Before we knew it, it was the morning of our last day in Florence. I was very sad about it as I have totally fallen for this city. Firenze is for sure another city that I am adding to the list of cities that I would move to within a second.
We started the day with going to the Duomo, which is a miracle of Renaissance engineering and architecture. The inside of the cathedral holds some Uccello frescoes but is otherwise pretty bare. The baptistery contained beautiful Byzantine mosaics and the breathtaking Gates of Paradise. Inside the Museo we got to see statues by Michelangelo, Donatello and Andrea Pisano. One of the highlights was climbing 414 steps up to the top of the Giotto’s bell tower. It was quite the exercise, but it was definitely worth it as the payoff was an incredible view of the entire city.
Then it was time to do a little bit of shopping. We went to the San Lorenzo Market where I bought a beautiful yellow leather belt and a nice cashmere scarf for the cold Canadian winters. I went into some more stationery stores fascinated by the locally made paper products and we ended up stumbling across a tiny little leather store with beautiful leather bags. The store owner explained some of their production methods to us and it was wonderful to be in a little store that wasn’t filled with tourists. I have to say I absolutely love Italian fashion and the shopping in Florence was amazing. Our next stop was Santa Croce, which is pretty much Florence’s Westminster Abbey. The church also contains the tombs of one of my favorite painters of all times “Michelangelo”, Giotto frescos and the world famous leather school Scuola del Cuoio, where we had the opportunity to watch the craftsman work on leather purses and leather-bound books. What an incredible art form!
We walked along the river Arno to the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. There are shops hanging from both sides of Taddeo Gaddi’s medieval bridge. In the 16th century Ferdinando I evicted the butchers from the shops because he didn’t like the smell and they have been replaced by goldsmiths, silversmiths and art dealers. It is said that the economic concept of bankruptcy originated here: when a merchant could not pay his debts, the table on which he sold his wares (the “banco”) was physically broken (“rotto”) by soldiers, and this practice was called “bancorotto” (broken table; possibly it can come from “banca rotta” which means “broken bank”). Not having a table anymore, the merchant was not able to sell anything.
For our last night we went back to the Piazza della Signoria and had a wonderful dinner listing to an incredible opera singer who was performing on the street. Of course we ended our last night with some gelato.
This was a day filled with art museums. We had a reservation for the Uffizi in the morning and for the Galleria dell Accademia in the afternoon (make sure to get reservations if you are planning on going to these!).
Some of the Uffizi highlights were the “Birth of Venus” by Botticelli, “The Annunciation” by Leonardo da Vinci, the “Holy Family” by Michelangelo and the “Bacchus” by Caravaggio. My favorite was the Birth of Venus and in general the Leonardo da Vinci room (room 15). The museum is really beautiful and the views from the upper floors were really nice.
Then we were off to the Galleria dell’Accademia. On our way there we strolled through the cobblestone streets going into some beautiful stationery stores (one of my obsessions) and we went to see the Duomo (just from the outside for today). The Accademia di Belle Arti and the adjoining Gallery still occupy the premises that were assigned in Via Ricasoli, a former convent and hospice while the headquarters of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno nowadays is Palazzo dell’Arte dei Beccai. The accedemia was the first academy of drawing in Europe. It was nice to see all the art students walking around. I wanted to go check out the school and walked into the court-yard. K. was walking a bit behind me and he got stopped as the school is not open to tourists. The advantage of being European and not looking like a tourist! I felt bad about keeping him behind so turned around as well. I would love to go back to school someday and take some classes in Firenze.
On our way out we went to see the “Contemporary Architecture in Finland” exhibition showcasing selection of contemporary Finnish architecture projects, installations of the Finnish designer Eero Aarnio, as well as various objects created by young Finnish designers. The projects featured focus on their ability to represent people friendly architecture. Very inspiring exhibition.
We were pretty tired after a day filled of art exhibitions and spent the evening walking around the streets of Florence, having a wonderful dinner on a beautiful piazza. On our way back to the hotel we enjoyed another incredible gelato. Good thing we walked so much!
We started our day by walking down to the beach one more time. I sat there with my eyes closed listening to the waves. I tried to take in the sound and smell so that I would remember it for a long time. And then we were on our way again to catch the ferry to take us off this beautiful island. It was a beautiful day and it was nice to feel the breeze on the ferry and enjoy the wonderful views. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of sailing boats passing us and the details on the deck of the ferry.
We took a train to Florence, which took us through more of the stunning Tuscan landscape. I fell in love with the city pretty much in the first 5 minutes of being there. The city lies on the River Arno and is the cradle of the Renaissance, the city of Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.
We spent the first night in Florence watching the World cup on an outdoor screen in a small piazza and spending time in the bustling Piazza della Signoria. The piazza was filled with people, live music and incredible sculptures. The atmosphere was absolutely breathtaking.
Make sure to come back for more pictures of Florence. Here are a few.
