2008 October, Italy Archives

May 26, 2008

Could I go to Italy alone??

Oh dear, I just did a very bad thing: I checked airfares to Italy and found out that I can fly over from Halifax this October for little more than $700...and yes, hard to believe but true, that even includes the return flight! (Actually it's two separate return tickets, $574 Halifax-London with Canadian Affair, then another $130 London-Pisa on EasyJet, but I don't mind booking two tickets.)

Oh this is not good...not good at all.

I do so want to spend more, more, more time in Florence, but...can I really afford it, that's the question.

I'd have bought the tickets already if only we weren't going to be tuition-poor with Ginger starting university this fall. (Not that I begrudge my beautiful daughter her education of course!)

Hmmm, but I do have a small investment kicking around from the days before I had a pension plan, and it is a-calling my name ("cash me", it cries, "CASH ME NOW AND BUY THAT PLANE TICKET!!!")

On the other hand, I'm not sure if I should go away so soon after Ginger starts university...what if she needs her mommy? (Ok, so that's probably just wishful thinking on my part!)

Waffle, waffle...

As further proof I'm slipping past the point of no return, I just checked out the apartment (Dante) we rented last summer, and yup, you guessed's available in October.

I've also never travelled alone before, but have nobody to go with me right now. My sister isn't in a point in her life where travel is an option, my mom just got back from Spain so isn't interested in another trip so soon (plus I think she wants to take her next trip with her husband), Dave won't have enough vacation time since he just started a new job today...and I can't think of anyone in my circle of friends with both the money and the inclination to humour this whim of mine and come away with me.

Ahhhhh, what to do, what to do???? I guess you'll have to stay tuned for my decision...even I don't know which way it will go!

Continue reading "Could I go to Italy alone??" »

May 28, 2008

I did it!!

Just a quick note to say that I booked my flight for October!! At least the first leg Halifax-London return with Canadian Affair (the carriers are Thomas Cook Airlines going over, Air Transat on the way back). I am absolutely kicking myself for not doing this yesterday because the price increased about $100 overnight when Air Transat raised their fuel surcharges...curses! But I'm so excited that I don't even really care about the extra cost.

I'm also still in a bit of shock and disbelief that I have actually made this leap. I need some serious time for it to sink in. I offer huge THANKS to everyone for all the encouragement. I was a bit hesitant to travel by myself, but after hearing your stories of solo journeys, I am ready to give it a try. (Unless my mom decides to join me, which will be fantastic too!)

Oh and I heard back from Elena (the owner of the apt I want to rent) and she's going to rent me the apt for the full 17 days, but will only charge me for 14. I guess it does pay to return to the same place twice.

Whoooopeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!! How on earth will I ever sleep tonight??

July 25, 2008

Back on track toward Florence...

I almost cancelled my trip last week for a couple of reasons (time and money, what else?!) I recently agreed to be Acting Manager for my group (while the permanent manager is on a two year project) and wasn't sure if I could still get the time off work. But it looks like I will be able to swing the time after all, so I am going ahead with the trip.

While everything was (briefly) up in the air and I was back in dreaming mode, I pondered staying somewhere other than Florence...

I had cancelled my apartment rental, just in case. I could rebook it now that the trip's back on, but it doesn't fit in my new (tighter) budget...I do hope to return to the apartment on a future trip though, perhaps another time I'll have someone else to share the cost with.

I checked out a few apartments in places like San Miniato, Ferrara, Treviso, Salerno, Montagnana, Fauglia, Civitella Marittima. Gloria from Slow Talk's Casina di Rosa was unfortunately not available for all my dates. I could have booked it for one of my weeks, but I really want to stay put for the duration. After looking at all these places - wow!, do I have a big wishlist for future trips!! These sound like fascinating places to spend time. Add these to my already lengthy list of places I want to return to: Rome, Venice, Amalfi, Assisi... Not to mention new-to-me destinations such as France (Toulouse, Aude, Carcassonne, Paris of course), Poland (Krakow for some reason appeals to me - maybe paired with Prague sometime, which I understand is a gorgeous city.) I need to win the lottery so I can feed my new travel addiction...yeah, that plan would work a lot better if I bought lottery tickets.

Anyhoo...apparently Florence is where I am meant to go this trip (and not just because my trip counter says so!) I just keep getting drawn back there in my dreaming. Follow your heart, I tell myself.

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September 15, 2008

Venice, here WE come!!

Yes, you read that correctly - I said "we"...

Maria and I will be flat-mates in Venice! She has an extra sofabed in the apartment she is renting, and I am going to take the train up from Florence and stay with her for a few days - how amazing is that?!? I am so excited to meet her! It sounds like we have similar interests, and similar approaches to sightseeing - that is, pretty relaxed and not minding if we miss a "must see" sight because we stumbled upon something else along the way.

I'm also looking at a different place in Florence (I know, it's the third time I've changed my mind...but whatever.) I happened across a listing for a cute little studio just by the Ponte Vecchio in the Oltrarno area and couldn't resist it. It's pretty basic, very tiny, has no washer and is on the sixth floor...yikes, you say, why would she possibly want to stay in such a place?! Well, check out the really cool view (which is verified by the reviewers) before answering that question...and it's so close to both the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace, both of which I want to spend copious amounts of time in admiring the art, so the location is perfect. I've been in contact with the owner, and am just waiting for word on the price. I don't want to pay much more than the room I have reserved now, but if the price is in the ballpark, I'm going for it!

September 30, 2008

Are you all packed and ready?

