St. Valentines Day, Lupercalia, and Unrequited Love

Having just experienced an episode of unrequited love and a broken heart, I thought this a good time to explore the origins of Valentine’s Day, another holiday on our calendar that has been sanitized and commericialized to the point of nonrecognition.

Many sources reach back to ancient Rome (as early as the 4th century BC) to find the origins of Valentines Day, then a pagan celebration of the god Lupercus.  Celebrated between Feb 13th and Feb 15th, Romans honored the god of fertility with rituals including sacrifices of dogs and goats.

The Roman romantics “were drunk. They were naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.

The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right.

http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day

 

Included with the lottery and general merry making, Lupercalia celebrated Lupa, the wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, the founders of the city of Rome.

From wikipedia:

Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on February 13 through 15, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia subsumed Februa, an earlier-origin spring cleansing ritual held on the same date, which gives the month of February (Februarius) its name.

Of course the Church wanted to put a stop to this festival, but they needed an alternative party and searched for a “lover’s saint.”  They found their Saint in Valentine, bishop of Ineramna, who had been stoned and beheaded by the Roman Emperor Claudius on Feb. 24th 270.  Valentine had defied Claudius’ order to abolish marriages, and continued to perform the sacrament of matrimony for young lovers in secret.  It didn’t stay secret, Valentine was told to either renounce Christianity or face execution.  Valentine refused and was executed.

In AD 496 Pope Gelasius outlawed the Luperican festival and replaced it with the Church’s holy day with the patron saint Valentine.  The lottery was retained, using saints names instead of women.  I can’t imagine it was terrbily popular in the beginning (young men drawing a saint’s name instead of a willing female), but with time the pagan festival faded.  I’ve often thought that the pagan festivals sounded much more fun than the alternatives offered up by the Church.

Although Lupercalia was outlawed, the tradition of courting prospective mates in February remained, and young Roman men offered women they admired handwritten greetings of affection on February 14th.  Thus the Valentines Day card was born.

The earliest surviving example of a Valentines Day card was sent in 1415 by Charles, duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London.

 

One of the oldest printed Valentine’s Day card from 1727

 

“Since on this ever Happy day,
All Nature’s full of Love and Play
Yet harmless still if my design,
‘Tis but to be your Valentine.”

 

A Valentines' Day card from my grandmother's collection, early 1900s

A Valentine’s Day card from my grandmother’s collection, early 1900s

The same card's interior message

The same card’s interior message

 

Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;
Being vex’d a sea nourish’d with lovers’ tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.
(William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 1.1)

Because my own love affair started around Valentines Day last year and ended with the new year, I can consider it my own personal Lupercalian lottery for the year 2015.  If wallowing in self pity for a short while makes you feel better after a break up, here is my own Playlist For A Broken Heart:

Nora Jones What Am I Too You?

Ricky Lee Jones A Lucky Guy

Emmylou Harris Easy From Now On

Bonnie Rait I Can’t Make You Love Me

Dolly Parton I Will Always Love You

Adele Someone Like You

Righteous Brothers You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

Melody Gardot Baby I’m A Fool

The Eagles Wasted Time

Nora Jones Cold Cold Heart

The Eagles What Do I Do With My Heart

Madeleine Peyroux Smile

A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera Say Something

After some self pity, it’s time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and carry on.  Second only to Christmas, the greeting card industry estimates that 145 million Valentines cards were purchased last year.    Whether you send a card, flowers, or have a romantic dinner this February 14th, it all started with a pagan festival, was transformed by the Church, and then capitalized upon by the greeting card and other industries.  Happy Valentines Day.

 

 

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

Dutch Stillife 2

Thanksgiving is all about the celebration of a bountiful harvest, and giving thanks for the past year, either to your God or the earth for what has been provided.  In any case, it is a joyful gathering of people celebrating life.  A lot of the most famous dinner/still life paintings depict a happy crowd and full table.  I also like that many paintings include at least a few dogs.

