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With more time on my hands these days, this gives me something to do. I hope you get some pleasure, along with me, in sharing this new stage of my life.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Europe Trip 2017: Part 3: 24th to 26th May.

In this part we explore the medieval city of San Gimignano, have a taste of Tuscan wines and lunch in a castle. We then travel north onto magical Florence, the home of Da Vinci and Michelangelo and see the statue of David in the Academy of Fine Arts. A tour to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and another scrumptious dinner at another winery and a most memorable and enjoyable bus trip back to the hotel.

It's then onto, I found to be a very interesting city, Verona. A wrong road takes us on a bit of a mystery tour but gives us a view of some nice villas and a lookout. Some more colourful buildings, nice shops and Juliet's balcony gives us plenty to do. After Verona we leave on the bus to spent the next two nights in Venice.

Warning: contains nudity and coarse language.

Videos have to be watched on this page 
 click on photos to enlarge.

(tbw) taken through bus window

Wednesday, 24th

View from our hotel, over the pool, to the walled village of San Gimignano.

Breakfast by the pool.

San Gimignano

Olives, grapes and Mediterranean Cypress surround this Tuscan farmhouse.

The entrance to San Gimignano.

The entrance to San Gimignano.

Some of the wall around San Gimignano.

It would have looked impressive when there were 72 tower-houses.

Things that caught our eyes.

I might have had problems with customs with this lot.
I like how the little sign says, 'Ask inside to TRY'.

Doors of San Gimignano.

They must have very long arms here.

The Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta (left).

It looked good, until I saw a blow-fly get into the glass-cage with the pig.

These tiny steps caught my attention.

Street scene inside the village of San Gimignano.

A couple of things that caught my eye.

A nice display of local ware.........no bulls allowed.

San Gimignano scene.

The church of Sant'Agostino in San Gimignano, was built in the 13th century.

Colorful frescoes depicting biblical scenes and marble work inside the Church Of Sant' Agostino.

This was a timely reminder not to go running around the streets in my undies again.
And, Doreen was always a pain in the neck

This lizard, we saw on the outside wall of the church,
could be a Kotschy's Gecko,  (Cyrtopodion kotschyi).

San Gimignano scene.

Didn't run fast enough.

More doors of San Gimignano.

Piazza della Cisterna, onetime 13th-century market & public square flanked by historic architecture.

The gateway at the back of San Gimignano.

Farewell San Gimignano.

Castello Vicchiomaggio Winery, Greve in Chianti, for wine tasting and lunch.

The story of their wines.

Waiting for our glasses to be filled.

That's what Bills are for.  Bill 1 and Bill 2.

Deb thinks she has got away without paying for the drinks
(it was just a wine tasting thing).

Mobile planter.

Scenery around the winery.

Going to the ristorantie in the castle.

Going to the ristorantie in the castle.

Lunch in the castle.

Lunch in the castle and our tour driver, Antonio.

Lunch in the castle.

Lunch in the castle.

View out of the window.

I think Terry was thinking that the doors might look good at his place.

After-lunch chat.

Part of the castle garden and view.

View from the garden.

Bus sitting on bumper of a slow car on highway.

Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence. 19th-century piazza with a bronze replica of Michelangelo's David & panoramic views over the city.

Looking over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo.

Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence.

Bronze replica of Michelangelo's David, Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence.

Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence. Left is the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace, 1314), then the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (center) and the Basilica di Santa Croce (right).

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

The Great Synagogue of Florence (Tempio Maggiore) is one of the largest synagogues in south-central Europe.
 The Temple was built between 1874 and 1882.

Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence.

Below Piazzale Michelangelo is the Church of Santo Spirito (left) and the Church of Saint Fridianus (right)

Florence National Central Library, from Piazzale Michelangelo.

Ponte Vecchio, the picturesque medieval arched river bridge with Roman origins, Florence.

Mixture of old (buildings) and modern (air-conditioners,
tv antennas and satellite dishes).

