Last day wandering in Rome. Churches, Fountains, and PANTHEON! (Finally!)

New blog post Thursday November 12, 2015
Last day wandering in Rome. Churches, Fountains, and PANTHEON! (Finally!)


The espresso in the hotel coffee machine is pretty average. Artigianale in Florence has spoiled me. So far, two breakfasts of average. I figured if I do three shots, a cappuccino with two extra shots, that it’d come out better. Even sugar couldn’t aid the flavor. Oh well, it’s caffeine and it’s free, so no complaints here.

I call United Airlines in rome and check on my flight. It’s Thursday morning and they mad a flight for Friday using the same itinerary that I had before but there was no connection given for Frunkfurt to Denver. Just Rome to Frankfurt. Also the news says Lufthansa won’t resume flight until Saturday, so I’m at a loss as to what’s going to happen. The wonderful American I got told me that I was correct, that all lufthansa flight were cancelled until Saturday. Initially she discussed a flight to Paris then to two other cities then to denver. It’s Thursday and I don’t want multiple cities, and i don’t want to got Paris (because there’s too many crazies and I didn’t want to go to Germany either) so I asked for a simple route not in those cities, she told me of one on Swiss Air that goes to Zurich, then Washington D.C. That’s the one I picked. Problem is that I have to leave Rome at 3 AM to get to Fuimacino/Leonado Da Vinci airport and check in by 4:30 and my flight will be at 6:30 AM. Thank God I skipped Paris, while I was in Zurich and over the Atlantic, the terrorist were bombing parts of Paris. I would have been stranded there until Saturday morning.

Deciding to walk the distance across town to Pantheon I set out through Roman neighborhoods, I have al day, literally,  just to get there.
I come upon some ruins that are attached to a large Renaissance type building, but I’m at the back, so I walk around and discover the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, the seventh largest Christian church.

It’s part of the Dioiocletian baths that Michelangelo conceived a reimagining as a basilica (part of the baths complex).

Santa Maria degli Angeli

It’s been adapted even more than a few times and a Pope made it a kind of art museum church. Michelangelo’s genius when he was in his 80’s, was to show parts of the original structure from ancient times in the design. This concept is still used today in some modern architecture. There’s a whole connection to Galileo and his discovery of time keeping and the pendulum. Here we also see astrological signs and markings in brass on an axis for days of the year. Through a hole and in the wall the sun shines at a specific time on the axis markings to show the day. Pretty clever stuff. The structure, the paintings, statues and the gigantic volume of space is overwhelming. This is also an active Parish church. Through a side door is the Sacristy which is in the bath’s ancient parts, and has an exhibit showing the history of the structure in pictures and busts of Michelangelo and the other guys responsible for what we see. Going out through the opposite door we enter what is essentially a courtyard entrance to the baths, out through the door in the back, takes one to the ruin I saw when I was walking. There are parts of the bath there and even what would have been a swimming pool mosaic.  This link will take you to a really great site with far more info on the church, it’s history and what’s inside, than I could post here. http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/rome-santa-maria-degli-angeli

  

These two angels holding shells of holy water are next to St. Bruno.
  
These four statues are from the original church and are in the Sacristy next to the historical displays.

  
Bust of Michelangelo in his 80’s, he designed the church the year before he died.

  
  
 Prayer

  Meditation

 St. John the Baptist


Detail of the ceiling in the exact center.  
  
  
  
 The corded off floor is protecting the brass and jewels and paint that portrays the calendar and has signs of the Zodiac. Next to one of the side chapels is the display of Galileo’s invention of the first pendulum that was used to tell time.

  
  
  
   It’s an enormous and overwhelming building.

Continuing my Pantheon quest, I run across this:

 A good story and a half in height, It was displayed in what looked like a Roman fountain on a busy street corner with spiked wrought iron fencing around it.

These neighborhoods must be ministry row. Interspersed are various large churches and their statues.

   I even ran across St. Susanna, the church Claire Marie got to administer Communion back when she was here in 2010.


Three are large wall enclosed villas and other large stone buildings. All of these are pretty heavily guarded. Anything from Ministry of Economics, a massive structure, to Defense, lots of people with weapons here and bars on all the windows. A two block long enormous edifice had a single entrance in the middle. I did what I did at every building with armed guards, I went up and asked what building it was. The monstrosity turned out to be the Presidential Palace. Looking through the entrance I see a beautiful garden area, so I ask the Ak47 toting guys, can I come and take pictures, he lowered his eyes, and shook his head.  Alrighty, then.  I’m off down the street, enjoying the fenced park opposite the Prez’s palace as I come to the end of the building and turn the corner

I’m at the top of a hill with steps going down into the neighborhood below. It dawns on me that the Spanish steps go down into a neighborhood and were built by Spain’s Ambassador. So, Prez palace and Embassies. and Ministries… While I know this isn’t them steps, cuz there’s am amazing church at the top of those and they’re wider and more spectacular. This is probably in the neighborhood.

So down the steps onto a windey street full of shops food places and lots of people. I come to an intersection, and guess what’s to my left, right smack in front of me?

Trevi Fountain.

Water was off.  That didn’t seem to bother the hundreds of people that were there.                    http://www.trevifountain.net
Looking for a bathroom in Rome is a challenge. If ya don’t buy something, you can’t use it. Same in Florence. But in Rome, an awful lot of places don’t have, or tell you they don’t have a ‘toilet’. I f you say bathroom or anything beside toilet, they stare at you.  I pass this:


I come upon a square with lots of food choices, and pick the one with fresh fruit smoothies, hoping for something healthy and a toilet.

 My smoothie of passion fruit, mint, and apple (the mint made it), and a savory “torte”, a really thin spinach quiche.   atrestaurant.it   At aT, they call it ‘active natural eating’, they have a shop in Brussels, Rome, and soon coming to the USA, where this concept will do splendidly.  It would be at home in Boulder, Berkley or Miami, really it would do well in most cities.

 No toilet, but now, I head out in earnest to find Pantheon, since I remember it wasn’t that far from Trevi fountains.  Finding access to facilities at a Gelateria for the price of a bottle of water (I know you were worried for me since I’ve been looking for a while).  I’m now beginning to recognize buildings and shops from the last time I was here.  But wait, what’s this large church like building in this square. It’s unassuming,  simple and lacking in the usual, ostentatious edifice. L’Aventura di Ignacio di Loyola church.  And as we’ve come to expect, it’s awesome in its magnificent art. It’s trompe-l’oeil painting (use of fake perspective) is legendary, especially the “fake” dome.    http://santignazio.gesuiti.it/en/  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sant%27Ignazio_Church,_Rome

              

The tomb of Pope Gregory XV.  Pope Gregory XIII is the Gregory tomb in St. Peter’s.

                        

As I come down the lane the familiar structure of Pantheon begins to appear.

  

The finger of God is pointing to this unique and influential building.

             Dedicated to the worship of every god (Pan-every, Theon-divinity), the Pantheon was built by the Emperor Hadrian between 118 and 125 A.D. over the ruins of another temple dating back to 27 A.D. Statesman and General, Marcus Agrippa was responsible for the construction of the original church, to whom a dedicatory inscription is clearly visible over the magnificent portico.