 

Jan Steen

Jan Steen, The Merry Family 1668

 

Flemish painter Adriaen Utrecht, 1644

Flemish painter Adriaen Utrecht, 1644

Thanksgiving Day

Lydia Maria Child

(1802 – 1880)

Over the river, and through the wood,
  To grandfather’s house we go;
       The horse knows the way 
       To carry the sleigh
  Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood—
  Oh, how the wind does blow!
       It stings the toes 
       And bites the nose
  As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
  To have a first-rate play.
       Hear the bells ring 
       “Ting-a-ling-ding”,
  Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood
  Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
       Spring over the ground, 
       Like a hunting-hound!
  For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
  And straight through the barn-yard gate.
       We seem to go 
       Extremely slow,—
  It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood—
  Now grandmother’s cap I spy!
       Hurrah for the fun! 
       Is the pudding done?
  Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!

corn

Indian corn, one of the items at the original Thanksgiving celebration in 1621

According to an account written by one of the original settlers, William Bradford, the harvest feast included the following: venison, water fowl, cod, bass, wild turkeys, and indian corn.

The_First_Thanksgiving_cph.3g04961

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, The First Thanksgiving 1621

 

Still life with turkey pie

Still life with turkey pie, Pieter Claesz, 1627

 

Still_life_of_fruit_in_a_porcelain_bowl,_a_golden_goblet,_lobster_and_a_rummer,_by_monogrammist_JHV

Typical Still life of fruit in a porcelain bowl, a golden goblet, lobster and a rummer

 

Pieter_Claesz._-_Still-life_-_WGA4968

Pieter Claesz (c.1597–1660), Still Life (1623)

 

A more recent painting, Kent Bellows' self-portrait with Wine Glass, 2000

A more recent painting, Kent Bellows’ Gluttony, 2000.  I love his version of a bountiful still life.  (Kent Bellows 1949 – 2005)

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The Hunter’s Moon

Hunter's moon Owl

From the book "When The Moon Is Full", A Lunar Year. By Penny Pollack, Illustrated by Mary Azarian.

From the book When The Moon Is Full, A Lunar Year. By Penny Pollack, Illustrated by Mary Azarian.

Tonight is a full moon.  It is October, so that makes the full moon a “Hunter’s Moon.”  According to the website earthsky.org:

The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. The Hunter’s Moon is the full moon after the Harvest Moon. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the 2015 autumnal equinox came on September 23. The September 27 full moon – night of a total lunar eclipse – was the Northern Hemisphere’s Harvest Moon. So the full moon on October 26 and 27 is the Northern Hemisphere’s Hunter’s Moon.

And from The Old Farmer’s Almanac:

Some Native American tribes referred to October’s Moon as the Full Hunter’s Moon, as it was the time to go hunting in preparation for winter. This full Moon is also called the Travel Moon and the Dying Grass Moon.

This is the first Full Moon following the Harvest Moon last month. It rises around sunset and sets around sunrise, the only night in the month when the Moon is in the sky all night long.

My mother's hand-drawn Halloween card for 2015

My mother’s hand-drawn Halloween card for 2015

My mother sends hand-drawn Halloween cards every year.  I got mine yesterday, and here it is.  She included a few lines from George Cooper’s poem October’s Party.    Here is the poem in its entirety:

 

October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came—
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.

The Chestnuts came in yellow,
The Oaks in crimson dressed;
The lovely Misses Maple
In scarlet looked their best;
All balanced to their partners,
And gaily fluttered by;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky.

Then, in the rustic hollow,
At hide-and-seek they played,
The party closed at sundown,
And everybody stayed.
Professor Wind played louder;
They flew along the ground;
And then the party ended
In jolly “hands around.”

 

 

Happy Halloween!

 

 

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Another Oregon October

Oregon sunrise

Oregon sunrise

Last year for my mother’s 80th birthday we were so lucky with the weather on the Oregon coast that we thought we’d push our luck and try it again.  This Summer and Fall have been warmer than usual, no freezes yet, so the leaf peeping was disappointing, but not the sunrises, sunsets or pleasant temperatures.

Only a few leaves were turning colors.

Only a few leaves were turning colors.

A drive through the woods produced only a few vine maple leaves turning colors, but every morning we had beautiful sunrises with the low, spooky fog that heralds the arrival of Halloween.  Continuing a long-standing tradition, I carved a pumpkin sitting on the floor of my mother’s kitchen.

