Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saving The Best For Last

Here are some photos that just don't fit in to any category, but they are worth sharing!!

Swim suits optional

Anything goes....or should it be..... everything goes!!

This is my photo of Doug swimming

And this is Doug's photo of me swimming!!

Only in Italy would you find a guide wearing a "tomato" dress!
Roughrider cheerleaders in Rome!

August 5: The Best of Florence

We spent the day revisiting some of our favorite spots in Florence, doing some shopping and eating gelato!!

Ponte Vecchio

Buildings along the Ponte Vecchio

Gold and Jewelry shops on the Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Santa Trinita

Ponte Vecchio at night

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini and the padlocks attached
We  stood in line early in the day to enter the Duomo.  The lines were not quite as busy as they were to climb to the top of the dome or the Campinile or to enter the baptistry.
Giotto's Campanile next to the Duomo

Inside the Duomo
Piazza della Signoria

Fountain of Neptune

Human statues

Sidewalk artists

We also went to the train station to buy our tickets for our trip to Rome the next day. We had a long wait so we were very happy we had decided to go ahead of time.

We went back to the Trattoria for our last dinner in Florence and met up with the couple from Edmonton once again.  We had a glass of wine with them and shared travel stories.  After dinner we went for a final walk to the River, along the Ponte Vecchio, to the Duomo and back to our hotel to pack for our last day in Italy.

August 4: Florence

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel we headed out to explore more of Florence.  The weather forecast was for +38C which meant we would be looking for some shade during the heat of the day.  Since it was Sunday many of the cathedrals were closed until later in the day.  We decided to visit the Boboli Gardens at the Pitti Palace.  The line to buy tickets was quite short and we were soon on our way to explore the 11 acres of gardens  and sculptures. The gardens are  the most familiar formal 16th-century Italian gardens. The mid-16th-century style included wide gravel avenues, many statues and fountains, and many semi-private and public spaces.  The openness of the garden, with an expansive view of the city, was unconventional for its time. The gardens were very lavish, considering no access was allowed outside the immediate Medici family, and no entertainment or parties ever took place in the gardens. We climbed to the top of the Boboli Hill, wandered down tree lined lanes and stopped to admire many of the fountains and statues.   I found it interesting that none of the fountains were in working order, I am not sure if this is because of the heat and lack of water or if they are undergoing renovations and restoration.  I can only imagine how beautiful they would be!  Doug was very intent to find a statue that he recalled from his visit to the gardens in the mid 70's and just as we were leaving we found it! The Bacchus Fountain included a statue of the Roman god of wine seated astride a gigantic turtle.  The fountain was completed in 1560.  We also visited the wonderful Buontalenti Grotto.

 Duomo in the distance

Many steps to climb

Wide lanes lined with beautiful trees

The hills surrounding Florence

Beautiful urns

Neptune Fountain of the Fork

A view from the top of Boboli Hill

Overlooking Pitti Palace

The Amphitheatre

Doug and the Bacchus Fountain

The Grotto

Well groomed shrubs
Giant Head Sculpture by Igor Mitoraj

Our admission to the gardens also included entrance to the Costume Gallery.   There were displays of period clothing but the rooms were dark and small.  It was a long walk up many sets of stairs for a 10 minute viewing.

We stopped for a quick lunch and then visited some of the more well-known sites in Florence.
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

Statue of David

Carousel in Piazza de Republica

Palazzo Vecchio

Entrance to Uffizi Gallery

In the evening we had dinner at a restaurant down the street from our hotel and enjoyed visiting with a couple from Edmonton. We walked down to the River Arno and then headed back to our hotel.

August 3: Pisa and Florence

We caught the early train to Pisa and stored our luggage at the train station so we could travel light.  After doing some wondering and asking people who didn't speak English we finally found the cafe that sold bus tickets.  After a short city bus ride we were dropped off at the gates  of Piazza del Duomo or Cathedral Square.  This is a walled area where the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Cathedral are located.  There were market stands outside and inside the gates selling souvenirs and leather purses.
The wall around the piazza

The street market

Everyone has to take at least one photo like this!

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Well, maybe 2 photos!!

Inside the walls

The cathedral

We hopped back on the bus and headed back to the train station to see if we could catch an earlier train to Florence.  We picked up our luggage (12 E for storing the 3 bags) and got our tickets with just a few minute to spare.  The trip went by quickly as we traveled by hill towns and villages.  Our hotel was just a 5 minute walk from the train station and we were able to check in when we arrived.  We were pleasantly surprised with how large the room was and everything was very clean.  After a bit of a rest we headed out to explore Florence in the scorching sun.  We had a gelato stop and then hunted for some shade along the busy streets before heading back to the hotel.

We had  a delicious dinner at a small trattoria near our hotel and then went for a walk towards Ponte Vecchio.  We stumbled across a young woman playing guitar and singing so we sat on the church steps with the rest of the gathering crowd and enjoyed the music.  From there we headed to the bridge and found another pair of musicians that were drawing a huge crowd. We stopped at a small market near our hotel and then called it a night!!
Beautiful music on the street

Musicians on Ponte Vecchio

The Duomo at night

August 2: Cinque Terre

When we were planning our stopover in Cinque Terre were very disappointed to find out that some of the shorter hiking trails in the  National Park were closed due to the heavy mudslides that had taken place in 2011.  However, There is regular boat service would take us to four of the five villages. We  decided that would be the best way for us to enjoy our short visit.  We had breakfast in our room and then strolled down the main street towards the dock where the boat would pick us up.  There were fruit and vegetable stands set up along the street,  the butcher was next door to our house and there was also a truck selling fresh fish. It was interesting to watch the locals shopping and visiting with each other.  We bought our tickets and then walked further along the path to where the boat would dock.  There were lots of people young and old in beach wear continuing on the path and so I finally followed along to see where they were going.  Many of them were perched on huge rocks, laying on a small beach or swimming in a small bay.
Fresh fish for sale

Produce on display

Sunbathing on the rocks

Swimming in the bay at Riomaggiore

The boat finally arrived and we hopped aboard and found a seat with a great view.  Within 10 - 15 minutes we were docking at Vernazza.  Vernazza is the fourth town heading north, has no car traffic, and remains one of the truest "fishing villages" on the Italian Riviera. The town relies on tourism as its main source of revenue but fishing, wine and olive oil production still take place.  It was hard to believe that such a picturesque village was buried in 4 metres of mud and debris during the flooding and mudslides. 
The streets of Vernazza

Shopping in Vernazza

Narrow streets of Vernazza

From Vernazza we took the boat to Monterosso, the village that is well known for its sand beaches.  Monterosso is the farthest north of all the villages.  The town is divided into two parts, the old town and the new town.  There is a pedestrian tunnel connecting the two areas of Monterosso.  It was a very hot day so we decided to spend a couple hours at the beach while visiting Monterosso.  There were chairs and umbrellas for rent but we found enough room on the crowded beach to spread out our towels and have some lunch.  The swim was very refreshing!!

The beach at Monterossa

The boat didn't stop at Corniglia because there is no access to the village from the water.  It is only accessible by train or walking paths.  We thought the boat would stop at Manarola but it kept going to   Riomaggiore.  It was time for a shower and some gelato.


In the evening we walked down to the water to watch the sunset and then enjoyed dinner at a tiny restaurant recommended by our landlady. Our time in Cinque Terre was short but very relaxing!
The sunset