Italy Trip – Days 15-21 – Florence- Part 4 – Museo Galileo

Buds found a museum that looked like it would be a good fit for our crew: Museo Galileo.

We popped up early and headed out.

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Taking it all in.

Taking it all in.

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Scooter Parking

Scooter Parking

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We arrived before the museum opened, which meant a great excuse to have breakfast at a cafe by the entrance.

Breakfast before the Museo Galileo.

Breakfast before the Museo Galileo.

Eskimo kiss

Eskimo kiss

Fueling up for the museum.

Fueling up for the museum.

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Caffé Mingo

Caffé Mingo

Caffé Mingo

Caffé Mingo

Since I attended Colfax-Mingo High School, I loved the name of our breakfast caffé.

The museum was a beautiful mishmash of science equipment, information on discoveries, and the interactive room, which was where we started.

Checking in

Checking in

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Beautiful interactive exhibits.

Beautiful interactive exhibits.

Speed

Speed

Seeing the historic equipment, which was often handmade by a superior craftsman to exacting standards was amazing and inspiring.

Cogs and Parts.

Cogs and Parts.

This next one showed the earth at the center of the solar system.

Buds and I were both stunned by the beauty of this exhibit.

Buds and I were both stunned by the beauty of this exhibit.

A hand-painted artistic “optical illusion.”

Side A

Side A

Side B

Side B

There was a whole display of handmade globes and the sections of paper cut to make them.

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Measuring instruments:

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Buds and I could have spent hours exploring and reading. The children were able to hang in there for about 2 hours, then they were done.

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And they are dead.

And they are dead.

Found a quiet bench on which to curl.

Found a quiet bench on which to curl.

After the museum, we headed down the street to the outdoor “statuary” at the end of the Uffizi. There was a ceremony of some sort going on, but once the crowd had cleared we were able to wander amongst the statues.

The ceremony taking place by the statue area near the Uffizi.

The ceremony taking place by the statue area near the Uffizi.

More ceremony.

More ceremony.

This is about the point the children started talking about all the nakedness in the art. We talked about the beauty of the human body. Buds pointed out how draped cloth never really looks detailed or idealistic, but when you can show the human form, unclothed, the muscles and sinew can be emphasized.

It was (and continued to be at other museum visits) an interesting conversation. And Buster very thoughtfully took me to the exact location where you could get a direct view of Hercules and his “jewels.”

Then we laughed about the number of other people we noticed standing in that exact location.

Hercules slaying a centaur:

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Laughing and telling stories.

Laughing and telling stories.

From there we headed down a side street where we had passed a trattoria with fantastic looking fruit displayed in their window. We had a delicious lunch with lots of laughter and a little excitement.

A street performer dressed up with his face painted white snuck up behind Monkey as she was digging in the backpack for the water bottle. None of our children are big fans of clowns, so I immediately warned her not to look around, that he was behind her, etc. He continued to pester us for money for awhile until he was shooed away by the waitress.

We chose the lunch restaurant for the fruit they displayed.

We chose the lunch restaurant for the fruit they displayed.

Laughter before the scary clown shows up.

Laughter before the scary clown shows up.

Our delightful lunch together.

Our delightful lunch together.

After the clown was gone the waitress said, “Watch out for the gypsies. They steal.”

We’ve heard this sentiment many times in Italy on this and previous trips. We discussed it a little; this idea that a whole group of people can be judged based on the actions of a few. We have certainly seen people acting aggressively in pursuit of money in Italy, but lumping all people together is offensive and wrong. (All homeschoolers are religious.)

Great lunch, great discussion, great memories.

Italy Trip – Days 15-21 – Florence- Part 3 – A Playground? Don’t Mind If I Do!

In the park across from the supermarket we frequented in Florence, there was a delightful, unusual, demanding playground.

I was fascinated to watch Buster and Yessa explore, challenge, and conquer these obstacles. I think the playgrounds in the States expect too little of children, or we’re too afraid of children being hurt.

I stood back, watched, and stayed quiet. As their comfort with the equipment and belief in their own abilities grew, these two amazed themselves and me.

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He makes it look easy in the video, but figuring out how to climb to the top of the tippy slide, reach across from the climbing rope wall to the top, and sliding down, this took them awhile to figure out and get comfortable doing.

