11 October 2009

Firenze Sunday ~ Not Slow

What is the most vivid memory for our Sunday in Firenze. Ah, it was the street Tombola. One hundred feet of tables filled with people playing a form of bingo. The caller was stationed in a window one floor up with a make shift PA system announcing not only the numbers but a call to drink more wine.

This is what our fondest memories are when we travel -- being on the streets, with people – listening to the sounds, feeling the energy. Today had much of that although we did go to one museum, Alinari National Museum of Photography for its show of Futurism in Photography. This was yet another wonderful show and one that this fellow felt compelled to engage me in conversation about as we exited the museum. Not that he knew much English and I certainly knew less Italian. But we both agreed it was an important exhibit.

Between the Tombola and the Museum, there was the epic view from the Piazzale Michelangiolo. We had been up there earlier in the week, but the skies were cloudy and the light unbelievably bad. So we re-climbed the 200+ steps, took some photos, talked with Frederick from Albania and then proceeded up another 100 steps to Chiesa di San Miniato al Monte. That was where we found the woman with the orange hair who called out for us to take her with us. That we did after more photos.

Ah yes, and the family name today is Parenti. Yes, Giovanni Parenti came from Tuscany over a hundred years ago. My mother would have celebrated her 100th birthday this year. Here is to the Parenti familia. This photo was taken on Via Tornabuoni - the Parenti are right there with Ferragamo and other high-end shops. When it's open the shop sells glassware and gifts. To see more photos c\click here for the Flickr set.

Link to flickr photos here.

09 October 2009

Firenze Friday

Read rapidly the title to this post could be frenzied Friday. Yes, being on vacation is hard work. I'm looking forward to being home with the cats, Calvin and Hobbes, and the dog, Django and his pal Tembo. There are also all of our friends. In the meantime though, I'm definitely enjoying the labors of travel.

This week we met two artists. Marcello paints in oils and Gabrielle mostly watercolors. We had first encountered Marcello when we walked past him at the Uffizi. One of many artists in a tourist area, we would have walked on by except for his dog. Later we saw the two of them heading east along the Arno. As we returned from our walk across the Arno, we went up a small street. Yes, most streets in Florence are narrow but Via della Mosca is even tinier than most. There big as life were the red dog and Marcello in a tiny store front eatery. Chioppo Due even has tiny hours... only open from 6:30 until 8 at night. Marcello insisted we come in and have a glass of wine on him. Several glasses later and some limoncello, we were leaving after discussing travel, art and politics. Gabriele, the shop owner, was fairly quiet during all of the talk and antics of the 45 minutes. We did discover that he painted and that he also sold on the street. The next day we saw him and snapped the shot above. And today we saw him and his wife going across the Arno as we returned from our walk to the Piazzale Michelangiolo, high above Firenze.

The Piazzale also netted us our third David – the one on the Piazza della Signoria where we are staying, the original at the Accademia, and the one high on top of the hill, below. They're all impressive, the two outdoor ones suffer from exposure to the elements. The "original" is breathtaking.

Today we ventured over to Piazza San Marco to see what might have prompted the poster we had seen at the Piazza Santo Spirito a few days ago. On the way we encountered a group at Piazza San Lorenzo preparing to march on over. San Marco is quite small and we decided that too many people in a small area would not be a good thing for us. Off we went to Piazza della S S Annunziata and there we encountered three more groups either organizing or already marching off to San Marco. Reports in English are limited but the students seem to be protesting the governments attitude towards labor. We'll find out in tomorrow's paper. And yes there are a lot of piazzas.

Another stop was to visit with Stefania Ganci at Terre dei Gigli, a shop that sells wine, pasta, olive oil and bottles of wonderful sauce and vegetables. She is such a lovely woman and has been most helpful. She knows a little English and we know far less Italian but communication all works out in the end. Today we chatted about Woody Allen movies. She had just seen Whatever Works. We talked and talked and have promised to write to each other.

