Thursday, July 25, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: Bari

In case you were wondering, no, I am not necessarily posting any of these Italy stops in the order of when they happened on our tour.  Just in the order of my momentary whim, to be honest.

So, today it's Bari, which we visited on Day 12 (of 19), a Friday.

The previous 3 days we were on the west coast, in Montecassino, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast.
On Day 12 we drove across the ankle of Italy 177 miles, west to east, to Bari.
That's the Mediterranean Sea on the left and the Adriatic Sea on the right.

This was one of the first photos I took, from the bus, as we entered Bari along the coast.

Once off the bus,
how can you resist views like this on the Adriatic Sea!

However, we were there on a mission with our tour guide, not to see the Adriatic Sea,
but to see what the city is known for:  the St. Nicholas Church.

Of course, the journey along the way is as important as the destination, if not more so, right?!

Don't you love the impressions you get of a place just by looking!

What surprised me most was this little dab of Roman ruins as we passed through the old city.
It's the former site of a Byzantine church from the 9th-10th centuries

Street people...

with an invitation to observe this lady, sitting there with her door wide open!

There were many indications of religious importance in this city.

Perhaps this is one of them, just before turning the corner to see what we had come for...

...the Basilica of St. Nicholas, from 1197.

Do you know why it's so important for the Dutch people to see this?
It's where St. Nicholas, the historical figure of the the Dutch legendary Sinterklaas, is buried.

Yes, you heard me.
Sinterklaas, who arrives in homes all over the Netherlands on 5 December, is buried in Bari.
(Technically, of course, St. Nicholas is buried:  Sinterklaas is not!)

No question at all about who was of utmost importance here.

We were ready to enter the church....

The nave.

The altar.

The organ and pulpit.

And then the crypt.

One of the tombs.

And then where St. Nicholas himself is buried behind the fenced barrier.

This basilica "holds wide religious significance throughout Europe and the Christian world...
an important pilgrimage destination both for Roman Catholics 
and Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe."

In the outer courtyard is the statue bearing witness to his fame.

St.Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves,
brewers, pawnbrokers, students and children across Europe.
Sinterklaas is the patron saint of children.
They really are connected at the hip.

So now you know why this city was on our Dutch tour of Italy!
We were there for only 1.5 hours. but we saw what was most important.

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!