Saturday, December 25, 1999

Italy Trip Dec 1999 – Jan 2000

December 1999 was a busy month. Mom and Sue came from the US to visit us in Sydney as we were closing off the years’ performances of Manon with the Australian Ballet at the Sydney Opera House. When they finally arrived each was a little under the weather. We were staying in a lovely 2 bedroom apartment in Double Bay, taking the ferry to work each morning and really enjoying Sydney. Before they arrived, Miranda and I had spent many hours preparing for a trip to Italy over the New Year, discussing and choosing exactly where we were to go and making all of the arrangements via the Internet, fax and a travel agent. It was all laid out by December 1 and we could just await December 25. We came to Melbourne from Sydney on the 23rd and had one day to ourselves. Christmas Day we spent with Anthea, Gen, Andrew and Andrew’s family at a lovely family picnic out in the country. It was quite a hot day. In the evening, having exchanged all gifts, Miranda and I made our finally packing arrangements and went off to the airport.

By chance, my ticket was a Business class ticket and we bought Miranda’s as a normal ticket. We got to the airport a little early, about 11:30pm, for a 1pm departure. When we checked in we asked if there was a possibility of an upgrade and lo and behold they said yes. We waited in the lounge until the confirmation came through. Comfortably installed in our business class seats on the Thai Air flight we slept the night through to Bangkok.
26 Dec
After customs in Bangkok we walked across a little land bridge to get to a hotel which was part of Miranda’s ticket (not mine!). We checked in, cleaned up and caught a taxi into town. Mr. Chen was our driver. We arranged for a daily fee of $50 for him to take us all over Bangkok to see all of the temples and the sights. This was to prove a wise investment as he did just that. Traffic was terrible and it would have been hopeless for us to try to manoeuvre the city ourselves.

We started out at the Wat Arun. The gold was overwhelming and the architecture was fascinating. Pagodas and temples and other smaller buildings of interesting unique design were all in close proximity. Several other temples were followed by a private boat trip on the river. The boats there have V8 engines sitting exposed on the stern of a very narrow but long vessel. The propeller was attached to a long shaft which could go in and out of the water by the pilot’s control. All in all, terrifying. The trip was speedy and exciting. Along the river we saw the King’s barges and other various temples. We had lunch at Mr. Chen’s favorite place which didn’t seem traditional at all. One or two other places we saw including the “reclining Buddha” before Mr. Chen dropped us off at the hotel.

A quick nap and a shower and we walked back across the land bridge to the airport and at 11pm boarded the plane for Rome. We had tried for an upgrade here but no luck. However, when we got into the plane it was empty so we moved back to the rear of the craft and each had a row to ourselves. After dinner we stretched out and both slept 8 hours before arriving in Rome at 6am.
27 Dec
Coming out of baggage we met Stan, an American working for a photo magazine in Hong Kong coming to visit with friends in Siena for New Year’s. We shared a taxi to our hotel passing by the Trevi fountain by special request and when we arrived Stan took off to look for his own accommodations. Of course our room wasn’t ready so Miranda and I stowed our luggage and set off for the Pantheon at 7am Tuesday December 27th.

It was an amazing feeling to have been in Sydney, Melbourne, Bangkok, and now Rome all on successive days. And to boot, we both felt great having slept so well on the flight over from Bangkok. We strode mightily toward the Piazza Navona despite the fact that it was 7am. Luckily, many of the churches are open starting at 7am so before getting to the Pantheon we stopped to see La Maddelena with its late Baroque facade and the little Bernini Elephant Obelisk outside Santa Maria Sopra Minerva plus a few things inside. Then we picked up some fruit at an outdoor market that was just getting going. We made it to the Pantheon about 9am and walked around inside and out of the glorious building. The sun was out and through the oculus in the ceiling shone a strong beam. As we made our way around the inside who should we see but Stan. He had put his things down at another hotel and gone out sightseeing. We hooked up for a few hours and went to San Luigi dei Francesi to see some Caravaggio (the St. Matthew series) then through the Piazza Navona (Borromini’s Sant’ Agnese was partially covered with scaffolding and the area had been set up for the Epiphany celebration) to the Campo dei Fiori. There we plunked ourselves down and had a coffee and a snack. The sun was quite strong and our corner table right on the Campo was quite warm. We continued to the Forum. We leisurely walked through the Forum reading our guide books on the way. Then it was up the Palatine Hill for spectacular views and some more photos. Here Stan took his leave and we never heard from him again.

