Tag Archives: Italy

Italian Doorways and Knockers

I was fascinated with the doors in Florence and Venice. The knobs and knockers were often ornate. The lentils were often carved. They were just beautiful. Enjoy my favorites, and as always, you can click, and click again, to see details up close.

Lovely door!

Lovely door in Florence!

I think the shadows are really interesting here. Florence

I think the shadows are really interesting here. (Florence)

A lion in Florence (there were lots of those).

A lion in Florence (there were lots of those).

A Florentian fish.

A Florentian fish pair.

Mermaids! Oh yeah! (Florence)

Mermaids! Oh yeah! (Florence)

I don't think I would want a satyr "welcoming" my guests. (Florence)

I don’t think I would want a satyr “welcoming” my guests. (Florence)

A door on Murano.

A door on Murano.

This may be my favorite door! (Venice)

This may be my favorite double door! (Venice)

A crab! Perfect for an island. (venice)

This one is just weird! I thought at first it was a crab for all the legs, but now I don’t know what it is. (Venice)

I love all the textures and warm colors. (Venice)

I love all the textures and warm colors. (Venice)

It took me a long time to figure out what these random wall pieces were: they cover supporting rods that run through buildings to help correct shifting at the foundation.

It took me a long time to figure out what these random wall pieces were: they cover supporting rods that run through buildings to help correct shifting at the foundation.

And all these posts encompass  my favorite things in Italy. It took awhile to share it, but I really enjoyed our week-long visit, especially in Venice.

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Wrapping Up Italy

Because I lost my cable (and thus my internet connection) for a week, and it is just getting too hit or miss with this series. I am ready to be done! So, here are some final scenes from Venice…

Always perfect cappuccinos in Italy!

Always perfect cappuccinos in Italy!

Thiis gelato shop offered works of art for eating. I don't think I'd have the heart.

Thiis gelato shop offered works of art for eating. I don’t think I’d have the heart.

Venice is known for its Mardi Gras celebration, and their masks and costumes are quite elaborate. This full-head mask was outside a mask shop.

Venice is known for its Carnivale celebration, and their masks and costumes are quite elaborate. This full-head mask was outside a mask shop.

and speaking of Carnivale costumes...

and speaking of Carnivale costumes…

One of Stoney's favorite pizzas in Italy, and believe me, he tried a LOT.

One of Stoney’s favorite pizzas in Italy, and believe me, he tried a LOT.

I am going to throw together one more post…

 

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Continuing Venice via Murano

I am having to remind myself where we were in Venice, it’s been so long since I’ve posted. We’ve seen St. Mark’s Square, and toured bridges and canals. It seems an easy next move would be the glass-working island of Murano. This was easily the event I most anticipated!

Venetian glass-blowing was all moved to Murano at the end of the 1200s for fear of fire, and since has become world-famous. We took a water taxi over to the island, and began in its museum.

On our way to Murano early in the morning.

On our way to Murano early in the morning.

Murano was charming and trekkable all by itself, with its own basilica…

lovely "little" church

lovely “little” church

and clocktower.

watchtower/clocktower

click to view the statuary more closely

As nice as these are, though, it was, of course, the glass art that sets Murano apart. Not only is it full of glass factories and shops, but many plazas and other public spaces surprise you with public glass art! VERY cool!

Mesmerizing!

Mesmerizing!

Part of a long line, or maybe, garden? of glass bloom-ish things.

Part of a long line, or maybe, garden? of glass bloom-ish things.

Fire!

Fire!

A glass chandelier for sale.

A glass chandelier for sale.

And obviously the artisans were not limited to only glassblowing or even glass…

Mosaic of glassblowers.

Mosaic of glassblowers.

Upon reflection, I regret not signing up for the instructional tour of the school of glassblowing at the museum, seeing as how it was one of only two tours a week in English. It sounded much better than the ones we encountered at factories elsewhere. Live and learn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Scenes from St. Mark’s Square on a Rainy Day

It was lovely and busy.

This piazza is big.

See the platforms people are sitting on to your left? It finally struck me that those are walkways during the flood times. Wow.

This piazza is really big.

This piazza is really big.

Everyone is gathering to tour the cathedral. Except us. I was content to take photos outside, with no waiting.

Everyone is gathering to tour the cathedral. Except us. I was content to take photos outside, with no waiting.

