Monthly Archives: June 2012

Don’t worry, there’s no fleas.

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If you’re looking for a good place to buy cheap Italian clothes, shoes, African masks, and other weird odds and ends there is a huge market called Porta Portese Flea Market that you need to check out. Different things have told us that it’s best to go on a Sunday, so we did. It was HUGE. So many clothing stands and jewelry, bags and shoes. A lot of it starts to look the same after awhile, but it’s a pretty cool market. We got there around 8 or 9 in the morning and it wasn’t too crowded. The calm before the storm. It was hot though. Like always. I’m writing this in Villa Borghese and my legs are sticking to the bench…like always. Today is especially a scorcher. Good thing those sweet fountains are around. There’s also an ambulance on standby at the park. My roommate told me that when they were at the Vatican museum today that there was also an ambulance waiting by the line. Probably just in case. The Vatican line….no thanks, man. We tried to go there last week and we got there around 8:30, thinking since it opened at 9 there wouldn’t be that long of a line yet. Wrongo. The line wrapped around the big wall and over to the guys selling the knock off purses. Definitely not for me.

This market, however, yes. Go to it, you’ll love it. Things do start to look the same after awhile, but it’s not a bad thing. I finally found normal underwear here. It’s a funny thing about Rome…men’s underwear is sold in most men’s clothing stores, women’s underwear however, is not. When you’re sick of doing laundry every few days because you decided it would be a good idea to pack light…a store that will sell you an extra few pairs will soon become a highlight of your shopping trip. I could not find a store to sell them…or normal socks really, but this market, just the ticket. And everything here is pretty cheap. You just have to be willing to dig and get on in there. A lot of the stuff isn’t the highest of quality, but they people selling it are usually very easily talked down on their prices. I didn’t pay full price for anything except the underwear, and that’s just because I was so happy to find them.

The market is pretty much set up in different sections. I haven’t quite figured out the lay of it since we were only there once, but once you get past a lot of the jewelry, scarves, clothes, shoes, and bags, there are areas that have really cool antiques, masks, old Japanese antiques, furniture, frames, art, music, tons of stuff. We even passed a few boxes of old squeaky toys. I loved seeing all the colors of the different stands and the boxes. Chandeliers and toys, beads and fabric. Old Italian men selling what they’ve found in old boxes in the basement…at least I like to think of it this way. It has a nice soundtrack of Italian murmur in the background with sellers at their stands trying to persuade you to choose them.

The parrot is actually rabbits.

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While I’m on this roll with markets, I need to talk about the one that we stopped to that is on the way to Temple. It was usually closed when we passed it, since we’d be going to school at 7 :45am and getting back at 8:45pm, but when we decided to skip the Vatican line of death and head to the market. Good thing we did, it was one of my favorite things that we did. So many little butchers shops and bakeries. We bought stuff to make lunch and I made one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches EVER. The kids that I work with would be jealous. The colors and the smells switched with every step. So many little Italian butcher men. Red glows coming from all of their refrigerated cases.

Now, these meats are not those that you see in just any old US of A market. No, these were intense. Maybe I’m just not shopping at the right place, but I saw chickens with their heads looking back at me with a few straggling feathers left behind, a few different kinds of stomachs, something that looked like a skinned parrot, all kinds of weird textures and colors. One place we passed had a couple of wild boar heads mounted to the stand. The butcher seemed like the kind of guy I’d like to hang out and listen to in a pub for awhile. One of those interesting guys that has lots of life stories.

 

The vegetable stands were also very impressive. So bright and colorful. Everything looked so fresh. A lot of them had a fruit or two cut open to show how good it looked inside. And did they look good. We got tomatoes and cherries, grapefruits and strawberries. I still don’t think it beat the strawberries and tomatoes that I got in Positano though. Those tomatoes were the best I’ve ever had. Good stuff.

The market was so nice to look through. I wouldn’t suggest doing it with a group though. I love the people that I’m here with, they’re the best, but there’s something about wondering around on your own and having one on one encounters with the people at the stands. It’s easier to talk to them and find out a little bit about their food, stuff like what they would get. I found it’s much easier to get a smile and a genuine have a nice day when I’m on my own. Maybe I’m just not a group person when I shop. I’m more of a wonderer. I think I get this from my mother. Usually she’s the most frequent thing we have to look for when we go anywhere. It will be interesting when we won’t be able to call her in Rome and Greece in two weeks. Maybe I’ll get a gps tracker to put in her pocket. Just kidding Loie…it would be a good idea though. I think that this was definitely one of my favorites of Rome. I wish we would have discovered its magic a little bit earlier. Beats Carreforr by a loooong shot.

