A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: TheMeekOnes

Ciao Via Ricasoli!

A farewell to the street we've called home for seven weeks

Ciao Via Ricasoli!

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Goodbye to the ever-noisy, yet ever-lively street we called home for six weeks.

You are the road where tour groups move from The Academy to the Duomo like herds of lazy elephants moving from one watering hole to another.

You are the road where friendships and acquaintances were made

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Where Canadians proclaimed their national pride at 2 in the morning, handcuffed and keyless

You are the street where Caffe Oliandolo sits

The caffe where we drank so many cappuccinos and Café Americanos.

The caffe where we gave Willa her first birthday cake

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The street where our apartment sits

The apartment with its cracked walls

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The apartment with the fresco on the ceiling

The apartment where we prepared for the day

The apartment where we recovered from the day

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The apartment where Willa turned one

Where Willa got her first cold

Where Willa took her first step

The apartment where we played

The apartment where we napped

Arrivederci Via Ricasoli

One day we will come back to visit you, and I’ll point to the caffe, the shops, the apartment, and I will tell Willa this is where…

Posted by TheMeekOnes 14:26 Comments (0)

Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba

Island Life

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The title of this blog post is a palindrome my Mom used to say to me when I was a kid. You can write the phrase backward or forward and it will spell the same thing. So when an acquaintance of ours told us Elba was the place to swim in the ocean and that it was nearby, I was completely on board.

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Get it..."on board".

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"Haha. Good one, Mommy!"

Florence to Elba is only a short train, bus, ferry, and rental car ride away. But the views make the time go by very quickly.

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I want to put a little side note here. We encountered so many helpful people on our trip to Elba. They recognized we were unsure of how to get to our destination and went out of their way to help us along. One woman helped us navigate the train and bus connections. Then at the bus station, a man and his dog (the dog didn't help much, but was sweet anyhow) told us when the bus was coming, how to buy ferry tickets, and the best modes of transportation on the island. Another gentlemen helped Travis and I carry the stroller off the ferry, down three flights of stairs. At the car rental office, an elderly woman spent half and hour explaining to us, in Italian, how to put the car seat in the backseat. She ended up doing most of the work, but was so patient and earnest in her desire to help us. We made it to Elba by various modes of transportation, but mostly we made the trip through the kindness of strangers.

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We finally arrived at our (semi) all-inclusive hotel in the village of Lacona on the southern part of the island. It was a beautiful, ecologically friendly hotel located in a reserve. The people were very friendly. The seafood they served was delicious. The best parts, though, were the view from our room and the hotel's private beach.

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Not shabby.

The island has a long history. It was used by the Etruscans to mine iron ore. Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to Elba for a brief period of time (Not much of a punishment in my opinion). The Medici built a fort on the island to guard the sea. So many historical places to see. All of them important. We saw none of them. Sun and fun was on the agenda.

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The beaches on Elba are made up of (mostly) small pebbles and larger rocks. Once we convinced Willa that rocks are not edible, despite how pretty they are, she had fun playing in the "sand".

The rocks are hard on your feet, but the lack of sand keeps the water crystal clear. I kayaked a few hundred yards from shore and could still see strait down to the sea floor.

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The water is so beautiful and so clean that it's easy to forget that it's still saltwater. When you get out of the water, you still have that sticky feeling all over (without the sand in every crack and crevice). So it was nice that the hotel had a beautiful pool to finish the day in.

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We did make one small trip to Porto Azzurro for dinner and to visit that nice man and his dog, who was a shopkeeper in the town (the man, not the dog). I don't have many pictures, but here is a nice one as you drive down the mountain and toward the port.

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One day we'll go back to Elba and see the historical sites and visit more of the beaches. My Nana told me that we should leave some things unfinished so that we have to come back again. Elba and it's history are one of things we'll need to come back to. On this trip though, the beach was all we needed.

Ciao!

Posted by TheMeekOnes 04:54 Comments (0)

It's My Birthday!!!!

A guest blog entry by the one. the only. Willa-Bean.

Ciao!!

