Saturday, May 28, 2022

Day with Donatello

Confession time. Was my motivation to see a Donatello exhibit in Florence partially motivated by the fact that the high for today was 95 degrees and I was looking for a way to escape the heat? Absolutely. Plus, John and I passed the Palazzo Strozzi every time we went in to central Florence and their advertising game is strong. Am I glad I went (and got the audio guide)? Absolutely.

Though I took an art history class in college, it's all become a blur of flying buttresses and names I recognize without remembering why. Here's a little Florence Renaissance background for us all.

Although the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are named Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello and Raphael, all famous Florentine artists, Donatello is the outlier. He lived from the late 14th to mid 15th century and collaborated with his buddy, Brunelleschi, the architect who put the dome in the Duomo and the vanishing point in art. The other three lived and worked in the mid 15th to early 16th centuries. If they wanted contemporaries, they should have named the fourth turtle Botticelli.

Back to the exhibit. I was not the only one swayed by advertising who was taking advantage of the opportunity to see this collection. I spent my time listening to the audio guide (very helpful), admiring the art and trying to dodge the giant tour groups. They took up a LOT of space.

This was only the first half of the exhibit. The second half, including Donatello's bronze David, is in another museum in town. Not sure if I'll go today. I have no other plans but I'm also maxing out on my art intake.

The interesting thing about this exhibit is they displayed statues by Donatello, in marble, terracotta and bronze, alongside works by artists who had been influenced by Donatello, or worked for Donatello so you could compare and contrast on the spot.

What can I say? It's impressive, overwhelming and made me curious to learn how bronze sculptures were made - the lost wax method of course.

This article gives a good overview, and photos, of many of the pieces on display for this exhibition.

My photos are below and no, I didn't make it to the second museum. Have to save something for a return visit.



Madonna and child in marble.

Young St. John the Baptist.

Not Donatello.

Poor dragon.

Old St. John the Baptist.

Detail of a bronze piece.

Donatello horse head in the front with a Greek horse head from 350 or so in the back.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Feel Good Friday Flashback #3 - La Tortuga Feliz

Happy Feel Good Friday! I'm traveling for the next few weeks and will be tapping in to the FGF archives for stories. Join me as we look back at some favorites from the last 9 and a half years. 


Friday, September 2, 2016

Today Feel Good Friday is going to Costa Rica for a little Sentries Bien Viernes!

La Tortuga Feliz (the happy turtle) is a volunteer-run organization in Costa Rica focused on turtle conservation. Poaching, fishing nets and pollution have taken their toll on the turtle population and La Tortuga Feliz (LTF) has been working to reverse that decline since 2006.

Volunteers work with people in the local community to patrol the beaches looking for eggs before the poachers find them. As explained in more detail on their website, "These local inhabitants guard/patrol the beach (Caribbean coast of Costa Rica) together with volunteers, collect the turtle eggs and bring these eggs to a hatchery which is manned by volunteers on a 24 hours basis. Volunteers also participate in the care for and study of recuperating adult turtles in the turtle reduce and rehabilitation centre."

This turtle conservation work provides income for the locals, which the people at LTF hope will take away the necessity for locals to poach the turtles and their eggs. Many of the people working for LTF are former poachers who are happy to earn money saving, rather than killing the turtles.

Volunteers pay $35/day for room and board, which seems like a pretty sweet deal. While you're spending time learning about, and saving turtles, you can also take Spanish lessons and bond with volunteers from around the world! Not convinced yet? Check out the videos on their home page and view their photo gallery, which both give you a great idea of the work being done.

If you can't book your plane tickets to Costa Rica just yet, you can follow the work of La Tortuga Feliz by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @latortugafeliz1.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Worm's eye view of Florence

What happens when you decide not to push your recovering knee too far? You see some of Florence's greatest hits from the street instead of the top floor.

Not wanting to push my luck climbing 414 steps to the top of Giotto's Tower or 463 steps to Brunelleschi's dome we got in line to view the cathedral from the ground floor. The third largest nave in the world (after St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London) it is huge inside but not nearly as elaborate as the Duomo in Sienna. Apparently most of the statues that were inside are now in the nearby museum.

John leaves tomorrow but I'm going to get tickets for the museum and baptistery and save all the stair climbing for another trip. I also thought I'd do an overnight trip to Venice from here but I may opt to lay low in Florence until the weekend when I have to get to Naples to start my tour.

Back to the Duomo. The Piazza del Duomo was packed full of people. Packed! I was living under the naive delusion that we as a society were just starting to venture out and travel again and it wouldn't be very crowded. Apparently "we" have been traveling for awhile and I am just now catching up.

After spending some time inside the cathedral, we headed to the Central Market for lunch. Downstairs it's much like big markets in other parts of the world. Vendors roughly divided by section: fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, bread, wine, etc. We had panini on the ground floor before heading upstairs to the more touristy food court section where everything looked delicious and overpriced.

John's off to get his covid test in preparation to return home and I'm writing this update. Daytime highs have been 85 so Italian siesta has been part of our daily routine before venturing out again in the evening. I could get used to this.

Waiting to get in to the Duomo.

Horse carriages and crowds outside the baptistery.

I was about a third of the way in when I snapped this photo.

Brunelleschi's dome.

Clock with Roman numerals I to XXIIII

Opera del Duomo

San Lorenzo's church.

Central market.

Yes that's some kind of ray in the middle.

Mini bottles of Chianti to decorate your Christmas tree.

