Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Italian Extravaganza: Day 7

       I crossed another childhood dream off the list on day 7. Dad and I hopped on the train and headed over to The Leaning Tower of Pisa. I'm glad we made it a day trip instead of staying there overnight, because the tower is it. There is nothing else. Pisa took a big hit during World War II and most of the city was destroyed. Like a lot of European cities, the difference between the surviving city and the part that was rebuilt is striking. The part of Pisa that was rebuilt is very shoe boxy and uniform. The old part is beautiful and full of history and personality. Contrary to popular belief, the tower isn't the only historical site in the city. It is actually part of a lovely square that also includes a cathedral.
       It wasn't too difficult to find the square (just follow the tourists). Dad and I took the obligatory "holding up the tower" photo and then got ourselves paninis for lunch. Overall the trip took about 2 hours. So it was about as long as our train ride round trip, but definitely worth it. We ended the day at the Salvatore Ferragamo museum. If you haven't heard of this genius, shame on you. He is a famous shoe designer. I told dad that he could do whatever he wanted, but I was going to that museum. It was interesting to see the difference between the Ferragamo museum and the Uffizi. The Uffizi had very little sign of any curating, it seemed as if the paintings were hung on the wall in chronological order. And why would they need to do anything else? Botticelli speaks for itself. The Ferragamo museum was the opposite. It led us through rooms of installation art inspired by the shoes of Ferragamo. The theme was the connection between fairytales and shoemaking. I would have been content to browse through rooms and rooms of beautiful shoes, but instead I had to look for the shoes between the mess of art that had thrown up all over the museum. It was unfortunate. I did fall in love with the shoes I saw, though.
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Italian Extravaganza: Day 6 aka Museum Day or The Day of the Long Wait

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       It was museum day for the Mandels. We got up bright and early in order to get in line for the Uffizi Gallery. I greatly appreciate that my father understood how important it was for me to see Botticelli's Birth of Venus. We stood in line for an hour and a half in order to get into the museum. It was worth it though. Not only was the Botticelli room beautiful, there were also a couple paintings attributed to Da Vinci. Dad and I decided we didn't want our long wait to be for nothing, so we went through the museum twice. It was lucky that we went so early because it meant there were less people in the museum. By the time we went through a second time, Botticelli's room was packed. There was also an exhibit based around the Medici family (they basically owned Florence back in the day). It was nice to get a little more background on the history of the city through art. That's how I know all of my history anyway; art and English literature (liberal arts much?).
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       After the Uffizi Gallery we went back to the hotel to eat lunch and rest. Then it was museum time round two. This time my eyes were set on Michelangelo's statue of David. We made a pit stop in Piazza della Signoria to see the replica of the statue where it was originally placed. The collection of statues there is impressive and it's well worth researching their background information. Then Dad and I headed over to the Galleria dell'Accademia to see the original David. We waited in line for two hours. There were times when we both questioned what the heck we were doing. But this was what the itinerary said and there I was no way I was leaving Florence not having seen the Statue of David. David was worth the wait. Besides Michelangelo's pieces, the rest of the museum is "meh", but Dad and I went through quite thoroughly because we hadn't waited in line for two hours for nothing. Unless you're into rooms and rooms of religious art, then the Galleria dell'Accademia is the place  for you. We had kind of had our fill.
        When we left the Galleria we still had a couple hours before dinner. We decided to do the walk that the National Geographic guidebook suggested. Seriously, that book is magic. It took us all through Florence and took us by the highlights. We went by the Basilica of Santa Croce; the final resting place of Michelangelo and ended at the Medici palace. We went to dinner at a restaurant that the concierge at our hotel suggested. I had great beer and a Brazilian style steak. Having to wait in all of the lines was well worth it, but if I were to do it again I would definitely book tickets ahead of time.
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Italian Extravaganza: Day 5

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       The first half of our day was spent wandering around Venice. We didn't really have any concrete plans so we walked along the water and ended up in a more residential part of Venice, which was interesting. It was a nice break from having merchandise and mediocre food shoved in our faces. There were less people and the rhythm of the streets was much slower and quieter. Then we headed back to Piazza San Marco to go up the Campanile. My goal was to get a cityscape of every city we visited. After Venice I was two for two with cityscapes.
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       We said good bye to Venice and boarded the train to Florence. Venice to Florence is a longish trip so we didn't have much time to do sightseeing when we got there. The sun was already setting so we settled into our hotel and touched base with the itinerary. This was where my first almost melt down took place. I realized that my decision not to reserve tickets to anything would mean at least an hour long wait at The Uffizi Gallery the next day. No matter the wait, I knew we were going (I had to see Botticelli's Birth of Venus). Once we had decided to get up early and be at the museum when it opened, I calmed down. I was disappointed in myself, but content with the fact that we would probably get to everything on my itinerary. Through trip advisor, dad found this great little hole in the wall that served panini's that were to die for. They were super cheap, too. Filled with good food and looking forward to Museum Day, I headed to bed.  photo IMG_1252.jpg