Farewell (For Now)

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Parting is such sweet sorrow! Leaving Rome is sweet because it means I am officially finished my college career but I am sorry to leave this gorgeous place.  Having worked extremely hard the past few years, I cannot say I was jealous of the people cramming for exams as I prepared my artwork for my final critiques.  For my sketchbook class, I crafted a pop-up book depicting the rooftops and hillsides of Rome and incorporated drawing techniques I had learned throughout the semester.  We had our final meeting at the Botanical Gardens by Trastevere and I could not have imagined a more beautiful place to culminate the semester.  I especially enjoyed the bamboo forest and Japanese garden, though all of the paths were magical.  For my photography class, I photographed nature breaking through the streets and ruins of Rome from a worm’s eye view. Looking over my photos with my teacher, I was pleased by my improvement.  I feel I learned a lot in little time in both courses.  I believe my art recording my experiences here will be my most highly treasured souvenir.  I was able to display my artwork and see the work of classmates at the farewell pizza party and art show.  I really enjoyed seeing what people chose to depict for their final projects, it allowed me to see Rome and our experiences here through other students’ eyes.

After the pizza party, students excitedly ran to watch the soccer match between Italy and Germany.  Piazza del Popolo was packed with fans brandishing Italian flags.  There was a monitor set up to view the game and everyone went crazy each time Italy made a goal.  There were sparklers and joyous sing-a-longs.  In many ways, the festivities felt like a celebration of my last day of college and I was easily caught up in everyone’s joy.  When Italy won, I braced myself for a riot comparable to when the Phillies won the World Series.  The celebration in Italy, however, was much more respectful and I felt safe in the crowd.  The metro gates were open to everyone, and I appreciated Italy’s effort to get everyone home safely and quickly.

Reflecting on the past few weeks, I am extremely satisfied with my experiences.  From sightseeing major attractions to dealing with minor interactions, I feel I made the most of my time here.  I was able to take in everything without getting overwhelmed and would recommend a semester abroad with Temple to anyone.   This trip has instilled in me a desire to travel as much as possible and I have also gained the confidence to do just that.  I was doubtful at first that my classmates here would become my best friends, but I am happy to report that there are certainly new friends with whom I will keep in touch once we are all back in Philly.   Before I say “Ciao” to Rome, I will definitely be visiting the Trevi Fountain to throw my coins in in hopes of returning!

Venice

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Having already visited Florence and Naples, Venice was still on my to-do list of destinations for day trips out of Rome.  Once again, I turned to Trenitalia to make this goal come true. My plans were threatened momentarily by the transportation strikes. In Italy, the transportation strikes are planned in advance, which is interesting.  Any inconvenience caused by the temporary discontinuation of bus and metro services is slightly offset by a forewarning that services will not be available at predetermined times.  With this information accessible, we were able to schedule our train to Venice around when the metro would be running.  When we came back, the strike was still on but luckily some buses were running and I was able to travel with very little difficulty.

We arrived at the Venezia Santa Lucia station after a lengthy train ride and walked out to find ourselves in the maze of streets and waterways that makes up Venice.  Our first stop was the Jewish Ghetto, where we found delicious pastries.  We went to a restaurant in this neighborhood as well, and I was pleased by the selection of vegetarian sandwiches.  One negative aspect of the meal was that they tried to trick us into paying more by adding several extra entrees to our bill. This may have worked on the average tourists, but as Temple students abroad we were savvier than the waitress expected us to be and we were able to remedy the overcharges.  This experience was certainly a reminder to stay aware when travelling.

