Florence in the Early Evening (Florence, Italy)

We were climbing down from watching the sunset over Florence when out of one of the windows I spotted this view. I loved the contrasting blue sky to the east with the warmer colors to the west where the sun had just dipped below the horizon. Add in the square below that was just starting to bustle with early evening activity and dinner goers, the historic cathedral and hills in the backdrop and it made for a picturesque scene. Of the places we’ve visited in Italy this is definitely one of the areas I’d love to go back to – the wines and delicious food mixed with the history of the city make it one of my favorite places we’ve ever visited.

Florence in the Early Evening (Florence, Italy)

Florence in the Early Evening (Florence, Italy)

Fountain of Moor (Rome, Italy)

The Fountain of Moor is located in arguably the most famous and picturesque piazza (town square) in all of Rome, Italy. The basin made of pink marble houses four Tritons blowing conch shells from which the water flows – in the center is the Moor (or Triton) standing in a conch shell and wrestling a dolphin.

Fountain of Moor (Rome, Italy)

Fountain of Moor (Rome, Italy)

A few years back a homeless man vandalized this statue when he climbed in and slammed a rock into the Moor’s head multiple times doing significant damage and breaking off his ear. It has since been fixed and when we were there in 2014 I didn’t notice anything out of place so they clearly did a great job restoring it.

Cinque Terre From Above (Cinque Terre, Italy)

I think I’ve finally reached my breaking point. Windows 10 you’ve finally converted me to a Mac guy. I know that isn’t what you intended to do with your ‘new and improved’ system but the inability of the software and the hardware to talk to another – and thus causing your loyal users problem is an issue. The past two months, since upgrading to Windows 10, I’ve been receiving the “Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)” when using Photoshop, OnOne Perfect Effects, GoPro Studio and really any other photo/video editing software possible. Prior to Windows 10 I never had an issue. So last week I took my computer into the shop and explained my frustrations. I asked the computer experts to take a look through all the .dmp files (produced when the PC crashes) and also check for any viruses to see if maybe the computer caught a bit of a cold. After a week of them looking at my system they called today and told me they can’t find a cause for the issue – all my systems are updated properly, the computer is free of viruses and in their opinion there is no reason why my barely two year old, recently upgraded with new RAM computer should be crashing two to three times per day……

My wife meanwhile is laughing all day long as her three year old Macbook has NEVER had an issue like this. Apple here I come – I’m converted and you win. The computer world is moving and unfortunately program updates and different products (windows, video drivers, sound drivers, etc…) are not working together.

Overlooking Cinque Terre (Cinque Terre, Italy)

Overlooking Cinque Terre (Cinque Terre, Italy)

Cinque Terre was such a relaxing place – I will take myself (mentally) there as I have to re-spend $1000+ on a MacBook this year to replace my PC. I’m fed up with Windows.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Milan, Italy)

One of the oldest shopping malls in one of the most fashionable cities in the world lies in Milan, Italy. The historic and architecturally stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II lies in the heart of Milan right next to their historic Gothic cathedral.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Milan, Italy)

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Milan, Italy)

Just a quick post tonight as I need to catch up on some sleep. The first week back to work after a couple weeks off has been a challenge on the routine developed during a mini-staycation. It’s amazing how quickly your body adapts to a little simple routine. By the end of January I’ll hopefully be back in the swing of things.

Duomo – Florence, Italy

Walking out into the Piazza del Duomo in Florence, Italy is an amazing scene. The tourists naturally attracted to the main church in the city flock around it. The locals, knowing what a zoo it will be, avoid the area at all costs but entertainers, hustlers and street vendors swarm to make their wages for the day. However, at sunrise, the square is quiet and peaceful – likely as it was before travel became so easy and affordable. Old men and women – probably lifelong Florentine residents – read the daily news, feed the pigeons and gather around cafes drinking espressos before moving on to start their day.

Duomo – Florence, Italy

Duomo (Florence, Italy)

I love sitting on the benches taking in the mornings. It is peaceful and about as a ‘real’ an experience in “old” Florence you can experience.