We continued to the Colosseum and had some lunch at I Gladiatori restaurant. After relaxing we continued to walk to San Clemente to see the three temples on top of each other. We descended into the catacombs to see the Mithraic remains, the altar piece and the sacrificial bath. A Roman temple on top of that was almost hidden by the Byzantine Church. The Basmati floors and the St. Christopher of Masalino were standouts. Indefagitable, we continued to San Giovanni in Laterno, then back thru the streets to the huge Santa Maria Maggiore with the Toretti mosaics. We kept up the pace and walked back to the hotel where we had a hot shower with scratchy old thin towels and some food that we had picked up during the day – cheese and fruit – before passing out about 9pm.
28 Dec
It was a rainy day when we awoke so we decide to go to the Vatican. We had a good breakfast at the hotel and jumped into a taxi and went to the line (which was already quite long) outside the Vatican Museum. But it was short work getting inside. We headed straight – as much as we could – for the Raphael rooms and the Sistine chapel. All of the paintings were on display with nothing in restoration. The Sistine Chapel was crowded but having pushed Seymour through there 3 years before I knew what to do. We made a bee line for the benches and went through each panel we could see clearly, talking about it and reading a little as we went. When we finished with one area we proceeded to the next bench. The full view of the room was spectacular. We spent about 90 minutes there. Then to the Borgia apartments and the Pinturicchio frescos. Continuing on to the sculpture we saw the Laocoön. That was great for me as I had failed to see it last time. We went on to the Painting Gallery and saw all of the fabulous Raphael they have there including the tapestries.

As it was closing time we made a quick stop at the book store and went out onto the street to find a place to eat. And that we did. A lovely restaurant that fed us good pasta, vegetables, and of course, un litro de vino rosso della casa. From that day we decided that this would be our constitution for eating – having a big meal in the middle of the afternoon and snacking in the evening. After lunch we walked around the corner to Bernini’s colonnade and into St. Peter’s. We did much exploring – the Pietá, the Bernini Baldachino, and up the lift to the rooftop and the cupola. The view from atop St Peter’s was fabulous. As we got back into the church they were beginning a service. We positioned ourselves neatly and got the warmth of all of the other worshipers. As the service progressed it got more and more crowded and we were losing interest so we got the attention of several elderly women who had been standing in the aisle and vacated our seats for them. Outside we hailed a taxi back to the hotel. Miranda took another shower and I went out for more provisions which were delicious and plentiful. After writing some cards and eating some fruit and cheese we again passed out, very satisfied.
29 Dec
It was cold and sunny this morning. But after breakfast we shuffled over to the Borghese Gallery (which was quite close to our hotel) and there met an older American couple who had been sent there by their daughter while she did her daily work in Rome. They kindly gave us a spare ticket but then tagged along with us. They were from Houston and were quite unimpressed at the beauty of the sculpture expecting I suppose much grander things. But several times around a Bernini or Canova he would remark, “such attention to detail” which we took as an idle and meaningless comment as he had no idea who Bernini or Canova were.

Afterwards we took a short walk down the Via Veneto past the Bernini sculpture of Neptune in the Piazza Barberini and up the hill to Santa Maria della Vittoria to see Santa Theresa in Ecstasy. She was glorious. Her voyeurs were also enjoying themselves. We ducked back to the corner, Quatro Fontane, where you can see 3 obelisks down three roads off into the distance then on to the Palazzo Barberini. The Caravaggio Judith was conspicuously absent. A disappointment – it was visiting the Prado. We were getting hungry so we hoofed over to the top of the Spanish Steps and enjoyed a little sun before dropping down for some lunch in the area. There was a very cute baby there with whom I flirted. And the waiter thought that Miranda was French. After lunch it was over to the Piazza del Popolo for more Caravaggio (having first bought a hat). We looked for Sant’ Agostino having to stop and ask some cops and they didn’t know either. We did finally come upon it. Back to the Piazza Navona we stopped for coffee and enjoyed the passagiatta.
30 Dec
We enjoyed our breakfast and taxied to see Raphael’s Galatea at the Chigi’s old house Villa Farnesina. Gloriously, Rome was empty of tourists, at least those who were out to see the art treasures. We spent about 90 minutes there virtually alone. That independence and isolation gave us a special sense of intimacy with the art works.

