Wednesday, 17 April 2013


Trip continued:

Easter Sunday Day 4 - We sloshed our way to a Grand Canal vaporetto stand and rode the bus up to the train station.  More rain but we were finally made it to the station, grabbed some coffee and snacks, and waited to board the train for our ride to Florence.

Final shot of Venice as we approach the train station.  Amsterdam is called the Venice of the North but I wasn't reminded of Amsterdam at all here.  Venice feels like a floating city that has seen better days while Amsterdam felt like a grounded city that had canals through it.  The buildings/houses in Amsterdam were cleaner/brighter as well with more varied and interesting architecture with tonnes of bicycles and cars on the roads.  Venice had a few bicycles and no roads. 
The girls listening to music and playing games on the iPad.  Here's our train Ben Foster.

Sunshine!  It's been a few days since we've seen bright blue sky.  Keeping fingers crossed.

We arrive in Florence, find the tourist office to buy our Firenze Tourist Cards, and stroll down to our apartment.  Except I missed a note on our reservation saying that the main address is actually the office and we were supposed to meet at our apartment address.  We stayed at the deserted office desk for a bit then decided to stow our luggage in a corner and grab lunch since no one was there.  I was pretty annoyed thanks to our Venice apartment experience already so here we are standing around waiting for someone to man/woman the desk getting more annoyed.  So we just decided to grab lunch and come back to the check in desk afterwards.

Dana Johnson Pic - I liked the carbonara so much in Venice I tried it here but found out that all Italy doesn't have great tasting carbonara, just that place in Venice.  Tasted okay but not as good.

Dana Johnson Pic - Lori had grilled Tuscan sausage and beans in tomato sauce.  It was excellent.

Dana Johnson Pic - Karl tried a calzone and pizza combination.  He really liked it.

Dana Johnson Pic - Kalle found out she likes buffalo mozzarella in Venice so she found a pizza with it.  Good as well.

Dana Johnson Pic - Tiramisu.  I don't know what America did wrong but they sure messed up this awesome treat.  The gelato was good but this was easily my favourite dessert in Italy.  Lori even thumbed her nose at the dairy in it and ate it a few times.  We had a few different variations throughout Italy and they were all very good or excellent.
So after lunch we walk back to the office and find the person at the desk.  Turns out he went to our apartment address to wait for us while we went to the office to meet him.  I was a little bummed as the office location was centrally located for us while the actual apartment location was away from most of the sights.  Turned out to be a decent place however.  I also know now to check apartment location vs. office location before selecting places to stay.

Dining room/bedroom/family room all in one.

Main bedroom.  The artwork all had round people and round animals on them for some reason.

Check out the cosy shower, toilet, urinal, and sink area.  Lori wasn't crazy about the toilet being under the shower, something about a wet toilet seat.  Must be a female thing.

Looking down the river Arno as we walk to our first stop in Florence.  Since it was afternoon time after we checked in and ate I decided to knock off a couple of sights across the river and concentrate our two full days on central Florence.  This is taken from Ponte Alle Grazie. 

The historic centre of Florence is a World Heritage Site according to a plaque on this medieval wall.

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo (Wiki link).  The famous Ponte Vecchio is the first bridge on the left of the picture.  The tower in the middle is the Palazzo Vecchio Bell Tower, the Duomo Square is in the middle right of the picture and the Basilica di Santa Croce is the huge church on the right.  We'll be visiting all of them later.

To our left you can see a continuation of the city wall.

I liked how the clouds were settling between the Tuscan hills in this shot.  This also shows how churches in Florence are mostly plain brick/stone construction with elaborately decorated facades attached to the front of the churches.  A pretty rare construction style from our travels as most churches are either plain exterior construction or fancy exterior construction all around the church.

One of the two David copies in Florence.  We'd see all three statues (two copies + original) during our stay.  Obviously this is here since this is Michelangelo's Square.

Close up of central Florence.  Seeing this reminded me of watching Karl playing one of the Assassin's Creed games.  You can also kinda see how the Duomo has a fancy exterior construction all around the church.