In honor of my birthday Mom has let me write my own blog post to let you know what I've been up to in Florence. I've made a few cameo appearances in Mom's posts, but its about time I shared my own thoughts.

So here I give you a few of the "firsts" I've had in Florence.

Mom and Dad have had their share of cappuccinos, cafe Americanas, and espressos, but in my opinion nothing beats some frothy milk. Just hits the spot in the morning. Recommended by the parental's favorite barista, I'm adding it to my list of favorites.

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A nice server also gave me a heel of hard bread. Best. Idea. Ever. Hours of amazing play time. Not only was it tasty, it made my four *ahem*, yes four, new teeth feel much better. I was a little dirty after, but that's what parents are for.

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Mom and Dad know what to get me at dinner now.

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While we're still on the subject of food, and I usually am on that subject, I have to tell you that gelato is a superb after-dinner treat. Mom and Dad keep talking about how they weren't going to give me any sweets, but I keep telling them that I'm on holiday, on my first European trip, so they give me bites of theirs.

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Delicious!! My favorite has to be pistachio, although hazelnut is a close second.

I also got to ride on my first carrousel. To be honest, I'm not sure what the point was, but Mom seemed very excited to take me. She made me wave at Daddy every minute or so, but I was more interested in the other kids riding the strange decorated wheel. You have to indulge the parents from time to time I guess.

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I've tried to brush up on some Italian as well.

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As you can tell from my greeting, I know the word "Ciao" very well. I can even say it from time to time.

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And today, I turned one-year old! Mom and Dad seemed very misty-eyed for some reason, but I've had a great day. I got a new Baby Music Set and Baby doll.

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They even let me tear into some cake.

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Looking forward to seeing family and friends at my "one-and-some" birthday party when I get back. Love and miss everyone!!

Willa-Bean

Posted by TheMeekOnes 13:07 Comments (1)

A Smattering of Museums - I

Uffizi, Palazzo Vecchio, The Academy, San Marco

Ciao!

I haven't blogged much since it was time to get down to work. After all, the reason we're here is to complete coursework for my MA. To accommodate that goal, we've started limiting our sight seeing and setting a more predictable schedule. The day typically begins with breakfast.

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Willa usually orchestrates proceedings.

Then I head off to get some work done. Travis and Willa tend to watch some Italian cartoons in the morning or visit local shops. After a few hours of work, we try to go out for a few hours of exploration. This has typically consisted of the local museums. We try to do the small museums. If we attempt a large one, like the Uffizi, we limit our visit to a wing at a time -- time, on this trip, has been on our side.

If you have more than a week in Florence, and you're into museums, the Uffizi Pass is well worth the investment. It's actually one of the cheaper options for families and let's you skip the line. Kudos to Travis for sniffing this out. We may only be here until the end of June, but we're members for all of 2015. Christmas in Italy, anyone?

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I'm sharing highlights from four of the museums we've visited so far. I'm condensing them to (hopefully) retain your interest and because it's more time efficient than writing a post for each one. Buon divertimento!

The Uffizi was commissioned by the Medici as judicial and administrative buildings for Firenze in the mid 1500s. In the mid 1700s it began serving as a museum and its collections have grown since. It houses many noteworthy pieces, only a few that we've seen so far.

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The Birth of Venus, a/k/a Venus on the Half Shell

It also has several impressive vantage points to view the Arno and the Palazzo Vecchio.

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Travis was very excited to see some of the major works he teaches. We perused while Willa charmed visitors and employees alike.

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The Palazzo Vecchio Museo sits right next door to the Uffizi. We snuck in right before closing to see one of Travis' favorite pieces, Donatello's David.

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I was particularly relieved to see the piece below.

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The sculptor must have spent time with children. This is proof that Willa is not the only child that enjoys plucking eyeballs.

The Medici Chapel is a five minute walk from our apartment, and is well worth an hour or two of your time. The outside is fairly non-descript, but the interior is very impressive.

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The bottom floor is full of reliquaries, beautifully decorated shrines that contain the bones of saints.

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On the second floor is an amazing tribute to the departed Medici family.

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Helluva tomb, right?

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The Academy, a smaller museum, is situated a block and half from our apartment. It holds a small selection of art, but the main attraction which keeps people in line for hours every day is...

