Museo Nationale Romano and the Capuchin Crypts

Day 89, Saturday December 2, 2017

Saturday was a quiet rainy day. I worked on catching up on my blog and Bob went for groceries, several times! It isn’t easy to find what we need in one store so shopping sometimes requires several attempts to find everything on our list. I don’t know how Romans manage. Even something as simple as spinach is often not available.

Day 90, Sunday December 3, 2017

We thought today would be a bit quieter, just a little walk about but we ended up doing quite a bit. Bob found out that the four Museo Nationale Romano museums were free today so we thought we would visit the one near the train station. It was much bigger than we thought and we spent several hours there. This museum had lots of information on the history of writing and…lots of examples of writing on stone. What made it interesting was that all the pieces on exhibit had Italian and English translations. There were lots of informative videos and other kinds of information but it would have taken more than a day to do all that. There was a very interesting exhibit about the Fountain of Anna Perenna. Anna was an ancient nymph and the fountain was a place of magic. It was discovered in 1999 when work began on an underground parking facility. Many ‘magical’ objects were found in the well including several curses. This one is for a man called Cassianus who was cursed because he hired some women to rob the author of the curse. It shows a demon flanked with magical symbols. There were many curses on display as well as directions for casting spells.We tend to forget that ancient statues and reliefs were painted in bright colours. There was lots of pottery from settlements from the 9th to the 7th century B.C. The large pots held cremated remains.

This is a model of the Museum. The large green square…is this courtyard  and the buildings around it house the museum. This was built in the 15th century. Bob found a few interesting statues here. The large animal heads are located around the fountain in the centre of the courtyard. There were also horse heads, a ram, a camel, an elephant and a rhinoceros!
The complex behind the courtyard is the Baths of Diocletian which were built in 300 A.D. They held 3,000 people! It was hard trying to take pictures as the baths are so enormous.
This room was somehow used as a water reservoir. 
Here is an aerial view taken from a film about the baths showing their location in modern day Rome. The big white building in the corner is the Termini train station.Here is a close up of the baths. The building with the cross in the lower left is the best preserved section of the baths. The tepiderium was restored and converted into a basilica using Michelangelo’s architectural designs in the 16th century. It is now the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiria. This sculpture is on the door to the Basilica.The basilica interior gives us a good idea what the interior of the baths would have looked like with all their decorated walls and ceilings.

The basilica is a place of worship, art and science. I liked this enormous head on display. It is about three feet long.

We find one more obelisk!Republic Piazza is beside the baths.  Many of Rome’s streets are cobbled and it has made for some very rough bus rides.

Another branch of Rome’s National Museums, the Palazzo Massimo is right beside the Republic Piazza so we decide to visit it as well. There are some wonderful works inside.  The Discus Thrower and…the Boxer at Rest are amazing and..this sculpture of a hermaphrodite is interesting.The massive Portonaccio Sarcophagus from 172 AD is unbelievable. It is five feet tall, and most of the complex intertwined carvings are still intact.
This room with garden frescoes was discovered in 1863. The frescoes were moved to the museum in 1951 as they were in danger of being damaged from water seepage. There are more well preserved frescoes from an Imperial Villa on the banks of the Tiber River.We still want to visit the Capuchin Crypts which are a short walk from the museum. Everywhere we walk in this city there are interesting buildings and piazzas.The sun is setting but there isn’t much traffic even though it is 5:30. I find that rather curious.There is a famous Caravaggio painting, St. Francis in Meditation, in the Capuchin museum. We visit the Capuchin Crypt but there is a strict no photo policy and I restrained myself and didn’t take a single photo. So, do check out this link for a trip through the crypt. It was certainly different. I liked it but Bob didn’t.

The church ‘Our Lady of the Conception’ is above the crypt and after a quick visit we are more than ready to go home. Our short day out turned into a bit of a marathon!

 

 

 

The Vatican, Rome

Day 87, Thursday November 30, 2017

We bought tickets online for the Vatican in order to avoid the long line-ups we have read about. Arriving at 10:00 we are able to enter right away, but so is everyone else. There are no lineups anywhere.

The map provided by the museum isn’t the best but between it, a Rick Steve’s travel app, and Bob’s navigational skills we manage to find our way around.  If you walk through all the galleries, it’s 7.5 km, or 4.5 miles long and yes we walked through all the galleries!

Be warned, this is a long post, so you might want to get a cup of something hot before you visit the Vatican Museums with us!

