Florence

Florence will be the last city we visited on this European trip. We did not have much time  to spend there.  The center of the city is very compact and can be visited by foot in a day or two if it is all what you have.  Our hotel was well located. Probably less than 700 meters from the famous Ponte Vecchio.

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Florence’s most famous bridge is lined with gold and silver shops, diamonds also . The bridge is always busy with people walking and taking pictures! Not sure if people are buying but looking is fun and free.

We walked up some stairs and reached Piazzale Michelangelo. Great view on the city from there because we had to go up.  We could see the whole center of the city and of course the Duomo.

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Every corner of the city is interesting.  Most churches now operate like museums, charging  an admission fee to see their art treasures.  The Duomo   also called Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral was free.  The Church’s noisy neo-Gothic façade from the 1870s is covered with pink, green and white Tuscan marble. The inside of the Dome  is decorated by one of the largest painting of the Renaissance, a huge Last Judgment by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari.  We spent about 30 minutes inside.

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Many piazzas,  sculptures  and  great architecture everywhere. Florence is a very touristic city. We saw many people traveling in group.  The city is safe and if you like walking you can just do it  all day long.  You cannot get bored as long as you stop to rest, have a gelato or a cappucino.  This is Italy !  If you like Renaissance paintings you go to the Uffizi Gallery.   In the Uffizi’s courtyard , many artists and statues of Florentines like Galileo, Dante, Machiavelli , Michelangelo, Vespucci and “the mangificient ” de Medici.

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dsc03922If you want to see David , you go to the Accademia but you can also see him at the  Piazzale Michelangelo and here it is free . I only show you the back here !!!

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If you’ve been to Italy, you know how great is to visit  the country, enjoy the food and the wine. The people are friendly. They speak English. The trains are not expensive and  are  easy to take . I am already thinking I want to go back!

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”                   Aldous Huxley

I hope  you enjoyed my posts on Italy. It will be the last post  on this trip. Other adventures and travel next week.

Grazie e ciao !  Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Lucca and Pisa

We left Cinque Terre and again we traveled by train. We were lucky that Trainitalia was not on strike anymore  as it had been the previous day. We had booked a  B & B to spend  3 nights in Lucca.

The first afternoon, we  went to explore the fortified city  surrounded by well-preserved ramparts.  The 2.5 miles path is ideal for an overview of the city by foot ( or bike).  Lucca’s wall effectively keeps out both traffic and it seems the stress of modern world. Locals are very protective of their wall, which they enjoy like a community garden. This city is simply a uniquely human and undamaged, never-bombed city. Romanesque churches seem to be around every corner as do fun-loving and shady piazzas.

We bought the combo ticket that allowed us to see the Museum of the Cathedral, the Cathedral, the campanile (bell tower) and also  see San Giovanni  Church.

The construction of  San Martino Cathedral  started in the 11th century. It is a mix of architectural and artistic styles. Its elaborate Pisan-Romanesque façade- featuring Christian teaching scenes, animals, and candy-cane-stripped columns- dominate the piazza. The façade’s central figure is St.Martin. This façade is asymmetrical. The inside was beautiful.

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After visiting the Cathedral, we went up the bell tower. I asked the young man how many steps we had to climb. The answer was 217.  The view on the city was good.  Mountains, red roofs,  clock tower,  Guinigi Tower with its garden on top (to the right on the photo below).

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In its heyday, Lucca packed 160 towers-one on nearly every corner- and 70 churches within its wall. No wonder I am always amazed to see so many churches when I travel to Europe. Each tower was the home of a wealthy merchant family.

In San Giovanni Church  is where there is concert with Puccini  music every night. He was born in Lucca. We climbed the bell tower of that church.  From above, we could see the Cathedral, the bell tower of the Cathedral and the piazza San Martino.

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Lots of bicycles in Lucca. Many are leaning on a wall waiting for a ride.  On nice days (even in the rain) people ride their bikes. It is a great city to walk and  enjoy the architecture.

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The next day we took a bus to visit Pisa. Piazza del Duomo was nicknamed the “Campo dei Miracoli” or Field of Miracles for the grandness of the undertaking . There were lots of tourists. dsc03200

Pisa’s bell tower is nearly 200 feet tall and 55 feet wide. The first stones were laid in 1173. It started to lean almost immediately after construction began. The heavy Tower-resting on a very shallow 13-foot foundation- was obviously sinking on the south side into the marshy, multilayered unstable soil.  The tower was built over two centuries by at least three different architects.  In 1990, the Tower was closed for repairs and $30 million (US) was spent trying to stabilize it.  It was reopened to the public in December 2001. Every 30 minutes, 30 people can go up the 294 tilting stairs to the top. We did not go  up.