In 609, it was converted into a Christian Church by Pope Boniface IV and consecrated to Santa Maria of the Martyrs.

   Turned into a memorial chapel for the kingsof Italy in 1870, the tombs of Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I and Margherita of Savoy are to be found here together with that of Renaissance Artist Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, we know him as simply Raphael.    A ray of slanting sunlight shooting down from the “oculus”,  a 9- metre round aperture at the very top of the dome that illuminates the entire building.

If it is raining, the falling water disappears into the floor’s 22 virtually invisible holes. Except these four directly under the opening:

    


  
  
  
The lecture in front of the altar.

This is above Raphael’s tomb . 
  

Sant’Agnes in Agone.  The 14 yr old martyr. Patron saint of young girls. 
  
  
  

http://www.rome.info/pantheon/
Since the light is beginning to change to evening and I still have some fight in me, I head out from Pantheon towards Plaza Navarona and its fountains.

Passing a simple ( for Rome) church on a corner I stop in for a sec:

  
  

Coming upon a museum that I wasn’t sure if I should pay to go in since I was trying to get to Navona before I lost the light, they were advertising an exhibit about the end of World Was II. I did get off a few pics in the lobby though:
    
As you leave the museum courtyard and walk through the pass-through, it opens up on to Plaza Navona.  Pope Innocent X whose family palace, the Palazzo Pamphili, faced onto the piazza as did the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone of which Innocent was the sponsor.the buildings are a perfect example of Baroque Roman architecture.  Innocent X reigned from 1644 until 1655.  The piazza contains the Famous Bernini fountain, Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) 1651.

                          Fountain dude is photo bombing me.

There are two other fountains in the piazza, and their pics and countless others as well as video of a complete walk around the track, this used to be a Roman “circus”.     http://www.reidsitaly.com/destinations/lazio/rome/sights/piazza_navona.html

 

 I didn’t get a good shot of the front of the the church and palazzo, so this one above is a stock one.


             

St. Agnes. They tried to burn her at the stake, but the fire didn’t harm her.  So the Romans chopped off her head. It’s here behind glass at her tomb (the skull).   I didn’t photo it cuz, creepy.

    http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/rome-sant-agnese

Now I’m starting to feel it, and start my walk back, its miles to the hotel. When after I’m a couple of blocks outside of the plaza, I begin to feel it and decide there’s no way I’m walking all the way back to the hotel, and I should eat now since I have to be up at 3:30-4:00 to get to the airport. I spy this trattoria with pscatore in the name. They have a coal fired pizza oven and make me some focaccia,  rosemary and Roman sea salt (?) on a light crunchy and chewey, basically pizza crust.  Wonderful flavor.  This accompanies buffalo mozzarella and Parma prosciutto.

  Next I have a “Roman” risotto, tomatoes and herbs topped with five types of pesce.  Mussels, calamari, clams, shrimp and baby lobster.nice risotto with fresh tasting seafood.  I put some fresh grated parmagiano and jumped the flavor.  
Stuffed and can’t wait to get back and get some rest before my ride to the airport comes for me at 3 AM.  I walk to a cab stand and  make it across town in a slow cab ride through busy Thursday night traffic.
Twenty-three thousand steps through a busy, noisy, kinda dirty, exciting, surprising, glorious city on my last day in the Mother Country.

 

Vatican City, it’s labyrinth of museums. St. Peter’s, and Sistine Chapel neck.

New blog post Wednesday November 11, 2015
Vatican City, it’s labyrinth of museums. St. Peter’s, and Sistine Chapel neck.

Caput Mundi.

  Almost 22,000 steps, again. Up and down stairs and hills.Arriving for my appointment at the Vatican Museum entrance for my 10:30 AM time, really only means that I’ve skipped the lines. The Vatican is very efficient and specific and security conscious, until you actually pass the last check point. Then it’s a free for all. I guess one could pay for a tour and learn the specifics of each item the tour thinks is important. Or get an interpretation in English of the Italian sign descriptions, or what the Latin inscriptions on statues mean. But why take all the fun out of wandering around the maze. of rooms and floors? Popes from all eras seemed to collect. Art, antiquities, and religious “stuff”, (is it blasphemy to call religious icons and art and relics and other sacred acrutriments, blasphemy?).

  The only official plaster cast of the Pieta that sits in St. Peter’s behind bullet proof glass. I could have touched this one, if I felt like taking chances with my life.  
The inscription says either, “Caesar is the genius of the family” plus something else, or it’s the Genio family monument during a Cesar’s reign.  Either way, a nice group of Roman statues with great examples of flowing robes. I’m a sucker for the folds in cloth.  This fascinates me.  How they did it and how to paint or draw it.

  My Tiberian selfie.

The Museum courtyard. A. Really large pine cone is on a pedestal in the middle of the monument in the center of this photo.

  The view out of a museum window. I actually leaned out the window to take it.  When I brought the top half of my torso back into the room, the female guard that was standing behind me just shook her head and walked away.
 Intricately carved tiny marble statues.


 
One of the Caesar’s heads, maybe. It’s really big, as most of the Caesars did have big heads. It went with the job.

The above is a mere sampling of so many other overwhelming pieces of art and antiquity and sacredness, that there’s too much to assimilate and share.

So after countless photos and some videos, the majority that are on the other camera, I’m beginning to tire of the mass of humanity that is here either on tours or wandering, or standing, or sitting around. I spent some time perusing the museum gift shops, they have some unique and beautiful stuff not seen or available anywhere except at the MV (Museumeo Varicano). I did squash the urge to pick up an item or two.

At the four hour point, I was over the crowds and the Raphael room and a line estimated at fifteen minutes or more cuz  (damn Korean or Chinese tours!) this place is packed, so I skip a very important part of the museum complex.  I’m disappointed about this, but I’m pretty done with the crowds and the standing, waiting and slow moving.  I still want to see Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s with time to spare for the walk and time to spend at the Pantheon. A heart breaking decision, but I missed the Pantheon last time since we got there just as they were closing. I go in the direction of the Sistine, but the Vatican is routing all traffic through the “modern” era of the collection that most skip. It’s a lot of walking in and out, up and down past interesting stuff but I’m in no mood to linger around modern art today, nor do I have the time to waste, I have Michelangelo on his back with paint in his eyes creating yet another masterpiece on my mind.

Entering the Sistine Chapel is quite n experience. At once familiar and shocking and overwhelming and breathtaking all at once. Words are hard to come by, one just stares. As countless individuals and faithful have done foe centuries, I crane my neck. The Vatican police are here and they enforce the “No pictures” (No soup for you!) rule/law.

I get the wild hair that if use the “selfie” feature on the phone, I can serrupticiously wander and photo or video with out holding the camera up to take pictures.

  
  
  
I have selfie videos walking around showing more of the same as above photos show.

There were quite a few who took photos or video even though they were yelled at. One Asian kid was grabbed and made to stop, also escorted out, because the guy had yelled at him twice. As I moved to the back of the barn, that’s what Michelangelo called it, and further away from militant anti-photo troops more people were sneaking photos. One lady held up her iPad, cover hanging off of it and blantently snapped photo after photo.

