A travelogue by Evelyn C. Leeper
Copyright 2010 by Evelyn C. Leeper

(My use of tenses may seem inconsistent here. That is because most of what I write will be in the past tense, but occasionally I am writing something before the fact, and it will be future tense. I could go back and adjust all these, but I suspect I won't.)

(The preceding paragraph is an example of this.)

This is a little different from most of our previous trips, in that it is an organized tour. In particular, it is with Road Scholar (previously known as Elderhostel). So I expect there will be a little less chaos and uncertainty, a little less strangeness, a little more in terms of lectures and education, and a lot more traditional tourist stops. We may well find ourselves, in Mark's term, "cathedraled out."

I am definitely "researched out." As preparation, I read a lot of the books on the suggested reading list provided by Road Scholar (formerly Exploritas, formerly Elderhostel)--well, actually by Trinity College (Connecticut), who does the educational part of the tour. The complete list (attached at the end as an appendix) had 49 books on it--presumably we were not expected to read all of them. And since all the books seem to cover the Renaissance or later (except for one historical novel by Colleen McCullough), if someone wanted to do any reading on the Etruscans or the Roman Empire, that would make the list even longer.

So I used a highly refined system to decide which to read: I decided to read all the books I had or my library had and if I still had the time and inclination after those, all the ones I could get through inter-library loan. So to some extent I was reading a random selection of books, but I have to say it did not impress me. There were only a couple of straightforward histories (none available in my library), but a lot of books about the "feel" of Italy and about Renaissance artwork. But in browsing the shelves for the books on the list, I ran across other books that seemed worth reading.

What I read included:

I also listened to the Teaching Company courses on ancient Rome (48 half-hour lectures) and on the Italian Renaissance (36 lectures), watched the one on Michelangelo (36 lectures), and listened to the UC Berkeley podcasts of their course on ancient Rome (54 lectures, varying in length).

The first problem of the trip, oddly enough, is packing. Ironically, it is harder to pack for a two-week trip than for a three-week one, particularly for a two-week group tour. For a longer trip, we pack less and plan on doing laundry at some point in the middle. For a shorter trip with less free time, this does not make sense, so we need to pack more. And of course, every trip seems to involve more and more electronics. For this trip, we are bringing the netbook (and its associated cables, etc.) and our iPods (and their associated cables, etc.), and our HP 200LXs (and their associated cards and card readers, etc.), but no GPS and no DVD player. I am bringing my cell phone, even though my plan does not work in Italy. Theoretically I could buy a SIM card there to use it, but it is more to have a way to call the limo on our return, since I think it may be getting harder to find pay phones at airports.

October 23, 2010: I had my usual pre-trip jitters. I am always panicked that I booked the flight for the wrong day, or I forgot to pack some critical item (of which there really are very few), or that my ATM card will not work, or that a meteor will hit the plane, ... Well, you get the idea. (I packed two house keys--in case I lost one.)

We seemed to be having great difficulty in syncing up the times on our watches, HPs, and iPods, until I thought to double-check the timezone.dat file on the HPs. Sure enough, Europe had at some point changed going back to standard time from the end of September to the end of October, but we still had the old data in our HPs. (Well, they are 15-year-old machines!) Correcting that file for the new dates solved our problems in that regard. Of course, we will give an hour while in Italy, since the change-over will occur on our trip. Then we will lose an hour flying back, and then gain that back in two days when we change over in the United States.

We are also landing an hour earlier than our tickets indicated, which may mean waiting around for our pick-up.

October 24, 2010: Breakfast was some sort of sandwich (which I skipped), a small pastry, orange juice, and coffee. The orange juice was red, and the coffee was espresso.

And, yes, we are waiting around for our pick-up. We tried changing money at the Banca di Roma ATM at the airport with our credit union ATM card, but the ATM claimed the card was not authorized for international withdrawals, so we will wait until later to change money. (This was our backup card, but this non-international thing is new--we used it to get money in Turkey when we were there.)

Our guide showed up about 7:20, but said we needed to wait for a couple more flights before we could go the hotel.

On the way to the hotel, and through our time in Rome, we saw an amazing amount of graffiti spray-painted on the walls. We also the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, a very distinctive building featured in the film Titus.

Our driver was completely inept at driving on one-way streets, and ended up dropping us--and our luggage--four blocks from our hotel. This was after he circled the same block four times, apparently hoping the one-way signs would change. So much for having our luggage handled for us from end to end.

Our hotel room is large, but has some drawbacks. There is almost no drawer space. And the Internet connectivity listed as an amenity on the materials we got costs €18 a day. (A euro is about US$1.40.) It is also purchasable by the hour for €3 here and slightly cheaper at the other hotels, which is not bad. I wish United States hotels that insist on charging would sell it by the hour.

The hotel room has a lighting system that requires your key card to be inserted in a slot by the door to turn on any lights. It saves electricity, but unless you get a second card, if one person expects to be out late, the other one cannot stay up for a while and then go to sleep. The toilet is designed to save water, with two different flushing buttons depending on how much water is needed.

Our rooms were not ready, so we checked our bags and went to the train station to change money. We could not use the ATM with our Bank of America ATM card because the network was down. (Whether the international part would ever be up is anyone's guess, I suppose.) So we ended up using an old-fashioned money changer with out debit card--not recommended, because the fees are ridiculous, but we had little choice.

We bought bus tickets and took the bus to St. Peter's Square (Piazza San Pietro). We will be back there with the group, but I wanted to see it on a Sunday morning.

The square did not have quite the colorful set of worshippers various authors have described. (And of course a fair proportion of the crowd were tourist such as ourselves.) The worshippers come for the Pope's noon blessing, but now they can also "attend" in some sense the Mass from inside the Basilica, via two giant television screens and a loudspeaker system.

There was quite a bit of live pageantry, however, since there was some sort of special procession with about ten bands, various groups with banners and in costume (including one of Jesus carrying the cross, Roman soldiers on horseback, and assorted bystanders), and a special shrine or statue at the end (it was hard to see over the crowd and through the incense). For this, they closed off some of the streets, so we had to walk a ways to catch a bus back.

Lunch at the hotel was okay: pasta with radicchio, chicken piccata, peas and mushrooms, and fresh fruit.

After lunch we rested a while then went to the orientation meeting, followed by a orientation walk of the neighborhood. We were given "whisperers", which were radio receivers that allowed us to hear what the guide was saying, even if they were at quite a distance, or speaking very quietly.

There was a welcoming reception, followed by dinner at La Gallina Bianca, which was very similar to lunch: pasta, this time with a tomato sauce, followed by lemon chicken and salad, followed by ice cream.

October 25, 2010: Breakfast provided a lot of choices: scrambled or hard-boiled eggs, bacon, salami, ham, several kinds of cheese, cereal, pastries, fruit, ... There was also a machine that dispensed espresso, cappuccino, caffé americano, caffé americano dek (decaf), milk, hot chocolate, or hot water. This means we do not have to eat the same thing every morning. (We later discovered that the scrambled eggs and bacon were at best lukewarm.)

Next was our lecture on Paleo-Christian Art and Architecture. I took notes, so here they are, turned in full sentences:

The Arch of Constantine near the Coliseum was built by Constantine in 315. In 313 he gave freedom to the Christians through the Edict of Milan. There were no churches until then.

There was a "Cult of the Emperor" before then but under Christianity, "Every man and woman is equal in front of God." Well, that is what the lecturer said, but clearly women were not equal or we would have women priests.

"Christianity started with the Empire" (in terms of years).

Constantine was extremely complex and puzzling. He was depicted as very Christian, but historians now say that his "conversion" was more political. One example of evidence is that the Arch actually framed the 35-meter tall Colossus of Nero, portrayed as the Sun God.

In 64 fire destroyed that area, and Nero built the Domus Aurea there. Hadrian moved statue nearer to Vespasian's Coliseum, and that is where the Arch framed it. The Flavian Amphitheatre then started to be called the Coliseum from the statue. By the 11th Century, the statue had disappeared.

Before Constantine, funerary items were the only Christian art/architecture.

Constantine built two of the four major churches of Rome: St. John Lateran and St. Peter (of the Vatican). (The other two are Santa Maria Maggiore and St Paul Outside the Walls.) St. John Lateran was built away from the center of city but inside the walls on Imperial land; St. Peter was outside the walls. In part this was because it was forbidden to bury people inside the walls, and St. Peter was were St. Peter was buried.

Of course, St. John Lateran has had a new facade since then, and St. Peter was entirely rebuilt.

There was also a pre-Renaissance papal palace that was replaced in the Renaissance.

St. John Lateran was restored in the 17th Century by Francesco Boromini, who left empty oval frames to show the original walls (but later someone put paintings in them).

The lecturer talked about the original ceiling "remains under the ceiling", but of course she means "over the ceiling". But that sounds wrong somehow.

The official name of St. John Lateran is "Christo Salvatore". And they are not even sure which Saint John is meant

St. Peter's Basilica is a Renaissance and Baroque church, taking 150 years (1506-1650s) to be built. (The cornerstone was laid by Julius II in 1506, and it was consecrated by Urban VIII in 1626, but it was not really finished until the 1650s.) In Italian there is a phrase, "la fabrica de San Pietro", which is the equivalent of our "Big Dig"--something that takes forever.

Julius II wanted to build a more beautiful church, and the historical content of the original church was not as important.

The Reformation and the Sack of Rome in 1527 changed people's attitudes about art and architecture. In the 17th century, the creative genius, particularly of St. Peter, was Bernini.

In designing churches, Christians copied the basilica, which was a civil building, rather than the temple, which was religious. Paganism is a religion where only the priests go inside; Christianity is a religion where the public is inside the building. (Strangely, Judaism started as the former type, but is now the latter.) The entrance on the pagan basilicas was from the long side, so on Christian basilicas they put it at the end opposite from apse to distinguish it. (The transept is longitudinal element (cross-piece) appearing later in Christian churches. The apse is the semi-circular niche. Now the apse usually faces towards Jerusalem, but this was a later development.)

Florence is entirely Renaissance, but Rome covers all periods from antiquity through Baroque, and beyond. The image of Middle Ages is France, and image of Rome is Renaissance and Baroque, but this is inaccurate.

Jesus never came to Rome, so why are the popes in Rome? Because Peter, the first Pope, lived and died here. In 1939 when they first excavated Peter's Tomb, they found some bones labeled "Peter is here". (In my reading, it appears that the provenance of the bones was not maintained very well after they were found!) The lecturer said, "We have evidence back to the second century" that this was Peter's Tomb, but I will note that the same can be said of the True Cross, etc.

Santa Pudenziana has the oldest extant representation in an apse (5th Century), with the ox representing Luke, the eagle John, the lion Mark, and the angel Matthew. The two women represent the Church of the Jews and the Church of the Gentiles (or Pudenziana and her sister Prassede, but less likely).

Santa Maria Maggiore (which we did not actually visit) is the most important church in Rome devoted to the Virgin Mary. It was built in the 5th Century, with the domed chapels added in Rennaissance and Baroque eras, and the whole enclosed in 18th Century. It is known for its early mosaics (though the apse vault mosaics were added at the end of the 13th Century). The canopy is 19th Century. It has a relic of a piece of the crib of Jesus.

Santa Prassede has a painting that shows a phoenix. In legend, the phoenix was the only bird that did not eat the forbidden fruit, so it could resurrect itself. It is known for the funerary chapel for the mother of a 9th Century pope, Theodora. Oddly, the pope referred to her as "Episcopa".

Frequently during the lecture we would hear a cacophony of car horns outside. What people say about Rome traffic is true.

After the lecture we did our "Church Walk" with Silvio as our guide.

Roman architecture (at least in the downtown area) is primarily a mixture of 3rd Century, 16th Century, and 19th Century. Some buildings, such as the Theatre d'Opera, are Fascist architecture, which Silvio also called "rationalism". According to him, Fascist architecture has no volume, just geometrical shapes.

True to our luck, the facade of Santa Pudenziana was covered with scaffolding. The main thing to see here was the 5th Century mosaic (restored in the 16th Century) of the Last Supper, though with only ten apostles. This is the mosaic with the symbols of the evangelists. It also depicts Roman buildings of the time when the mosaics were made, and apostles dressed as Roman senators. The latter is not accurate, but the former provides useful historical information. The arrangement is done in with curving lines (which gives a hint of three-dimensionality that did not reappear until the Renaissance).

Our next stop was Santa Prassede. Mosaics started with blue backgrounds, then switched to gold under the Byzantine influence, but here are back to blue (at least in the main section). Also here, the image is no longer three-dimensional, but flat. Silvio said that this was because the other world cannot be matched with this, so everyone is just spirit, and flat. He pointed out that images of Mary were identical in different mosaics, and said that this was an Eastern idea: the holy value of an image means it must be copied exactly.

The centerpiece of this church is St. Zenon's Chapel, built by Pope Paschal I to honor his mother, "Theodora Episcopa". Here the background is again gold.