Annie asked if I was all packed and ready...I've only two days left and my answer is still: "no, I haven't even brought my suitcase up from the basement". Oops...did I mention that I am a horrible procrastinator?! From the moment I spontaneously bought my air ticket a few months ago, I have been floating along in some kind of "everything will miraculously fall into place without much effort on my part" state for this trip. And, I have to say, so far this is working out ok for me! And is exactly what I need right now...not much planning, just time away, in beautiful Florence. There is much I want to see and do...but this journey is about relaxing and rejuvenating my weary soul, not rushing from sight to sight. I might spend all my days wandering through Florence, or I might take a few daytrips to places such as Arezzo, Pistoia, Lucca, Bologna. I won't know until I get there and let the impulses flow through me!

And I'm really looking forward to my time in Venice too! Maria graciously said "you probably have things you want to see" in case I wanted to venture off on my own...but I said I'm happy to just wander around and explore whatever we come across. I haven't got my heart irrevocably set on any "must sees"'s all about being there. Although I'm all for her Obama gondolier project - that could be too much fun, if we can manage it!

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October 2, 2008

I have weight issues...

I am finally packed.

This is a miracle.

I packed, weighed my bags, unpacked, repacked, weighed my bags, unpacked...the cycle continued a couple more times. I will not repeat the words that came out of my mouth during this time...frustrated is an understatement! I really didn't have that much in the bag, why oh why does it keep weighing in too heavy. Surely I can fit in ONE book to read on the plane?? (I will concede that 3 guidebooks, a leather bound journal, 2 novels, and an Italian-English phrasebook was likely pushing things just a bit, though...)

Suddenly the lights went on in the attic of my brain - my baggage allowance is 20 kgs - my scales are in pounds - hallelujah, I am saved from the weight police!!!! I still have tons of room, in fact about double what I thought - woohoo, back in go the books! (well I did pare it down to 2 guidebooks, my journal, one novel and the of the guidebooks is the official Uffizi Guide, which is not exactly lightweight, but I know I'll be wanting to refer to it when spending time in this museum, and since I have a membership again this trip, I know I'll be making more than one visit!)

I only had to make one trip to the drugstore in order to finish my packing - my facial moisturizer was in a 120 ml container. Of course the carry-on liquid restricts me to 100 ml containers only - rats! I'd pack it in my checked bag, but I dare not chance losing it. (I don't want to spend my entire vacation with an itchy rash on my face from using a product my skin doesn't like...and I never know when my skin will decide to play prima donna and overreact to some seemingly innocuous product.) I also got a new toothbrush, lip balm (to which I am addicted), and dental floss.

I have packed uber-casual clothes only - jeans and v-neck t-shirts, one pair of shorts (just in case), pyjamas, socks & undies, sandels and flip-flops (for lounging around the apt - I like bare feet but not sure about strange floors!), toiletries, first aid kit, camera, cell phone (still don't know if that will work, I'll keep you posted), my prayer shawl, documents, alarm clock/radio...other stuff that I can't think of and left my list upstairs. The Universal Packing List - gotta love it if you're too lazy to make up your own like I am! Oh a zippered fleece sweater, my Goretex jacket to see me through any and all weather that comes my way, and am wearing my Dunham walking shoes. I can relax and wait for Dave to get home from work and take me to the airport for my 7:15pm flight. 3 hrs, 38 minutes to go!!

(I live 5 minutes away from the airport - lest you are reading this and thinking what the heck is she still doing at home when there's less than 4 hours until her flight is scheduled to leave!)


October 3, 2008

I am in Florence!

first off - having exhaustion plus Italian keyboard issues, so just ignore the spelling, grammar, punctuation!

I have to say that the check-in and boarding experience on the Thomas Cooke flight was utterly painless, other airlines should take notes. The food on the other hand was not so good...why oh why would I want a little jar of marmite to spread on my bran table crackers, to eat with my braised beef in onion gravy?! oh well, the little wrapped chocolate was tasty. ON the flight across the Atlantic, we hit some serious turbulence (I blame Dave...he predicted we would run into tropical storm something or other and apparently he is psychic!) I didn,t really mind though, am not a nervous flyer as far as the flying itself - is more the connections and possibility of missing them that stresses me out. all well so smoothly.

YO! Tell of the Yotel, you asked. Well, it is an excellent way to spend a long layover. The room is teeny, almost feels like a ship cabin or something but super comfy bed, fantastic shower with one of those shower heads that feel like heavy rain. There was supposed to be an alarm option on the tv - I set it but it did not work. Thankfully I had a backup plan. I had a couple hours nap and felt much better, although still tired after all that physical travelling.

The EasyJet flight to Pisa was odd. "You must arrive on time, we will NOT wait for you" says all the Easyjet paperwork. Yeah well, it,s a little hard to arrive the requested hour or so before boarding when there is not even a baording gate assigned until 30 minutes befor departure! Seriously gusty strong winds at Pisa forced the pilot to circle, circle, circle and then approach from the other direction...the wingtip was shuddering, the plane was swaying this way and that, it was wild! Kudos to the pilot though, was the softest touchdown EVER. Didn,t even feel the wheels hit the tarmac, other pilots should take note! While we were circling, the clouds were ominous but as we did the first circle, oh what a glorious sight beheld my eyes to the south. A sheet of heavenly rays streaming down through a break in the dark clouds with such intensity that there was a long line of light on the water (Pisa is near the coast so we were mostly circling over water.) It was absolutely beautiful.

