Spoleto (1)

Walking the streets of Spoleto is a constant delight for a history lover such as myself. I drive Tim crazy by constantly stopping to take pictures of the lovely old doors…

…or the charming old fountains…

…or squeal when I see picturesque alleyways. And then we get distracted and wander down the alleyways, or stairways, just to see where they lead. (And often get lost!) That’s the charm of Spoleto.

But eventually you get where you’re heading…in our case, yesterday it was first to the Duomo.

I’m going to be honest. I wasn’t really excited about visiting another church. Let’s be real- we’ve seen a lot of churches at this point, right? But…holy cow. This church? Wow!

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or the Duomo, is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. The Cathedral, which was apparently rebuilt at the end of the twelfth century, took the place of the ancient building of Santa Maria del Vescovato (8th-9th century), which had replaced a primitive Christian temple.

I don’t know how old the mosaic tile floors are…but they’re old. And they’re beautiful.

There is a magnificent fresco painted by Fillipo Lippi (he is also buried there.)

The Duomo also has a fragment of a letter written by St Francis of Assisi (!!!). It is kept in a reliquary of the church. It is actually only a fragment of a letter, written on goatskin, estimated to have been written around 1225 when St. Francis was nearly blind and suffering the effects of stigmata. It was written to Brother Leo, one of his earliest and closest followers. But STILL…Saint Francis!

Also, look at how the afternoon sunlight reflects the gold leaf on the fresco outside the church – isn’t that breathtaking?

We then took the amazing travelators to the top of the hill to see the Ponte delle Torri, an ancient Roman aqueduct which was rebuilt in the fourteenth century. It was a splendid day, with perfect weather and we enjoyed the walk immensely. The views were superb, and the leaves were just starting to turn…it was gorgeous.

We then climbed a bit further still to the Rocca Albornoziana or La Rocca, which was built in the fourteenth century as a residence of the Pope. It was designed as both a residence and a fortress. Lucrezia Borgia also apparently resided at La Rocca. From 1817-1962 it was used as a prison.

There are remnants of lovely frescoes remaining on the walls today.

Rocca Albornoziana

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 😍)

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!