After catching our breath from our uphill walk and enjoying the views we walked to our next destination, Basilica di San Miniato al Monte (link).  This was more of a location stop than a must see stop.  According to the link information and placards on site: The present church was built in 1018 on the remains of a 4th C church.  Over the years it has been a church, hospital, fortress, hospice and is now a monastery. 

View of Florence from the top steps.  I walked ahead to make sure the church was open before the group walked the final 300 steps.  Ain't I nice?  You can also see the burial grounds flanking the steps.

13th and 14th C wall frescoes.

View down nave.  Another large and plain church with natural lighting which is hit and miss with photos.  For those that didn't read the link, the 11th C altar houses the bones of St. Miniato.  Above the alter in back was a beautiful mosaic showing Christ, the Virgin and St. Minias but I wasn't fast enough to take a picture while lights were still on.  I probably should have looked for the light box and fed it some coins but didn't.  One interesting feature in some of the Italy churches is lights illuminating walls or ceilings that you turn on by feeding coins into a box.  You pay an arm and a leg for food and then get nickle and dimed for sights.  Italy wasn't a great place for cheapskates.

Off to one side of the church was the sacristy with beautiful frescoes showing scenes from the life of St. Benedict which were completed in 1387.  Poor lighting limited my pictures however.

Kalle happened to lean into my picture so I had her pose for me.  As you will note most of my pictures are family-less because all of the whiners are a tad camera shy.

Facade of Santa Croce on left, some neat buildings on the right.  And sun.  Florence is a tad more enjoyable than Venice so far.

Dana Johnson Pic - We ate at a Russian Italian side street place which was really good.  Lori and I had the grilled sausage and fried potatoes while the kids had pasta.  It's so nice to have pork sausage again, horse sausage tastes a little funny to us.
After supper we called it a day.  Our apartment was with Signoria Apartments in Florence which apparently is a larger company that has multiple apartments.  Our apartment was at the Florence University of the Arts which was a little odd.  The university was still on break our first day so everything was quiet but eventually students started coming back so the place was a little busier by the time we left.  It must be a small school as we weren't trampled by any masses of students but staying on a campus was still a little strange.  When we checked in the Signoria Apartments guy told us it was an American school which didn't make sense to us.  The school must be a partner school or something because as the students started filtering back we heard an awful lot of American accents.
View from our common area balcony looking at Piazzale Michelangelo and Basilica di San Miniato al Monte across the Arno.

Close up of the above pic, the piazzale is on the left and basilica is on the right.

Tammy Foster Pic - Dark rain clouds rolling in to battle the sunshine.  C'mon sunshine!

Jim Seppanen Pic - One of the baby lemon trees in the courtyard.

Jim Seppanen Pic - Our lone palm tree in the centre of the courtyard.  The balcony that I took the above pictures from are behind the tree.
Monday Day 5 - Our first stop was the Duomo but after walking past a bunch of statues the previous day I decided to slip in a statue stop along the way at Piazza della Signoria. 

The second copy of David is where the original statue stood before it was moved to the museum.  Two down, the original to go.

Perseus by Cellini from 1554.  This bronze statue was intended to warn Cosimo I's enemies of their probable fate per my guide book.  Cosimo de' Medici was the grandfather of the Medici in Karl's game (we had to bird dog the lineage a bit to figure out which Medici was which).

The Rape of the Sabine by Giambologna.  This impressive marble sculpture was from 1583 although I only managed to take a shadowed picture.  17,000 pictures taken and I still pull newb stuff.

Hercules and the Centaur by Giambologna.  Another impressive one from the 1500's. 

The statue gallery.

Finally to Duomo Square.  This was slightly amusing as the gang photo bombed a guy to my left who made a disgusted face and walked away a little.  Oops.  Bapistry on left, Duomo in middle, Cupola in back, bell tower on right.

I turned the camera portrait style to capture all of the tower.  Giotto's Campanile (Bell Tower) was completed in 1359, you can read about it here on Wiki.  We didn't climb it as we chose to climb the cupola instead.  And I was not climbing both of those in one morning.
Our first stop was the Battistero (Bapistry of St. John) which is one of the oldest building in Florence and was built between 1059 -1128 and was also where Dante Alighieri (among others) was baptised (read  about it on this Wiki link).  It also has the status of a minor basilica per Wiki.  I believe this is the first bapistry I have toured and may end up being the finest bapistry I will ever tour.  Wow was this ever nice with its gilded mosaic dome and colourful marble walls and floor.