As I wandered through selfieing the videos and pics,  I heard people saying, “How’s he doing that”, or gesturing at me, I saw one girl copying me. Ya know, all they had to do was watch us for a while and all of us would’ve been kicked out. So now the images I’ve captured give us the feeling of looking at the ceiling from on your back.

I’ve now been in the Chapel for fifety-four minutes. I figured if I head out the other side door, I can go into St. Peter’s and check out the things that were blocked off last time for restoration and get a close up of Bernini’s canopy over the alter above St. Peter’s grave, and the back alter because they were having a service at the time we were here. Also a good portion of the left side was being restored.

This was taken in the Sistine gift shop where there’s a display showing an ancient spiraling column that is behind glass and explicitly says no photos, got one off of a bottom part as the guard lunged at me yelling, “No photo!”

  Below is the stairway from Sistine to St. Peter’s.

  
  
So entering the Basillica you see this:

  
  
  This time they had guide barriers taking the crowds past the Pieta and up the right isle half way where the guides brought people back to the center. Right down the center isle was roped off, also. The chapels on the right side past the wax body display of Pope John the twenty-third…

(see this article from the time they brought him out for display) http://articles.latimes.com/2001/jun/04/news/mn-6245  

…were blocked off.  I could get pics at the barricade but no up close or around the corners. That’s one thing Rome and Florence have in common, they’re always “restoring”  and preserving something.

  Pope Gregory tomb from Gregorian Chant and Gregorian Calendar fame.


Sanctus Loginus Martyr or Holy Martyr Longinus

  Bernini’s canopy with the throne of St. Peter in the back and it’s stained glass dove above the enormous bronze sculpture (the dove is 6 feet wide).  More info at:  https://maitaly.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/bernini-his-mark-on-st-peters-basilica/
  
The inscription says: “universus carmelita ordo fundatori suo s. elia propheta erexit” Or  “founder of the men of his own order of the Carmelite, s. Elijah the Prophet set up”

Or as I like to call it ” the pointing guy”. He’s seen everywhere. Probably not always St. Elijah. He’s even on the Sistine ceiling in the guise of God pointing at Adam…

 There’s lots of articulated statues everywhere, in Rome and Florence.  This is one of  the dancing ones you see very so often.  Last time I was here I saw the ‘Dancing Nun’ statue, I have a pic somewhere in the thousands of photos from 2010 but I couldn’t find the church she and her friends are boogieing on top of, so this’ll have to do.

From the Latin inscription, I’m assuming this is St. Juliana Falconeri the founder of  the Servite order.

  
Pope Leo’s tomb.

  


  
  Bernini’s monument to Pope Alexander the VII.
  

The little guy begged for me to take his picture. I call it the “Cherub selfie”.  Either that or he photobombed me.


I now realize that I’ve spent enough time today in here and need to get a move on if I’m not going to make it to Pantheon on time. After copious video taping and photoing, I decide, better run now.


So around 11:45 while I’m inside the museum complex on God knows what floor or room, I start getting texts from Lufthansa that there is an issue with my flight tomorrow and I need to call customer service. I have no internet and very little signal so I can’t make a call the entire time I’m in the Vatican buildings. As I’m trying to figure out where Pantheon is, I’ve decide I can walk it, my phone finally has a signal as I leave St. Peter’s square, and I call Lufthansa customer service. At the 20 minute mark on hold, it dawns on me that at 35 cents per minute, this is going nowhere but deeper into my pockets. I’ve been standing in the shade by Castle St Angelo near the famous bridge with the statues, and if I go in, then I’ll miss Pantheon. I take lots of photos and video the statues as I walk over the bridge.  Heading off in the direction of Pantheon, but my energy is lagging and I turned right when I should of turned left and I’m still fifteen minutes or more away and I realize walking the distance from Vatican City was probably not the best idea, in Florence one can make from one side of the city to the other in fifteen minutes. So I’m down some back street and just stop. I haven’t been able to get Lufthansa yet, I’m tired and haven’t eaten since my protein bar at 1 PM. Plopping down at this little trattoria:

 anticatavernamangiabene.it

The moment I sat down all my energy was gone.  I didn’t feel like a meal so I tried the vegetable soup. It had a nice warm veggie packed nourishing effect. Also included was house baked bread, it was crunchy and crispy and a chewey buttery garlic toast. When soaked up in broth the flavor jumped up again.

 They had wifi but my phone signal was gone.  Time really disappears when one is wandering, especially when one is not sure where they’re at.

 So now nourished and resigned to having missed Pantheon again, the taxi stand I passed a couple of blocks ago looks real good by now.

 The Beat Western Villafranca amazing employee Serina, who has helped me ship somethings to the USA and answered all my inane questions, in addition to a great international geopolitical, historical, and cultural discussion, suggested trying Lufthansa again since they sent the texts and emails, but use the free hotel phone and call the Roman phone number. Now after another twenty minute hold, I give up.  After watching the news in the hotel lounge, where they’re saying the strike at the airlines might go on for another day to Friday. Serina suggests I call United who I booked the flight through. After getting a live English speaking person in Italy (only five minutes total before a live voice!), they rebook me for Friday morning on the same schedule. If I had called United when Lufthansa sent the first text, then I would have traveled on Thursday as planned. Oh Well, another day in Rome, there are worst places to be stranded, besides, there’s that matter of not having been inside the Pantheon, it’s my nemesis.

So now it’s late, I’m hungry for protein, maybe fish. I decide to try the other dinner recommendation

  
  
The fresh sea bass is pan grilled & lightly steamed. An amazing fresh taste. I can almost taste the sea. Light with just a little seasoning. The sautéed spinch is similar to last nights, fresh with a little lemon on it. I try some of their homemade bread in olive oil, soft and good baked crust. I don’t push it and stop at two pieces. After I’m finished I pass on desert and have the Sicilian Amaro. Not too sweet, thick and a hint of molasses to the flavors.

Now it’s time to bed cuz to morrow, Pantheon! On the extended stay version of my time in Roma. Caput Mundi, indeed.

  
  
 Caput Mundi is a Latin phrase taken to mean “capital of the world” (literally: “head of the world” ).

Trains, Tuscan countryside, Avoiding the Pope, and Rome, Finally!

New blog Tuesday November 10, 2015
Trains, Tuscan countryside, Avoiding the Pope, and Rome, Finally!

 I’m out early, because el Popo is coming and every security, Polizia, Carabenari, and what looks like the National Guard, is out in force. I saw them yesterday and last night, but his morning they’re like ants. Since it’s still early Giovanni and Ella were still asleep, and I didn’t want to wake them to say goodbye, I left a note. Surprisingly the only people’s in the Piazza are security forces and they let me through and I take a route around the Pope route. It seems like the 15+ minute walk isn’t too long, I’ve made it many times by now. I get inside the station and there’s lines for tickets. The machine won’t take bills or a card. I begin to wonder if I can get this done for the train at the top of the hour, when I see it has been delayed by ten then fifteen minutes. Waiting in line for the ticket guy, I notice every so often someone moves past the line as a number comes up and goes to that window. They get waited on and the line continues. I contemplated this tactic, but my American tourist luck would be, “No ticket for you!”. So I wait the ten minutes, get my ticket find an English speaking porter who points out my platform out and the Naples train is coming, and it all works out, Whew!!