Carving a pumpkin

Carving a pumpkin

My lantern pumpkin with the moon

My lantern pumpkin with the moon

The Oregon October moon.

The Oregon October moon.

Early morning fog, a sign of Halloween

Early morning fog, a sign of Halloween

Our luck held, and we had pleasant weather at the beach.  This year we rented a house on Manzanita Beach.  Manzanita is one of the most dog friendly places I’ve visited.  They have a Muttzanita festival and elect a dog mayor.  We ran into the doggie mayor on the street, a very handsome 14-year-old dalmatian.

http://muttzanita.com/

Dickens

Dickens won the Muttzanita mayor

Manzanita Beach

Manzanita Beach

My sister and the parade of dogs. Our family gatherings always include our four legged family members.

My sister and the parade of dogs. Our family gatherings always include our four legged family members.

Phoebe, looking pretty good for 16 years.

Phoebe, looking pretty good for 16 years.

Although born and raised in Oregon, I don’t remember ever seeing whales from the beach before.  But we did this time.  Or rather, we saw whale spouts and fins, plus a pod of dolphins.  They hung around right off the beach for about an hour as we sipped our sunset wine.  It was warm enough one evening to go in short sleeves on the beach, which in Oregon in October is pretty darn nice.

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean

True love from a dog can only be earned.

True love from a dog can only be earned.

Whale watching on a very pleasant October afternoon

Whale watching on a very pleasant October afternoon

My mom on her 81st birthday

My mom on her 81st birthday

Sunset at Manzanita beach

Sunset at Manzanita beach

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Florence to Milan, with an accidental side trip through Rome

The road less traveled. This was one of the better small roads, it was paved.

The road less traveled. This was one of the better small roads, it was paved.

Friday was my departure day and I already had a prepaid train ticket from Fiesole/Caldine through Florence and on to Milan.  But that wasn’t until the afternoon, so we decided to take the rental car out onto some of the small roads above Fiesole and into the hills beyond.

The intrepid Audi driven by Augie

The intrepid Audi driven by Augie

The navigation display says it all

The navigation display says it all “off road”. We saw this a lot

Augie expertly navigated the Audi while Teresa and I requested multiple photo-op stops as we cruised the beautiful countryside and could still see Florence off in the distance.

We had lunch in Fiesole on the way back, and then I prepared to make my departure.

As we climbed higher, we could still see Florence in the distance.

As we climbed higher, we could still see Florence in the distance.

The countryside

The countryside

This conveniently sized little car was about half the size of the Audi

This conveniently sized little car was about half the size of the Audi

The train I was to take was the same train we had been using to get in and out of Florence, without a hitch, for the past few days.  But today, the day I needed to make a connection, the train didn’t show up for the 2:55 departure.  No amount of coercion or button pushing would produce a ticket from the machine using the code on my paperwork, but I was going to board the train regardless.  (I thought I had learned this lesson last year and swore to never buy a prepaid train ticket on TrenItalia again.  This time I mean it.  The machines just will not dispense prepaid tickets and I tried every code on my printout).  A local Italian man at the station translated the announcement that the train would be 20 minutes late.   Twenty minutes later another announcement told of the train’s cancellation, due to a regional labor strike.

Our last lunch spot in Fiesole overlooking Florence.

Our last lunch spot in Fiesole overlooking Florence.

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I now had 35 minutes until my Florence to Milan train.  We threw my bags into the rental car and sped into Florence, only to be met by stop and go traffic the closer we got to the train station.  We pulled up at 3:55, just in time for my 4 pm train.  In my rush to make the train, I mistakenly read the platform number for the arrival train from Milan, not the departing train.  Happily ensconced in business class as the train pulled out, our southerly heading began to concern me.  I then watched the monitor and realized I was headed to Rome.  Luckily, I had boarded the high-speed train and we were in Rome by 530 pm.  The station this high-speed train pulled into was not the Rome Centrale, but the newly renovated Roma Tiburtina, east of town and north of the Roma Termini Station.  It was a very well-organized, clean station with shops and gelato stands.  So I had a gelato, bought a 630 pm ticket back to Milan and chocked it up to experience.  The train travel wasn’t bad, but it did cost me.  I had to buy the ticket from Florence to Rome (93 euros) and then another ticket from Rome to Milan, stopping back in Florence, for 86 euros.  They would not credit me my prepaid ticket, saying it was my own fault.  That was a point I could not argue.  My little mistake cost me $200, plus the gelato.  I could have had 10 purses or a nice pair of shoes for that!

