Il Duomo

This is one of the sights I was most excited to see in Italy, ever since I learned about it in my Visual History class at the U of Memphis. I’ll leave it to Wikipedia to tell the full story, but the size and weight of the dome required an incredible advance in the engineering of the time and was inspired by the shape of a chicken’s egg, which is a naturally strong shape.

The cathedral is covered in incredibly intricate art. It’s incredible the lengths that the Italians went to create a physical manifestation of their faith.

I climbed all 463 steps and was rewarded with a great view

After a short rest, I also climbed the bell tower that you see in the pictures above (Giotto’s Campanile).

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Cooking lesson at Mamma Florence

Today I attended a cooking lesson at Mamma Florence cooking school. It was amazing. We made pear and pecorino salad, spinach/ricotta ravioli, taglierini con limone, mashed pumpkin with thyme and caramelized goat cheese, and two kinds of biscotti for dessert. I also improved my knife skills and learned several re-usable cooking tricks. This place is absolutely great!

I didn’t take many photos, obviously because my hands were messy the whole time, but here are some:

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I love walking around this city. There are lots of narrow cobblestone streets that diffuse the traffic and lots of cool shops. The city is full of great art, big and small, old and new:

I went up to the Piazzale Michelangelo and got great views of the city.

I visited the Basilica di Santa Croce, where several historical figures are entombed: Florence Nightingale, Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and the opera composer Gioachino Rossini.

I’ve had some great food. The best thing about restaurants in Italy is all of the fresh-baked bread.

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I know, I’m behind in posting…

I have tons of pictures to sort through before I do. I’ll have some time tomorrow on the train to Bologna. For tonight, I will leave you with something I learned today.

Grappa is delicious. It’s like if wine and whiskey had a baby.

It is also dangerous. 😛

gastro-tourism italia2020gennaio

Florence Day 1

Took the train to Florence today then walked along the Arno river. I think I might already be in love with this city. It’s much more chill than Rome was, there’s a lot of really interesting decorative details, and there are a bunch of quirky shops.

I had the most AMAZING dinner at Osteria di Pitti: ribollita (hearty vegetable and bread stew) and gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce and walnuts. For dessert, I had freshly baked cantucci (almond biscotti).


Day 3 – Walked until my feet hurt

Today I saw the Basilica of St. Sabine…

…checked out the sculptures outside the Captoline museum…

…watched the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier (Tomba del Milite Ignoto)…

…and saw an exhibit on how Italy became a country and how the language was unified.

Went to the Tempio Maggiore Di Roma, which is gorgeous and has a museum. A lady gave a talk about the history of Italy’s Jewish population, most of which was made up of Sephardi Jews who migrated from Spain during the Spanish inquisition. I also saw artifacts from the time leading up to world war II and clothing from a concentration camp.

In the afternoon, I walked across the Tiber river an explored the Trastevere, where I saw some cool street art, buildings, and statues. I also had an amazingly delicious lunch followed by some great gelato.

Now I just have to decide where to go for dinner. Decisions, decisions…


Day 2: Rome on foot, Ostia Ruins, and Basilica San Paolo Fuori Le Mura

My favorite hobby is walking – far-and-away, without a doubt, it’s my favorite thing to do. I would walk the entire world if I could. I like to wander and get lost. I end up seeing so many things I wouldn’t have if I always decided where to go and followed that plan.

I encountered a lot of interesting architectural details, had pizza and aranciata for lunch, and also found a bunch of graffiti that makes me want to understand more about Italian culture.

Then I headed to the ruins of Ostia Antica, a harbor city of Ancient Rome. I would have taken more pictures, but my battery got really low.

On the way back to the hotel, I decided to get off the train a stop early and I went to the Basilica of St. Paul (Basilica San Paolo Fuori Le Mura).


Day 1: Met some interesting folks on the plane then jet lag got the best of me

On the plane from Amsterdam, I met Simon, who is a Dutch chaplain who used to live in Rome. We got to talking and he gave me enough advice about Rome to fill a page and a half in my notebook.

“Guarda!”, he exclaimed mid-sentence, to make sure I didn’t miss this spectacular view of the Swiss alps (according to him, it’s very rare that it’s this clear and the light is just right).

Oddly enough, it turns out he uses a certain medical software that’s made in Wisconsin. What are the odds? (I guess 50/50 since he works in the Netherlands.)

Then the guy behind us said “You live in Madison!?” It turns out Marc works in Madison and makes regular trips to Rome for his job. We split a cab and he pointed out lots of great ancient things that I would have definitely missed.

Arrived at my hotel in Rome at 2 PM local time, which was 7 AM back home – after sleeping only an hour on the 18-hour trip. I took a shower then crashed hard. I’m still not hungry, so I think I’m writing off tonight and going to try to sleep until breakfast.


My single suitcase weighed in at 59#

If I had planned a little better, I might have been able to get it under 50#, but I’m considering the extra fee the price of a lesson.

This is my first ever international trip, and despite all the great travel advice I’ve gotten from friends and family, I’m expecting to encounter lots of things I’ve forgotten to plan for.