Loved the sculptured pines.  Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence.

Wouldn't be Italy without a red Ferrari.

‍Not everyone rides a scooter.

View from our room at the Hotel NH Anglo American Florence.
Florence light-rail.

Reflected in a window.

Torre della Serpe (Tower of the Serpe), near our hotel (not that hotel). This tower that was built on the spot where the walls (that once protected the city) formed a corner, guarding a small door used by the military to access the walkway. The “Serpe” (serpent) was a famous head-guard.  The tower in the background is Porta a Prato, built 1285.

Church of All Saints (Chiesa di Ognissanti) was completed originally during the 1250's, but almost completely rebuilt around 1627 in Baroque-style. The sculpture is statue of Hercules Strangling the Lion. It was placed here in 1937 when under Mussolini's rule.

A late afternoon walk to find somewhere to eat.
The Ponte Santa Trìnita (St Trinity Bridge) is the oldest elliptic arch bridge in the world.

Relaxing and waiting for the sunset on the St Trinity Bridge.
The bridge was reconstructed in 1958 with original stones after being destoyed in World War 2.

Statues of Spring (left) and Summer, two of the four seasons represented on the St Trinity Bridge.

Ponte Vecchio, the picturesque medieval arched river bridge with Roman origins, Florence.

Water frontage, Florence style.

There must be a reason for this design under the waterside units.

Enjoying the sights from the river.

Looking over the Pescaia di Santa Rosa (Santa Rosa fishing) on the River Arno across to the Church of Saint Fridianus.

At first I thought it was a beaver, but the tail was wrong. Searching
with Dr Google I found it to be a coypu, also known as the nutria, a large (60cm)
rat like animal, introduce from South America, for the fur-trade.
In a Moscow restaurant, Krasnodar Bistro, it appears on the menu as a burger, hotdog, dumplings,
or wrapped in cabbage leaves, with the flavour being somewhere between turkey and pork.

A coypu, or nutria, about to enter the Arno.

The coypu, or nutria.

I think it's going to be a good one.

Rowing into the sunset
The setting sun makes the lights look they're on.

Nearly there

I was very happy with this Florence sunset.

Thursday, 25th

Florence street scene.

If you have a death wish, you could always do a cycle tour.
Then again, it must be very safe as no-one is wearing a helmet.

Queueing to see David at the Galleria dell'Accademia  (Accademia Gallery).

Three of Michelangelo's unfinished works.  Awakening Slave  -  The Young Slave  -  The Atlas  
 It is now thought that Michelangelo deliberately left them unfinished to represent the eternal struggle of humans to free themselves from their material trappings.
David.......just a glimpse.

David's sling

Michelangelo's David in the Galleria dell'Accademia  (Accademia Gallery).

Michelangelo's David in the Galleria dell'Accademia  (Accademia Gallery).

Plaster sculptures fill the Gipsoteca Bartolini, a room in the  Accademia Gallery.
 including this Monument to Elisa Bonaparte.

"Whoops, sorry ladies, I thought it was the gents".

Main panel 'Coronation of the Virgin'.

Trinità e Santi (Trinity and Saints) 1560 - 1571 by
 Maso da San Friano (real name Tommaso Manzuoli).

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florrence.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style and completed, structurally, in 1436.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florrence.

The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florrence.

The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white.
The dome was once the largest in the world but still remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.
See the people enjoying the view?

Baptistery of Saint John. The Baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in the city,
constructed between 1059 and 1128 in the Florentine Romanesque style.

Door and panels of the Baptistery of Saint John.

Piazza del Duomo, between Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Baptistery of Saint John.  
Can you see the 2 red dogs in the open windows, just right of center.
The 2 red dogs, just watching the passing crowd.

Temptation behind glass.

Street scene, cnr Via del Calzaiuoli and Via del Corso.
Looking towards the Piazza della Repubblic (Republic Square).

As I walked past, the horse whispered,  "could you take this stupid thing of my head".

The Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali building in the Piazza della Signoria.
It was designed in the Neo-Renaissance style in 1871 and is one of the
very few purpose built commercial buildings in the centre of the city.

The Loggia dei Lanzi, gallery of statues, in Piazza della Signoria.

Clockwise from left:  Leonardo da Vinci  -  Statue of Cosimo de Medici the Grand Duke of Tuscany  -  The Rape of the Sabine Women and Hercules Beating the Centaur Nessus  -   an image of Justice, one of the four cardinal virtues  -  Copy of Michelangelo's David  -  a Vestal Virgin  -  Hercules and Cacus.

Perseus with the Head of Medusa.  Can you pick the real one?

Some just don't have any respect.

I thought the high one on the left was doing a better impersonation.

Local art for sale outside the gallery.

Uffizi Galleryit (building completed in 1581) is one of the most important Italian museums, and the most visited, over two million visitors in 2016.  On 27 May 1993, the Mafiaa exploded car bomb nearby, killing 5 people and destroying five pieces of art and damaging another 30.

Piazzale degli Uffizi.

We exited near the Ponte Vecchio bridge, no, we didn't have time to walk over it.

Jeweller's shops on the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

A fork in the road, Borgo Santa Croce to the right and Via del Benci to the left.....we go left.

Shops in the Piazza di Santa Croce.
The street sign on the right draws your attention that there could be aliens about.

Buildings in Piazza di Santa Croce.

Florence National Central Library, is the largest public national library in Italy.

Basilica of Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross), Florence, was built in 1294.  Michelangelo is buried in Santa Croce, as are Rossini, Machiavelli, and the Pisan-born Galileo Galilei.

I have overlaid one of my photos over a photo I took of a photo in a shop window of the 1966 flood.  You can see, by the doors and the statue on the left, in the previous photo where the water came up to.

Gypsie woman asking for money in Piazza di Santa Croce.
Our local guide, on the left, takes no interest.
I think they were singing/chanting the Italian equivalent of
'Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi'.

Piazza di Santa Croce (Holy Cross Square). They were setting up for a special event.

The shade was very much appreciated, Piazza di Santa Croce.

These old frescoes were on the building on the left in the previous photo.

I just think this was soooo clever that somebody did this to the 'No Entry' sign.

Street art.

Manhole covers and grills.

Terzo Giardino, the Third Garden, a green area of ​​more than 10,000 square meters on the shores of the Arno.

The tower is Porta San Niccolò was built in 1324 and is
the only door that retains its original height (however,
the battlements were added in the nineteenth century).

Sun-baking at the Terzo Giardino, the Third Garden.


Excursion to Pisa and Fattoria il Poggio  

                           This was a new bird for my list.  On the way to Pisa.                      

                          The tree farms, on the way to Pisa, went on for miles.            

   Topiary was the thing on this tree farm.      

            We passed a lot of quarries where entire hills were disappearing.        
Nozzano Castle. Nozzano Castello became part of the defensive system of the Republic of Lucca in 1126
and was one of its most important castles.                    (tbw)

OK children, have you all got your tickets.

As an 17 year old, our now 44 year old, son rode in a
World Series Mountain Bike race at Lucca.

On the very, well it got us there, train to the leaning tower of Pisa.

When we first arrived they were testing the new hydraulic levelling system out.

They soon had the leaning tower back to how the tourists like it.  Building of the tower occurred in three stages over 199 years. Work began in 1173 and was halted for almost a century, because the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca, and Florence. In 1272, construction resumed but was halted in 1284 when the Pisans were defeated by the Genoans. The seventh floor was completed in 1319 and the bell-chamber was added in 1372.

I thought all these people must have been dancing, but I couldn't hear any music.............

............ oh, I see, they're trying to show that they are propping up the leaning tower.

Yep, everyone has to get in on the act.

Pisa Cathedral.  Construction on the cathedral began in 1063 and was consecrated in 1118 by Pope Gelasius II.

