Friday, June 29, 2012

Assisi and Spello

I wrote this on our way to Rome, over a week ago, and for several days I didn't have enough air conditioned WIFI to sit and upload the pictures and post the blog, so it just sat on my iPad. The connection at Assisi only worked in the stiflingly hot lobby and they seemed to turn it on only sporadically. It was the same in Rome and Pompei and then in Sorrento we had WIFI in the rooms but the rooms have neither A/C nor fans and it is 34 degrees! I also have been delayed as I filled up my blogging storage space when I tried to upload this blog while I was in Sorrento and had to buy more from Google. It has been days since I paid for the the additional storage and thus far ( 4 days later and the day before I am to fly home) i still don't have the additional storage needed to upload more blog photos. I have decided to upload this blog with the pictures I have already uploaded and beg your indulgence to imagine the rest. I will upload a revised blog with pictures once Google decides to give me my storage.

Now, on to tell you about Assisi and Spello:

Our next destination, Assisi, is a short bus ride from Gubbio. We headed there on Thursday morning. After checking in at our hotel, which was the Hotel Trattoria da Elide, in the Village of Maria degli Angeli, just outside of Assisi, we took the bus up the hill to see the magnificent Basilica DI San Francesco. We had an tour given by one of the volunteers from the Francescan Order. The guide, a University Professor, was engaging and informative. We learned about the life of Saint Francesco and how he came to be a Saint to establish this order with so many followers all vowing to live their life as in the example given by Saint Francis and according to the rules established for the order. See this WIKI for more info.

It was excellent that we had someone to explain the fantastic frescoes which decorate the upper church. We were not permitted photos inside the Basilica but the history and architecure of the whole building was very interesting and beautiful. So beautiful that upon exiting the Basilica, someone asked the guide (a lay member of the Order), if he thought that Saint Francis would be embarrassed at the splendour and grandeur of the place.

The Basilica of Sant Franscesco actually is comprised of 3 churches built one on top of one another. Saint Francesco was born, died and was buried in Assisi and construction started on the first of the 3 churches, called the lower church, in the year he died. They buried the remains of the Saint at the front, in the limestone rock, 15 feet under the Alter. The lower church has a dark, cave like atmosphere without windows.

This church is built in the Romanesque style with round arches and the ceilings which are about as tall as the church is wide, also making it feel like a small space. Some time later they excavated under the lower church and built another church (neo Romanesque style) with the exposed the crypt of the Saint as the focal point. We were able to tour the crypt and see the final resting place of Saint Francis.

The Upper Church (shown above) is high and airy, built in the Gothic style, with many stained glass windows and frescoe covered walls. It is extremely beautiful and is meant to symbolize rising to heaven when ascended to from the lower, tomblike lower church. The story of creation is told on a series of frescoes on walls high above and around the perimeter of the church. Underneath these frescoes are another series of frescoes which depict the life of Sante Francesco. Having since seen the Sistine Chapple, it seems almost as grand.

Outside the Basilica, there is a garden with statue of the Saint when he turned back after setting off to war, supposedly having heard the word of God telling him to go back home and rebuild the Church. Our guide had a pragmatic interpretation of this. Apparently Frances was sick with tuberculosis and not able to carry on so was most likely told to go home by his commander. The statue does make it seem that he was unhappy and dejected, not like he had heard the word of God.

I have many beautiful pictures of Assisi which I will add when I can.

After we finished touring the town of Assisi we took the path down the hill to the Village. There is a brick path which leads from the Village up to the Basilica to facilitate the many Pilgrim's which come to see the remains of Saint Francesca. Funds were raised by "selling bricks" and inscribing the names of donorson the bricks.We took a picture of the brick that Serena's Grandparents donated.

I have photos of the path to add here.

The next day we took the train to Spello, another Umbrian hillside town. There was arranged a wine and olive oil tasting along with a 4 course lunch. The town was very pretty. I have never seen so many stone walls decorated with flowers in all of Europe!

This was one of the highlights of this section of the tour. I will add photos of Spello and the lovely lunch/wine tasting as soon as Google gives me my storage space.

I had my first visit to MacDonalds at Assisi. Interesting to see how they have upscaled in this town.

I have an interesting MacDonald's photo to add.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gubbio and the Bird Cage Ride

I am on my 2nd day in Rome as I post this, although I wrote it offline 2 days ago. Internet has not been easy to obtain here, free WIFI depends on having an Italian SIM card for identification purposes, so I have been dependant upon hotel WIFI, which seems to be flakey at best in the small owner-operated hotels we are staying in. Also, now that I am in Rome, there is scant time for blogging since I only have 2 days here. I will catch up when I can, but hard to believe that I have only 8 days before I leave Europe!

As I write this I am battling a terrible cold (in 38 degree temps!) and I have lost hearing in one ear - a complication of the cold, no doubt. We visited a pharmacy and they prescribed some sort of naturopathic medicine - 30 drops mixed in water from the left bottle 3 x per day and 25 drops from the right. Not sure if it is works g, I am on day 3 of this regime, but if it doesn't improve in a day or two I guess I shall seek a doctor. Going on a plane with an ear infection is likely to be very painful.

And so onto the Day 2 Gubbio Blog:

My 2nd day in Gubbio was full on sightseeing and a great Umbrian dinner.

There was a cable car ride up Monte Ingino to the Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo. There are tremendous views of the Apennines and countryside of Umbria at the top of the mountain.

My tour guide Serena had her 27th birthday while we were in Gubbio. Her parents came from Rome to join us in our trip up the mountain.

The alter in the Basilica which contains the remains of Sant Ubaldi, Patron Saint of Gubbio

According to Wiki:

Gubbio is home to the Corsa dei Ceri, a run held every year always on the 15th day of May, in which three teams, devoted to St. Ubaldo (the patron saint of Gubbio), S. Giorgio, and S. Antonio, run through throngs of cheering supporters (clad in the distinctive colours of yellow, blue and black, with white trousers and red belts and neckbands), up much of the mountain from the main square in front of the Palazzo dei Consoli to the basilica of St. Ubaldo, each team carrying a statue of their saint mounted on a wooden octagonal prism, similar to an hour-glass shape 4 metres tall and weighing about 280 kilograms.

The photo above shows the three 280 kilo ceris.

We had a beer on the patio before walking down the hill.

The Roman Ampitheatre seen from above. I visited it in the afternoon.

If you look closely the clock is actually a sun dial.

We had a great dinner at the hotel restaurant. But first we had drinks in the garden.

I am getting behind on these blogs. The next day we headed to Assisi, and as I write this 2 days later I am getting packed for our trip to Rome in the morning. I have some catching up to do!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gubbio and Wonderful Umbria

Umbria is in the center of Italy just to the lower right of Tuscany. We caught an early morning train from Venice and after 8 hours, 3 trains and 1 bus later we were in Gubbio. Gubbio is a wonderful Umbrian hill town but it is really hard to get to and so there are fewer tourists. That was a nice change from Venice, which was packed with people, made worse because it was so hot. It is great to be in a small village with views of the Umbrian countryside.

Map from Google Images

Our hotel, which was also a fabulous restaurant. Although they had tables set for about 100 places the night we had dinner there, we were the only patrons. I guess the state of the Italian economy had affected them a lot. The owner was a wonderful lady who came and shared some wine with us.

Looking down over the Umbrian Valley from the Piazza.

Gubbio is a walled City. This is one of the city gates.

In this area Saint Frances (as in "of Assisi") is big. Apparently, in Gubbio he talk,Ed the local wolves out of eating the farmers cows, or so the story goes.

We had the most scrumptious dinner at this little restaurant, hidden away on a little side street.

The food was spectacular and the wine excellent. A good time was had by all. We are one more day in Gubbio before heading to Assis. Tomorrow we take the "bird cage" up the mountain to see the Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo.

I am quite liking the sweet dessert wines dipped with biscotti


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wandering Venice

We had one more free day in Venice before we set off for Umbria and I opted to walk a circle around the city and to visit the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and climb the Clock Tower at St. Marco Square.

Venice is a series of islands really, there are canals which function as roads. The main area of Venice is dissected with canals, one main one - The Grande Canal cuts it in half but there are lots of little ones cris-crossing it as well. The whole of Venice is bounded by open water joined to the mainland by a long road over the water, like the one which joins Key West to Miami. I did a circle around the main bit of Venice. Aside from the time spent in the Museum and clock tower, I guess I was wandering for 4 - 5 hours. There wereswindler full views everywhere of canals, bridges and narrow winding walkways and no cars!

The following photos are from the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. There was the Wishing Tree by Yoko Ono. I wrote out my wish and placed it on the tree.

This is the place that Peggy Guggenheim's ashes - beside the site she used to bury her beloved dogs.

There were several Henry Moores displayed in the gallery. Toronto has a history with Henry Moore. His Archer is displayed at thenToronto City Hall. It generated some controversy at the time.

Tis statue was on the piazza facing the canal. Apparently Peggy was able to remove the phallus when Religious processions made their way down the Grande Canal.

St. Marco's Square and the clock tower.

A tea room at the side of the Square which offered Expresso for 6 £!

I took the follows g pictures from the top of the clock tower.

We had our "welcome dinner" that evening at a small restaurant near the hotel. It was an early night as we were to meet in the hotel the next morning at 6:30 to set off for Gubbio, which is in the center of Umbria.