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Michelangelo's David is impressive not only because of its size, which is fourteen feet tall without the marble base, but because of the detail. The muscles, joints, and even veins are easily visible and lends the piece a degree of naturalism that makes it appear more than stone.

If you walk past The Academy for another block and a half, you come to San Marco, a former monastery turned museum. The first floor was filled with many frescos and artwork.

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And a beautiful courtyard sits in the middle.

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The second floor was my favorite though. The old monk's cells are left open for exploration. I really loved seeing the small doors, windows, and the frescos within. The frescos were completed by Fra Anglico. He is especially known for this one.

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Travis tells me it has to do with the amount of depth portrayed.

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There were small holes in the floor that were covered in glass. Underneath, you could see Frescos painted in the cubbies below.

Off the housing area was the library wing, filled with old manuscripts, ink materials, and book binding tools. We couldn't take pictures of most of it, but we did get a few hasty ones of the room, which was beautiful itself.

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Hope I haven't museum-ed you out quite yet, there may be one more to come. Stay tuned for Pisa, Milan, and more adventures.

A più tardi!

Travis, Lisa, and Willa

Posted by TheMeekOnes 15:58 Comments (3)

Piazzale Michelangelo

So Many Stairs...Such an Amazing View

We were told the first day we arrived that we must go see the little hill of Florence, more formally known as Piazzale Michelangelo. It was supposed to have a commanding view of the city. I was expecting a nice little green space that a few people used to picnic. I really had no idea what a popular place it is, or how spectacular a view it provided.

But first you have to get there. The climb wouldn't be a problem for any able and willing person...except when you have a stroller in tow. I mistakenly thought that we would be pushing the stroller up a mild incline. No. Not the case. Instead, there were stairs. So many stairs. We earned our supper that day. Travis carried the stroller up all of the stairs, and I carried a twenty-pound baby.

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The first round of stairs brought us to this beautiful, cozy spot. It was what I expected.

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Beautiful rose gardens and everyone sprawled on the grass waiting for the sun to sink below the trees.

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It gave us a very nice view of the city. You can see the Duomo on the right and the Palazzo Vecchio on the left.

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But wait! There's more. Just around the corner there were...more stairs! Another small hike with baby and stroller brought us to a truly breathtaking landing well worth the effort.

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Put it there, Bean. We made it!

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From this point of view, you can see all of Florence and its major monuments. On the far right is Santa Croce.

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The Duomo captivates the middle of the skyline.

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With the Palazzo Vecchio (Firenze's former town hall and now a museum) acting as a close neighbor.

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Finally, on the left, the Ponte Vecchio provides a perfect stage for sunset.

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The monuments, along with the Arno river, make a beautiful place for pictures.

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Can you see me?

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Ciao, gatto!

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If you wait until after sunset, you can watch the skyline start to light up.

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Buona Notte!

Posted by TheMeekOnes 13:31 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Basilica di Santa Croce

Temple of the Italian Glories

Santa Croce was on the top of my list of places to go in Florence, and I'll tell you why - in a few paragraphs.

Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan Church in the world and is known as the Temple of the Italian Glories because many of Italy's most renowned are buried there.

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Here are a few of the Glories that claim this basilica as their final resting place. I doubt they need introductions.

Micuaelangelou Bounarroti

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Dante Alighieri

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Galileo Galilei

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And now, the main event (for me)...Nicolas Machiavelli. A political philosopher that every political scientist learns about. He is heralded as the father of modern political philosophy, and is known primarily for his authorship of The Prince. He lived a interesting, albeit short, life in Florence. He held political office, led the city's citizen militia, and wrote popular plays and poetry. He now has a permanent residence within the city walls.

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His tomb reads: "Tanto Nomini Nullum par Eulogium".
Translated: "To so great a name, there is no suitable eulogy".

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Travis teases me for my excitement about this, but I feel that this is the closest you will ever be to physically meeting a historical figure. I am standing just feet from Machiavelli's tomb - I practically know the guy now!