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It was a beautiful day, lots of Italian folks were out visiting and smoking and chatting. I believe I observed one gentleman who was running a sports betting business from one of the park benches, and then we got groceries.

Awesome day!

Six Year Anniversary!

Just realized this blog began on October 18, 2009.

Happy Anniversary, Mommie2zs.

Looking back over our shared history makes me joyful.

Buds wishes for a million page views.

The children wish for more entries.

I’m tickled it’s lasted this long.

It’s a great balancing act.

Photo by Grandpa Vermont.

Photo by Grandpa Vermont.

October 2009:

October 2009
October 2015 Photo by Grand. Vt.

October 2015
Photo by Grand. Vt.

Day 35 – Italy Trip – Let’s Find A Beach In Ischia

We’d had a relaxed morning of settling in. Buds and I wandered to the grocery store, found a gelato spot for later in the day, figured out how to get into the Castle for later exploration, and now Buds was settled in for work.

The children wanted a beach. They’d been promised swimming in water warmed by the volcanic waters of Ischia, and they were ready to dip.

I’d searched the internet and read about the various options. We were hoping for something we could walk to, that was free. We could see a beach from our apartment, but could we get there from here?

We can and we did.

Hoping to meander our way there.

Hoping to meander our way there.

We began to wend our way there:

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The sea glass collection started small and quickly grew.

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Monkey quickly recognized the Roxaboxen connection.

They each created their own “shop.”

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Their shops and wares.

Their shops and wares.

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Several delightful moments on this trip to the beach:

1) We randomly met up with and visited extensively with Dae-Lynn, the young woman who swapped apartments to allow us to be able to stay in Ischia during our preferred dates.

2) The children were fascinated by sea glass. Where I had seen a trashy beach, they saw the beauty and wonder of broken glass tumbled by the sea and time.

3) They are cautious, yet adventurous. The kids held hands as they began to explore, then once they felt comfortable about no steep drops or unexpected riptides, they grew more and more ready to explore and dive deeper.

4) A beautiful day and a sandy beach are a recipe for great stories and treasures.

Day 34- Italy Trip – Travel To Ischia

After 10 delightful days, it was time to leave Lucca. We packed up the farmhouse and headed for the train station around 9 a.m. for our 10:30 a.m. train.

I dropped off the entire crew and the luggage at the train station then drove over to drop off the rental car. I was lucky enough to drive behind the skinny orange truck that had fascinated Buds our entire stay in Lucca.

It's so darn skinny.

It’s so darn skinny.

Buds "Juiced Up" the truck.

Buds “Juiced Up” the truck.

Driving behind it was making me laugh. It’s so tall and so tippy looking. It’s like watching your 12-month-old learn to walk with that huge baby head making her wobbly.

I enjoyed a beautiful, sunny walk by the Lucca city walls to meet up with my gang at the train station after dropping off the rental car with no problem.

Monkey got us to our correct platform to wait for our train.

Lucca has treated us well.

Lucca has treated us well.

Our last view of the Lucca Train Station.

Our last view of the Lucca Train Station.

We had an 80- minute ride to Florence.

Luggage Mama

Luggage Mama

Settled in on our first "regional" train from Lucca to Florence (Firenze.)

Settled in on our first “regional” train from Lucca to Florence (Firenze.)

Then we jumped on the fast train to Naples.

Settled on our second "fast" train.

Settled on our second “fast” train.

Traveling on the train has been such a treat. The children enjoy exploring. There is fascination in walking from car to car; finding the food car; locating the bathroom; making up stories about your fellow travelers.

On the second train I was seated next to a young white American woman from L.A. who was headed to Rome for her flight back to the U.S. She spends half the year in Italy, half in the U.S. She owns a company that offers yoga and life improvement seminars for groups of 8 people or so. She rents a villa and they tour around Tuscany.

I tried to hunt up her website to link to, but it turns out there a lot of companies offering women’s yoga retreats at a villa in Tuscany.

She left us in Rome, then I was seated by a well-dressed white Italian couple. They looked like they were just headed out for dinner in Naples. No luggage, enjoying each other’s company. The train makes life easier.