They had postcards for sale, but postcards cannot do mosaics justice.

We passed a parking garage with lifts for some cars so as to create more space. Silvio said that it was a mechanic (auto repair shop) and that it was good to see a real business in downtown Rome, but he was wrong in this. Silvio complained several times of all the globalization and "touristification"--my word, not his--of Rome. A friend of his who lived in Rome complained that he could buy all the pizza and panini he wanted but could not find a shoe repair shoe or any other "real" business. This is, alas, true of many places. One reason I preferred Ankara to Istanbul in Turkey was that Ankara seemed much more real, with real people going about their lives, while Istanbul was full of people catering to the tourist industry.

And speaking of the tourist industry, one sees souvenir shops everywhere, with pretty much the same stuff in each. As an example of how false it all is, I will note that among all the magnets, statues, and other knickknacks of the Coliseum, St. Peter's Basilica, the Pieta, the Trevi Fountain, and so on, one also sees magnets, statues, and other knickknacks of Michelangelo's "David". First of all, the "David" is and has always been in Florence, not Rome. (It is as if souvenir shops in New York all sold magnets of the Golden Gate Bridge.) And second, there is an entire subset of "David" souvenirs which are souvenirs of only one part of the statue. One can but magnets, underwear, and even kitchen aprons which all feature that part of David's anatomy which, had the statue been in Rome during the papacy of Pius V in the 16th Century, would have had a fig leaf added.

Silvio also noted that there were no more Romans living in downtown Rome. It is too expensive for any except rich foreigners and rich politicians.

Our last stop was San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains). Their relic is a pair of chains, one which imprisoned St. Peter in Judea and one in Rome, which later miraculously linked together. But the reason everyone goes to this church is to see the Tomb of Pope Julius II. If you have not heard of it, that is because people usually refer it just the main figure on it, and call it Michelangelo's "Moses".

One of the things you first notice about the statue (and other famous statues and mosaics) is that they are fairly hard to see in the normally dim light. But for only one euro (or occasionally for half a euro), you can press a button that lights up the artwork with spotlights for two minutes. Or you can wait until someone else does.

The Tomb has the "Moses" (which was done relatively early in Michelangelo's career), the "Rachel" and the "Leah" (which were done quite a bit later), and "The Slaves". The "Moses" is indeed dramatic, but the "Rachel" and the "Leah" are actually quite worth studying as well.

One sees "SPQR" on manhole covers (and other public items). This does not mean they date back to the Roman Empire (though the sewer, or Cloaca Maxima, does), but that the phrase "Senatus Populus Que Romanus" has been retained to mean publicly-owned.

We had lunch at Cucina Nazionale. This was a strange lunch, consisting of a salad with mozzarella and tomato (along with iceberg lettuce, carrots, etc.), and then a salad of all the same ingredients except the mozzarella, but with some corn instead. I like salad, but two basically identical salads as the two courses is just plain weird. (One is reminded of Reginald Perrin's "balanced three-course meal of ravioli, ravioli, and ravioli.")

We then had some free time which we spent browsing the used book stalls along the street between the Diocletian Baths and the bus station (Via delle Terme di Diocleziano). We bought one book, an Italian translation of H. P. Lovecraft's "Kadath". (How can one translate Lovecraft? It is all in the language.)

After this was our lecture on art history (the Vatican), which was actually titled "The Renaissance in Rome".

The Vatican is Papal, but the Borghese Gallery (which we will also be seeing) is more intimate, based on the taste of one collector.

To some extent the beginning of the Renaissance in Rome dates from Pope Martin V Colonna (Pope 1417-1431), who ended the Great Schism of 1378-1417. (Colonna and Orsini were the two great Roman families of the time.) It took him three years to really re-establish the Roman papacy, so the Renaissance in Rome began in 1420. One of the major things Martin V did was to organize garbage collection in Rome in 1425.

Pope Eugenius IV (1434-1443) moved to Florence, where he and the rest of the Papal court saw the Renaissance there. Masaccio's "Trinity" dates from this time (1427-1428). Alberti's dissertion from this period on the education of the artists was the birth of the individual artist; before this the patron was the important person, and the artist considered a mere craftsman.

Protagoras's idea, that man is the mode and measure of all things, came to prominence.

Nicholas V Parentucelli's (1447-1455) deathbed epiphany about "majestic buildings, imperishable memorials and witnesses" and "noble edifices combining taste and beauty with imposing proportions would immensely conduce to the exaltation of the Chair of St. Peter" led to a burst of artistic activity. He also moved the Papacy from St. John Lateran to St. Peter.

Next came Sixtus IV Della Rovere (1471-84), the uncle of Julius II. He legislated eminent domain, which allowed even more building.

Alexander VI Borgia was Pope from 1492 to 1503, and if the 15th Century was Florence's era, the 16th Century was Rome's. He build the Via Alessandrina, the first straight road built in Rome since antiquity. (Speaking of which, again the auto horns are noisy!)

Julius II Della Rovere (1503-1513) has as his architect Bramante. The Italian term "terribilitá" (hard to translate, but "massive ego" comes close, I think) seems to be applied only to Julius II and Michelangelo. We start to see contrapposto and figura serpentinata.

By this point, however, the Renaissance was starting to falter. The Donation of Constantine was known to be a forgery, and the Sack of Rome by European troops in 1527 made it very difficult to retain an optimistic outlook towards the future.

Before dinner we went out for a walk and discovered that Santa Maria Vittorio was much closer than we thought. This is a very unimposing church on the outside (for starters, it is in dire need of a cleaning), but inside is a major sculpture, "The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa" by Bernini. This truly suffers from poor display. It is up on a very high pedestal, so that many of the details are completely obscured. And then it is lit in classical Italian church lighting, which is to say hardly any light at all unless you put a coin in. (Actually, I think the coin is optional, but you have to know to flip the switch.) Again, this is a piece of art that might be better seen on a DVD (where you can pan around it to appreciate the three-dimensionality). I am sure that Bernini never intended it to be viewed from the angle that it currently is.

Dinner was at Ristorante Terme di Diocleziano (Via del Viminale, 3a) and was lasagna, saltimboca and spinach, and panna cotta.

October 26, 2010: The first thing after breakfast was a talk on ancient Rome by our guide Silvio. Actually the title was "Metamorphosis of the Public Space in Ancient Rome".

Silvio claimed he used to be an archaeologist before dying, but because of starvation became a guide in this life.

The ancient Romans were "very rigorous in terms of symbolic language."

Silvio recommended a recent book, Rome: Day One (which is only in Italian).

There is a 1300-year history for ancient Rome, ending with Diocletian.

"Evolution is a positivistic term and implies there is a direction." "Metamorphosis" is a more classical term and does not imply direction. In the 16th Century, the Metamorphosis of Ovid was the only alternative explanation to the birth of Nature other than the Bible. Silvio thinks that Ovid's explanation is better for social issues than Darwinism.

Romans originated political squares. Athens had the Agora, but that was a commercial center.

Seven hills were formed from two volcanic explosions 300,000 years ago, which created a lot of stuff which later was cut for bricks.

The Quirinale and Esquiline Hills had tribes living on them. "Latins" lived on the flat areas between the Appenines and Albanian Hills.

Myth is a combination of the real and the fantastic, with the fantastic elements being ideological.

Romulus and Remus are the sons of Mars and a Vestal Virgin. Their uncle feels they are challengers, so sends them to be killed. They are sent floating in a basket down the Tiber, found by a she-wolf (embodiment of strength and fertility). Later they are found be a shepherd, etc. They grow up, kill their uncle, and restore their father to his throne. They set up two altars on the Aventine Hill, and observe the migrating birds to see which is favored. Romulus founded Rome on the Palatine Hill by creating a square oriented NSEW. When Remus challenged his authority, Romulus killed him (transition from kinship to political structure).

However, he is limited by the Tiber on the west and the tribes on the east, so to expand he needs to conquer the tribes on the east. He makes treaties with them which make them subject to him, a sort of Magna Carta. He sets up the Temple of Vesta, which is the fire of the fatherland, replacing all the tribal leaders' fires as the worship center. This focuses power on the king, rather than on individual tribes. His first big project, the Cloaca Maxima, drained the central swamp and is still in use.

In 509 B.C.E. Rome threw the kings out, and started the republic. The king's home became the home of the senate, moving the power to the citizens.

They started putting up statues to senators, but eventually there were too many statues in the square, and the Senate had to have them all removed.

So we have the Archaic period, the Regal period, and the Republican period. Eventually there was a split into parties, the patricians versus the people.

Julius Caesar created the Basilica Aemelia, and a square with the Temple of Venus, a statue of himself, and a bazaar. After his assassination there were ten years of revolution and eventually Octavian (Augustus) became emperor. He repaved the square in marble, built the Basilica Julia (representing a new justice), the Temple of Castor and Pollux (representing the Senate), and the Temple of Caesar. This was a reshaping of the political space which dismisses the power of Senate because they murdered the hero (Julius Caesar).

All of this change accepts conflict as part of history, and acknowledges/celebrates the victor. (Later we discover negotiation and compromise. And our war memorials tend to be more to honor those who fought and died for our side, than to celebrate a victory over the other side.) And all this reflects the origin of all Western republics, democracies, and politics.)

Next was a visit to the Museo Nazionale Romano at Palazzo Massimo, which covers ancient Rome. This is a nice change from Christian art.

Silvio claimed that the Latins showed real people, while the Greeks idealized them, but I think it may just be that the Roman ideal was different. He did admit that in full figures, the bodies may be idealized, but not the faces, so you can have an old man's face on a young, robust body. (The tendency of Romans to remove the heads of previous emperors from their statues and put their own on may be the cause of some of this as well.

One sees such mythological pieces as a "Wounded Niobe", and also more secular figures, such as a bronze standing athlete. The latter was a Roman copy of a Greek statue, but which has its center of gravity off-center, so it needs its spear to balance it, a transformation from the original style with the center of gravity under the body. There was also the "Seated Boxer", another statue inspired by Greek statues, but in a non-Greek posture.

One big difference in Greek and Roman art is not really visible: the Greeks knew who the artist was, but the Romans knew who the patron was.

There was "Discopolo" ("Discus Thrower") and "Sleeping Hermaphrodite", two more Roman copies of popular statues. (We later saw other copies in the Uffizi in Florence.) As we move towards the period of the Byzantine Empire, the images become more Christian and more standardized.

We saw a lot of mosaics, and also "intarsio" (inlaid work where the pieces are cut to the appropriate shapes rather than formed from identical squares). Silvio said it was like television: the smaller the pixel, the finer the resolution.

There was also a fresco of "Venere Seduto".

Lunch was at the hotel: lasagna, tuna salad, and a fruit tart. Lunches and dinners never include coffee, which many Americans are used to as the end of the meal.

The big event for this afternoon, and probably for the entire time in Rome, was our visit to the Vatican Museums. (It is in the plural, since it is considered to be many smaller individual museums, though there is a single admission for all of them. We visited several different "museums" with different names, but I am going to call them just the Vatican Museums.) This seems to be the big event for everyone--they get 20,000 visitors a day. That is over seven million people a year. (Our guide in Florence, talking about the crowds at the Vatican Museums, said, "If I had a heart attack [in the Vatican Museums] I would die vertical".)

It is obviously impossible to see everything, but I was a bit surprised that we skipped the entire Pinacoteca, or Picture Gallery. On the other hand, it would be very difficult to do just fifteen minutes or even a half hour there, which was probably all we would have had.

Instead we went first to the sculpture galleries. Here we saw the classical statues that inspired Michelangelo and other artists. The Apollo Belvedere, for example, has the same face as Christ the Judge in Michelangelo's "Last Judgement". But all the statues have fig leaves. These seem very unclassical, and indeed they are--they were added by Pope Pius V at the end of 16th Century. Well, he did not personally add them, but apparently he had a factory of sculptors doing nothing but carving fig leaves in all different sizes, and then going around knocking off any parts of the statue that would interfere with putting the fig leaves on. What I want to know is whether all these parts are saved in a sub-basement somewhere.

[Actually, the question of who added the fig leaves is a bit more complicated than the lecturers led us to believe. Before 1500, there were few fig leaves, and Adam and Eve in particular are fully nude. Then for a while, Adam had a leaf, but not Eve. (This sounds like the MPAA rules about what gets an R and what gets an X.) Gradually the fig leaf was adopted and got larger. At least one web site says, "The leaf is the curious reaction to the preaching of Savonarola, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, who had the shared belief in the impurity and sinfulness of human flesh." This reaction, in the form of the Counter Reformation, led to the edict of the Council of Trent, which forbade the depiction of genitals, buttocks and breasts in church art. It was Pope Paul IV in 1557 who mandated fig leaves on all new art. And it is claimed that most of the fig leaves that we see outside of the Vatican were put in place by order of Pope Innocent X. These were finally covered by Pope Pius IX in the 19th Century. Pope Pius V is not even mentioned.]