After our meal and our corrected bill, we ventured off to find San Marco Square.  Rather than a direct route, we weaved in and out of whimsical streets lines with shops selling local glass, masks, and delicacies.  The streets were packed with tourists sporting shopping bags and it was important to keep an eye on the groups so as not to get lost. I imagine it is very easy to get lost in Venice, but our intention was to wander so we were content wherever we were.  We finally found the square, a beautiful piazza lined with an elaborately decorated church, outdoor cafes, and shops.  Multitudes of pigeons also found the square and tourists either loved feeding them or were fighting to keep them away.  Also in the square is St. Mark’s Campanile, a bell tower that overlooks the city.  It cost eight euro to take an elevator to the top, and the elevator was a welcome change after climbing the many steps of the Duomo in Florence the week before!  As predicted, the view was breathtaking.  Getting lost in the streets of Venice gives one a sense of the windy streets and waterways, but looking at the scene from above truly allowed me to see the layout of the city.  Gondolas were zooming through the blue water that broke up the sea of terracotta roofs.  I felt much safer at the bell tower than I did at the Duomo because the tower was entirely fenced in and I could enjoy the view without the fear of falling.  We intended to take a water taxi back to the train station but they were on strike so we weaved through the city once more before saying Ciao to Venice. 

Don’t get lost..we found a skeleton with a pair of Ray-Bans once.

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Each week we visit different places with our design class and then make a spread for a book from what we gather at the location. I’ve said this before, so forgive me for the repetition..not everyone follows as loyally as you do. We visited a place called the catacombs of Saint Sebastion. This was probably my favorite thing that we visited in the class. It was a very interesting place. You weren’t technically supposed to take pictures in it..but sometimes my camera just slips. Gets a little too eager and can’t wait.

You enter the catacombs through a courtyard area and go into a room that has the ticket booth. Our class gathered..all 15 of us..and attempted to scrounge our money together to pay with exact change. In the ticket booth area there are artifacts all around that you can walk through and look at while you’re waiting for your tour group to build up to a large enough number that you can start your tour. I couldn’t help but notice our professor leaning over one of the ropes with his book laying next to him, counting everyones’ money, trying to figure out what was missing. He was just going about his business…didn’t even realize that he was using a sarcophagus as a table top. This was a funny thing to me. I don’t think he ever did realize what he was doing. Sometimes I think he lives in a make believe world in his head. He’s got loads of good stories and spouts out a lot of good quotes. He is a funny guy with limitless amounts of energy.
Finally we met up with our tour guide. He was a smaller Italian man with an interesting accent. Lots of information in his big brain. I wonder how many languages he could speak. He seemed to really love talking about the catacombs. He had an easy way about him. He took us down into the catacomb tunnels finally and it was not exactly what I expected. The temperature immediately dropped and everything was pretty dark. He told us that we had to stick together. There are seven miles of tunnels, so we should try not to get lost…they may never find us. After this, he told us that they found a skeleton with a pair of Ray-Bans on. He got a chuckle with that one. As we got further into the tunnels, it was funny how scared people were. It was like walking through a haunted house waiting for the next rubber mask to jump out at you. I kept waiting to see something coming at me from the end of the dark tunnels.


It’s amazing that people could get around down there. No lights, only torches. No maps or GPS..I would be a goner. There were ceilings in some of the tombs that were very decorative while others seemed to just be holes in the ground. It was sad seeing small ones knowing that it was most likely for children. Families were usually buried together. It was a thing that men did for their families. This was also the place where Peter and Paul’s bodies were said to have been buried. In a cave part of the tunnels there is a wall that is preserved with 600 graffitied messages to Peter and Paul on it. It was a neat thing to see.

Above the catacombs is a church of Saint Sebastion. It was a weird church with a lot of cheesy images and statues. Something that looked like it came out of a 70s living room.

The early bird gets the worm.

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So I’ve been raving about night walks and how great they are, but recently we’ve taken a morning walk. I am not a morning person..I don’t think many of those exist, but this morning. I was. Up at 5:30 and at the Trevi Fountain by around 7. It was amazing. We were the only ones there. This is an unbelievable feat if you’ve ever seen the Trevi fountain, you’ll know what I mean. Normally it’s crawling with people like ants on a drop of strawberry jelly. People sit there and watch. They watch the water, they watch the magic…I’m not really sure what they watch. I never really liked spending time there at night. It’s crowded and it stinks…everywhere you turn there are people and little men with Polaroid cameras trying to take your picture for a euro. It’s funny watching them take a photo for someone with that persons camera and when they finish offer to take one with their Polaroid with the promise of instant satisfaction. You’ve got the proof in your hand then. Show it to all that will see. You threw money in the Trevi Fountain, right before you bumped into the family of six and knocked the little girls ice cream on the ground. I guess you wouldn’t want that proof. Shortly after we got there people trickled in and out, but there was never really more than one or two other groups. It was one of the most amazing things that I’ve done here. The crisp morning air and an empty Trevi Fountain.