Altar area with wall and ceiling.

Dome close up of the 13th C mosaics with oculus.

Upper ring close up.

Ceiling close up.

This demon or devil eating people theme was also on the Duomo dome.
The baptismal font.

Following the signs to the cupola entrance past the cathedral facade and bell tower after the bapistry.

Walking along the cathedral to the cupola exit instead of entrance.  Doh!  More walking.
After the bapistry was a climb up the cupola. We wanted to do the climb early in the morning and with our Firenze Pass it is advertised as pass the line entrances. We found out however that no queueing or pass the line entrances doesn't mean the same in Italy as it does elsewhere. What it means in Italy is that there are two lines outside the attraction doors - one line for stand in line tickets and one line for passes. Once both lines get inside the doors it is a mass crush to get to the ticket window first. At least the passes line was shorter I guess.  You can read a little about the 1436 AD completed cupola here.

The cupola ceiling.  At the top around the oculus is a bunch of people looking down at the people as they try to find the path to Heaven and avoid the path to Hell.

The bottom ring (Hell) of the cupola ceiling including another person eating demon.  The demon toad on the left beating the person was attenion grabbing.  Incredible artwork here in Florence.

View of cathedral on our way up to the top.  So far the churches and cathedrals have mostly been huge with plainly decorated walls and airy ceilings.  The monuments, floors, paintings, and sculptures have been amazing though. 
Finally to the top. But only a quarter of the group made it. Near the top a bunch of people had turned around and were coming down the narrowing stairs so Lori and the kids turned around before the stairs became to difficult to navigate. Unfortuneately for them it turns out we were very near the top and there was a separate way down so the final ascent wasn't bad. Oh well.

The sun and clouds are still fighting.  You can do it sun!  To the left is the white Santa Croce facade and our apartment is just to its right.  On the far right is the Palazzo Vecchio Bell Tower and just outside the picture is the statues on Piazza della Signoria.

Looking at San Lorenzo, the Medici family church.  I took this because I remember Karl as Ezio (in his game) climbing to the top of the Duomo Cupola then sliding down to the cathedral roof before jumping off and sprinting along the town rooftops as the guards chased him. 
After a look around I went down to meet up with the gang.  Along the way was a small exhibit showing the tools used in the construction of the cathedral but my pictures didn't turn out and the literature was pretty paltry so I didn't absorb any of it.  Sorry.  
Our next stop was the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) which is the Florence Cathedral.  It was originally called the Duomo and can be read about here on Wiki.  It's construction started in 1296 and was completed 140 years later in 1436.  The Duomo, Bapistry and Campanile all make up the World Heritage Site and they are certainly deserving of the honour.  The Cathedral Square was a little slice of paradise for a history lover like myself.  Duomo - started in 1296 and completed in 1436 by the Cupola although the facade is brand new as it was added in 1871-87.  Bapistry - completed in 1128 but dates back to the 4th C by its previous structures and usage.  Campanile - completed in 1359 when America was still a massive nature preserve.  Travelling is easily the favourite part of this adventure for me.

Inside the cathedral looking towards the altar area.  The existing marble pavement is 16th C.

St. George's pet lamb.

Looking at the altar and dome.  Probably to large to accurately see in the picture.

Main altar close up but not very close actually.

Looking back at the entry doors and twenty-four hour clock.  Not a lot to look at inside.  The plain Gothic style interior combined with the lack of monuments made for a quick tour inside the cathedral.  This is actually one of the few cathedrals/churches that were better looking on the outside than inside.
We did tour the Crypt since the line was so short. This wasn't included in our Firenze Card so we stood in line and paid out of our own pockets.  The Crypt was actually the Basilica of Santa Reparata which is briefly covered on the Duomo Wiki link.  The tomb of Brunelleschi, the Dome designer, was down here but that section was so crowded I didn't get a picture.  They don't know the exact date of the ancient basilica but can date it to at least 405 AD.  Kind of impressive I guess.  Okay just kidding, that's really impressive.