The dreaded TrenItalia machines that refuse to print out prepaid tickets now matter how much you try.

The dreaded TrenItalia machines that refuse to print out prepaid tickets no matter how much you try.

I finally arrived into Milan at nearly 10 pm, and purchased another ticket from the Milan Centrale on the Malpensa Express and made it to the airport at 1120 pm.  I will in the future be especially observant when it comes to platform numbers and the arriving and departing trains.

Arrival and departure boards

Arrival and departure boards

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Farewell Florence

Florence, taken from the Piazzali Michelangelo

Florence, taken from the Piazzale Michelangelo

My last full day in town we decided to go back into Florence, via the easy 15 minute train ride.  From the train station we took a bus up to the Piazzale Michelangelo.  For 1.20 euro you can ride the bus for one hour, as we discovered.  The view overlooking Florence from this piazzale is hard to beat, and is very popular.  While taking in the view, a limo pulled up and a bridal party emerged in full regalia.

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L over Florence

To save ourselves some walking, we hopped back on a bus using the same ticket (thanks to the friendly bus driver who explained this to me), and rode it along the Viale Michelangiolo.  This beautiful tree lined street looked like one of the tonier areas, a very nice address to have.  We got off the bus at the bottom near the Ponte San Niccolo.

Basilican of Santa Croce

Basilica of Santa Croce

From there we walked along the Arno river to the Basilica of Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church in the world whose construction started in 1295.  Our number one reason for visiting Santa Croce was to see Michelangelo’s tomb, but the church houses many more, including Galileo, Machiavelli, and Leonardo Bruni.  From the Museums of Florence website:

It is significant that Santa Croce, which was to become the resting-place of so many great Italians, has the first truly renaissance funerary monument: the tomb of Leonardo Bruni, Chancellor of the Republic, sculpted by Bernardo Rossellino (1444). Bruni’s successor, Carlo Marsuppini, is buried in another fine renaissance tomb on the other side of the nave, by Desiderio da Settignano (c. 1455), which follows the same scheme. From then on, the history of the Santa Croce is marked by its tombs.

Michelangelo, who died in Rome in 1564, was buried here beneath a monument with allegorical figures of Sculpture, Architecture and Painting, designed by Giorgio Vasari. Michelangelo’s tomb served as the model for others, such as the tomb of Galileo, who died in 1642 (his monument was made by Giovanni Battista Foggini). Funerary monuments continued to be added to the interior, including ones to Niccolò Machiavelli, Vittorio Alfieri, Gioachino Rossini and the cenotaph to Dante Alighieri (1829).

http://www.museumsinflorence.com/musei/museum_of_opera_s_croce.html

 

Santa Croce interior

Santa Croce interior

Galileo's tomb

Galileo’s tomb

Michelangelo's tomb. The sculpture on the left representing painting, the center is sculpture, the right figure represents architecture, the painting above is The Pieta, and the center sculpture is a bust of Michelangelo.

Michelangelo’s tomb. The sculpture on the left representing painting, the center is sculpture, the right figure represents architecture, the painting above is The Pieta, and the center sculpture is a bust of Michelangelo.

The sign inside the church describing Michelangelo's tomb.

The sign inside the church describing Michelangelo’s tomb.

Machiavelli's tomb

Machiavelli’s tomb

The tribute to Dante Aligerhi

The monument, or “empty tomb” tribute to Danti Aligherio

We spent some time in the church, exploring all the rooms and admiring the frescoes, carvings, and stained glass.  It was impressive and a must see spot in Florence.  It was a bit upsetting to me to see two girls pose and snap a selfie in front of Machiavelli’s tomb, but it is unavoidable almost everywhere (Disney World has banned selfie sticks).  Most monuments, churches and museums, including the Louvre, don’t even try to stop photo taking anymore, only trying to prevent the use of flash.