The tapestry are has a wonderful 1790s trompe l'oiel ceiling. It also has a "Resurrection" tapestry by Raphael, which means he did the design and a lot of weavers did the actual work.

The Map Room is not full of real maps hung on walls, but interesting maps painted on the walls.

Then came the Raphael rooms. I noticed that the painting of Leo III seems to have a lion face hidden in the hair of the left-most seated figure in red. When I mentioned this, other people saw it too, including our guide Rachel, and I got the impression she had not seen it before.

The last part of the Vatican Museums was the Sistine Chapel. This was absolutely packed with people, and dimly lit (lit only by the natural light through the high windows). I realize that seeing art in its original setting is supposed to be better than seeing a photograph in a book, but I am just not convinced that this is always true.

After the Museums came St. Peter's Basilica, for which the main feature from an art standpoint was Michelangelo's "Pietà". The Teaching Company course on Michelangelo talks at length about this statue, and it particular how poor it is displayed. It was intended to be lit from above by natural light, which would put the Mary's face in shadow and highlight Jesus's face. Instead, it is now lit straight on, highlighting Mary's face and putting Jesus's face in shadow. This changes the whole emphasis of the statue.

It seemed as though there was too much empty time at the end before the bus was due back to pick us up, partly because the Mass being said meant we could not see the front part of the basilica. And even if we knew that in advance, we could not see just ten or twenty minutes of the Pinacoteca.

We did (unthinkingly) break a custom here. We had bought a "typical" tchatchka in every country we have visited (even Gibraltar, where we bought a stamp and save two coins). But we were in Vatican City such a short time and primarily with the group that we really did not even think about it. I suppose we could have bought a souvenir in the Vatican Museums, but that violates one of the rules, which are inexpensive, small, and something a local might use. I somehow do not think the cardinals drink coffee from Pietà mugs or carry Sistine Chapel key fobs. Other than in the Vatican Museums, I do not think there are any shops in the Vatican--all the souvenir shops are on the Via de Conciliazione (a.k.a. Mussolini's Road) in Italy (Rome). And most of the souvenirs are probably made in China. One could argue, I suppose, that all the Catholic churches in Italy are part of the Vatican in some sense, so I may see if I find something in a church elsewhere. (One could also argue that the Vatican is not a true country or territory in the traditional sense, so it is exempted from our custom.)

Rather than return to the hotel by coach, we walked to Piazza Navone, then the Pantheon, then the Trevi Fountain, and finally back to our hotel.

Along the Tiber in front of Castello Sant' Angelo are more bookstalls of the sort that were near the Diocletian Baths, as well as a lot of souvenir stands.

The Piazza Navone is a large elongated piazza that used to be a racetrack. It is now full of statuary and tourists.

The Pantheon is an ancient temple than somehow survived the destruction of the pagan temples under the early Christian emperors, and was instead converted to a church. It is unusual in being circular, rather than the classic basilica shape, and the hole in the center of the enormous domed roof, which was originally the only source of light, is still open to the elements.

The Trevi Fountain is impressive, even after dark (since it is lit up), but also a bit over-done. Tradition says that if you throw a coin into it over your shoulder, you will return to Rome. We did not, at least in part because we have somewhat concluded that we do not need to return to Rome. Had we had more time in Rome on this trip, that would have been good, but we have gotten the feeling that another trip to Rome is unnecessary. There are, it is true, several things we would have liked to see--the Ghetto, more of the Roman ruins, the Etruscan Museum, and the Baths--but they are not enough to warrant a separate trip.

Dinner was in a pizzeria across from the Trevi Fountain, where we got three slices: pepperoni, mushroom, and eggplant. It is sold by the gram, and cost €7.

We returned to our hotel. We had hoped to take a bus back, but never managed to find a bus stop until we were only a few blocks from the hotel, so we did a lot of walking this day!

October 27, 2010: We started with a walk to Forum and Coliseum (guided by Rachel Potts). It was not as far as I thought, and it was all downhill, so it was not bad.

Many of the buildings have only fragments left, but the Senate building remained intact. (They even found the original floor when they removed a more modern floor that had been added.) The building consists of a central court and three broad shallow steps where Senators' portable chairs were set. Voting in the Senate consisted of the Senators moving to one side or the other, presumably without their chairs. It is not a lot of tiered seats in a circular layout like you see in most movies. It is a very tall building, enough to have three or four floors, but the height is solely to enhance its importance. There are only a few windows high up (and the door), but this seems sufficient to light the interior. I suppose that having a tall building and a high window means that the light is not blocked from coming in by neighboring buildings.

By the way, Caesar was not assassinated here, but at the temporary Senate, which had been at the Theater of Pompeii in Piazza Argentina. (They were making repairs to this Senate building at the time.) The temple to Caesar is here, however, a few yards away, where Caesar's funeral pyre had been (and where Marc Antony spoke), and people still leave flowers at it. (We call him "Caesar", but his full name was "Gaius Julius Caesar" and the name "Caesar" actually is used for many later emperors as well. For example, Augustus is really "Augustus Caesar".)

There is the Septimius Severus Arch of Triumph (celebrating triumph over Parthia). Altogether, only three arches survived out of thirty-four originally erected in the Forum. One reason for the destruction of arches, buildings, etc., is nature (earthquakes, weather, etc.), another is the desire of Christian emperors to eradicate the pagan past, but a third is that it was easier to use the ancient buildings as a source of building materials than to travel long distances to quarry more rock or make more bricks. Ancient Rome at its height had a million people; when it shrunk to 25,000 or less there were a lot more buildings than were needed, so people just used them to repair other buildings, or to build themselves a new church, or whatever. There was no sense that history was important, that historical buildings should be preserved, etc. This lasted a long time--when the current St. Peter's Basilica was built, there was no hesitation in tearing down the thousand-year-old original church that had been built over Peter's tomb. Now, of course, every time they try to extend the Metro (subway) in Rome, it gets halted because they hit Roman ruins that cannot be touched.

All that remains of the Temple of Saturn is the front. This, according to Rachel, contained the treasury of Rome.

There are the remains of the curved exterior of the Temple of Vesta. It was believed that when the fire in the temple went out, that would be the end of Rome. But Rachel could not tell us when the fire actually did finally go out. (She said no one knows, but I wondered if that was true, and it turns out it is not. According to, "The sacred flame was put out in 394 C.E. by Theodosius I after he won the Battle of the Frigidus, defeating Eugenius and Arbogast.")

There is a Temple of Romulus, but it is to the son of the emperor Maxentius rather than the founder of Rome.

The last big monument in the Forum area was the Arch of Titus, celebrating Rome's victory in the First Judean War (which Rachel said was 70 C.E., but actually did not end until 73 C.E. when Masada was captured.) The Second Judean War was the Bar Kochba Revolt from 132 C.E. to 135 C.E., which ended with the Diaspora of the Jews. (Rachel also said that there were three Judean Wars, but I think that is wrong.)

There are also some columns which are the remains of the largest temple in the Roman Empire, dedicated to Venus and Rome. This was actually two temples, back to back, so I am not sure it is fair to count it as one and claim it is the largest.

We then crossed over to the Coliseum. (This apparently used to be spelled Coliseum, but since it was named after the Colossus of Nero, "Coliseum" is more correct.) Approaching this from the Forum gives you a better setting, but it is not the classic view across modern traffic that one usually sees in the books, movies, etc.

The monuments continue here with the Arch of Constantine. There are also photogenic Roman centurions with whom one can have one's picture taken (with one's own camera) for €2. Mark saw one talking on a cell phone, which would have made a bizarre picture, but we were afraid if we took a picture, he would insist on being paid.

The Coliseum had 76 gates for the audience, plus two for the emperor, one for the gladiators' entrances, and one "Gate of Death". Apparently they could empty the entire Coliseum in fifteen minutes. Entry was free, but everyone had a "ticket", a piece of pottery with their gate number on it.

We went through an access tunnel, which looks like where Caligula was killed in I, Claudius, but he was actually killed in one of the underground tunnels.

The Coliseum had a wooden floor. The first year it was built it was just built on the ground, and could be filled with water for naval battles. Then the underground structures and passageways were built, and naval battles were staged elsewhere. What was included in this construction was 52 elevators, used to raise scenery and animals to the floor of the Coliseum.

The entertainment followed a set schedule. In the morning were bestiare (animal versus animal fights), followed by hunting scenes. The dead animals were eaten, either by people or by other animals--nothing was wasted.

There was then a noon break, during which public executions (mostly of murderers) were held. These were usually either ad bestias (by animals) or with the gladius (reserved for citizens because it was a more noble death). Sometimes these were given mythological settings (e.g., the victim is chained to a rock like Andromeda).

Rachel mentioned that Peter was crucified here, upside down. This got me thinking: can you actually crucify someone upside down? In general, crucifixion was by relying on the weight of the body (tied, not nailed) to the crosspiece causing suffocation. If you hung someone upside down, it is not clear how this would work.

In the afternoon were the gladiator games. There were usually set pairings, such as the net and trident against the short sword. Gladiators usually fought no more than four times a year, since even the winner needed recovery time.

Needless to say, Mark Twain's "transcription" of a playbill from the Coliseum does not match most of this:

Engagement of the renowned

The management beg leave to offer to the public an entertainment surpassing in magnificence any thing that has heretofore been attempted on any stage. No expense has been spared to make the opening season one which shall be worthy the generous patronage which the management feel sure will crown their efforts. The management beg leave to state that they have succeeded in securing the services of a

such as has not been beheld in Rome before.

The performance will commence this evening with a

between two young and promising amateurs and a celebrated Parthian gladiator who has just arrived a prisoner from the Camp of Verus.

This will be followed by a grand moral

between the renowned Valerian (with one hand tied behind him,) and two gigantic savages from Britain.

After which the renowned Valerian (if he survive,) will fight with the broad-sword,

against six Sophomores and a Freshman from the Gladiatorial College!

A long series of brilliant engagements will follow, in which the finest talent of the Empire will take part

After which the celebrated Infant Prodigy known as

will engage four tiger whelps in combat, armed with no other weapon than his little spear!

The whole to conclude with a chaste and elegant

GENERAL SLAUGHTER! In which thirteen African Lions and twenty-two Barbarian Prisoners will war with each other until all are exterminated.


Dress Circle One Dollar; Children and Servants half price.

An efficient police force will be on hand to preserve order and keep the wild beasts from leaping the railings and discommoding the audience.

Doors open at 7; performance begins at 8.


Diodorus Job Press.

Games were held on feast days. Depending on the emperor's whim, there were between 61 and 171 feast days a year.

We walked around the first level, but did not go to second or third levels, or to the underground areas. (I am not sure if the latter are open to the public.) Had we been on our own we probably would have felt obliged to climb all those stairs, but I cannot say I minded not doing all that climbing. We probably push ourselves a lot more when we are on our own, wanting to see everything and not waste a moment.

According to the guides and other tourists, the Coliseum (and the Vatican Museums) used to be far less crowded. Was this because they had not been discovered yet, or because travel was more expensive? The latter seems unlikely, since when we were traveling in the 1990s, air travel was fairly inexpensive (it has gone up a lot since then). On the other hand, maybe in Europe airlines like Ryanair have made a big difference.

The guide had a great book, Rome Then and Now by "Rome Then and Now" by Giuseppe Gangi, which had pictures of various ruins, and then a plastic overlay for each showing what it looked like back then. The new edition came with a DVD and was €25. We checked and discovered that we can get a used copy on-line much cheaper, and we would not have to carry it back. It would be the previous edition, I think, without DVD, but I am not that interested in the DVD anyway. (It was labeled as both NTSC and PAL--I am not sure how that works.)

Lunch was at the Osteria Il Gladiatore across from the Coliseum, where we had rigatoni with tomato sauce, roast pork and potatoes, and tiramisu. Then we walked a few blocks to where the bus could pick us up to return to the hotel.

The afternoon's activity was the Borghese Gallery, but first we had a talk on "Treasures of the Borghese Gallery" (actually titled "Baroque Rome") by Antonella DeMichelis. This was basically a chronology of popes:

Under Pope Paul III Farnese (pope 1534-1549), the Council of Trent in 1545 ended the Renaissance by giving a strict definition to what it means to be Catholic. This Counter-Reformation defines Baroque.

Biago da Cesena hated Michelangelo's "Last Judgement" ("to have painted in such a respectable place to have painted so many naked figures immodestly revealing their shameful parts that it was not a work for a chapel but for a bathhouse or house of ill-fame"). So pagan and secular themes were forbidden; churches were made prominent; facades were serious and decent.

Pope Paul IV Carafa (1555-1559) built the Roman Ghetto.

Pope Pius IV Medici (1559-1565) built the Borgo Pio, and the Via Pia (the first straight Rome in Rome since ancient times).

Pope Pius V Ghislieri (1566-1572) built Pantani.

