I am thinking that I ought to wrap this trip up.Â It’s actually Saturday, March 28th and we’ve been home almost a week.Â We rented a car in Florence, a Renault Espace, and drove to Milan.Â Let me tell you that there are no gas stations near the airport in Milan.Â We drove around for an hour trying to find a gas station and finally found one on the road in the opposite direction.Â So heading out from Milan airport there is a gas station but for all the people who need to fill up their rental cars on the way in, no.
The trip back seemed unending.Â Eight hours from Milan to New york and then over six hours from JFK to SFO.Â There were heavy winds.Â I was so antsy in my seat.Â Even though I have vowed never again in coach, it was so so long even in business class.
We’re home now and the week has been busy.Â Sarah came over on Monday.Â It was her birthday.Â We went out to lunch, had manicures and pedicures and then we cooked dinner.Â On Tuesday we went over to see Nathan and Sam as well as Ryan, Leigh and Jon.Â John had a working dinner.Â On Thursday we went up to wine country with Sarah and stayed overnight.Â When we got back on Friday we crashed and we didn’t do much today, Saturday.Â It’s time to try to get over the jetlag.
It was a great, great trip.Â And now it’s time to start planning the next one.
Today was back to back art. All the pictures today are from the Opera dell Duomo since the other places wouldn’t let us take pictures. We started out at the Horne Museum. This museum houses a lot of early Renaissance art. The woman at the desk was very helpful and loaned us a book so we would know what we were looking at. The people upstairs where the art was treated us like a couple of miscreants on a mission to destroy their collection. They followed us closely and on one occasion told us to back away from a painting.
Next we went to the Opera dell Duomo which is a repository of art associated with the cathedral. We’ve been there a lot of times but we love a lot of the pieces in there. John is especially fond of the Mary Magdalen wood carving pictured.
In the Opera dell Duomo they also have many 14th century altarpieces. Here’s one about poor St. Sebastian. Although he is known for being shot full of arrows as in the center panel, it is not the way he actually died. In the small panels it also shows that after not dying from being shot full of arrows, he was clubbed to death and then thrown into a well or sewer. He’s always shown with his arrows in paintings as well as his martyr’s palm frond.
Finally also from the Opera dell Duomo, there isÂ a Michelangelo Pieta. This is one from the end of his life and is mostly complete. The face of Nicodemus who is the older man holding Jesus has Michelangelo’s face. The small figure on the left is supposedly carved by someone else.
Our last stop was at the Accademia. We had to wait on line and John saw this graffiti on the building. “Dear Satan, Thanks for the beer and good times. Love, God” It made us laugh. The Accademia is home to the fabulous Michelangelo David. It seems that most people just come to see this statue and miss out on all the other 13th, 14th and 15th century stuff. Their loss.
After a slow start to the morning we managed to get out around 10:30. Our first stop was the Bargello. In addition to having a lot of Michelangelo statues, there are some wonderful early paintings and ivory work. I think my favorite thing in the museum is a wonderful madonna and child from the 13th century. It is one of the earliest paintings that I have seen and the colors on it are still brilliant. Painting during that time was done with strict rules. Faces look Byzantine and the folds of drapery are quite geometric.
On the Ponte Vecchio are many of the stores of goldsmiths. It is too bad that the dollar has just become so much weaker against the Euro. The jewelry looks fabulous and it is hard to resist.
Here I am on the Ponte Vecchio doing the traditional pose with the Arno River behind me.
At the church of Santa Maria del Carmine is the Branchacci Chapel. During the 17th century the church burned down but the chapel with its 15th century frescoes survived. We viewed the frescoes painted by Masolino, Masaccio and Lippi. They are really amazing. Leonardo da Vinci said that he attributes the Renaissance to Giotto and Masaccio. The Masaccio figures are so lifelike and emotive next to even Masolino’s. The colors are still brilliant and the frescoes depict the life of St. Peter.
After finishing our visit to the Branchacci Chapel it was almost 3 PM and time for a little lunch. I first ate at the Osteria Santo Spiritu when we came here for the Oracle Users Group Conference in 1994. Every time we come here, it’s kind of a touchstone. Last time we were here the newest owners were celebrating their 10th anniversary of the restuarant. In November they will be open for 15 years. We always have the rigatoni with ricotta salata, a dry cheese. We also had some borlotti beans and a salad of celery, nuts and gorgonzola. It was all good.
On the way back to the hotel, we passed the Duomo which has to be one of the most beautiful churches ever. The cathedral was begun in 1296 and the interior is quite austere. It was completed in 1436 with the magnificent Brunelleschi dome and was renovatd in the 19th century with a Gothic Revival facade. It never fails to impress. Along with the bell tower and the baptistry, the square is unforgettable.
After battling our way around Naples, we were on our way to Florence. One of the things we were going to do along the way was to stop at a restaurant in Chiusi that I had read about in Food & Wine. About 15 minutes away, I asked John when we needed to return the car. He said if we returned it by 3 PM then we would just have a week rental otherwise we would have to pay for an extra day. Apparently he had told me this some time in the past and I had forgotten. So no restaurant in Chiusi just a horrible sandwich at an Autogrill. We got the car back in time.
