Saturday, April 27, 2019

September 30, 2017: Visiting the birthplace of Renaissance

September 30: Visting the famed city of Florence

Our group started off after a hearty breakfast. The bus was ready outside the Cortefreda. The sky was blue. We had gotten up early to see the sunrise among the Tuscan hills at the back of our lodgings. It was indeed a glorious morning. Our itinerary for the day was already set, visit David's Statue and then walk through the Uffizi museum. Even for these visits, the time was too short considering the enormous crowd we anticipated.

It takes just under 45 minutes to drive from our Hotel Borgo di Cortefreda to Florence. It was a delightful drive and we drove right near to the Piazzale Michelangelo on the Florentine hills.

The whole piazza was designed to display Michelangelo's works but that project never took off. However, a bronze copy of Michelangelo's David is centrally placed in the Piazza.

This is a very popular spot for tourists. It gives a splendid, panoramic view of Florence on the other side of the Arno river. We were intending to visit this beautiful spot during our previous visit but unfortunately, the visit was cut short.

Fortunately for us, we had visited Florence earlier and covered the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore. We even climbed part of the way to Cupola designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and commissioned in 1418 (Michiko stopped part of the way due to claustrophobia). The sight from Piazzale Michelangelo is unforgettable.

We had also visited Accademia Gallery to gaze at Michaelangelo's David. Most from our group visited lined up to visit David. There was an enormous crowd milling around the rather narrow street at its entrance.

On our previous visit, we were even planning to go up to the Piazzale de Michaelangelo but I got terribly sick after eating something that did not agree with me and returned to the USA by the next available flight. The hotel we stayed at was also something I would like to forget, but I had chosen it against Michiko's remonstrations just because it was named the Hotel Machiavelli Palace. You see,  I am a great fan of The Prince. Being a romantic has a downside! Perhaps in the intervening years, the hotel has improved.

We decided to skip the Accademia Gallery and had planned to visit an art supply house, Zeccchi in the vicinity of the Duomo and have lunch before joining others to visit the Uffizi.

After lunch, we met our group at the Piazza del Senhoria. People of all hues and colors were milling around and it was so crowded that we thought we may miss them. However, at the appointed time around 2 PM, we did find them.

Uffizi is under construction and since we had a group ticket, we did not have to get behind a queue. Some of the things that attracted me at the entrance were the contributions of the Medici family to Florence, not only the birthplace of the Renaissance but also, in fact, a major part of the contributor to the western civilization.

We went through corridors after corridors of painting, sculpture, and art objects of various kinds. We were interested in seeing Sandro Botticelli's La Primavera (1470). It was a large rectangular painting with Venus with the tilted head in the middle accompanied by the Three Graces on the left dancing to some mystic music. It was crowded but we could stand there and gaze interrupted by bobbing heads.

The' Birth of Venus' was one of the other masterpieces of Botticelli which we did not miss. This is one of the most enduring and the most famous works of Botticelli.

Of course, we did not miss the other Venus, the 'Venus of Urbino', an oil painting by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio).

Sando Botticelli also painted the 'Adoration of the Magi' in which he included the members of the Medici family, his sponsors. Botticelli himself is also in the painting on the extreme right. Well, most artists painted the 'Adoration of Magi', another enduring Catholic theme.

Here is the same theme by Michelangelo.

This one from Gentile de Fabrini.

We also had a peek at the octagonal 'Tribuna', a museum within the museum. We could only stand at the door and gaze at the interior. It had beautiful Carrara marble flooring and magnificent windows that bring light into the room. The room displays the opulence of the Medicis and their artistic fervor.


Ponte Vecchio behind the museum and many more bridges across the river.

Uffizi Museum corridor.


Altarpiece of three saints by  Antonio Pollaiolo (1466-1467) L to R: St.Vincent, St. James and St. Eustace bridges across the river.

We finished walking through Uffizi by about 4:30 or so. We had to wait for others to come back before we go back to our hotel. We thought of buying some leather goods near the Pizza de Santa Croce. There are various shops and restaurants around this Piazza. We did not find them very appealing.