I enjoy the Tuscan country side. Peaceful, rural. It’d be like we were driving to Ft. Lupton, except there’d be hills, great trees, and ancient farm houses. And vineyards, and, you get the drift.

 I made the rookie traveler mistake, when I heard ‘station’ I think, “Oh I’m here”. Yea, but not the Termini, but the station outside of Rome, so €1.50 bus ride and 20 minutes later, I’m at Termimi and trudge the last five blocks to my hotel, Best Western Hotel Villafranca. A really nice modern Roma hotel. I’m exhausted and try to write or get oriented, but, after passing out for two hours, I wake and realize that if I headed out to Pantheon or Castle St. Angelo that Pantheon would be closed and I didn’t have the energy for a trek across town, but the pics of the castle at night really look amazing.  I need to figure out tomorrow and plan for my exit on Thursday morning.

I’ve been going non stop for three weeks and I’ve lost the motivation for the evening. Trying to figure out where to eat, since the last thing I had was the “roll” that Francesca gave me as a parting gift:

   It was a Panne with rosemary and raisins from a local bakery that I had at Todo Modo weeks before and I thought it was an amazing flavor combo. I had told them that I put butter and cinnamon+sugar on raisin toast and that this would make great breakfast all by itself, and that is what I had on the train with a Coke. Italian Coke is less carbonated than American Coke., like Coca-Cola used to be.

Having two recommendations for more local and traditional fare, I choose 4 Colonne Roma 4colone.it  I have the Veal with lemon sauce and prosciutto with sautéed spinach with olive oil and lemon. Very light and flavorful. After trying to write, I stop at the local bar and have a Sicilian Amaro. A little thicker and darker in flavor, more molasses-like. Randy turned me on to the aperitif and I now try to have it every night. Tasty and it aides digestion, too.

My plan is to get out and see around Vatican City and its museums and the Siistine Chapel. Then walk over to the Pantheon.  My travels end Thursday.

Today has been long and tiring. Traversing the Tuscan countryside and arriving in the Eternal City. Another adventurous day on my journey in Italy.

Calabrian food, wandering in the dark, and avoiding a cross.

New blog post   Monday November 9, 2015

Calabrian food, wandering in the dark, and avoiding a cross.IMG_0788-1

I started my last morning in Florence at Artigianale with a dopio Americano and a delightful convo with some American students from Kansas. After a bit I say my goodbyes to Daniel and Jennifer. She is featured in an article in Standart magazine, the coffee magazine, issue no. 3   “Meet your Barrista:   A chat with Jessica and Francesco from Ditta Artigianale, one of the finest speciality coffee places in Italy.”

image   http://www.dittaartigianale.it/

I grab my laundry and head to a wash & fold lavenderia, for €4 more I’ll let them do it so u can use what time I have left. It’ll be done at six.

I’ve realized that for the most part, I’ve been to all the places I’ve wanted to go and an I walk around visiting shops and picked up some Florentine made leather belts. I’ve collected few items and now take my list of Tuscan wines to the two wine shops rhat I’ve spent a little time in. I select Borgo, just around the corner from San Lorenzo church.  Borgovino.com  Cheryl is an American from Chicago, she’s been here in Florence for forty years with her husband who runs a wine shop across the street. After selecting a case for shipping, I thank Cheryl for her suggestions and help, I also picked up a bottle for tonite’s dinner party.

IMG_0861-0

At four o’clock I had been passing by the lavenderia and I thought I might pop in to see if my clothes were ready. The old guy running the place snapped back in Italian at me when I asked I there were done. An Asian customer was there and interpreted, he said, “The man said to tell you that, and he said in words I can’t repeat, that you were told six. And six means six. He also said something not nice about tourists. I’m sorry.” I was like, “OK, thank you.” I was put in my place by a multi-lingual interpreter of a surly old dry cleaner guy.

I went home, was around the corner and took a nap, and packed a little. So at six I show up to a present lavenderia man who thanks me for my business. His daytime personality is different than his evening personality. He was a little smug looking, probably because he knew he put me in my place (the ” No soup for you! syndrome we find at various merchants).

After packing my clean laundry, I get ready for my evening out, Francesca is having a dinner party and she is cooking what she called, ‘Calabrian specialties’. This is an exciting possibility since I have ancestors from Calabria.

Arriving around 8:30 PM, the apartment is really on the other side of town, way further west than the map indicated, plus I went left instead of right at this intersection:

image

And I had to walk all the way to the Arno and back up back streets, at one point the map and I weren’t in sync, after asking a street vender for the street directions, he pointed up to the building, in Florence all, or most all, street names are carved in stone plaques on each corner, so I was on the right street and just down the block. “Better late than never”, as the saying goes.

The guests are English speaking and Italian speaking, and very pleasant people. I think Francesca brought us all together so some could work on their Italian and others on their English. Francesca’s brother says too many speak English like “macaroni”. I think he means that it the speech is a jumbled word spaghetti. I’m the only one not using a different language, I try to figure out words to get the inferred meaning, but it’s just fascinating to lis ten to languages back and forth.

We open the wine I brought:

image

https://www.facebook.com/francesca.barbiero.14/posts/10208255761658009:0

Francesca sets this table:
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We have cubes of fresh Parma paired with marmalade she made of fig, my favorite, pear, and an orange that was subtle and not quite the orange marmalade we are used to in the states. Next there’s sautéed spinach with some garbanzo beans, a pâté’ of chicken gizzard on crostini, then olives and homemade sun dried tomatoes that were a burst of flavor in an almost sweet extra virgin olive oil.

Next, yes more food, out came Paglia Fenial; two kinds of wheat pasta one was spinach, it had a light almost clear sauce with pancetta and shredded pumpkin in it. What a delightful and tasty flavor. I had a second helping. They laughed and said something in Italian, probably when I get home my family will see me ‘fat and happy’. At this point I can’t believe the spread, when out comes a plate that was filled with thin chicken breasts grilled with grilled diced eggplant, olives, sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, I think pine nuts, and rucola, or rocket as its known- we call it Arugula. This is found every where. No iceberg lettuce here.

After all this, the four of us are stuffed, when little tarts and espresso are served. Quite the meal for one person to produce. But it makes sense, since Francesca’s family owns a restaurant in the Calabrian hills. Il Mulino https://it-it.facebook.com/pages/Buonvicino-Ristorante-Il-Mulino/256668777693109

Since I have to be up early and it’s around midnight now, I leave with some other guests. After saying our goodbyes, I’m out on the street, and I realize, it’s a long way home, I’m tired, full, and have had some wine, but I amble up north, I think, towards what I assume wI’ll be the train station, SMN. It’s after midnight and I’m wandering in the dark in not the most tourist part of town, I realize that the second item that I’m not happy about traveling is, I can’t get in my car and just drive. We are so used to the convenience of driving everywhere, when you really just want to go, to just be somewhere, one has to walk, or find transportation. But I digress. I make it to the station and, they’re closed. No really. They close the train station over night. They’re not open until, like, five or six. My concern, and reason for trekking all the way up here after one AM, is that Popo is coming tomorrow and the majority of everything in the city will be shut down.