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There were many wonderful memorials and art exhibits throughout the building, but we ran out of time and they were ushering us out the door at closing, so we didn't get to see all of the buildings and the treasures within, but below are a few we managed to sneak a peak of.

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Galileo's Original Resting Place in Santa Croce

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Willa Selfie!

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There was also a temporary modern art installation.

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Game of Cardboard Thrones

We enjoyed the grounds in between the rain.

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Memento Mori -

p.s. I (practically) met Machiavelli! I could probably go home now.

Posted by TheMeekOnes 04:12 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Around Town and Across the Arno

Ciao Readers!

We have spent our first two days in Florence exploring the city, finding shops we may need and shops we want to visit in the weeks to come. I want to share with you some of the more interesting places we found on our walks.

We started our first morning with espresso, caffè Americano, è croissant at the cafe across the street from our apartment.

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We found our way to a daily market full of leather bags, jackets, and belts and Italian souvenirs.

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It was very crowded and the choices are overwhelming!

Around this same area was a HUGE children's toy store. We thought we were walking in to a small shop, but there was doorway after doorway filled with puzzles, barbies, baby dolls, legos, and costumes. I'm sharing a few of my choice favorites below.

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Unfortunately, Willa had decided to take a nap right before we found the place. She didn't get to see any of the cool toys, but she did get many compliments for her adorable sleeping pose.

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The Ponte Vecchio is the most magnificent bridge in Florence that crosses the Arno river. Travis and Wikipedia tell me the bridge was a historic location for merchants to meet and do business. It has been destroyed by floods on multiple occasions through the centuries and rebuilt. Today, jewelry shops line both sides. The displays were breathtakingly expensive.

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We found a place to eat on the river and had a delicious meal of lasagna and malanze alla parmigiana. Willa enjoyed both very much!

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This little birdie joined us for lunch.

After, we took advantage of a few picturesque spots.

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There hasn't been much structure to our days as of yet, so these pictures are reflective of our meandering. Traveling with Willa has changed the pace we are used to. We may see a little less of some things, but we're experiencing the city much more by taking it slow and moving at a speed more fitting to her.

Cheers to Willa - for changing our perspective on so many things for the better!

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Ciao!

Posted by TheMeekOnes 15:48 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

Buongiorno Firenzie!

Ciao, Ciao!

After some 17 hours of the most nerve racking travel we've ever experienced together, I am happy to report we had a safe and punctual landing in Florence!! I can already tell the trip was well worth it.

Willa handled the travel with as much grace and ease as a 11-month baby can. She did not loose her cool on the plane and managed some play and sleep time. She was even complimented by a passenger for her good behavior.

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We were not so fortunate. When we landed we were extremely sleep deprived. Lucky for us, our apartment was not far.

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After finding our new apartment the three of us took a much needed nap. Feeling slightly more rested, we went out for our first meal of risotto and spaghetti. Delicious! Willa is really enjoying Italy's latte.

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We meandered for a little while the streets were clear before heading home for a good night sleep.

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

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The Il Porcelliono (Piglett) is a landmark in Florence. You are supposed to place a coin in the pig's jaws and let it drop in the grate below for good luck. You also rub the nose to ensure a return trip to Florence. The nose is bright and shiny from all of the visitors' desires to return to Florence.

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We're still settling in, but Florence is a beautiful city bustling with life. We're looking forward to much more exploration in the weeks to come.

Buonasera!!

Travis, Lisa, and Willa

Posted by TheMeekOnes 13:27 Archived in Italy Comments (4)

Florence 2015

Eastbound and Down

Some of you out there followed our travels in Europe back in 2012. We managed to see London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Rome that time. Travis continued on to Florence and Orvieto, Italy. We missed so many amazing sites, but we always planned on going back for more.

Well we're headed back this Tuesday. We're eastbound and down with a new passenger on board.

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(a/k/a The Bean)

Willa will be turning one in Italy this summer and we are so very terrified excited to be enjoying Florence with her.

This trip is less about pleasure and more about business. Since my subject of interest in graduate school is southern Italy, we thought it would be a mutually beneficial to return to Italy so I could add substance to my research and enjoy living in a different country for a short time. It is a great opportunity for my education and for our own travel ambitions.

