Uffizi Day! 12/26/19

Sarah, Ryan, Jon, and I have a plan. We will get up early and after a stop at Caffe Megara proceed to the Uffizi Gallery when it first opens. This way we will beat the crowds. The first part of the plan goes well.

Ryan, Sarah, and Jon having breakfast at Caffe Megara
Mmmm, so good!

We hurry over to the Uffizi and there are lines everywhere. Lines to possibly get in at some part,  lines for people who have assigned times, and a line for people who want to buy tickets for an assigned time. We stand and wait in the line to get in and after 45 minutes of no line movement we decide to change lines. We stand in the line where we can buy tickets to get in later in the day for about 20 minutes when we are ushered in. We choose 3PM to get in.  We figure that most of the people will have given up by then.

Too many people!!!

Jon and Ryan decide to go to the Palazzo Vecchio and Sarah and I decide we need a decompression break and stop at Gilli’s for tea.

Interior Palazzo Vecchio

 

Smiling Jon
Tea with Sarah at Gilli’s

We meet back up around 1 PM and go in search of lunch. We try Trattoria Marione which is just downstairs from our apartments but it is full. Then we try Buca Mario which is closed. We are starting to get worried. Finally we find an unknown restaurant, Pensavo Peggio, and luckily it is open and has room. With the exception of Jonathan we all order cacio e pepe and he has papardelle with boar ragu.

Foreground-Cacio e pepe
Behind- Papardelle with boar ragu

Now we have enough energy to tackle the Uffizi once more. This time with John in tow. (He had been doing laundry in the morning.)

3 PM and the Uffizi still looks packed

There are a lot of people at the Uffizi. We are hoping they want to look at different art than we do. We start in Room 1 which was not open in any of our previous visits. It holds really old pieces. Oh, happy day!!

13th century crucifix
St. Frances receives the stigmata. Painted 1240-50 which is only 14 to 24 years after St. Frances died. So he was a Catholic rock star pretty quickly.
Old Annunciation – Mary is not looking too happy

It was too crowded to take a lot of pictures but here are a few highlights-

John’s favorite Filippo Lippi, Madonna and Child with Two Angels
Ryan and Jon in front of a Botticelli
What it looks like in front of a more popular Botticelli. Jon is tall person center-right
The turn at the end of the hallway and an opportunity to takes a sunset look at the Ponte Vecchio
Michelangelo Doni Tondo

By the time we get to Titians and Caravaggios I am petering out. There is an interesting room in which all the subjects have been beheaded. But I am too tired of being on my feet to enjoy much more.

We return to the apartment for snacks and drinks and turn in early.

Christmas in Florence. 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. 12/23/18

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.

Fiesole and Florence. 12/21/18

Today we pack ourselves up and head to Florence with a side trip to Fiesole. It is a chilly, misty day and we are hoping to dodge the bad weather when it is time to do some sightseeing. We are also on a schedule to return the rental car at Florence airport and arrive at our apartment to meet the greeter at 5 PM. So many moving parts! Fiesole is on a hill just outside Florence. If it were not for the rain and fog we should be able to see Florence from an overlook. We drive all over Fiesole looking for a parking space to no avail. Our crap rental car is straining to deal with the steep inclines. John is getting annoyed and frustrated. Finally some ways down the hill he finds a quasi-space and parks. Now we must walk up a lot of steps in the cold rain. I am very slow on the steps and by the time we reach our goal, St. Romulus Cathedral, I am also annoyed, frustrated and wet! Happy times! And when we go inside the church this is what we see.
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Dark St. Romulus with scaffolding blocking the altar area.
The church is almost entirely unlit and then the whole front area is blocked off. We cannot see what I suppose is a beautiful early altarpiece of Bicci di Lorenzo. This is about the best picture I could find on the internet.
Bicci di Lorenzo 15th century altarpiece in Fiesole Cathedral
There are a few other odds and ends.
A Madonna and Child painted in the Gothic manner which I cannot find anything about
St. Sebastian dubiously credited to Perugino
We leave the church in a fouler mood than when we went in. I suggest we take a look at a small church that I had read about. It is only across the square. It turns out to be locked up.
Looking back across the wet and misty square in Fiesole toward St. Romulus
We decide to give up and go find some lunch. The first place we look at has a bunch of treacherous, slippery stairs. We then head back to a cafe that John had seen on our walk around the square. We are taken aback when we are given the menus.
The menu at Bistrot Caffe al No. 5
Huh. So we turn the menu over and read it back to front. It seems that they have a lampredotto risotto. John is eager to give this a try. I figure, it couldn’t be worse than yesterday’s slime so I order it too! Oh, don’t know what lampredotto is? It is a tripe-like meat made from a cow’s fourth stomach. And it is delicious!! However before we have the lampredotto risotto we start with bruschette with cavulo nero (black cabbage.)
Bruschetta with cavulo nero
Lampredotto risotto for John and me while Sarah has beans with sausage
We have a wonderful discussion with the cook about how she seasons the lampredotto. It turns out that it has nutmeg and cinnamon in it. We will never have such a dish at home and I am glad that I tried it. After lunch with nothing left to do we head to Florence airport to return the rental car. The traffic is horrendous and it is difficult to figure out where we are supposed to go. We fuel the car up and manage to make the correct turn to get us to the rental return. We are so glad to be rid of the car. We call our greeter and hop in a taxi to take us into the old city part of Florence. We meet Miki and Franco whose apartments we are renting. After being chastised for being early and having every aspect of the apartments explained to us, we are on our own in Florence.
Our apartment has a large living room for space enough for us all to gather
And the kitchen is fairly large plus there is space around the table for five
Sarah likes her living room
The cupboard in her living room is a mini-kitchen!
Since this is the third time staying here we know where everything is and what stores are nearby. John hurries out to buy some chopped liver and bread for our dinner of hors d’oeuvres tonight.
Chips, chopped liver, wine, and the internet – we are all set!
Tomorrow Ryan and Jon arrive. I am nervous about their needing to catch trains and get to Florence. Everyone assures me that they will be fine. (And they did great!)

