The Retirees return – to Cesi then Australia – the last four days

On arriving in Cesi, it was our priority was to do some washing but that could wait whilst we relaxed in the serene quietness of the village watching the bustle of life in the valley below. We had a further four days in Cesi to prepare for the trip home. My plan was read a book in the sun but instead we;

climbed a mountain.

Although Cesi is some 400+ metres above the valley floor, there is at least another 400 metres of granite extrusion above the village and Robert assured us that it was a gentle walk of 15 minutes to the top. Now Robert is not stupid but he does have a problem with measuring time and a propensity to minimize the difficulty of tasks. After climbing along the footpaths of Cesi to the end of the village then the road to the old church of St Erasmus, we veered off into the undergrowth on a rock strewn winding goat track (actually it looked like the path followed by the local vermin pigs) and after half an hour we stopped at the lookout half way up the mountain.

Kerry and I turned back leaving Robert to fossick for wild asparagus and flowers. The trip down was treacherous with the loose stones and rocks sliding under foot. Whilst in Cesi we had often heard helicopters delivering building materials and now we could see the result – a fence to prevent landslides onto the village. We sat and waited for Robert on the stub wall leading to the church which must have had bottoms parked on it for centuries.

Caught a bus.

We visited Narni  a village on the south eastern end of the valley and miles from Cesi. It involved catching two buses, one from Cesi to the terminus and the second from the terminus to Narni. This is a far more substantial village (don’t be fooled when catching the train – it stops at Narni but that is the new Narni miles from the old village where we were in the hills behind). The bus stopped in a parking station below the village and via a funicular and an elevator we traveled up to the “High” street of the village.

The streets are so narrow in parts that traffic lights govern the passage of single lanes of traffic. The village is aware of its past and many buildings have been restored to preserve their antiquity. We enjoyed a lunch in an establishment that called itself a hotel but the usual facilities of rooms reception bar etc were not obvious. Catching buses may have been inexpensive but the timetable meant often you had little time to explore and we always seemed to arrive when everyone was on siesta.

Caught another bus.

We planned a farewell Easter lunch in Portaria (apparently it means pig shit in Italian – go figure). We had been to the village previously but Robert had heard the restaurant in town did the wild boar and polenta in the true traditional way so Portaria it was. The other specialty of the house is BBQ’ed mixed grill. They have an open fire place and they BBQ your lunch on the coals. Very rustic! But I have burnt my sausage over coals camping before. This was followed by a stroll around the village as we waited for the bus.

Did the washing. That evening Easter Friday, the village paraded through the main street with a litter containing an effigy of Christ after being taken from the cross. This is a tradition that has been performed every Easter Friday for centuries and it was a privilege to observe the village people young and old participating.Our last four days with Robert came to an end and after packing  we are back on the train (two trains actually) to Fumucino Airport. It has been a busy month away from home; now we are going back to plan to do it all again somewhere else.

The Retirees return to Florence – Palazzo Pitti and the other side of the Arno

We were exhausted again and retired after dinner. Not to be kept down we rose early to walk to the other side of the Arno to visit Palazzo Pitti. This is the giant home created by Cosimo I for his wife who wanted a garden and then he wanted safe passage to work at Palazzo Vecchio on the other side of the Arno. We weren’t that interested to see another palace but I was interested to see how the Duke’s walkway connected as it had to pass across the top of the Ponte Vecchio, over private homes and into Palazzo Pitti. A gateway at the side of the palace allowed us to see the passage into the palace.

From the Palace, we could see the steeple of the Basilica di Santo Spirito so we took to the lanes past a cobbler’s shop and a man walking his dog (if you can call something the size of a rat a dog) and voila we entered Piazza Santo Spirito. The Basilica di Santo Spirito (“Basilica of the Holy Spirit”) is usually referred to simply as Santo Spirito, it is located in the Oltrarno quarter, facing the square with the same name. The interior of the building is one of the preeminent examples of Renaissance architecture. In 1252, the Augustinians started the church and the convent incorporating an old church of San Romolo in the complex. The convent had two cloisters, called Cloister of the Dead and Grand Cloister. The first takes its name from the great number of tombstone decorating its walls, and was built around 1600. The latter was constructed in 1564-1569.