This was an original church alter if I remember correctly.

1363 AD grave marker.

1600 year old floors, foundations, and walls.

The golden Bapistry doors.  These are copies of the 1452 AD original doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti which show scripture scenes.  Michelangelo dubbed the originals the "Gates of Paradise".  Ghiberti's doors were chosen over submitted designs of the Cupola designer Filippo Brunelleschi, some guy named Jacopo della Quercia, and the TMNT Donatello.
Last shot of cathedral, tower and bapistry.  It's late morning now and we are noticing that early morning lines/crowds are sparse in Italy with midday crowds filling the main attractions while afternoon crowds are bumper to bumper crazy.  Evening crowds were hit and miss, some places were packed while other places were clearing out.
Our next stop was Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, Wiki link, another huge church that was included in our Firenze Card so off we plodded.  The church was completed in the 14th C and like most churches it was built over another church.  A Dominican Order has been on this site since 1221.

The white Florence facade attached to the plain brown stone body.

Cloister of the Dead frescoes and decor dating the mid 14th C.  This area used to be the cemetary hence the name.

The Green Cloister with fresco remnants on the walls.

Interesting 16th C paintings in a side chapel in the cloister.

The Great Cloister was built between 1332 - 62.

Requisite stained glass pic.  Not sure of the symbolism of the threatening mace.

Main altar with impressive frescoes on the wall.

Wall close up of the altar fresco The Life of John the Baptist by Tornabuoni from 1485.

Shot of main altar and side chapels.  Poor lighting is really limiting my pictures here.
The Cappella Gondi.  The Wooden Crucufix is a 14th C sculpture by Brunelleschi.
View down nave.
Time for lunch.  We walked towards the next stop until we found a place that looked okay.  It was a very good local place but I forget the name of it.  We had stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe per Karl's request but didn't want to weather the 1.5 hour wait so we kept on walking.

Kevin Coleman Pic - I think Peroni means "tastes good" in Italian.  I opted for the one liter so they said I had to take a picture of it by something to show the size.  I actually ordered the "bigger" size not realising it was one liter until they brought it to me.  Oh well, no sense wasting it so I drank it. 

Dana Johnson Pic - I tried KJ's staple and it was very good.  Each pizza is a personal size due to its thin crust and minimalist topping adornment.  This was Tuscan sausage and sweet pepper.
After lunch we continued our Assassin's Creed tour and visited Basilica di San Lorenzo (Basilica of St. Lawrence) which is the burial place of the main Medicis.  You can read about it here on Wiki.  This wasn't originally on my list as I planned our trip but added it for Karl because of the Medici connection.  The inside had a lot of fresh flowers which would have made for nice pictures with the impressive monuments, sculptures and paintings but no pictures inside.  The Old Sacristy designed by Brunelleschi and decorated by Donatello was a fitting place for Cosimo de' Medici and his wife.  Cosimo was the grandfather of Lorenzo the Magnificent who is the Medici in Karl's game.  We discovered that Lorenzo was the father of Pope Leo X which Karl and I found interesting (showing the power/influence of the Medici family at that time).  Unfortunately there were a few areas blocked off for restoration so we didn't get to see the Biblioteca (staircase, ceiling and desks designed by Michelangelo) or the bronze pulpits by Donatello (his last artwork).  Kind of a bummer but life goes on.

Interesting history but no pictures inside which really stunk.  Works by the TMNT's Michelangelo and Donatello were begging me to take their pictures but I didn't.

Garden framed in arch picture.

Lemon tree in the middle of the cloister garden.  You can see the Cupola and Campanile in the distance.

Rare facade-less basilica in Florence. 

After the basilica we walked down this market area where Lori and Kalle found some deals and we all saw some shady characters.  Italy is full of dodgy characters and we saw lots of them on our trip.  In this market were four fellows selling watches who at one point looked to their left, grabbed all their merchandise and ran behind a row of stalls to hide.  Lori speculated they were illegally selling stolen or fake merchandise which was probably true as we saw this behaviour at some point in all of the cities.     
We were going to the Capelle Medicee (Medici Chapel) which was supposed to have superb tombs and sculptures but found out it was closed this day.  Among the sights we missed was the New Sacristy designed by Michelangelo for Leonardo the Magnificent's tomb and the Chapel of Princes with its inlaid coloured marble and semi-precious walls.  You can read about it here on Wiki.

