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.

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.

Last Day in Milano

Day 55, Sunday October 29, 2017

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.

Cremona Italy

Day 52, Thursday October 26, 2017

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.

I finished a couple more journal pages.

Rivalta sul Mincio, Italy

Day 49, Monday October 23, 2017

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?

Assisi, Italy

Day 42, Monday, October 16, 2017

On our way to Venice we stop in Assisi, to visit the Basilica di San Francesco, which is the burial site of St. Francis of Assisi. Construction of the basilica began in 1228, two years after the saint’s death.  We only have two hours here as we still have a long drive to Venice, and it is definitely not enough time. We walk through this enormous gate into the town…and emerge here. We do not have time to explore the town, so we turn around and head up the street to the Basilica.We are rather surprised to see armed guards checking everyone’s bags.The basilica is very impressive.Here is the main entrance.I must say I had a difficult time as there are no pictures allowed inside! This is one of the most impressive churches we have ever seen. We are surprised to discover that there are actually two churches in this building, one above the other. The walls and ceilings are covered with painted murals by renowned artists of the day, including Giotto, Simone Martini and Cimabue. It is incredible and I so wanted to take my own photographs. I was a bit disappointed in the selection of postcards and other material that depicting the interior of the church. I guess nothing seems quite as good as taking my own photos. These interior views are photos of postcards. Here is the Upper Church with its beautiful rose window.and this is the Lower Church. I could have stayed here for hours, there was so much to see.The altar area of the Lower Church is incredible.Downstairs is the crypt which contains the tomb of St. Francis.
The cloisters is outside so I get to take photos…and here are some of the Upper Church and the big flights of stairs that lead up to it.All too soon we have to leave as we still have a five hour drive to Mestre, which is just outside Venice. I take one last photo of Assisi and the basilica on the hill from the car window.Here is a different postcard view.I love the drive to Venice, the countryside is so beautiful. I told Bob I feel like I have come home. Perhaps I was an Italian in another lifetime?One thing neither of us expected was the smog and pollution.  It has been hazy but I wanted to believe it was just the hazy weather. It wasn’t! I check on the internet and discover that Italy is the most polluted European country! Northern Italy is the worst so we can only hope the situation improves as we head south.  We can barely make out the hills in the distance.

Day 43, Tuesday October 17, 2017

We spent a much needed quiet day organizing our nice new bnb, getting groceries and planning what we want to see and do in Venice.

Trogir to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 33, Saturday, October 7, 2017

These orange trees were growing in the yard at our bnb. Our host kindly offered us some and they were delicious.  There were also pomegranate and olive trees growing on her property. The drive to Dubrovnik takes almost four hours and the highway passes through some beautiful landscapes.

We stop at Polče for our lunch and sit by the water.These apartments near where we are sitting remind me of something from a Mad Max movie.  I am very happy I do not have to live in one of these.Just before we cross into Bosnia-Herzegovina there is a large valley that used to be a river delta and is now rich farmland with hundreds of long narrow plots of gardens, vineyards and fruit trees.I think it is beautiful but wonder why the plots are so long and narrow.Perhaps so each farmer has access to the river for irrigation?The highway here is lined with fruit stands.  Oranges are ready for harvest and hang in bags for sale.We cross the border into Bosnia-Herzegovina, which has a narrow strip of land that divides Croatia into two sections so that Bosnia-Herzegovina has access to the Adriatic Sea.  We both expected there would be a large port there but we didn’t see any. We are in Bosnia Herzegovina for all of 13 minutes!Here are some more photos taken from the car window on our way to Dubrovnik Just before Dubrovnik we cross over this bridge, which is high enough for cruise ships to go under.

We find our apartment without any problems and settle in for the evening.

Zadar to Trogir, Croatia

Day 26, Saturday, September 30, 2017

Today is a travel day from Zadar to Trogir. Here are a couple photos from the car of the drive here. We take the freeway and pay the toll as it is quite a bit faster than the non-toll roads.Driving through a huge flat valley on the way to Trogir there isn’t much to see, no farming and very few houses or towns. It seems kind of strange.We will be in Trogir for a week and there is a lot to see in this area so I think we will be busy.  We are also only about a half hour from Split which we want to visit as well.  Our apartment here is lovely and it has the biggest kitchen yet this trip. It is so nice to have a bit more room to prepare meals, and the TV has lots of English channels so Bob is enjoying that. We relax after arriving early afternoon and then go get our groceries for the week. Kind of a lazy day.

Here’s a couple photos that you might find interesting. I love peeking into doorways and openings. This is what I saw when I looked into an opening into an abandoned basement while we were in Jablanac last Wednesday.I know duct tape can be used for a lot of things. I always bring a bit with me when we travel and it often comes in handy but we have never seen it used to hold down road stones! We found this strange sight in a parking lot in Senj.

