San Gimignano and Siena. 12/28/18

We are packed up and ready to go when the taxi comes to take us to the airport so we can pick up our rental car. We have rented 7 passenger Ford Galaxy that we can all, plus our luggage, fit in (but barely.) Our first stop is San Gimignano, the famous “tower” city. Encircled by 13th-century walls, the town centers on a square lined with medieval houses. It has a skyline of medieval towers giving it the nickname as the Manhattan of Italy. The Collegiate church of  San Gimignano is a 12th-century church with frescoes by Ghirlandaio.

Medieval houses
Sarah in the square
Ryan and Jon and towers
Collegiate church of San Gimignano

From the moment you step on the portico of the church there are fabulous frescoes such as this Annunciation.

Annunciation in portico, by Sebastiano Mainardi and dated 1482.

Inside the church is resplendent with frescoes, some by Ghirlandaio and most from the 14th century.

Overview of church
Left wall
Right wall
Back wall – the Seven Deadly sins

There are three tiers of fresco stories on the side walls. The top lunettes are creation stories, the middle register has. Old Testament stories,  and the bottom tier is New Testament. I have pictures of everything but I will just put a couple in.

Lunette- Creation of Eve
The Last Supper

Speaking of the last supper, it is past time for lunch and we eat at Antica  Marcellaria.

I have a delicious plate of tagliatelle with truffles, Ryan has pici with tomatoes, and Jon orders papardelle with rabbit ragu
Sarah, every adventurous, orders rabbit cacciatore while John has osso buco

We all take a look at the museum of the church, then Sarah goes to get gelato, Jon and Ryan climb a tower and find an interesting museum, and John and I take a leisurely stroll and find an overlook to take a picture of the beautiful Tuscan countryside.

Tuscan countryside as seen from the hill town of San Gimignano

We proceed to the car park and make our way to the garage outside of Siena where we will shed ourselves of the car and be driven to the hotel by the garage attendant. There are few cars allowed in Siena old town and we are right in the midst of it as our hotel is right across the street from the Baptistry.

View of the Baptistry from our room

Later we head to Siena’s campo for drinks and snacks under the outdoor warming lamps

Ryan, Jon and Sarah at Bar Il Campo
Mary and John

Last day in Florence. 12/27/18

On our last day in Florence we go to the Brancacci Chapel at the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine. For your ticket you get to see a video of why the Chapel was built and what was going on at the time, an iPad mini with a video and audio description of the frescoes, and access to the courtyard and church. I really like the iPad presentation because they zoom in on what they are talking about as opposed to you trying to figure out what people or events are being described. The frescoes were painted by Masolino, Masaccio, and Filippino Lippi in the early 1400’s. The Chapel’s frescoes depict Adam and Eve and the expulsion from Eden and the story of St. Peter.

Brancacci Chapel, Florence
Ryan and Jon at the Brancacci Chapel

After our visit we head over to Osteria Santo Spirito, our go-to eatery when we are on the other side of the river.

In the rest of the afternoon John, Sarah, and I organize our packing and meet again with Mikki and Franco to organize transport to the airport where we will pick up our rental car. Late in the afternoon Sarah and I have another tea session at Gilli’s. Jon and Ryan spend part of the afternoon at the Medici Chapel and climbing to the top of the Duomo dome.

Michelangelo sculptures in the Medici Chapel
View of Florence at dusk from the top of the Duomo dome

And here’s a cute picture of Ryan looking into a  mirror in the hallway of our apartments.

Ryan through the looking glass

Tomorrow we are off the San Gimignano and then to Siena for a two night stay.

 

 

Christmas Eve. 12/24/18

Ryan and Jon have fallen into a pattern of going downstairs to the cafe each morning to have a pastry and cappuccino. Jon says it is the best cappuccino he has ever had. I am happy that they are having such a good time.