A door of Pisa Cathedral.

Pisa Baptistery of St. John. Construction started in 1152 to replace an older baptistery,
and was completed in 1363 in the Gothic style.

Lupa Capitolina (Capitoline Wolf) The mythical she-wolf suckling the twins,
Romulus and Remus, from the legend of the founding of Rome.
The original wolf is in the Musei Capitolini in Rome.

Western City Wall Gate. The gate was opened in the existing medieval walls by the then Duke of Florence,
Cosimo I de 'Medici in 1562 and is known as 'Nuova' (new).


Aqueduct of Nottolini near the city of Lucca. Work began in 1823 with the project being completed in 1851. The aqueduct is just over 3 kms long and has more than 400 arches in brick and masonry.                                            (tbw)

                                               More old stuff along the road.........it's everywhere.                                

Pinocchio was 6 minutes before the restaurant.
There was a 'Pinocchio Park' about 10 km's from here.                       (tbw)

Arriving at Fattoria il Poggio Winery /  Restaurant, at Montecarlo.

Fattoria il Poggio Winery, at Montecarlo.
Geoff was good at making new friends............and this was before drinks.

OK, when do we start.

The sun-dried tomatoes tomatoes were delicious.

White wine, grapper and dessert wine = great night.

The winners of the winery song contest.

After dinner chat.

There's history all along the highways.                 (tbw)

Sing-along in the bus.

Sing-along in the bus. (for over 18's)

Friday 26th

In a rush for the early breakfast. Our room at the Hotel NH Firenze Anglo American.

The gathering of the clan in the hotel foyer for today's trip on the bus to Venice, via Verona.

Road bridges just before we enter a tunnel near Buttoli.    

The river Po is the longest river in Italy.
Starting in the Cottian Alps and exiting into the Adriatic Sea 652 km away, just south of Venice.  

The only info I could find was 'Comitato Bacanal Del Gnoco (Bacanal Committee of Gnoco)'.  Between 1520 and 1531 , due to a flood of the River Adige people were starving and this has something to do with someone (Tommaso da Vico) supplying the poor with bread, wine and cheese and especially gnocchi. I think it's a gateway in an old defensive wall around the city. (I don't know, I just take photos of things and then try and work out what they are/were afterwards)  

                         Crossing the Adige. This river is the second longest river in Italy, 410 km.                        
Our driver doesn't use GPS, so, we ended up on top of this hill (250m), at Sommavalle, with a great view as a bonus, when, in fact, we should have been down in Verona at the bottom.                          (tbw)

San Zeno ( the church at the rear) is one of the finest examples of
Romanesque architecture in the world, and one of the jewels of
Verona’s heritage. The current building was constructed in 1120.      

The Ponte Pietra (Stone Bridge) is a Roman arch bridge crossing the Adige River in Verona.
 The bridge was completed in 100 BC.                   (tbw)

Castelvecchio (Old Castle) was built in 1354-1355. The Castle  The many invasions this city has had have left their marks in its construction. The Visconti, the Venetian, the French and the Austrian domination have changed parts of the castle. Napoleon constructed a courtyard inside its walls.                         (tbw)
                           Verona Cathedral, Cathedra Santa Maria Matricolare, opened in 1187.                  

              Ponte della Vittoria (Bridge of Victory) in Verona.                      

Two of four bronze equestrian statues, at each end of the Bridge of Victory,
that symbolize the 1918 battle victory near Vittorio Veneto on the Italian
                  front which marked the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of WW I.                    
                                      Santuario della Madonna di Lourdes (Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes)                                    

The Verona Arena is a Roman amphitheatre, built in AD 30, and is one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind.

This is the only remaining part of the original facade of the Roman Theater (right).

You pay a few euros to have your photo taken with a gladiator, and he can
turn out to be an English / New Zealander back-packer.

Security in Verona.

The 'Palazzo Barbieri', the Town Hall, finished in 1883.