So I head on towards home, past Medici Chapel, San Lorenzo, down the block to Santa Maria del Fiore. I say my goodbyes to Brunelesci’s statue, on of my favorites, and head down the last two blocks to home.

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Brunei is the one on the right (one of my favorite selfies).

Apparently I have been lots of places today since it says almost 21k in steps. That’s a lot for one day. May last day in Florence. It was full of running around, avoiding the bishops parade that I literally almost crashed into the guy carrying the cross at the front as I rounded a corner. Seriously, they have almost as much security as Papa, yet there’s no one in front of the cross carrying guy?  I can see the papers tomorrow, “American knocks over cross at bishop parade”.

So my last evening here on this three week adventure was filled with another great time with friends, full of authentic Calabrian cooking, wandering an empty ancient city full of treasures and history. History that I’ll need another trip to comprehend and absorb it and the people fully.

Only scratched the surface.

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Hiking Florentine hills, Michelangelo’s Estate, and mass with monks in a crypt.

New blog Sunday November 8, 2015
Walking and hiking, Michelangelo’s estate, and mass with Monks in a crypt.
 I slept in a little cuz I was up,late and I knew it was going to be another long day with lots of steps, so I rested up, wrote a little and had a triple cappuccino, stopped at the bakery for a panini, light crispy buttery bread with salt on the crust, roast turkey, pecorino, and tomato, before I head out walking westward. As I pass the turn to Santa Croce I begin to wander neighborhoods. After a while I’m pretty far from the city proper.

I make way south of the Arno, trying to imagine all morning what it was like to have this entire region under 5 feet of water, see post on the 1966 flood from yesterday. Americans thought Katrina was bad. The Italian government didn’t respond for six days, then only allocated an extremely small amount of lire to the cause.

Anyways, it’s almost two when I get to Poggi’s park that turned the hill into what is called Michelangelo’s Estate. http://www.visitflorence.com/florence-monuments/piazzale-michelangelo.html Originally meant as a tribute to the artist, all that got completed besides the beautiful park, trails, a bronze replica of David and select sculptures from the Medici chapel in an impressive monument. Then there’s a large loggia that was going to contain other replicas and tributes to the Master. The loggia is now part of an expensive high end restaurant, one has to be paying for the view.  The large hilltop parking lot, for want of better words, is crowded with a mass of tourists and others hanging out and taking photos and selfies, present company included.

 I’m not very good at the selfie, my arms are too short, or my head is too big.  But I digress…

  
  
  
The road continues up the hill where a large stair case takes one up to San Minato Al Monte. Saint Minato was an Armenian who came to help merge the eastern church with the western church when he was martyred. The church has been many things, including a garrison with military designs by Michelangelo.

  
  
As I was marveling at the enormous beams in the high ceilings, the church is about half the length of Santa Maria del Fiori or Santa Maria Novella, but just as tall.


I noticed folks going behind the alter, so I took the side stairs that lead behind the alter. What was cool was the back 1/2 wall was open but had wrought iron gates. Looking through I could see what they called the crypt.


Baroque vaulted ceilings and people coming in and sitting on benches. I went down the steps and their was a passage that went around behind the stairs. This opened up into the vaulted “crypt”. At he back it was fenced in by wrought iron with spikes on the pickets. Inside was an alter. So I go to the back of the room where there are steps that go up but stop at the wrought iron fence that I saw when I was upstairs behind the alter.


  
So I sit and rest as the bell tower rings out and a monk in whitecomes through and down the isle, opens an entrance to the fenced area and sets up for mass. He begins to sing in Latin or Italian and all I can think, is this is amazing to have just happened in on the 5:40 PM mass by a monk in a crypt, and he’s locked behind the fencing, so my pop culture brain flashes the scene from The Blues Brothers movie where they’re playing the cowboy bar behind fencing, because the audience throws their beer bottles at the stage.

 Ok, so I get a grip and turn on my audio recorder (I have the entire mass recorded, the majority of it was sung, since the light is to low to film, but I can get off some photos, but I can’t get the monks face too good at this distance plus there’s fencing covering it. At one point someone turns on some lighting so I can get a little movie. I stayed for the entire mass and communion, they use the same wafer that everyone in the world uses. I was hoping for some monkian artisanal host. No wine and a monk sang all through communion. They wrapped it up pretty quick, but his remarks before the blessing had something humorous in them, I knew this when most of the hundred or so people laughed.

  

  Michelangelo loggia, come restaurant.

  The only monument.


I took the steep short trail down to river level and towards home.  Stopping at la Fettunta for roast chicken.

 It’s the only place that I ran across who had some. Slightly gamier than American cage raised chickens. Nice flavor, though.

I’m at home now, and after writing, I have to organized my last day in Florentine culture.

Churches!  Wool!  Great Food!  Long Day! 

New post , Saturday November 6, 2015
Churches!  Wool!  Great Food!  Long Day! 

 I wake with a start, in my unconscious I realize that I still have a list of places to see and a wool festival to get to. Giovanni makes me coffee and I head off towards the PIAZZA SANTISSIMA ANNUNZIATA where the wool festival, farmers market, and craft fair is this weekend.

My first stop is Chiesa di Orsanmichele. Originally a granary and home to merchant organizations, Orsanmichele by 1404 it had become a church with each guild having its own tabernacle and being represented by a statue, it’s patron saint.  The interior’s late gothic style survives.

   
  
 On my way to the wool festival, I stop in at Chisea di Santa Marie Maggiore. A small very ornate very active parish. They had just finished a service when entered. I found a St. Michael scene in one its reliefs:

  
 Trying to move in and out as quickly as I can, since I know there’s still two or three more churches and the wool festival to get to today. I pass through the mass of Saturday tourists crowded on the way to and enmassed at, the Duomo. Just blocks northwest of Brunelesci’s hard to miss behemoth, is a small unassuming little church on a corner, set back a little bit to create Piazzetta di S Michelle Visdomini.

 It’s interior is a clean, creamy white with frescoes and some ornate decor, plus few statues.  The small, unassuming building is a comforting feeling local church, I have to keep in mind that most of the churches I see can date all the way back to the 600-700’s- occasionally there’s one from the 1800’s or was renowned multiple times and is a mix of hundreds of years of changes.      Next to the alter I found this:

 The caretaker sees me admiring the painting and he offers that in England, St. Patrick is really St. Michael. I haven’t been able to confirm this, but why would the little Italian guy in broken English, offer this info?

The legends and history of St. Michel is too numerous to go into here, suffice it it say that I’m greatful that he’s my patron saint. Read more about him  here: http://catholicsaints.info/michael-the-archangel/

Two blocks later I come upon the PIAZZA SANTISSIMA ANNUNZIATA.

 http://florenceforfree.co/2013/03/15/piazza-santissima-annunziata/
It became the home of “Innocenti”. The innocents were the orphans, and this became Europe’s first orphanage. Funded by the powerful and wealthy silk merchants.