I can't guarantee very much excitement on this go-around. We're staying in apartment in the heart of historic Florence and, for the most part, will be staying local. We have a few trips planned though. We hope to make it to Pisa, Milan, Venice, Rome, and Postiglione (the hometown of my great-grandfather). Anything else will be a bonus.

As before, any tips, hints, or suggestions are always encouraged and accepted.

Ciao, Ciao!

Travis, Lisa, and Willa-Anne

Posted by TheMeekOnes 21:21 Comments (2)

Travis' Trip - Florence to Orvieto

I swear, no words or phrases were changed to protect the traveler. - LM

The first day of my solo trip started off very sad because I became solo and left my lovely wife Lisa at the Rome airport annex (I'm sure Lisa has explained the annex). After that and two trains later I was in Florence by 4pm. Dropped off the luggage and out the door to the Duomo,

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got to see the inside

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and climb the bell tower (very cool, check out the view)

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and the inside of the baptistry,

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climbing the dome would have to wait until Monday. I also went to the Duomo museum and to my horror discovered that the gates of paridise would not be on display, but here is a picture of the fake doors, nicely done but not the same.

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Then I took a stroll to the Loggia dei Lanzi were several important statue reside (or their copies) one of my all time favorites is the one on the right.

Day 2 -

Today I went to several important museums and churchs (some open, some not).

The Uffizi, the Academia, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce Sorry no pictures of any of these, NOT ALLOWED.

Then out to a nice dinner, sorry I don't take a lot of food pics like Lisa but here is a worthy snack.
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My last few hours in Florence were spent in the Bargello Museum with the statues of Donatello, Michelangelo, and other masters, again no pictures I guess they want to sell the books in the gift shop. :( Then I was off to climb the stairs to the top of the Dome, now here are some pictures for you.

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and a little doggie for my baby

All of this and out on the 2pm train to Orvieto, Etruscan fortified city on the mount.

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In Orvieto I met the other grant participants and the directors. It is an eclectic group of scholars and our conversations thus far have been very engaging. Over the past few days the group has visited many important Etruscan sites and had guided tours by the top scholars in the field. (and better access than the general public) quite an exciting treat really. Here are some highlight photos of Etruscan civilization. I hope you enjoy them and I'll add more from Florence and Rome in the days to come.

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View from the city

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Fresco Tomb

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Pottery Shard

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Inscribed Bronze Plate with Land Contract (Etruscans were very big on boundaries)

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Ceremonial Bronze Axe

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An ashtray I was given to use in Cortona, I felt it was ironic enough and had to have a picture.

Till Next time!

Travis

Posted by TheMeekOnes 19:45 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 14, Italy - My last day and Pompeii!

Tee hee, that rhymed.

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I don't think it's a coincidence that it's taken me so long to write this last post. There won't be one for the day of my flight out because this was the last day we spent sightseeing, unless you include the 40 minute taxi ride to the airport.

We woke up early and went to pick up our second rental car, a baby blue Fiat this time. On the way we stopped for espresso and cream filled croissant, mixing up the menu a bit. Our destination today: Pompeii! Now you can take this trip by train and then bus, which is probably easier but more expensive and less adventurous. Also, the train left at 5 in the morning and we weren’t about that.

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Mount Vesuvius from the car

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I find it really amazing that there are thousands of people living under Mount Vesuvius. Hell, Napoli is nestled right in its bosom. What I find shocking is that they have a very large and very famous reminder of what happens to civilizations living next to active volcanoes, Pompeii.

We kinda got lost on our way to Pompeii. You know how Garmin's can be. Our Italian Garmin took us to a suburb of Napoli that I wouldn't recommend. I didn't think snapping pictures would do us any favors in our brand new baby blue Fiat with Garmin on the dash but I can tell you we were driving through the projects. It’s funny how universal a thing like that is. I guess people are people no matter what country they live in. Couches on the side of the road, laundry hanging from windows, pieces of bicycles on the street, and many unsavory characters roaming the sidewalks. And you know that they know that you're not from around there.

