Saturday, April 27, 2013


     Florence is only a thirty minute train ride from Bologna. So after a short ride, we hopped off the train and into the morning Florentine air. It wasn't too long of a walk before we came upon the famous Duomo, a cathedral begun in the 13th century and finished in grand style in the 18th century with it famous white facade.

(Front facade of the Duomo)

     Opposite the cathedral is the baptistry, which is home to the famous "Gates of Paradise," bronze paneled doors constructed during the Renaissance which depict scenes from the Old Testament. Inside the baptistry itself, many famous figures, from Dante to the Medici family, were baptized. 

(The Gates of Paradise)

(In front of the Basilica of Santa Croce, built in the 13th century, marble facade added in the 19th)

     Afterwards, we went to the Uffizi Gallery, which houses many famous artworks, including several that I had been longing to see, such as Botticelli's The Birth of Venus and Primavera, two excellent Early Renaissance paintings. The da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, etc. wasn't bad either. Then we got some much needed gelato and crossed the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), which is the site of many jewelry stores. 

(Ponte Vecchio)

     We crossed the bridge to go to the Brancacci Chapel, which is home to Masaccio's famous fresco, The Tribute Money. Katie did a project on this work at university, so was very excited to see it.

(Fake person, real bird)

(Creative graffiti) 

     We arrived and I was impressed by the size of the fresco. I too had remembered studying it in one of our honors courses, but did not imagine it as being so large and integrated with the chapel. Painted in 1420, it depicts the scene in Matthew where Peter takes a coin out of the mouth of a fish to pay a tax. 

     In need for a brief break of art, we wandered up many steps for a nice view of the city. 

(Florence— Duomo to the left)

     Not far from there, still on a high hill, we went into the San Miniato Monastery, a recommendation from our college professor Dr. Byrne. The Romanesque church was begun in the 11th century.

(Inside the church)

(Outside the Monastery)

     Eventually we walked back down to town and went to see Michelangelo's David at the Accademia. It was, as one might expect, awesome. Though somehow it was smaller than I had imagined. Afterwards, we walked around the outside sculpture gallery in the Piazza della Signoria next to the Uffizi, which includes Cellini's Perseus with the Head of Medusa, from 1545. It is sculpted out of bronze and how someone could have the skill to make something like that is beyond me. 

(Cellini's Perseus with the head of Medusa)

     On the way back to the train station, after some more gelato, Katie and I continued our (sort of) friendly game of bike bell ringing. Katie, as you can see, was overwhelmed. 

     It was a very nice day in Florence, we saw some incredible art and architecture, and the bikes were numerous. Back in Bologna, we prepared for our Sunday trip to Verona with Alex. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013


     Last week was Semana Santa in Spain, and we had a week of break from school. So Katie and I went to Italy! We flew into Bologna, where our friend Alex is living and studying. He was very kind to offer us a room in his apartment to stay for several days. We arrived at lunchtime and ate some pizza, which was awesome. Over the course of our vacation, we came to realize that the meals with Alex (who speaks Italian) were much better than the meals we had to find ourselves in the various cities we visited.
    After lunch we walked around the city center and ate some gelato. It is a compact city center with plenty of nice, old buildings.

     Bologna has been an important Italian city ever since Europe's first university was founded there in the 11th century. With the influx of students, the city center had to build more room for housing, and did so by adding onto existing buildings and forming porticos underneath. These porticos run throughout the city and are really great, because you don't have to use an umbrella when it rains. They look cool too. 

     Bologna is also known as the culinary capital of Italy. This is a good thing. What really made it good though was that Alex knows great places to eat. So we had the best pizza, pasta, and gelato with Alex. 
     It was also in Bologna where we discovered that there was an abnormal number of bikes in Italy, and that almost all of these bikes had bells on them. So, Katie decided to start ringing them, and, as I have a difficult time losing at any sort of game, I started ringing them too. Over the next eight days, we kept track of the number of bike bells rung, and Alex even got in on it too. It became pretty competitive, and we ended up with around 150 each. 

     Bologna was also the least touristy city that we visited. We didn't see any loud groups of Americans walking around, and heard more Italian that English. You would think that would be a given, but in some cities it's really difficult to hear Italian spoken. More on that later. Anyways, we stayed with Alex most nights, and took trips during the day. It was really nice to be able to go home to an apartment with a friend instead of being uncomfortable in various hostels. Overall, it was the most relaxing city and really added a good dimension to our trip.