Santa Croce altar

Santa Croce altar

Tombstones in the floor

Tombstones in the floor

Four frescoes in the sacristy of the Basilica of Santa Croce Top: Ascension by Niccolo di Pietro Gerini Right: Resurrection also by Gerini Center: Crucifixion by Taddeo Gaddi Left: Ascent to Calvary perhaps by Spinello Aretino (1350 - 1410)

Four frescoes in the sacristy of the Basilica of Santa Croce
Top: Ascension by Niccolo di Pietro Gerini
Right: Resurrection also by Gerini
Center: Crucifixion by Taddeo Gaddi
Left: Ascent to Calvary perhaps by Spinello Aretino (1350 – 1410)

After touring the Basilica of Santa Croce we found a restaurant that looked like a local place, ristorante Pizzeria il Gatto e la Volpe,  and had another wonderful pasta meal.  Our plan was to tour the Palazzo Vecchio after lunch, but as we entered the building we found it closed at 2 pm on Thursdays.  Oh well, I guess not enough research and planning on our part, but sometimes you just want to wing it.

At that point, in retrospect, it would have been best to head back up to our hillside retreat and relax, as it was another very warm day.  But one of our guide books described the Boboli Gardens as a nice respite from touring and a place to relax.  So we crossed the Ponte Vecchio and walked to the Palazzo Piti to tour the gardens.  It was a bit of disappointment in that the fountains were not operating, it was past any kind of flower season, and the grass was marked as “Keep off”.  We ended up walking a lot on more pavement and found it no respite to the heat of the afternoon.

Boboli Gardens

Boboli Gardens

A short bus ride to the train station, then the 15 minute train ride back up into the hills above Florence ended our day.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.......

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…….

 

 

 

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On the trail of the black rooster in Tuscany

basil, priomo pomodoro, lemon

After spending the previous day pounding the hot streets of Florence, we took a day to drive into the countryside.  We headed south out of Fiesole, skirting just around Florence and picked up a narrow road leading to the town of Impruneta, known for its ceramic factory.  We stopped to look around knowing the impossibility of bringing home any of the beautiful and very large ceramic pots.

Some of the ceramics on display at the factory in Impruneta

Some of the ceramics on display at the factory in Impruneta

A barrel of lions

A barrel of lions

Our intentions for the day were to get out of town, see some countryside, follow the trail of the black rooster, taste some Chianti Classico and enjoy the views.   Most of these things we accomplished, except not a lot of the wine tasting.  Feeling less than bright and chipper after too much Chianti the night before (yes, another evening of making rather merry), it was all I could do to sit in the back seat for the constantly winding roads.

The black rooster, the symbol of Chianti Classico

The black rooster, the symbol of Chianti Classico

http://winetrailtraveler.com/opinion/columnists/blackrooster.php

Typical countryside in Tuscany

Typical countryside in Tuscany

Chiantic countryside

We drove through some gorgeous countryside and saw the signs of the black rooster everywhere.  The region south of Florence and stretching to Siena is full of Chianti vineyards, the symbol of the region and Chianti Classico being the black rooster.  I believe it was SR222 that we drove, winding southward from Impruneta, past Greve, Panzano in Chianti, and down towards Castellina in Chianti.

http://www.chianticlassico.com/en/faq/vino/

al Paradiso, where we stopped for lunch. It is right in the middle of the Chianti Classico region between Panzano to the north and Castellina to the south

al Paradiso, where we stopped for lunch. It is right in the middle of the Chianti Classico region between Panzano to the north and Castellina to the south

The view from the patio at al Paradiso

The view from the patio at al Paradiso

L at lunch

Awesome dessert, torta di ciccolata albicocchi

Awesome dessert, torta di ciccolata albicocchi at al Paradiso

http://www.alparadiso-chianti.com/

We stumbled upon the perfect lunch spot purely by good luck.  As we drove the narrow roads lined with vineyards we passed what looked like a restaurant, in the middle of nowhere, and did a u-turn to try it out for lunch.  It was indeed a lunch spot, call al Paradiso, with its perfect view and wonderful food.  We enjoyed a leisurely lunch and studied the map.  Our next town was Castillano and more rolling vineyards and twisting roads.