Brunelleschi’s Dome (Florence, Italy)

The dome that sits atop the cathedral in Florence, Italy is an engineering feat even to this day. So much so that TV programs like NOVA and the National Geographic channel have had specials where engineers today try to re-create it in the same form (using modern computers, tools, etc…) that Brunelleschi did. The crazy thing about what Filippo Brunelleschi did is that he built and designed this dome in 1418! Imagine what we all could accomplish if we didn’t watch TV for three to four hours each day – I feel like such a failure!

Brunelleschi’s Dome (Florence, Italy)

Brunelleschi's Dome (Florence, Italy)

Seriously though this is was and is a pretty impressive feat and Florence was in a real bind until they opened a ‘contest’ up to everyone in the world to design a dome that could cover the altar in the cathedral. Architects of varying fame from around the world submitted plans and designs but the one who was selected – Filippo Brunelleschi – was a goldsmith with no formal training in building structures like the one that still stands nearly 600 years later. Pretty damn amazing.

There is a fascinating article over on National Geographic’s website called Brunelleschi’s Dome if you’d like to read more of the back story and the reaction of the architects that weren’t chosen (sore losers anyone?).

Saint Bartholomew Flayed (Milan, Italy)

Bartholomew was one of the twelve apostles and his death is one that is still debated today. Some say he was crucified upside down with other apostles, another speaks of him being kidnapped and drowned while the most famous and depicted through works of art is that he was flayed and then beheaded.

A statue in the Duomo in Milan displays the flaying of Bartholomew and depicts him draped in a blanket of his own skin. Given this horrific depiction of his death it isn’t surprising that one of the most famous quotes attributed to him is:

“Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain.”

Saint Bartholomew

Saint Bartholomew Flayed (Milan, Italy)

Saint Bartholomew Flayed (Milan, Italy)

Afternoon in Chianti (Chianti, Italy)

In the heart of Tuscany, stretching between Florence, Italy and Sienna, Italy is the Chianti region. Famous for their wine and often romanticized in novels because of the lovely countryside it certainly didn’t disappoint. We took an unforgettable bike/wine tour during our time in the countryside. I absolutely love Italy and hope to be back many times throughout my life. We’ve been twice and it gets better with each visit because I feel like we can slow down a bit more and enjoy things like the rolling countryside of the Chianti region.

Afternoon in Chianti (Chianti, Italy)

Afternoon in Chianti (Chianti, Italy)

From atop a European castle, turned winery, I took this photo of the countryside below. The winery also made olive oil and I was shocked/awed to learn that it took about three olive trees to make a single bottle of olive oil – I guess that’s why it is always so expensive for very fine, legitimate olive oil. We also learned that we pay WAY too much for wine in the US – the vineyard offered locals a hose (like a gas pump) for filling up five liter drinking jugs of wine and for that privilege charged them three euros a liter…for that same wine in a bottle we were paying 25 Euros and that’s for only 3/4 of a liter. If I ever do move to Europe the accessibility of amazing, cheap wine may be my downfall.

The Grand Canal at Sunset (Venice, Italy)

“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.”

– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

The Grand Canal at Sunset (Venice, Italy)

The Grand Canal at Sunset (Venice, Italy)

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Venice picture but felt the need to go back through some images from our 2013 Italy trip (five cities in two weeks) over the weekend. I love reliving vacations through photos. This last trip to Paris we actually used the GoPro a bit and captured some video as well. Those were fun re-watching this weekend to. The sounds of the city bring back memories as well so we will certainly be using that more frequently.

The Bridge of Sighs (Venice, Italy)

The “Bridge of Sighs” located in Venice, Italy passes over the Rio de Palazzo canal and connects the ‘New Prison’ with the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace (The Doge of Venice is the leading authority in the city of Venice).

Built in 1600, the view from this spot (on the covered bridge) was the last glimpse of Venice that the convicts saw before their imprisonment (likely for the remainder of their lives). Thus, as criminals were led over the bridge they’d peer through the barred windows at this view of the Rio de Palazzo leading out to the Grand Canal and regret the actions they’d taken that led to this point of their lives – sighing as they made their way into the cells.

The Bridge of Sighs (Venice, Italy)

The view from the Bridge of Sighs (Venice, Italy)

Couples in Venice can often be found riding in gondolas under this bridge and kissing directly underneath it. Local legend (perhaps made up by the gondola industry? Which in my humble opinion is very overpriced) states that couples will be granted eternal bliss with a well-timed kiss at sunset under the bridge.