We did make it to Pompeii though and with no incident. My first impression, BIG. Much, much bigger than I had expected. Also, they are still undergoing excavation work. Still digging up entire portions of the city. You can see steps leading into dirt mounds that haven't been dug up yet. Very, very impressive.

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Pompei is very accepting of dogs and you can even "sponsor" a dog for a day in lieu of paying admission. Unfortunately, I didn't know this until we had entered the park. Otherwise, I most likely would have sponsored a cane.

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For those who don't know, cause I didn't, during the excavation of Pompeii, they began finding hollow points underneath the ash. After doing sonograms of the area they determined it was human remains that had been encased in ash during the catastrophe. Over the years the bodies had decayed but left perfectly preserved imprints. They've filled these hollow cavities with cement and we now have these molds.

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Bath House

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It's amazing what things have been preserved so well over time when others have been completely wiped out.

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Temple of Apollo...I think

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These remains bothered me the most. I can only imagine curling up in a corner waiting for the end. *shivers* Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer.

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The Ancient Cafe

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The House of Mysteries, the best preserved building in Pompeii. Known for its Frescos.

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All of that is Rosemary. Smelled delicious!

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Pompeian Cane saying Ciao Ciao!

The whole experience was impressive, humbling really. Pompeii was an active city for over 300 years, older than our country, and it was wiped out in a day or so. An entire culture and history just gone. Mother nature can be a cagna.

After Pompeii we decided to visit the National Museum in Napoli. Apparently, most of what remains of Pompeii, or at least the really impressive stuff, is held there. They've taken away a lot of more historical artifacts to preserve them. It was this idea that lead us, by car, to the heart of Napoli driving in unbelievable traffic. Absolutely no rules, few traffic lights whose signals were rarely observed, and no lanes. Not even attempts at lanes. Our previous experiences in Roma and Milano paled in comparison.

We ended up not visiting the museum. We already had the impression that Napoli is for the brave tourist and we knew the museum would be closing in less than an hour, but when we saw that the National Museum was covered in graffiti (I particularly enjoyed, "Ti amo Rosemarie"), it sealed the deal. We turned around and went back to Roma. I was letting my hair down and trying poof it up to bring out my Italian. Travis, ginger that he is, stood out a bit.

Sadly, this is where my pictures end because Travis has the second SD card with the remaining pictures from that day. The first SD card we used only held around 1,500 pictures and it reached its max just before the end. We did go and have a very enjoyable dinner that night at the same cafe. We had a three cheese penne and one last pizza. Travis finished it with a dolce of tiramisu and I enjoyed my last gelato.

That was it. This is the end for me. The next day I boarded a plane and 16 hours later I landed in Tampa with severe jet lag and a longing to go back and do it all over again.

Arrivederci!

Lisa

P.S.

Travis has sent me some pictures and he will have his own few posts but I wanted to share how much I appreciate those who have followed this blog and have commented. I've really enjoyed sharing my trip with everyone. It's been better than a Facebook share! <3

Posted by TheMeekOnes 06:15 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Day 13, Roma - Gladiators, Gattos, and Gnocchi

Our thirteenth day started a bit late because of a long explanation. It also started with croissants and espresso at Route 66 cafe (I swear we ate nothing else before noon for 14 days) on our way to the coliseum. Before entering, we were bombarded with "independent tour guides" that would get you in the historic arena lickety-split for the small price of *insert euro amount here*. If anyone has taken these people up on their offer, let me know because I don't trust them and it could be a perfectly legitimate proposition.

We, however, paid the eleven euros for entrance to the Coliseum and the Forum. A very reasonable price, in my oh so humble opinion.

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Gladiator Pigeon

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Reading the information panels that line the ancient hallways, I couldn't help not liking the place and what it represented. To give general examples, they would have shows where one could watch rabid dogs attack defenseless deer or people would try to see how many arrows it took to decapitate an ostrich. I realize that these events should be considered minor cruelties compared to other more barbaric events but its just not my cuppa tea.

Gladiators fighting to the death? eh. Christians eaten by lions? That's too bad. Animals subjected to cruelty? Damn the Romans!

