Firenze, part 2

It’s an odd thing, to finally get the chance to see works of art that you’ve seen in books, that you’ve studied and analyzed and talked about in classes all your life. It almost feels surreal.

It felt a bit like that when the kids were young and we took them to Paris and went to The Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa. That one was, honestly, a bit of a let down. It’s so small in real life. The best part of that experience was how kind the guards were – seeing the children and coming and getting them, and letting them go in front of the crowds and the rope and right up in front of the painting so they could see.

So, when Tim said he’d booked tickets for Galleria Uffizi and Galleria Accademia, I was excited and also a bit nervous. Would the original David also not live up to the hype? And of all the Renaissance painters I’ve studied, most I’m just “meh” about (Rubens? Whatevs. I mean, Leonardo…sure, fine.) But. BOTTICELLI? Y’all. I love Botticelli. Those faces. The colors. The details. The faces.

We started at Accademia and our tour guide was Rosa, an adorable, tiny Italian lady who held up a red rose (she was so short it was the only way we could locate her in the crowds of people!)

Rape of the Sabine

The David. It was magnificent. It was powerful. It was beyond words. Michelangelo was a genius.

We then commenced the walking portion of our tour through the medieval part of town, learning more about the Medicis and about Dante Alighieri.

Palazzo Vecchio

And finally we went to Galleria Uffizi, where we saw many Renaissance masters…

Rubens

Caravaggio

Leonardo da Vinci

There were lots of statues, all collected by the Medicis…

But…of course, y’all want to know about the Botticellis, don’t you?

Oh. My. Gawd.

They were incredible.

Sure, Birth of Venus is there, and of course it was AMAZING to see this masterpiece in person! But, honestly, it’s not my favorite.

Oh sure, allegory, symbolism, blah blah blah. I know. But, I like art for the way it makes me feel. And…I don’t really feel much with this one. Sorry. I’m not an art expert, I’m just me.

Those are better.

But these…

Look at those faces!

But this is a favorite…

Or maybe the one above it. Oh, I just love Botticelli.

Anyway, it was a great day. The museums themselves were gorgeous. Every ceiling was painted, each itself a work of art. Amazing.

(As you can tell, clearly the art, the museums, the history were just too much for me. It was an amazing, wonderful day. And, truly…gazing upon the angelic, serene, radiant faces that Botticelli painted left me without words…)

Firenze, (part 1)

After leaving our hotel in Cadenabbia, we took the ferry across to Varenna and then took a regional train to Milano Centrale. Milano Centrale is huge – it’s akin to an airport, really. We had about an hour an a half to wait before our train left for Florence so we went to one of the numerous eateries and grabbed lunch before we tried to figure out where our train was…(more on that in a later post)

It was late afternoon when we arrived in Florence, and once we found our (rather charming) Airbnb apartment near the Duomo (dating from the 1500’s!), and ran to the supermarket, and unpacked…we were exhausted.

The next day we wandered a bit around the Duomo, saw the crowds, said “nah”….and headed over to Palazzo dei Pitti And Boboli Gardens. I’ve always been fascinated by the Medicis, so this one wasn’t a hard sell for me at all!

The next day we wandered around for a bit before hiking up the hill to Pizzale Michelangelo.

After that big expenditure of energy, we needed a reward! Now you see it…

Now you don’t!

(Florence, part 2 coming soon…featuring Botticelli 😍)

Lake Como

We left Milano Centrale for Como, and from there got on a ferry boat (car ferry) which went up the lake to Tremezzo/Cadenabbia; our stop. We had made reservations at a hotel, per our last Milan Airbnb host’ recommendations. They told us the ferries made frequent stops at this town and it was a very nice hotel. They were correct.

We arrived on a cold, rainy, foggy day and it was still breathtakingly gorgeous. The surrounding mountains were shrouded in clouds, mysteriously, and there was a stillness and an air of quiet that was very restful after the hustle and bustle of Milan.

Our hotel offered us a free upgrade when we arrived, and we had a huge terrace overlooking the lake, which was a wonderful surprise!

We decided to immediately get to work investigating the lake (cough cough, looking for George Clooney, cough cough), and walked down to the ferry pier to cross the lake to Bellagio.

The next day we awoke to clear blue skies. If I thought the lake was beautiful on a cloudy, gloomy, rainy day? It was unimaginably spectacular on a clear day! We decided to buy the “day pass” which means you can get on and off the ferries between Tremezzo/Cadenabbia, Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio. We started in Varenna because I’d read that it had a medieval part of town, and I was intrigued. Varenna did not disappoint. We LOVED Varenna!