Zadar, Croatia

Day 25, Friday, September 29, 2017

It was a beautiful day for our drive to Zadar. The sun was shining, and the sky was blue. The Adriatic Sea is amazing, it is so clear and has such incredible shades of blue, everything from aquamarine to indigo.I keep snapping photos from the car window and telling Bob about all the different colours of the water. There are little inlets all along the coast…

and many of them have beaches.  This one was below a lookout where we stopped to have our lunch.

I took this to show how very clear the water is.  I now understand why so many people come to the beaches in Croatia, and yes, the water really was that blue!

I also saw these and wonder if they are buoys maybe for lobster traps?  Maybe someone reding this knows what they are and can let me know? I forgot to post a link to our apartment in Senj and here is our home in Zadar for those who are curious about Airbnb accommadations.  We have had very good luck with all our Airbnb bookings on all of our trips. We decided to visit Zadar because I read about the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation, two amazing art installations by local architect, Nikola Bašić.  I recorded my own Sea organ music but I need to learn how to load videos to YouTube so I can include them in my blog.  The link I have included was a video I found online.  We sat at sunset and listened to some phenomenal music created by the ocean waves, It really was quite magical.

Next we checked out the Sun Salutation, and it was pretty unique as well.  

We decide that we might as well climb the Radar Cathedral Bell Tower. The entrance fee is only 15 Kuna, which is $3.00. The tower is 56 meters, or 184 feet tall.

Only 209 steps later and we are at the top platform with the railing, right below the roof. which has great views of the city lights.

This is looking up at the angel on top of the roof…and here is Bob.It was a little bit scary climbing the narrow winding steps right near the top. We were above the bells, and there didn’t seem to be much holding up those metal stairs. This is looking down from the top of the stairs.

And here are some views of the bells, which are enormous. They also rang for 9:00pm just minutes after we left the tower!

The Church of St. Donatus is open until 9 pm so we visit there next. This is a 9th Century church which is built on the ruins of a Roman Forum.

Here are some interior views.  This is very different from any of the other churches we have visited in Europe.

Some of the stones used to build this church were from temples that were built to Juno and Jupiter. It is hard to wrap my head around just how old these stones and buildings are.

You may or may not know that I love trees, and that is a Roman Gate in the background.

We wander up and down a few of the streets and we are surprised at how many of the shops are still open.Restaurants often occupy very interesting buildings.This was such a pretty window I just had to take its picture… and then we walk back across the bridge to our car for the short drive home.

Rabac, Labin and Senj, Croatia

Day 19, Saturday, September 23, 2017

Today we drive to Senj, about four hours south of Pula.  We wanted an early start so we can visit a couple of towns along the way.  First stop is Rabac, which is a popular seaside resort.Even if we could afford these five star hotels we both think we prefer our little Arbnb’s .We wandered along the beach and found place to sit and then remembered that we had left the cell phone in the car, sitting in plain view, so we cut short our beach visit. I was surprised at how warm the water was. Of course our car is parked way up at the top of the hill overlooking the beach!

Rabac is only 4 km from the town of Labin, pop. 12,000.

We wander the streets of Labin and end up at the Gothic Church of the Blessed Mary’s Birth. I liked the book stand that looks like a little dragon. Closer inspection revealed it was only a bull with wings, but I so liked the idea of it being a dragon.

We decide to climb the bell tower. The entrance fee is only 7 Kuna each, about $1.40, which is so reasonable.  I am surprised at how inexpensive the entrance fees to museums, churches and monuments are in Croatia.  I don’t suppose it will be that way in Italy though.  We climb up 68 very old steps that are almost like ladders to get to the top of the tower. This is the view looking down the opening beside the stairs which has the two ropes for ringing the bells hanging here. It is a long way down!

There are two bells at the top…

and great views. This is looking towards Rabac.

The narrow streets are paved with stone which is rutted from centuries of passing wagon wheels. At the front of this photo you can see that these stones are placed on edge so that they will not shift easily, They are at least ten inches deep which surprised me.

Many of the streets are only wide enough for pedestrians, or perhaps a burro or two?

We have seen lots of cats in Croatia but this is the first kitten and it is so tiny.There are several artists displaying their work along the streets.  I wonder who buys this kind of art?

This stone wall was growing plants and purple flowers, they are some sort of campanula I think. There are hills to climb…and lots and lots of steps…

and then more steps.  

We both like exploring these little towns that are not so ‘touristy’ but soon it is time to make our way to Senj. We decide that we will avoid the toll highways, which we soon discover is a bit of a mistake.  We have about two hours of driving on very hilly winding roads with quite a few hairpin turns.We are both rather relieved when we are back on a major highway. It is much easier driving and certainly a lot faster.  Not all of Croatia is old, we just like the old parts the best.  There are more modern areas around the old parts of towns, with new fancy buildings and quite a few of these generic sort of apartment blocks.  They are not very attractive and many of them look quite neglected and in need of repair. These are some of the nicer ones that we have passed along the highway.
This is our first glimpse of Senj, our home for the next seven days, and yes, of course it has a church on a hill!