Jon and Ryan’s favorite breakfast

Sarah and I are looking for bagels and other items for Christmas breakfast and dinner at the Pam grocery store. Once she has all her lasagna ingredients we have to make an executive decision about breakfast. We decide to buy a panettone from the bakery downstairs. It turns out to be much more expensive than the ones in the grocery store but we are hoping for a much better quality one. While we are at the bakery we also pick out a bunch of pastries. This is definitely a far cry from bagels and lox.

A 1 kilo panettone should be big enough for the 5 of us

Jon and Ryan go to the Duomo and visit the Opera del Duomo which contains older works that are no longer adorning the church or items that were on the outside and have been brought in to keep them from getting damaged from the elements.

John heads out to find more goodies for our Christmas Eve celebration. He is a regular at the Salumeria where he buys so much chopped liver that we will have an unopened container to give to Mikki and France when we leave.

Salumeria

We gather at lunchtime and Jon says he wants to go back to la Bussola for more pizza. No one puts up any arguments,

La Bussola, our spot for pizza

Everyone orders pizza but I am afraid if I eat pizza I will be too full to enjoy tonight’s hors d’oeuvres. So I order linguini vongole, a favorite of mine.

Sarah makes the lasagna in the afternoon and I help (watch mostly) and take various taste tests. Later she and I go out for tea at a restaurant in the Piazza della Republican and take some pictures of the decorations and store displays.

Piazza della Republica
Window display at Gilli’s
Decorations in the nearby street

Later over wine and hors d’oeuvres we sing traditional Christmas carols and then everyone is off to bed.

 

Birthday celebration. 12/23/19

Today we are going to have my birthday celebration and I am really looking forward to it. I have made reservations at Il Pennello. We will meet there at 1 PM.

Jon and Ryan scurry off to the Accademia to see the David and the other earlier works in the morning.

Ryan and Jon on their way to the Accademia
Look who is there!

Sarah and John spend time this morning trying to find bagels for Christmas breakfast. The website says that Mama’s Bakery is open but when they get there they find it is closed until January 7. Bummer. They go to the the Mercato Centrale and the Conrad but these stores do not carry bagels. We will have to come up with Plan B.

Back to the birthday celebrations…

We go to Il Pennello for our 1 PM dinner. We are eating early in the day because it is Sunday and the restaurants will be closing for dinner.

Il Pennello

I get to sit between Jon and Sarah while John and Ryan sit across from us. We all order wine.

Mary with Jon and Sarah
John inspecting some antipasti
Ryan with a glass of white wine

Everyone has brought me birthday cards! I love it! It is possible that I reminded everyone to put cards in their suitcases.

Birthday cards!

We order a wide variety of things to eat.

clockwise from left: Ribbolita, spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce, pici with sausage, onion soup, penne straccicate
Also from bottom: braised beef, white beans, fried veggies, trippa Fiorentina, veal scallopine with artichokes
Here we are outside after lunch and we have not exploded!

This was my best birthday ever!!!

After lunch Ryan and Jon head off for the Galileo Museum, the Baptistry, and climb the campanile. They have so much energy!

Astrolabe from the Galileo Museum
Interior of Baptistry dome
Ryan and Jon at the top of the Campanile
View of the Duomo from the Campanile

John, Sarah, and I head for the Accademia. Here are some things we enjoy-

Nuptial parade painted by Scheggia, the younger brother of Masaccio, circa 1450
“The Virgin of the Sea” painter may be Botticelli or Filippino Lippi, 1475-80
Annunciation, Neri di Bicci, 1465
“Tobias and the Three Archangels” painted in the International Gothic style by Domenico di Michelino, 1465
John, Sarah, and other art lovers admiring Michelangelo’s “Prisoners” and heading toward “David”
Can there be too many Davids in one post? I do not think so.
Who doesn’t love these old Byzantine paintings! Unknown provenance, circa 1250

At this point John and Sarah go upstairs to do more appreciating and I take a seat behind the statue of David appreciating his butt and watching other appreciators. They are gone a looong time.  When they finally reappear I have been texting them for quite a while. Unfortunately, the texts never reached them.

Since we are all quite full from our big lunch we just pick over our salami, chopped liver, cheese, and chips for dinner.