Pope Paul V Borghese (1605-1623) was the first Baroque pope. (I don't quite understand this, if the Council of Trent in 1545 basically defined Baroque.) After this the papacy will become Italian, and in specific Roman. There were still protests, but they were anonymous notes left on the Pasquino and Marforio statues in the Piazza Navone and the Campodoglio.

The canonizations in 1622 of Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, Filippo Neri, and Theresa d'Avila cemented the Church's attitude.

As far as the Borghese, the family was powerful enough that they could just take what they wanted. The "Deposition" just disappeared one night from the Church where it had been and reappeared in the Borghese Gallery.

At one point (in the 19th Century, I assume) Baron de Rothschild tried to buy Titian's "Sacred and Profane Love", offering more than the value of all the other works and the building for it, but was turned down.

Other major works include Caravaggio's "Bacchus" and "Madonna dei Palafrenieri" and Bernini's "Apollo and Daphne". In the latter, different angles show different times in the story (according to Antonella).

The Borghese Gallery is very controlled in terms of time. Our entry was for 5PM and we had to leave by 7PM. In our case, we also had to leave then because the Borghese closed at 7PM, but everyone gets only a two-hour slot, then they are cleared out and the next batch allowed in. There are two floors. It used to be that the second floor was all paintings and the first all sculpture, but they have moved some of the paintings downstairs to display them better.

One painting that struck us was Zucchi's "Allegoria della scoperta dell'America" (1585?), which had a rather fanciful view of what America looked like. Another was Caravaggio's "Madonna dei Palafrenieri", which seemed to be a response to Michelangelo's very young Mary in the "Pietà" (Saint Anne is very old), and also has the odd image of Jesus stepping on Mary's foot which is in turn stepping on snake. Another painting had Saint Jerome with modern leaf books and memento mori.

One problem was that the Borghese may be a very historical setting for these artworks, but it is poorly lit and has lots of reflections and glare on the paintings. This seems to be a problem in most of the museums, made worse by the crowds that make it hard to position yourself in an optimal location.

Dinner was at the hotel.

October 28, 2010: This morning was free time. We had planned to go to the Etruscan Museum, but we realized that it was actually quite a bit further than it looked on the map and there was no bus that went there from the station near us. We did not want to get lost when we needed to catch a train, so we decided to stay nearby instead.

Our first plan was to see the Diocletian Baths. Our very old tour book said that they were being restored, but parts should be open by 1999. Well, here it is 2010, and they are still entirely closed. (In fact, even the "Planetarium", which had been open, is now closed.)

The one part that is open is Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, a part that had been converted into a church designed by Michelangelo. The church was okay, but the really interesting thing there was an exhibit, "Galilei Divine Man", sponsored by the World Federation of Scientists and apparently based on a book by Antonio Zichichi.

It was full of quotes like "Science means to decode the Logic of He who created the World. And to give everybody the proof that Galileo Galilei is the true Father of Modern Science." And it had a lot of quotes by Galileo himself. For example, the main contention seemed to be that Galileo was a very religious man, so it would quote him as having said, "I am certain that nothing which concerns the government of human affairs is neglected by Divine Providence," and that he thought that God would use only perfect circles (not ellipses a la Kepler).

Galileo the first to discover the "first fundamental signs of the Creator carved into 'vulgar' matter." He wrote, "God could have made birds fly with bones of heavy gold, with veins full of living silver, with flesh heavier than lead and with small heavy wings, and in doing so He would have demonstrated His power further;" but He did it otherwise to tech us "simplicity and easiness." That is, God made a rational universe, not an irrational one; the universe is not arbitrary--there are rules.

Galileo also wrote, "Take note, theologians, that, in your desire to make propositions concerning the movement or fixity of the Sun and the Earth, a mattter of faith, you expose yourself to the risk of having eventually to condemn for heresy those who assert, that the Earth is fixed and that it is the Sun that moves: eventually, I say, at such a time as it might be sensibly of necessarily demonstrated that the Earth moves and the Sun stands still." (Opere VII, 541) There were also various statements from Catholic leaders on Galileo, such as "Science and faith are both gifts of God," and "man could perish from the effects of technology that he himself develops, not from the truth that he discovers by means of scientific research." (Pope John Paul II)

A quote from Pope Benedict XVI seems to be saying first that math is invented, and then that math is discovered, not invented.

The pendulum and discussion of inclined plane next to the Confessional reminded me of the Foucault Pendulum in the Church of Peter and Paul in Leningrad, but to a different purpose. (In Leningrad, the idea was to replace religion with science; here the idea is that they can co-exist.)

There are errors here, though. An inertial frame of reference is described as being about relativity. And of relativity, they say, "The taste of coffee is a purely electromagnetic effect of Nature. On board a supersonic jet, despite its high speed, the taste of coffee does not change." Obviously this is intended somewhat facetiously, but I will point out that the coffee one gets on supersonic jets (or at least the ordinary jets) does not taste like the coffee at home.

There are also a lot of typos (uncapitalized words that should be capitalized, missing letters, etc.) and bad translations into English. You would think that an expensive display like this in an important church would have better translation and proofreading. The church itself also has an "horologue", which is a sort of clock/calendar line along the floor where one presumably sees where the sun falls through a given window to be able to tell the time. (It is claimed to have been the official clock of Rome until they switched to using a cannon fired at noon (though they do not say how the cannon was calibrated.).

After this we went to Santa Maria Maggiore, which supposed had amazing early mosaics. It may have, but they were so high up, and poorly lit, that even with binoculars they were impossible to see very well. (Again, you could put a coin in to light at least some of them up better for a couple of minutes.) The guidebook mentioned the baldicchino, but Mark decided he was going to call it a chuppa instead.

One thing I wish I had brought was a Latin-English dictionary in order to read all the inscriptions in the churches.

For lunch we decided to have something other than Italian food, so we went to a döner kebab place. Mark has a teller kebab (he ordered an iskander kebab but the guy did not understand him), I had a kebab panini, and we shared a Coke Light (about the only diet drink available besides bottled water). There was even Bollywood TV going! This lunch cost us €11 total.

We returned to the hotel, collected our hand luggage (our main suitcases had been picked up earlier and were being taken by van to Florence), and went to the train station to catch our train to Florence.

If we had had more time in Rome that would have been good--there is more to see--but neither of us think we really want/need to return.

We took the train to Florence. It took about an hour and a half, and our hotel was a fifteen-minute walk from the station. By choosing hotels close to the train station, Road Scholar saves on transportation time and costs, because they do not need to hire buses to take people to and from the station. And in Europe, there are always a lot of hotels near the train station, because people use the trains.

After checking in, we had our lecture on "Medieval Florence and the Arts" by Marco Ceccarani, our local/art guide for Florence and Venice. He is a professor of art at the university level, so is obviously very knowledgeable.

The first point was that the Renaissance in Florence was more than just Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

Florence played a fundamental role in the history of Italy, which was not unified until 1861 (next year being the 150th anniversary) by Savoy from Turin, Garibaldi from the south, and the help of the French Army. The main players were Garibaldi, Prime Minister Cavour, and King Victor Emmanuel II. But even then Venice and Rome were still missing. Venice joined in 1866 and Rome in 1870.

In 1861 Turin/Torino became the capital, but people felt that it was more like that put the capital in France, so in 1865 it was moved to Florence/Firenza. The when Roma/Rome joined in 1871 it was moved there. So in less than ten years, the capital changed three times--just like the United States. Moving the capital to a city means knocking down the old buildings there to put up government buildings, so Florence and Rome both lost a lot of older buildings in these transitions. There was a long talk about the loss of older buildings in general with St. Peter's Church as an example.

Florence is known as the home of Dante, Petrarch, Boccacio, Machiavelli, Vespucci, Verrazano, and Galileo. Marco claimed that Italian has not changed since Dante, and thus is the oldest language in Europe. (I suspect that Icelandic is even older.) On the other hand, Firenze is one of the youngest Italian cities (only 2000 years old). (And of course Venice is even younger.)

Marco said that the Romans conquered the world because they were tough and ignorant. Firenze was a city built by the Romans from nothing, like Canberra or Brasilia.

Every region has a patron saint, a "national" holiday, an historical symbol, and an historical color. Rome is Peter & Paul, June 29, the she-wolf, and yellow and red. Florence is John the Baptist, June 24 (with fireworks), the lily, and purple (violet). (Venice is St. Mark, obviously, but Marco never listed the rest.)

Then we had our orientation walk to the Piazza della Republica, which ended (for us) with a stop at Libreria della Spada, a bookstore near the hotel. It seems to specialize in remaindered and used art books, with some as much as 70% off. There was a great book, The Triumph of the Baroque, with a list price of €50 (US$70), selling for a little under €15 (US$21).

Dinner was at the hotel, and was farfalle with gorgonzola, salad, chicken with tomato sauce (very salty), and a fruit cup.

October 29, 2010: We started with a walk to Duomo area and a visit to the Opera del Duomo and Bargello Museums with our local guide, Marco Ceccarani. "Duomo" means "cathedral" (from "domus" or house), rather than "doe".)

The Baptistry is octagonal, supposedly because Jesus was JC resurrected on the eighth day after creation. (I do not understand this.) The Cathedral has been emptied out to put all the art work in the museum, where people have to pay to see it. This means we can skip the Cathedral, and it also means they are also much better lit in the museum than in the cathedral.

The Plague struck Florence in 1347-1348, and the pre-Renaissance Golden Age was the late 13th Century through the early 14th Century. Key figures were Arnolfo di Campio, Dante, Giotto, and Brunelleschi. Brunelleschi is buried inside cathedral, the only artist so honored. (His statue in the square is looking at the cathedral.)

In the Opera Museum of the Cathedral, Marco said it was more important or worthwhile to focus on a few pieces rather than cataloguing everything.

Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) was one of greatest popes (according to Marco, probably based on Boniface's support of the arts). He made 1300 the first Holy Year. These used to occur every 50 years (copying the Jubilee Year from the Old Testament), then every 33 years (the length of time Jesus lived), and now 25 years (of no particular symbolic significance). There was also a special Holy Year in 1984. All these seem very artificial and more a way of promoting the Church (and tourism/pilgrimages to the Vatican) than anything else.

All this was a lead-in to a statue of Boniface VIII by Arnolfo. We also saw Arnolfo's "Madonna with Shining Eyes", done by inserting rock crystal in the eye sockets.

Florence was actually very anti-clerical, but the Church still had power. The Ghibelines supported a separation of church and state, while the Guelphs supported a theocracy. Dante ran afoul of the popes and found himself permanently exiled. He died in Ravenna, and now Florence wants him back. As Marco said, "Italians are great at forgiving people after they are dead."

One of the main attractions of this museum is Michelangelo's "Florence Pietà" with Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Nicodemus, the only man in any of Michelangelo's "Pietà"s. He made it when he was in his mid-70s (he lived to 89), and originally intended it as his funeral monument. Then one day he suddenly decided it was bad, so he picked up a hammer and starting hitting it until someone stopped him. The result is something much more nonfinito than the St. Peter's Pietà. It is surprising it survived at all; Michelangelo did not want people to see preliminary or unfinished work, and burned a lot of his papers of preliminary sketches of unfinished works. This would seem to imply that some of his nonfinito works must be intentional, but apparently not this piece.

Donatello's "Mary Magdalene" was a complete surprise. It looked like a very modern--well, early 20th Century--work, not early Renaissance (1455). It is made of wood, which was a common material in the Middle Ages, but not Renaissance, when bronze and marble were more common. But Marco said that "wood [was a] more appropriate material to express this emotion".

Donatello was considered a secondary artist in 19th and early 20th Centuries, then it was discovered that he was a genius. He had "a very questionable private life" but was supported by the Medici so wasn't personally harmed. (This is similar to Caravaggio.) However, the Church controlled the educational system, so it suppressed the study and knowledge of Donatello and Caravaggio. Marco described him as the first gay revolutionary artist, which at that time was worse than being a serial killer. Donatello was rediscovered (rehabilitated?) by Bernard Berenson. Berensohn was heavily biased toward Florence, and is quoted (by Marco, anyway) as having said, "Before Giotto, barbarians; after Michelangelo, the apocalypse." The Medieval and Baroque periods were garbage to Berensohn. Well before Berensohn, Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects said pretty much the same thing.

Of the statue itself, Mark thinks that the face looks masculine. As Marco put it, the ravages of her former life are what is evident, and forgiveness doesn't help erase these.

Donatello began a new wave of pagan art (or at least non-Christian art), stressing the enjoyment of physical and material pleasures. There are cantorias (choir boxes) in marble by Donatello and Luca de la Robia that illustrate this. (In the museum, Luca de la Robia's sculptures were reproduced and the originals hung lower down in museum, but not Donatello's.) Marco feels that Donatello presages Freud in digging into the human soul and finding the darkest nature. Unlike earlier works, the works of these Donatello and de la Robia have emotion showing on people's faces. This inspired later artists (Donatello lived a century before Michelangelo).