Out of the Farnesina we walked across the street to the Palazzo Corsini – a bit of a disappointment in general; then under the Porta Settimiana into the Trastevere. Up the hill to see Bramante’s “Il Tempietto” in San Pietro in Montorio. We stopped for some photos overlooking Rome. Back down the hill we searched in vain for somewhere to have coffee. Finally ending up back across the river, having been shooed out of Santa Cecilia by an elderly nun. We explored Vesta and Fortuna Virilis and Santa Maria in Cosmedin with La Bocca della Verita and Basmati floors. Then up the hill from the Temple of Vesta for some coffee. We went back to the Campo dei Fiori for lunch and it was huge good and very inexpensive. Just what we were looking for. We rolled out of there and up to the Campidoglio. We looked into the Aracoeli and into the museums but then walked down to the overlook to the fori. Then we headed up the hill to San Pietro in Vincoli to see Michaelangelo’s Moses. There were scads of tourists there but we finally got our view.
31 Dec
Our last day in Rome, as all the rest, we spent walking. It was back to the Borghese Gardens and in brilliant sunshine we tried to find Villa Julia. Finally after much digression we found the restored Etruscan Temple and villa. It was filled with 5-8 century BC artefacts some of which were interesting but quite repetitious. We illegally jumped aboard an ATAC 12 passenger bus and road it to the Via Veneto, jumped out and walked to the very sunny corner and grabbed a table to have some coffee. As the sun was so bright – we stripped down to our shirts – we sat there for nearly an hour before going across the piazza to a bank machine for some Lira. After getting some money we fortuitously bumped into Kathy Bennet and her friend Franca. They invited us to their borrowed rooftop apartment on the Piazza Navona for a New Year’s celebration. We had no real plans – we were going to wander to the Piazza del Popolo with the millions of other Romans – so we quickly accepted. We continued on to the Trevi Fountain and tried to do some shopping before going back to the hotel to rest up for the coming celebration.

After a brief rest and shower, and a little cheese, fruit, and wine, we set off on foot for the Piazza Navona and Kathy’s place. There were lots of people on the streets and by the time we got to the Corso everyone seemed to be streaming toward the Piazza del Popolo. We felt quite lucky to be going to a Roman apartment with a rooftop view. The apartment and company were much fun. We talked til midnight then went onto the roof to drink champagne and look at the 360 degree view of Rome and the fireworks. We started home about 1:30am and the streets were still loaded with celebrants. But we had big plans for the morrow so we quickly got home and slept.
01 Jan
We got up about 8 – late for us – and packed up all of our things and had breakfast. I walked over to the Hertz car rental office in the Borghese Gardens. Without a hitch, in about 20 mins I was driving out in a new Vectra fully loaded. We were very lucky. I picked up Miranda who was lovely and smiling and we left Rome gleaming in rather cold sunshine. We headed north on the A1 – all of my direction were a topic of humor as I had been a little compulsive about writing them down – towards Orvieto. I was hoping that the San Brizio chapel was finished. Luckily it was and we got there just before Mass so we got a little look then went out front to look at the facade and then over the piazza for a coffee and a bottle of Orvieto wine which turned out to be less than adequate. We tried to re-enter the Cathedral as Mass was concluding to see the rest but were shooed out by the priest and his helpers. The organist played the Widor Toccata as a recessional and it sounded fabulous in the cathedral. But I regret not getting a closer look the Signorelli Last Judgement frescos.