I ventured into the Duomo and took some photos that I'll organize and post later. We walk by it several times a day but have yet to go in probably because there are lines of people waiting outside to climb to the top for the view of Firenze. Once inside though you're also able to see the wonderful dome painted by Vasari and Zuccaro. Getting to the top and a closer look at the dome involves 463 steps and some other issues related to heights that may preclude both of us ascending. In any case, we ended the day with another round of Chianti accompanying pasta with a sauce made from fresh tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, onion, garlic, hot pepper and basil. Mangia as my Aunt Katherine would say.

More photos tomorrow... To bed, now it's almost midnight.

After midnight but there are more photos on Flickr here.

07 October 2009

The Three M's and more

Michelangelo Mapplethorpe Medical Services

First on our list today was to see Michelangelo's David. Not necessarily easy even though it's not high tourist season here in Firenze. The lady at the tourist information office said to hustle over there (you can just imagine the Italian for hustle over) and get our tickets. It was 8:30 and we did just that. I happened to still have 20 euro cash which was need -- euros seem to slip through our hands faster than we can make it to an ATM. In addition to David, the Accademia is currently exhibiting Mapplethorpe's photography, absolutely amazing photography.

The lead-in photo of David is from my iPhone hidden under my arm. Not the best of conditions. One man demonstrated how to take a photo of this masterpiece... Arrive in the first wave, before the lights in the first hallway are turned on, when the "guards" are not in place and then walk away, have the camera set exactly, turn and take the photo. His camera was a SLR with a lens eight inches long. He was prepared.

After the Michelangelo and Mapplethorpe we headed to the travel agent for our tickets to Venezia on Tuesday. That went without a problem and we have the Information Office to thank for both the tickets to the Accademia for Michelangelo and Mapplethorpe as well as the location of the travel agency for the train tickets.

The afternoon was spent with Firenze medical professionals. Bill has a very large wound on the top of his right hand, thanks to the suitcase pinning it against the train backrest. It was so swollen and so red we found the English speaking Medical Services clinic around the corner from our apartment. Conveniently located in the heart of the tourist area, the doctor who was a surgeon recommended all sorts of remedies. We opted for seeing her colleague across town. A fairly short walk by our standards (she suggested a taxi) and we were seen in a rather elegant procedure room. Bill is now resting comfortably looking forward to a day at the Uffezi Gallery. Of course, he had to endure the classic poking but this doctor decided that all he needed was to have a good cleansing and some antibiotics. We'll see.

of the day...
Our original plan had been to go to another concert tonight. On our late afternoon walk, we found the Chiesa where the concert would be performed, however we were less successful in finding an internet hotspot where I could also print our reservations for the Uffezi Gallery. That did take us a while. Cooking dinner was far less trouble. Several glasses of Chianti later and we're kicking back enjoying the music from the Piazza della Signoria through our window.

05 October 2009

Streets of Centro Storico

For many reasons we didn't venture too very far from Piazza della Signore in the Centro Storico. As a result we saw many views of the Duomo built by Filippo Bruneschelli back in 1436. He also stands near by viewing his masterpiece that rises up to 328 feet with views of Florence from the top and a Last Judgment fresco by Vasari and Zuccari.

We needed supplies for the apartment so we sought out the two nearby grocery stores. One is very near the post office and the other is closer to the Chiesa S. Maria De'Ricci. The organ music attracted us to look inside where we saw this dog listening intently. Later in the evening we went to the free concert that was an outstanding sampler of Baroque music. The dog held forth in the evening too walking up and down the aisles to keep the audience in its seats.

The streets of Firenze are filled with performers to delight your eyes and ears. We stood and listened to the cellist for quite a while. She was playing across from a small fruit and vegetable market. The shop owners nearby, including a leather goods and jewelry stores, had to have been pleased with the added passersby.

We have seen any number of dogs, always with their owners, unlike Thailand, Laos and Turkey to name a few countries where dogs seem to roam on their own. On the other hand, we have yet to see a cat here in Firenze. There are signs that cats are here – the cat food in stores takes up almost as much room as the dog food. This kitty had been lost and the puppy needed a home. Neither Calvin nor Hobbes would want competition and Django has drawn the line with more brothers - or sisters for that matter.

