Monday, September 12, 2005

Il treno è sempre in ritardo. (The train is always late.)

Well, it has been a long week. Lara and I took an overnight train to Florence on Monday night. From Florence, we immediately headed to the Cinque Terre, a series of five towns (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) that are located between Levanto and La Spezia on the northwestern coast of Italy. We stayed for two nights at the Albergo Souvenir in Monterosso, and spent a day and a half exploring the towns. On Tuesday afternoon, we went to the beach and swam in the Mediterranean Sea. It was wonderful! Since it was rainy on Wednesday morning, we took the train to Riomaggiore and worked our way up through the towns until we got back to Monterosso. I was blown away by the panoramic views in all of the towns. It was truly an awe-inspiring site to see the towns perched on the cliffs above the sea and know that they have been there for hundreds of years. We left the Cinque Terre early Thursday morning and headed back to Florence. We found a wonderful hostel, Ostello Archi Rossi, which was situated right in the heart of the old town. It was truly a unique place, with interesting paintings and drawings from travelers all over the walls. On Thursday afternoon, we wandered around Florence, looking at all of the hustle and bustle of the city. We walked to the Duomo, which is the biggest church in Florence. Its dome can be seen from miles around the city. My first impressions of Florence were lots of traffic, people, mopeds, busy streets, and trash. Much different than the Cinque Terre. On Friday, Lara and I went to the Galleria dell Academia to see Michelangelo’s David. It was an amazing sight! The statue was so big in real life, and it is incredible to think that it was carved out of a single piece of marble! After that, we walked back to the hostel during a thunderstorm, and changed into dry shoes before venturing out again. We went to the Ponte Vecchio, which is the oldest bridge in Florence. There are two stories about the Ponte Vecchio that I learned while I was in Florence. When the bridge was first built, it was lined with butcher shops. The city bankers lived in a district near the bridge, and they had to cross it each day to go to work. The bankers did not like the smell of the butcher shops, so they complained to the Medici family (which was the ruling family of Florence at that time). The Medicis kicked the butchers out of their shops, and replaced them with the goldsmiths and diamond-carvers of the city, and their descendants still sell jewelry in the shops to this day. The second story is that the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence to survive during the German bombings in World War II. A German commander couldn’t bear to destroy it; so instead, he blew up the buildings on both sides of the bridge to make it impassible. After visiting the Ponte Vecchio, I went to the Palazzo Pitti, which is the palace that the Medicis lived in during their reign. It was a beautiful place, and it houses six different museums. I visited the Galleria del Costume (Costume Gallery), Galleria Palatina (Palantine Gallery), Appartamenti Reali (Royal Apartments), and Museo degli Argenti (Silverworks Museum). All of these were very impressive, especially the Museo degli Argenti, which houses many of the Medici treasures. I also visited the Museo di Storia della Scienza (Museum of the History of Science). Some of the interesting things that I saw included some rudimentary microscopes and equipment that was used at the beginning of the study of chemistry. I also got to see Galileo’s embalmed middle finger and his first telescopes. I met back up with Lara, and we went to dinner with a couple of girls that we met at our hostel, Vickie and Suzie. They are Australian and they are backpacking across Europe for six weeks. On Saturday, I went to the Museo dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Museum of Precious Stones). I thought this museum would house some more of the Medici treasures (which it did), but they were not what I expected. This museum houses the collection of stone mosaics that were made during the Medici reign. Basically, rich families would commission artists to create beautiful artwork out of different types of marble. This artwork could consist of tabletops, cabinets, door panels, or whatever the family wanted. The artist would create a “draft” design by painting with oil on canvas, and then the design would be created using different colored stones, such as marble, granite, quartz, coral, mother of pearl, just to name a few. It was very intricate and detailed work, and the results are extraordinary. After that, I went to the Cappelle dei Medici (Medici Chapels), which is where the Medici family crypt and the tombs of the Grand Dukes are located. When I walked into the Cappella dei Principi (Princes’ Chapel), I was left speechless. The whole chapel is composed of stone mosaics and the dome is covered with eight Biblical frescoes painted in vibrant colors. The chapel contains the tombs of the six Grand Dukes in the Medici family, and each tomb has the ducal crown on top of it. I have not been able to find the words to describe how I felt when I walked into the chapel. All that I can say is that it was breath-taking and it brought me to tears. I met Lara later that morning, and we went to the Palazzo Vecchio, which is the old palace of Florence. It now houses the town government, including the mayor’s office. We went on the “Secret Routes” tour, which allowed us to go through several hidden passages in the palace—very cool! On Saturday afternoon, I visited the Macchine di Leonardo exhibit, which was an exhibit with models of Leonardo da Vinci’s machines that he invented and recorded in his Codices. It was interesting to see the early beginnings of many machines that our society uses today. Then, Lara and I visited the Uffizi, which houses an enormous collection of art from the Florentine Renaissance period. It was a very impressive gallery, but it was difficult to truly appreciate all of the art in a two-hour period. After the Uffizi, we went back to the hostel, picked up our backpacks, and headed to the train station to wait for our overnight train. We got back to our dorm room around 10 am on Sunday, and we were both very glad to have a day to rest before orientation started. I have uploaded some additional pictures from the trip here. Look in the album titled “Italy.” ~Andria


Anonymous Tracey said...

Ooo girl! Im SO jealous!! I will make it to Italy some day but for now I will live vicariously through you. :D Be safe!!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005 8:12:00 PM  
Anonymous mike j. said...

Well done! I wish that I could accompany you and Lara on this part of the semester. Now, you and she can do the school part without me !!!
Keep the cards and letters coming!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005 8:39:00 PM  
Blogger Tim@PGN said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed your tour of Italy and Florence. All the pictures of electrical systems and not one picture of the train (late or not)! Come back, we need your help with the storms!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 3:29:00 AM  

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