A walk in the park: Poggibonsi to Colle

Roberto, my host, told me about an 8km cycling path between Colle Val d’Elsa and Poggibonsi, and I thought I’d take a walk on it. He dropped me off on the edge of town, and reminded me, “it’s 8km ya, if you don’t see nothing, just keep walking, ok?”

Here’s the start of the path at Poggibonsi –

image

Along the way, they left some quick clues about the origins of this path –

image

These train tracks were in use between 1885 to 1987, a branch of the Siena-Empoli line.

Some views you’ll be rewarded with along the way –

image

Is this a tributary of the river Elsa? (perhaps they should capitalize on the fame of Frozen…)

image

image

The final mile into Colle runs parallel to a fairly busy road so it’s not nearly as tranquil there, but continue walking onto Piazza Arnolfo and you’ll be able to see the bus office and the free public ascensore/lift to the Centro Storico (old centre).

image

Some views of the old town –
image

I found this hilarious –

image

Is this one of the oldest smilies in the world or what?

Anyway, I had to take a bus back to Poggibonsi because the sun was setting and there are no street lamps on the path. Shouldn’t be a problem in the summer when the sun sets late though!

Advertisements

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord

Just sharing one of my favourite songs of all time, most appropriate for Christmas too –

Benedictus by The Priests: http://youtu.be/k3iWU5ZusVY

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,
Hosanna in the highest.”

When I was at the Palazzo Pitti, I came across this painting – one of many hanging on the crowded walls that most people give a quick look over and move on.

image

(the baby Jesus sleeping on a cross)

Direct in its message, heart-wrenching in its implications, a grave reminder that even as we celebrate the birth of Christ, the season of Advent is meant to prepare our hearts for worship in the coming season of Lent and Easter. That the Lord came to earth not so much to be worshipped, as we see in nativity scenes everywhere, but to die.

Speaking of nativity scenes, here’s a simple one from a group of Syrian Christians, on display at a church in Colle Val D’Elsa –

image

Wishing you a blessed and meaningful Christmas 🙂

Madonna and Child

This being Italy, so much of the artwork seen at museums and the many churches revolve around the Holy Mother and Child that they all look the same to me.

image

(paintings from the Palazzo Pitti, altar from the Orsanmichele)

They are all some variation of the above: the Mother looking worshipful or mournful, sometimes the Christchild raises his hand in a blessing, sometimes the frame is too crowded with the saints etc. I am sorry to say that I am mostly quite unable to tell them apart.

However, I make a huge exception for Antonio da Correggio’s Adoration of the Child.

image

I fell in love with this the moment I set eyes on it, hanging in a corner of the Uffizi, possibly a gallery or two away from the heavyweights of Caravaggio and Titian.

I love how natural the scene is – it looks like the photograph a proud father might take of his wife and son. It looks like diaper-changing time, and the Mother is singing, clapping, teasing her beloved baby Son. Many other paintings portray the baby Jesus as the Lord; indeed, here, the Mother is on her knees in worship, lifting her hands in supplication to the Lord, as we do when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. But this also portrays the Madonna and Child as any other loving mother and son; they are human here, enjoying a private moment together.

Perhaps it is near impossible to portray Jesus as both divine and human at the same time, the same way humans like us grapple with the idea that Jesus is both God and man.

Happy Advent there.

San Gimignano 1300

I enjoyed this particular museum very much, even more so after chatting with the artist, Michelangelo, who crafted and painted his love for history and architecture into this amazing work of ceramic art.

Here’s the approach to the shop in the vine-covered building on the right just off Piazza Duomo –

image

image

Walk through a little shopfront to the museum –

image

Just look at that ceramic recreation of a medieval town that took the team of five a year and a half to create!

The crests on the wall belong to the rich and powerful families who built those towers as a protective measure against potential attacks and sackings.

image

See that map in leather that places San Gimignano on the medieval pilgrim routes of Via Francigena (Rome-Canterbury), El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (Way of St James in Spain), and the one to the Holy Land.

While there, you may also get to see the artists at work –

image

Michelangelo painting a made-to-order ceramic piece

image

Nunzio working on a plate for the shop. He even asked whether I’d like to give it a go…I’d love to but I was afraid I’d spoil their hard work!

image

Nunzio moving the pieces to the firing kiln.

The detailed work on the ceramic town took a year of research and close consultation with historians – their next big step is pre-Renaissance Florence. Ambitious, eh? But something I’d look forward to seeing some years from now. Do visit this free museum and show them your support when you’re next in Tuscany!

San Gimignano Treasure Hunt

I went to San Gimignano without doing much research, and my first thoughts there were that of ‘mm. looks and feels like a mini Siena.’

That, until I met Michelangelo of San Gimignano 1300, owner of a free museum starring a ceramic model of San Gimignano in the Middle Ages. I was paying for my postcard and speaking casually about the museum being great for school groups (sorry, occupational hazard as a teacher), and he told me about the treasure hunt they let students go on.

‘What treasure hunt?’ I asked. ‘Sounds exciting!’

image

So, you get a map and an information booklet, and off you go on a search-and-match mission for the surviving 700 year old buildings. I’m sure it gets fun for students when you add in the competitive plus time element! (or perhaps I’m just a geek like that huh – my students like to tell me that my sense of fun is warped.)

I was really thankful for this as the self-guided hunt opened my eyes to the details – Gothic or Romanesque arch? Moorish influence? Any embellishments? Brick or stone? What might have been just another drab sight-seeing stroll became an educational and engaging experience.

image

A very worthwhile €8 spent. You know, Michelangelo was really sweet about it – he didn’t have sufficient change for my €50, and he gave me the map for free, telling me to have fun and tell my friends about it. I couldn’t accept that, not when this town is solely dependent on tourist money, so I went back after my walk and a good lunch.

image

More on the museum proper soon!

A collection of views over/of Firenze

Just so you know, there’s no need to climb the towers of the Duomo or the Palazzo Vecchio, because those two towers are kinda integral to the skyline.

In addition to the Piazza Michelangelo, there’s the view from Palazzo Pitti –

image

Or, the top floor of the Orsanmichele, open only on Mondays –

image

image

It was only while exiting the Orsanmichele that I noticed the pretty exterior of neighbouring buildings –

image

image

Street art –
image

Token postcard shot of the Duomo before going in for vespers –

image

Came across a cute motorshow at the Uffizi on a Saturday morning –
image

image

The Vasari Corridor –
image

And yeah, well, Michelangelo’s David and his magnificent butt.
image