Another picturesque town between Florence and Sienna

Another picturesque town between Florence and Siena

Because I have been to this area before but never to Siena, Augie and Teresa agreed to stop in for a quick look.  I really had no idea it was so large (hard to do a quick stop), plus we parked a bit away from the old town area.  So we ended up walking quite a bit through the ups and downs of Siena, passing the Piazza del Campo where the Palio is run and the huge cathedral, all in the hot afternoon sun.  It didn’t take long to feel the need for the quiet and cooler area around Caldine and Fiesole.

Piazza del Campo in Siena. This is where the palio horse race is held

Piazza del Campo in Siena. This is where the palio horse race is held

Beautiful pots for sale in the Piazza del Campo

Beautiful pots for sale in the Piazza del Campo

Cathedral in Siena

Cathedral in Siena

Ceramic plates for sale on the wall of a building in Siena

Ceramic plates for sale on the wall of a building in Siena

Driving back we took the autostrade and just brushed the outskirts of Florence.  We were worried about rush hour traffic, but at 6 pm it wasn’t as bad as it had been at 10 am that morning.  We were once again happy to pull into the quiet of the farm for a pasta dinner at the house.

The patio back at the farmhouse in the hills above Caldine

The patio back at the farmhouse in the hills above Caldine

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Florence, Italy

Early morning view from my window at the farm

Early morning view from my window at the farm

Waking up to the sound of birds and nothing else really made me glad to be in the hills above Florence for my last four nights here.  Augie and Teresa are staying longer in the area after my departure.  Andrea’s olive farm is in the hills above Caldine, very near Fiesole, with a view of Florence in the distance.  Andrea’s cat Cleopatra crying at the door for milk first thing in the morning made me feel at home.

Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella

It was our first day in Florence, and we planned to do some sightseeing.  Andrea had suggested that we take the train from Caldine (5 minutes down the hill from the farm) into the main train station in Florence instead of driving.  We were all for that as no one wanted to try to find parking in Florence and it was only a short 15 minute ride.  It worked out well.

One of Paolo Uccello's frescoes in the Green Cloister

One of Paolo Uccello’s frescoes in the Green Cloister

A close up of the Lord's dogs in the frescoe

A close up of the Lord’s dogs in the frescoe

Green Cloister frescoe

Green Cloister frescoe

Green Cloister ceiling

Green Cloister ceiling

As you exit the Florence train station the Santa Maria Novella is right across the Piazza Della Stazione.  None of us had toured this church before so it was a good place to start.  The foundation stone was blessed in 1279, and the church completed in 1420.  The most incredible frescoes detailing the Stories from Genesis, painted by Paolo Uccello in the first half of the 15th century, cover the walls of the Green Cloister.  We spent some time in this room reading the descriptions and picking out the scenes of Original Sin and the Great Flood.  In the foreground of my favorite frescoe, “…in front of the pope and the emperor, the flock of the faithful is protected by two black and white dogs, the so-called Domini canes (the Lord’s dogs) which traditionally symbolize the Dominican Friars.”

In the Basilica we found the large Crucifix painted by Giotto and Botticelli’s Nativity.

Santa Maria Novella basilica interior with the Giotto crucifix

Santa Maria Novella basilica interior with the Giotto crucifix

Botticelli's Nativity in the basilica. Photo credit Teresa Favazza

Botticelli’s Nativity in the basilica. Photo credit Teresa Favazza

From Santa Maria Novella we walked towards the Ponte Vecchio and did some window shopping.  That part of Florence is lined with expensive shops, so we just looked.  Animal prints seem to be in style for this fall.

Window shopping

Window shopping

Fall style

Fall style

After crossing the Arno we found a wonderful local place for lunch, Trattoria La Casalinga, ordered the pasta specialty and the house red, and settled in.  It was definitely where the locals eat as we saw men in paint covered overalls tuck in for a bowl of pasta (the first plate), plus a whole fish (the second plate), and more.  We were happy with just the pasta.

The house specialty pasta at Trattoria La

The house specialty pasta at Trattoria La Casalinga

A satisfied customer

A satisfied customer

After lunch we made our way back towards the Ponte Vecchio and I found one item I had been looking for – beautiful shoes in a lovely color and on sale.  Teresa also found a beautiful pair of shoes, not hard to do here, making us both happy shoppers.  So we did do a little shopping after all.