When we stopped in Napoli, we had the good fortune to easily find Felice, our taxi driver arranged through Erika, our hostess in Ischia. We piled into Felice’s taxi and Buds and I watched in shock and awe as we careened our way to Napoli Centrale dock to await our ferry to Ischia.

We agreed more than once that we were grateful that driving in Naples was never in the plan.

Felice delivered us to the dock, went with me to purchase the tickets for the correct ferry, called Erika to make sure she knew what time we’d land in Ischia, told us to call him for any other travel we need to do in Naples, shook hands and left us to our own devices.

Waiting at the ferry depot.

Waiting at the ferry depot.

We had about 90-minutes until our ferry left, so plenty of time to explore the cafe, read books, and break as many unknown rules as possible.

Things you cannot do at Napoli Centrale dock that we did:

1) Lay down on the glass benches.
2) Set all your luggage on the glass benches.
3) Put your feet up on the glass benches.

The gentleman who worked so hard to get us to adhere to the rules was very kind and respectful each time he corrected us. I suspect he was relieved to see us go.

Lots of ferries heading out of Naples (Napoli.)

Lots of ferries heading out of Naples (Napoli.)

Settled in on the ferry.

Settled in on the ferry.

The inside of the ferry made me laugh because it had the feel of the Casino Queen where Nathan and I used to go gamble when we were in grad. school in St. Louis.

Thanks to the time change, it was dark by the time we arrived in Ischia.

The beauty of traveling at night.

The beauty of traveling at night.

After the nearly 2-hour ferry ride, we disembarked and looked around for Erika who always meets her guests at the dock.

We piled into her car with Buster sitting on Buds’ lap in the front seat. (You play by different rules when you are traveling.)

The drive to the apartment went quickly, and once again I was grateful to not be driving; lots of one-way streets (they should be one-way, but aren’t), tiny alleys, and converging of traffic from many directions.

When we arrived at our beautiful apartment, Erika had a complete meal waiting for us; spaghetti with ragu, cheese-filled biscuits, water (still and frizzante), crusty bread, red wine, parmesan cheese, and chocolate-covered hazelnuts for dessert. And she’d baked a yogurt cake for our breakfast and left us juice and milk in the fridge.

Though we had had a full day of travel we didn’t feel too tired, but what a relief and delight it was to realize we wouldn’t have to venture out again to find food thanks to her planning and kindness.

Our delicious meal prepared by Erika, our hostess.

Our delicious meal prepared by Erika, our hostess.

She and her husband quickly took care of the last bits of business and left us to eat our dinner and settle in to our new home.

It was a delightful, easy day, and then in the morning, this:

The view we found waiting for us when we awakened.

The view we found waiting for us when we awakened.

Tough to tell, but that’s a castle right there.

More on Ischia soon.

Day 35 – Italy Trip – Funny beginning to our day in Ischia

A more complete post will be forthcoming, eventually, but since Kelly needs something to read at lunch, I wanted to do a quick post while I had the chance.

This is the view we awakened to this morning:

The castleon the hill we'll explore this week.

The castleon the hill we’ll explore this week.

And then I got a hilarious email from our hostess Erika:

Good morning Jennie!
I hope you slept well!
The berries that are in the composition on the terrace table are poisoned. Tell to your children to not eat them.
Buona giornata!
Erika

Not sure you could force any of them to eat any of these.

Not sure you could force any of them to eat any of these.

Erika is one of the kindest humans on the planet, so I think she means poisonous, but, still sort of exciting.

The castle in the noon sunlight.

The castle in the noon sunlight.

Have a fun day, all, and enjoy your lunch, Kelly.

Italy Trip – Day 32 – A Lucca Farmhouse Day – The Magnificent Ordinary

Though there are many days up until Day 32 left to write about, yesterday (Saturday) was stunning in so many ways. We did nothing unusual, but that in itself is extraordinary. We spent the day wandering around the Tuscan countryside, reading and cooking, wrestling and laughing, working out and working…in our farmhouse outside Lucca, Italy.

Dwell on that for a brief minute…our farmhouse outside Lucca, Italy.

The day started with a hearty guffaw.