Neptune looked very good under the nearly full moon as we went inside after a very full day.

04 October 2009


What to do while waiting on the Piazza delle Signora for your landlady? Drink wine with fellow travelers in Ristorante Cavallino. My camera was buried somewhere in my bag, but the ever trusty iPhone was right there so I snapped this picture. The trip to Firenze was not uneventful. But as the ladies said in the movie Enchanted April when they arrived from rainy London to the pioggia in Tuscany, the difference is it's Italian rain.

Sunday was a day of travel. We left our Dieffenbachstrasse 32 home after an early morning walk in the neighborhood. Not being able to resist one last cup of Deutsch coffee and a snack at Back.Art, we ended up there. There was the usual long line for rolls, breads and coffee. The church bells were letting all know it was not only 9:00 am but probably also reminding us that we should be going to services. But the airport was our destination and we left on the trusty UBahn 7 for Rudow and the Schoenfeld Airport.

Easy Jet was easy enough. Our plane landed early in Pisa and if we hadn't gotten off at the first Firenze station we would have been eating thirty minutes earlier. We would have still had to wait for Ingrid and Lorenza. Our instructions had been to text message our arrival. Much like in the United States, texts in Italia don't always arrive promptly. The trusty iPhone and e-mail happened far faster once I thought about using that form of communication.

All is well that ends well. The taxi driver was gracious, the waiter was gracious and as my cousin Stephanie would say it's like I'm home. Everyone wants to help and help effusively.

01 October 2009

Thursday - Rain then Sun

Only three more days in Berlin - today, Friday and Saturday. Since it was raining we decided to see the Bauhaus exhibit at Modell-Bauhaus. That did occupy most of the day. We had a snack in between in their restaurant. and then went back to the exhibits. Upon emerging we were greeted with a beautiful sky and so made the most of it. Check out the photos at the Flickr page.

28 September 2009

Conspicuous Consumption Counter Balanced with Art and Architecture

This morning was laundry time. After using the AEG Lavomat and the drying rack here at Dieffenbachstrasse 32, we were off for a journey to KaDeWe and environs. Oh my, this is shopping on steroids. Everything in this complex (yes, that entire building is KaDeWe) is presented in a fashion to delight at great expense, all seven floors. At least, I think there were seven. We did have coffee on the fifth as I recall. Mushrooms and tea were on my mind as items that we could use. Finding each of those, I became paralyzed with the conspicuous consumption in this retail cathedral. Shown below is part of one of the inner elevator areas.

So instead I purchased some Pu Erh Tuocha tea from a small shop in the trendy area near KaDeWe. That was after seeing some very interesting architecure - a sail - the Kant Dreieck building with the 36 m tower designed by Josef Paul Kleinhues, an armadillo - the Ludwig Erhard Haus (housing the Berlin Stock Exchange) designed by British architect Sir nicholas Grimshaw, and an object of abstraction next to the Judisches Gemeindehaus.

The Sail

The Armadillo

The Abstraction

The highlight of the day was the Kathe Kollwitz Museum that just happens to be next to the Literturhaus. Kathe Kollwitz (1867 -1945) was an amazing German painter and sculptor. The core of her work that most people are aware of deal with the suffering of people -- hunger, war, death. She died just a short time before the end of World War II, outliving her husband, her son Peter and one of her grandsons. Although much of her art deals with despair, death and tragedy her son Hans and others have commented on her love of laughter.
Poster from the Kathe Kollwitz Museum

The Literturhaus Entrance

Both arriving and leaving from the Wittenbergplatz UBahn station, we were able to enjoy the bells from the new tower of the Kaiser Wilhelm-Gedachtnis Kirche. This church is a famous Berlin momument being almost completely destroyed in the bombings of WW II. Two clock faces tell are at twelve. One seems to keep the correct time. The U1 train whisked us across Berlin in less than 15 minutes and with a quick connection on the U6 we were back climbing the stairs to our home in Berlin on the fifth floor of Dieffenbachstrasse 32.
Kaiser Wilhelm-Gedachtnis Kirche