So we trecked off to see David.  This bicycle park job caught my eye along the way.  Not sure if it was because it was not locked to anything or if it was the pedal used as a parking stand.

We also saw this advertising a special Dali exhibit nearby but Lori declined.  I think she is still scarred from our stop at the Dali museum in Brugges.
I had planned on seeing the Galleria dell' Accademia (link) for a couple of reasons.  One - it is included in the Firenze Card and Two - when Lori and I travel we like to combine the famous tourist attractions with the local out of the way sights.  This definitely falls into the famous tourist attractions category.  Plus the weather turned out great and we were on the north side of Florence already so in case the weather turned tomorrow I didn't want to come back up from our south side apartment.  The Galleria itself was quite disappointing.  When we were done I had to ask a docent if there was any more to see as I couldn't believe it could be so small.  To be fair a small section was blocked off but even still.  The paintings and artifacts were okay but nothing special.  The special stuff was Michelangelo's masterpiece David and the lesser known Four Prisoners.  
Sarah Anderson Pic - One of the Four Prisoners on the left, David in the middle.  At first the Four Prisoners look like incomplete works but when you look close they look more like masterpieces.  From the literature no one knows if the works are complete or not.  The prevailing thought is Michelangelo intentionally left them as is to show how he sees his sculptures struggle to get out of their marble prisons.  They weren't as detailed or as refined as most sculptures but there was enough detail to see the prisoner's contorted bodies struggling to free themselves.  Ingenious. 
Sarah Anderson Pic - I stealthily snapped David, the 16+ foot tall masterpiece.  We spent quite a bit of time admiring it.  Sometimes when you read or hear about something then see it in person it can be a let down.  Not David.  This was incredible.  The details in his toe nails, the vein along the bicep, the realistic knees, the contour of the muscles, it looked like a real person.  Per my guide book Michelangelo made David when he was 29 and it established him as the foremost sculptor of his time.  Overall the sculptures were superb in Italy but this was one of the finest.

Pinoccio and Geppetto and a wooden motorcyle.  Carlo Collodi was from Florence and wrote The Adventures of Pinoccio.
Up until now we have been knocking off a little earlier than usual but since we were walking right past Santa Croce I added it to today's sights.  Plus it was such a nice day I thought why not?  The Basilica da Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is a Fransciscan church and a minor basilica in the Roman Catholic Church (Wiki link).  Per Wiki it is the largest Fransiscan church in the world and was built between 1295 and 1385.  Inside was more construction <sigh> and some famous tombs. 

Front door of the facade.
Close up of wooden door carvings.

View of Piazza Santa Croce.

Main altar and scaffolding.

A side chapel.

View from altar towards front door.

Yet another chapel.

The Death of St. Francis fresco from 1317 on the left wall in the Cappella Bardi.

My Italian isn't the greatest but I think this is Madonna and St. Thomas from 1485 - 90 in the Cappella Baroncelli.

Tomb of Galileo.

Looking from entry doors to altar.  See what I mean when I say airy ceilings?

Tomb of Michelangelo Buonarroti. 

Monument for Dante.  His tomb is in Ravenna.

Monuments and altars lining the wall.  And I don't mean little monuments either.
Monuments and altars lining the other wall.
I always wonder why some pulpits have sun shades over them.

Tomb of Machiavelli.  Everytime we travel I feel like the Shell Answer Man (I think cousin Tim and brother Jeff will catch that reference at least) because Karl always has a couple hundred questions at every sight.  Machiavelli really tested my brain reserves at this stop.

Statue of native son Dante on our way out.