The former convent also contains the great refectory (Cenacolo di Santo Spirito) with a large fresco portraying the Crucifixion over a fragmentary Last Supper (1360–1365). It is one of the rare examples of Late Gothic Art which can still be seen in Florence. Michelangelo, when he was seventeen years old, was allowed to make anatomical studies on the corpses coming from the convent’s hospital; in exchange, he sculpted a wooden crucifix which was placed over the high altar. Today the crucifix is in the octagonal sacristy that can be reached from the convent.  The only remaining wooden sculpture by Michelangelo. No photography permitted.

VvThus, ended our stay in Florence. The next morning we caught a taxi to the train station and a wait for the “fast train” to Rome occupied most of our morning, then the train trip (the train achieved a mere 250 klm per hour compared to the 430 klm per hour in Shanghai) to Rome and a quick turn around through the tunnel (which I wish we had known about when going to Fumacino from Civitavecchia) to catch the much more sedate train to Terni and a warm welcome from Robert at the train station (I think not – MIA). So a taxi to Cesi and dragging the suitcases up the steepest of streets in the village to be welcomed by Robert from his kitchen landing. An offer to help with the suitcases to drag them up the stairs and at last we can stand still and rest.

The Retirees return to Florence – Santa Maria Novella (pictured below) & Santa Maria Assunta of Badia Florentina and others

From the top of Palazzo Veechio we had the benefit of the view over the old town we were able to identify some sites of the old town that we had not located. One was the church of Santa Maria Assunta of Badia Florentina. The Badìa Fiorentina is an abbey and church now home to the Fraternity of Jerusalem situated on the Via del Proconsolo in the centre of Florence. Dante supposedly grew up across the street in what is now called the ‘Casa di Dante’, rebuilt in 1910 as a museum to Dante. They were celebrating Palm Sunday so we were unable to enter camera in hand. Below you can see the bell tower and the door below in the courtyard.

With not much action there, we then walked across to the other side of the old town to Santa Maria Novella (near the train station) to view the museum. The outside of the church had something different about it and today I worked out that there is a sundial on its facade. There are two entrances and we chose the courtyard entrance passing family niches and some headstones to the ticket office.

On entering through those huge doors we found ourselves in a cavernous nave of the church. The vast interior is based on a basilica plan, designed as a Latin cross, and is divided into a nave, two aisles with stained-glass windows and a short transept. The large nave is 100 metres long and gives an impression of austerity. The interior also contains Corinthian columns that were inspired by Greek and Roman classical models. The stained-glass windows date from the 14th and 15th century and some stained glass windows have been damaged in the course of centuries and have been replaced. The one on the façade, a depiction of the Coronation of Mary, dates from the 14th century.

The pulpit has a particular historical significance, since it was from this pulpit that the first verbal attack was made on Galileo Galilei, leading eventually to his indictment. On the whole, it was well and truly worth the €5 entrance fee.

The courtyard of the former abbey is full of tombs and frescos dating back centuries and the former refectory included a version of the Last Supper

The Retirees return to Florence – Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi was originally the offices created to accommodate the offices of the Florentine magistrates. The project commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany planned to display prime art works of the Medici collections on the piano nobile; the plan was carried out by his son, Grand Duke Francesco I. He commissioned from the architect Buontalenti the design of the Tribuna degli Uffizi that collected a series of masterpieces in one room, and was a highly influential attraction of a Grand Tour. Over the years, more sections of the palace were recruited to exhibit paintings and sculpture collected or commissioned by the Medici. After the house of Medici was extinguished, the art treasures remained in Florence by terms of the famous Patto di famiglia negotiated by Anna Maria Luisa, the last Medici heiress; it formed one of the first modern museums.

The Uffizi is “u” shaped running from Palazzo Vecchio to the River. You can see the connection of the Palazzo to the Uffizi to the Ponte Vecchio and then through to the royal residence on the other side of the river. As you enter you see the Medici crest to remind you of who’s boss and then two flights of stairs to a gallery running the length and back again of the building. The ceiling is ornate with picto-grams of important people lining the edge of the ceiling.

Once inside, each room is filled with the art collected by the Medicis starting with the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. Here is a tiny sample.

Although this is off peak the crowds in the Uffizi made it uncomfortable and the guided tour seemed rushed so we handed in our radios at the end of the top floor and made our way through the lower floors without the pressure of the tour. Here we saw the unfinished work of Leonardo Da Vinci “the Adoration of the Magi” for the high altar of the church San Donato a Scopeto and the finished picture by Filippino Lippi a contemporary and competitor of Da Vinci.

The benefit of the tour is to get inside without waiting 5 hours in queues outside. Back to the Apartment again to prepare for the next day.