The Ponte Vecchio from the back of the shoe shop

The Ponte Vecchio from the back of the shoe shop

The other side of the Ponte Vecchio

The other side of the Ponte Vecchio

Completely satisfied with a belly full of pasta and new shoes, we cruised by the Uffizi to see how long the wait was for tickets.  It was too long, and since I had already toured that museum many years ago, we decided to continue towards the Duomo and then the Galleria dell’Accademia to check out the line for Michelangelo’s David.  That line was about a block long and in the sun.  Since we were hot and tired, we headed back towards the train station, walking through the outdoor market, making deals on a purse, and stopping for a gelato.

Statues in the Piazza Signoria

Statues in the Piazza Signoria

horses

lion

horse statue

The Duomo

The Duomo

The Florence market

The Florence market

We were happy to leave the hot and crowded city streets and return to our sanctuary in the hills above.  After a refreshing dip in the pool and nearing sunset, Teresa and I drove the short distance into Fiesole to try to capture a photo of Florence as the sun went down and the lights came up.  It was 830 pm when we finally got the shot we wanted, so back to the house for another pasta dinner, happy after a long day.

The narrow streets near the top of Fiesole

The narrow streets near the top of Fiesole

Me overlooking Florence from Fiesole

Me overlooking Florence from Fiesole

A Fiesole cafe in color sketch

A Fiesole cafe in color sketch

The night shot of Florence we worked to get

The night shot of Florence we worked to get

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Strada Del Prosecco; Valdobbiadene, Follina, Conegliano and then southward to Fiesole/Caldine

grapes and hills

Monday morning we bid farewell to Annalisa and Primo Franco and started driving along what is known as the Strada Del Prosecco,  the wine route.   The small winding road runs along the foothills of the Treviso province, through gently rolling hills, passing some of the loveliest vineyards we have seen yet.  We made many stops to photograph the beauty of the area.

Along the Strada Del Prosecco

Along the Strada Del Prosecco

vineyards

A&T plus L

grapes

L in vines

http://www.prosecco.it/en/enoturismo/strada.php

Our first planned sightseeing excursion was the Abbey of Follina, what Primo considered a not to be missed sight.  The Abbey of Santa Maria in Follina dates to the 12th Century.  The beautiful old stone structure was quiet and peaceful, and still in use today.  There was one woman inside the church praying when we arrived, but otherwise we walked through the buildings undisturbed.

The Abbey of Santa Maria in Follina

The Abbey of Santa Maria in Follina

Follina Abbey interior

Follina Abbey interior

Abbey sign

abbey

Romanesque Cloister 1268

Romanesque Cloister 1268

abbey 2

http://visittreviso.it/en/religious-sites/abbey-of-follina#.VefdbyVViko

From the Abbey we continued along the wine route towards Conegliano with its castle and Wine Academy.  The road leading up to the castle on the highest point of the city was so narrow that going through the city wall we had to pull in the side mirrors on the Audi to pass through the archway.  After surviving the drive to the top we discovered that the castle was closed, and many of the shops and restaurants as well because it was Monday.  We made a quick tour of the old town area and then continued on our southward trek, as this was our day to travel the most miles.

The old castle in Conegliano

The old castle in Conegliano

castle flags

Cathedral facade in Conegliano

Cathedral facade in Conegliano

conegliano

Piazza Cima in Conegliano

Piazza Cima in Conegliano

From Congeliano we hopped onto the autostrade and made good time towards Firenze. We are staying in the small town of Fiesole/Caldine just north of Florence.  This is another property we found on VRBO.

The road leading up into the hills from Caldine to the Fattoria Il Leccio, the home of Andrea Passigli

The road leading up into the hills from Caldine to the Fattoria Il Leccio, the home of Andrea Passigli

Andrea sent us detailed directions from Fiesole, and without them we never would have found the 200 year old house hidden in the olive grove.  The small, mostly gravel road took us back up into the hills from Caldine.  Andrea, a concert pianist, greeted us and gave us a tour of the farm his grandfather bought in the 1920s.  The house we are staying in was one of the original farm houses and Andrea’s studio, complete with three Steinway grand pianos, was originally part of the stables.

