I caught the train from Florence to Venice, which was a fantastic way to travel. The trains are easy to book, fast and quite smooth to ride on (I was easily able to read my book). I was impressed by the canals in Venice, and buildings that are designed to face out towards the waterways. The canals are pretty much the main highways through the city. I booked a 24 hour ferry pass, which meant I could travel on the ferries as much as I wanted, which suited my short stay. The canals also cool the temperature of the city down which was also nice.
While I was in Venice I visited the Palazzo Ducale. The historic centre of power in Venice and traditional residence of the Doge (supreme leader) of Venice, a role first instituted in 726. The palace was sumptuously decorated. I was also interested to see the differences in artistic style compared with Florence. Symbols such as astrological signs appear, along with religious symbols, pagan symbols, symbols from greek and roman mythology - in particular Neptune, god of the sea. St Mark's lion appears prominently, as do trade ships, no doubt an important part of life for this city on the edge of the Adriatic sea.
Building the palazzo (palace) Pitti began in 1458. The huge Renaissance palace was built by the Pitti family, however, construction of the palace was expensive, and it was sold soon after it was made to the arch rival Medici clan in 1549. The palace and the gardens associated with them are amazing. In the late 18th century, the palace was used as a power base by Nepolean, and later was the main royal palace of the newly united Italy. The palace and its contents were donated to the Italian people by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1919. Consequently the palace has an almost lived in feel, as it was until, well relatively recently by Italian history standards! I visited a beautiful costume gallery with fantastic clothing on display - truly works of art.
The Medici gardens are a beautiful green respite from the heat of the town in Florence, and in the middle there is a coffee house (where I took the photo you can see of the green coffee cup).
I visited the fortress palace of Palazzo Vecchio. Right in the middle of Florence, this was the seat of power for hundreds of years, and its towering medieval tower gives great views of the surrounding city.
I spent many hours wandering the colourful cobbled streets of Florence, there is plenty to see, and this day was an eventful one. I first went to a little and historic reference library that was like something out of harry potter. It had very old books, funny ladders and winding stair cases. Then I wandered down to an old Church - the Basillica di Santa Maria. It is a very old Church and some of the paintings were done by Giotto in 1290. It has many old frescos, and also stands on the site of an even older Church, it is clearly the predecessor of the more elaborate Renaissance cathedrals. I think went to the chapel of the medicis - the Medici clan were a very powerful family from Florence, and patrons to much of the great western art of the Renaissance. The chapel was very impressive and many of the sculptures were by Michelangelo. In the crypt underneath the chapel there were some relics - human bones (allegedly saints bones) eleborately decorated with gold. Then I wandered over to the oldest pharmacy in the world, and still sells perfumes made by the Dominican friars from the convent of Santa Maria. After all this sight seeing action I decided to retire back to my own monastic cloister - my accomodation was previously a monastery!
The plan for the day was to walk up Montececeri hill which is just above Florence and is the historic starting point for this amazing city. My friend and I started early on our walk. We started early to avoid climbing the hill in the hottest part of the day, and it was well worth it. I was up at 4:00am, and we were off up the hill around 6:00pm. We walked through a lovely forested path which was once trodden by Leonardo da Vinci, who also climbed to the top of the hill to test his flying machines in 1506. It was great to spend a few hours in nature as we clambered to the top. At the top of Montececeri hill there is a beautiful medieval village, Fiesole. The town is very picturesque and has fantastic views of Florence and the surrounding hills. It was a clear fine day, but the hill top breezes made the area cooler. We had a well deserved coffee at a little cafe and kept exploring the town. On our way through the village we saw a lot of interesting things, including an ancient Etruscian tomb which is 2300 years old. We kept heading up and got to the monestary at the top of the hill, the Convento di San Francesco. It is a beautiful site, with sweeping views and an incredibly gorgeous little church at the top. Next to the monastery there is a little shop. It sells perfumes and tinctures made by Francescian monks. For hundreds of years these have been made from the herbs from their gardens. So now I own a little vial of perfume made by Francescian monks! It was an amazing day, and great to spend it with a good friend. I hope you enjoy the photos.
On my first full day in Florence, my friend and I walked through the streets of Florence to see the Uffizi gallery. We saw so many amazing works of art on the way. The Uffizi gallery is truely amazing, and has beautiful works of art that span hundreds of years. These document the patrons of the time, early religeous paintings, to later works which were deeply inspired by the greeks and romans and also which started to depict noble people at the time. Many of the art works provided amazing glimpses into life in the past, as well as themes such as every day human emotions and experiences that a person can relate to hundreds of years later.
I had been invited to Florence by a good friend who was taking a course nearby. I decided to take this opportunity to see Florence with my friend, so I am now spending a few weeks in Italy. My flight from Chicago to Italy was particularly scenic. Ive included some photos from Chicago, Dusseldorf (where I had a short lay over) and Italy.
Chicago is a glistening city that rises up besides the shore of lake Michigan. It is the third largest city in the United States. It has a fantastic art gallery and museum, and also has some historic sky scrapers. We had a great day exploring Chicago on one of the first days of the U.S. summer.
Tawacunchukdah is a lake in Wisconsin also called 'Devil's lake'. The closest translation from native American is 'spirit's lake'. It is an amazing forest park with very popular camp sites. The weather had been predicted as overcast and potentially rainy, so it was a great surprise to have a fantastic sunny day for rock climbing at the lake.
The crags around the lake are of purple quartzite, a kind of rock found in only three locations in the world. It is ancient rock - formed from sand melted into quartzite one and a half billion years ago. The purple colour of the rock is due to the presence of iron and iron eating bacteria at some point during the formation of the rock. The quartzite is ultra hard rock which has some fantastic cracks - perfect for climbing on.
Yesterday was a great day spent climbing on this quartzite in the sun - with a great group of fellow climbers. Close to our climbing spot we made use of a jumping rock for diving into the lake nearby, which was great fun after a day's climbing.
The lake country in Wisconsin is aptly named, it is a network of rivers, creeks, islands and lakes big and small. It's a great place to explore by kayak. Some of the hightlights included wading river birds, waterlillies, dragon flies which fluttered over the river and perched on my kayak, and the scent of wild roses over the river.