. Next stop was Carlo Goldoni’s House, which is a very small theatrical museum with a great staircase.
I was worried that a little book store called Rivoaltus might not be open on Sunday. We visited this shop on one of our first days in Venice and it had the lovely expensive sketchbook I mentioned that I coveted. The shop was open and see that empty spot on the bottom shelf? The sketch book is now in my suitcase! Here we are on the Rialto Bridge near the book store.Next stop was the Museum of Palazzo Mocenigo, which was a palace that is now a museum of fabrics, costumes and perfumes. This collection of men’s waistcoats was one of the interesting displays. This collection of ‘archive bundles’ is thought to be of some importance although it has not yet been studied in depth.Here is a close up of some of the bundles. I wonder what interesting documents might be tucked away inside?After wandering up and down more streets and peeking inside a church or two we find a Gondola ride. When we were in Venice almost 40 years ago, we thought the gondolas were too expensive so we never went on one. We rectified that today.Our ride takes us along small canals, under many bridges, and eventually onto the Grand Canalwhere our excellent Gondoliersafely manoeuvred through this traffic jam.The buildings look a bit different for this perspective, low in the water. Soon we are back where we started and …it is time to leave Venice.
Today was a museum day. We visited the Correr Museum, the National Archaeological Museum and the Monumental Rooms Biblioteca Marciana. These museums are in the building that is on three sides of San Marco Square. On the way there I stop for another picture of the Bridge of Sighs.The Correr Museum is in a sumptuous building that once was the residence of the sovereign when Venice was under Austrian rule. Its many rooms are ornately decorated.I love the cabinets of this time. Just imagine all the treasures that were tucked into these many drawers and compartments.This library room has floor to ceiling shelves of old and rare books. This one with vellum pages is open for display..One of the many rooms filled with sculptures.
Have you ever seen toes this big?This room was once a library, with an amazing ceiling, but today it holds an exhibition of very expensive jewelry and jewelled objects. I only discover tonight that there is in fact a library we could have visited that sounds wonderful only it wasn’t open today, and isn’t open tomorrow. Some of tourist information here is a bit difficult to find. I am quite disappointed that we won’t be able to visit this library of ancient books and manuscripts.I walked in support of an exhibit about a young woman named Ashra who walked 11,146,312 meters to reach Italy from Sub-Saharan Africa, like many before her and many after her. Visitors to the gallery walk and their steps are recorded to reach the same number of meters.
There are many rooms of medieval paintings. I particularly liked this one.This exhibit had the stories of each of the people photographed written in Farsi over their hands and faces. Bob was trying to figure out how to get to the second story of books in this library room.I took this photo from the second floor window at the opposite end of San Marco Square. There are more people today than we have seen on the other days we were here…and lots of people were feeding the pigeons even though there are signs saying not to.These big cruise ships are part of the reason that Venice is so polluted. One ship creates as much pollution in a day as one million cars!The sun tried to peek out but couldn’t quite manage it. Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining.We sat beside the Doge’s Palace to eat our lunch and watch the people walking by. It is one of the few places where there is a place to sit. I think that Venice has so many visitors that the city doesn’t want people to sit for a while unless you are in a restaurant.
There were so many more tourists in Venice today…and we had to laugh at this group of women who had tied their scarves together and were all holding on, just like little kids in daycare.We wanted to see Venice by night so we stayed out late. We took a vaporetto ride down the main canal to San Marco Square that took much longer than we expected. The boat went very slowly, perhaps because none of the boats on the canals have navigational lights! They only have very small lights, usually a white one on the front and a red one on the side. It is almost impossible to see the boats and I have no idea how they manage to navigate in the dark!The gondolas often didn’t have any lights at all! It seemed rather dangerous to me.The Rialto Bridge at night is quite beautiful. Notice no lights on the boats.We finally arrived at San Marco Square, expecting all sorts of activity and there is almost no one there! We were pretty disappointed. I took a picture of the Basilica and we took another very slow boat ride back to the bus and then home. It was a long day today, we were out and about for twelve hours!.