Prato. 12/20/18

I feel better today so I rejoin the rest of our little group for a trip to Prato and possibly Pistoia. Prato is a walled city so parking is pretty impossible. We drive around and around in and out of the old city. Finally after another full parking lot we find a space on the street. We wonder if we are parking in an allowed space. (Later in the day…Yes! Our car is still there when we return and there is no ticket on it!) People are scurrying about buying their Christmas presents and there is something going on in Duomo Piazza. We never do figure out what. The Prato Cathedral is unusual in that it has an outdoor pulpit hanging off an outside corner of the church.
Prato Cathedral with unusual outside pulpit designed in part by Donatello
closer look at the pulpit
We decide to take a look at the Museum of the Cathedral first. It closes at 1PM while the church is open all day. After paying our ticket fee it seems that we have a personal Italian watcher to make sure we do not touch anything. He asks us in Italian whether we speak Italian and John says, a little. This is a mistake. Now he wants to talk to us continually about paintings that we are really not interested in. Plus he is talking so fast that we cannot fathom his Italian. In the vaults underneath the cathedral where the museum resides there are several interesting mid to late 14th century frescoes.
Next to a window we find a small St. Anthony the Abbot holding a torch and accompanied by his devil-pig
This fresco over a sarcophagus shows the regard that Jesus, Mary (?), and St. John the Evangelist have for the deceased
In the vaults we also see “The Stoning of Saint Stephen (l.) and The Madonna with Saint Stephen and Saint Lorenzo” by Pietro and Antonio di Miniato, 1420. St. Stephen was martyred by stoning is often seen with rocks on his head
In the next room we see the original sculptured pulpit from the outside of the church. Donatello and his students executed the low-relief panels which were brought inside in the 1960’s to keep them from being further weather damaged. Although a priest might be preaching gloom and doom the little figures on the pulpit are happily dancing about.
Original panels from the outdoor pulpit with happy dancing little figures (1434-38)
Panel attributed solely to Donatello
Our watcher keeps wanting to steer us into 17th century paintings and we keep trying to be polite. We are more interested in earlier art. One item which is very important to the Prato Cathedral is the so-called “girdle of Thomas” handed down to the Apostle Thomas from the Virgin Mary. There is a marble box, casket dedicated to the belt.
Marble carving of the BVM handing the belt to Thomas
Side panel of the belt being handed to a Marist priest
Here are a couple of other outstanding works from the Museum of the Cathedral.
Madonna and Child (1365) birds are often a sign of the Resurrection. I love the smiles in this painting!
Altar panel with the Funeral of Saint Jerome, Filippo Lippi, 1453
Annunciation, 15th century. I can’t help but thinking that if Mary stood up she would bang her head!
Done with the museum we bid our watcher arrevederci and head up to the church. It is one of the most ancient churches in the city, built in the Romanesque style, and was already in existence in the 10th century. Although modified over time there are still a great many early frescoes.
The church, dedicated to St. Stephen, has three aisles and the striping so prevelant in this part of Tuscany.
One of the first things I see is a lovely Annunciation fresco by Agnolo Gaddi, an artist who worked in the 14th century and 15th centuries.
Here is another lovely annunciation. In the upper corner God is with an angel and has another small person in his hand. Is this Jesus? Mary appears taken aback as she looks up from her reading.
There are several chapels isurrounding the main altar with frescoes explaining the stories of various martyrs. This is a rather blood-thirsty array. With the exception of St. Stephen who was killed by stoning, all the other saints have had their heads cut off.
The stoning of St. Stephen, Paolo Uccello, 1435-36
Here is John the Baptist being beheaded, Filippo Lippi, 1452. The faces painted by Lippi have a very Botticelli look to them.
John the Baptist’s head being presented to Salome
The next chapel is dedicated to St. Margaret who, it is said, was swallowed by a dragon but was spit out unharmed. Also she refused to give up her Christian faith and miraculously survived many tortures before being beheaded. In the same chapel is the story of St. James the Greater who was beheaded by a sword.
St. Margaret of Antioch being beheaded, 15th century, unknown Florentine artist
St. James the Greater being beheaded by a sword
Luckily the beheadings have not dampened our appetites and we leave the church in search of lunch. John’s roommate from MIT, Barry, has suggested a place we might find a good lunch in Prato, Baghino. I see that it has gotten 5 stars on Google. We did not have a 5 star lunch. In fact my dish was THE WORST of the entire trip. It all started off well enough with some delicous hush puppy type breads.
Yum, a nice selection of breads and hush puppy type fritters
Our favorite crostini – fegato (chicken livers)
Oh no, what is this that I ordered? It was listed as Ravioli Baghino, a specialty of the house. Under the green slime is a large ravioli. It was horrible. Also pictured are Sarah’s tepid gnocchetti with Gorgonzola, and some beans in oil. John had seppie with chard and polenta (not pictured)
Sarah had some vin santo with cookies and shared the cookies with us but there was no saving this lunch! After my horrid lunch we go to the Palazzo Praetorio Museum which was opened in 2013 in a building built in the 14th and 15th century that served as the City Hall for Prato. I am still feeling not so good and am really tired. I know we went here because I have some pictures of beautiful altarpieces but I really do not remember it much.
Madonna and Child altarpiece with Saints Catherine, Benedict, John Gualberto, and Agatha by Lorenzo Monaco 1424
Another Madonna and Child with Saints, Mariotto di Nardo, late 14th to early 15th century
As tired as we are from all the walking, viewing, and eating awful food, we decide not to try to do Pistoia today. That will have to wait for another trip. We are departing Lucca in the morning to head to Florence with a side trip to Fiesole. No one is hungry for dinner. We spend our time packing in the evening.