We spent the next 3 days on Elba enjoying relaxing, going to different beaches, catching up on reading and sketching. It took us a day or so to get used to the slow pace but once we got used to it we embraced it and enjoyed every second of it. We visited Napoleon’s official residence in Portoferraio. The Palazzina dei Mulini is a national monument, situated between Forte Stella and Forte Falcone, which are the two Medicean fortresses of Portoferraio. It was the official residence of Napoleon and his sister Paolina. The museum houses several relics and from the garden you can enjoy a beautiful panorama on the Tyrrhenian sea. The museum is currently hosting an art exhibition of Napoleon’s niece “Charlotte Bonaparte” (1802-39). I was very impressed by her work (sketches, engravings and oil paintings) and it was nice to see the work of a female artist from the 19th century. After the visit to the museum we walked around the old part of town and I spent a few hours taking pictures. We had a wonderful time in Elba and when I think back to it I can still hear the waves.
I hope you enjoy the rest of the pictures of Elba!
We took a train ride along the coast from Rome to Piombino. It was wonderful to see the mediterranean again – it’s been a while! Once we entered Tuscany the landscape was just like I had always imagined. Beautiful vineyards, lots of bright colors and of course cypress lined roads. Absolutely stunning and so inspiring. I have been drawing cypress trees ever since we got back from our trip. Once we got to Piombino we took a ferry to the island of Elba. We sat on the top deck and enjoyed the wonderful view while eating a prosciutto sandwich (fresh baguette). Oh so good!
Once on the island we took a taxi windy road up into the hills along the coast to our hotel. I was so surprised about how lush and green the island is. We spent the rest of the day swimming in the mediterranean and just enjoying relaxing. We ended the night with a beautiful 4 course meal at the hotel and a bottle of red wine from a local vineyard that was seriously the best wine I have ever had.
Here are a few pictures. More pictures of Elba to follow.
I wanted to thank everybody for attending the opening reception of the “99 pieces of art on wall” show at cre8ery. It was wonderful to see so much support for local artists. I sold one of my photographs during the reception and yesterday I sold one of my oil paintings. It’s been a great week! The show is still on until September 3 so make sure to check it out if you haven’t had a chance to yet.
Tune in tomorrow as I get back on track with my entries about my trip to Europe. Here is a look at the pieces I sold this week.
Our last day in Roma! We had pretty much seen everything we wanted to and also had enough time to just stroll around the different neighbourhoods.
We had been hoping for a bit of a cooler day to go to the Roman Forum and the Imperial Fora, but not luck. So went anyway and spent hours in the unbearable heat taking in the site of the once bustling heart of ancient political, judicial and commercial power. We had to take frequent breaks and we tried to find shade under some trees. At one point I sat down in midst a group of teenagers from Germany, which turned out really well because their teacher was telling them all about the history of this fabulous place. I enjoyed just sitting in the shade and listening to a mini history lecture in my first language. We ended our last night with a really great dinner. After dinner we walked to the Colosseum one last time and enjoyed the night.
Here are a few pics. Enjoy and see you tomorrow on our way to Elba!
After being at Vatican City for a large part of the day we walked to the Castel Sant’ Angelo and then made our way across the river to the Piazza Novano. The piazza was filled with people and music. A freedom of information event was being held on the piazza. There was a lot of police presence but there wasn’t any violence.
We stopped for a drink and some fabulous lasagna and then we went to the Pantheon. I had been looking forward to the Pantheon (AD 118-125) for days and I was not disappointed. It took my breath away. Emperor Phocas had donated this pagan temple to Pope Boniface IV in 608 and by doing so he ensured the preservation of this ancient Rome marvel. The airy interior and the perfect proportions are breathtaking. The dome is the widest masonry dome in Europe and the middle of the dome is open to the sky. It supposed to be absolutely beautiful when it rains as the water splashed on the marble floor. I can’t wait to go back to Rome and see this on a rainy day.
We ended our day with a bit of shopping (we both bought beautiful leather sandals) some gelato followed by a really nice dinner and drinks.
After a bit of an adventure with getting on the wrong bus we finally got to Vatican City, the worlds smallest nation! We started out with the St Peter’s Basilica featuring Michelangelo’s Pieta, which he created when he was only 25 and of course Michelangelo’s Dom. Here are a few other highlights: Raphael Rooms, Chapel of Nicholas V, Caravaggio’s Deposition, Leonardo da Vinci’s St Jerome and one of my favorite sculptures ever “Laocoon”. There are 10 museums overall within the Vatican City so we saw incredible art from Michelangelo and da Vinci to Picasso and Dali. We ended our visit to Vatican City with the Sistine Chapel. It was very awe-inspiring to see Michelangelo’s ceiling in real life and to be staring up at the world-famous “Adam and Eve” fresco. One of my favorite parts of the ceiling was the depiction of the “original sin”. I sat down for what seemed like forever and just stared at the ceiling. It was extremely impressive and moving.
I will leave you with this and continue with part 2 of day 4 in Roma tomorrow.
We started our day like the day before with a wonderful breakfast in the beautiful courtyard of our hotel. Then we were off to another day of exploration. We spent the day walking all over the city without an itinerary. We ate gelato, drank lots of water (it was extremely hot) and even did a little bit of shopping on the famous Via dei Condotti. The biggest names of haute couture are all present and I felt like a kid in a candy store. I had always wanted a Hermes scarf and it was an amazing feeling to be able to walk into the store and pick a scarf for myself. I haven’t worn it yet but I can’t wait to. Even the packaging was beautiful with a beautifully designed box with Hermes printed ribbon and a heavy paper bag with the same design as the box. I have kept all the packaging. Another wonderful day in Roma ended with a wonderful dinner, more gelato and some drinks in the hotel courtyard.