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Cinque Terre


-17 °C

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Posted by 3B 10:39 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Venice & Milan

Aug. 12-13, 14

overcast 24 °C


We took the train from Florence to venice. We had just three days here but it was well spent! Walked out from the train station right to the water and took a boat to our hotel Bel Sito. The boat dropped us off at a narrow passageway, not wider than that of one person. The hotel was to the left of the end of the passageway. As there are no cars in Venice, we walked along looking into glass and mask shops, churches,a modern art museum, and taking pictures of the canals. Pictures of Doges Palace were a must and I remember learning about it in art history four years ago. Though not as hot and humid as my weeks in Florence, the weather here was perfect. All the buildings are connected, not individuals like in the Sates. Most of the buildings take on peach and salmon hues but all the churches are without color.

Doges Palace had more pigeons than I have ever seen. When pigeons die around the world, they must be reborn here! Flocks and flocks startled by a child running by take to the sky, swooping over the crowd, then settle back to the ground. Because of the gross of pigeons, anyone visiting might not want to wear their best outfits. But the sky was pure blue with not a cloud in site.
While in San Marco square, we decided to visit San Marco cathedral. Looking up while waiting in line you'll see gold mosaics that flicker in the sunlight. The spires on top are very detailed, gorgeous. Gothic. After paying 3 euros to go to the top, we took a picture for a couple overlooking Doges palace and the water and they reciprocated the act for us.

We ate at a quaint little restaurant-a place where the tourists almost never go. Mom ordered some noodle dish with squid ink and feeling non adventurous, I ordered pasta. The waiter and owner cautioned mom about her dish saying that tourists tend to be afraid of that dish, but she ordered it anyway. When it arrived and we tasted it, mom really enjoyed it. I tried it and like it as well, though I didn't eat too much of it as the texture go to my nerves. Very chewy. Mom's lips were purple.

Mom was fortunate enough to find a chinese restaurant for me for lunch. I was so happy just to NOT have Italian for at least one day! It was so good. I had won-ton soup, rice, etc.


We left Venice early in the morning just as the sun was peaking up over the buildings, leaving with us an incredible view with the gold reflections in the water, mimicking the sheen of the buildings.

I wanted to show mom a cafe/shopping building that my class stopped in a couple weeks ago. Specifically a flower book where photographs had been altered in a really beautiful way and merchandising from the fashion shop below. 10 Corso Como was closed when we came to it this time, not scheduled to open again until September. Upon returning to the train station to central Milan we noticed a rather HOT billboard for Dolce & Gabbana. Daam!

Once in the center of Milan, there were many adds of previous events for Gianni Versace. My favorite was of a woman with her arms spread to a piano above and her feet tip toeing on a mirrored one below. I showed mom the main shopping area with the glass ceiling and high end boutiques. Can you believe a deluxe Mc Donald's right across from Prada?! After mom had an opportunity to visit Milan's Duomo, I had to show her the H & M store-a new favorite of mine and the Ferrari store.

The Ferrari store is a perfect example of excellent merchandising. When you enter, it sounds as if a sports car on the race tracks has just turned the corner. There is a well dressed man at the entrance as well, as with most stores in Milan and Florence, acting as a greeter and guard against theft. Inside, there's the silver stallion on the wall, TV's next to Ferrari merchandise showing races, a race car near the entrance. Downstairs there's a race car for kids to drive with a screen above showing the track, legos built into ferrari cars, and every kind of toy possible by ferrari, including teddy bears dressed in driving gear. Up stairs, there's the higher end section with items such as wallets, coats, watches, etc that would have no trouble wiping out your pocket book. Motors and other car parts around the store, in pristine condition catch your eye. All together, four floors scream FERRARI. Zoe would have been in heaven.

Posted by 3B 14:47 Archived in Italy Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

Week 5

Monday Aug. 6-Thursday Aug. 9

-17 °C

Aug. 6
Villa Geggnaio, located in Siena
Holme oak lines the drive way all the way up to the gate. Once inside, there is the outside theater immediately to your right. A family member shows us around giving us insight that I of course didn't write down but now wish I had. There are at least three main gates to this garden villa. The front one we came through, the one to the right of the theater, and the one to the left. This one is special because of the monkeys adorning the top of the pillar on each side of the gate. The theater seems to be the only part of the garden that is not encompassed within the stone wall. We head into the garden filled with grapes and arbors, zinnias and vegetables on one side. Toward the back, a large well is used to feed the garden and its yellow jackets.
On the right side of the villa there is a chapel, typical of florentine villas. The chapel is small, with painted false windows on one side and real ones straight across on the other side. On the back wall I find what I originally thought was a humongous DEAD spider. I blow on it to make sure. Nope, definitely not dead. It basically looked like an obese daddy long-leg spider. I'm pretty sure spiders are not supposed to be that large!!!! I walked out very quickly. In the garden, we were given a taste of some of the ripe green grapes. Little did they know that I had already snuck a taste.
Inside the villa a mural painted all the way down its central axis, with rooms off each side. Upstairs were bedrooms with lace curtains and views of the front garden.