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!

The Leaning Tower. 12/18/18

Amazingly we have never been to Pisa. For years we have heard, “Don’t go to Pisa. there is nothing there but the Leaning Tower.” Wrong. Not only is there the Leaning Tower but also a great Cathedral, Baptistry, and a fabulous museum. (Especially if you are into 13th and 14th century art.) After assuring each other that we would not take silly pictures of ourselves with the Tower that is exactly what we do. It is such fun!
Walking into the Piazza Dei Miracoli in Pisa
Sarah supporting the Tower
Mary trying to straighten the Tower
So you totally do not feel like a fool doing this because everyone else is doing it too! And even though it is really difficult to capture in pictures how leaning the Tower is, it is really leaning. Amazingly so.
Definitely leaning
M and J with Tower
Selfie
The Tower has been leaning ever since it was completed in 1372. And they have kept trying to fix it ever since. It has an inadequate foundation in ground that is too soft on one side to support its weight. Through efforts in th 1990’s the tilt has been reduced from 5.5 degrees to about 4 degrees and the building has been stabilized. You can buy a ticket for 18Euro to climb to the top. We choose not to. Instead we buy the much cheaper ticket to see the Cathedral, Baptistry, and Camposanto. We start our touring at the Cathedral. It is a beautiful building inside and out.
Front facade of the Pisa Cathedral
Interior
As we begin our exploration of the church we are struck by how few people are inside. Outside there are hundreds or more taking their silly selfies but in here maybe twenty? Good for us! Over the altar is a mosaic of Christ Enthroned between the Virgin and St. John completed in 1320. The style is not quite as Byzantine as the mosaics in Monreale or Cefalu on Sicily. Sarah and I think it is nice that Jesus has a tummy in this mosaic.
Apsidal mosaic
There is also an early 14th century pulpit by Giovanni Pisano depicting episodes in the life of Christ.
Pisa Cathedral pulpit
To the left of the altar there is a Madonna and Child painting from the 1200’s attributed to Berlinghieri.
Madonna and Child by Berlinghieri, 13th century
Next we visit the Baptistry which is beautiful and ornate on the outside and rather austere inside. Most of the Baptistries are dedicated to St. John “the Baptist”, duh. The building was started in 1152 and completed in 1363. The shape of the building is reminiscent of a Pope’s hat.
Pisa Baptistry
Inside, as I said, it is pretty devoid of decoration. The baptismal font and statue are from 1246 and the pulpit completed in 1260. There are tombs in the floor. The chamber is said to be acoustically perfect. The info on it says that visitors go in and sing every day. Since there are just the three of us in here, there is no singing. Too bad Jonathan is not with us for this part of the trip, he could have beat boxed!
Interior of Pisa Baptistry
Lastly we visit the Camposanto Monumentale or Monumental Cemetary. It is walled in and said to have been built with a shipload of soil from Calvary. There are tombs in the pavement and various Roman artifacts. There is also an enormous fresco titled the Triumph of Death by Buffalmacco, 14th century.
Vision of Hell – looks pretty gruesome!
Judgement
John next to monument to Fibonacci
Mary touching something old
We have finished our visit to the Piazza dei Miracoli and drive over to the National Museum of St. Matthew. But first we must find some lunch! We walk around assuming we will find a restaurant. They are pretty few and far between. The first one we try is full. Finally we find a pizzeria and spaghetteria called La Tombola, which is an Italian game similar to Bingo. Finding a good restaurant is often just a game of chance. We have happened upon a pizzeria which makes an odd form of pizza. I look up afterwards to see if there is a special type of Pisan pizza. There is not.
