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Florence

Mercato di San Lorenzo
Thank goodness for long days of summer. We made the most of our 24-hour visit to Firenze. After a nice lunch at Trattoria Dante (which is big on ambiance), we took the bus to San Lorenzo where we browsed the outdoor stalls for decent bargains to take home as presents for family and friends. My cousin was particularly interested in finding a good leather jacket. We arrived at the market just before their fold-up time of 7 p.m. and the bargaining was intense. In the end, I bought four lacy scarves, left the leather bags alone and walked happily away. My cousin found the jacket he wanted the following day. Shopping done, we strolled to the Duomo and Baptistery of San Giovanni for art history lessons. My favorite Florentine story is about the competition for the crafting of the bronze doors of the Baptistery. Both Ghiberti and Brunelleschi submitted their quatrefoil panels of the Sacrifice of Isaac. Ghiberti won and was awarded the commission to sculpt the reliefs …

Highlights of My Italian Summer

The Duomo, Milan
In the next few weeks I'll be writing in detail about my trip to Italy this June. For the moment, I'd like to share some highlights of our visit to this country that calls you, like a siren, to come back for more.

It took more than four centuries to complete the construction of Milan's Duomo. Napoleon Bonaparte demanded it be ready for his coronation as King of Italy. This photo was taken on a Sunday, sunny day and family day.
A short train ride from Milan to Lake Como and a total change of pace. Far from the madding crowd, Lake Como is naturally beautiful and peaceful in late spring. It might be quite a different scene in summer. 
Bellagio, Lake Como
We made a pilgrimage to Padua in the Veneto region to pray at the tomb of St. Anthony. The feast of St. Anthony is on June 13 and we we were lucky to have participated in one of the masses during the 13-day long festivities.
Basilica del Santo, Padua
Venice is such a fragile peninsula that has survived thro…

Under Brunelleschi's Dome

In the quattrocento, Lorenzo Ghiberti was awarded the commission to carve the gilded bronze panels decorating the north door of the Baptistery after winning the competition against the likes of Jacopo della Quercia and Filippo Brunelleschi. The outcome of this contest proved providential for Florence because Brunelleschi moved on to build the dome which crowns the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore. Not since the Pantheon in Rome was constructed between AD118-28 has a dome of this scale been built.

The red-tiled Duomo is one of the most enduring symbols of Florence. White ribs contain its sides and a lantern of white marble with windows caps the dome, directing light into the cupola. There are 463 steps leading to the dome for a 360-degree view of the Tuscan countryside. From within the cathedral, one can marvel at the restored fresco of the Last Judgment which covers the cupola.

A walk along Via del Calzaiuoli reveals tempting shop windows, fun distractions as we crisscross our way to P…

In Umbria and Tuscany

I have an ambitious plan to see as many places in Umbria and Tuscany. I made Assisi my base to explore Perugia, Gubbio, and Spoleto. But after days of climbing uphill, my feet now feel like lead. At the end of the day, I sleep for long hours to rest my body and prepare it for another day of physical training.

Today I'm off to one more hilltown, Orvieto. It's a late start but now I've accepted the fact that I can't possibly see everything. Unless I stay overnight in each town, I can only cover so much. And perhaps have some time to savor the Norcia truffles which are the black gold of Italian cuisine.

There was a train strike yesterday so I spent the day exploring Firenze. As many times as I've visited this city, there are still more places I haven't yet seen. I chose to return to Santa Croce to see the Pazzi Chapel by Brunelleschi and was treated to a fresco of St. Francis by Giotto and a Crucifix by Cimabue. It was bitterly cold and luckily I found KOME, a Japan…