The angels on de la Robia's cantoria look more like sensual, sexy cupids than angels. (Marco described them as maliciously smiling.") I thought that de la Robia also had a great sense of motion, of giving the sense of capturing an instant rather than of recreating a posed composition.

When looking at these, Marco noted, we must remember our distance from Greek culture, in particular our attitude toward pedophilia versus the Greek. And we need to recognize the Church's distinction between "natural nudity" and "criminal nudity" (nuditas naturalis vs. nuditas criminalis). Nudity is the dimension of Hell so nudes in Hell are acceptable. However, Michelangelo put nudes in Heaven as well in his "Last Judgement", hence the outrage. Adam and Eve in the Garden can be nude, but not the children of Israel dancing around the Golden Calf. (And whichever type of nudity it is, there seems to be no hair involved for the man, and if for the women, only as a slight shadow.) The Renaissance artists often ignored these rules and had paintings and sculptures than emphasized spontaneity and sensuality. The Renaissance was a rebirth of the free art of the Greeks and Romans.

And it started with sculpture rather than with paintings. The Medici thought that statues were superior to paintings, and so what they were proudest of in the Uffizi, for example--the statuary in the halls--most tourists today ignore as they rush to see the paintings. (The three major Florentine Renaissance artists are Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci.)

One room had the original panels of the Bell Tower. These were from the age of Giotto, before Donatello, and are actually a sort of encyclopedia. One set shows the seven sacraments (baptism, confirmation, penance, eucharist, marriage, holy orders, unction). Another shows the industrial arts such as weaving, building, etc.

The Golden Doors of the Baptistry are in restoration, but there are exact galvanoplastic copies on the Baptistry.

Next was the Bargello Museum. This is in the oldest palace of Florence and is its oldest secular architecture. (The Palacio Vecchio, or "Old Palace", is actually newer. It was originally built in the 1250s. Bargello is a modern name (well, 1550s or so), and means "military supervisor". It was the first city hall, in a political and judicial sense. From 1250 to 1400 there was a lot of political unrest, and hence a lot of destruction and rebuilding.

The staircase here is the most famous Italian staircase (it shows up on wrappers, etc., including one with Dante and Beatrice which is totally inaccurate). Hence the building would be important even without the contents.

Originally, there were frescoes showing the victory of the Medicis over their opponents, but the pope made the Medici destroy them.

In 1786 the Loren Family ended public executions in Tuscany. (Marco says that they were avante garde in this.) 1865 ended the Bargello's use as a prison and it became a museum; many paintings of the Uffizi were originally here. The first exhibit held here was "Art in Florence in the Age of Dante" (another example of trying to appease the spirit of Dante). Currently there is an exhibit which ends in January, "Rustici i Leonardo", which is the first time some of these works have been in Florence in five hundred years, in particular Leonardo's "St. John" (on loan from the Louvre).

Leonardo is often put in opposition to Michelangelo, and there is a "profound generational difference". They also had opposite ides of art. To Leonardo, painting was the "most supreme" form of art; to Michelangelo, painting is the lowest step of the staircase of art. Michelangelo always signed himself "Michelangelo, sculptor", and said, "The more painting looks like sculpture the better it is; the more sculpture looks like painting the worse it is." But to Leonardo, "The eye is the window through which the soul looks at the world." Michelangelo was very limited, but Leonardo is encyclopedic (working not just in art, but also in technology, science, etc.).

Michelangelo only painted when he was forced to (e.g., the Sistine Chapel and one other painting currently in the Uffizi. He refused landscapes ("the matter of old lettuce and stupid men"). Leonardo saw one goddess, Mother Nature, and said, "Painting is the ability of the artist ... to create life from light thru darkness."

The painting by Leonardo was of John the Baptists and the face of John is hermaphoditic, which was at the time considered by artists as the image of perfect beauty.

Michelangelo was also more criticized (e.g., for the nudity in "The Last Judgement", for his plan for St. Peter's Basilica). By the way, when in 1980 the Japanese paid for the restoration of "The Last Judgement", one agreement was to rediscover and uncover the nudity in it, but they discovered that the plaster had actually been scratched to prevent restoration.

Finally, Marco said, "What can we say about Leonardo? We should shut up and study."

One problem with a group tour (or even just a guided tour in a museum is that you cannot stop to look at something "off-topic" that interests you. In this case, we would have loved to have more time to examine Pietro Francavilla's "Jason", but, no, that was not on the curriculum.

Instead we spent time studying Donatello: his marble "David", his marble "St. George", and his bronze "David" (not that these were not worthy of study, of course). Donatello was discovered by Cosimo de Medici. Cosimo was fairly smart--knowing that dictators are eventually killed by lower classes, he decided to make them happy by a jobs program. The result was that the Medici were opposed by other rich families, but supported by the masses. Cosimo was a great talent scout, with a great sense of art. He wanted statues by Donatello in his park, and ended up with a bronze "Judith and Holofernes", and a bronze "Mercury". According to Marco, the "David" is considered a Christian statue. But what does David have to do with the New Testament? Nothing, according to Marco. This is not entirely true--he was an ancestor of Jesus, or at least of Joseph. But David is also a good young man who kills a bad old man, so David represents Christianity, and Goliath represents evil.

Artistically, the marble "David"'s emphatic position is more modern than statues up to that time, and was first seen in Donatello. It was, in fact, the start of contrapposto. (I will note here that the talks and lectures do give me a much better appreciation of Donatello, and of icons, and of a lot of other artistic elements.) I will add my own observation that the feet are much better proportioned than most marble statues.

Donatello's bronze "David" is more sensual and less macho, which Marco says is the same as the switch from Phidias to Praxiteles. It has a more hemaphroditic face (again, that Renaissance concept of beauty). It was intended as the center of a garden, and its message is "Nothing is more important than my body." Marco notes that all lines of the body point to the genitals.

Cosimo ("Pater Patria") was the grandfather of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Lorenzo was the most famous Medici, but the bankruptcy of the family started with him. Cosimo was the most important, though.

Marco claimed that the bronze "David" was the first freestanding statue in art since classical times. Well, since the marble "David" was earlier, this had to be wrong, and indeed what it is (according to Wikipedia) is "the first unsupported standing work in bronze cast during the Renaissance period, and the first freestanding nude male sculpture made since antiquity." (I'm still not sure that there weren't freestanding male nude statues in Asia in the interim.)

We also saw the competition panels for the doors of the Baptistry by Brunelleschi and Ghilberti. Each submitted a panel for the "Sacrifice of Isaac". Ghilberti won, but Brunelleschi then suggested that they work together on the dome. Ghilberti agreed, but after they started, Brunelleschi baffled Ghilberti with all sorts of math, etc. Then Brunelleschi quit working "due to health" and Ghilberti had no idea how to continue so he had to resign. And lo and behold, Brunelleschi immediately recovered and got the entire job!

We also say Michelangelo's "Bacchus", which Marco says is Michelangelo's way of saying, "Let's put apart spirituality, let's put apart moral guidelines, and let's enjoy life." In this regard Marco also quoted Lorenzo de Medici's "Song of Bacchus". Lorenzo was a mediocre politician but a great poet; however, most of his poems were pornographic. His most famous poem, though, is the non-pornographic "Song of Bacchus". In it he says, "How beautiful is the young age which unfortunately runs too fast. Consequently if you want to be happy be happy today because tomorrow will be too late."

Another piece not on the curriculum which I spent a little time examining was the Tondo Pitti (Madonna and Child). In the Teaching Company course on Michelangelo, the lecturer talks about the difficulty of carving it (and marble in general). One cannot draw the image on the marble, because as soon as one starts carving, that image is destroyed. So somehow the sculptor has to keep in mind the entire sculpture while working. On a relief, the first part to appear will be whatever "sticks out" the most--in this case, the Madonna's knee. This is not the easiest way to work!

Lunch was at Trattoria Francescovini, where we had bruschetta, rigatoni bolognese, and panna cotta.

After lunch, we saw a film about the Baptistry and the Duomo. We also had a chance to use the pay toilets, at one euro each. (Expensive as that sounds, they were even more expensive in Venice.)

Originally the baptistery was thought to have a Roman temple under it, but it did not.

The first baptistery was built in 1058, but was much plainer. The typical white marble and green marble was added in the 12th century, along with the lantern. The mosaics were added in 1225, first in the apse, then in the dome. The original font destroyed in the 15th century and a smaller one put in.

Dante was baptized here. Everyone born in a given year was baptized the day before Easter, but now baptisms are done the first Sunday of each month.

We also had a chance to climb to the second level of the Baptistry, which used to be the women's balcony. (I guess they separated the sexes the same way Orthodox synagogues do.) And above that we got to climb up between the inner and outer domes to see what the construction looked like. This is not something most tourists get to do. (Again, this is the dome of the Baptistry, not the Cathedral itself.) We also had a chance to see the doors with the light hitting them just right, because the caretaker opened them for us to catch the sunlight at the right angle.

After the Baptistry we had some free time, so we wandered around. We ran across a "99-Cent" store. (Of course, that's 99 "euro cents" so it's really about US$1.40.) The stock is very similar to what one finds in a United States "99-Cent" store. We ended up buying a European multi-plug and later, an extra US-to-European plug adapter. Twenty years ago it used to be very difficult to find a US-to-European plug adapter in Europe. Now it is much easier because of globalization--people buy electronics in the United States and other countries, and while they equipment is designed to run on either voltage, you still need a plug adapter.

When we got back to the hotel, we bought an hour of Internet time to read our mail, etc. The daily charge for Internet is pretty high, but the hotel also sells time by the hour, and that is quite reasonable (about €2.50)..

Before dinner, Christina (our primary guide, but not one of the official lecturers) gave us an ad hoc lecture on Italian cuisine. She brought some Italian cookies served on All Souls' Day (a.k.a. The Day of the Dead) called "ossa di morti", or "bones of the dead", which had the consistency and flavor of their namesake. (Well, I'm really just guessing, but you get the idea.)

She began by asking what Italian dishes we knew, and then asked, "Who the heck is Alfredo?" What is called in the United States "Fettuccine Alfredo" is closest to what Italians call "Pasta Bianco".

Italian cooking is regional, and since most Italian immigrants to the United States were from southern Italy, that is the cuisine Americans are most familiar with. Spaghetti with meatballs, for example, is from the south of Italy.

Italy has no chicken parmesan. (It does have eggplant parmesan, and the substitution of chicken was made when immigrants to the United States were rich enough.)

Christina also said that Chicago Pizza is like a brick in your stomach. Pizza must be very light. In Italy, by law, the weight of the dough is the same in every pizzeria. And a pizza has only one ingredient (besides tomatoes and cheese). Also, what Americans call "pepperoni" is called "salamino picante" here; "pepperoni" is peppers. ("Diavolo" is another name for spicy sausage.)

There are two types of Italian pizza: pizza romano (thin crust) or neapolitano (a little thicker). There is also pizza altaglio (takeaway) sold by the slice.

Some traditional pizzas include Pizza Margherita (plum tomatoes, bufalo mozzarella, basil and oregano) and Pizza Marinara (tomato sauce, garlic, and olive oil).

Canoli is from Sicily and outside of Sicily pretty much limited to tourist venues.

An "alimentario" is a grocery store.

Italians don't eat pasta twice a day, she said (but we on the tour do). Italians also use very little butter or cream. And they don't give tourists olive oil for bread because good quality olive oil (which is what they use) is too expensive.

Pasta in Italy is al dente, which is actually quite hard.

Italians do not drink coffee, etc., on the streets. In a coffee shop, you can ask for caffé americano (or "lungo"), which is espresso with more water. There is also cappuccino (but not all the Starbucks variants thereof).

There are fifteen American universities in Florence, so there is a Ben & Jerry's here in addition to all the gelaterias. (There are also a lot of McDonald's.)

Northern Italy uses more cheese and other dairy products. Trentino adda Algia (?) and Torino are known for apples. Central Italy (Aemelia Romagna) has mortedella (in Bolongna), other cured meats, prosciutto, and egg pastas. There is also "prosciutto crudo" or "parma" ("raw ham"). Tuscany has no industry, but produces a lot of meat. One traditional dish is "Bistek a la Fiorentino" (a big T-bone steak). Entrails and organ meat are also popular, e.g., panino with lampredotto (tripe). Other traditional dishes include Ribollito Tuscano (reboiled soup) and Pappa col Pomodoro.

In Venice there is a lot of fish, and pasta e fagioli. Sardines are becoming now more expensive than swordfish. Christina recommended trying risotto with cuttlefish ink. She also recommended a walk around the Rialto market

The culinary tradition of the aristocrats has been lost. After the discovery of America, explorers sent back corn, which got agriculture going again in Italy. [They also sent back hot peppers.] Polenta, made from corn meal, is now very common.

You can find "apperitivos" (which are like tapas) in "osterias".

People now buying olives from Greece and oranges from Spain and Israel.