Monkey has been diligently working on the role-playing video game she’s creating. Sharing a computer with three other people has meant great practice in patience and compromise for all of us, but she has especially felt the pull of needing/wanting hours to work, and not getting it. She stayed up very late on Friday, both to work, and also because Best Buddy Lu was online at the end of her school day.

When Yessa woke up on Saturday morning and asked if she could get up, we cautioned her, “Monkey was up working very late, so please be quiet as you can downstairs.” (Monkey is now sleeping in the living room on a futon, which allowed us to move Buster off the pallet on the floor in the children’s bedroom, which has helped his allergies here improve.)

Yessa gave a vigorous nod as she trotted out of our bedroom and down the stairs, “I will be pitch quiet!”

“Pitch quiet” is another phrase destined for the family vocabulary along with “base-up,” “lasterday,” and “sooth-me.”

Buds and I walked for several kilometers and the walk included: The beautifully cared for, peaceful cemetery by our house; a brief stop for Buds to attempt catapulting himself into the underbrush with a stand of bamboo;

Excited to see how sprongy it's going to be. (It wasn't...video coming soon.)

Excited to see how sprongy it’s going to be. (It wasn’t…video coming soon.)

Meandering through an olive grove where several friendly adults on ladders were beginning the olive harvest;

Tuscan countryside in the background.

Tuscan countryside in the background.

Tuscan trees in the background.

Tuscan trees in the background.

Planning for additions to our home and changes in our life due to discoveries we’ve made on this grand adventure of a trip; and, finally, being joined by the roaming black lab who has made an appearance on most of the walks all of us have taken.

The panting young fellow added a new trick to his repertoire yesterday though. He jogged along in front of us for most of the trip, including several times when he turned a different direction than us, would look to see where we were, then sprinted to get ahead of us.

In addition to wanting to lead, he also wanted to demonstrated his unique ability of being able to poo with his leg cocked in the air. This disconcerting ability was both impressive and annoying. The first few times we thought he was tinkling to mark his territory…as normal dogs do…until we passed by where he’d done his marking and the wafting scent let us know he’d been more thorough than other dogs in his marking. We watched more in awe than annoyance as he did this throughout most of our walk.

His laughing, friendly face, and jaunting wagging tail meant you couldn’t get upset with his silly self.

Stanley McCrapperson...look at that smile.

Stanley McCrapperson…look at that smile.

We did laundry, made coffee, created delicious meals, read books, played cards, gave up on the puzzle that Grandma and Grandpa had started with us when they were here, visited with Lella, our landlord, and devoured the final remnants of our cooking class from yesterday.

Eat a carrot, read a book, snuggle under a blanket...perfect life.

Eat a carrot, read a book, snuggle under a blanket…perfect life.

What's cookin', Good Lookin'?

What’s cookin’, Good Lookin’?

A little help in the kitchen.

A little help in the kitchen.

Gone, but not forgotten. We got a couple pieces after The Grands left, but not many.

Gone, but not forgotten. We got a couple pieces after The Grands left, but not many.

Murder Mystery about a detective in Sicily. In other words "research" for later in the trip.

Murder Mystery about a detective in Sicily. In other words “research” for later in the trip.

The weather was sunny and 21°C with not a cloud in the sky.

Could we have had this day back home? One very similar to it, yes. And that’s part of the joy for me. Knowing we can make a joy-filled, fulfilling life anywhere. The ketchup is different, and we miss our cat, but overall this life we’re living here is a delight.

Let’s Drink All the Coffee!

Buds and I had fantastic memories of our coffee drinking times here in Italy. There is a place to get espresso everywhere, including at the front of the grocery store, in the bus terminal, at the train station, but not at the post office. (More on what you CAN do at the post office later.)

On our drive from Lake Como to The Dolomites, we stopped at a large shopping mall for gas, a snack, and to allow upset tummies to recover from the twisty-turny driving we’d been doing. Buds wandered down to the all-purpose store and found the supplies we’d need to consistently make our own delightful coffee, no matter what our temporary homes had for supplies.

There are two parts to making the delightful cappucino:

1) Making the thick, dark, rich coffee.

2) Whipping the frothy, creamy milk.

To make the thick coffee, first you must start with the burner.

All Most of our Italy homes have had a special mocha pot holder:

The gas stove burner top without the ninja star.

The gas stove burner top without the ninja star.