Few others from our group were sitting in the sidewalk restaurant and drinking Spritz (Aperol, Blood Orange Juice and Prosecco ) and they recommended me to try. It was really refreshing. 

Pizza de Santa Croce is another historic landmark with the basilica and the statue of Dante very near its entrance. It also has the remains of Michelangelo in one of the tombs. Frankly speaking, it was a little too much after a whole day of walking. We did not go in, perhaps some from our group did.

It is arrivederci time for Tuscany and Florence. Tomorrow we will go on to savor a  new experience that we missed out on our failed visit to Florence. We will visit Venice, another famed city which transacted business with the far east and India. On the way, we will have our taste of Tuscan wine in a winery, visit San Gimignano and cross the 'lagoon' to reach our destination.

We finally returned and took some rest. Well after that, a lot of drinking, talking and exchanging the highlights of the day. It was indeed a good day.

My videos of this visit are not ready yet. That's something on my plate.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Septem 29: Walking tour of Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Septmber 29, 2017: Walking tour of Siena

Siena in Tuscany is not too far from where we were staying. Siena is only about 25 miles from our hotel, the Borgo di Cortefreda.
We left early around 8:30 after our breakfast at the hotel. The sky was a little cloudy when we started out, but began to brighten and the greys turned to bright blues. The drive was quite comfortable and our tour director was busy filling us up with details.

After about half an hour of driving, we reached the outskirts of Siena.

We began our walking tour under the supervision of our excellent guide.

Siena still remains a medival city as it retains most of the original structures including the public buildings. We walked through many of the narrow streets such as this one here.

Siena is divided into 17 Contradas (means a ward or a district) each having its animal own symbol. The folks from these districts participate in the famous horse race of Siena, Palio of Siena. 

You can see the district boundaries all over the city and the districts compete each other in the Palio played out every year in the Piazza Del Campo.

The districts are very proud of their colors and zealously mark-up themselves.

Here is a statue of a little boy marking a contrada.

Lots of chocolate and biscuit (biscotti) shops along the route.

After walking many of these tortuous, narrow streets we came to the Piazza Salimbeni to look at the statue of Sallustio Bandini. Salustio Bandini was a descendent of Piccolomini (who later became a Pope), advocate of free trade; archdeacon, economist and politician.  Bandini donated his 3000 volumes to Bibliotheca della Spaienza. Located here is one of the oldest banks of Italy.

We also came across the famous 'wolf suckling infants', a recurrring theme in Italy. 

According to the legend, Siena was founded by Remus’ sons, Senius and Aschius, who left Rome with the statue of the she-wolf, stolen from Apollo’s temple. The symbolic colors of the city derive as well from these two legendary founders--Aschius rode a black horse and Senius rode a white one.

It was indeed an interesting to walk .

Our guide toook us to the Piazza Del Campo, the venue of the famous horse race ( the Palio, in which the 17 districts participate. The ground is not perfectly circular; the Palazzo Pubblico which houses a museum (we did not enter) adjacent to the Torre del Mangia (bell tower), is typical of Siense medieval architectural style.

Il Palio Siena in progress from

We cross the Piazza del Campo.. 

... and move towards another most famous structure, the Cathedral of Siena (aka DOM di Siena). We arrive at the Cathedral of Siena.

Photo: Alan Kehew from his Pinterest site

Photo: Alan Kehew from his Pinterest site

Photo: Alan Kehew from his Pinterest site

The Three Graces inside Piccolomini Library inside the Siena Cathedral

We completed our visit to the DOM by about 1:30 and we started looking for a place to eat lunch. We had about an hour to have lunch. After lunch we retraced the path to the bus that would take us to our hotel.

One has to be careful in restaurants. Often you will be paying for something you did not ask. Happened a couple of times and in Siena as well. The more crowded the restaurant is, more careful you should be.

We are waiting for few more people to return. 

Here is a short video clip.

Here is the complete video of the Powr Point:

Yet another place to visit in your Italyt rip Protection Status