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.

 

 

Ryan and Jon arrive in Florence. 12/22/18

I have been up half the night worrying about Ryan and Jon. Will their flights go smoothly? Will they make their connection okay? Will they figure out getting train tickets? Are the trains to Florence sold out? Although Jon has been texting me all the way and things seem fine, I will not calm down until I see them. John and Sarah go to the train station to meet them. I stand at the window watching for them until I realize that I don’t know which street they will come down. Finally I hear the elevator. Yay, they are here!!

They look at their rooms. They seem okay with them. I think they find all the nooks and crannies absurd but enchanting. We decide to go out to lunch as soon as they are settled in.

Ryan and Jon’s living room
Ryan and Jon’s bedroom

We head off to La Busola, our preferred pizza place, for lunch. It is such fun having everyone here. We order our own personal pizzas and beers all around!

Sarah, Jon, and Ryan at La Busola
Ryan and John having a beer
Yum, pizza!

Afterward we take a walk by the Duomo. Florence is really bustling with people! I thought it would be fairly empty this time of year. Maybe too many people took my advice to come in the off-season!

Sarah, Jon, John, and Ryan in front of the Duomo in Florence
Sarah, Jon, Mary, and Ryan in Florence (plus soldier with big gun!)

Ryan and Jon decide to explore the surrounding area while the rest of us have some food shopping to do. We meet back later for hors d’oeuvres and wine. It will be our dinner since we are still pretty full from lunch. I am so happy that Sarah, Ryan, and Jon are here to help me celebrate my birthday and Christmas!!!

Sick day. 12/19/18

I have a bad cold and rather than push myself I take a day off to lounge about in bed. In my history of traveling there was an unfortunate incident of getting a cold on a cruise and that turning into pneumonia so I am extra careful these days.

John and Sarah go out sightseeing though. John brings me back some pictures as well as cold medicine and lunch. He and Sarah spend the morning at Museo Nazionale di Villa Guinigi. The museum only lets people in at proscribed times in order to control the crowds and accompany the tourists. Today John and Sarah are the sole tourists and no one accompanies them. If I had gone we would definitely have been accompanied because three’s a crowd!

This a capital from the 11th century. I know John must have taken this picture because I have mentioned how much I love the odd, squat figures of the Longobard period
Even though this is from the formulaic Gothic period, I think you can feel a connection between mother and child, Lucca 1200s
This predella panel from around 1440 still shows a lot of trouble with perspective. The subject matter is the miraculous Volto Santo which we saw in the cathedral here in Lucca arriving on a crewless ship from its hiding place in the Holy Land. The Bishop of Lucca had a dream that it was arriving and went down to the sea to meet it.
Lastly John has found another Saint Anthony the Abbot with his devil-pig. This is a late 15th century painted wooden sculpture.

At this point Sarah and John look for a grocery to buy the medicine but cold medicine is not sold in groceries only in pharmacies where you have to have a big conversation with the pharmacist about your symptoms and then he picks out what he thinks is best. I imagine that John and Sarah did their best with limited medical Italian and hand gestures.

In their wanderings they pass the Conservatorio Boccherini, the music institute here in Lucca. There is a statue of Luigi Boccherini, the famous Luccan cellist and composer of the 18th century so of course Sarah needs her picture taken beside it.

Sarah and Luigi Boccherini

They stop back at our room, drop off the meds, and proceed out again to have lunch at da Nonna Clara, a restaurant I have checked out on Yelp.

I see from John’s notes that these lardo bruschetti get three smiley faces
This is Sarah’s chestnut flour tagliatelle with duck sauce dish. John has pici with sausage and mushrooms (not pictured)

On the way back they pick me up a salami and cheese sandwich and a focaccia with sausage and cheese. They want to make sure I am happy. Now we have enough food for dinner!

Later they go out to visit the Basilica of San Frediano, named for an Irish bishop of Lucca who built the church in the first half of the 6th century. It was later enlarged and modified in the 12th century.

Basilica of San Frediano, Lucca
13th century mosaic on exterior of San Frediano

Of interest is “the fresco of the Transportation of the Volto Santo from the port of Luni to Lucca by the Blessed Giovanni, bishop of Lucca.” Wikipedia This is the same tale told by the painting at the Museum Guinigi this morning!

The Volto Santo being taken to Lucca

We meet downstairs at the hotel later and share the rest of my lunch. We make plans to visit Pistoia and Prato tomorrow. Hopefully Sarah and I will be on the mend from our colds by then!