What the ninja coffee star actually looks like.

What the ninja coffee star actually looks like.

Ninja coffee star in place on a burner.

Ninja coffee star in place on a burner.

Our Lucca Inside-The-Walls apartment didn’t have a ninja coffee star, so we improvised:

Our makeshift ninja coffee star.

Our makeshift ninja coffee star.

Burner ready?

Now you fill the bottom of the mocha pot with water.

The bottom of the mocha pot.

The bottom of the mocha pot.

The steam outlet, you fill the water up to that valve.

The steam outlet, you fill the water up to that valve.

Then you get just the right amount of coffee into your coffee filter:

The coffee filter out of the mocha pot.

The coffee filter out of the mocha pot.

The filter upside down on the counter.

The filter upside down on the counter.

The base of the mocha pot with the empty coffee filter resting in it.

The base of the mocha pot with the empty coffee filter resting in it.

The mocha coffee holder where you plunge the filter in and come out with the sweet, delicious coffee.

The mocha coffee holder where you plunge the filter in and come out with the sweet, delicious coffee.

All around Italy they sell these cans of coffee specifically for the mocha pot. Plunge in the coffee filter, keep your finger on the end to maintain suction, draw it out with the perfect amount of coffee.

The filled coffee filter

The filled coffee filter

After you fill up the water reservoir and the coffee filter is filled with coffee and dropped into its place, you screw on the top of the mocha pot.

The bottom of the upper chamber. It, too, has a filter to strain out the coffee grounds.

The bottom of the upper chamber. It, too, has a filter to strain out the coffee grounds.

The top of the mocha pot. This is where the finished coffee ends up.

The top of the mocha pot. This is where the finished coffee ends up.

The inside of the top of the mocha pot.

The inside of the top of the mocha pot.

The complete mocha pot:

Shiny and ready to make that delicious black gold.

Shiny and ready to make that delicious black gold.

You screw together the top and bottom as tightly as you can, the set them on a medium flame. The rich coffee perks up through that hole in the top of the center stem. It will give a whistling/hissing sound as it nears the completion of the process.

Once you hear the hissing, if you want an espresso, you may now pour the black liquid into an espresso mug, or even:

An espresso served in a tiny glass. Glass of grappa behind.

An espresso served in a tiny glass. Glass of grappa behind.

If you want the full experience, once the mocha pot has given its whistling wheeze to tell you it has perked as much coffee as it is going to, it’s time for the milk.

Pour in milk, half-way full. Warm over burner. When skin forms on top, swish 100 times.

Pour in milk, half-way full. Warm over burner. When skin forms on top, swish 100 times.

When the milk is ready, you divide the coffee from the top of the mocha pot into one, two, or three mugs, depending on who needs cappuccino. We put about 1/4-1/2 tsp sugar in the bottom of the mugs and stir to dissolve the sugar and coffee.

Then divide the foamy milk between the mugs.

Creamy delicious cappucino.

Creamy delicious cappucino.

The scariest mug we've had in all our homes.

The scariest mug we’ve had in all our homes.

This daily ritual has brought such a beautiful start to the day. We were up to having 4-5 cappuccinos/day, but I’ve had to cut back due to heart palpitations.

As a side note, Italians never drink cappuccino after 10 a.m. Espresso can be ordered any time, but not cappuccino. Italians believe the fresh whole milk that makes up over half of the contents of this drink plays havoc with digestion.

Finally, at the delightful mall where Buds found all our necessary coffee-making supplies, we stopped at a gelato stand that also sold fantastic pastries and coffee. Buds and I were set to order espressos (It was after 10 a.m.), but an Italian gentleman in front of me ordered this:

Pretty, sweet delight.

Pretty, sweet delight.

Notice a small candy is included with all the coffee served at this location. Because…why not?

I grinned at our barista and said, “I’d like one of those!”

Then the two baristas and the Italian gentleman taught me how to say “Marocchino.” (mare-ō-keé-nō) One of the baristas even wrote down the word on a napkin for me so I wouldn’t forget.

They said I could order one of those any time of day, but I haven’t found anywhere else that looks like they’d have the flair to do it.

I’ll keep looking.

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This coffee creation process is one of the gifts from this trip that will keep on giving.