Andrea Passigli playing one of his pianos in his studio

Andrea Passigli playing one of his pianos in his studio

After settling in, we made our way to the local Co-Op for groceries and cooked ourselves a dinner of pasta with pesto.  We toasted the Prosecco country with the Nino Franco bottle of Prosecco given to us by Annalisa and Primo upon our departure.

Dinner on the patio

Dinner on the patio

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Provincia Di Treviso

Breakfast at Villa Barberina included fresh figs from the estate and jams made by Annalisa

Breakfast at Villa Barberina included fresh figs from the estate and jams made by Annalisa

Walking around the Villa Barberina estate in the early morning, I ran into Primo Franco, the owner, and his grandson.  Primo introduced his grandson as “Generation Five” and a future winemaker.  The Franco’s are a lovely couple who consider themselves blessed to have had the opportunity to acquire Villa Barberina.

Primo Franco and the fifth generation future winemaker

Primo Franco and the fifth generation future winemaker

The very gracious Annalisa Franco of Villa Barberina

The very gracious Annalisa Franco of Villa Barberina

After our breakfast at the Villa Barberina, Primo suggested we drive west out of Valdobbiadene on Sunday to tour the small town of Asolo and visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Villa di Maser.  So we did.

The very narrow streets of Asolo

The very narrow streets of Asolo

All the roads in this area are beautiful and a great practice course for autocross.  The small town of Asolo is mostly single lane, with a signal light and timer at each end to control the traffic.  It seems to work for everyone except the bicycles.  It appears nearly suicidal to ride bicycles on these small twisting roads  – too narrow for two cars and a bike – but they are all over.

When we arrived, the Asolo square was full of motorcyclists

When we arrived, the Asolo square was full of motorcyclists

The bikers soon geared up and roared out of town

The bikers soon geared up and roared out of town

When we first arrived in Asolo, the square was filled, really filled, with joy riding motorcyclists.  It must have been a quick espresso stop, as they soon throttled up and left en masse.  We strolled the town after the departure of the bikes.  It may be a tiny little mountain town, but not too small for a Farragmo shop displaying the Fall collection.

Asolo

Asolo

The main square in Asolo

The main square in Asolo

Fountain in Asolo

Fountain in Asolo

Ferragamo Fall collection in an Asolo shop window

Ferragamo Fall collection in an Asolo shop window

A solo Vespa left in Asolo after the departure of the motorcyclists

A single Vespa left in town after the departure of the motorcyclists

window

The joy of this area is the scenery and we soaked it in as we drove from Asolo to Maser.  The Villa di Maser, a UNESCO site since 1996 is occupied by its current owners.

http://www.villadimaser.it/en

We toured the upper level open to the public with its beautiful frescoes painted by Paolo Veronese in the 16th century.    The villas was built between 1550 and 1560 for the Barbaro brothers.

Villa di Maser

Villa di Maser

Villa Di Maser

Villa Di Maser

View from inside the Villa di Maser

View from inside the Villa di Maser

Paolo Veronese (1528 - 88): La moglie di Marcantonio Barbaro e Nutrice, Stanza dell'Olimpo in the Villa di Maser

Paolo Veronese (1528 – 88): La moglie di Marcantonio Barbaro e Nutrice, Stanza dell’Olimpo in the Villa di Maser

My favorite frescoe in the house, from The Room Of The Little Dog, by Paolo Veronese, Stanza del cane, Villa di Maser

My favorite frescoe in the house, from The Room Of The Little Dog, by Paolo Veronese, Stanza del cane, Villa di Maser

Presunto Autoritratto by Paolo Veronese

Presunto Autoritratto by Paolo Veronese

The Villa has its own vineyard and tasting room, where we sampled the extra dry and brut Prosecco.  Our plans were to also tour the Villa Emo, but we happened upon that site during the afternoon lunch time, so it was closed.

Tasting Villa di Maser Prosecco

Tasting Villa di Maser Prosecco

door

Back to the Villa Barberina and resting by the pool, which I found too cool to dip into, but not Augie.

Villa Emo, closed when we arrived for a visit

Villa Emo, closed when we arrived for a visit

Villa Barberina vineyard

Villa Barberina vineyard

pool

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