And then we went to Menaggio, another cute little lakeside town…

Saturday morning was our last breakfast in the hotel, and last views of the lake….

We thoroughly enjoyed our brief sojourn on the lake, exploring the charming lakeside villages and traversing the lake via ferry. The scenery is stunning. But I must admit to a bit of disappointment- I never did see George Clooney.

Milano

We started our Italian adventure in Milan, and decided to stay at an Airbnb because why not? We’ve never done it before, but we know lots of people who have, and decided to give it a try…

The apartment wasn’t ready when we arrived (we were early), but our host lived in the building also and told us to come to her apartment to leave our luggage. When we arrived (bedraggled and jet lagged, and in desperate need of caffeine) she had espressos waiting for us, and recommendations for good restaurants in the neighborhood while we waited for the apartment to be cleaned.

The apartment was wonderful, we had a lovely nap, and the next day we were ready to explore Milan.

Right around the corner was the Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Church where the refectory has the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. We tried to get tickets to see it, ( I mean, y’all, it was literally a 5 minute walk!) but we found out you need to purchase tickets in advance. Like, 3-4 weeks in advance, at least. Oops. Planning ahead when traveling, not something the VK’s do well.

We went to the Duomo. It was beautiful. It was big. It was crowded with crazy tourists.

But then, we walked to another church I had read about, San Bernardino alle Ossa. The Church has an ossuary, a small side chapel, which is decorated with human skulls and bones. It dates from the Middle Ages when, apparently, they ran out of room in the graveyards due to the numerous plague victims. I know it sounds macabre, but honestly- it wasn’t. It was sad. But there was a somber, reverential feeling to the arrangement of the bones. It didn’t feel macabre or creepy; simply respectful. And, it was…lovely? I don’t know the right word. But I found it fascinating, and it was one of my favorite things in Milan.

After that we walked to see the Colonne di San Lorenzo, which is a group of ancient Roman ruins. I realize we’ll be seeing a lot more of those soon enough, but I never get tired of old stuff.

And finally we finished the day by walking to the Navigli, or canal area, where we had a gelato before heading back to the apartment and a lovely dinner in the neighborhood.

:

The last day in Milan we intended to go to a museum. We had directions on the phone and left , thinking it was a 20 minute walk. An hour later we were still walking. We were hot and thirsty and annoyed and confused. The roads kept changing names. There was road construction. The map app kept refreshing and giving different directions and different arrival times. Finally we found the damn place. And then I swear to God we couldn’t find the freaking entrance! We walked around that building I don’t even know how many times. I was about ready to spit.

So…long story short, we did not go see the Leonardo exhibit at the Museum of Science and Technology, as awesome as it sounded. We gave up.

But!

We did have dinner and a cooking lesson, sort of) with our new friends, M & A at their apartment that evening, where they taught us (tried to, anyway!) to make Risotto alla Milanese and Cotoletta alla Milanese (veal cutlets.) it was a lively evening filled with fun conversation, fantastic food, good wine, and new friends! Grazie mille!

Back to School (last time!)

Paige came home at the end of the summer for about 10 days of relaxation, interspersed with doctors appointments and dental checkups and haircuts. The time flew by, and before we knew it it was time once again for her to head back for all her sorority recruitment stuff…

Before the very last first day of school picture! (Selfie)

As she begins her final semester of college!

Tim and I drove over for parents weekend, and to attend her sorority’s “Red Dress Gala,” which benefits women’s heart health. Our drive over didn’t begin very auspiciously, but we did arrive eventually, and loved spending time with Paige and meeting her friends!

Summer

Summer was a bit of a whirlwind this year. Paige stayed in Tallahassee, working as a nanny for a local family and taking a class…coming home for beach weekends whenever possible. She also babysat for her cousins and a few other local families and managed to save quite a bit of money for the next semester.

Clay was working two part time jobs, sending out resumés and applying for jobs on handshake and LinkedIn daily, contacting recruiters…and hoping something would turn up. Let’s just say that the environmental field is not what it was a couple of years ago.

Tim and I traveled to North Carolina to visit my mom at the beginning of the summer and to Washington D.C. at the end of the summer.

Pomp and Circumstance

After much back and forth and (apparent) miscommunication about credits, at the very last minute we found out that Clay would indeed be graduating this spring.

Cue choir. Now all sing Hallelujah!

Seriously though, we’re very proud of him!