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. 

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. 

Quiet Day in Firenze Italy

Day 63, Monday November 6, 2017

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

Naval Museum, La Spezia, Italy

Day 59, Thursday November 2, 2017

This is the view from the little balcony at the back of our apartment. Take a look at the long stairway covered with grape vines up to the yellow house. Imagine climbing those stairs every day!The view from the balcony in the front of our apartment looking down the hill and…this is looking up the hill.  The town of La Spezia is built on hills and it is the closest bigger town to Cinque Terre. The trains leave frequently for the short trip to the ‘Five lands.’I stayed home today for some much needed rest after our two days of hiking the trails in Cinque Terre. I didn’t accomplish much, photographed my sketches of people on the bus and metro and did our laundry.

I never know how long I will have to draw before a person leaves. I drew the fellow playing the violin standing in front of me on the Milano metro, and had less than a minute before he moved on.Bob went for a long walk today to the Naval Museum by the harbour. He took these great photos of some mast heads. He knows how much I like dragons.More mast heads.They are also known as figureheads.This model of the Santa Maria, the ship that Columbus sailed to North America is about three feet long.

Yesterday’s photos of the netting in the trees shows how olives are harvested. The trees are shaken and the olives drop onto the netting. The strange little machine is how they move the harvest down the mountains and steep hills. It is loaded with olives, and runs on cogs, kind of like a roller coaster for olives!

Bike Ride

Day 50, Tuesday October 24, 2017

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.

The Karaka, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 37, Wednesday October 11, 2017

We set sail at 9:00 am on the Karaka, a replica of a historical ship, an important trade vessel that sailed between the 14th and 17th Century. In the 16th Century the Karaka was one of the largest ships in the world. But perhaps more importantly, the Karaka was used in the third season of Game of Thrones. The captain tells us that all the ships in Season Three are this ship with computer enhanced modifications.  The morning starts out quite windy so we are glad that we brought our coats along. We pass some of the 1,244 islands that are part of Croatia but we learned today that only 48 of them are inhabited.First stop is the island of Koločep, which only has 163 residents, There are no cars or trucks are on the island because there are no roads wide enough for them, but we do see motorbikes and golf carts. We only have about an hour here, so we walk to this little church and cemetery dedicated to St. Nicholas that was built in the 10th Century. There was another church we tried to visit but we couldn’t find it so we head back to the ship…

and stumble across this little church right down near the water.Our ship is waiting to head to Šipan, the second island on this Elaphite Island Cruise.The water here is crystal clear.Before we set sail I get a photo of Bob at the back of the ship.Soon we are on our way…and in just 30 minutes we arrive at Šipan which has a population of 436, but it has 37 churches and chapels! At one time there were 30 summer residences for wealthy families from Dubrovnik. Many of these are now abandoned, sometimes because of fighting within families. Read this interesting article to understand why there are so many abandoned buildings in Croatia, like the one in this photo.We climb the hill high above these houses looking for some of the many churches here but once again can’t find them, even though signs promise that they are just down the road. We have 90 minutes here so not a lot of time to go too far, and I don’t want the ship to leave without us!We did find this little road side shrine.
When we get back on the boat a delicious lunch is served.
While we have our lunch the Karaka makes its way to our last stop, the island of Lopud. Its population is only 220, however there are more tourist facilities because this island has sandy beaches.           

We go for another little walk and find this tiny church which was built in the 17th Century and dedicated to St. Jerome. It is right beside a big hotel named the Grand Hotel that is abandoned and not so grand at all.I rent a beach lounge chair and draw our ship while Bob goes for a walk to a beach on the other side of the island.  When Bob returns he goes for his first swim in the Adriatic Sea.  He tells me the water is cold at first but no so bad after a while.

I dip my feet into the water and that is enough for me.

There is fresh fruit for dessert  and a variety of alcoholic drinks on our return trip. The wind has died down and it is a beautiful calm day..We leave a trail in the sea behind us.Our guide told us that the engines had stopped and teased that we would all have to jump into the sea and push the boat, but then the sails were lowered!  I was so surprised, I didn’t expect that the sails would be used, but there we were, wind powered and gliding silently over the waves. It was magical. This is a view of the dining area on the ship. Here is some of the rigging on the ship.We are the last ones off the boat so that we can take just a couple more photos without so many other people. We had an absolutely wonderful day.

Quiet Day in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 34, Sunday October 8

Today was a quiet but rather frustrating day. We went out to get groceries and pick up two Dubrovnik Cards that give entrance to most of the sites that we want to see. We couldn’t find the tourist office that we were looking for and the grocery store closed early because it was Independence Day. We went to another grocery store but there was no parking anywhere, so we tried a third one.  Google maps said it was there but do you think we can find it? We decide to go to a smaller grocery store nearby. It is closed too, but we finally see the store we were looking for.

Oh yes, and I spilled my whole mug of tea in the car all over my purse and then a small dish broke in my hand when I was using it! That was enough for me.  I stayed home the rest of the day while Bob went for a walk into town and picked up the Dubrovnik cards.

Here are a few more pages from my travel journal.



Split, Croatia

Day 29, Tuesday October 3, 2017

I wanted to post my journal pages in order but I am a bit behind so I am just going to post them as they are finished. Fountain pens, watercolours and pencil crayons aren’t my usual media and I don’t usually draw buildings or landscapes so this is all a bit of a learning curve. I always enjoy working on the pages but sometimes the finished results aren’t what I envisioned. In any case, it will be a nice keepsake of our trip.

We visit Split this afternoon. Although we like to spend our time in the old parts of these Croatian towns and cities the old town is surrounded by the new town.These photos are taken as we entered Split.

There are also the very touristy areas.We make our way into the old town through the Iron Gate…and emerge on the square beside the Cathedral of St. Dominus. This was originally the mausoleum of the Emperor Diocletian in the 3rd Century but it was converted into a Christian church in the 7th Century. It is regarded as the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that remains in use in its original structure. It is hard to believe this all happened over 2,000 years ago, and now here we are.  There is much to see in every town we have visited, and we are only scratching the surface in the. month we have here.

Our ticket to visit the Church also includes climbing the bell tower, which also has a sign saying that we do so at our own risk.  I wonder about doing this after our last bell tower adventure. This tower is 187 feet tall, 23 feet taller than the one in Trogir but somehow it is not as scary to climb. The stairs and railings feel more substantial, just safer somehow.
Here we are at the top…and here are the views in all four directions.

One more picture of the stairs on the way down, and it is along way down! those are the bells you see in the bottom of this picture, and they are near the top of the tower!

We stop on this landing for another look around…before we reach the very narrow stone steps that take us back to ground level .Yes, we were way up there!

Next stop is the Baptistry of St. John which used to be the Temple of Jupiter. I love the large hands and feet of this sculpture, and the gorgeous ceiling.We also visit the crypt below the church which is dedicated to St. Lucia of Syracuse. She was tortured and killed because she dedicated her life to God although her parents had promised her in marriage. She is the patron Saint of the blind because she was also blinded before she was beheaded. This is part of the old Palace walls.  Notice that there are apartments on the right hand side that are still occupied beside windows that are open to the sky.We leave the old town through the Golden Gate…and find this enormous statue. We are told by a taxi driver that it is good luck to rub his toes, so that is what Bob is doing.I decide I can use a bit of luck too!  Those are very big toes!

Krka National Park, Croatia

Day 28, Monday, October 2, 2017

Krka National Park covers 109 square km. so we only see a small portion of it today. We visit the Skradinski buk which is the longest and most visited waterfall on the Krka River and is one of Croatia’s natural wonders. This link has more information and a couple arial photos of this 800 meter long series of waterfalls. Why don’t you follow along with us as we visit the park?

We start by walking 840 meters down a steep path near the parking lot to get to the main boardwalk. These beauties grow along the path.

These are some of our first views of the many water features here.A viewpoint along our walk gives a glimpse of the Skradinski buk waterfall below.We turn a corner and there is a profusion of purple flowers everywhere! These are wild cyclamen and they are stunning.There are the ruins of several old mills along the path.Every corner we turn present us with another beautiful sight.We arrive at the waterfall and stop to watch some of the people swimming. We brought our bathing suits, but decide that the water is much too cold for us.We find a little spot to sit and relax after we have our lunch and Bob gets his feet wet before he finds a spot to sit and read and have a little cat nap or two while I do some sketching.Just before we set off again I try out the water too. It is pretty cold and this is enough bathing for me. I really enjoyed sitting in the sunshine and sketching the waterfall. I don’t usually draw landscapes so it is a bit of a challenge. It was too dark to photograph my drawing when we got home, so I will include it in tomorrow’s postI am standing on the long boardwalk that was crowded with people earlier in the day but most of the crowds have left by 4:00.
We climb a bit on our way out of the park and get some different views of this magnificent waterfall which has 17 steps and we see most of them.The Krka Hydro-power Plant began opertions in 1895, just two days after Tesla’s hydroelectric plant at Niagra falls, which was the first in the world. The Krka plant  was decommissioned during the First World War. Not sure what this is but I think it is a turbine?This view is along the path to some cultural and historical displays, including…these huge stones which were used to grind corn and wheat.

We thought we would have to climb the very steep 840 metre path that we walked down to start our day, but there is a shuttle bus which cliimbs up to the parking lot for us. We drive home and arrive just as it is getting dark which is great timing as either of us want to drive on narrow winding roads in the dark.

Oh yes, the answer to yesterday’s question is…they are paint balls.  Someone had been using them around town and we found them all along our walk yesterday and then found this stash, which was rather curious.

Exploring Trogir

Day 27, Sunday, October 1, 2017

Trogir is known as one of the jewels of the Dalmation Coast and it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. It is only a ten minute walk from our apartment to the island where the old town is located.  Almost as soon as we pass through the town gate we arrive at the Cathedral of St. Lawrence which dominates the town square. I notice that there are people up in the bell tower so we decide we should do that too.  Little did I know what I was letting myself in for! I don’t think that many things really scare me but I have to admit that climbing the steps to this bell tower did that. There is a sign that says you climb the tower at your own risk and no one under the age of 14 is allowed to do so. I soon find out why. It starts out OK, with pretty solid stone stairs and a railing .This reminds me a bit of an Escher etching, the one with all the stairs. This is looking up, way up towards that little bluish green circular opening which is in the floor of the last landing. Please note that the stone steps change to black metal ones…which I can see through! I discover that I can not look down here or I just can’t keep climbing. Remember, this tower is 154 feet tall.This platform almost does me in but I am determined to get to the top, so, laughing rather nervously I continue.This is the last bit, up even narrower metal stairs and through a little hole in the floor above us. Those are the bells that you see through the hole in the floor.

We arrive at the top much to my relief and yes, the views are amazing. This is looking towards the more modern part of the town…and here is the view over the old town.

I forgot to take any pictures of us up here or even any pictures of the two enormous bells.  Does that give you some idea how rattled I felt after that climb? I did manage to peer over the hole in the floor and take a photo looking downwards. I didn’t even notice the guy climbing the stairs.   

I mustered up the courage to start down. Bob went first, as he was a bit braver than I was.Here he is laughing at me as I rather slowly make my way down, and down and down!

When we got to the bottom I did need a few minutes just to compose myself. I haven’t been bothered by heights before. I climbed Notre Dame Cathedral and the tall tower at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and I was just fine. I found this account of  another person’s experience climbing this tower and it was eerily similar to mine. Make sure you check it out.

The door to the Cathedral was built in 1240 and has been beautifully restored.I particularly liked the two lions guarding the entrance.

These ornate pillars were inside..and this chapel with the tomb of Ivan Troginski from the15th Century. Take a look at the interesting upside down sculpture in the ceiling.

We wandered up and down the narrow streets… and ended up outside the old town walls where we sat and had tea and cookies in the sunshine and I sketched a castle. It was nice having time to do that.There are palm trees, lots of big boats, and some good people watching too.This is the Kamerlengo Castle that I drew…from the bench where Bob is sitting.We figured out what these were, can you?A typical commercial street.The local old guys meet in the park for chess and cards.We pass this lady bringing home a couple fish.

On the walk home we pass a lot of grapes growing that were never picked and are now more like raisins than grapes,,,and this is what olives look on the tree. It has been quite the afternoon and we are both happy to be back home.