The world famous gelato.  We ate a lot of it and it ranged from pretty good to very very good.  I played it safe and stuck with the Milk Cream flavor everytime while the kids kind of hopped around the flavour cart.  Lori even had it a few times.  You can't go to Italy and not eat gelato.  The one thing that surprised was how many gelato stands or shops there were.  I don't think I went five minutes walking without seeing a stand the whole time we were in Italy.
I'll end the day with a few observations and complaints on our time in Italy so far.  The paintings and sculptures kept getter better and better.  The TMNT are all great of course but we saw so many side sculptures or wall paintings by people we have never heard of before.  Granted we aren't art majors but wow, we haven't seen the abundance of excellent art like this from no names (to us) in any of our previous trip.  The food has been as good in Florence as it was in Venice also - keep it up Italy.  My "Dan Stine extreme self restraint in the face of surmounting adversity moment of the week" in Florence was the prices.  I knew it would be expensive but it was a tad more frustrating knowing that EU citizens under 18 are free at most places while non-EU citizens above the age of six pay full fare.  There were a few student reduced rate places but not many. Ouch! 
Tuesday Day 6 - We planned on touring sights closer to the apartment thanks to the weather forecast but the forecasters were totally wrong and the day turned out pretty nice.  Our first stop was at the Uffizi Gallery (website link).  This is one of the best art galleries in the world according to most lists plus it was included in our Firenze Pass so we checked it out first thing.  It was a very good museum full of excellent paintings and sculptures but with all we have seen so far in our travels we (mostly the Jamaican sprinters, I just tried not to slow them down to much) moved through it pretty quickly relative to its size.  It did help a little that ten rooms were blocked off for remodeling.  It didn't allow pictures Italy style so I only took a few.  A few observations - I really like the works of the four TMNTs, Botticelli, Durer, Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto from the ones I remember.  Caravaggio didn't impress me at all.  I would recommend it although it was very much along the lines of the Louvre, British Museum, Rijksmuseum and most Roman churches so if you have been to all of those places already feel free to skip the Uffizi otherwise check it out.  Cliff notes for the non-link readers - the gallery was built in 1581 for office space for the Medici family before they placed art in it and it eventually became the Uffizi Gallery.
 Using our "pass the line" Firenze Cards to not stand in line while we stand in the Firenze Card line.  For 20 minutes.  I don't think Italy gets the concept.
Sarah Anderson Pic - TMNT Leonardo self portait.

Tammy Foster Pic - View of Ponte Vecchio from Uffizi.

Sarah Anderson Pic - I forget the specifics but this is the guy with his sons on his way to warn Troy about the deception when they are attacked and killed by snakes.  I'm not sure which sculpture is the original but we have seen this sculpture about five times in our travels.

Sarah Anderson Pic - View of the Port by Paul Bril, 1617.
After spending the morning in the gallery it was time for lunch then onto the Ponte Vecchio.

Tammy Foster Pic - The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) was built in 1345 and originally housed blacksmiths, butchers and tanners (who dumped their waste into the river) but those people were evicted for jewelers and goldsmiths who were cleaner and didn't smell as bad per my guide book.  The bridge also has the distinction of being the olny Florence bridge to survive the bombing of WWII.  The brown siding between the roof and shops was a private corridor built for the Medici family to move about their residences without having to mix with the public.  You can read the Wiki link here. 
We walked to the bridge then over it and back but jewelry isn't my thing and the prices scared Lori so we barely browsed the windows.

Random building picture across the river.
We next went to the Galieo Museum (link) and walked up to the entry door just as they closed for the day.  Oops, they close early on Tuesdays.  The kids weren't excited about going but I thought it would have been interesting.  Oh well, onto the next stop. 
The Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) is the Florence town hall and was built in 1322 (read about it on Wiki here).  Although it is the town hall it isn't a town hall in the same sense that you would expect.  Yes it does have a meeting room and offices but it also has three courtyards and a whole living area.  And not a couple of bedrooms, kitchen, dining room and family room living area.  We are talking  seventeen rooms of living area all decorated with paintings in ornately frames and statues.  Yes the Medicis did decorate the place, how did you guess?  Getting the point of how rich and powerful the Medicis were yet?  They ruled the area for three centuries and still have their fingerprints all over it. 
Corner of one of the courtyards.

The meeting hall, nicer than a lot of the rich manor houses we have visited.