Villa Cetinale, also located in Siena.
This could easily be a place I'd call home. It has a very homey feel, and is not as large as some of the gardens we've already seen. Cypress trees line it's main drive way. Inside the gate, what now appears to be a garage is on your right. On the left, a building with a blue-green door is covered in wisteria. In front of you is the villa, originally a farmhouse, that takes on the appearance of a small fortress with its small towers and the enclosure of an escarped wall. Lemon and pomegranate trees speckle the front and back gardens. Also in the back garden is a more modern touch. A swimming pool, built right into the grade change. The three story villa's second floor opens to the front and back garden. So if you're standing strait behind the villa, you can look through the second story balcony window to the front (sky). In back, a long grass path (about 220 meters) leads to the theater. That same path continues until the beginning of some 300 corroded steps, which lead up to a stone platform. Our group didn't get a chance to go up there but supposedly, there is a fully restored hermitage (or retreat for monks that would have lived there).

Aug. 7: today's excursions lead us to Fiesole
Villa Fonte Lucente
Lucente is like a large park with lots of paths to get lost on-if they didn't all lead back to the villa. The paths down to the lake are blocked off, as they have been damaged and not repaired. The gardens are symmetrical with central axis and each have a central fountain or tree. Boxwood encloses four areas in each of the gardens. Down the gravel road is a pool with fountain that may have once been used for entertaining. People swimming in it now may get sick. Along one of the paths, I come across an evil stone statue who seems to be blowing into a flute. His eyebrows turned down toward his nose and grin tell me to turn the other way. Amelia, Abigail, Vartuhi and I sneak of to another path and find a well with female statues around it. We each pick one and do its pose, and then pose in front of the well for a picture. Later, we find a grotto and arbor where another statues hides.

Villa Le Balze
Another favorite of mine and yes, I could most definitely live here. We did not go into the villa here but the garden was enough to convince me.

Villa Capponi
This garden had the greenest grass of them all! Terraces on different levels extend along the Pian de Guillari hillside-a great view of florence. The gate ahead, takes you to a point where you can look over a low wall. The long horizantal garden below is filled with low boxwoods sheared with corner balls. Inside the geometric shaped beds are budded plants not quite ready to bloom. Beyond this a series of small short steps take you down into a garden with fountain and lillies. The walls that enclose all the gardens are scalloped in a pattern we've not yet seen used. The fountain is square with half circles at each end. Down another grade and through tall un-groomed cypress is the swimming pool, which has two concrete fish coming together with a shell at one end. the water for the pool comes out here. Our instructor makes us all pose for pictures here. From here, we make our way up a couple grades to an area where we can look over the initial garden you walk into from the home. You can see the home is long and has a central tower that bears a frescoe, possibly of a coat of arms.

Aug. 8: Full day of trying to get to the last of our villas & gardens.
Palzzo Piccolomini, Pienza
Villa La Foce, Siena
The Garden of Daniel Spoerri

Aug. 9: Last day of class
Thursday we had class and then a welcome dinner in the evening. I cannot believe our class continued in full swing up until the last day. One free day for cleaning of the apartment and packing would have been useful. After our last dinner as a group, I went with Vartuhi (my roommate) to mom’s hotel (De Lanzi-right next to the Duomo) to meet up with her. Earlier, I had gone to put a red gerber daisy in the room to surprise her. We hugged, said our hellos, introduced and made our way to my apartment so she could see where I’d been living these past 5 weeks. After introductions to almost all my flat mates, mom and I left so I could show her Florence at night. I led her to Ponte Vecchio where there was a band playing. We listened, took pictures and walked along to the Uffizi under the secret passageway along the Arno River.

Posted by 3B 14:42 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Weekend in Milan & Siena

Friday August 3: Milan Saturday: August 4 Siena Sunday August 5: rest, go out

sunny 33 °C

Lots of shopping!!!!!!!!!! I bought a great outfit for a night out on the town. My new fave store: H&M.
The Duomo of Milan is said to hold the nail from Jesus' crucifix but it is only shown to the public during select times of the year. The church had beautiful stained glass windows. We weren't allowed to take pics inside, but a I do have a couple of the outside. Hint: it's the white one with tons of spires.
On the train on the way back to Florence, I had the opportunity of taking pics of an incredible sunset-Hence all the photos.


A little shopping!! I bought a pair cute pair of sandals to go along with the outfit.
Smaller than Milan. Streets veer out from the center plaza. While eating lunch, we saw a man in tan suit and red hat who clowned around with the passerby's. Stephanie took us to Siena's Duomo. Most of the churches we'd seen so far were very wide and grand in scale. This one was very grand but narrow. Black and white marbled columns and an exquisite mabled floor.
It took about three hours each way to and from Siena, so we had a shorter time here than in Milan.