I didn't expect to spend so much time in the Forum or be so amazed by it but the walk through the ruins was very memorable. I was very impressed by how much they've preserved even if they've lost so much. As Travis said, we know that Caesar Augustus walked these roads and we know that Marc Anthony presented speeches on the rostra that stood feet from us. Again, just like many in Europe, a very humbling experience.

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Justa chillin on some ancient ruins

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The seagulls are GIGANTIC. This one charged me tre fish for una picture.

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Roman gatto on the hunt for italian pigeon food

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We then made our way to the Ecstasy of St. Theresa. Maybe you know it from Travis' art appreciation class? Maybe not. In any case, it is a very well know piece done by Bernini and its located in a small Roman church. We had intended to see it early that morning but due to a variety of circumstances, it had to wait until the afternoon. When we found it, I couldn't believe how small it was or how breathtaking.

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That night we actually went back to the restaurant where we had first eaten. The pizza was that good, although we didn't get seconds this evening. We started with the parmigiana risotto which was delicious. Travis ordered the lasagna and I had...gnocchi! For those who don't know our family's Italian Sunday dinner, gnocchi are little potato balls that are served in marinara like pasta. My grandfather hand makes this dish and when he does it is a big event in our family. A dinner to celebrate! So I was very excited to try it in Italy.

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I know that this gnocchi was made in Italy and was supposed to be all authentic and whatnot but it paled in comparison to my Papa's. To be completely honest, so did the sauce. I'd take a good Italian Sunday Dinner with Nana and Papa over this dish any night. And while on the subject, I should mention that although the bread is very good in Italy, it too, is nowhere near the quality of my Papa's. Again, Italian Sunday dinner takes the cake, or loaf, in this case.

We ended our evening by walking the piazza near our hotel. I don't know the name but there is a large Egyptian obelisk in the center and large fountains located on either side. After Travis' admirable haggling, we purchased a cheap little toy that lit up and twirled when you shot it up in the air with a rubber band. Its a bit harder to describe than I expected but all you need to know is that it was cheap, fun, pretty, and I took it home with me. We spent some time practicing our skills before retiring for the evening.

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Ah, Rome.

Tomorrow, we're up and early headed south to Pompei!

Travis and Lisa

Posted by TheMeekOnes 08:50 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 12 - Roma. Gelato, where have you been all my life?

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As a preface to the rest of the posts in Italy, it seemed that we didn't do as much there as everywhere else but we did get what we wanted done. That make sense? The posts may be shorter but the days weren’t. Dinner starts around 22:00 and no shops open until 10:00. Our days were lazy and enjoyable and the weather was pleasant. I had expected Italy to be like Florida with mountains but I was pleasantly suprised. It was hot but not humid and you could stand outside without breaking a sweat. The evenings were crisp but not cold...

Can you tell I miss it?

Anyway, our first day in Roma we decided to conquer the Vatican, in a peaceful and scholarly way of course.

As before, we're sharing highlights! I want to apologize because I don't have many pictures to share. We did make it into the Sistine chapel, which is magnificent but didn't allow pictures. Seeing that room is one of my trip highlights. I lack the words to describe how much I enjoyed standing underneath that masterpiece. Highly recommended.

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Watch out for Peacock Attacks!

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Puppies like kisses on the face! They also like belly rubs but museum attendants frown upon touching. :(

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We then made our way over to the Papal Basilica of St. Peter, as it is officially known. We must have been very very lucky because we waited no more than 10 minutes for admittance. I do want mention though that while we were waiting to get in one of the most well known churches in the world, we were cut in line multiple times. One group of people even had the nerve to cut the priest a few groups ahead of us. I guess we were forced to practice forgiveness.

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Our next stop was the Pantheon, one of the best preserved Roman buildings. I feel very repetitive but it is an amazing feeling to stand inside something with so much history. Unreal and humbling.

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Fountain outside the Pantheon

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We had dinner at a cafe that faced the back of the Pantheon. We didn't have to leave the monument in order to feed our hungry bellies.

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Appetizer of bread covered in cheese covered in pureed artichokes. I can't remember its name but it was delicious!

