We left Rome for Florence and along the way stopped at the quiet Umbrian hill town of Assisi, hometown of the patron saint, the country's most famed and popular intermediary, St. Francis. The town consists of only 1,500 residence. We stopped at the massive medieval basilica of San Francisco, where Francis lies buried. His name, "Francis" or "Francesco," by the way was a nickname meaning "the French one," acquired because his mother was French and his father, a textile merchant and moneylender, had met on a business trip to southern France. His given name, when born in 1182, was Giovanni.

Strung out along the slender spur of Mount Subasio, the walled medieval town made of the mountain's pink and white stone overlooks from a great height, the dead-flat expanse of the so-called Umbrian Valley. That and the red tile roofs makes it a spectacular setting especially when the sun sets in the afternoon.

The cathedral is very interesting, two built on top of each other. The oldest Romanesque, has the famous Giotti frescos and stained glass windows that are so old that they have started to flow downward causing the bottoms to be larger than the tops. Most people don't realize that glass is actually a liquid like molasses but much thicker. But it will over the years, start to flow because of the force of gravity! The second church is Gothic. We had lunch on the side of the mountain under a grape arbor, spaghetti aldente, fresh fruit, and wine. Wonderful day. Now off to Florence.

Just a word to the wise, we stopped at a gas station and one woman went into the rest room in the basement. Two Italian women were very friendly and tried to talk to her. Yeah, sure! About an hour later as we were approaching Florence the woman found out her and her husband's pass ports were missing! We were told not to leave anything out in the open or even in pockets that people could pick. Purses were bad as women left them open and anyone could just reach in. Well she and her husband couldn't do anything until we got to Venice. It took two days in the consulates office to fix so they missed out on the Venice portion of the trip. Always take a photocopy of your passport, a birth certificate copy, and a picture of yourself to make it easier to issue a temporary pass port if that becomes necessary.

Florence, could spend a month here instead of four days. The galleries, especially the Gallerie degli Uffizi is full of paintings by DaVinci, Michelangelo, Giotto, Raphael, and statues from Greek and Roman times. Shops with leather goods, Italian gold jewelry in colors such as pinks and oranges and other shades of gold. 

Gallerie degli Uffizi

Artist, architect, historian Giorgio Vasari was commisioned by the Medici family in 1560 to design offices for the local government, with the top floor reserved for the family's art collection.

The last of the Medici, Anna Maria Ludovica, donated the entire collection to the city of Florence in 1737. Anyone interested in Renaisance art will be amazed at the number of recognizable artists. 

Room 2 contains three masterful Madonna alter pieces by Cimabue, Duccio, and Giotto, the earliest artists represented in the museum. Giotto's paintings are Byzantine in style.

Room 3 has Simone Martini's Annunciation (1333) and is the crucial work of Siena's international Gothic movement.

In Rooms 5-6 is Gentile da Favriano's Adoration of the Magi , in which gold paint is used.

 Rooms 10-14 contain every major easel painting by Botticelli, espeically The Birth of Venus.

Room 15 contains some of Leonardo da Vinci's works, room 19 holds works by Perugio and Signorelli.

Room 25 contains Michelangelo's Doni Tondo, known for its richly colored Holy Family in a circular frame.

Room 26 has treasures of Raphael including the sensual Venus of Urbino.

Room 44 has some Rembrandt's masterly self-portraits.

These plus many other rooms of paintings and statuary are a feast for the eyes!

We spent an afternoon just sitting on the Pont de Vecchio watching the peddlers, the painters, and the tourists. The hotel was right on the river and I was unhappy as the singles got the rooms in the back. Two women had a party one night in their room, the ceiling was at least 15 feet high and the bedroom was on a ledge overlooking the living area. A Venetian glass chandelier was hung from the ceiling, all very elegant. 

The next day the two women asked us how we slept. We said, like a rock, why? They both laughed and said they wish they were with us as the traffic went on all night, bikes, motor cycles, trucks, cars, buses, honking and tires screeching. Well it paid to be in the back of the hotel for once!

We went to see "David" of course but many of us actually liked the statues he did as he got older. Many were unfinished, bodies half out of the marble slabs, like they were fighting to get out. Strange, scary, but impressive. I thought they looked a lot like Rodins work and was told Rodin was an admirer of Michangelo's sculpture. Too much to see and too little time. Now off to Venice via Tuscany.

Venice next!

Return to the Italian Home Page