Odd pizza from La Tombola
After our strange pizza lunch we head over to the museum. Heading up to the second floor to our area of interest, we are gobsmacked by the extent of 13th and 14th century art. Usually there is like one thing from the 1200’s in a museum. Here there are rooms dedicated to the first half and second half of the 13th century. There is a whole room of crucifixes from the 1100 and 1200s. We should have come here first! Now we are tired and have only until 3:15PM on our parking ticket. Here are only a few of the awesome works –
This interesting painting from the late 15th century was commissioned by an Italian family and painted by a Flemish artist. St. Catherine does not look at all Italian. She has the pale complexion and dress of Northern Europe.
In the predella below the St. Catherine painting and painted by some local Italian artist is the real way St. Catherine was killed- not on the wheel she always carries but by beheading.
Here is our old friend Masaccio painting St.Paul in 1426. You can see by the modeling of the figure that Masaccio is definitely leaning towards the Renaissance but the gold background and embossed halo are definitely Gothic.
This 1422 Madonna of Humility (sitting on the floor) who appears to be having a staring contest with Jesus is painted by Gentile da Fabriano in the flamboyant International Gothic style with its elongated and elegant figures.
Cannot pass up the opportunity to take a picture of St. Anthony The Abbot with his little devil-pig
These figures of Christ with the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist along with Saints Catherine and Sylvester are from the mid-1200s. There is nothing Renaissance about them. They are on gold backgrounds with Byzantine faces, elongated boneless hands, and ornate folding of their garments.
Room with 13th and 14th century crucifixes
13th century crucifix with imagined musculature
It has been a big day for us and once again none of us wants to eat dinner. John and I catch up on news on CNN International and BBC World. Tomorrow we should be almost over jet lag ( I hope)!

Exploring Lucca. 12/17/18

The rain has stopped by 10 AM and we are ready to head out to begin our exploration of Lucca. The first church we mean to visit is Santa Maria Forisportam. Although the church is inside the walls now forisportam means that it was originally built outside the original walls of the city. But we are not off to a good start as the church is closed. It has some interesting figures on its Romanesque facade and I wish I could find out more.

This unusual Madonna, from what I can glean from the internet, is called a Byzantine Madonna and is heavily influenced by the Greek tradition. The head covering is different from how we traditionally see the Madonna.

Moving along we head toward the cathedral piazza and buy tickets to visit the complex. The front of the cathedral is awash in columns, statuary, and bas-reliefs. There is also a rather outsized bell tower.

St. Martin’s Cathedral in Lucca

Figure of St. Martin dividing his cloak for a beggar

In the picture above there are many differently designed columns. According to traditional lore there was a contest to see who could make the most beautiful column. Instead of naming a winner they just kept all the different columns and used them on the front of the Church!

Here are some of the early/famous works in the cathedral –

Tintoretto, Last Supper, 1592-94. Tintoretto’s Last Suppers are always a play of light and dark with the table presented at an angle.