A peek at the meat counter on the way to the second floor.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Ciao David

Today we finally saw Michaelangelo's David. Another surreal sight after seeing the copies around town.

Sculpted by Michaelangelo when he was only 26 and brought to the Accademia in 1873 after 369 years outside, the statue is an impressive 17 feet tall. As familiar as we all are with what it looks like from the front, it's great to be able to take a slow walk all the way around it.

For as crowded as Florence is, there weren't *that* many people inside and the fact that everyone's camera is pointing up is helpful. As are the timed entry tickets. Did we plan in advance enough to get regular tickets? No. But we also know how to find overpriced reseller tickets. Still better than the giant line of people with no reservation.

We did spend more time in the museum looking at art from the 14th (vs 15th) century. All very interesting but it started to become a blur. That means it's time for lunch and gelato.

We're back at home for the afternoon recharge. Watch this space for our next adventures.

The less frequently seen backside.

It's a lady with a panther.

Not amused at how much attention David gets compared to the art on this floor.

No, I don't remember who this is but I like their colorful robes.

This pig at the bottom represents the pig fat that would be used to cure a disease called "St. Anthony's Fire". ???

I'm enjoying the street art we see around town.

Apparently Sophia Loren has a restaurant in Florence. What are the chances she hangs out there?

Monday, May 23, 2022

Tre di Cinque Terre

How many of the five lands on the Ligurian Sea can you see in 24 hours? If you're John and me you can see three. Well, two and a half. 

After Pisa we caught a train to Monterosso, the northern most town of the famed five. The beaches were covered with sunbathers blanket to blanket and chair to chair. We went to check in to our Airbnb and were given a hotel room before getting it straightened out and moving to our apartment. Once settled we went out for a stroll along the water with several stops for drinks, snacks and people watching before heading into the old part of town for dinner.

The scene is like you imagine. Houses painted in varying shades of yellow, pink and salmon, green shutters and cobblestone streets. We did two loops of old town making our decision of where to eat based on who was open Sunday and had space outside for two spontaneous diners. I had gnocchi with prawns that seemed to be 90% head and legs and John got branzino which the waitress filleted tableside.

After our meal we walked to a wine bar where I got a lemon spritz, 3 parts prosecco and 1 part limoncello. They grow lemons in these parts so how could I resist? While we were there, the annual parade of drunk, singing fisherman celebrating the lemon harvest stopped to serenade us. Not sure if that's *exactly* what was going on but the proprietor said it was fisherman, gave them a bottle of wine and danced with them. They were wearing lemon peels on their glasses and took their singing to the church piazza where it turned into a giant dance party, which we joined for awhile. What a treat!

This morning we got coffee in Monterosso then caught the ferry to Vernazza. Hoo boy, what a zoo! There were multiple tour groups following their respective guides around, people spilling out of every trinket and gelato shop and the rocky beach full of swimmers. Also, tons of people had trekking poles here. Mostly folded up because they had finished trekking in to town but whatever, I felt seen.

We walked around town, made some choices - based on crazy steep staircases - to stay near the water and beat the crowd to an outside table for lunch. I had Tarife (a pasta typical for the area) with pesto. It was a huge bowl but so delicious I ate it all. John took a quick dip in the sea and we got on the ferry to Riomaggiore.

The southernmost, and steepest, of the towns, by the time we arrived we realized we needed to find a cab and get to the station for our train to Florence. After 10 min of walking up hill and realizing we'd never find a place to catch a cab, we hobbled (okay I hobbled) to the tiny train station to get a train to the bigger station. That's why it only gets half credit. With only 3 min to transfer platforms, I'm happy to say we caught our train to Florence. No running necessary.

Though the pictures of Cinque Terre may not do it justice, when I get off this train and back "home" to Florence and the speedy wifi I'll post some.


Singing fishermen and their lemon glasses.

Old town Monterosso.

One section of the Monterosso beach scene.

Waiting for the ferry to Vernazza.

Goodbye Monterosso.

Hello Vernazza.

Hard pass.

Tarife with pesto and pasta with walnut cream sauce.

Pace, Italia, EU

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Pit Stop in Pisa

I'm on a train heading to Monterosso, one of the five cities in the famed Cinque Terre. It's my 6th train of the trip and the first time anyone checked my ticket. Glad I keep buying them.

After a delayed departure from Florence we arrived at the Stazione Pisa Centrale where me, John and 80% of the people on the train got off. While my knee is improving, we opted to take a taxi to the Field of Miracles rather than walk 25 min.

Once again, I'm walking past rows of souvenir vendors to what appears to be an entrance and BAM! That's the Leaning Tower of Pisa leaning right in front of us. It's a bit surreal to see iconic structures like this, the Taj Mahal or the Pyramids of Giza in person and I feel lucky to have done so.

Back to Pisa... of course we joined the game of lining up our photos so it looks like we're holding the tower up. How could we not?

We went in to the Duomo to have a look and heard some music, which filled up the cavernous space. Then it was people watching and snacks until it was time to head back to the train. We had enough time to walk to a giant Keith Haring mural he painted in Pisa in 1989. Unexpectedly wonderful.

We're in Cinque Terre tonight and tomorrow and you know you will hear all about it. Fortunately for you, the internet in Monterosso is pretty slow so I will not upload pictures of the tower from every possible angle and distance. 

It doesn't look like it's leaning 5 degrees from here.

The tower and the Duomo.

Keith Haring mural near the Pisa train station.
It is possible to take an old school selfie too.