One of the first sculptures we see is this copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta. the original is now behind glass because it was badly damaged by a deranged man 45 years ago. I think this is the closest I will get to taking my photo with this incredibly beautiful statue.
We see many examples of Early Christian and Medieval art. Before this trip I didn’t have a lot of interest in this genre but I discovered that I am rather fascinated by depictions of the Madonna. We even saw a pregnant Madonna, the only one I have ever seen.Next stop was a huge room with several very large tapestries. They were so finely woven that they almost looked like paintings.

This very large angel from1666 was one of four preparatory straw and clay models for bronze castings by Bernini.A enormous collection of ancient sculptures, sarcophaguses, reliefs and  building parts was next. There was also a display of drawings, which I found interesting.  I speculate that there must have been a drawing workshop.
This is a floor mosaic that I remember seeing in books. I always liked the little mouse. The tiles are very small. I can almost feel the wind blowing these garments about.One of the reliefs on display.There is a large collection of vehicles used by Popes over the centuries.
We didn’t know that all papal vehicles come equipped with a throne!The Vatican has an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts many of which are superior to the ones we saw in museums in Egypt! It is easy to forget that all these hieroglyphs were at one time bright painted like the inside of the coffin.The painted bas-relief fragment is from 2400 B.C.The Mummy of Taymen is from 750-525 B.C. We never saw anything like this in Egypt. It was fascinating, but I know this person never intended to be on display in a museum!There are many galleries of Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts and these which are from Syria-Palestine during the Neolithic period 8500-3000 B.C.

We descended this staircase to emerge …

in a very long hallway lined with over a thousand sculptures!There were several museum workers busy dusting and cleaning. I imagine that by the time they finish it must be time to start again.The gallery above opened into this one, lined with even more monumental statues. It simply takes my breath away.A Roman copy of a Greek original dating from the 2nd century A.D. The affection for the child is evident in the way he is held and regarded. I can’t imagine that something so life-like can be carved in stone.I am fascinated with the carved flowing robes. I have a hard time even drawing folds never mind chiseling them from stone.This is the Nile River God with another sculpture filled niche behind.

There is an outside courtyard with a covered display area all around the exterior walls. There we see the biggest toe. Can you imagine the size of the statue this once belonged to? That is my foot beside it.

There are many incredible statues on display…  but I am particularly drawn to these three. The Belvedere Apollo, the Belvedere Hermes, and the Laocoön. The Laocoön was unearthed during  Michelangelo’s time and it had a great influence on his work. 

This sculpture of the River God Arno was the inspiration for Michelangelo’s David in the Sistine Chapel.

The Belvedere Torso was also the inspiration for Michelangelo’s God in the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.We need to remember to look up. The ceilings in these galleries are as incredible as the art work below them.The Hall of Muses with its magnificent dome, mosaic floor, statues of the nine muses from the 2nd century A.D. and the largest carved stone basin in the world.These statues are monumental! Oh, and we are walking on the beautiful old mosaic floor here too.
It looked like the statue was trying to give this rather bored looking guard something.These bronze hands decorated with gold buttons are from the 1st half of the 7th century B.C. I thought they looked like a modern work of art.More display rooms with ornate ceilings…and lots more pots and other artifacts. In fact there were many rooms like this. We walked through all of them but I have admit that after a while we didn’t even try to look at all the items.
I did love these two horse heads…and there were some great views of Rome from the Gallery windows.Bob is trying to figure out where we go next.Turns out it is this room, with even more sculptures and carved stone artifacts, and yet another incredible ceiling.We both remember seeing a copy of this little boy with his goose in the Louvre many years ago. Interesting that we see it here in Rome too.The Arazzi Gallery is a long hall with more tapestries on both sides.This tapestry has an optical illusion. As we walk by it appears as if Jesus’s eyes are following us and he even seems to move through the doorway. It is very strange.

The Gallery of Maps is astounding. It seems to go on forever. The walls are lined with huge maps of all of Italy but it is the ceiling that grabs our attention. It is covered with paintings and sculptures and ornate frames.The lighting makes the ceiling look golden in the photo above but this photo shows its true colours. I just don’t know what to say. Words are simple inadequate to describe this very, very long ceiling. It is almost unbelievable.
There are more galleries but we are getting very tired. We decided several hours ago that we need to come finish seeing everything another day. We make our way to the Sistine Chapel. We are so lucky, because it is late in the day there are not many people in the chapel. We find a seat along the wall and look up. There is so much to see. I think it is amazing that we are sitting here, in the Sistine Chapel looking at this masterpiece. We probably spend almost an hour here but it is time to go as we still need to visit St .Peters and see the Pieta.It is night when we leave the Vatican Museums. We go through the ‘secret passage’ that allows us to enter the basilica without having to line up and go through security again.There she is. The Pieta, in all her glory. After spending some time with the Pieta, we walk around the basilica. We wanted to visit the grotto beneath the church but it is already closed. I like the little dragon between the bottom two figures in the sculpture.
St. Peter’s right foot has been rubbed almost away by the touch of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries.
There is a mass taking place so we listen to the organ music and singing for bit before we finally head home. It has been long day. We spent 8 wonderful hours in the Vatican Museums but we are both very tired..