Just to explain what I mean a little bit with the ants…this is normal Trevi upon first impression.

 

Why stop there right? Naturally, we wondered over to the Pantheon. My goal was to get there before everyone else and really see it the way I’d feel most connected to it. It was such a different view of Rome. The streets were quiet and empty. The sun was splashing here and there on the cobble stone. The only people that were out were the ones that were getting Rome ready for the day. Street sweepers and fountain cleaners, police men and the guys running the sidewalk stands. Everything was quiet. No little scooters buzzing around and beeping at you. We watched people gradually come out of their homes and greet the morning with their cappuccino and croissants…still looking like they have a personal shopper and a stylist that dresses them every morning.

We made it to the Pantheon..and my wish came true. Nobody but the man sweeping the steps in his bright orange suit. We sat on the steps of the fountain out front and took it all in. The  massive building looked even more peaceful than it had before. I didn’t even realize how loud it was before. So many people. I feel like I had my own little secret this time. We sat and watched. The fountains hadn’t even come on then. I watched a worker step up inside and clean out the change.

Eventually we saw a man came up in his suit reading a paper and sipping his coffee. He looked like he meant business. When he was done he set his paper on the bottom of a column and walked over to the doors. It was odd seeing the man interact like this with the Pantheon. It looked like he was on his front porch waiting for his wife to unlock the door.

Funny that he actually did open the door. Seems he was a man in charge. The doors opened and immediately I was on the porch looking into the empty church. Nobody but the cleaning lady. We weren’t allowed to enter yet, not until the floors were cleaned. Unfortunately we were running late for Galleria Borghese.

I’ve got stomach in my stomach.

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I’d say I’d call myself an adventurous foodie person. I like to try things..twice if I like it. Roma is no exception. One of my main goals while we were here was to try some traditional Roman food. I bought a book while I was here that has a few recipes in it about traditional Roman dishes. There’s this funny thing about Roman meats and it’s called the fifth-fourth. It’s basically talking about the parts of meat that usually makes American stomachs turn. Naturally, I wanted to try some here. It started when people would come home from a long day of physical labor and they’d be hungry and want to eat a hearty meal, but couldn’t afford a good slab of meat. To solve this, they cooked with the odds and ends that high class peeps didn’t want. These being stomachs, livers, hearts, tails..etc. So…a few of these became part of my goal. In the traditional Roman meal, there are different courses. Usually there  is an appetizer, a first course usually pasta (primi piatti), a second course usually meat (secondi piatti), and dessert. Wine and water and bread are all involved in this big meal too. And there are different versions, this is just the runny one that I remember. Some of the highlighted appetizers in the book I got include a lot of fried things. There’s also a lot of anchovies in it. It’s funny..I don’t really ever remember having anchovies before I came here. Anyway…I was on a mission. I researched all different types of restaurants that I wanted to try that had some of the things that stood out, the more traditional stuff. If you’re looking for some good traditional restaurants while you’re here, I’d suggest either the Jewish Ghetto or Trastevere. Trastevere is where the one that we were looking for was. I say looking because we didn’t actually end up finding it. Which is funny, because after we left the one that we ate at, we looked left down an alley not even a block away and alas…the restaurant we were looking for. The one that we chose though was excellent. It was a little place, mostly outside, but we had to sit inside since the outside was filled..always a good sign. The walls were pink and filled with old photographs..I’m a sucker for old photographs..it’s got to be something in that black and white nostalgia. They had pictures of the Pantheon before the two towers on it were taken off. They also had a lot of weird statues around. The woman waiting on us seemed to be the owner. Busy little bee she was. She seemed to be doing it all for all of the tables there. There was also a man sitting at a desk next to us the whole time that looked exactly like an old, fat, Italian Elvis.

 

When the woman took our order, she suggested the mushroom ravioli, which was the special that night…I should have gotten it. It was INCREDIBLE. So, lesson learned…when the waitress suggests something good that’s a special..get it. It was in a cream sauce and it was delicious.

 

We decided to start with appetizers since I’ve been searching for them at different restaurants. Two things that are traditional are the fried artichokes and fried zucchini flowers. I’ve been wanting to try both, so I got one and somebody else got the other. And they were gooood. They were both like nothing that I’ve ever tasted before.