We left Orvieto and went on to Assisi. The sun was still shining brightly and we made good time going cross country. I expected Assisi to be empty. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was packed with day trippers. I also thought I knew how to drive to our hotel. Well, that part of the city had not been repaired so I had to drive around the entire city on the very narrow roads moving tourists gently as I went. It was very nerve racking. The managers of the hotel were very kind and took me to the parking after installing us in the best room in the hotel. We had a view of the newly reopened San Francesco and the Umbrian plain. We walked down to San Francesco and looked at the frescos and how they had been restored especially in the upper Basilica. My favorites in the lower basilica were virtually untouched by the quake. We spent several hours there before going back to the hotel fooling with the car again and snacking because the restaurant was closed and even the snack houses were full. We drank some wine and calmed down and eventually fell asleep. When we awoke we rushed down to dinner and had a satisfying if expensive meal.
02 Jan
After breakfast we went over to the lower basilica for mass. Unfortunately I took Miranda by the hand to the front of the altar because I expected it to fill up. Well it didn’t so we were the only ones sitting in front and were terribly exposed. Miranda got more and more upset by this and let me have it when we got out. Nevertheless we took a lovely walk around the town and up into the mountainside as a diversion. Santa Chiara was still pretty well smashed up so we didn’t get inside. We looked for hours for a place to have lunch but the day trippers were back. We did finally manage a little place and had our fill of pasta and vino. We went back once again to San Francesco but the book store was closed by then and most of the lights were off.
03 Jan
The next morning we went to breakfast not sure of where we would go next. We were due in Ravenna that night but whether to go through Perugia, San Sepulcro and/or Urbino. As it turned out we went through each one. The Gallery in Perugia just happens to be closed the first Monday of every month. That was today. We had been assured that it was open but no such luck. So we got back on the road and went up to Sansepulcro Piero’s home. We parked across from the Museo Civico and went in to see the Madonna della Misericordia and the Resurrection. The Madonna had been moved into her own room. I would have walked right past had not Miranda stopped me. This meant that the Resurrection had the grand gallery to itself – fitting. Again there was no one there. How glorious to view such great art without distraction.

Lunch was another lucky affair – the Ristorante Fiorentino – the second floor of a hotel where the staff was lovely and the food fabulous. We got directions for Urbino and set off over the mountains. The drive was very beautiful and the views of Umbria stunning. When we got to Urbino however everything was shut tight. We walked around the piazza but went back to the car and headed on to Ravenna.

It got dark quite quickly so driving wasn’t too easy. And when we got into Ravenna, finding the hotel was a nightmare. Miranda had had enough of navigating even though she was excellent at it. I asked a man at a Kiosk and we eventually got there. The management had changed hands and weren’t quite as accommodating as the last time I was there. But I did manage to get free parking outside and down the road. We unpacked and went out exploring and eventually found a little pizza/pasta place and had a little supper before turning in.
04 Jan
The next morning before seeing any of the mosaics we decided to do some laundry. Unfortunately the laundromat wasn’t very close by. But we walked over to it and with much difficulty found it and found somewhere to buy soap. With the cloths in we went to see the mosaics of Sant’ Apollinare Nouovo and San Vitale. Miranda had lost her glove the day before so we went to a fine leather shop and got her a new pair. Shopping was quite fun. After seeing Gallia Placida we went to an excellent restaurant for lunch, La Gardela. It was a split level place packed with locals. We got a great table upstairs overlooking everyone downstairs and proceeded to pig out. The bread was particularly good so we pinched as much as we could for later. After lunch we walked a bit more then went back to the room to relax.
05 Jan
The next morning was rather chilly. We drove south a ways to find Sant’ Apollonaire in Clase. We got there a little early and had to wait around for the doors to open. The sunlight was not too strong and there were workmen inside but the apse was spectacular. We took a local road north toward Padua but soon we saw that it was going to be too slow for us as there was a lot of truck traffic so we jumped over onto the Autostrata and got to Padua very quickly. The Scrovegni Chapel was open and we got to see the Giotto frescos. I was thrilled.

