Sunday, December 30, 2007

Firenze 3

A day of exercise.
some of the steps....

First - a climb up the cupola of the Duomo - all 463 steps. But what a view - including even the window of my room in the hotel!

see my hotel?

me again!

the roof of the Duomo and the bell tower

The view inside the cupola - looking down

and looking up - the fresco at close range

And back at ground level looking up

The "Gates of Paradise" on the Baptistery - and the hell of crowds everywhere!

Then to the Chiesa di Ognissanti - this church was originally a Franciscan church and its cloister has a number of frescoes of the life of Francis - set in renaissance Florence. The former refectory has one of the most famous last supper fresoces - by Ghirlandaio. (picture below)

Across the Arno to discover San Frediano already closed for the afternoon and the Basilica di Santa Maria del Carmine being closed. Cross the river again to the Basilica di San Lorenzo which was open. Admire the simple renaissance architecture.

Then back across the river to the Piazzale Michelangelo - the view is stunning. Finally to San Miniato al Monte to see some fairly unalterered romanesque architecture and to listen to the monks singing vespers.

San Miniato

Inside San Miniato

Evening view from San Miniato

An angel in the cemetery outside San Miniato

A couple in the cemetery - she died 1944, he in 1945.

The latest stylish fashions there too

One of the private chapels in the cemetery

Dinner and then a free concert of plainsong in nearby San Gaetano rounded off the day.

Italian cars - the Smart Car - it's almost square, you can park it any direction - it's the same

Charging your electric car at the street outlet

Just as well I didn't buy a Rolex from the man in the street!

Moving sculptures

Some of the police - there are many different police here - I'm not sure which these are.

Another view across the river

Firenze 2

Another day of Culture... I fought my way through the crowds in the Uffizi - although I couldn't help but noticing once past the Botticelli room things speeded up - I think everyone gets gallery fatigue by then!
Art on the pavement

Then across the Ponte Vecchio and a stroll round Santo Spirito and San Frediano. Would have liked to see the churches there but it was the siesta time so everything was closed.

A winter afternoon at a fountain

Across the Arno

Back across the river to the Franciscan church, Santa Croce. The Bardi Chapel with its Giotto Franciscan frescoes and Franciscan dossal was one of the main reasons I came to Florence so it was good to see them without too many crowds in the way.

Santa Croce

Inside - the Bardi Chapel is just to the right of the scaffolding - you can also see the Stigmata fresco above the chapel arch.

What I came to see - the Franciscan dossal

San Bernardino - in the Santa Croce Museum

After that, too cultured out for any more, I wandered back through the streets to the hotel. Around 5 to 6pm is a good time to wander into the churches - except that it is usually too dark to see much in them. The Oratorians' Chiesa de San Firenze was open - although I really thought it was an official office building first. Then a wonderful surprise to find the church used by the Monastic Community of Jerusalem where a number of people had gathered for silent prayer and vespers.

After all that - time for a meal at McDonalds and back to this hotel.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Firenze - 1

For a long time I've wanted to visit this city (I will call it by its Italian name, Firenze, rather than Florence since Koreans call it Firenze as well).

I'm staying in a cheap, but comfortable in a basic way, hotel around the corner from the main train station and from Santa Maria Novella. It is a room with a view although if you want to look out the windows you need to stand in the corner and open the shutters. But it is a stunning view of San Lorenzo in front of the Duomo.

From my room with a view - the large dome in the foreground is San Lorenzo - behind that is the Duomo - you can see the bell tower and part of its dome.

Across the Arno at sunset - looking to San Frediano

Santa Maria Novella - the Dominican basilica

You want to buy your own statue? This shop is full of them.

Tomorrow is an art marathon - the Uffizi.


Siena is well known for many reasons. For me the first is its local boy, the 14th century Bernardino, later to achieve fame as a Franciscan preacher and promoter of devotion to the Holy Name. The second reason is the local girl, Catarina, also in the 14th century, who as a Dominican exerted considerable spiritual leadership. Other features are the fan-shaped piazza, Il Campo, in
front of the Palazzo Pubblico and the stunning civic architecture. There is of course too a Duomo which would grace any city. And for fans of horseracing there is a horserace like none other. Il Palio is a fierce contest of rivalry among the seventen contrade.

Il Campo
The Palazzo Pubblico and tower

The view from the top of the tower
Me on top of the tower

The interior of the Duomo

I was looking for traces of San Bernardino - the SSF hermitage in Stroud, NSW, is named after him. His symbol is the monogram of the name of Jesus in the form of a disc. He made this to unite warring factions and would preach while holding it. The symbol can be seen all over Siena today.

Basilica San Francesco

Inside San Francesco

There is more remaining of Catarina here. Her head is in a glass-fronted reliquary looking out at those who come to the chapel named for her in San Domenico church. There is also a finger.

The Dominicans and Franciscans both built enormous barns of churches. They were very much preaching halls but it is easy to see how the appeal of those two orders created tensions with secular clergy (the local parish clergy).

Sunset and San Domenico

Sunset from the Casa Santa Catarina

Aguri! Christmas greetings! Buon Natale!

Style - Fashion - come to Italy!

The cat sat on the car

The hotel where I stayed

Christmas in Assisi

There are many ways of celebrating Christmas in Assisi. Over the past week or so people have been preparing the presepe - the Christmas cribs - usually set in whole villages of activity. There are large ones prepared by local organisations or churches and small ones in shop windows. There have been pre-Christmas concerts. But there isn't really any shopping rush. That's partly because most of the shops in Assisi are souvenir shops. Statutes of St Francis are not major items as Christmas presents. But it really felt very relaxed and quiet.

One of the presepe in Assisi

I went to San Damiano for Christmas midnight mass and was fortunate to get a seat. We filled that old church, the stones partly repaired by Francis, friars leading music in a very simple way. Afterwards we processed with candles (well - a lot of people in a small space is not a procession - more of a moving queue) to the friars' cloister for veneration of the Bambino (kissing its knee) before refreshments in the refectory.

Christmas Day was with the Anglican congregation at San Leonardo. Visitors boosted the numbers of the regular winter congregation - which otherwise can be quite small. And after that Gordon and Christine - two of the resident expats invited Br Tom and myself to join them and George and Beryl (who split their time each year between Australia and Italy) and a few others for Christmas dinner. It was only the second time in the last twelve years I hadn't been in Korea for Christmas. It was very nice not to be responsible for anything!

Tom, George, Beryl, Gordon and Christine

An unusual view of Assisi - from the "other side" - the Rocca Maggiore is at the top of the hill - and the tower below it, just above the road, has been converted into a house where Rosemary lives.

Assisi at twilight - there are still a few cranes around repairing the earthquake damage.