I decided to get the zucchini flowers. These are the tops of a zucchini plant…you got it..the flower. They pull them off of the zucchini and stuff them with anchovies and cheese and some other sauce stuff and then dip them in batter and fry them. I was really surprised that you couldn’t taste the anchovies so much. It reminded me a small bit of an eggroll, but not really. They were pretty darn good.

 

The fried artichokes were interesting as well. They were flakey on the bottom and thick at the center. I liked the center part best. They’re somewhat crunchy, but not too much. They have salt and pepper on top for flavor. Good stuff.

 

For the main event, I decided to be brave. I ordered Trippe della Roma. Which is tripe…sheep’s stomachs. So..the idea of eating a stomach kind of got to me. I tried to eat as much of it as I could, but it was the texture that really got me. It was like a noodle mixed with a clam. It was somewhat white and bumpy, covered in red sauce and cheese. I convinced myself that bread made it go down a little bit better. It was definitely an interesting night. I’m glad I tried it though. The thing that kept getting me was that I had stomach in my stomach. A weird thought to think. After I tried this, I was walking past a butcher’s stand and I noticed this white stuff that almost looked like flat coral or the back of a starfish..yep..that’s what was in my stomach…stomach.

 

Street lights, people…

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And so the trend continues. Night walks, evening strolls. That’s when all the good stuff is happening. Pretty colors in the sky and the streets starting to light up. Hostesses and hosts try to herd all the nice dressed people into their fly traps. The air gets cooler and easier to breath, the sun isn’t beating on your skull trying to get into your head. Night walks are where it’s at. It’s funny walking places and comparing them night to day. I seem to do this a lot. I like it when we walk around to places that I’ve never been before. New places are always good. I like it especially when they smell different than dog pee. That’s the best. A lot of the time when we walk around there are people out playing instruments. There are a lot of songs that sound similar…everyone’s got a different instrument though. Men at the Pantheon play the strings, kids on the subway play the toy keyboard, and guys at Piazza del Popolo play the clarinet. They all sound good…usually. Sometimes I hear people playing songs that sound like this video that I used to watch on Ebaum’s world. Some might remember…it was a big hit back in the day. Funny videos and goofy animations. Pretty scandalous stuff a lot of the time. But that’s what kids seem to like, right? Anyway, this video was called Aicha. You can watch it there if you know what a link is. It’s funny, my parents just started using email to talk to me and they don’t really use the computer that much. I put a link in for them to see where I was visiting and I explained what to do with it. It’s funny that kids in preschool are being taught this now. I didn’t even know what the internet was until I was around 4th grade. I feel like an oldy sometimes. Anyway.

The best is when you’re walking at night and you stumble upon little shops and things that are shut down..you get to just peer through the window and make up a scene in your head of how it runs on a daily basis. Uninterrupted and free to be in a daze, that’s how I like it. We found an old clock and antique store one night when we were walking back from the Pantheon. I looked through the window and I could put an old Italian cartoon voice to all of the pieces in the window. It’s like when the store shuts down at night the items get their personalities. It’s like this book I had when I was a little kid. Actually it was my sisters, but I would hide it on the side of my bottom bunk bed and take it out sometimes. It was about a bear losing his button from his corduroy bibs. The mannequins come alive too. It’s funny walking past the high end stores..people like to pose in front of them. I imagine the fake plastic eyeballs of the skinny women in the windows rolling and a sigh coming through their plastic lips.  “Silly unfashionable tourists” they’d say.

There are certain things that you see here that aren’t really seen anywhere in America..well, I guess there’s a lot. But some you definitely wouldn’t see. Like nuns on a bus or vespa after vespa zooming around. I’ll miss these little parts of Italy. They’re characteristics that only belong here. I won’t see them at home. But I like seeing them now.

Hadrian really knew what he was doing..maybe.