We thought about leaving the car in Padua and training to Venice but it all seemed rather difficult so we just got back into the car and went to the Piazzale Roma parking terminal. We were so excited as we stepped onto the vaporetto. The weather had warmed somewhat and the boat ride was fun if brisk. We stopped just past San Marco (San Zaccharia) and got off with our two bags and wheeled our way along the Grand Canal to the Pensione Wildner. Mrs. Wildner greeted us and said there was no elevator, “ma, la vista e bella!” We lugged our stuff up the four flights, opened the shutters and saw a most fantastic sight. San Georgio was directly across the canal. What a great room. We had a quick bite to eat and went out exploring – San Marco, etc. Just before we went back to the hotel we went into San Zaccharia to see the Bellini altarpiece. The church was empty with only a few crazy tourists like us plunking in our 1000 lire pieces to illuminate the altarpiece. I “purchased” some votive candles from the church for us to use in our room burning oils. Miranda’s Catholic upbringing objected but the Church received a fair price.
06 Jan
The next morning we went down to breakfast about 7am. We ate in a covered porch in front of the hotel and watched the sun come up. It was very beautiful and romantic if a little cold. After breakfast we went past Vivaldi’s church, Santa Maria della Pieta and further to San Zanipolo and the statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni outside. We had a quick coffee and saw some Venetian workers drinking an aperitif. We thought it a little early for us (10am) so we just had coffee. We came to a most fabulous church – Santa Maria dei Miracoli. It had just finished restoration and was in great shape. It was a jewel box of a church, perfect for weddings. The stone work inside was very decorative but not at all gaudy. The very accommodating guard gave us a large mirror to use to look at the ceiling.
Afterwards we saw the Ca’ d’oro, the Accademia and made a brief stop at the Salute before the fog set in about 4pm and the city was completely covered over. We walked miles trying to find some fruit and cheese and then went back to the room. The view out our windows was not as appealing any more. But at about 2am the fog lifted and all of the splendor of Venice shone brightly.
07 Jan
This day we spent at the Doge’s Palace, the Campanile and the Museo Correr. We then sat in the Piazza San Marco in brilliant sunshine and had an expensive coffee and soaked up the culture. After a late lunch we went to Santa Maria Gloriana di Frari. We had been a little disappointed that many of the Bellinis were at a special exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi. We decide to walk over there to see it. We hadn’t waited in any lines ever so we didn’t expect one here. As we got close we heard crowds talking. When we rounded the corner we saw a tremendous line extending way down the block. We were shocked. Miranda stood in line and I reconnoitred to see how most easily we could get in. The guard at the door said the best idea would be to return at 9am and be first in. We thought this good advice. We hopped on a vaporetto and went to San Georgio where we took some photos that look like we are in front of a Hollywood set. We had a touristy dinner and did some shopping before going back to the room.

08 Jan
The next morning we decide to go to the exhibition instead of going to Vincenza. We packed up our stuff and checked out. At the Palazzo Grassi a line had already formed at 8:45am when we got there. As we waited for the doors to open (we thought at 9am) we began talking to a German man and his son in front of us. They informed us that the doors were open at 10. They offered to save our place if we wanted to have coffee. We took them up on the offer and when we got back they had moved up to the front of the line. As it turned out he was a professor of Arabic Studies in Heidelberg and was married to an American and his son spoke with an American accent. The exhibition was remarkable. Many Bellinis and Roger Van Der Weydens etc… Well worth staying for. We vaporettoed back to the hotel, dropped off the key and went to the car to head for Verona. We had lunch in the car planning a good dinner when we got there.

Verona was lovely. The passagiatta was in full swing when we went out after visiting the Arena. The people seemed so real and genuine. The architecture as very interesting and we ended up at Juliet’s balcony and had some photos taken. When we got back to the hotel we asked the desk clerk if he could make us a reservation at a restaurant we had on recommendation. He said that it was closed during January so we asked him to make a reservation at a similar type of restaurant. We were just looking for some spagettini con alio/olio and perhaps some bits of meat. The restaurant we went to specialised in the regional delicacy, cavallo. The restaurant was empty when we got there. The maitre ‘d was very kind and gave us an excellent table. As he explained the menu in fast Italian I asked him to please speak a little slower, he obliged though he spoke fairly good English. There was no menu, and I know that at the very best restaurants there was often only what the chef was cooking that night so we thought something great was to follow. He got past the openers and started to explain the cavallo. There was no other meat besides cavallo but there was leg, shank, steaks, sausage etc. all cavallo. We left the cavallo for later and had salad and pasta. Meantime the restaurant filled up (it was Saturday night) and from Miranda’s perspective she could see the entire restaurant and I only the wall. Suddenly she went pale and her jaw dropped. I turned around and there was a huge moving table piled high with huge hunks of steaming horsemeat just as the waiter had described. We were dumbfounded. Deciding that we were in the wrong place we scooted back to the hotel asap and curled up in a single bed at the Hotel Romeo et Juilietta.
09 Jan
The next morning we met an Australian couple at breakfast. The were from Sydney but were headed to Bolzano for some skiing. We went off to San Zeno to see the Mantegna Altarpiece. We sat through the entire mass only to see all the lights switched off before we could get a close look. Back into the car and we headed off to Mantua to see the Camera degli Sposi of Mantegna. I got lost again in Mantua so we walked quite a way getting to the Palazzo Ducale. We parked near an open grassy area and there was a rather suspect fellow walking his dog. Believing in the goodness of man I approached him to ask directions to the Palazzo Ducale. He was extremely accommodating and despite my broken Italian we got good directions. After we got there we waited for a guided tour. Room after room we went through getting colder and colder before we finally saw the Mantegna. By then we were frozen and didn’t really want to hang around much. We got back into the car and headed to Florence. We grabbed a snack off the autostrata just before a bus load of Italians descended on the place.