Close up of a wall painting.  Or at least as close as you can get to a massive wall painting.
Pope Somebody giving the "Order, Order" hand gesture.
Ceiling in Lorenzo the Magnificent's room.  Or one of his rooms I should say.  All the rooms had these life scenes painted on the ceiling to match the room owner's life story.  Talk about narcissistic, you can lay in bed and look up at your life story.  I guess for a change you can go down a few rooms and look at pa and grandpa's life story as well.
Sample room view.  The Medici's spruced up the place in the 1500's.
The Apartment of the Elements from the mid 1500's.  Each wall is a painting of one of the four elements.

Just one of the ceilings.

Nicely decorated wall.

We're in the map room now looking at an old map of Greece which is our late May vacation destination.  I am really looking forward to some sunny weather and a little beach time.  Funny sidebar here.  At one point later in the trip the kids said they looking forward to a "non-educational vacation" which kind of surprised me.  So I said we would get some beach time in while in Greece.  Sounded good to me and I had planned it anyway when Karl became suspiciously quiet.  Knowing that he doesn't like beaches I asked him if that sounded good to him.  He said no, he didn't want to sit on a beach and relax.  I then told him that we are not taking vacations over here and staying home the whole time so he can play video games all day with his buddies.  He has nothing else to say.  Conversation over.  I'm not sure he will survive the teenage years.  I'm sure Kalle will enjoy the beach time BTW.

Map of home sweet home for a couple more months. 

Teresa Robinett Pic - I thought this bronze muscled horse was neat.   

After the town hall was a little three room free (worth the price of admission) museum on the history of Florence.  Karl and I spent about fifteen minutes looking at the maps, stencils and okay paintings while reading about life in Florence throughout the years.  The girls guarded a bench and waited for us.  My favourite piece in the museum was this map of Florence from 1490.
I had planned one more stop then we were done for the day.  It was a tad earlier than planned with my Galileo Museum blunder but I think we'd covered the high points of Florence by now so didn't mind heading back early.  The last thing I wanted was to tire anyone out in the beginning of our vacation.  No one has started whining (to much) yet and I was hoping to keep it that way for a while.  All good things must come to an end however but we'll discus that later...
While travelling I like to learn about famous locals we can only read about in books.  (Okay, that sounds pretty educational.)  We learned about Victor Hugo and Auguste Rodin in Paris, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Salzburg, William Wallace in Scotland, Finn McCool in N. Ireland, William Shakespeare in Stratford, etc.  So now it was time to learn about Dante Alighieri in Florence.  (You can read about him on Wiki here.)  He wrote the Divine Comedy in case you hadn't heard of him.  Karl didn't know who Dante was until I mentioned Divine Comedy while Kalle was still clueless.  I guess she hasn't studied many literary classics in school yet.

The birthplace of Dante.  Coincidentally this place was close to our apartment and covered with the Firenze Card.  I had low expectations going in and was sufficiently underwhelmed. 

Dante info board.

Currency (not real florins) from Dante's time.  The bottom floor covered Florence in Dante's lifetime which was kind of interesting. 

Interesting diagram of the stone constructed Tower Houses which were popular in medieval times for two reasons.  One - lack of real estate inside city walls for growing cities and families.  Two - protection against rival families in a time of constant fighting.  If you go back a few pictures you will see how defensible these houses were built.

Ring with the Alighieri coat of arms. 
The second floor was about Dante as he became famous and his interactions in Florence.  Nothing really interesting on this level other than he was exiled from Florence in the aftermath of the war between the White Guelphs and Black Guelphs (Wiki link) after his side lost control of Florence. 

Another Dante info board.  Dante died in Ravenna in 1321.  He never returned to his beloved Florence as he rejected the dishonourable terms in which he was invited back. 

Rodin's The Gates of Hell which we saw in Paris.

Kalle in front of the Divine Comedy.  The top floor was the impact of Dante's works but this level was pretty poor.

Dante standing between the mountain of purgatory and the city of Florence.
We're done for the day so we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening finding a suitable dinner place and relaxing at the apartment. 
Tomorrow we move on to Pisa.  See y'all soon.

Thanks for listening,

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