We visiting the Cathedral.  The 320 foot-nave was the longest in Christendom when it was built. The stripped marble and arches-on-columns give it an exotic, almost mosque–like feel.  There was so much to admire again. The large paintings, the 15 foot tall octagonal pulpit sculpted by Giovanni Pisano, the dome, the stain glass, the ceiling, the floor .

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Then, we walked away for  Campo dei Miracoli to have a feel of the city. It was interesting as not many people go  to other areas of the town. More than 45,000 students keep this city alive. The weather was excellent. It was a good day to  explore. We found a good gelateria. We indulged (again)!

Back in Lucca  for the rest of the day and one night before going to Florence by train.

It will be the story of my next post.

 

 

 

Cinque Terre ( part 4)

That day, we took the train to Manarola to start  the  hike. We were going with Philippe and Mireille to Riomaggiore.  It was not a very long hike.

Riomaggiore (meaning river major) is built into a river gorge. It has a tiny harbor protected by large slabs of alabaster and marble which serve as tanning beds for sunbathers. The town is a fascinating tangle of pastel homes leaning on each other like drunken sailors.

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After a snack and a drink, we said good bye to our friends. We had time to do more walking.   We went up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Montenegro. We could not go inside  the sanctuary  but we enjoyed  the hike and the view on the Ligurian Sea ( an arm of the Mediterranean Sea).

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We took the train back to Vernazza .  We  watched the sunset from our deck.

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The next day was our last day in Cinque Terre. We stayed in the village. I took more photos.

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By chance, I met our friends Barbara and Michel from Paris. They were also visiting Cinque Terre with some friends. It was  great to see them. We had spent time with them last year in Paris.

I went back to the beach before dinner.

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I must say this time in Vernazza was very special. The hikes were good and the ambiance of this  small village  was  great. By the end of the day, it was quiet. We could have a drink by the harbor,  find a restaurant for dinner and enjoy the quietness of our room way above the village ( 100 steps to go up and down the main street).

A little sad to leave Vernazza  but our trip is not over  yet. Thanks for reading.

 

Cinque Terre (part 3)

In “real time” it is February 2017    but the events of this post happened in September 2016. It is part 3 of  4 of our time in Cinque Terre.  I  hope you enjoy reading my story.

Another good day for a hike in Cinque Terre. While we waited for our new friends, I could observe”the locals”, the people who live in Vernazza.  I watched workers bringing goods on trolley,  old ladies sitting  on a bench to have a chat and a young mom walking down the main street with  her baby carriage. Of course, we also noticed the tourists with their back packs or suitcases heading to the train station.  As soon as our  friends arrived  by train,  we started our hike .  Again, we appreciated  the views on Vernazza .It was wonderful to see the village from above. The color of the water was just fantastic. We saw some guys working on the trail.

We ended up in Corniglia at noon. Corniglia is a quiet town-the only one of the five villages not on the water. The buildings, narrow lanes and stairways of Corniglia are strung together amid vineyards high on cliffs.  We  found a little restaurant to have lunch  and  visited the town . I liked it. It was maybe more quiet than the other villages because the tourists cannot come here by boat. We can only  get there  by the road  or the train or by  walking on the  trails.

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Later that day,  we arrived in Manarola.   We had a good view of the village . The enchanting pastel houses of Manarola spill down a steep hill overlooking a spectacular turquoise swimming cove and a bustling harbor. The whole town is built on black rock. Above the town, ancient terraces still protect abundant vineyards and olive trees. This village is the center of the wine and olive production of the region and its streets are lined with shops selling local products.

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dsc02462We were very  happy with our day.  Philippe ( our new friend ) went for a swim…dsc02466

while we looked for a place to  have a cold beer and relax . Then, our friends  took the train to La Spezia and us  to Vernazza . We were going to meet again the next day for the last hike  between Manarola and Riomaggiore. This will be the last and next post on CT. It might inspire you to visit and I think you should if you can.  Thanks for reading .

Ciao !!! My next post , next week-end ! Have a good week.