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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Pisa and Milan

No need to prebook train ticket from Florence to Pisa, but DOES require prebooking to go up Pisa. Unfortunately we didn't do that, so we just took a lot of obligatory silly pictures:

Funny to watch all the other tourists doing funny poses:

The church nearby was also really grand and beautiful:

Easy walk from Trainstop to Pisa. And easy to get return tickets.
Other place you can go from Florence is Cinque Terre - wish we had gone, but heard there were mudslides there, so they closed off some hiking trails.

Quite the fashion city, very metropolitan. However, the cathedral is AMAZING! You can get tickets to go to the top, but we accidentally didn't get tickets to go inside. And going back in line to get tickets would be another hour. :( Ah well, after 2 weeks of visiting churches, we were fine with that.
Interesting juxtoposition of the old and the new
At the very top of the cathedral!

Very fashionable Milan:

The Scala Theater:

Yummy Luini Pastries:

Finally back to the States! (NY)

911 Memorial

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Florence (Firenze) Italy

In Florence, we stayed in a hotel next to the Arno River. No view, but we got to have a nice stroll along the river when we went into town.
Pont Vecchio on the Arno River

The first day, we went to the Uffizi - the most famous, largest art museum in Florence (maybe in Italy).  All the museums are free every 1st Monday of the month, so we were expecting super long lines especially since it was both Monday, and July - the busiest month. Sure enough, the line wrapped around the Uffizi, but being relatively early, it was tolerable and we only waited an hour. There are skip the line tickets for those who can't wait.
The Uffizi

We were so fortunate to come upon Steve Rick's guide to Florence, which had a complete guide to the Uffizi. It gave very interesting descriptions of the early Christian art, led us to the major artwork of Michelangelo, Raphael, and many other artists. It also helped lead us past some of the lesser known artwork that we wouldn't really appreciate anyways. 

Ognissanti Madonna alterpiece byGiotto di Bondone: also designed new bell tower of the Florence Cathedral. One of the first pieces to show perspective
Adoration of the Magi alterpiece by Fabriano, one of the masterpieces of the gothic style
Alan regarding Madonna of the Goldfinch, by Raphael
Hercules and the centaur Nessus sculpture in the hallway
Trying to copy the famous Dukes of Urbino, by Francesco.  Did you know this duke was blind on the right that's why he  only showed his left side?
La Primavera by Botticelli

The virtues
OMG! Birth of Venus by Botticelli!

View of the Pont Vecchio - on top is the corridor where royalty used to cross the bridge from the Uffizi without having to walk with the commoners
Venus of Urbino by Titian - sooooo pretty...
The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci
Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo da Vinci

Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio
Medusa by Caravaggio

After the Uffizi, we made our way up to the Galleria dell'Accademia. But on the way we found a street lady selling some local food, consisting of beef stew and beef stomach sandwiches. It doesn't sound very appetizing, but with some spices, it was pretty delicious!

We ate our sandwich while admiring the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (St Mary of the Flower). It was beautiful! It was made of different colors of marble from different places: white (Carrara), pink (Siena), green (Prato).

The exterior was so ornate and the interior is supposed to have one of the most beautiful marble mosaics as well. It has a Gothic structure and a cupola and tower that looks over the city. We didn't book in advanced or set aside time to stand in line, so we didn't make it to the top. As one of the largest cathedrals in Italy, it has the largest brick dome in the world. 

Even though the Galleria dell'Accademia was relatively small compared to the Uffizi, the grandeur of Michelangelo's David was worth it. The first thing we noticed was the sheer size of David.

Apparently, Michelangelo was given a piece of marble that others have rejected saying it was too large and too shallow, but Michelangelo carved a masterpiece out of it. The unusually large hands were supposed to indicate the power of God that possessed David to be able to shoot a sling shot that killed Goliath. From the front angle, it appears that David is serene, perhaps after killing Goliath, but when looking at David's face straight on, one can see the furrowed eyebrows and tense face, indicating it was before killing Goliath. Rick Steve also said his head is proportionally large because the statue was meant to go on top of the cathedral and the proportion of head would have been correct if viewed from below. However, before the completion, they soon realized the statue was too large to be lifted on top of the church. After taking a walk around David, one can see no detail was left undone, including the bulging veins on the dorsum of David's hand. 

Before David, were some of Michelangelo's unfinished work. It consisted of statues of slaves at various stages of being sculpted. Michelangelo apparently didn't plan or outline his work ahead of time like most other sculptors. Instead, he would work in periods of frenzy, chipping away at pure stone. Looking at these people climbing out of stone really makes one appreciate his amazing skills.

Another section of the museum showcased busts carved by art students in the nearby art school. Definitely not as good as the master...

The last interesting section was a museum of ancient instruments, including the first piano. 

We then walked to the Loggia dei Lanzi, a 14th century wide-arched open-air gallery that showcased Renaissance sculptures:
Loggia dei Lanzi
Hercules defeats the centaur Nessus; Rape of the Sabine Women 
Rape of Polyxena
For the evening, we had a leisurely stroll across the Ponte Vecchio and through the Boboli Gardens.