Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Daytrip to Pisa

Sunday 6/19

My first day off!!! Woohoo!

Well, more like....I have a day off....

I should really try to go somewhere.....

So I did. Despite being tired from the first week of classes, I went to Pisa with one of my roommates and another classmate. Like the rest of the tourists, we were going to see the Duomo, the baptistry and the Campo Santo cemetery.

After a pit stop for coffee, we just made it onto a train leaving for Pisa from Santa Maria Novella. Literally we just made it onto the train by running for it.

When we got to Pisa we went with the rest of the herd towards the Piazza del Duomo:

Another statue of the famous General Garibaldi

S- if you're reading this, these earring displays remind me of your scarf contraption :)

Street view!

As we walked along we happened upon an artist's market where I bought some ceramics from this adorable artist:


I love color and this lady was so cute and nice. I didn't even have to bargain. She knocked Euros off without me asking! So nice!

The market really cheered me up. I haven't seen its like in Florence yet.

After the market we headed for the Duomo, with a slight detour as we got lost. Eventually we spotted the flock of tourists heading for the anthill of the Piazza del Duomo.

There's the tore (tower) of Pisa

It was exciting to see the famous leaning tore (tower) although the wait to climb it was ridiculous. We ended up buying a museum pass for everything besides the tower and started with the baptistry.

The Baptistry

View of the floor. 

The Pulpit

The columns. The two girls taking pictures are my classmates!

The Baptistry interior is not very exciting but the view of the Duomo facade is well worth going inside. You can see all the colorful ants below!

After visiting the Baptistry we headed to the cloister. So far, cloisters and cemeteries have easily been my favorite places in the cathedral complexes we've visited.  Here are some pictures of the Campo Santo cemetery and cloister in Pisa!

The cloister courtyard with a view of the Duomo's cupola in the background.

The beautiful medieval and renaissance frescoes that line the walls of the courtyard.

Detail. The fresco colors are faded and have suffered some damage, but they are still quite beautiful. I love the colors the artist chose. As you'll see, they match the color palette of Pisa rather well!

Fresco wall with a massive iron chain. Not sure what the chain is from, but it hangs above a tomb.

A beautiful marble tomb. Like Santa Croce, San Lorenzo and the other churches we've visited this one has tombs from wealthy patrons, important church leaders, reliquaries, etc as well. 

The real treasure of this cloister, however, are the two large frescoes by Bonamico di Martino da Firenze (of Florence!) known as Buffalmacco. There are two displayed at the cloister, one called The Last Judgment and the other The Triumph of Death. Painted ca. 1336-1341. Here they are:

A larger image.

Some details

My favorite part of The Last Judgment: The mouth of hell!!!

The columns and beautifully decorated arches in the courtyard.

Courtyard of the cemetery

Leaving the cloister, we headed to see the Duomo. Here are some pictures of the interior:

The bronze doors of the Cathedral

Aisle off of the nave. The stripe arch motif comes from Moorish architecture.

The nave and ceiling

The main altar, which has a beautiful mosaic

Reliquary of St. Ranieri (Pisa's patron saint)

The pulpit in the background and view of the other aisle

Detail of the pulpit. It's so ornate!

Maria i bambino (Mary and Child) icon

Mosaic over the main altar. 

After the Cathedral, I split up from my friends and headed home, walking and photographing Pisa as I went.

Cafes near the Piazza del Duomo

Flea market nearby selling mostly African goods

City Streets

Patriotism in a balcony. Like in Florence, the citizens are Pisans first and Italians second.

Street art. 

Coming up to the river, I passed under an archway, which we don't have very many of in Florence.

Tower on top of a building

More archways

The Arno

View of the Arno and the High Gothic Santa Maria della Spina (on the right)

This little Gothic gem reminds me so much of the Sainte Chapelles I saw in France. According to my guidebook, it was built to hold an interesting relic: one of the original thorns that pierced the head of Christ.

Street heading to the train station.

"Tuttomondo" mural by Keith Haring, 1989

The Pisa train station


Goodbye Pisa!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Artist studio on the way home from San Miniato

After our drawing lesson, a bunch of us walked back down to the city together. On the way we happened upon the studio of one of Florence's leading artists, whose work is displayed throughout the streets of the city. The type of art CLET Abraham creates can be characterized as street art. It takes the form of fake traffic signs that are often very tongue in cheek and blend into the traffic signs of the city. It is both surprising and also very refreshing that a city government would allow this artist to display his work and make such public statements! I think it's awesome! :-)

Here are some images of CLET signs:

The Spanish Chapel and San Miniato al Monte


This morning we had Marco again for lecture and were scheduled to meet at 9:00 AM at Santa Maria Novella to visit San Miniato, a beautiful church on a hill across the river that overlooks Florence and the Arno. It is a church that I have seen several times on my walks along the river and finally get to visit.

