Friday, December 11, 2009


sorry, no pictures again!
Florence was magnifico. The city of the birth of Western Civ as we know it! I found it rather monumental to be there in that great city. And it was so beautiful.
I arrived at night and found my hostel relatively easily. Thank heavens for hostels near train stations. The next day was when the real fun began.
I woke up early (which, by the way, is the best time to see any city - when it's waking up! AND the double plus of going early in a touristy city? You get all the sites to yourself.). First stop: Il Duomo and the Baptistry. THE place/event/thing that started the Renaissance...well, at least to me. See, the Medici Family was a powerful family in Florence in the 1400's. They held a contest for artisans to create the best doors for the Baptistry outside the Duomo. It came down to Gheberti's doors, or Brunelleschi's Doors. After much debate, Gheberti won (in one of those "underdog beats the old master"kind of moments...) and in a fury, Brunelleschi left the city. [don't worry, he came back and saved the day when he was the only one who could figure out how to successfully place a dome on the magnificent church {a church whose dome, btw, became the model for churches (and out capitol building) all over the world}].
SOOO Gheberti won, and it was magnificent. Michaelangelo saw the doors as a youth, and said that they were so beautiful, they were like the "Gates of Paradise" - which is the name they are referred to as even today.
The Medicis continued to pump money into the arts and sciences for the next little while, effectively revving up the Renaissance and bringing Europe out of the dark ages. Thank Heavens! and it happened in FLORENCE!! and I was THERE!! seriously, so cool.
i climbed to the tippy top of the dome (423 steps, thank you very much!), and the sight was beautiful. you know in mary poppins, when they're looking over the city at twilight, and it's just stunning? yeah, it was like that. If you feel like a hike up narrow, tight, windy staircases, then this one is for you! it's really worth it too, trust me.
While in Firenze, I spent a lot of time wandering the streets. It's so fun to just get lost in a city, and watch the people. The flea market was huge and fun, Santa Croce has the tombs of many a famous person (da Vinci, Galileo, Machiavelli, etc etc....), I saw the Uffizi, Michaelangelo's David, the Academia, had real italian pasta (it was so-so....) and pizza (BEST thin-crust pizza EVER), as well as fun along the river.
Italy is so colorful and lively. It's exactly as I pictured it. And it was fun to be there in off-season, and see their christmas market. Every country is different, and Italy's was more craft-driven than Germany. So many cute things!

go to italy. you'll love it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


(I promise to put pics some point in time... when my mind isn't mush... go look at FB. :)
I do believe that Italy is one of my favorite places so far. I know I say that about every place I go to, but believe me... Italy is worth they hype. Only, remember that if you come in winter, bring rain gear. I don't think I have been properly dry since I arrived here!
ROMA! what to say about lovely rome... what an amazing city filled with history. It was kind of shock to walk down streets and look around and see buildings thousands (literally!) of years old, right next door to a McDonalds...ahaha. I can't believe how huge the Colloseum is, or how marvelous Palatinate hill is. The history of the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church rests in that city! So much awesomness, I just can't describe.
As always, I tried to figure out the metro system right away. Nothing makes me feel like part of any city more than knowing their metro systems. Most of the time it is pretty straight-forward. But Rome's is tricky. Don't be fooled when you come! Other than the crazy exits, it's pretty fun to figure out.
I only scheduled 2 days in Rome... because I am a dummy. So, the first day was Palatinate Hill and the Colloseum. I was outrageously happy to see the house of Augustus Ceasar, and the Forum. Seriously, it's HUGE guys. The Colloseum was cool because of the gladiators, and Olympics, and jazz.... and also because it's where a key plot development happens in "The Count of Monte Cristo". :) I'm on a pilgrimage to follow Edmund Dantes' steps.... in reverse. Paris, Rome, Marseille! haha
Next, I went to Villa Borghese, to see Bernini's masterpieces. I wish I could have taken a picture of them. You'll have to look them up - especially Apollo and Daphne. Look really close at it... They say that when the clean the leaves at the top, they ring, because the marble is shaved so thin. Now that is mastery. Go Bernini GO! Bernini is my 2nd favorite sculptor, by the way. Also, when you go to Villa Borghese, make reservations ahead of time! They don't take walk-ins!
The next day I went to Vatican city and St. Peter's. Vatican museum... Sistine Chapel.... and a surprise!! They were having an exhibit on early astronomy instruments!! ohmygoodness...I bought my ticket as fast as possible and RAN to the exhibit. First one there! thank you very much. The guards looked at me funny. But I cannot believe how cool it was. 1st edition texts by Kepler, Galileo (a handwritten copy of Sidereus Nuncius!!!), Hevalius,., I died of happiness. no joke. I spent 75 minutes in there, and I could have easily spent more. It's nice that my Latin is so handy... I could acutally sort of understand what Galileo wrote! haha
Next, I strolled through the Vatican Museum. You have really got to take your time there. It is massive and somewhat overwhelming. Also, there is a FAKE sistine Chapel. You'll think you are there, and you're not. Don't be fooled, FYI. But the fake one is still cool.
The actual Sistine Chapel is magnificent. It's easy to see why so many consider it Michaelangelo's masterpiece. It has such dimension, and such presense. It's an amazing experience to be in there. There were also little cherubs of the OT prophets, and they were funny because the Cherubs were attitudinal.... as in, Daniel looked pious, Ezekial looked melancholy, Isaiah looked angry, and Elijah looked happy! Elijah was the only cherub that looked cherubic. haha
Sistine Chapel = oh so awesome. I really loved it a lot. I'm excited to go back!
Then, I went to St. Peters. Now that is an awesome place. Huge, welcoming, filled with happy people, and so much art. My senses were kind of on overload. :) I ate lunch in the square, and monk passed me saying, "Buon Appitito signora." yep, that made my day!
St. Peter's is filled with a lot of art revolving around the popes. I was a little surprised at how little there was of Christ. However, when you enter and go to the right, Michaelangelo's Pieta` is right there in front of you. Now THAT is an AMAZING piece of sculpture. Mary's face has the most poignant expression. And it's just so moving.... Go look it up, because my pictures don't do it justice at all.
St. Peter's is amazingly grand. Put it on your Rome To-Do list. And try not go on sensory-overload when you enter, because it makes Baroque look tame... somehow. :)
My stay in Rome was short and sweet. When I go next time, there is so much I want to do! And now that I have the metro figured out, it'll be a piece of cake.