Dinner was in the hotel; I cannot remember what we ate.

October 30, 2010: This morning we went to the Accademia. This was named after the school in Athens, which in turn was called that because Academus donated the land for it. But the Florentine Accademia was a school of art rather than of philosophy. In 1563 Giorgio Vasari founded a school of drawing here. (Vasari is best known for The Lives of the Artists, available even today.)

The century between 1550 and 1650 was chaotic, with the Spanish being invited to help Florence defeat Siena, but then refusing to leave. The causes of this chaos were:

The explorations led to some entirely new art forms. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has the largest collection of painted Italian chests in the world.

The Italians were never fundamentalist (Catholic), but the Spaniards were. The Spaniards wanted action, not diplomacy, to fight the Reformation. During this time the Jesuits were founded in Spain by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and the Inquisition started there. By the end of the Renaissance, of all the artists only Michelangelo remains.

The paintings in the Accademia are from that era, but to my eye look far less polished, less three-dimensional, flatter, more stylized, and in general more like Middle Ages. Mannerism was a moving away from Renaissance, disregarding proportion, symmetry, and naturism. Art is no longer for everyone, only for an exclusive elite. It becomes intellectual, cerebral, symbolic, artificial. For example, "Deposition from the Cross" by Filippino Lippi and Pietro Perugino has acrobatic, unnatural posed positions. Mannerism eventually merges into Baroque. As Marco said, "Baroque is Mannerism again for everybody." The Sybils and Prophets of Sistine Chapel are Mannerist in their poses.

The Accademia was enlarged in modern times (well, the 19th century) to include more statues. But there was no mass tourism until after World War II. Now it has the second highest attendance of museums in Florence, but the average visit length is 14 minutes, almost all in the Michelangelo room. (I wonder if this is a real figure, or just something Marco made up.)

This last August there was a conflict over whether Florence or Italy owns Michelangelo's "David". Marco's view is that the Accademia is a state museum, so Italy owns it. But the fight is over cash, not over the actual statue. There was ultimately a compromise: one quarter of the ticket price goes to Florence. (Complicating the issue was the fact that "David" was moved inside from the piazza in 1873.)

Here, David does not represent the victory of Christianity over evil, but of Florence over the Medici and hence independence, freedom, and justice. Marco described it as the "Statue of Liberty of Florence".

[As an aside, it is really not practical anymore to forbid photography when everyone can take photos with their cell phones.]

Marco reminded us, "What our eyes see has nothing to do with what the people of Florence five hundred years ago saw." In particular, nudity wasn't necessarily seen as sexual.

"David" has many mistakes: the right arm is very long, the neck is too thick, the right hand is smaller, the head is too big. If it were placed twenty feet higher, it would be perfect, but tourists want it closer, so like the Piéta it is not displayed as Michelangelo intended. And he was intended to be displayed against a wall, but that didn't happen either. Marco summed up: "David is the greatest slot machine in the world".

(As an example of commercialization, Marco noted that they now have a "Louvre" in Dubai in exchange for cash.)

Frankly, I found the "Four Prisoners" ("Prigione") more interesting than the "David". These are a series of nonfinito statues by Michelangelo. These are the beginning of modern art. The artist is deciding what to do, not the patron or the viewer, and says, "A piece is finished when I say so." There is so much more to learn from these than from the "David". The "David" may be more perfect in a sort of "photo-realistic" way, but there is far more emotion and meaning in these "Prisoners" than in "David".

One thing that has confused me is that the Italian "Ottocento" is the 19th century, "Settecento" is 18th century, and so on. That is because "Ottocento" is "the 1800s", not "the 18th century", but when I see "Ottocento", my first thought is "18th century".

We spent more time at the Accademia, following the Rick Steves podcast tour. These podcast tours are designed for the iPod, and we listened to several of the on the trip. (Some I listened to after the visit, if it was a guided visit, because our guide and Rick Steves did not always agree on what to focus on or how long to take.)

After the Accademia, we had more free time and went to the Galileo Museum (formerly the History of Science Museum). This had been highly recommended by friends, and it was fascinating to see all the old scientific machines and instruments--some of them Galileo's own. But the machines could have better explanations; the exhibits often seemed designed to make sense only with demonstrations, and those are probably given only to guided tours.

We tried a gelato on the way back to the hotel. It was good ice cream, but not necessarily better than we have here. (These same friends told us to be sure and eat a lot of gelato, but I suspect they came in the summer--it is far too chilly to spend a lot of time standing around outside eating ice cream.)

October 31, 2010: We awoke to rain, and a lecture to prepare us for Venice. This was mostly logistics, and better covered in the Venice section of this log.

This was followed by a lecture on Renaissance Florence and the arts.

The Uffizi is the most important gallery/museum in Florence for paintings.

In 313 the Emperor Constantine chose Christianity as his religion. Later the Eastern (Byzantine) Emperor Theodosius declared that Christianity would be the state religion, and banned all other religions. In 395 Rome split completely with Byzantium, and then in 476 Rome fell to barbarians. (Byzantium did not fall until almost a millennium later, in 1453.) After the fall came feudalism, the Commune, and the Signoria up to mid-1300s, then humanism and the Renaissance.

Before this, however, Theodosius had also declared that religious decisions in the Eastern Empire would be by the emperors rather than the Popes. The Pope was replaced by a number of Patriarchs ("puppets in the hands of the emperor"), four to begin with:: Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople. It in Eastern Empire the emperors decided such things as when is Xmas?, when is Easter?, etc.

Art becomes very formalized and must follow the party line. One of the major questions was, "Is it allowed or prohibited to represent God in human form?" Of all the religions at the time, only the Jewish religion did not have this dilemma. ("In the beginning was God, and God was the Word" is the Jewish approach. So for Jews, the Word--the Torah--was the sacred symbol, and all artistic representations of God in were banned.)

This question led to the "Iconoclastic War", resulting in a compromise: God can be represented in human form as long as this representation is immaterial or abstract. That is, He is immobile, has no expression, has no realism or naturalism. (This seems to me to deny the human aspect of Jesus, but what do I know?)

The result was that artists had to eliminate any physical relationship with the world (e.g., no landscapes). So they used a plain golden background instead. In iconography, gold is the most important color; the second most important color is ruby. There is no three-dimensional representation because that makes it too realistic. And all of this is followed in the Western Empire (Rome and Italy) as well, because after the fall to the barbarians, the Western Empire looked to the Eastern Empire as the leader in art, philosophy, etc.

The Renaissance asks again how to represent God, but it begins to address the notion of God becoming Man as an aspect of that art. The result of this, and the departure of the "rules" of iconography, have resulted in a major split between Western and Eastern art. (The Reformation also rebelled against this change in art.)

(One need only look at the lack of a body of Russian painting or sculpture comparable to those of Italy, or Spain, or even Belgium, to see what this difference in attitude has made.)

The Orthodox (Eastern) Christians say that Catholics have transformed religious art into a prostitution of art by adding realism, and that this is the greatest crime that can be done. Marc said that Sergei Bulgakov, Orthodox theologian, said, "Rafael's 'Madonna' was the most sensual, most beautiful painting I had ever seen. [But] don't tell me that that's the mother of my Jesus." Given that everyone seems to agree that seeing Rafael's "Sistine Madonna" brought about a spiritual epiphany in Bulgakov, I find this a bit hard to believe--maybe it was someone else and I got it wrong in my notes.

The current problem of the Roman Catholic Church is to communicate with the Orthodox (Eastern) Christians. In specific, this means the Patriarch of Moscow, who is the spiritual leader of 300,000,000 Russians, and the most important patriarch. In a recent attempt to set up a meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Pope, the Patriarch said there should be no journalists or photographers or television, and it must be private. The Pope would not accept these conditions.

The Uffizi is arranged chronologically.

Room 1 is "Primitivi" (Duccio, Cimabue, Giotto). Room 2: Giotto's "Madonna" here has transparent clothing through which we can see her nipples. (I guess this is noteworthy in terms of the hold icons versus naturalism thing.)

Then comes Siena, Siena and Firenze, International Gothic, and Florentine around 1400. In the latter the golden backgrounds disappear and are replaced by landscapes. In fact, the landscapes are more important than the people. This was the start of putting secular paintings next to the Madonna and Jesus, etc. Marco also noted than putting the patron's name on church (such as on Santa Maria Novella) is also a crime in Byzantine eyes.

The Renaissance was a distraction from politics and real problems.

Room 7 has the "Battle of San Romano" by Uccello. (Well, it is supposed to, but more on this later.) Rooms 10 to 14 are Sandro Botticelli, 15 is Leonardo da Vinci, 18 has the Medici "Venus", 20 is Dürer, 21 Bellini, 25 Michelangelo, 26 Raphael, and 35 Caravaggio, Velasquez, and Titian.

One last note: "grotesque" means "as found in grottoes", or more specifically, "as found in Pompeiian ruins, which were grotto-like". This includes naked creatures, cupids, nature, erotic, and intense chromatic creations.

We walked to the Uffizi. It had been raining, but luckily the rain stopped until we were basically there. Then it came back and rained pretty steadily for the rest of the day, including the walk back to the hotel, etc.

This was when we realized (well, Mark and I did, anyway) that the group needed a protocol if someone becomes separated from the group. One couple was familiar with Florence and went off on a different route. They had done this before, and Marco knew that they would rejoin us. But someone else had also disappeared and we weren't sure whether he had gone with them or not. So his wife wanted to backtrack to try to find him, but we had a specific time to be at the Uffizi, etc. Eventually it all works out, but there should be some set of guidelines, such as, "If you become separated from the group while walking to location X, figure out how to rejoin them at location X."

We got to the Uffizi and climbed 4 long flights of stairs to the galleries. While it is a long way up, it does help protect the works from floods, which is important given the building is right on the river.

Again, we followed the Rick Steves podcast tour.

The first rooms and the paintings on our audio tour (Giott's "Madonna", Martini's "Annunciation", and Fabriano's "Adoration" were as described. (Although Lorenzetti's Presentation (1342) has a real, not a gold, background, meaning that even before the Renaissance, there was some realism is these paintings.) But when we got to Room 7 we did not see Uccello's "Battle of San Romano". Since the podcast has an illustration of each work being described, we took our iPod over to the guard in the room, showed her the picture, and asked "Do6ve?" ("Where?") The answer was prompt: "Restoracion." This was a word we became all too familiar with. We saw Lippi's "Madonna", but the two paintings of Hercules by Pollaiuolo were missing. Luckily all the Botticelli were there, but the Tribune--arguably the most famous room of all--was completely closed.

Everyone in the Uffizi seemed to be coughing and sneezing. Undoubtedly the wet weather had something to do with this, but it explains why tourists all catch something--they are in confined spaces with a bunch of people who already caught it.

There is no photography in any of the museums. One can understand this in terms of the paintings and the damage done by flash photography, but restricting non-flash photography, and photography of sculpture, is less understandable. I guess it is just easier to prohibit all photography. The only problem is that with today's cell phones, photography is very easy to do without being obvious. Of course, the quality is not as good, but the rule seems destined for "the dustbin of history" so to speak.

My overall impression of the Uffizi is too many people, too many paintings missing, too much focus on one era, and too much reflection (on the glass covering the paintings). We spent a lot of time trying to find someplace to stand so that we could actually see the detail in the paintings.

There were also some special exhibits, one of Caravaggio and similar painters, which presented an in-depth study of a particular style rather than the "sampler" effect of the main galleries. Yes, I know I just complained that the main galleries were all focused on the Renaissance, but everything is relative.

I particularly liked Artemesia Gentileschi's "Judith Decapitating Holofernes". Gentileschi is one of the very few woman painters of the Renaissance.

There was another heavily damaged painting labeled "27 Mar 1993 Mafioso" which had been damaged in the bombing of the museum on that day.

For a lot of places on guided tours, we have felt we did not have enough time, but if we had been doing Italy on our own, we would have allowed a full day for the Uffizi--which would have been way too much. It is a major museum, but I was expecting something on the scale of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, or the Prado, and it is much smaller than any of those.

We were on our own for dinner, but I had a low-level cold (with incipient laryngitis) and wasn't up to any sort of fancy meal. Also, the rain made us less eager to spend time walking around a lot to try to find someplace to eat. And on top of everything else, a lot of places did not open for dinner until 6:30PM--it was only 5:30PM, but we did not want to go back to the hotel, hang out for an hour, and then go out again to eat.

We settled for dinner at a Peruvian döner kebab place. I ordered grilled chicken, which turned out to be a half a chicken--way more than I could eat, but the sort of good basic food that I needed in my condition.

Back at the room, we discovered that when it rained, the place where the ceiling met the door/window frame to the balcony leaked. Not a lot, but enough to get the carpet wet in that corner. I guess that helps make the hotel picturesque.

November 1, 2010: "We had been robbed of all the fine mountain scenery on our little journey by a system of railroading that had three miles of tunnel to a hundred yards of daylight," said Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad over a hundred years ago, and that remains true today.