5 August 2007

Posted by 3B 15:25 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Week 4

---------All day excursions--------- Tuesday July 31-Thursday Aug 2

overcast 34 °C

Tuesday July 31
Villa il Roseto, Fondazione Giovanni Michelucci-Fiesole: He designed the Church on the Motorway. Beautiful garden, and a Persimmon tree! There was a plant that had sticky pointy leaves and tiny white flowers and smelled like lemon balm, but I don't know what it's called. Its a little dissapointing that our gardens & villas teacher doesn't know plants.
I took lots of pictures of the view from this point. You can barely make out the synagogue and Duomo. I saw two butterflies.

Villa Medici -Fiesole: Stopped and had time to sketch here. I did a pot, but it sucks. I got lots of great shots though, including one of me in a tree.

Villa Medicea della Petraia: This home had a gorgeous purple chandelier inside the main room with frescoes EVERYWHERE. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside though. You'll just have to get me to show you my notes later. Classic Medici symbols could be found throughout the home, These include a crown and the 5 Medici balls which are presented in an oval. We were moved quite quickly through this vill and even faster through the garden. I saw a small green lizard, fish and a dragonfly.

Wednesday August 1

Villa Buonvisi Olivia: Park is surrounded by a wall. While this garden wasn't as exciting as the others that followed, it showed how the use of shade in a garden can provide shelter from the weather. This garden was a fair example of how gardens had different levels in the 1500's. The garden also featured a grotto where, in it's day, would have different water-effects.

Villa Torrigniani: A beautiful garden with lawn separating the two sides. On the right, one garden leads into another. In the Grotta di Venti, we were shown the different water effects. There were several. Water would shoot out from the ground in a few different places (we weren't expecting that one and we all got wet :) ) There were statues inside the grotto and so water shot out from all different parts of the statues. It's really quite clever how the water-works work behind the scenes. Above the surrounding area on another level to the garden, there was a fish pond (which had no fish, but did have two white ducks). You'll see the pictures...

Giardino Garzoni: In this town you'll see pinocchio dolls and merchandise everywhere. This is because this is home to the man who started Pinocchio.
Upon entering the garden, you see a large man-made pond with water shooting up several feet into the air, one ugly black swan, two white swans (wings clipped) and many ducks (to the left, right side has pond to). There are gravel walk areas and plants planted in designs. Past the ponds on either side, there are three garden areas with lawn all around. A central three level staircase leads up to a steep hill, with water trickling down the center to a pond with tadpoles. Above, there are a series of paths that take you to different areas. We went through a bamboo forest to find a maze leading to a grotto. The maze was made up of thinned box woods so it wasn't that hard to figure out. Plus, we kind of cheated by going around.
Up the hill and to the left of the garden, the castle, referred to as the castle with a hundred windows, features upper floors which Napoleon is said to have stayed, and a kitchen where the father of the author of Pinocchio worked. The garden is said to be an extraordinary example of 18th century Tuscan taste.
Back down toward the entrance of the garden is the Butterfly house. Need I say more?! We were kind of rushed through this area, but I still managed to get lots of pictures.

Thursday August 2
All day excursion to Villa Medici Poggio a Canaio & Parco di Celle (in Pistoia).

Medici Poggio a Canaio: Constructed over the remains of an ancient medieval castle.
This home was nice. We strived to take pictures even though it wasn't allowed, but I managed to snap a few undetected. Inside on each side, there are two spiral staircases, one for going upstairs and the other for downstairs travel. This isn't the most impressive villa that I've seen so far, but is was the first with an in home theater.

Parco di Celle: This garden was more of an art exhibition than any other, but a most refreshing take on modern art. Scattered all over are works of art by various national and international artists. And unlike other areas we've so far visited, this villa has the largest number of different varieties of trees, including white/red/scented American/ Douglas firs, chestnut/horse chestnuts, white horn-bean, Atlantic/Himalayan cedars, cypress/lawson cypress, flowering ash, giant arbor vitae, black/umbrella pines, yew, elm, holm/turkey/common/downy/red/American oaks.
I especially enjoyed all the mosquito bites I received around my ankles during the 3 hour tour. But it really was quite amazing! There was an area where the hill was carved out and you walk along this path. In the path there is a little bowl with water and two small crabs inside. You walk further, it appears as though you go deeper as the side of the hill are now over head. Walk through a gate into the hill. Plexi glass and a half turn to the left and right take you to the opposite end where you walk up a spiral stair case to find you are back on top of the hill, but in a clear box, to which there is one opening to exit.

see upcoming pictures from my adventures:

Posted by 3B 12:39 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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