The fair is in full swing. This festival occurs twice per year and November time means that it’s out with the T-shirts and shorts and sandals, and in with scarves, sweaters, boots and bucket hats to protect against the cold. So what better time for a wool fair? Florence is happy to oblige with a free outdoor crafts fair that champions local wool products created with natural dyes and the cream of artisan craftsmanship. See more at:

http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/whats-italy-november-2015#sthash.l2ySdDzV.dpuf

My photos from the fair, and exterior photos and movies of the churcha is on the other camera, but imagine your average fair/festival w booths and stalls, and you get the drift. Now besides the farmers and their local foods and cheeses from Capra, add various artisans, mix in copious amounts of hand made, hand spun, wool products, and you have this large festival.

I enter the Annunciation building/compound into a courtyard where there’s a massive display honoring the great flood of 1966. Denver wasn’t the only city devastated that year by floods. All of Florence was under five feet of water. It’s only now that most everything is restored and protected. Back then the Kennedy administration pledged $140 million to aid in the disaster clean up and aid. It was a massive international commune that came to the Florentines aid. Articles and photos can be found here:  http://www.florence-flood.com/

 Upon entering Annunciation, I witness a massive ornate and gilt, breathtaking church. It’s an active Parrish and a service is about to start.

The ceiling is gold.  There was lots of money in silk trade.

I light a candle and make an offering and submit my friend Brian’s (Boyan) father’s name for prayers. Mr. Ljubenko is in the hospital after he was struck by life treating illnesses. He’s a great, strong man who has been through a lot in his life, if he survived the wars, he can survive this. God is on his side.

  
 By now I’m kinda hungry since all I’ve had all day is a coffee at home, and I spy a funky little joint off to the side of the large church compound. They have a different selection of panini from what is found at the sandwich shops in Florence.  The bread is lighter and crispier, even buttery. I get sliced turkey, a pesto, or “green sauce” made of basil, olive oil and anchovy, with tomatoes. Nice crunch to the warm sandwich that has a fresh salty light flavor compared to the different salamis and prosciuttos that I usually get.

  I have a dopio Americano and pack it in and head out for one more church. And this one’s a doozie.
Santa Maria Novella is referred to by many as SMN, like the the train station. But right across the street, those weary travelers sometimes miss the massive grounds containing cloisters, and out-buildings, and courtyards, and a massive church with significant artistic treasures. There’s a very large Piazza out front for congregating and siting in the sun or just reflecting.

  
One enters through a courtyard and a side door into the massive structure. Similar I’m size to Santa Maria del Fiori or Santa Croce, it is still undergoing restoration mainly due to 500-700 year old construction. The roof leaks. Frescos are damaged, etc. the Strozzi family played a big put in original funding of the facility we see today. Strozzi was the owner of the Strozzi Palazzo, now housing Salvatore Ferragamo ‘s flagship store, corporate offices and museum. So he’s buried here and has his own chapel, even in his will he left things to the sisters and monks.

  
  
  Cathy Jo’s patron saint, Catherine of Siena.
  I always liked this guy and his dog. There was a statue of him in Mount Carmel in North Denver, as a kid I thought it cool that a saint had a dog.  I believe it’s Saint Rocco, the Frenchman who cured disease on his pilgrimage to Rome.


 Pope Silverus.

St. Dominick entrusted Giovanni da Salerno with starting the church.  Below is his statue.  This is still an active Dominican facility. There is a display in one of the buildings showing the vestments of St. Dominick and St. Thomas.

Above and behind the alter are massive stained glass and frescoes. The chairs and cabinets are deep mahogany and walnut, intricately carved, and large.

  
  
  
 It’s been a very long day and it’s around 5 PM now, I’m actually not too tired. After listening to an amplified folk singer reinterpret American pop songs for a while in the Piazza, I make my trek through the city back home.

I decide to take a nap since Francesca and friends are having dinner at one of their chef friends restaurant. The reservation is for ten. http://www.libreriabrac.net/brac/      It shows up on this top ten list: http://www.10best.com/destinations/italy/florence/santa-croce/restaurants/libreria-brac/

It’s a gourmet vegetarian, very cool hip place, masquerading as a book store, coffee shop, restaurant. Clean decor and atmosphere, this reflects the food. Modern and stylish presentation with a fresh take on light non-meat items.

We split the red wine, Cannonau di Sardegna, and the white, Bianca della Congiura Pinot Grigio from Tuscany. As well as an avocado carpaccio, light fresh and just right. Can’t go wrong with seasoned avocado, sliced into thin ribbons! Next, hand cut pasta from large sheets, in a light sauce.  Then a nice palette cleanser with a sweet+salty flavor of pecorino and pear. Lastly, there’s the Spanakopita-like cheese, spinach, and seasoning in a ultra thin pasta shell, that was almost filo-like.

  
 A very satisfying and bright, light, fresh meal. Then they brought out a “cake” with pear slices in it and an espresso. I’m full but surprisingly don’t feel “full”. A nice meal all around. The place was packed and now I know why.

It’s almost one in the morning, and I say my good nights, and walk the blocks to my flat. A long and eventful day full of churches, wool, and really good food, all within these Florentine city limits.

  

Another day of drawing, something I never did before, and a fried egg.

Blog post, Friday November 6, 2015
Another day of drawing, something I never did before, and a fried egg.

Class started around 9:30, not really class since it’s open studio with no instruction. It’s my last chance to work in a studio in Florence before I head back home next week.

I spray fixative on my drawings so they can keep from getting smeared and I get prepared to do my last piece. I’m at a loss as to what to do so I pick a contemporary photo since I’ve been doing classical images. I choose to use colored chalk which this will be the first time I have ever used this medium.  Especially for a portrait.  I’ve always use pencil, charcoal, or water color for portrait.  Many years ago I did a very large oil painting  (4’x4′) that turned out pretty good, but successive tries didn’t fair so well.   I abandoned the color portrait after that.   So today I have a wild hair and with no training or guidance, today I do a portrait in color using colored chalk.   Not really thinking, just doing.   At about the five hour mark I wanted to give up. Really, at the three hour mark was when the doubts began, but I persevered.   It turned out different than I imagined, but it is what it is. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I was able to do some thing I had no idea how to do.  I presented it to the owner of the photograph, Francesca had hired me to do a portrait of her, so never one to turn down a challenge, I accepted and it is what it is.  I think she liked it it, but it was probably not what was expected.  This happens when one is commissioned to produce something.  After almost seven hours ( I know, really!?), I finished this:

 I’m exhausted by now and go home to get my cheeses & prosciutto I picked up yesterday. Taking the goodies out to the piazza to eat in the fading sunlight,the prosciutto is slightly spicy and thin jerky-like. It pairs well with the cheese crusted with dried oregano and basil.  I also got my favorite oil cure olives.  This is similar to how I eat at home, So, fresh local stuff was a great change of pace from USA deli imported versions.

 An interesting flavor combo. I really liked it. The ricotta is from goat and more flavorful than the one the other day, slightly salty with a mild ‘tang’. Avoiding the mass of tourists taking selfies, I go home to write and nap.