Venice is different than any other city. Let me see if I can summarize what the differences are. This is based on observations over three days--not all of this is immediately obvious.

Venice is built on a lot of islands in a lagoon. There is Lido, Guidecca, Murano, Burano, and so on. The main island is called Venice, but in fact it is made up of many smaller islands separated by canali. This is usually translated as "canals", but anyone who knows about the "canals" on Mars realizes this is an inaccurate translation. The islands are pretty much all man-made; it is the canals that are natural. And the islands were not built by piling soil or rocks into the lagoon, but by setting millions of wooden pilings in the water, laying a platform of Istria stone on that, and then building on that platform. In one sense it is like a giant pier or boardwalk.

Anyway, what you have is an "island" criss-crossed by both canali and streets (which are more like alleys). There are no cars in Venice (except at the very end of the island nearest the mainland where the bus and taxi stands are, and Lido Island). Nor are there bicycles, because when a street crosses a canal, the bridge has to arch high enough to allow a boat to pass under at high tide. So all the bridges have steps.

All this means that everything brought onto the island--food, souvenirs to stock the tourist shops, heavy machinery--has to come by boat as close as possible to the destination, and then by hand cart (or porter service). In particular, the fire department operates primarily from boats, so if you live more than a block or two from the nearest canal, it is much harder for them to get to you.

So while Venice may be a nice city to visit, it is a terrible place to live. Apartments are small, expensive, and antiquated--it is almost impossible to make any changes or improvements to the historic buildings, and they are almost all historic buildings. I do not know if that is why our hotel had no window screens, but I do know when we opened a window because it was sweltering inside, we ended up with mosquitoes.

Consider the difficulties of shopping. Even a shopping cart is not much help when you are constantly hauling it over stepped bridges. And if you have a stroller as well....

Everything is ridiculously expensive. A large part of this is extra cost of getting everything in by boat and then hand cart, but then you add on top of that the "tourist mark-up" and it is outrageous. A small box of throat lozenges (holding about six, I would guess) was €2.60 (U$3.65). A small tube of super glue (enough for a single repair job) was €5.50 (US$7.70). A small cup of coffee or a can of Coke seems to be about €2.50 most places. (There are a few self-service cafeterias which food and beverages are reasonably priced, leading me to think that a large part of this is tourist mark-up.)

The cost for the vaporetti (motorized canal boats) is fairly high--high enough that residents probably do not use them for short trips. But across the Grand Canal are only three bridges, so people either have to walk long distances to get from one side of the island to the other, or take the traghetto, a gondola which ferries people across the Grand Canal at specific points for about a euro. Water taxis, for point-to-point travel, are very expensive, and gondolas (except for traghetti) are prohibitively so. (I think they are about €50 for under an hour on a standard route.)

One sees trash floating in the canals, and the buildings are all very dirty. There are no cars or heavy industry, unless the pollution from them is drifting over from the mainland. Is it acid rain? Or is it just the ravages of a damp climate when no one has the money to re-stucco, or re-plaster, or re-paint every few years?

The result is that Venice is losing residents every year, many of the great houses on the Grand Canal are vacant, it is gradually becoming a tourist attraction rather than a living city, ... and it is sinking.

A lot of people think that global climate change and rising sea levels are why Venice is gradually submerging, but in fact it has always been sinking. Built on millions of pilings driven into the bed of the lagoon, parts of it were already much lower than they were originally. St. Mark's Square, for example, has been taken up and raised several inches to try to stave off this problem. But the problem is exacerbated by poor planning. One of the channels between islands was dredged to allow larger boats to come it (the lagoon is actually very shallow and supposedly one could walk across a lot of it without getting one's head wet), but this allowed stronger tides to flow it and damage the buildings, as well as changing the water patterns that used to keep the canals clean.

What can be done? I have no idea. One could, I suppose, permanently erect walkways for people to walk above the rising water level, and abandon the ground level floors of the buildings. Barriers would not help, as the water comes up through the paving stones and floors. (Don't forget: Venice is not build on land, but on those pilings.) As it is, museums all seem to have their collections on upper floors.

In addition to all this, Venice had a much more Eastern tradition, following Constantinople and Byzantium rather than Rome. So historically its politics have been, well, Byzantine. Consider how the doges were elected for the thousand years of the Republic (which ended when Napoleon conquered it in 1797):

  1. Thirty electors were chosen by lot, then reduced by lot to nine.
  2. These nine nominated forty candidates, each of whom had to be approved by at least seven of the nine.
  3. The forty candidates were reduced by lot to twelve.
  4. These forty nominated twenty-five selectors, each of whom had to be nominated by at least nine of the forty.
  5. The twenty-five selectors were reduced by lot to nine.
  6. These nine picked an electoral college of forty-five, each of whom had to be nominated by at least seven selectors.
  7. The forty-five were reduced by lot to eleven.
  8. These eleven chose a final college of forty-one.
  9. Each elector proposed one candidate, and each elector cast a vote for every candidate of whom he approved.
  10. The candidate with the most approvals was the winner, provided he had been endorsed by at least twenty-five of the forty-one.
[All this according to Anthony Gottlieb in "Win or Lose", "The New Yorker", 07/26/10.]

Given this, I find it amazing that the Most Serene Republic of Venice lasted for a thousand years--longer than any other republic. (Actually, Iceland may qualify as a contender.) Part of what maintained Venice was what seems like a very repressive judicial system. People could drop "anonymous" accusations in "the lion's mouth": boxes around the city with a slot in a lion's mouth. These accusations had to be signed and witnessed, but the person accused never found out who was accusing them. The accusee was picked up and taken to a secret trial, after which they were almost always found guilty, tied in a sack, and thrown in the lagoon. Even if they were innocent of this charge, the reasoning went, if they were being accused they were probably guilty of something.

[Side note here: It is now seven months later and I just realized that I never finished the log. So the rest will be just from my notes.]

Gasoline is about $6.40/gallon after you do all the euros-to-dollars and liters-to-gallons conversions.

We got to our hotel and checked in. Then we had a lecture on "The Origins of Venice" by Valeria Finocchi (who had the most problems with English of any lecturer):

Roman Venetia was named by Augustus. At the time no one lived in the lagoon. Between the 5th and 6th centuries, barbarians (Huns) arrived. People took refuge in lagoon, but then returned to the mainland. The 6th century Lombard (Logobard?) invasion sent them to the lagoon permanently. The lagoon has islands, sand bars, canals, etc., making it difficult to conquer.

Torcello (which Finocchi said was a must-see) was the capital, but is now empty except for two churches and a museum. (It was ultimately abandoned because of malaria.) She described it as an ecological paradise, what Venice looked like at the beginning. Hemingway loved Torcello.

Venice was between the Franks and the Byzantines and in 810 the capital was moved to Rivo Alto (Rialto). In 828 they brought St. Mark's body from Alexandria to Venice to bring the city honor. (They smuggled the stolen corpse out of the Islamic-controlled Holy Land hidden under some pork, which does not strike me as honorable!)

They used imported wood (from Slovenia) and Istria stone to build the city. Under the Rialto bridge, there are 12,000 wooden pilings; under the bell tower, 3,000. 80-85% of city is built on piles.

The Frari Church is another must-see.

Each campo has a church and a well of rainwater. There are six sestieri (districts), and 29 "calle de forno"s. The house numbers are by sistieri, not by street, but you need the street name as well to find anything.

A fondamenta is a waterside street, the riva is the waterside near the lagoon or or the Grand Canal. A rio terà is formed by infilling and covering a canal. A salizzada is an early paved street. A sotoportego is the portion of a street passing under a building.

Scuole are technically schools, but more like meeting places. Scuole grandi are like hospitals. There are scuole of working people, like guild halls, and national scuole for people from other countries.

Before dinner we had a short walk to one of the nearby churches.

In the restaurants where we are having our meals with the group table wine seems to be about €15 a liter. A friend had said that table wine was cheaper than soda, but that does not seem to be the case any more. (Actually, it is in self-service cafeterias, but not in restaurants.)

I did not cover the logistics lecture for Venice when we got it, but let me include whatever I have not mentioned:

The Ghetto is very close to the hotel. It was established in 1516 in the blacksmiths' area. In the Venetian language, "ghettar" means "to melt".

"Ciao" is also Venetian from "welcome, I am your slave". (It is "schiavo", but "v" is silent unless it is initial in a syllable, and "sch" is pronounced "ch".) Venetians speak Venetian rather than Italian.

Venice is 117 islands, 18 or 19 are not connected by bridges.

Piazza San Marco is the only "piazza". "Campo" is the main square on an island. "Campielli" are the other squares. "Calle" means street (and is always narrow). "Salizada" means cobbled street; "ramo" means alley. A "corte" is a small square with only one entrance (cul-de-sac). "Lista" is the area closest to an embassy where police could not arrest anyone (our hotel is on "Lista de Espagna"). The islands are in the Lagoon.

The Grand Canal runs from the train station, past our Hotel Pincipe, the Rialto, and the Accademia, and ends at San Marco.

The Rialto was originally "Rivus Altus", the (highest point of the lagoon. (San Marco is lowest.) The Rialto is the oldest bridge and the financial district.

Throughout the main "island" of Venice are signs pointing to Ferrovia (train station), Rialto, and San Marco. "It is very easy to get lost but it is impossible to be lost." (That's the theory--in actual fact, these signs are not quite so ubiquitous.)

Venice is the safest Italian city.

On the Grand Canal are two vaporetto lines: Linea 1 (local) and Linea 2 (express). Linea 1 is better for picture-taking. Ferries are every ten minutes during the day, every twenty minutes at night. Linea 1 takes about 50 minutes from the Ferrovia to San Marco; Linea 2 takes 25 minutes. Lineas 41 and 42 go to Murano.

Gondoliers are called "sharks" or "talibans".

The newer (1930s) bridges are Scalzi (near the train station) and Accademia (Eugenio Miozzi) and the Bridge of Liberty (connected to the Mestre).

"Scalzi" means "barefoot" (so we are next to the Church of Barefoot Friars).

Gondolas will cross the canal for 50 cents or so, but only when the gondola is full (like the truck-buses in Thailand).

Each "finial" on a gondola has six teeth corresponding to the six historical districts of the city.

Venice has bachero (like osteria) for chichetti (tapas). Drinks include proseco wine (white sparkling wine), grappa, ombra de vino (glass of wine), and spritz (orange drink) from proseco and aperol.

November 2, 2010: We were a little late getting started because one couple was late because they skipped dinner when the revised schedule was announced. Road Scholar really should put up posters with schedules the way other tour groups do.

One couple are familiar with all these cities, so they are constantly going off on their own down shortcuts. Even though they eventually rejoin us, this confuses the headcount on the way.

We are suffering from rain and acqua alta--"high water". The latter is a combination of high tides and the sirocco which result in some streets (and St. Mark's Square) being under water. Raised walkways are erected for people to use to avoid this problem, but it is still an inconvenience.

We took the vaporetto to the Rialto. For some reason, the express did not run all the way to St. Mark's Square, so we had to walk the rest of the way. Luckily it was not far.

Much of St. Mark's Square was under water, even a couple of hours after high tide, so there were raised walkways connecting the main sights.

Our orientation lecture on the way to St. Mark's Square covered the following:

Venice has had three enemies: fire, the Black Death (70 outbreaks!), and Rome. Venice was Catholic but independent of Rome, and the bishops et al were selected by the state.

St. Mark's Square is supposedly the only square without monuments celebrating people [except of curse St. Mark and St. Theodore, a 4th century Greek].

The lagoon is separated from the Adriatic Sea by the Lido. A full moon plus a sirocco results in floods. The church is in the lowest part of the city. Currently gates are being built in the three mouths of the Lido to solve the flooding.

There was a recap of the complicated voting procedure I already described.

There were secret accusations, but they were not anonymous.

We ended up having to lend our guide batteries for her transmitter, because she had given out all of hers to people for their receivers. If we had not, there would have been no guiding on the tour of the Doge's Palace, so we were something of the heroes of the morning. Be prepared! (Actually, it would have also made sense to take one person's batteries for the transmitter so that all but one could hear her.)

Photography forbidden in Doge's Palace (just like everywhere else). It is full of paintings by Titian (the giant of the age), Tieppolo, Veronese (who concentrated on the joy of life), etc., but everything is just so overdone. The paintings are massive.

There was a painting commemorating the 1571 Battle of Lepanto (by Veronese). That is the battle where Cervantes lost his arm. There is Tintoretto's "Death of Christ": Tintoretto's interest in theater led to his use of curtains and of light. Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto were pupils of Bellini.

The paintings are very accurate to current look of city because the city was never destroyed in war. Politically, it had a Senate originally, but it "closed" in 1297. There was never a book of laws, but the "values of Venice" were the guiding rules.

The Main Council Room is the biggest room in Europe without sustaining pillars.

