Florence – Day 2

Today the sun rose on Florence and it was beautiful. I have to say, sun is a friend to this city. It changes the entire dynamic of the place for the better.

We got up early and had a croissant and a cappuccino and set off to catch the sun lighting up the Ponte Vecchio from a nearby bridge

From there we made our way to the train station to make reservations for Rome in a few days an from there by bus (the number 12) we headed up to Michelangelo Square (Piazzale Michelangelo) which boasts one of the best views of Florence you can imagine. And it was true! Simply fantastic!

I am so glad I brought the Minolta 70-200mm with me on this trip. It’s a bit heavy to lug around, but oh so worth it for photo opportunities like this one.

After we took in the panorama of Florence from Michelangelo Square we wandered over to San Miniato al Monte which was a short walk away.

San Miniato al Monte was founded in 1018 which in and of itself is rather remarkable, but the church itself is not what you are here to see. The sight to see at San Miniato al Monte is the cemetery. Quite possibly one of the most surreal cemeteries I have ever seen.

After wandering around the cemetery we caught the bus (the number 13) back to the train station and walked back to our hotel to recombobulate.

While at the hotel I went online to make some reservations to go see Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery. We knew it was a long shot, but we had to try. After making the reservations online we were told we would know if we were successful within 24 hours.

After resting a bit more we headed back out to get the lay of the land and do a little more exploring. In our travels we came across Festival del Gelato. It was very festive and bright with a fantastic selection of frozen deliciousness.

Cynthia had strawberry and I had chocolate. It was delightful and Cynthia’s spirits continued to improve.

After exploring a bit more we went off in search of dinner and found La Pasticceria Robiglio. The food was great, as was the atmosphere. And we had what may have been the best Sangiovese I have ever tasted.

At this point we were pretty tired so we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep.

All in all, a very successful day.

From Venice To Florence

On Tuesday, May 1 we wrapped up a successful visit to Venice. We woke up, packed our things and checked out of our hotel and caught a water taxi to Venezia Santa Lucia railway station. We were fairly certain we could book a train to Florence without much trouble. We had our rail passes, but no reservations. We secured tickets and were on our way in less than an hour.

It was raining in Venice as we left and, as it turns out, raining in Florence when we arrived. It wasn’t a constant rain, more of an on and off kind of rain.

When we pulled in to the station in Florence it was in “off” mode so we decided to walk to our hotel which was only a 10 minute hike from the station.

Situated a bock from the Duomo, it was easy to find.

When we got to the hotel Cynthia was a a bit discouraged. I booked the hotel based on recommendations from Trip Advisor where everyone was saying how much they enjoyed their stay and how great the owners are and how conveniently located the hotel was to all the major attractions.

When we got to the hotel to check in Cynthia was not happy. The hotel is on the 4th floor of the building and since she hates european elevators she has to walk up the stairs to get to the room.

The hotel itself is nothing special. Very small and basic, but clean.

Cynthia was a bit put off by the fact that our room had 4 single beds in it. Granted, this kind of makes the room look a bit like a dormitory, but it’s not a shared space. We have the room all to ourselves. But this impression combined with the basic nature of the hotel combined with the rain and the fatigue of travel put Cynthia into a bit of a funk.

Personally, I like the room. It’s clean, the staff is personable and it’s a place to lay our heads when we’re not out and about seeing the sites.

I did my best to try and lift Cynthia’s spirits, but it was a struggle. We put on our rain coats and set off to do some exploring.

At this point Cynthia was getting pretty hungry and we stopped at a small cafe to see about getting something to eat for lunch. This was a huge mistake. The place was not very good. And when I say not very good, it sucked. The food was awful and the service was marginal at best.

As you can imagine, Cynthia was beginning to crater under the weight of so much disappointment.

We walked down to scout out the Uffizi and have a look at the Ponte Vecchio. The rain finally cleared off, but it was still overcast and damp. Florence is a dark, gritty city made up of stone buildings and stone streets. In these conditions it can be very gloomy.

