Thursday, July 18, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: Florence

Last week I posted about Pisa and showed this Tuscany map:

Florence is 87 km east of Pisa, which we did the next day, on 5 April.

That was the only day of the tour that we rode the train, from our hotel in Montecatini Terme.

Our stop in Florence was at the Santa Maria Novella railway station,
which meant we got to walk by the church, consecrated in 1420, on our way into city center.

I wanted to stop and take photos of everything I saw as we kept walking...

...especially this inner courtyard of the Palazzo Strozzi, from 1489.
But we were on a mission to get to the...

...yup, right in front of us, the Florence Duomo/Cathedral, from 1436.

As we walked into the piazza, the baptistry came first (at the edge of the left image above).

It's a stand-alone, and at this view, hides the cathedral, except for the campanile.

When you walk around and face the Baptistry, this is what you see.
(The cathedral is behind us.)

As you'd guess, the Baptistry is known for it's bronze doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1401.
It marks the city's deliverance from the plague.

After the Baptistry, it was time to concentrate on the Cathedral.
What faces you opposite the Baptistry is the flat side, which is the front (bottom-left).

Here's the cathedral entrance.
See how crowded it is!  There was no way we could get in
with the time we had and everything else left to see..

So we took photos instead!

Later in the day we walked all around it to get it's many faces.
It's gigantic!

Obviously, the Cathedral was the most important landmark of the day.
But just as obviously, there was so much more to the town hall/Palazzo Vecchio.
It overlooks the Piazza della Signoria, with its many famous statues... Michelangelo's David (now a replica, bottom-center).
I was most taken by Perseus holding up the head of Medusa, by Cellini in 1554!

I should mention that our bus tour guide took Astrid and me on our own personal tour in Florence.
At this point she mentioned that the Romans were all about male/masculine power!
Can you tell?????

The town hall has 3 courtyards, of which Vasari's is the first, 
with a copy of Verrocchio's Putto fountain.

From town hall we walked through the Uffizi Gallery, a prominent art museum.

Look who I captured as we walked through:
Dante Allighieri, Donatello, Michelang Buonarroti, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Oh, and at the entrance, a nameless mime!

By this point we were at the Arno river to see the famous Ponte Vecchio.
Actually, I say famous but I had never heard of it in my life.
It very much reminded me of the Pulteney Bridge in Bath, England...

...with shops on either side of the street, crossing the bridge.

On our way back towards city center, our guide made sure we saw Porcellino
the bronze fountain of a boar, by Pietro Tacca from 1634.
You place a coin inside its jaws to let it fall through the underlying grating for good luck. 
Of course, Astrid did her duty after several attempts (it wasn't easy).

Our guide then left us to our own devices, to wander where we wished.

Many big cities still allow horses and buggies for the tourists.
I have mixed emotions about the practice and only take photos.

You know me.  Lots of impressions.

Street scenes.  Street artists.

Street people. 
That's a postal woman with her "car" (top-right).

I even got some nice gable stones/misc.

And if anyone can tell me what this is, back near the cathedral where we waited for our group, 
you get a Gold Star.

Florence, the space of 5.5 hours.
It's definitely better than nothing and I'll never forget it!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: Pisa

Our first full day in Italy back in April was a visit to Turin.  The very next day, 4 April, we visited Lucca in the morning and Pisa in the afternoon.  That gives you a feeling for how quickly we went from one place to the other.

Lucca and Pisa, for reference, are in Tuscany, west of Florence.
The day after Lucca and Pisa, we went to Florence...and the next day to San Gimignano and Siena.
It's always good to have a reference point, don't you think?!

Basically, this is Pisa!  As you enter the Piazza dei Miracoli,
you first see the Baptistery, the cathedral and then the leaning that order.

And while we were there (can you tell?) we had the most torrential rain of the entire trip!

Lucky for us, we were let loose to explore on our own without a guide.
Guess where Astrid and I headed first, to beat the rain?

Everyone knows this place for the Leaning Tower of Pisa, of course.
Depending on what side you stand, the more you see the lean.

"In 1990 the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but following remedial work
between 1993 and 2001 this was reduced to 3.97 degrees, reducing the overhang by 45 cm
at a cost of £200m.  It lost a further 4 cm of tilt in the two decades to 2018."

Surely you know that in such places everyone tries the obligatory "gesture."
I was bound and determined to get a good photo of Astrid doing The Push.
Do you know how hard it is to get it right??

I finally settled on this.  HA!

It wasn't raining yet, so we walked around the cathedral square/piazza...

which really wasn't far.  See how close everything is!
Even Romulus and Remus are...right there.

At that point, the heavens let loose and it was all we could do to make it to the front of the cathedral,
without being completely soaked to the bone (as happened to others in our group).

The cathedral entrance is behind me where I stood in shelter to take this image of the Baptistery.
It's Italy's largest baptistery, completed in 1363.
We had hoped to visit it but had only one hour for the Pisa visit.  Seriously.

And since we were standing there at the Pisa Cathedral, the decision was made for us!
(The top image is the entrance and I'm standing at the Baptistery looking back.)

Of course, you know me and cathedrals!  It was the right decision.
It's dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, with groundbreaking in 1063.
[The leaning tower/campanile is the cathedral's free-standing bell tower.]

We were inside for only 20 minutes, so I grabbed what I could.

Something important happens in the Roman Catholic church in 2020, but I can't remember what?

I always grab the pulpit, of course, because of Preacher Dad.
But where was the organ??? Surely it was there??

I assume this was the lectern, used sometimes instead of the pulpit?

Then to the back of the church, which is opposite the altar and also the entrance from outside.

This was my second visit to Pisa and both times I missed the 4th part of the piazza:
the Campo Santo or Camposanto Monumentale, which is the cemetery.

But I did take a photo in 2007 of the tabernacle over the original doorway entrance.
The Virgin Mary with child is surrounded by four saints,
a work in the 14th century by a follower of Giovanni Pisano.

And yes, in 1987 the entire piazza was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.