All Roads Lead To Rome

Day 82, Saturday November 25, 2017

The Appian Way was Europe’s first super highway. It is the reason for the saying “All roads lead to Rome.” Built in 312 B.C., it connected Rome with Capua (near Naples), running in a straight line for much of the way. Eventually it stretched over 600 kilometres to Brindisi, on the east coast of Italy. Today is Bob’s birthday and we are going to walk the Appian Way.

We take the metro and then a bus to the outskirts of Rome. Before we start our walk back into Rome we walk a bit further in the opposite direction to visit the Villa Dei Quintili. We buy our €5.00 tickets and when we walk up to the building below it is all locked up and under construction!

Turns out this isn’t the villa, and we need to walk along a dirt path behind this building for a ways to the ruins. The Villa Dei Quintili was the largest villa complex in the suburbs outside Rome. It was built by two brothers, who were later executed by Emperor Commodus who took over possession of their villa. It was then expanded and used by emperors until the 5th century. There are boardwalks in many areas but sometimes we are walking on the original mosaics floors! Hard to believe that this is allowed. There are baths here with a calidarium (hot water) and a frigidarium (cold water). Many of the rooms have remains of mosaics and floor tiles. A few even have traces of frescoes on the walls. 

This all covers a huge area and it was all one villa. When it was first excavated it was thought to have been a town!Back on the Appian Way we are ready to start our walk towards Rome, on the same road that was used by Romans almost 2,000 years ago! We are going to walk in the footsteps Roman Emperors, merchants, saints and maybe even St.Peter! Julius Caesar travelled this road along with thousands of soldiers, and now we are too.
Romans did not allow anyone to be buried inside the city walls so many people were buried along the roads leading out of Rome. Wealthy people built impressive tombs for themselves. The remains of many of these tombs are visible today.  Sometimes there is as little as a mound of earth but there are also still quite impressive remains of the larger tombs.These are the original stones that were used to build this road. These stones were set upon a bed of gravel and cement. Lime cement was then used to fill the gaps between the stones and the road was said to have been so smooth that the joints between the rocks could not be felt. In the foreground the ruts made by ancient chariot and wagon wheels can be seen.One of the many ‘reconstructed’ tombs along the Appian Way…and a couple more.

The day started out cloudy and cold but the sun came out and warmed us up.There are many grand modern villas along the Appian Way. This is looking down just one of the many long tree-lined driveways we see along our walk.Getting closer to Rome. It is a bit tiring walking on these original paving stones. The cement that made the road smooth has long worn away. We saw lots of people bicycling along here and it looked bone jarring.                                 

This is a small archeaological area along the road that used to be a farmer’s field. Some of the floor mosaics show where they were damaged by the plows used to till the fields!Fall has arrived. The leaves here were a beautiful golden yellow.Inside the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, one of the best preserved tombs along the Appian way, there is an exhibit of modern sculpture by Paola Cream. I like this bird man…and these vessels. The exhibit sign said the show only runs until November 11th, but this is Rome and not everything is what it says it is.

This is the outside of the Tomb of Cecilia, who was noble woman in the 1st century B.C. Inside the hollow round tower is where her body is thought to have been buried.

That was our last stop of the day. The ruins are closed at 4:00 and we still have a a walk and then a bus and metro ride to get home. we ran out of time to visit the catacombs so we will have to return another day.

The Forum, Rome

Day 76, Sunday November 19, 2017

Today we visit the Forum. On the way to finding a spot for a view over the Forum we visited the Basilica San Maria in Aracoeli.  There were chandeliers everywhere and while we were there the chandeliers were turned on…just for me!

This painting on the pillar looks very old. As we make our way to the Forum entrance I spot Romulus and Remus.We finally find a place to overlook the Forum while this fine feathered fellow takes a good look at us.There is a lot to see here, so just walk along with us. Looking back towards the entrance and the Arch of Septimius Severus.Wow, we are really here!Hard to believe we are standing where Romans lived and walked over 2,000 years ago.The courtyard of the Vestal Virgins. Girls were chosen at the age of ten and served until they were forty when they were handsomely rewarded and allowed to marry. However, if a woman lost her virginity, she was given a loaf of bread and then buried alive! Apparently this was not an uncommon occurrence.People standing on the Palatine overlooking the Forum.I want to go to the top of the white building with the two big statues on it for a great view of Rome. We will have to check that out another day.These are the original 2,000 year old stones that still pave the streets of the Forum.The Temple of Antonius and Faustina is now incorporated into the church of San Lorenzo.This is the side nave of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius. The largest building in the forum, it was as big as a football field but only one wall of it remains. A Basilica was not a church but a place used for the administration of justice and conducting business. It did however become a model for the great cathedrals and basilicas of Europe.The Arch of Titus erected in 81 AD to commemorate the sacking of Jerusalem.A panorama of the forum…and a selfie with the Colosseum in the distance.These three photos give a better look at the forum, starting at the north end… the centre with the gardens and house of the Vestal Virgins,,,and the south end with the huge Basilica of Constantine.OK, I am including these Palatine (Imperial Palace) info panels to save lots of writing. We were only able to see some of the Palatine as it was late in the afternoon and the site was closing.No idea what the two little houses were about.I love the tall pruned coniferous trees we see here and all over Rome.We catch the bus home near the Colosseum. There is a strong military presence everywhere in Rome, by all the major sites and in the Metro stations as well. I don’t mind having them there.

Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterno

Day 75, Saturday November18, 2017

The Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterno, or the Basilica of St. John Lateran was built by Constantine the Great in the 4th Century and it has been rebuilt several times. The present structure dates from 1589. Until the 14th Century it was the Pope’s main place of worship and it is still Rome’s official Cathedral and the Pope’s seat as the Bishop of Rome. Yes, it is a magnificent Basilica.We visit the 13th Century cloister first. It is renowned for its twisted columns and mosaic panels above the columns which surround the central garden.
There are sculptures, tomb covers, columns and other assorted relics lining the walkway around the cloister.This small head of a young girl reminded me of my granddaughter.Back inside the Basilica the sun is lower in the sky and spills through the high windows. I thought it strange that this sunbeam goes up rather than down and illuminated the crest in the centre of the ceiling.

The side naves are graceful, filled with light and have angels everywhere, in all the corners and on the ceiling arches between the columns.

The side chapels are magnificent.This one had an intricate gate…
protecting this. It is hard to believe that these are ‘little’ chapels. Many were decorated, if that is the right word, by the individuals who were granted permission to have chapels inside the church.The main altar is said to hold part of the table that was used at the Last Supper. We think it must be in the upper level behind all the bars in this photo. You can also see some of the massive sculptures of the Apostles that line both sides of the main nave. It is quite difficult to take photos that capture even bit of what we see partly because of the size of these churches and other monuments. How can I capture all that in a small 4″ x 6″ photo ?Just before we leave, I notice the sunshine again, which manages to shine in three separate directions at once! I have no idea how that works. The ceilings here are highly decorated and gilded. In Italy I aways have to remember to look up. I am seldom disappointed, although I do often end up with a sore neck by the end go the day!These central bronze doors are Roman originals from the Curia, or Senate House in the Imperial Forum. Many Roman buildings were ‘looted’ to build churches and other buildings.Around the back of the Basilica we find another Egyptian Obelisk while we are looking for the Baptistery.
The Baptistry is a separate building where people were baptized. It has a full immersion baptismal font and of course, another beautiful ceiling.There is also a little chapel inside as well. We are the only people visiting and there are no guards, custodians, or other people around. I wonder why there isn’t a problem with vandalism or theft in these rather isolated locations, but it doesn’t appear to be a problem.We find the Scala Sancta, with a bit of help from Google maps. These steps are supposed to be where Jesus walked on his way to his trial with Pontius Pilot. The steps were brought to Rome in the 4th Century by St. Helena, who was the mother of Constantine. Only the devout are allowed to climb tis staircase and then only on their knees. We climb the side staircase…and see this beautiful recently restored ceiling.These pictures show images before and after restoration. Entrance fees are used to help pay for the maintenance and restoration of paintings, sculptures and the buildings the house these treasures.
Back outside and the setting sun lights up the buildings across from the Basilica. Rome is a very beautiful city with wide streets and lots trees…and lots and lots of apartments.

We pass this hospital and wonder about all the balconies. It sure doesn’t look like a hospital!

The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and The Pantheon in Rome

Day 73, Thursday November 16, 2017

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 near 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.

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!

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.

The Milan Duomo and Teatre La Scala

Day 54, Saturday October 28, 2017

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.