Before heading to the meeting point for class, I left early to finish our first looking assignment at the Duomo. On the way I had the Italian breakfast of champions, a cappuccino and paste (a pastry). The bakery I really like is called Gran Caffe San Marco, in Piazza San Marco (very close to our hostel) and on the way to most meeting points, cultural centers and our campus.

Here is there display of pastries, which, even now when it's a hundred and two degrees outside, makes me want to hike over there for a canolli.

Mmm-mmm good!

I've tried the pistachio ones so far, but they're a bit much in the morning so I usually go for the following:


 Marmalade awesomeness!

The assignment was to carefully observe the original exterior of the church and take notes about its pattern, which if you haven't noticed from the pictures is CRAZY!

Side of the Duomo (the original facade)

The choir at the apse of the cathedral.

I'm not sure about all of the symbolism of the patterns, but I do know that it is very busy and there were more circular patterns than I could count.
Before heading to San Miniato we went back to Santa Maria Novella to visit the Spanish chapel which was closed the day before.

Courtyard outside the Spanish Chapel

Marco showing us frescoes

The Spanish Chapel was originally a chapter house that was converted for La Signora, Eleanor of Toledo the Spanish royal wife of Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. This chapel, like the cathedral of San Lorenzo, was run by Dominicans. It has beautiful frescoes. In each section, the 14th century artist Andrea di Bonaiuto painted commemorations of the Dominican order's religious views, Florentine culture and Florentine arts which were so heavily patronized by the Medici.  Here are some pictures of the Spanish Chapel frescoes:

The ceiling

Christ carrying the cross

Images of the important people of Florence with the Cathedral of San Lorenzo in the background. If you click on the image you can see that the black and white dogs in the foreground are protecting some sheep. The black and white dogs are the Dominicans (because they wear black and white robes) protecting the faithful.

This one was my favorite. Each of the ladies sitting on a throne symbolizes one of the arts.

After visiting the Spanish Chapel we took a bus to San Miniato. Like all the main churches in Florence, San Miniato has the very distinct, Florentine green and white marble facade, but unlike the others it is perched on one of the hills overlooking the city. I've seen San Miniato many times on my walks by the Arno. Finally I got to see it up close and look down at the glory of Firenze from San Miniato's high perch! 

The bus we took from Santa Maria Novella left us at the Piazza Michelangelo from which you have a beautiful vista of the entire city. This piazza is where the fireworks launch on St. John the Baptist's Feast Day! From the piazza we hiked up to the cathedral and had another tour from Marco!

Walk up the steps to San Miniato

 When we got there, there was a wedding happening and another in a few hours. The wedding we saw was for a member of the military and his young wife.

 So sweet! You can see the groom in the background. I didn't feel like it was nice to sneak a picture of the groom and bride. There is only so much sneaky photography I can do in a day. But there is no doubt that San Miniato is a beautiful and romantic church to be married in.

 The Nave of San Miniato

The wooden ceiling, which is traditional in Tuscany.

Here is a detail of the ceiling. It was so beautiful and ornate. I absolutely love these Italian colorful ceilings.

 The altar.

A space below the main altar. We didn't have a lot of time to tour, so I don't know anything about this space, except that I thought it was awesome!

One of the decorated corners.
After our tour of the cathedral, we were scheduled to head back down to the city center and then to the CSU campus for our second drawing lesson in one point perspective. However, it was so beautiful up here that some of us asked if we could stay and have our drawing lesson on site. Our amazing teacher Marsha was very accommodating and came up to meet us!

Along with being an amazingly gorgeous vista point and cathedral, San Miniato is also one of the remaining old cemeteries in Florence, and it is in the cemetery behind the church where we had our drawing lesson. 

This was one of the beautiful headstones near the facade of the cathedral.


I chose to sketch one of the tombstone sculptures, a very sentimental depiction of a young married couple, age 20 and 22, who both died in World War II. I think I was drawn to them because of the love and longing in their stance. I loved how wistfully they look into each others eyes and lean in to hold hands.

A view of Florence from San Miniato

Our whole class