INstead of the train, i hopped on the express bus direct from Pisa airport to Florence train station area. very simple and "only" 16 euro return (so guess how I,ll be getting back to the airport on the way home!) ride was about 70 mins so probably faster than taking the train by the time factor in getting from Pisa airport to Pisa train station to catch the train.

As we drove into Florence, past the outskirts and ugly buildings (yup, even Florence has ugly buildings), I was feeling a bit off but then the clouds in the sky turned pink and then the setting sun glowed orange as we crossed the Arno and I felt uplifted and light-hearted by such beauty. Then felt light-headed as I got off the bus and realized how familiar some of the streets were...oh incredible to feel almost at home in such a far away place. I was able to ditch the horde and walk to my apartment along less crowded side streets, hearing the Italian voices and busyness of food preparation as the trattorias etc readied for the supper crowds.

My apartment is lovely and just as I expected. Teeny, tiny, but with an amazing view of the dome of Santo Spirito, and huge wonderful windows so I can take in this view to my heart,s content...the dome is beautiful at night, and I cannot wait to visit it.

ok...that,s all your getting for now, my tummy is saying FEED ME NOW!!! I swear I have lost a couple pounds over the past couple days because haven,t really eaten jeans certainly feel looser than when I left home! oh well a few cups of gelato will fatten me right up!

ciao for now!

October 4, 2008

The one thing I was NOT expecting...

...happened on my very first evening in Florence. Go figure.

A couple people had asked me if I was nervous as a woman to be travelling alone. I said not in Italy, and in any case at least I am too old to have to deal with men hitting on me...

Apparently my luminous beauty is ageless, and transcends even the tired, dragged out, bags under the eyes, decidedly unsparkly mood of jet-lag, and the fact that I am wearing a wedding ring. I went for supper at a place called Trattoria Galleria (near Pitti, very near my apartment). All I wanted was a light meal and a little wine, and then would be off to bed. Francesco, the waiter, introduces himself and invites me to stay and have some wine with him afterward. Uh, thank you, no. I said, quite taken aback by this offer. "Just a little wine, we can sit outside, I am just getting off work", says Francesco. "No, I don,t think so", I say. "Only one glass, bella" he persists. "No", I repeat. "Bella, bella, do you not like wine?" Apparently it does not enter his mind that it might be him, and not the wine, that I am not interested in! A couple more refusals and he gets the idea that I am not going to stay for drinks with him... In the meantime, I chat with a couple from Saskatchewan sitting at the table beside me, who are having a hard time keeping a straight face at Francesco,s persistence. They were on the tail end of a five week tour of France, Turkey, Greece and Italy...nice! I finish my ribolitta (with specially grated parmesan offered by Francesco...the Sask couple had to ask and only grudgingly did they get the same...oh dear.) I finish my wine. I wait for my bill, then remember that I have to ask for it (am used to the North American dining experience where you are rushed out as fast as possible and forget that in Italy, one can linger for hours over the smallest meal.) Anyway, I pay my bill and leave. On the way out, I said "ciao, Francesco", just to be friendly. Oops, over he comes, "so, you will come tomorrow?", not tomorrow...or any other day! Guess I will cross that place off my list of eating establishments while on this solo trip! (I told Dave this story over the phone and he found it less amusing than I did!)

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October 5, 2008

Are the men in Florence REALLY this desperate?!

To follow up from yesterday's post - Ok, so I'm two for two as far as two evenings spent in Florence and twice been invited for drinks by strange men. Yikes, surely there are more attractive prospects than 44 year old, married woman without a trace of outward fashion sense (loose jeans, t-shirt and fleece zip-up just don't compare to the incredibly stylish Italians!) I'm walking back from supper at Trattoria del Carmine (about a 15 or so minute walk from my apartment). A man goes past, and says buona sera (good evening)...I reply with the same because really that is a very innocuous remark...and he carries on his way. A few steps and he turns back, asking if I speak francaise or English...English, I say, thinking he must want to ask directions or something (really, I am too naive for my own good sometimes...) No French? He repeats. English only, I say (although this is not entirely true.) He carries on, I assume he must speak only French and wonder why he even asked about English. And then back he turns again "a little French?" "un tres petite peux" I say (why I do not know!) Ah, he says, a little...and informs me he speaks a little English. He walks along with me...he seems polite enough so I don't mind, and besides there are a few other people around so I figure I can call for help if need be. (I was not sensing any danger with my awesome psychic powers!) He was from Senegal, where I assume they must speak French. Although when he started talking about going for a drink, I starting wondering how to resume my solo walk. Anyway, we come to the end of Borgo San Jacobo by the Ponte Vecchio. Which way are you going, he asks. Uh oh...split second crisis in my brain - do I say toward the ponte Vecchio, in which case it will likely seem that I am up for his offer? Or do I say the other direction, and risk him following and finding out where my apartment is? I definitely do NOT want to give any vibes that I am up for drinks, so I head away. Oh, but a drink first? Ah no..."arrivederci" (good-bye), I say firmly and head away. "Ok, ciao bella, grazie" he says. I walk around the block to make sure he did in fact go over the Ponte Vecchio (he did, or at least no sign of him as I turned on to my street and went to the apartment.) Goodness...let's hope this is the last of the drink invitations!

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October 6, 2008

Oops, I "accidentally" bought a leather jacket...