The thing about Venice is that its position at the crux of byzanitine and asian influences and roman and gothic influences is really evident in the architecture. You really do see an extraordinary mix, and I liked it. It was especially welcome after the weight, stolidness, and excess of Florentine architecture. Click on photos, and then again, to enlarge details.

More St Mark’s here

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Iconic Venice: Bridges and Canals

This post, let’s take a tour of what makes Venice, Venice. I have photos of St. Mark’s Square for a later post, and the interesting details found all over the island, but after all, without the canals and bridges, Venice is just another Italian port city. (Well, OK, probably not, since it was the hub of trade between east and west for centuries, but I don’t claim to be an expert!)

You’ve already seen two of the bridges that caught my eye in my last post, but the most famous Venetian bridge is the Rialto. It is lined with shops for your canal-crossing shopping convenience; however, here I have to say I prefer the Ponte Veccio in Florence. The Rialto is not only smaller, it’s just not as lovely. It does seem more affordable, though.

The Pont Rialto, surrounded by tourist kitsch.

The Pont Rialto, surrounded by tourist kitsch.

Metal bridges like these are more rare. Isn't that light extraordinary? I am no photographer, but even I could capture some of the magic of this light!

Metal bridges like these are more rare. Isn’t that light extraordinary? I am no photographer, but even I could capture some of the magic of this light!

One thing you can be sure of in Venice: climbing stairs. The bridges are omnipresent, and give you glimpses of colorful, helter skelter worlds just around curves and corners. They raise your perspective. You climb up, watching your feet, one hand on a stone rail, and then you look up and left or right and stop, involuntarily. The sight literally arrests you. Every bridge seems to become an invitation to a panorama view, where you turn and gaze and drink it in.

The bridges here come in all shapes and sizes.

The bridges here come in all shapes and sizes.

The view from up here is wondrous.

The view from up here is wondrous.

Some perspectives are up close and personal.

Some perspectives are up close and personal.

Some bridges were covered in these…

This is a REALLY bad practice. These are supposed to represent the committment of two lovers, but mostly they just corrode these antique ironworks and ruin the bridges. Don't do it!

This is a REALLY bad practice. These are supposed to represent the commitment of two lovers, but mostly they just corrode these antique ironworks and ruin the bridges. Don’t do it!

Calling me to come explore!

Calling me to come explore!

Venice is just as magical at night!

Venice is just as magical at night! Bad photo, but I couldn’t resist sharing all the sparkle.

So, does it show that I enjoyed Venice a little more than Florence? I love it when I surprise myself. I am also gathering up posts about eating in Venice, and finding the details in Venice, not to mention St. Mark’s Square. And the island of Murano will blow your mind! Or it did for me, anyway. So family and friends, just know that even though you couldn’t join me, I thought of you all constantly, and have looked forward to sharing with you virtually what I wished I could have experienced with you in reality!

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Venice: My Pleasant Surprise

My preconceptions of Venice:

* narrow, dirty lanes

* stinky canals

* plazas filled with aggressive, obnoxious hawkers of tourist junk

* overrun with elbow-to-elbow tourists

* crazy expensive

My experience of Venice:

*ENCHANTING*

The charm of Venice.

The charm of Venice.

The narrow lanes weren’t shared by any vehicles, and April was not especially overrun with tourists, so it didn’t feel nearly as crowded as Florence. And it was pretty clean. There was a hint of river-smell, but not too bad, although I could imagine that July and August could be pretty stinky. There were some hawkers of strange touristy things and tours of Murano and such, but the ones in Florence were worse. It was pretty expensive, though; not terribly much more than Florence. Kind of like going to Disney, maybe.

Our hotel was more expensive than Florence, and you couldn’t find a level surface with a drunken surveyor, but we were ON the island (probably not particular unmoving over hundreds of years) and a short walk to a main street, and only slightly longer to the boat docks for the island excursions. The location was quiet, and the hotel family friendly, with tasty breakfasts that had actual HAM and cheese. That is really unusual for a continental breakfast B & B. The room was not only large, but the bathroom was large, and the whole suite was down its own hallway with locking door. The convenience factor was a real plus after Florence! The hotel was the B&B Al Palazzetto.

Our surprisingly large room slept our son on the daybed, but there was also a roll-away behind the door and room to use it.

Our surprisingly large room slept our son on the daybed, but there was also a roll-away behind the door and room to use it.

The view from the bridge at the corner of our hotel.

The view from the bridge at the corner of our hotel.