The biggest canvas in the world, "The Last Judgement" by Tintoretto, was cut into strips for restoration in 1901, and has a fresco behind it.

The series of portraits of the Doges includes one doge as just a black veil instead of a portrait.

The Bridge of Sighs is part of the Doge's Palace.

Next we moved onto St. Mark's Church. The original basilica was destroyed in 976, and rebuilt in 1063. It has amazing mosaics completely covering the ceiling and upper walls, but a very uneven floor, so you have to be very careful to watch where you are walking instead of just staring at the ceiling.

In an attempt to carry all the necessities of a tourist, I find I end up with a tangle of neck cords: binoculars, camera, whisper, whisper earpiece, and neck pouch. Alas, these are not items that can go cordless!

Vaporetto tickets are €50 for 7 days. (We could have made do with 4-day tickets, but I guess they were not exactly sure of departure times.)

We were told that all changes to our schedule here would be announced only before classes, so we should make sure to attend, at least for the first few minutes. (Is this true, or will they say at dinner also? I cannot remember if they did.)

We discovered here that the hotel in Florence actually had a better breakfast in a different room. The hotel in Florence also did not seem to have an electrical outlet one could use to recharge while out of the room, since leaving the room turned off all the outlets.

On the other hand, the hotel in Venice did not know where we could buy glue. (Contrast this to our hotel in London hotel, which could tell us exactly where to find replacement fuses for Mark's CPAP!)

The hotel in Venice is too hot, but it had no air conditioning and opening windows lets in mosquitoes. There are also too few outlets. Our multi-plug is coming in handy.

Money is spent somewhat casually by the tour company (e.g. 7-day vaporetto tickets for €50 instead of 72-hour ones for €35), but the food is fairly mediocre. If the idea is to present a favorable picture of Italian food, it fails.

I needed the glue, by the way, to re-attach the sole to my walking shoes.

Next was our lecture on Venetian painting:

The Accademia is in a "(long Italian) moment of transition." Our guide always suggests buying a small guidebook for museums. Giorgione's "Latin Festa" is temporarily in Padova.

Venice is a mosaic of elements: the ancient Illyrians and Istrians (who are German and Slavic) used Slovenian wood and Istria stone (not marble or travertine). Poles go down through seven layers to the lowest level (caranto, which is a mixture of clay and sand). To support the Rialto Bridge, there are 12,000 poles; to support the Bell Tower (which collapsed in 1902), there are 3,000 poles. (When it was rebuilt, using anastylosis, 70% of the bricks were original,) It is not as depicted in Casino Royale.

It is, Marco said, the "equivalent of Hong Kong, of Singapore, of New York." (These are all also built on islands, though he didn't mention this specifically.)

Venetian shipbuilding is, or was, renown.

L'Arsenal (which will become a museum) occupies more than 10% of the lagoon.

Cash is known as the "Religion of Sgay".

The Venetians are the most excommunicated people, in part because they never sacrificed their business in the name of religion. They supported the Crusades but also traded with Jews and Arabs. As a democracy or republic, they are the opposite of aristocratic, though it does have something like a caste system. There were 2500 families in "Golden Book". There was also a lower-status "Silver Book".

In Venice, only the state and the clergy support the arts.

The Scuola Grandi de la Carita had the Accademia established around 1800; it is now owned by State of Italy. There were five other scuole grandi.

The primary religious orders were the Franciscans, the Dominicans, and the Jesuits.

Venetians are famous for colors, because of their close relations with Byzantium (the source of many of the dyes. In 1204 (during the Fourth Crusade) Venice occupied and looted Constantinople for giving Genoa special privileges. They looted more art (and artists) than any other looters, including the "Madonna of the Victory", their holiest icon. In 1979, all the valuable stones were stolen from it. (My question is: If the Madonna of the Victory had been left in Constantinople, would it have survived the Ottoman conquest?)

The first paintings in the Accademia are of the late Middle Ages. The Altarpiece of Paolo Veneziano has a gold background, no perspective, aristocratic clothes, no emotions, and no realism or nature. It is a fundamentalist approach.

Giovanni Bellini's Pietà has a realistic landscape and shows realism in the portrayal of Jesus.

Bellini's altarpiece with Saints Sebastian and Jeremy and a Franciscan friar, and Carpacchio's paintings for Saint Ursula Nunnery have an emphasis on detail.

Also noteworthy is the "Departure of the British Ambassadors".

Veronese's "Last Supper" (really titled "Supper at Levi's") had so many pagan elements that Veronese was almost killed by the Inquisition.

Venetians are unsurpassed in portraits; ruby is most common color in Venetian portraits. Some examples are Lorenzo Lotto's "Portrait of a Gentleman" and Tintoretto's portraits, as well as Tintoretto's "Transposition of Saint Mark". Titian's "Presentation of Jesus" is in a room that is currently closed.

Titian's "Pietà" is a rare example of a painting of this subject, usually represented in sculpture. Titian was considered the greatest artist of 16th Century. Michelangelo was unknown beyond the Alps.

Also recommended is the 18th century landscape painting by Caneletto. Pietro Longhi is the Venetian equivalent of Hogarth, combining invented Nature with ruins, and was very popular in the Age of Romanticism.

We finished the day by riding the vaporetto down the Grand Canal and back, and then dinner on our own at Brek (a cafeteria-style place), with a gelato afterwards. These were relatively cheap (€8.60 for the meal and €2 for the gelati).

November 3, 2010: I have no desire to buy souvenirs on this trip. Most of what we saw in Rome and Florence was junk, and in Venice there is so much Venetian glass and so many masks that one feels either it is all junk, or that it is all so common as to be not worth getting.

And when one adds to this the whole "-50% sales" thing, it is downright off-putting. Some stores have big signs up advertising "50% off sales" on everything. Other stores have signs up asking Venice to stop this 365-day-a-year fake sale which attracts a lot of tourists away from places that do not advertise big sales, even if they have the same ultimate prices.

So I think my souvenir of Italy will be our Italian multi-plug.

Marco says we must leave on time, then he is late, which undercuts his credibility.

At the Accademia, our tour was self-guided. And it actually allows photography (without flash).

While the icon style is very simple without a lot of figures (no crowd scenes), Carpaccio's "Crucifixion and Apotheosis of the 10,000 Martyrs on Mount Ararat" is chock-a-block with people.

Portraying more of Nature in paintings provides more distractions from the main subject: birds, trees, fruit, etc.

Many paintings are very dark--were they intended that way, or do they just need cleaning?

The angel in Bellini's "Annunciation" has hair almost identical to that of Venus in Botticelli's painting of Venus. The same is true of both the hair and the clothing in of Veronese's "Annunciation".

Veronese's "Convito in casa di Levi" is really the Last Supper. But where the Last Supper is just Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, Veronese's painting had a lot more people. So this was named from Luke 5:29 "And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them."

Veronese seems even more elaborate than Tintoretto. Compare Veronese's "Marriage of St. Catherine" vs. Tintoretto's "Madonna and Child with Saints ..." Tintoretto has larger sections of solid color. These and other Venetian paintings are massive compared to those we saw in Rome and Florence (with the exception of the Raphael rooms at the Vatican and such) or maybe it is that the paintings in churches look smaller because of the size of the church.

Tiepolo's "Castigo del serpiente" (167x1355cm) had been kept rolled up for sixty years so was heavily damaged but "the work still has its full expressive power and on these grounds it was deemed unnecessary to re-integrate the large lacunas."

Mark saw "Natura morta con scultura" as a still life with a human torso.

Marco Marziale's "Supper at Emmaus" was described by Midge as "The Last Snack" because it had only five people in it.

How come in all these paintings, Mary never looks Jewish?

Bellini's "Pietà" shows an older Mary.

Icons need have only enough detail to direct your thoughts to the appropriate subject, hence the iconography that is carried forward: Sebastian with the arrows, Lawrence with the grill, etc. They are like mnemonics, like the "Soldier's Deck of Cards".

Bartolomeo Vivarini e Bottega's (1430-1491) "Natività tra i santi Francisco, Andrea, Giovanni Battisto, Pietro, Paulo, Girolamo, Domenico e Teodoro [nella cimasa] Cristo in pietà tra due angeli" has landscape for center painting but gold background icons for the rest, indicating that the transition from iconography to naturalism was gradual.

We went for a walk on our own and managed to get lost. There were no signs to help us--while there are some indicators pointing to the way to San Marco, or the train station, on the whole, even these are much rarer than our guides implied, and there is very little help in finding one's way.

We eventually figured out where we were and found our way to the Ghetto. This is (was) the Ghetto from which all others got their name, and is still a Jewish area, though really just nominal. There are Jewish-themed shops and restaurants, and several synagogues, but it is not a living, thriving Jewish neighborhood. Once Jews could live anywhere, why should they stay in an overcrowded, somewhat shabby, expensive area, rather than move elsewhere. (An example of the overcrowding can be seen in the windows of the buildings. Limited to only a certain height, buildings were constructed to maximize living area by giving the interiors very low ceilings. If one looks at a building constructed under these regulations, there are more stories for the same height than on newer buildings.

The guides point out that Venice had no Inquisition, but they did have a Ghetto for 500 years (more or less) until Napoleon ended it. Now there's a pair of unlikely Jewish heroes: Napoleon Bonaparte and Oliver Cromwell.

As it is, the Ghetto seems more a tourist point than anything else. On one hand, a Murano glass mezzuzah might seem to make a good souvenir of the old Jewish community. On the other, Venice oppressed Jews for 500 years, and is now trying to make money from them. (It may be a no-win situation for them, for if they produced only Christian items and no Jewish ones, they would certainly be criticized for that.)

We had lunch at a pizzeria, €20.10 for two small pizzas with colas. Everything is expensive in Venice. Part of this is undoubtedly due to the high cost of bringing things in. Even if you can come partway by boat, you have to use hand-carts through the streets. I suppose that a fixed cover charge is better than adding tax and tip, but they also seem to charge extra to use credit cards at most places.

November 4, 2010: As Mark Twain said, Venice is "a peddler of glass beads for women, and trifling toys and trinkets for school-girls and children." This is probably still accurate. He also said, "We have seen famous pictures until our eyes are weary with looking at them and refuse to find interest in them any longer," and this is certainly true.

Well, we left the window open last night and have several mosquito bites to show for it.

Today was our gondola ride. This is the sort of thing that we would not do were we on our own: it's very touristy and fairly pricey. But it was enjoyable enough as something that was included. One advantage is that we got to see Venice at water level and a slower speed than by walking or by vaporetto. We went past Mozart's house, and got to see hand trucks specially designed to go up and down stairs (they have a set of small wheels sticking straight out from front that "catch" the next step, and the steps are purposely designed wide enough to let the rear wheels reach them before the front wheels hit the next step).

No Venetian was allowed a free-standing statue in the streets or squares, so they put them in or on churches instead. John Ruskin wrote about this in Stones of Venice. Ruskin hated the "monster" heads on churches (from the Baroque era), and mentioned the monster's head on Santa Maria Formosa (that we saw) as the quintessential proof of people's stupidity. He also hated the word "ornament".

We passed a house with a plaque reading "Sebastiano Venier, Vincitore di Lepanto". When Marco read it, I discovered it was pronounced "lepanTO", not lePANto".

We walked down Calle de Fabbri, full of bookstores and publishers. We passed the oldest publisher in Venice, Filippi. We stopped at the Libreria (Bookshop) "Acqua Alta", a kind of funky used bookstore distinguished in part by having an old gondola full of books in the middle of the shop.

A stolen "Adam" statue from the Vemdrameno Tomb ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

There was a special law in one neighborhood to allow prostitutes to be topless (resulting in the Ponte de Tette, or Bridge of Tits). The reason for this was apparently an attempt to curb widespread homosexuality in the city.

As proof everything is more expensive here, public toilets are €1.50, whereas they were "only" &euro:1.00 in Florence.

One of the churches had a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit, but at €8.00 each it seemed too expensive for the brief amount of time we had before it closed.

Instead, we took the #42 vaporetto around the lagoon, a two-hour trip. It was unfortunate that the weather was not sunny, but even so, we got to see more of Venice than just the strip along the Grand Canal.

November 5, 2010: It was foggy when we took the water taxi to the Piazza Roma, and then a regular taxi to airport (€35.00 were it not already included). There's not much more to be said: airplane flights tend to be much the same all over, and so we eventually returned home.

Summary: This was our first Elderhostel/Road Scholar/Exploritas tour. We had heard many recommendations for them, and it was good for what it was. However, we probably had underestimated how much emphasis would be placed on religious (that is, Christian) art. I think the problem is that for an intensively directed tour, it is important to be sure that you are also extremely focused on that topic. So we ended up vaguely dissatisfied, but that may be more our mistake in choosing this tour as in the tour itself. Now if they offered a "Science Fiction Cinema" tour of Britain ("Here's where Gorgo's mother came out of the Thames, and now we will proceed to Hobb's Lane...."), that might be different.

Recommended Reading List: