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. 

Our Last Day in Venice

Day 48, Sunday October 22, 2017

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.

Murano and Venice

Day 46, Friday, October 20, 2017

We are going to Murano today to visit the Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum). On the way we pass the Cemetery Island but unfortunately don’t have time to stop and explore. We both quite like very old cemeteries.

Murano is like a little Venice, but it is much quieter and has a lot fewer tourists.We visit the Glass Museum but we aren’t able to find anywhere to watch a glass blowing demonstration which was a bit disappointing. The glass pieces below reminded me of marbled paper. Bob is standing behind a table centrepiece which is a huge formal garden made completely of glass.There was a modern glass exhibit and we took this photo reflected in one of the pieces.

The Basilica del Santi Maria e Donato is a 12th Century church that was built on the site of a 6th Century church. Its floor is covered in beautiful mosaics.We didn’t stay too long in Murano as we planned on trying to visit three museums today. We take a vaporetto (water bus) back to Venice and travel down the Grand Canal on the way to the museums.  Come along for the ride. There still isn’t any sunshine which is a shame. The pictures would look so much better if the sun was shining, but there isn’t much I can do about that.This is one of the few place that has any greenery along the canals. There aren’t many trees and plants in Venice, at least not along the public areas. I think that there must be private gardens but we don’t get to see those.These giant hands called ‘Support’ rising from the sea to grasp a building are a commentary on global warming by artist Lorenzo Quinn. They are a rather startling sight.There are gondolas everywhere…and we see how someone moves their furniture in Venice.There are several interesting sculptures along the Grand Canal.The colours of the buildings are quite beautiful. There are so many shades of rust, ochres, yellows, pinks and reds…punctuated by the bright blue mooring posts.The gondoliers are everywhere, on the canals and…moored along the banks.We have already walked over the Rialto Bridge a couple times. There is a lovely little handmade book store there that has a beautiful sketchbook I covet. It is rather expensive but I may just decide to treat myself.Four ambulances pass us on the Grand Canal. They have very shrill sirens and the boats on the canal stop for them, just as cars on the road do for an ordinary ambulance.

We never did get to visit the museums we planned on seeing today as they were closed for a union members meeting! We took a vaporetto across town to some other museums only to discover that they were closed as well, so we called it a day and headed home.

The Doge’s Palace, Venice

Day 45, Thursday October 19, 2017

We take the bus into Venice this morning instead of the train, which is a better choice. It is only a short walk to the bus from our apartment in Mestre instead of a 20 minute walk to the train station. Our walk to the Doge’s Palace was interesting. Some of the narrow canals have mirrors to avoid collisions. Check out our reflections.

It is a ‘misty’ morning again.We stumbled across this art show and we were delighted to discover that several  St. Albert artists I know have their work in this exhibit. There is also some interesting modern art on display in gallery windows.One of the churches on our path to the palace had a show of musical instruments. Some were very old and there was also this ancient music book, hand written on vellum.It wouldn’t be Venice without gondoliers on the canals.I saw some marbled paper for sale, but it wasn’t anything exceptional.  My marbled papered and the paper my friends make is at least as nice and take a look at these prices!
While we were having our lunch we saw this bride and groom hurrying by.  It doesn’t look very romantic to me, and the bride had to hold her skirt up so it wouldn’t get dirty.The Doge’s Palace was the official residence of Venice’s rulers and was founded in the 9th Century. This is the interior courtyard. It is a very impressive building but we were not prepared for the over the top magnificence of the interior.  


We start our tour by climbing the Golden Staircase, which is named for all the gold on its ceiling.We walked from room to room, each more ornate than the one before.The painting on the end wall is Paradise by Tintoretto and there are more than 500 figures represented. It is in the Sal del Maggior Consiglio, which is the largest room in Europe with a ceiling that is not supported by pillars.Can you see me?  This is a very big room!There is a museum here with over 2,000 weapons. I have a bit of a hard time with these displays. I wonder how many innocent people were killed with these swords and other weapons?
This is a weird view of the courtyard through the very old hand blown glass in the windows.We cross the bridge which connects the palace to the prison in the building beside it. There are two windows here where the prisoner’s would have their last views of the outside world. They were said to have sighed in despair and so the bridge was named the Bridge of Sighs.  This was their view, and mine today.

The prison cells are dark, cold and cramped with small heavy barred doors. Most of the cells have no outside light at all. Some of the cells still have the prisoner’s graffiti on the walls. I can only imagine the despair they felt being locked up in such a place.Back to the palace and our tour is almost over.  Just a few more photos.I like the whimsical lion over the doorway at the head of these stairs.On our way back to the bus I can’t resist taking a more pictures the canals.  I so hope the sun comes out at least for a day so I can get pictures with more light. The buildings are so old, with their patina of age, rust and peeling paint but somehow it just makes them even more appealing.



 

Madrid, Bibliotec National, and Museo Arqueológico Nacional

Thursday October 8

We have a quiet day at home, but we end up spending quite a bit of the day looking for accommodations in Madrid, but we aren’t having much luck.  Madrid seems to be quite expensive, not many places have parking and we aren’t getting answers back from some of the places we contacted.  We decide that we will stay where we are and take the bus into Madrid.  It is a 40 minute ride and Bob is looking forward to not driving for a while.

Friday , October 9

We take the bus into Madrid which works very well.  It is every comfortable, kind of like a Greyhound Bus, and it is very relaxing for both of us.  First stop in Madrid is the Canadian Embassy as we were told we could vote there for the upcoming Canadian election.  Turns out we can’t, as the ballot has to be mailed in and the package was sent to our home address.  The very tall first building is where the Canadian Embassy is located on the very secure 21 floor.  Lots of security in this tower.
imageBack on the Metro to find the Archeological Museum.  I love the metro!  It is fast, easy and offers great people watching.  On our way to the museum we see the Bibliotheca National and I can’t bypass a library so we go check it out, but not before stopping to say hello to this cute fellow.image

The building is very big and beautiful, but we discover it isn’t a public library, entrance is only available if you take a tour, which are all sold out for today. We are allowed to go in and check out a Rudyard Kipling exhibit in a room near the entrance after showing our passports, getting our pictures taken, putting our bags through an X ray machine, and getting a visitors pass!      imageThere was only a collection of Kipling’s books in the exhibit, not too interesting, but the room attached to it had some great old books and manuscripts…imageimage

……including what I think must be a facsimile of a Leonardo Da Vinci sketchbook.  Hard to make out as all the labels are in Spanish.  The staff also tell us about an exhibit downstairs that we can visit.  Turns out it is “Caligrafía Española” el arte describir.  Of course we have to see this.  The first thing we see on entering is this wonderful collection of calligraphy equipment from the 1700’s and 1800’s. Most of these are the same tools used by calligraphers today.image  There are many books and font samplers and these two beautiful examples of flourishes.image image

Finally we arrive at the MAN, the Museo Arqueológico National.  Turns out it is a great museum, and we get to see a facsimile of Lucy.  I remember talking about australopithicus and Lucy when I taught Social Studies many years ago.  Isn’t she beautiful?image

There is a display with examples of archeological sites in Spain, and it turns out they are everywhere.  This Screen grab says it best “Spain, A Huge Archeological Site.”  I think you could look almost anywhere in Spain and find an archaeological site!imageIn the museum there are some very intricate mosaics.image They are even more incredible when you see the size of the individual mosaic pieces.imageThe next exhibit has several room sized floor mosaics that are equally as stunning.image

I love old doors and this one is a beauty.  It just looks as though I am touching it….image

We are amazed at the technology that was in use so long ago, but the one item that probably surprised me the most was the Speculum magnum matrios, a vaginal dilator used  in gynaelogical exams, surgeries and childbirth.  The Romans developed this medical technology in the First Century AD! It is hard to imagine, and this looks very similar to the ones in use today!image

We stop for tea after two hours, and then do our best to see everything else but we ran out of energy and time and I am afraid we rather quickly strolled through the Egyptian and Greek rooms without trying to see and read about everything. There are about fourty rooms here, and they are all pcked with so much to see. We are pooped, but we enjoyed this museum a lot.  It was extremely well laid out, had lots of great videos, English signage and beautiful exhibits.  It always amazes me that so many items have survived so many centuries intact. I also did a few drawings at the museum.imageimage