It felt great driving into Florence. I got a little lost but that just meant that we drove up to the Ponte Vecchio and by the Duomo before going to our hotel. We parked, unloaded our things and went out down the street to Santa Croce. There was a huge ice skating rink set up out front with lots of skaters. We went into see the Pazzi Chapel of Brunelleschi and to the Museo attached which had the crucifix of Cimabue which had been all but destroyed during the 1966 flood. We went back into Santa Croce to see the Giotto frescos then went out for a coffee. I should have sensed that Miranda was not feeling so good because she refused coffee. We kept walking around the streets getting pleasantly lost. Back at the hotel we took a bath as we had bargained for a room with a bath and finally won. We then took a taxi to Camillos only to find it closed in January so we ate across the street at the Osteria del Chinghiale Bianco. Inside it was very decorative and the waiters extremely lively. We got a bottle of Chianti from the Badia a Passignano which was near to where Seymour’s house was and drank a toast to him.
10 Jan
The next morning Miranda was not feeling well but insisted on going out. We went to Santa Maria Novella. The facade was fabulous and Miranda loved the chapel inside the little Museo with frescos by Andrea da Firenze. The Masaccio Trinity fresco was in restoration and completely scaffolded. Then we went to Santa Trinita to see the Ghirlandaio Annunciation. It was very beautiful and there were plenty of people there who kept dropping in 1000 lire pieces to turn on the lights. Next we stopped at the Münstermann’s chemist for some cough drops for Miranda who was now complaining of a sore throat. Then across the bridge to the Carmine and the famous Masaccio in the Brancacci Chapel. Even though it was cold we spent quite a bit of time there. It was not difficult. We continued walking to San Spirito, another Brunelleschi Church but it was closed. We ducked into a restaurant close to the Ponte Vecchio and had a meal. As we came out we saw the Pontormo Deposition in the little church Santa Felicita. Miranda still insisted on continuing our route so we went back to San Spirito and got in and looked at the fabulous architecture. There was a British couple just ahead of us looking for the same things as we were so we got to use their light. We went back over the river, window shopping on the Ponte Vecchio and then to the Badia Fiorentino to see Filippino Lippis Annunciation. It was only open for a few hours a week and we just happened to hit it right. On the way out Miranda felt feverish so we went straight back to the hotel and put her to bed hoping that she would be right in the morning.
11 Jan
She wasn’t right but stubbornly insisted on going out. So we went to the Uffizi and made it into the Botticelli room before I insisted that we go back to the hotel and that Miranda get back into bed. The flu had set in unfortunately so the next two days were spent trying to recover. We got on the computer, read and watched TV. Pizza for dinner.
12 Jan
More of the same. Miranda was still feverish so I gave her my Cipro. Terrible take away for dinner.
13 Jan
The fever broke but Miranda still looked rather emaciated. She said she was fit for travel so I packed everything up and got the car all loaded and warmed up for her to jump in. We headed south for San Gimignano. We parked in a lot and walked up to the center of town and to the Collegiata where a Ghirlandaio Annunciation fresco is fully exposed to the elements but still in good shape and inside is his Capella de Santa Fina. The Collegiata was illumined quite well so we got to see everything clearly including the Barna di Siena New Testament frescos around the top of the nave. On to the museum we saw my favorite Byzantine work, the Crucifix of Coppo di Marcovaldo. Christ’s eyes are made up like an early Hollywood star. Miranda meritoriously climbed the stairs of the tallest tower in San Gimignano but we both reaped the reward of the spectacular view of the Tuscan landscape.