Addition:

I realized I didn’t tell about the cleaning process, which is also interesting.

Unscrew the top and bottom which is no small feat.

Then:

Blow on the end of the coffee filter to clean it.

Blow on the end of the coffee filter to clean it.

Blow, pop, presto, right into the compost.

Blow, pop, presto, right into the compost.

Efficient and simple.

Rinse all the parts, set them aside until you make your next cuppa in a couple hours.

Shuttered

All our Italy homes have had shutters.

Lake Como: Wooden shutters on all the doors and windows, except the circle window in the kitchen.

Wooden external

Wooden external

(You can’t actually see the shutters in the picture above, but all the openings had wooden doors that closed over the French doors.)

My beloved Apartment Sassun:

Ultra-modern, electric, metal shutters on the outside. Even the door to the deck had one. They were all run by switches.

Ultra-modern, electric, metal shutters on the outside. Even the door to the deck had one. They were all run by switches.

You can see the partially open electric shutter in the upper window on the front side of the house.

In our Florence home:

Wooden internal shutters

Wooden internal shutters

For our Venice home, this takes a bit of imagination. The thin strip of green on the side of the window is the open shutter.

Wooden external

Wooden external

Our Inside-The-Walls Lucca home: Note the shutter on the right side of the picture.

Wooden external shutters

Wooden external shutters

Since I only had the idea for a “shutter-survey” today, I haven’t been vigilant about photos of the shutters. That changes with our Lucca Farmhouse location:

The farmhouse shutters open.

The farmhouse shutters open.

The farmhouse shutters closed inside.

The farmhouse shutters closed inside.

The outside shutters on the lower doors and windows.

The outside shutters on the lower doors and windows.

All closed up.

All closed up.

A little research on why all the shutters: Italian Shutters.

The shutters are marvelous at blocking out light and help with sound. The do give a cozy feeling when closed up.

The Apartment Sassun electric, metal shutters had a bunker-like feel. They completely blocked out light, which gave a cozy feeling to the children’s room. In the main room where Buds and I slept, there was a skylight which negated the light-blocking ability, and I didn’t like to have the door and window shutters all closed. It felt a little claustrophobic, but they were a neat feature.

Shutters are hindered by screens, and as many mosquito bites as we acquired in the Florence apartment, I’m not sure which is the better trade off. I loved having the windows open with the shutters sometimes open, sometimes closed, but the buggies found their way inside too easily.

Beautiful scenes outside the window, screened or not:On that score, we’re doing extremely well.

Italy Trip – Days 15-21 – Florence- Part 5- David…Here We Come.

Showing the children “David” has been high on the list from the very beginning. We are not “crowd” people, so I’d been trying to figure out how to get us in without having to stand in line or be pushed around by vast volumes of other humans.

Bless Firenze’s heart, during the time we happened to be there, David’s Home, The Academy, was open until 11 p.m. on Saturday night’s to accommodate crowds.

We headed out on a rainy night, walked right in to the Academy, and explored for an hour or so.

The Ponte Vecchio at night.

The Ponte Vecchio at night.

Always hold hands.

Always hold hands.

We were a little wet.

We were a little wet.

Heading for The Duomo.

Heading for The Duomo.

Exploring the streets of Florence was great fun.

Exploring the streets of Florence was great fun.

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The Duomo

The Duomo

There is much to see at The Academy.

The littles and I wandered into a musical instrument exhibit and learned that the first “upright” piano was, literally, a grand piano turned…upright.

Yup, it's upright.

Yup, it’s upright.

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The last time Buds and I were in Italy, the busts were easier to get right up to.

Back when the faces were at eye level.

Back when the faces were at eye level.

Yessa and I attempted to revisit the pose anyway:

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Different bust, same idea.

Different bust, same idea.

Monkey and I sat behind David and discussed the beauty, as well as the nakedness again.

Earlier in the trip, when we had seen the replica of David that’s housed outdoors at the end of the Ufizzi, Buster had commented on the outsized look of David’s hands, which was also intriguing to discuss.

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There is so much beauty to see at The Academy, although David gets all the hype.

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A relaxing stroll back across the river:

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And one final gelato stop to end the evening:

One final stop

One final stop

A delightful introduction to one of the most famous pieces of art in the world.