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Pasta Carbonara

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Great but not as good as the first pizza. Just sayin.

We had to finish dinner with authentic Italian Gelato. This was my first experience with the stuff and not the last. After this we had a rule of two Gelato a day minimum.

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Pistachio and Dark Chocolate topped with homemade whipped cream. Yummmm.

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Vanilla and Strawberry

Next up - The Coliseum! Woot!

Travis and Lisa

Posted by TheMeekOnes 13:23 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 11 -Road Trip!!

Milano and Roma and every place in between

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We woke up after a seven hour train ride pulling into Milano central station. I don't have many pictures of this except for a Milano Pigeon and the station. I'm not sure if you've realized but I've made an attempt to get pictures of pigeons in every city. Not all of them have been included in the posts but I think I do have one in each city. I think of them as a global common denominator :)

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We made our way strait to Avis for our rental car but it wasn't open until 8:30 so we wandered a bit. To tell you truth after eating so many baguettes and croissants we wanted a hardy breakfast... from McDonald's. We found the golden arches and waited outside until 8:00 for it to open. When we went inside, we saw no breakfast menu so Travis ordered a double cheeseburger. "Oh no", the attendant replied, "all we have are these" as he points to a glass display case of croissants. Really? That is all they sell in the morning.

So, we went empty-bellied and got our car with very minimal difficulty. Never again will I give the Fiat 500 a hard time. First of all, I had no idea how old the company was and second, it was a fantastic vehicle. No complaints.

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One benefit of being stranded in Milan was that its the location of The Last Supper and we had planned to go to Santa Maria Delle Grazie to see it. However, it was sold out. Never heard of such a thing but it is a fact. So after the difficulties of finding parking we thought we'd grab a coffee before heading out for Roma.

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While there, I thought I'd use the bagno.

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I want to give so much credit to Travis for driving. I was confident in our wrecking but he kept us safe. Not only is our Fiat a manual, which hes not used to driving, but in Italy they seem to take traffic lanes as more of a suggestion. Also, scooters operate on their own rules. It really is an experience like no other and it wasn't just Milano. Spoiler alert: it is just as hectic in Roma and in Napoli. Worse in Napoli.

Once out of the city, the countryside is exceptional. I can't describe the beauty we experienced but I hope these pictures will help you put yourself in our shoes. Unfortunately though, they do they scene no justice.

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I did drive in Italy. Only on the highway. After I asked Travis how to stop the car, it being manual, I wasn't allowed to drive again. But I did drive.

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Once in Roma, we tried to drive directly to our hotel which was on a street filled with pedestrians and cafes. Below is a picture of the street. I really don't think we were supposed to be driving down it but nobody paid us any mind.

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Once we were settled into Pensione Panda, which was surprisingly nice for its price, we grabbed our first Italian meal.

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Delicious pizza. Prosciutto, hard boiled egg, black olives, mushrooms and artichokes.

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Oh and I should mention that this was our 2nd wedding anniversary and I cannot think of a better place to have spent it.

Felice anniversario!

Travis and Lisa

Posted by TheMeekOnes 06:06 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Day 10 - Last Day in Paris

Overnight Train

After Day 9, we took things slow. Very, very slow.

We found a laundry mat not far from the hotel and finally had a proper wash of our clothing. We had washed them in a bath tub once so its not like we were disgustingly smelly. Just needed an official wash.

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I had to get a picture of the bakery windows in Paris. We didn't get to try as much as we'd of liked but every display looked delicious.

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After the clothes were washed and the bags were safe with our hotel, we made a trip to Notre Dame and Pont Neuf.

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The Metro station that took us to Notre Dame

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Aunt Penny - Does this look like a Lubber Gargoyle to you? Did to us.

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Gargoyle or Paris Pigeon?

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Pont Neuf

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Despite the previous day, we ended our time in Paris on a good note. With no hostility towards the country or its burger places.

Around 19:00 we caught our train to Milano. Knowing our luck with international train travel, we were secure in our cabin rather early.

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Our sleeper cabin to Milano

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See you in the morning!

Travis and Lisa

Posted by TheMeekOnes 18:04 Archived in France Comments (0)

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