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

Christmas! 12/25/18

Merry Christmas to all especially to family who are celebrating at home. Thank you to Auntie Leigh, Gram, and Gramps who have made this trip possible for Ryan and Jon by giving Alex and Sam a special Christmas at home.

This morning in lieu of our usual Christmas breakfast we are enjoying the sweetness of pastries and a traditional panettone. We have a unique way of warming the pastries – a radiator with a built in warming oven. It works great!

Warming oven in radiator
Ryan and Jon on Christmas morning waiting for breakfast

We have mimosas and beer with our panettone and pastries. The panettone is so delicious, sweet and yeasty. Sarah promises to make one for next Christmas!

Our Christmas breakfast spread
Main attraction – panettone
Inside the panettone

While Sarah works on the lasagna and John and I loll about Ryan and Jon take a walk through the quiet streets of Florence and enjoy the architecture.

Ryan and Jon on their walk

In the early afternoon we all meet to go visit the beautiful Santa Maria Novella church full of early Renaissance frescoes. It is a favorite of mine.

Ryan and Jon in front of Santa Maria Novella

Founded in the first half of the thirteenth century Santa Maria Novella has so many marvelous works of art to see –

Beautiful Annunciation by unknown artist ~1370
Crucifix by Giotto 1288-89
From the Strozzi Chapel, Filippino Lippi 1489-1502, St. Phillip the Apostle at the Temple of Mars in Hierapolis
Altarpiece by Orcagna, 1354-57
Jesus leads redeemed souls to Paradise, Spanish Chapel

After our visit to Santa Maria Novella it is time for Christmas dinner. Sarah bakes the lasagna and we all enjoy it a lot!

Sarah photobombing a picture of Ryan and Jon before dinner
Lasagna out of the oven!
John serving
My slice
Sarah, our wonderful chef for Christmas Day!

This is a Christmas I shall always remember!

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.