Waking after an hour nap, when it’s almost nine, good time to go out, especially on a Friday. I walk for almost an hour and since I’m not really hungry I end up at Artigianale. Maybe see what their nightlife is like. Since I’d like to write a little, I get a cappuccino, and after a while the foods coming out of the kitchen looks really good and smells are kinda making me hungry. I tell Jennifer to bring me what ever she had for dinner. What I get is essentially an sandwich with tuna sliced inside withe something creamy, and melted cheese on top, with tomatoes and toasted on  whole grain bread. Crispy and crunchy and cheesy. The kick is that it had a fried egg on top.

 By 11:30 PM I realize the place is packed and I’m holding up a table. Being pretty tired, I pick up and walk the five minutes home through the streets covered with late night tourists, locals, and students.   Duomo in panorama by night.

 Nice part of a 5 point intersection.

A day of drawing, roasted boar steaks and a vegetarian restaurant.

New blog Thursday Novmber 2015.  
A day of drawing, roasted boar steaks and a vegetarian restaurant.

  
We have an open studio say today and it startes at 9:30 AM, so I let out for Artigianale where Jessica serves me up some mint tea & Sfalgia. I make it to class on time with a dopio Americano to go. I select as reference Diego,Velazques, a Spansh Baroque painter’s ‘San Tommaso’ from 1631 (Saint Thomas Aquinas).   Standing at my easel, the colored chalk offers me a new approach, allowing for more depth than charcoal by itself. 

Having skipped lunch, I began to hallucinate about grilled chicken, BarBQ, and ribs. Probably because these are things you can’t get in this city. Anyways, this piece took me around six hours to complete. It was the same for the Raphael I copied two days ago. 

 
  After class I get a wild hair and decide to lit out to locate the cheese shop MK and I happened upon during the last trip. It’s on the south side of the river and about half way westward towards the the old wall of the city, of which only the giant arch entrance seems to remain, it’s still a major entrance to he city. 

   
So I find the shop, and the old guy who was there on my last visit years ago, is there. They had the same creamy Ricotta, it’s made in a basket so when it’s turned over in the case it has a honeycomb texture to the cheese. I also picked up an aged Tuscan prosciutto and another cheese, I’m assuming it was either a provolone, a Cacio Cavllo DOP., or a mozzarella, either way it way crusted with dried basil and oregano. So I got a little 1/4# ball. (These will be eaten tomorrow, you’ll have to wait to find out how they tasted).

I roamed around and hit Santo Spirto neighborhood and even tried to locate the Napaleanese pizza place from last time, but it is now a modern hipster pizza joint. Oh well all things must change (which is unusual for Florence, where it’s all about preserving the past). I also saw the one and only brew pub in the country that we visited it we visited when they first  opened the last time we came. I had run into a guy earlier whom I had been discussing food with and I had said that I was c raving grilled meat, chicken, fish, beef, grilled over a flame. He asked if I liked pork, or boar and I said either and his recommendation is Hosteria del Cinghiale Banco http://www.cinghialebianco.com/en_index.php 

   My guy turns out to be my waiter and he I tell him to give me what ever he would have for dinner, and since I told him I was craving fire grilled meat, I got wild boar steaks and flame grilled veggies. 

 What a beautiful roasted flavor. Medium rare with a great flame sear on each side. Seasoned perfectly.  

   
As I leave I thank he owner and tell him how this was really good and the boar was great grilled over the flame, he thanked me and I told him I appreciated the waiter being kind to me being a single table when they were so busy they were turning away tables, and his recommendations, the owner said, “That’s my son.” So I told him, he did a good job, and and he shook my and patted me on the shoulder and with a “Grazzie” he turned away, “Buona serra”.

 
 Just before I had found the home of wild boar, I happened upon the delightful place, Dolce Emporio.  http://dolcemporiofirenze.blogspot.it/  

Alice was an lively, articulate and helpful young lady who explained that they were established in 1961, And are the oldest candy shop in Florence. Located in the heart of the neighbourhood of San Frediano, it smelled soooo good upon entering.   Alice tells me about the cookies her family makes.  “Le Nonne.  Biscotti Di Nonna Rina”.  So after buying two flavors plus a bag of her favorite biscotti, I said good bye to the pleasant Alicce and a store with the the amazing Tuscan goodies and a scent that sticks with me.

Im very tired as I walk towards my flat, I had totally forgot what 5+’hours on your feet plus 12k steps feels like.   

   
I get a text from Francesca telling me that she’s having dinner with friends at Silvana’s a vegeterian restaurant, that’s the one I had a great convo with yesterday, and they asked if would come down for dinner. 
Since I’ve already eaten but I had told Sacha the chef that I would come back, here was my chance to make good on my word. The group of ladies were a pleasant bunch and one spoke a little English, so Francesca ended interpreting most of our conversations. When Sacha came by I told him I had already eaten but would have some soup (it’s already almost 10 PM) he tells me he has a chickpea like bean that he’ll make me a soup with. A great thick broth and little lupine bean-like tasting beans. A very savory and fresh balance of flavors. A custom made bowl of zuppa. The group had amazing dishes they shared of various veggies grilled and spreads, plus other delicious looking delights.  I didn’t understand the names of the gourmet vegetarian food that filled the table. It must of been good, they scarfed it up very quickly.  
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187895-d5121486-r302444291-Snack_Bar_Silvana-Florence_Tuscany.html

 Silvana’s is a cute modern chic fresh vegetarian restaurant with a hip vibe, something one would find in Boulder or Berkley. Is it a rare find to dine at a gourmet veggie place in Italy, or Europe, for that matter?

https://m.facebook.com/Silvana-biovegan-food-683516055101400/

At almost midnight I bow out cuz class is at 9:30 tomorrow and I’m really, really tired. I bid good night to all the lovely ladies and made a special point of going back to the kitchen to tell Sacha how much I appreciated his making me a bowl of really good soup from scratch. I promised that when I came back I’d know more Italian.    (Really, how many generations of us now, and how many have been able to speak Italian, outside of Cari?)

AND…

How many people hit a place that specializes in wild boar then have a vegetarian gastronomical surprise hours later? 

 So far, it’s me on another Florentine excursion.  

  
 

New blog post. November 4, 2015
  Dead Medicis, divine genius and another Ribollita.

It’s always the little pleasures in life.

Ella made me a coffee this morning and I had a fun morning conversation with my flat mate from Korea and her friend. Two lovely, pleasant and fun girls. I make haste across town. Making way to The Medici Chapel, San Lorenzo and the Medici compound which are located between Santa Maria Novella (and train station) and the Duomo.  

 http://www.museumsinflorence.com/musei/Medici_chapels.html

The €6 seems cheap entrance once you are inside and begin to witness another chapel come mausoleum posing as a museum. Kinda like Santa Croce but smaller, more intimate and thus has more impact. Don’t get me wrong, Santa Croce has size and volume of awe that still holds the memory.  

But if one does ones homework and one knows the history of this region and of this family/dynasty, the Medici, and most all of them are buried here, then one gets chills reading and pointing out the famous guys. They museum is redoing the entry lobby and adding an exhibit that shows off just some of the one of a kind ornate crystal, silver, and jeweled items that are part of the collection. Name the item, it’s there. Just the multitude of relics is impressive. I watched as the displays were being brought out and set up. Guys with cotten gloves carrying silver and crystal items. All intricate and filigreed. 

Heading to the Princes Chapel I found a good portion of it is under restoration. The eyroom behind the alter weren’t available at all and one side of the main room was sbarricaded soaps to only let us see only above the first six feet. I have video of the the room.  

But let’s be honest, one of the reasons we are here, and one of my pressing desires to return to this city, is the Michelangelo sculptures in the New Sacristy.  

      

 

   

   
Breathtaking and otherworldly, you stand up close and personal a mere feet away. It bogles the mind that one person did all this with hammer and chisel. When you see the David, or the Pieta or Moses, you are speechless as countless other creations in marble affect us. The Pieta and the Moses are kept a distance from the public and the David is guarded heavily. Some idiot broke one of his hands in an attack and that’s when the replica was placed in the Piazza del Signora, and the original was moved indoors. Since I was here last, they wouldn’t let you take photos in side but they’ve since lightened up al title and allow photos and videos even though last time I it off two iPhone pics with out being caught this time there’s no restrictions. I told this to one of the guards and she said, “Lots of tourists did that. So we changed. Now more like a museum.” They do have metal detecters and the same surly ladies running the ticket both and gift shop.  

Spending time inside what is essentially a mausoleum, one tends to forget there’s former people here. Like Santa Croce, this place has been presented as a museum. So we treat it like that. I’m able to video everything in minute detail and photograph as much . There’s the knave with Michelangelo sketches and cartoons on the wall behind glass. Fascinating attest to his having lived in the Sacristy carving and bypassing the Roman inquisition while he hid out here.  

Hours pass as I soak up the power and detail of these fabulous creations. I’ve been here before. When MK and I were visiting we spent considerable time in this room, I didn’t want to leave. I had sat on the step and was in the moment when a guard tapped me and asked if I needed help. They were very attentive back then, cuz, no photos. Today not a peep or presence, except if you use a flash, then they’re not happy. But really, a flash in an art museum? 

I could go on, and probably have, but after three hours with the Dead Medicis and the same bookstore nazi we ran into last time, I had to grab eats and head to class. Today we have a model. 

I hit the deli and get some prosciutto and cheese. If the meat is from Parma it’s considered sweet, if from Tuscany then more savory. Even though the Parma is a bigger slice, I go for the Tuscan one. My cheese today is Cacio Cavllo DOP. A Provolone type cheese. http://www.cheese.com/caciocavallo/ I nibble at this while I draw I class. 

Today we have a live model. My first four sketches don’t turn out too well, the proportion thing again. My last one came out good. I guarantee you she looks nothing like this: 

 After class I check out some shops and head home for a nap. Waking seven and remembering few open until 7:30, I walk around looking at restaurants and have a very good conversation with the chef from Silvana’s a vegeterian restaurant.  Sounds amazing. 

I end up at the spot I stopped in at last week to get veggie soup and write. 

A day full of genius and those visuals will live in my brain forever. 

    
    
    
    
 

Drawings and a secret garden.

New blog. Tuesday November 3, 2015
Drawings and a secret garden.

 After a Raphael fresco.

It started off as a good day and it just got better. Credence (CCR) was playing when playing when I got to Artigianale, it almost sounded like a cover band. You find that a lot, popular songs redone show up on the radio and in shops on a regular basis. I hear lots of “Classic Rock” some English punk, ska, etc. Some times it’s mixed with Italian & Euro pop and American pop songs. The music selection at Artigianale is eclectic to say the least. Sounds like the owners may have spen time at an American college town local coffee hangout, American blues, etc. the music changes and it’s the Rolling Stones. I just finished the green tea, I’m still writing and now I think, breakfast! So today it’s bacon and eggs again since it’s so tasty and I won’t be hungry for a while. As I order my scrambled eggs Francesca stops in and says she’s there for breakfast, too,so she orders yoghurt and fruit.


I promised you that I’d post some drawings so here goes.

  
  

Francesca tells me she volunteers at a ‘Social Garden’ and she is  going up there today. She asks if I’d like to see it. We head out on the 15/20 minutes walk north of Santa Croce cross the street from the Four Seasons hotel. There’s an entrance in the large wall and the sigh says

 Social garden is a Community Garden manned by volunteers. Jacomo runs this hidden facility ‘Orti Sociali Urbani’.

 Info below at these links:

http://www.lapietradialogues.org/blog/?p=2583

http://www.ortidipinti.it/en/

http://www.italianbotanicalheritage.com/it/scheda.php?struttura=1398

From what I was able to gather, the owners of the property have Special Needs facility here. Jacomo runs the garden, he’s an extremely intelligent and passionate Florentine that gave me some insight a challenges to some of my thinking about tourism. It has raised planters in a tree enclosed area that looks like it might have been a track, in the US it probably would have been a tennis court. To irrigate the planters they use decorated clay pots that the kids make in therapy.

  
  
The pots are filled with water and buried. They release water slowly into the planter to irrigate. Just remove the top and fill as needed.   There’s also specific planters that they kids care for, as part of therapy. I loved the volume of herbs and veggies growing. I witnessed various restaurant owners coming by to purchase their fresh herbs. My favorite thing they laughed at was stopping at the Rosemary bushes and sticking my face in and inhaling. Mmmmm, Rosemary!

  
  Mmmmm, Rosemary!


I had to leave so I could get to class on time and made a short video of most of the walk back.  After class I was kinda hungry but didn’t want to go out or go home, so I stopped at local deli and picked up this:


When I was little I remember going with Dad to Mancinelli’s Market. Down in North Denver next to I-25, it’s probably an apartment building or a yuppie brew pub by now. Anyways, the big old turn of the last century building with creaky floors and stuff everywhere, most of it imported from Italy. That big meat and cheese area in the back, everything hanging from the ceiling. Dad always ordered Scamorza cheese. It’s an Italian, spun paste cow’s milk cheese belonging to the pasta filata family. Shaped similar to a provolone in pear shape, it is available in many other forms as well. A semi-soft white cheese with a texture comparable to that of a firm, dry Mozzarella, Scamorza is made throughout Apulia and in some parts of Campania and Molise. http://www.cheese.com/scamorza/

I tell you this cuz at the deli they have a few fresh balls from their morning delivery. I older 5 slices of their best prosciutto and one of the pear shaped cheese. When MK and I were here a couple of years ago we had a slice of ricotta from a cheese shop that was to die for. I see fresh ricotta and ask for slice. He says sheep,or cow, I say sheep. What I got was a scoop of creamy ricotta cheese. Nothing special like I remember. Apparently there’s a couple different kinds. I stopped at a church and sat on the top steps and enjoyed myself. Life is good. There’s none of the Scamorza left for later. I called Mom & Dad and had a really nice convo.

It’s dark and I have been on my feet all day, since I draw/sketch standing up.

I’m calling it a day full of surprises.