Ghirlandaio’s Madonna and Child enthroned with Saints Peter, Clement, Sebastian, and Paul, 1479

Most famous is the Volto Santo which was said to be miraculously carved by Nicodemus, a contemporary of Jesus, hidden away for 700 years and then rediscovered and brought to Lucca

After spending time in the cathedral we make our way to the museum of the cathedral where we see illuminated choir books, various paintings and even two sculptures of John the Baptist’s head on a platter.

Sculpted heads in earlier (l.) and later styles

From here we make our way to the Baptistry, originally built in the 4th century and added onto and renovated somewhat over the centuries. It’s Roman origins can be seen in excavations within the Church. It is an enormous space with various pieces of interest.

Looking across the piazza towards the Baptistry

Faded fresco

After stopping for a quick cup of coffee to perk ourselves up we head to the Church of St. Michael in the Forum. This church is first mentioned in 795 as having been built over the old Roman forum.

Interior view of San Michele in Foro

12th century crucifix

Four Saints by Filippino Lippi

It is now close to 2 PM and we are all dragging. We make our way over to the oval site of the old Roman amphitheater hoping to find some lunch but we run into the usual tourist trap restaurants.

Looking across the enormous oval amphitheater piazza

We decide to head back towards the hotel in hopes of finding a local restaurant. Along the way we pass the famous Guinigi Tower with trees on top. The last time we were here Sarah climbed to the top. She is older and wiser this trip.

Sarah pointing out the Guinigi Tower

We are back to the hotel when John points out a small restaurant, Antica Drogheria, which he tells me he and I have eaten in before. I have no memory of it but that is typical. We gratefully sit down, take the mandatory beer pictures, watch the table of Asian tourists next to us dig into the enormous bistecca Fiorentinas, and try some Luccan favorites.

John and beer

Sarah and beer

Nonna’s Pezzole – crepes  filled with spinach and cheese

In the foreground is Mary and Sarah’s choice, tordelli with chianina ragu (sort of like a Chef Boyardee ravioli) and above it John’s tripe. Supposedly tordelli is a Luccan speciality.

At this point John and I are in an achy sightseeing stupor and stumble back to our room. I fall dead asleep. Sarah takes a walk back to the amphitheater to check out some stores. We meet downstairs later for a few snacks and all agree that no one wants dinner. I manage to stay awake until almost 9 PM working on the beginning of this post and finish it when I wake up at 4AM.

Driving Day. 12/16/18

Today is mostly a driving day. We are traveling from Orvieto to Lucca. I am looking around for something to do along the way when I find Museo de Masaccio in the town of Reggello. It is about an hour and a half away and only about 20 minutes off the A-1. Yelp says it has restaurants so we should be set for lunch as well.

Masaccio is an artist whose work we will see in our upcoming trip to Florence.  Masaccio, Masolino, and ultimately Filippino Lippi painted the amazing Brancacci Chapel frescoes just across the Arno from where we will be staying. Although he died at 28 he had a big impact on early Renaissance art. He was one of the first to use linear perspective and fashioned his figures using chiaroscuro making them more realistic. He helped to move painting away from the International Gothic style with its stylized figures set in gold backgrounds with elaborate ornamentation.

One of his earliest known works is the St. Juvenal Altarpiece which I came across while looking into St. Juvenal (whose church we went to in Orvieto and ran into the funeral.) He painted it when he was 22. It resides in the Museum of Masaccio in Reggello which is close to his hometown.

St. Juvenal Altarpiece, St. Juvenal is the guy in the right panel closest to the Madonna and Child

The museum is small but along with the altarpiece there are a few other “by the school of” works that are interesting.

A group of young people come in while we are there and turn on a video detailing the restoration of the altarpiece. They even set it to English for us. For some reason or other the curmudgeonly guy at the front desk only went so far as to turn on the lights for us.

After we are done at the museum we walk over to the Restaurant Masaccio. Sunday is a big day for families to eat lunch out and we are lucky to snag a table without a reservation. At around 12:45 it is pretty much empty but by 1PM it is packed with large family groups eating oceans of seafood.

Sarah and I order strezzopreti with zucchini flowers and shrimp and John has creamy risotto scampi. Although our dishes are good, John’s is worth swooning over. Sarah and I are filled with risotto envy. It appears to be very creamy risotto made in a lobster stock with a large prawn on top.

Lunch

After lunch we finish the trip to Lucca and check into our hotel.  We meet for free snacks around 6 PM and decide we would rather go to sleep than eat any dinner. I am asleep by 8 PM.