We headed down the hill in the direction of Sant’ Agostino looking for some lunch and found a typical Tuscan restaurant serving delicious food near the bottom of the hill, La Mangiatoia. After lunch we quickly stopped into Sant’ Agostino to see the Gozzoli Life of St. Francis and then it was back into the car and off to Siena. After going round a few times we finally got to the hotel. We unloaded and I got Miranda warm and ready for a shower and I went to park the car and to get some food for a snack. I made a quick diversion to the Campo before going back to the room. And when I got back she was feeling better and much better after a little vino, fruit and cheese. We wrote some postcards and went off to sleep.

14 Jan
After a good breakfast we went to the Duomo. It was still pretty dark and cold so we couldn’t see much. Plus most of the floor mosaics were covered over with plywood. We did see the Pisano Altar. Then the Piccolomini Library. What a fantastic room. A protracted stop in the book store then we went to the Duomo Museum. There was the Duccio Maestá. Or at least most of it. We also got to go out onto the facade of the original nave. It was dark, cloudy and freezing outside but we had a good view of Siena. Then we went to the Palazzo Publico to see the A. Lorenzetti room with The Allegory of Good and Bad Government and the Simone Martini Maestá. As we got there an American student group was getting a lecture by a local professor so we just tagged along. She explain many things about the frescos that I hadn’t seen before for example that the holes in the side of medieval buildings are not where the stones have fallen out but are part of the scaffolding work. This was all in the fresco. Then she explained the Guidoriccio and another Martini which had been discovered underneath some plaster. After they left, Miranda and I spent a wonderful hour in these rooms by ourselves. It was such a joy to have this great art all to ourselves. We bought several posters which we have had framed and are up on the wall in the lounge room in Melbourne now! We had a quick lunch and went to the Pinacoteca to have our fill of Sienese art.
15 Jan
The following day we headed to Arezzo to see the Piero True Cross frescos in San Francesco. We parked by the Duomo and saw his Mary Magdelen first, then to the Badia to see the P. Lorenzetti Madonna and Child where the Madonna is dressed in white ermine with hardly any blue on her – significant in the history of religious painting. Then finally to San Francesco. Unfortunately, to our great disappointment, it wasn’t going to be revealed for another 3 months. We got back into the car thinking of what to do. Either we could drive over to Monterchi and see the Madonna del Parto or back to Florence to see some of the things we missed while Miranda was ill. We opted for the latter.

In Florence we went straight for the Convento di San Marco and all of the Fra Angelico cell paintings. The Ghirlandaio Last Supper in the cenacolo was exhilarating. We had a surprisingly good lunch across the street by the bus stop. Then we went to the Palazzo Medici to see the Gozzoli Capella di Magi. The lighting there was rather peculiar with movable lamps set out on the floor so we took advantage of that and moved the light wherever we needed to see. The lovely Madonna and Child of Fra Filippo Lippi sat on a tripod at the front of the Chapel. Then we stopped quickly in the Orsanmichele and went back to the Uffizi and had another less feverish go at the first 8 rooms. Then back into the car and back to Siena.

16 Jan
We packed up early and I got the car from the parking lot and drove it in front of the hotel. It was Sunday morning 7am so there was no traffic vehicular or otherwise. The desk clerk urged us to have some breakfast before we left which we thought was a good idea. The woman at the desk the night before said that it took 3 hours to drive to Rome so we didn’t want to take any chances. I drove pretty quickly down the A1 on the way to Fumincino and we got there with plenty of time to spare. Miranda’s flight wasn’t ready for check-in so we stood around for about an hour. Finally the airlines people came and after much confusion we figured out that we could go through the security together even though we left from different terminals. I was flying to Dusseldorf, Chicago and KC, and Miranda back to Bangkok and Melbourne. We sat in the lounge for a while until I heard my name being called over the loud speaker system that the flight was waiting for ME! So we departed tearfully as I ran down to my gate and Miranda went on to her gate to await her eastward departure.

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