The picture shows John doing what he does best, checking the internet for all the questions we write down every day and drinking wine. We have a sweet little set up here at the Residence Hilda. There’s a kitchenette and a sitting room as well as bedroom and bathroom. I am going to make scrambled eggs for breakfast tomorrow. Yum.
And speaking of yum, it’s on to the next post.
The concierge suggested we try Aquacotta, a neighborhood restaurant that was more for locals. (This would be true if their neighborhood was aswim with Americans and Japanese.) When we got there, we got the usual English menu. John dazzled the waitperson with his Italian and we got an Italian menu. But there was no crostini di fegato! So we just asked and voila, they had it. We have often noticed that Italians have a lot to chat about with their waitperson before they order. I guess they are suggesting things that they would like to eat. The menu is just a guideline.
Anyway, in addition to the chicken livers we had some really yummy ribollita and then I had eggplant parmesan and John had rabbit involtini. This came with the best little crispy potatoes ever. They were sauted in olive oil and flavored with rosemary. Then we had some cantucci and vin santo (me) and grappa (John) for dessert. Then we stumbled back to Residence Hilda.
Since John wanted to go up Mt. Vesuvius which I didn’t want to do and I wanted to go to the Isle of Capri which I am assuming he didn’t want to do since my suggestion fell into a black hole, we went to Herculaneum and Ravello. Herculaneum was also a victim of Mt. Vesuvius. The people were victims of a pyroclastic flow instead of hot ash like Pompeii. Some escaped. Pliny the Younger writes a moving account of his escape. He is, in his letter, still waiting to hear if his uncle has survived. (He didn’t.)
So once again we are walking among ghosts. Their houses are beautifully decorated with paintings and business is thriving in the streets. This site is better preserved than Pompeii and if you have time to see only one or the other, I would chose Herculaneum.
This fruit basket painting was in a hallway of a house in Herculaneum.
Actually this was a room in a society for the verneration of Augustus but maybe they ate in their too.
After finishing at Herculaneum we drove up and over the mountains on a twisty, narrow road to Ravello. We had lunch at a restaurant that George recommended called Cumpa Cosimo. The proprietress of the restaurant was very nice and gave us lots of free stuff such as an extra plate of pasta for John, a salad, glasses of limoncello and a dessert. The food was good and Ravello is an attractive town.
Here’s a picture of me with the Amalfi coast behind. The drive along the coast was really spectacular. The road is very narrow and along the cliffs for much of it. John enjoyed driving it.
According to weather.com, sunrise in Pompei is around 6:15 AM. According to the roosters, it’s around 4:30 AM. So we had an early start to the day. It’s surprising since we are in an urban setting that so many people have roosters.
We had breakfast here at the Certe Notte B & B. According to reports on TripAdvisor, the breakfast here is sumptuous. Really, not so much. There’s the usual croissants and coffee and tea. There is some ham from a packet and some cheese but I was expecting a real spread. Doesn’t really matter, it’s just that you can’t always trust everything you read on TripAdvisor. One man’s feast is another’s typical breakfast.
So Antonio, our host, gave us instructions for walking to the excavations at Pompeii. RANT ALERT!!!! We get to the kiosk to buy the tickets and we are met by a woman who hates her job. We ask if there is an audio guide. She says no. We ask if we can get a map and she pushes one at us. This is a free map that is supposed to be given out when you buy your ticket. So we walk around sort of aimlessly for an hour, when we espy someone with an audio tour guide. What? There is no audio guide. Oh no, there is just no audio guide at the particular entry point that we went through.
She couldn’t have told us where to get them? So we tramp all the way to the other end of the excavations to get the audio tour. Unfortunately we are already a little tired from the first hour. The ground is very uneven and up and down hill. But we get the guide and then do the 2 hour tour. By the end, we are really tired. Then we have to take the guides back and then we have to find our way back from this new entry point. It is a very long walk.
Pompei looks like it was a thriving place. They had just had an earthquake in 62 AD that they were rebuilding from when they were hit with the eruption in 79 AD. There are plaster casts of victims and a whole town caught at the moment when the hot ash covered them. Even though it happened a long time ago, it’s rather poignant.
We stopped for lunch on the way back during the long walk. We had fried calamari which was some of the best ever – whole tiny squid battered and fried. We also shared a Caprese salad, regular salads and a sausage pizza. This pizza was the real deal. It had perfect crust and perfect sausage and was just so yummy. It reminded me of the pizza we had growing up on the Jersey shore.
We don’t go out to dinner because this area is pretty sketchy. We also don’t go out for dinner because we are 1) too tired and 2) too full from lunch.
This is the street sign on the corner of the street that our B & B is on. John has tried to find out who Crapolla I is but has had no luck so far. Anyway, it kind of sums up the area that we are in. The B & B is nice but the area suffers from crapolla.