Sunday, March 02, 2008

Italy Part 1: Florence

It has been awfully quiet around here at the bog lately, and with good reason. At the beginning of February we set off for a two-week adventure in Italy, the country of my heart. I am half-Sicilian, and have always longed to visit Italy and Sicily, to discover my roots eat the food, and see whatever there is to see. We didn't make it to Sicily on this trip, instead focusing on Florence, and hitting a few other cities on daytrips during our stay.

At last, all of the pictures are in photosets, titled, and arranged the way that I want them to be. ~Sigh of relief~ When I organize pictures after we get back from somewhere, I always want it to be a little more than "Hey! Here are a few cool things we saw!" and throw a whole bunch of disorganized photos at the blog-reading world. I like to take my time, go back through the guidebooks, look things up on Wikipedia, compare pictures, weed things out.

Sign inside German McDonalds, just before Swiss border.
Sign inside of the last McDonalds in Germany, just before the Swiss border

It's always kind of funny to me to see something familiar in a foreign country. Here, McDonald's menu is all in German, with a few very non-American items listed.

I do all of this not only because I want you, our readers, to feel like you can travel with us virtually, but also because we are, in essence, using this blog to write our family's history. I want to remember what Italy felt like, what it smelled like, how it tasted on my tongue.
There are a lot of pictures from Italy. A lot. Too many to even try to put into one blog post. If you would like to peruse the photos on your own, go ahead. It's all in flick in this collection. If you want to just go through every picture (all 315 of them!!), click here: Italy. Otherwise, in each post for the next few days, I'll take you through different parts of our trip. FIrst, we had to drive down through Switzerland, and then a few hours into Italy, where we stopped at Vicenza for the night. We stayed in a large family suite with a terrible breakfast. The boys and Lavella behaved pretty well for the amount of time that they were expected to sit still in the car. There was some of this:

iPod boys
(Watching videos on my iPod while sharing ear-buds)

And blessedly, some of this as well:

Lavella pretty much just slept the entire time. I don't know how she did that and then managed to sleep through the night as well, but miracles do happen, as it turns out. Finally on the second day after about two more hours of driving, we reached Firenze (Florence), where we would spend most of the next two weeks. Crammed with tourists, studded with beautiful works of architecture, full of art. We were immediately in love with the city.

Ammannati's Neptune Fountain

In 1966 there was a terrible flood in Firenze. As quoted here: "...the skies over Tuscany opened and poured non-stop for 18 hours, causing an unprecedented artistic, economic and human disaster. The River Arno burst its banks, flooded the city and claimed 29 lives.
Ponte Veccio: view from water's edge
The River Arno, flowing under the Ponte Veccio, present day

Mud and water swamped the museums, churches and libraries of the birthplace of the Renaissance, ruining many great works.

The damage caused was incalculable but it was a fraction of the devastation the city would have suffered without the efforts of thousands of young volunteers who came from all over Italy and from abroad to save the art treasures and help Florence off its knees.

This week (on the 40th anniversary) Italy is recalling the disaster and the efforts of those volunteers, nicknamed the 'mud angels', who did so much to limit its impact."

In one account, a man recalls walking through halls hung with priceless paintings, each severely damaged by the water. Every painting had a bag hung underneath, filled with paintchips that had come off of that particular work. Later, artists, scholars, and students painstakingly worked to piece the paintings back together, often having to re-create paintbrushes and paints that had been used when the artwork was first created.

The work that these Mud Angels did is fascinating, and much of the recovery work in Firenze led the world to discover many of the restoration and archiving techniques that today we take for granted. There is a blog dedicated entirely to everything about this flood: The Florence Flood.

A reproduction of Michelangelo's David (the real one is inside of the art museum, Accademia, where photography is prohibited)

Giotto's Bell Tower (Part of the Duomo, or the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore)

Facade of the the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo)

Dante, next to the Santa Croce

Santa Croce

Firenze is known, in part, for it's leather goods. This was especially exciting to Greg, who has a deep and abiding love for all things leather. We were, however, somewhat disappointed. We did find leather in abundance, but it was mostly all low-to-mid quality stuff, and although every outdoor market was literally covered with the products, it was all rather obviously produced at the same big factory somewhere across town.

The snout of Il Porcelliono, a bronze boar on the corner of the Mercato Nuovo, stays highly polished. It is said that if you rub it, you will always return to the city.

Enjoying snacks after a trip to the market

The photos in this post are highlights from our flickr set: All Around Firenze. Click to check out more cool buildings, landmarks, and a visit to the catacombs beneath the Duomo, as well as cute pictures of the little guys, as usual.
Next post: Shopping at the Mercato Centrale!

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Mom2Zoey said...

Thank you for sharing all this. I definitely feel like I am visiting Italy through you. I appreciate all the work it must be putting this log together. I've been to Europe but I was a teenager and I didn't pay attention to the things I should have. ~A

Mom2Zoey said...

Thank you for sharing all this. I definitely feel like I am visiting Italy through you. I appreciate all the work it must be putting this log together. I've been to Europe but I was a teenager and I didn't pay attention to the things I should have. ~A