Shops in the 'Piazza Bra'.

We follow Daniele out of  'Piazza Bra' heading for 'Piazza delle Erbe'.

Everyone is heading for 'Via Giuseppe Mazzini'.
In this street you will find some chick boutiques, where you can
buy the best "Italy design" clothes.
Looks like 'Legs' has bought a new pink handbag.

I don't know what his message said.

Street scene entering 'Piazza delle Erbe'.

'Piazza delle Erbe', the Grass Square. We had fresh fruit salad here.

Buildings around 'Piazza delle Erbe'.
Buildings around 'Piazza delle Erbe'.

The Domus Mercatorum is a medieval edifice.  
(edifice = any elaborately constructed institution)

The 'Palazzo Mafei' is a 1668 building.
On top are the six pagan divinities sculptures (Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Apollo, Hercules and Minerva).
This is one of the few Baroque constructions in Verona

Some interesting Cavalli frescoes from the 16th century.

Tower Lamberti, 83 meters, is the highest tower in Verona. Its construction began in 1172, and it took several centuries to finish. The octagonal end of the tower still holds the old ‘Rengo’ and ‘Marangona’ bells (1464).

Stairs to Tower Lambert in Piazza dei Signor (Lord's Square).

Stairs to the tower in Piazza dei Signor (Lord's Square).

Messages on the wall and tunnel leading to Juliet's Balcony.

Some of the messages.

Juliet's Balcony.   Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet’s/ love story takes place in Verona.    
This house is the "real" home of Juliet’s family (the Capuleti). The building dates from the 13th century.

Juliet's balcony

At the end of the Roman ‘Decumano’ (now  'Corso Porta Borsari'),
sits the Roman city Gate, the 'Porta Borsari'. This is one of the city’s better
preserved Roman Monuments. It dates from the first century.

I think I must have just liked the ornate windows.

(left) The ‘Loggia del Consiglio’ building.
This Renaissance building (1476-1493) is the most beautiful building of its times in Verona.
(right) The Scaligeri Palace’ (Della Scala family Palace, originally from the 12th century has suffered many modifications, inside this Palace Dante found refuge, as he stated in some of his books.
Dante looks on, wondering if he should go water-skiing, with his new pink skis. or not.

Lodge of Consiglio. This 15th-century lodge & its attached building feature marble columns, sculptures & paintings.

The Della Scala family erected their own cemetery. The most original monument is,
without doubt, the equestrian Cangrande Sculpture, which sits on a pyramid,
work of an unknown Veronese sculptor.

The Della Scala cemetery.

The Della Scala cemetery.

Old Market Palace (Palazzo del Mercato Vecchio).

Windows, balconies and gardens.

Horse carriage-way to the dismounting area.

More doors seen today.

Now these must be good.

Portoni della Brà (Gates of Brà), built in the 14th century.

On the left is Chiesa di San Giorgetto o San Pietro Martire (Church of San Giorgetto or St Peter the Martyr) The church was built in the 14th century by Teutonic knights, some of them buried in the tombs under the floor.    Center is Sant’Anastasia is the biggest church in Verona, its construction began in 1290 (by the Dominicans) and it finished in 1481. This church was constructed over an old church dedicated to Saint Anastasia.

Doors of Sant’Anastasia.

Here's your chance, renovators dream.              (tbw)

Parish Church of Monteforte. Dedicated to Santa Maria Maggiore,
building started in 1805 and ended in 1904.              (tbw)

Soave Castle  (Castello di Soave) with Parish Of St. Lawrence Martyr (church, bottom left)
View down to the hotel's restaurant / bar/ breakfast-room.

Didn't take the gang long to find the bar.

Laguna Palace, our hotel for two nights in Venice.

Our room was on the right at this end (out of view).

View from our bedroom window.

Kreative Korner  (I sometimes like to dabble)


Cameras:     Canon PowerShot SX60 HS   ---  Sony DSC-W690   & Samsung S5 (phone)