The lighting actually seemed magical at times. Of course, just like in Florence, we had some overcast time and some rainy time, but when the sun shone, the city glowed.

Plenty of people in the streets, yet I rarely felt overcrowded apart from lanes right outside St. Marks' Plaza.

Plenty of people in the streets, yet I rarely felt overcrowded apart from lanes right outside St. Marks’ Plaza.

This was my favorite bridge that I came across, but there were a LOT to choose from !

This was my favorite bridge that I came across, but there were a LOT to choose from !

Cool details lie around every corner, just waiting to be discovered.

Cool details lie around every corner, just waiting to be discovered.

I have a ton of photos, but I’m not sure how I want to organize all this. I’ll try to separate out the island of Murano, but other than that? So keep in touch for more scenes from Venice! 

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The Basilica di Santa Maria Novella

The first great basilica in Florence was Santa Maria Novella. It was finished in the 1300s. We visited this our last day, and it was inspiring. And just another reminder, that many of the photos I post can be clicked on to open individually, allowing you to click again to enlarge parts. This is how I found the paintings of the apostles and saints in each small arch above the entrance at the Byzantine church in my previous post. It’s like a “Where’s Waldo” for architecture!

The front of the basilica. The back is apparently what you see from the train station.

The front of the basilica. The back is apparently what you see from the train station.

These churches all seem to have a courtyard of some sort. I think they are beautiful.

These churches all seem to have a courtyard of some sort. I think they are beautiful.

The Italian courtyards have design elements as intricate as any inside the building. The window beside Stoney lead to the Spanish Chapel.

The Italian courtyards have design elements as intricate as any inside the building. The window beside Stoney lead to the Spanish Chapel.

A close-up of the columns.

A close-up of the columns.

The frescoes in this section are quite damaged; to be expected, I guess, in an area exposed to the elements.

The frescoes in this section are quite damaged; to be expected, I guess, in an area exposed to the elements.

See inside the chapel and basilica here

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Churches in Florence

My one great regret in Florence occurred at the end of Sunday, walking back to our hotel after a long day on our feet. It was growing dark, and singing was wafting from a recessed doorway. Suddenly Theo realized the tune was familiar. I stopped dead, recognizing an often-sung praise tune. Oh joy! Brothers and sisters in Christ, worshiping here, in Italy! I know this should not be a surprise to me, but I wasn’t looking for it here, in this non-descript stone building. My legs almost carried me up the dark stairs to the low light inside, but my tired guys had only paused. I was torn, knowing I would not be unwelcome in that body even if none spoke English (highly unlikely from my experience), but I followed my exhausted fellows. Only later did I realize that I could have gone in and let my traveling companions proceed without me. I really think I could have found my way back to the hotel myself. It is the one thing I did not do that haunts me. But what a reminder that the true Church is not these massive towers and domes of stone or brick. All of the houses of worship we visited house that Body; they are NOT that Body!

Any European city seems to be riddled with churches, most of notable beauty. Florence was no different.

A beautiful church door.

A beautiful church door.

Many of them have these cool domes along with the bell towers.

Many of them have these cool domes along with the bell towers.

Ornate carcing on a church otherwise much covered, in the process of being refurbished.

Ornate carving on a church otherwise much covered, in the process of being refurbished.

Pretty much all the churches we saw charge to come in and look around, and considering the serious brand names of the contributing artists in the churches of Florence, I can see why. You have to pay for wear and tear after all that foot traffic somehow. But as a result, we only went in one…

The ? cathedral.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, opposite the train station.

I’ll save all my Basilica di SMN photos for another post. My favorite church we only stumbled upon accidentally, returning from our iffy bus ride, and never even got inside its gate. It was a tiny little Byzantine-style Orthodox church.

I'm pretty sure this is the Chiesa Russa.

I’m pretty sure this is the Chiesa Russa.

The onion dome spires were distinctive, and this rainy day doesn't really bring out the vivid colors.

The onion dome spires were distinctive, and this rainy day doesn’t really bring out the vivid colors.

Beautiful entry! It shimmers and glows even in the rain.

Beautiful entry! It shimmers and glows even in the rain.

So next time, I’ll share with you our tour of the Basilica di SMN.

 

 

 

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Sightseeing in Florence

One major question a visit to Florence raises: WHERE did all this marble come from?! And who knew it came in so many colors?

My primary sightseeing destination was the Piazza del Duomo and further on, the Renaissance art mecca, the Gallery Uffizi. While you can’t take photos inside the Gallery, I did get my obligatory “Pam outside another art museum” photo for my collection. (By the way, the virtual tour online is excellent.)