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Almost done with a summer in Rome and the Pantheon is still what sticks out to me. It’s funny how that goes. Maybe it was the best first impression that I got here that keeps it close to my heart. Now I’m getting all sentimental. But really. The Pantheon sticks to the ribs…it’s hard to shake it. It’s almost 2000 years old and it’s still standing strong. You can see some cracks and scars, but for the most part, the Pantheon shows little wear inside. The marble still shines and the ceiling is still holding. The funny thing about the Pantheon is that no one really knows who actually built it. It’s believed to be built by Hadrian around 118-126 AD, but there are others now that are saying they’ve found bricks from Hadrian’s father, Trajan, that are showing at the base. So, it is possible that Trajan is responsible for the plans and Hadrian just saw the plans through. Big mysteries. I guess I should rewind and explain that they know a date because of the bricks that were used to make the Pantheon. Back then…way way back then, the companies that would make the bricks would stamp them as they were still wet with the date, the ruler, and the company making the structure. This is the information that they used to determine when the Pantheon was made. Fun fact that most people don’t know is that the Pantheon that we know today wasn’t the only one. It’s actually the third on on the spot that it stands. The others weren’t the same construction with the massive dome, but they were in the same spot. Each burned down, one in 80 AD and the second in 110 AD. Third time’s a charm I guess. Can you tell that I just wrote a 6 page paper on the Pantheon? I hope Professor Huber is proud.

 

The Pantheon got its name because it was built first as a Pagan temple. Pantheon meaning all the gods. So it was a temple built for all the gods and was designed to be appropriate as so. It’s structure is supposed to represent the universe inside with its spherical shape and the oculus to the heavens. I would love to lay on the floor right below the opening at night and see the stars. I’m sure it would be spectacular. Unfortunately it’s closed at night. One of the craziest things about the Pantheon is that it’s dome isn’t supported like most are. It’s held up by its shape and the way it was built, being weighted on the bottom with heavier cement and gradually getting lighter as it gets towards the oculus. This distributes the weight in a way that works for the building. Everything stays in place. Everyone’s happy.

 

Something that we missed while we were here..only by hours…is a ceremony that takes place in the Pantheon where fire fighters secretly climb onto the roof and drop rose petals through the opening. That would be amazing. We didn’t know it was happening, or we would have definitely been there. My favorite time to go still is at night. We just sit below the columns and listen. So many noises, yet it’s such a calm place. I like to watch people walking around and looking at things. When we were there the other night, there was a man playing a cello right in front of the doors. It was so beautiful to listen to. Every little noise echoed in the ceiling of the portico. He didn’t last long though, the police came and made him move, but I took video. Never as good though.

Florence

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Last weekend, I travelled north to Florence via TrenItalia.  I was impressed by how easy it was to make travel arrangements as well as how quickly we were able to get there. The ride on the high speed trains from the Termini metro station took about an hour and a half and the travel conditions were comfortable.  We arrived a little after ten in the morning and stayed until about nine that night.  We purchased a map at our first stop after arriving and were able to navigate the city with ease.

Our first stop was the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, home to the famous Duomo, or dome.  Approaching the Cathedral, I was in awe of its massive exterior.  As opposed to the stone exteriors of many of the churches in Rome, this Cathedral was embellished with green stone and was very visually appealing.  It was recommended that we buy passes for many of the attractions in Florence, including the dome and David, but we planned the trip last minute and winged everything and I was thrilled that we did not need to wait more than fifteen minutes for any of the popular destinations.  We went into the cathedral first, and I was most drawn to the stained glass reflecting patches of color onto the floor. Looking up, the dome was painted to elaborately portray religious history and was very impressive.  We also went for a walk in the crypts, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of history as we weaved through the paths set in ancient stone.

On the ground, I expressed that the cathedral was so beautiful that I wished to give it a hug. Little did I know that only a short while later, when we climbed to the top of the dome, I would be hugging the cathedral for dear life due to an unprecedented fear of heights.  The view of the rooftops and green hillsides were absolutely breathtaking, but I felt the guard rail could have been a bit higher to better accommodate the high volume tourist traffic. Even so, I am glad I went up to the top. In order to get there, you needed to ascend stairs and it was pretty fascinating to walk through passageways from so long ago. Also, you needed to circle the dome on the inside twice and I enjoyed seeing the paintings that had seemed so far away on the ground so close.  They were much more grotesque up close than they were from the cathedral floor.

From the Duomo, we headed to the Accademia museum, where Michelangelo’s David is displayed.  It was wonderful to see in person what I have learned about for so many years.  It was difficult to grasp how something so perfectly reflecting the human body could have been carved from stone, but Michelangelo’s unfinished statues were also on display and one could better grasp the transition from marble to masterpiece.  The musical instrument wing was also wonderful; I especially enjoyed that original Antonio Stradivari violin. Other highlights included the bridge lined with jewelers and a delicious lunch.  My day in Florence was one to remember!