I know, I know...I said definitively that I was NOT coming to shop. Oh but I am surrounded by leather in this place...leather belts, leather accessories, leather purses...leather coats. Who can resist? Not I obviously! So now I need to hide from Greenpeace because I am wearing a lambskin jacket. It is so softy-soft and smells good. It is a short, fitted jacket of coffee brown and tan trim. (Coffee brown as in almost black, not that pale milky shade often called "coffee" in decorating-speak.) Er, I also got a purse. What can I say, the jacket was priced at 370 euro and the purse had a tag of 175 euro...I got both for 210 euro, so am thrilled.

Happy to report, no drink invitations last night! Woohoo! (Actually I didn't really mind the other invitations, the men were persistent to be sure, but polite and not at all aggressive...was just surprised to find myself the target of attention.) A man did stop me to ask the time, and then tried to strike a conversation about where was I from, but I just strolled away (feeling a bit rude, I have to say, but oh well.) And in the afternoon while I was sitting in the Loggia writing in my journal, a man was hovering around and kept looking at me, then he sat across from me and seemed to be doubt just my imagination because of the other attentions, but I closed up my journal and wandered off. Or maybe he was a pickpocket just waiting for me to turn careless (but I keep a very close eye and grip on my bag, sorry dude!)

I did a quick tour of the Uffizi yesterday near closing time...

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October 7, 2008

San Marco (not the one in Venice!) and Spedale degli Innocenti

Ah, my beloved Ghirlandaio has once again stolen the show today, but first...

After breakfast (Sara, sorry to disappoint you, but I had a respectable bowl of cereal today and not chocolate pastry again!), I headed over the the Museo di San Marco, where the mad monk Savonorola made his home (at least until he was burned up as a traitor!)

There are some amazing frescos in the monk cells, by Fra Angelico. Savonorola, of course, was opposed to displays of wealth, including art, (as evidenced by his Bonfire of the Vanities, where the folks of Florence were "invited" to contribute items for burning), however apparently was ok with Fra Angelico's frescos because they were of a religious nature...indeed many are of the crucifiction and a tad too gory for my taste. But there are some gorgeous frescos, such as the (almost iconic) Annunciation and a blazing Transfiguration to name a couple scenes that drew me in. Of course the cell reserved for Cosimo di'Medici had an upper and lower chamber, and Savonorola himself had three rooms, although the inner (I assume sleeping) cell was very small.

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October 8, 2008

Sometimes even I have had enough art for one day!

I think I left off at suppertime yesterday (as usual - just before supper seems to be when I stop into the internet place!) So I couldn't settle on anywhere to is one problem with eating along in Italy: the places off the beaten path are soon filled up and they are not so thrilled to give up a whole table for one person unless I eat early (relatively speaking, here early is 6 or 7pm) and yesterday it was more like 8pm before I was scouting out a trattoria. So no luck. The tourist places did not appeal to's just not the same eating experience when surrounded by English speaking people! So I decided to get something from La Spada, eat at the apartment and then head back out for an evening stroll. For 12.40 euro, I got a roast chicken (one of those flattened ones), peas and zuchinni/tomato mix...I have enough for two meals, well actually the chicken itself is enough for 3 or 4 meals...unless I snack it all away, of course! (Which is a distinct possibility, it is quite tasty!) Need I say that I had wine with this meal...I am so coming home an alcoholic after this trip!

After supper I popped along to the Ponte Vecchio, sat and listened to a man playing his guitar and singing. Soon I moved along to Piazza Signoria to sit in - you guessed it - the Loggia, one of my absolute favourite spots in this city full of gorgeous spots. There are never too many people around because they do not allow food, music, other things up is just to sit and enjoy - yay! I was sitting on one of the upper stone benches, noticing that I was looking at Giambologna's Rape of the Sabine from a whole new angle, thinking again what an incredibly dynamic statue this is (by the way "rape" here refers to the older pillaging meaning, not the modern sense, for anyone unfamiliar with this work.) Also listening to a musician playing songs like James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend", a couple Paul Simon songs, U2's "One"...I could hear the music clearly but with the added bonus of the singer and crowd being off to the side by the Uffizi and not surrounding me. As I sat here, awestruck by the experience, I got thinking about how amazingly rich and blessed I am to be sitting here, in this place...thinking of family and friends who said things like "go and enjoy yourself, we will be fine" and "we will look after each other"...this generosity was such a gift to me. My heart felt so burstingly full of love, both given and received, that I literally cried (tears of joy, I promise.) I went to bed and slept a sleep of comforting dreams!

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October 9, 2008

Santo Spirito, San Miniato, with a diversion in between

I returned to Santo Spirito today - and got in this time! What a beautiful church, I believe designed by Brunelleschi. The sun was streaming in the windows, so the church felt so incredibly spacious, light and airy. There are so many paintings with glowing colours, although apparently not so much worthy of mention in the guidebooks. However, with my less critical eye, I really loved several of them. I sat in the pews, feeling connected and enjoying the lovely organ music piping in softly. Sandra, you will definitely want to try again to see this place, it is so worth a visit! I will return another day too, I think. I found it very peaceful and loved the arches, columns and colours. I took many photos of the paintings. And of the interior, and of the dome, it was wonderful to see the inside of this gorgeous dome that I have been gazing at every evening from my apartment.

After I was kicked out (they close at 12:30 for lunch), I grabbed a panini (beef slices, asparagus, fresh cheese filling - yum!) and sat on the steps to eat and watch the scene.

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October 10, 2008

At last...the David!!

Started off the morning with laundry. What?? Where did that mundane bit of business come from? Alas, my clothes do not miraculously stay clean here in Italy, much as I detest hand washing clothes normally. Even that chore is ok over here - it ain't nearly so bad washing clothes when one gets to gaze out the window at the red terra cotta roof tiles and the dome of Santo Spirito - why can't I have this view at home??! Had some breakfast, stopped at the bar for espresso, and then away I went to check out Chiesa di Santa Felicita just literally around the corner. It is one of the oldest in Florence, and although there was not much to see, it was very peaceful and lovely. The altar and side chapels were roped off, so all I could wander was the main section (nave?).

Afterward, across the Ponte Vecchio I went. This time I actually looked in the windows of the jewelry shops. WHOA, check out those prices!! Too much for me to handle. Which was too bad because I saw such a perfect gift for a friend of was 410 euro. It's the thought that counts, right? So she'll have to be satisfied knowing I was thinking of her...cause all she's getting is the thought of this beautiful piece!

After viewing all that bling, I decided I needed a Ghirlandaio fix, so along to Santa Trinita I went to gaze upon the Sassetti chapel with the Adoration of the Shepherds (I think that is the name of the painting I love in that chapel) and frescoes of the life of St. Francis. Ahhh, I love the Adoration painting! The colours are vibrant, and I get such a kick out of the self portrait - Ghirlandaio painted himself as the "stock" figure who points to the baby Jesus (apparently there is often a figure pointing to the baby Jesus in Renaissance, did they think the viewers would get confused over which figure is Jesus?) Anyway, this self portrait figure is pointing to the baby...but only sort of. Really, one hand is pointing toward his own self, and the other is pointing in the direction of Jesus, but more at a garland decoration. As in one hand saying "this is me"...the other hand saying "my name is Ghirlandaio" (aka 'garland') Funny. I love this guy's sense of humour!

I spent over an hour in Santa Trinita - I really love that church. It feels comfortable, personal somehow, plus nothing is roped off so I could wander around to my heart's content...sit in the choir stalls...stand behind the altar...sit in this pew to admire the stunning stained glass window above the high altar...sit in a different pew for another angle of the Sassetti chapel.

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October 11, 2008

Wanderings and wonderings

I woke to sunny skies and fresh cool air. Although the air turned HOT as the day progressed...don't know if anyone's been watching the weather in Italy but wow, have I lucked out, it has been absolutely gorgeous...although almost too hot a couple of these afternoons because I have been wearing jeans - should have brought a skirt or two and odd that I didn't because skirts are my favourite, at least until cold weather hits...can't stand pantyhose!

Anyway, seems like I did a lot of aimless wandering today, but as I recall my journey, I did in fact pop into several places. First was Palazzo Davanzati. This palazzo is furnished "as is" the way a Florentine Renaissance family of wealth would have lived. The walls are covered in frescoes, not portraits, just various patterns (including frescoed tapestries/curtains in a couple rooms!) Really cool - and free, gotta love that. I overheard a guide saying that they did hang actual tapestries on the walls in winter to keep warm, and she said the family would have spent much time in this particular room because of the huge fireplace. I wondered just how cold it gets in Florence in winter...certainly October is far and away warmer than Nova Scotia!

Left there, stopped in at the Internet Train for a couple minutes to quickly email my little dolly MVH who, as I mentioned, complained that I was not emailing her enough - ok, my love, you got it! So far have emailed every day the past few days...hopefully will be able to continue although not sure of the internet point situation in Venice. My impression is that there are fewer places than in Florence (probably because of the huge student population in Florence).

Came across Santa Maria Maggiore, between the Duomo and Santa Maria Novella. I did not stay long. If the Spirit is present in this dark church, s/he is in pain! Way too much emphasis on Christ's suffering and souls in purgatory, etc. in this place. I moved quickly on.

Then wandered some more around the Centro Storico (historic centre), through winding side streets, enjoying the glorious colours of many buildings that glowed yellow and orange as the sun hit them, and the bright colours of the shop windows, and food bar window displays. Eventually came across the Bargello - hey, I haven't been here yet this trip, must go in.

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October 16, 2008

Hi honey, I'm home..."home" in Florence, that is!

Back from Venice so will now play catch up from my last'd best get a cup of coffee or something, this will probably be a long one!

So when last I left off, I had just gotten off the phone with my friend and was feeling sad for her loss, so wandered over to Piazza del Duomo, wanting to feel the energy of crowds. I arrived at about find that the Baptistry was open until 10:30 only! Rats, wish I had known it was to be open the first Sat evening of the month, I bet it is wonderful at night. Anyway, I sat on the steps of the Duomo and gazed on the exterior. Along comes an attractive, (cover your ears, Dave) I would go so far as to say hot, Italian guy to sit beside me and strike up a conversation. His name was Gabriele (does it GET any more Italian than that?!) He was very pleasant, although spoke little English. He had a good friend who studied in Toronto, and knew of Montreal...that seemed to be the extent of his knowledge of Canada. He asked I was here on business, or just holiday. I said just holiday. "With a friend?" he asked. "No, just me", I say. "So you are staying in a hotel?" "No, actually I rented an apartment", I say and immediately think to myself eek, shut up and stop telling strange men that you are here alone in a foreign city, and don't even have the security of hotel desk staff!! Goodness I have no common sense at all sometimes. But as I said he was very polite and friendly and I really had no feeling that he was asking out of anything other than curiousity and to make conversation. We chatted for a while and then I thought I best get on my way. "oh NO, Anna" he cries, "where you going?" I simply say that it was nice to have met him and start away. "Caffe?" He persists. No, grazie, I say and wave which point he gives up and shrugs with a smile, ciao Anna. (I find that non-English speaking people often are stumped by the name "Anne" now I just say Anna to avoid the confusion! I noticed this also when I worked at the university in Halifax...all the foreign students called me "Anna". Guess the silent "e" is purely an English thing.)

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October 17, 2008

Finally make it to Fiesole

I got sidetracked on the way to Fiesole yesterday. I went by Santa Maria Novella...and realized that I have never been in this church before. This must be remedied! In I go. Wow! It is really lovely, especially the chancel (aka Tornabuoni Chapel, because it was the Tornabuoni's who commissioned it.) It is ablaze with Ghirlandaio fresoes. So colourful and wonderful. Unfortunately a large tour group is taking up most of the space behind the altar so I must go wander around and then come back to see it in peace. (And the guide was not speaking English, so no point in lingering and hoping for some enlightenment on the hidden messages in the frescoes either!) I think one of the reasons I love Ghirlandaio (aside from the colours and warm feel of his work) is that he does not paint scenes of gloom, which is nice. One of the panels, The Birth of the Virgin, seems curiously crisp and sharp compared to the others, and even the colour scheme seems less warm than his usual look...I must do some research and see if there is any reason for this.

There is a lot of other marvellous art in here too...Masaccio's Holy Trinity, which was one of the first Renaissance works with perspective. Apparently the citizens of the day lined up to get a look at this marvel that seemed to portray depth and "space" on a flat surface. Giotto's 13th century huge wooden crucifix is also amazing...a break from the static Byzantine look of his time, you can feel the weight and pain of Christ, although not the glorified suffering of some crucifiction scenes, this one feels painted with compassion. The Orcagna brothers' "Paradise" scene in the Strozzi of Mantua chapel is NOT my idea of paradise, I have to say! Rows and rows of figures stacked up with no room in between - sounds like hell to me! (Ok, the hell painting on the opposite wall is actually a whole lot worse looking, but still...) I liked Santi di Tito's Annunciation, although found it quite different from others of the day (1592)...perhaps a Flemish influence? I don't not well versed in these things, it just looks different to me.

After spending a couple hours in Santa Maria Novella (once I get in these places, I find it hard to leave!), I was ready for gelato. I stopped at L'Angolo del Gelato and had mela verde (green apple) and dark chocolate-no milk...aha!! I have finally found a chocolate "dairy" product I can get, this was intensely chocolate and definitely not the normal chocolate ice cream flavour that I do not care for. Yum!

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October 18, 2008

The hills are alive...

Oh, it is incredibly gorgeous walking around above the Oltrarno. Along narrow, walled roads, paved with uneven stones...olive trees and golden hued villas peeking over the top of the walls. Hardly anyone else in sight, just me, the song of various birds, the wind rustling the leaves both in the trees and on the ground (which is literally carpeted with golden autumn leaves in places)...the odd car or motorcycle zooming by (and yes, they do zoom by even through the narrowest of places!) I wonder who lives up here? Are the people living in these villas wealthy, or did they just inherit the family home? How awesome it would be to gaze out on this vista every morning, and every evening. was good for my soul to wander up here has not been the best day of my journey, as far as my mood.

I awoke with a sore head - no, NOT wine induced! I think it is my annoying weather-head making an appearance. It is not uncommon for me to get headaches when there is a major shift in weather has been warm and almost humid most of my time here, but today the air just feels different. Anyway, something was lurking in the back of my head this morning, so I took a couple each of both tylenol and advil and hoped for the best. It subsided for a while, but is back this evening. This has seriously affected my mood...I have felt blue much of the day. Partly because my time is coming to an end so on the one hand, I wish I had another week (month, year!!) over here, but on the other, I wish I was home right now. If I had another week, I would be happily thinking about all the things I can do and see, but since I have only one more day here, I seem to have shifted into thinking about getting home...which means I was really missing people today.

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October 19, 2008

My last full day in Florence...sigh...

I am both glad and sad to be leaving tomorrow. Glad because I am missing my darling girls, and Dave, and other family and friends. Sad, hello? I am leaving Italy, who wouldn't be sad about that?!

This morning I awoke to the bells of Santo Spirito...and the garbage truck...the one sound so melodious in a cachaphonous mad ringing with no particular rhythm kind of way...the other just loud and harsh but somehow very Italian, I don't know why. Maybe simply because I have heard it nearly every morning in Italy for over two weeks.

I had some fruit, a couple breadsticks left over from yesterday and chocolate pastry for breakfast...and stopped for espresso on the way to the Uffizi. I had gotten up early enough to arrive at this wonder-filled museum shortly before 9am. So I have about an hour and a half to stroll around before heading off to St. James. (I had decided that I really did feel like worshipping in a formal way today.) At entrance #2 of the Uffizi, I flash my membership card and passport (they like proof of identity over here) and instantly gain access...feeling sorry for the huge line up of people who are unaware of this magic pass!

I spent little time in the first few rooms, although would have spent more but there were three or four tour groups gathered in front of the Giotto, the Cimabue, the Simone di I thought hmm, I think today I will just fast forward a couple rooms and get ahead of the crowd.

Continue reading "My last full day in Florence...sigh..." »

My last full day...part two

I have to share a funny thing that just happened, but first will pass along Maria's message to give her best to our blogging buddies (you know who you are!) So greetings from Maria, who is off to Spain to meet her husband and hopes to blog at least one entry while there.

Also I will quickly say that after lunch, I wandered around, up to Piazza SS Annunziata, where I turned and looked across the piazza, to a view straight down a narrow street with a view of the Duomo at the end, and above the dome...a fragment of a rainbow! Well, if my spirits weren't lifted before, they certainly were now. What an amazing sight, I watched for the longest time until the rainbow faded and then carried on my way...

Eventually finding myself in the area of the Accademia...naturally I couldn't resist one gaze upon the glorious David. I did actually look at some of the other art in there too this time though. There was a special exhibit of Giovanni da Milano and his contemporaries. I most definitely did not care for his "Christ of the Apocalypse" though! Christ with flowing grey hair and beard, and a frown on - no way, that is NOT my image of Christ - I prefer the peaceful loving dude, thank you very much!! One other painting I will mention is Francesco Grannaci's 1509 The Virgin of the "Cintola", which shows St. Michael (the archangel, I presume) wearing armour but also with rainbow shaded wings...War and Peace? Seemed an odd combination, I thought.

But, of course, David stole the show...sigh...sheer perfection in marble, this statue is a wondrous thing to behold.

Continue reading "My last full day...part two" »

October 24, 2008

Welcome home to me!

I finally came to the end of my journey, feeling both sad and glad, my heart heavy with leaving and light with anticipation of seeing my loved ones again. I took this photo while I was sitting outside the Santa Maria Novella train station waiting for the TerraVision bus to Pisa airport...sighing sighs of longing to have more time here, and thinking, my gosh even the scenery by the train station is gorgeous in Florence!


As I waited, I was humming to myself a Paul Simon song that one of the street musicians had sung frequently in Piazza Signoria...

I'm sitting in the railway station. Got a ticket for my destination.... Homeward bound, I wish I was, Homeward bound, Home where my thought's escaping, Home where my music's playing, Home where my love lies waiting Silently for me.

And the longing in the song did indeed strengthen my own longing to return to my home.

Had an uneventful EasyJet flight from Pisa to London, relaxed in the Yotel overnight, another smooth ride with Air Transat from London home to Halifax. As we flew over Newfoundland, I was surprised to look out the window and see that we were being "passed" by another transatlantic flight - too funny!

I made it through Customs, and collected my bag before Dave and MVH arrived to pick me up, but only had a short wait before piling into the arms of a beaming M, who hugged and hugged me and didn't let go (not that I wanted to!) Then hugs from Dave and home we went. It was incredibly wonderful to see them, and be home again...although already I intensely miss Italy. But the sight of M's face lighting up when she spied me in the airport filled my heart with infinite joy!! I unpacked and gave M her souvenirs. She wore her silkscreen shirt to school Wednesay, it is black and purple, with Botticelli's Venus on it, and looks smashing on her. She also liked her leather bracelets, and couple necklaces that I got her...and the chocolate. All Dave got was me...poor deprived guy. (Well he's not especially taken with Italy anyway so nothing called his name as a memento, he was just happy to have me home.)

It was just so good to be home with my dear ones again!!! Word of advice though: never go shopping the same day as returning home on a transatlantic flight! The exhaustion and jetlag will lead you to spend more than you normally would just to get the shopping over with and go home! :) The upside for M is that she got a heck of a gorgeous wool blend fall/winter coat! And some nice boots. The coat looks way too good on her, and she adores it...she developed some new curves while I was away...eeek, how do I slow this growing up of hers!

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November 8, 2008

Yotel? Do tell...

(Yeah, I know that doesn't rhyme, but whatever...)

And here are the photos you've all been waiting for...the Yotel room at Gatwick.

This is actually a great place to spend a layover in London, in my opinion (keeping in mind that I've nothing to compare it to, so I maybe not be your best source of advice!) Not so good for those of a claustrophobic nature though I shouldn't think, since the space is really more of a cubicle than a hotel room. But I found it perfect for my needs.

Decent bed (not to die for or anything, but reasonably comfy) with good quality sheets and a duvet, clean washroom with the BEST shower head ever, various lighting options, temperature control, power outlets, wi-fi, TV with internet, room service options (which I didn't try so can't say if any good or not), fold away desk and stool, overhead luggage rack, and location, location, location (right in the South Terminal of Gatwick, and very near the coffee/snack bar.)

Prices are reasonable, I suppose, although again I have nothing to compare them to. Based on what I have read of London's hotel prices, the Yotel cost felt reasonable to me. Especially considering the extreme convenience factor. My four hour rest break on the way over was £25, and my 13 hour overnight layover coming home cost £59. I imagine the cost of a regular hotel room, plus transportation to/from the airport, would have been considerably more than that.

Here are some photos:

Continue reading "Yotel? Do tell..." »

November 18, 2008

My Florentine home away from home

Here are some photos of the apartment I rented in Florence...

Starting with the street, Via de Barbadori:

Reached by a choice of...


Or stairs:

Continue reading "My Florentine home away from home" »

November 19, 2008

My Florentine home away from home...part 2

Ok, the last post was to give you a physical sense of my apartment. Now here are some photos of the gorgeous sky as seen from the windows, and a couple "self portraits" of me enjoying my glorious time in Florence!



Continue reading "My Florentine home away from home...part 2" »

November 21, 2008

Venice photos...1 of 3

In honour of Annie's upcoming trip, here are a few of my (many!) photos taken last month in Venice. (I'm breaking the pile into three posts just in case anyone has dial-up or a slow connection for any other reason.)

The well-head in Campo S. Marziale, just near Corte Trapolin where Maria's rented apartment was:

A gorgeous building around Campo S. Marziale (a man opened the window after I took the photo and glared sternly at me...apparently he didn't care to have his home photographed!):

Here I am on the way to meet Maria!

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Venice photos...2 of 3

This is me raising a glass to my family back home in Nova Scotia, who were celebrating Thanksgiving Day:

In Canneregio, near San Marcuola:

Continue reading "Venice photos...2 of 3" »

November 22, 2008

Venice photos...3 of 3

Maria and I were walking around Canereggio and spotted this strange sight:

The dome of Madonna dell'Orto:

Continue reading "Venice photos...3 of 3" »

December 11, 2008

Random samplings of Italian art

Well I am sitting home today with a sore head and a pain in the neck (a literal pain, as in kink of some sort), so thought I would post a few of the photos I took on my trip of various paintings and sculpture.

Mosaic roadside shrine to Santa Anna in Fiesole:

Glazed terra cotta Crucifixion by Andrea della Robbia in Chiesa di Santa Maria Primerana in Fiesole:

Looking up into interior of the dome of Santo Spirito (I gazed endlessly upon the exterior of this dome from my apartment window!):

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December 12, 2008

More random photos of Italian art

To continue from my previous are more random art photos taken on my October trip...

Three of the cenacolo's in Florence...
My favourite, Ghirlandaio's fresco in the cloister of Ognissanti:

The one in Sant'Apollonia, which has a weird brooding atmosphere:

And the one in the Carmine church:

Continue reading "More random photos of Italian art" »

January 21, 2009

A test of the emergency scheduling system...

Just posting a scheduled entry to see if it works for me...I might need to take advantage of the scheduling feature in Feb, now that I have joined the "blog a day" challenge again!

I just love this tree by San Miniato...♥

February 25, 2009

Which way to go?

I am not being struck by any inspiring or thoughtful blog topics this's late, it's been a long day and I want to go to bed! Earlier today I was listening (for the umpteenth time) to a song by the Indigo Girls called will share it with you.

The chorus of this song always, always, makes me stop and think:

"Up on the watershed

Standing at the fork in the road

You can stand there and agonize

Till your agony's your heaviest load

Youll never fly as the crow flies

Get used to a country mile

When you're learning to face

The path at your pace

Every choice is worth your while"

I don't have any great words of wisdom right now as to why it makes me stop and think...the words just speak to me. Guess I like the message about not agonizing over making the wrong choice. And the part about every choice being worth our while, to me, means that even through "wrong" choices, we grow and develop a better understanding of ourselves.

Just choose a fork and strike out along your chosen path with confidence...

Of course sometimes there seem to be too many choices...

And it helps to find a quiet bench where you can sit and pray for guidance!

March 19, 2009

Strolling in the Oltrarno...

Here are a few photos from my trip to Florence last October. One day, after viewing the brilliant Masaccio frescos in Capella Brancacci, I strolled around the San Frediano area of the Oltrarno and along the Lungarno...





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March 21, 2009

ST Italy photohunt: overhead

Every time I go back to my trip photos, I seem to find new ones that strike my fancy. How wonderful to have these images through which I can relive my experiences. It lifts my sagging spirits to mentally wander the streets and surrounds of Florence. And many other places too, like Assisi, Rome, Sorrento and Venice, although Florence touches my soul in a way I cannot describe.

Anyway, on to the topic at hand...I posted a photo yesterday on SlowTalk for the current Italy photohunt: overhead. It was so hard to pick just one photo!! I have a bunch of photos from my October trip that would fit this theme, so am going to share them here. The first is the one I posted on ST, the rest are the runners-up! Enjoy!

Looking up at Palazzo Vecchio from the Loggia:

Looking down at the Loggia from the Palazzo Vecchio:

The dome in Santo Spirito:

Continue reading "ST Italy photohunt: overhead" »

December 8, 2009

The Campo Manin lion of Venice

Leslie's photo of the lion in Campo Manin made me instantly think of my visit with Maria in Venice last October. On my last night, Maria and I walked back from supper in Dorsoduro, through San Marco to the apartment in Canareggio. We stopped in Campo Manin, where Maria took this photo of me and the lion:


December 22, 2009

Venice Santa

Annie's photo of the Christmas tree in Venice reminded me of this crazy scene Maria and I saw in Cannereggio:


January 30, 2010

Fake photohunt ;)

As soon as I saw Kathy's photohunt entry this week, I was reminded of a photo I took of myself in my rental apartment in Florence last October (oh...just realized it was not last October, but the one before that...clearly I need to return before much longer!)

Anyway, the photohunt theme was spotted, and Kathy posted a photo of orbs. Some people believe orbs in photos indicate the presence of spirits...I have a friend who is actually freaked out by these photographic orbs, so this photo reminds me of him also!


February 6, 2010

A mental wander through Boboli Gardens...

One of the gorgeous photos in Marta's recent entry on the Waimea Valley reminded me of a little spot I found in Florence...just off the main path in Boboli Gardens was a little maze of side trails meandering through some funky trees.




I couldn't stay too long on these paths because the mosquitos were ferocious and I react badly to their bites. But the play of light and shadow was was incredibly quiet and peaceful (aside from those nasty biting critters!) Although I was in the midst of a popular park, I felt very much alone with nature.

I emerged from that hiding spot and went straight into another! This next photo reminds me of something from Alice in Wonderland...


And after wandering around, I flopped down and lay drowsing on the lawn near the big giant head...listening to the murmer of voices and the breeze sifting through the trees.



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