Another notch in my belt...the Uffizi.

Another notch in my belt…the Uffizi.

Florence is definitely done up fancy, almost everywhere you go. We had reserved tickets online to avoid waiting in a line at the door. We, in fact, got in a little early for our reservations because it just wasn’t that busy. A tour group had gone in the reservations door a little before us, and we only walked past 15 or so people to go in. I am sure it is much worse when it isn’t shortly after opening on a Sunday in spring. Anyway, the ticket office to exchange our vouchers for tickets was across the street, and quite beautiful, too, if you look up.

ALWAYS look up in Florence.

ALWAYS look up in Florence.

This is the piazza (I think) that housed the fountain of Neptune, which I actually liked. I just don’t know if it was the real thing or a copy, because this has an area, some covered, some not, with copies of many of the most famous sculptures in the Uffizi. The copies are for everyone to see and learn from for free, with no concern for pigeons or other vandals.

Part of the Neptune fountain. I think the green is a color change wrought by the water, but I suppose it could be the color of the marble?

Part of the Neptune fountain. I think the green is a color change wrought by the water, but I suppose it could be the color of the marble? Or maybe just those parts are bronze?

Tourists hanging out around the statue replicas, most of which include plaques explaining their origin.

Tourists hanging out around the statue replicas, most of which include plaques explaining their origin.

This is also a prime spot for catching a tour carriage, or being hit up by any number of street hustlers with fake goods, right outside the Gucci Museum.

The Uffizi is to your left, down that street. Note how quiet the piazza is on a Sunday early afternoon. It won't stay that way.

The Uffizi is to your left, down that street. Note how quiet the piazza is on a Sunday early afternoon. It won’t stay that way.

of Florence and the Duomo here

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Meanwhile…back in Florence…

I am so sorry for the big lag between Italy vacation posts. Theo and I reached the end of his third quarter of homeschool, and this is always a big scramble to finish up projects, polish papers chosen for submission, and for me…scan, scan, organize, and scan. I just couldn’t fit any time to share more of Florence, until now.

Considering that homeschool kept me away from blogging, I’ll start with the Leonardo da Vinci museum, which was a little museum of reproductions and models of many of his inventions from his notebook illustrations. This was a required stop for Theo, who was doing a history book report on a biography of da Vinci, and who was also to do a model of his pyramidal parachute as a project. We joined an Italian school group also touring this very hands-on, interactive museum. We found it at the Galleria Michelangiolo, the irony of which is not lost on me.

Theo drawing water uphill.

Theo drawing water uphill.

You crank this fellow to get him drumming, but he was originally intended to march and everything.

You crank this fellow to get him drumming, but he was originally intended to march and everything.

Something tells me the Louvre isn't likely to make a spot on the wall for this painting.

Something tells me the Louvre isn’t likely to make a spot on the wall for this painting.

It’s no major attraction, but it was a fun diversion, and suitably touchable for children, which so much in museums is not. In fact, most of indoor Italy seems to be off-limits for photos, too. That will affect this series, for sure.

Theo has a very limited touring-threshold, so in general, we would go out and explore for several hours, and then return to the hotel for a break before heading out for more sights without him. As a result, it really was kind of important to have a comfortable and safe hotel room, and wi-fi. Well, truly, we all prefer good wi-fi access.

Our hotel in Florence, Residenza Johanna, was nice. It was off the main street and a few blocks’ walk from Palazzio St. Mark. While that made it convenient to the Accademia Gallery, and a science museum, it was a bit too much of a hike to everywhere else. In future, I would prefer staying closer. Our room was at the end of a hall, and had a separate sitting room with a daybed made up for Theo. It wasn’t large, but it wasn’t small, and the bathroom, which had a shower, was generous. Unfortunately, the wi-fi connection was a little weak, so Theo spent chunks of time on a sofa in the hallway, where he could stream You-tube better. The included breakfast was a lovely continental spread with perfect cappucinos. I really need some protein in the morning, though, so I confess they didn’t last me all morning. Fortunately, you can get great breakfasty croissant sandwiches and things for a nice, Hobbity mid-morning snack on something like every third street corner. 

Kicking up our heels between excursions. Theo is through the arched doorway.

Kicking up our heels between excursions. Theo is through the arched doorway.

Next time, some of what we found on our excursions.

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