Photographically, it was a bit of a bust. The gloom was not very conducive to much shooting. But the sun made a last ditch effort to come out toward the end of the day and this, combined with the rain puddles afforded me a unique photo opportunity

We wrapped up the day with a nice dinner and a bottle of wine at a restaurant near the hotel. This went a long way toward lifting Cynthia’s spirits. We got back to the room and we both slept some of the best sleep we have had the whole trip.

Venice – Full Circle

I have always treasured this photograph of my grandfather. It shows him standing in front of St. Mark’s Square in 1919 at the end of WWI. When we went to Venice in 2005 I tried to take have my own picture taken in the same spot he was standing. I got close, but there is now a railing around the pole so you can’t quite get there.

It was was the early days of my photography. I tried to line it up and got a pretty good shot of me standing in roughly the same spot. But it didn’t come out so well. Over the years I thought it would be good to go back with the photo in hand and take another picture of me in the same basic spot and holding a copy of the original photo.

This trip to Venice afforded me that opportunity so I printed out a copy to bring with me and below is the result.

Time Lapse Venice

Day Trip – Painted Houses Of Burano

We decided we needed to get out of the crush of humanity that is Venice during the day so we took a boat over to see the painted houses of Burano.

We sorted out how to get tickets and board the boat and even get off the boat to catch the second boat that would take us to the island. It all went very smoothly and even though Cynthia is not a fan of boats, even she enjoyed the trip over as the boat was pretty big and not overly crowded.

The island is really something to see. The houses are each painted a different, bright color and when the sun shines on them they simply glow. There’s a few canals and some bridges which makes it a bit like a miniature version of Venice.

All in all, very cool. We hung out for most of the day wandering the streets. It’s very residential so you would see kids playing or women doing their ironing in an open doorway or cleaning old shoes out of a window. We laughed a bit as we speculated what it must be like for them to look out their window and see picture taking camera gawkers plodding around snapping photos of everything. We laughed as we tried to imagine the same thing back home.

After we were done we caught the boat back and the ride was fine till we found ourselves dropped on the far end of Venice. We had to catch the Vaporetto back to St. Mark’s Square. This ended up being a grueling adventure as probably twice as many passengers crowded on to the boat than it was designed to carry. At the end of the ride Cynthia mustered a joke about how pleasant it was for a claustrophobic woman who hates being on the water to be in this situation.





More photos can be found in my Flickr set Painted Houses Of Burano, Italy

Arrival Venice

We caught our flight from Houston to Frankfort late in the afternoon on Thursday and then caught our connecting flight to Venice the following Friday without much incident. Our short hop to Venice had no gate assigned when we arrived so there was a little frustration there, but not a big deal.

After arriving in Venice and collecting our luggage we found our way to the water taxi stand and caught a ride to San Marco which was a short walking distance from our hotel.

We were happy to pay the fee for the taxi rather than catch the much less expensive water bus. Those things get very crowded and, as a I recall from our previous visit, are not very pleasant if you’re jet-lagged and shlepping a bunch of luggage. Plus the view coming in to Venice was spectacular.

By the time we checked in to the hotel we had been awake for going on 30 hours with only about 40 minutes of sleep on the plane.

Even though we had been awake for an insane amount of time we decided to push through. it was a little after 3:00 pm Venice time when we checked in to the hotel, but the weather was fantastic so we unloaded our gear and set out to explore.

Of course Cynthia immediately started hitting on the Italian men. Gondoliers are everywhere and will abscond with with your woman if you are not paying close attention

Venice is as beautiful as a I remember it from 2005. Simply fantastic. But very crowded. Especially around San Marco. But when the sun starts to set it dies down quite a bit. Plus, if you walk out in to the surrounding areas you can find some less populated scenes.

And you simply can’t turn a corner without seeing something that needs to be photographed.

We explored and ended the day with a nice dinner and then went for some much needed sleep.

Internet is spotty here at the hotel so updates are a little slow. Please bear with us.