1. Up and Away from Florence-

    My second day in Florence I climbed a big hill.  On the top of the hill was Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte. The church is considered to be one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Florence.  The first structure, a chapel, appeared on the site by the eighth century, and the present church was begun in 1013.  The church was endowed by Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor, and was guided by Bishop Alibrando.  There is also a monastery on the site, which began as a Benedictine community, then became Clunaic, and, in 1373, became Olivetan.  As for the structure itself, it was begun in 1013, but the decorative pavement is from 1207, the large mosaic, Christ Between the Virgin and St. Minas, is from 1260, and Michelozzo’s Cappella del Crocefisso is from 1448.  As for the outside of the church, the marble façade was begun around 1090 and the campanile was replaced in 1523, after it collapsed in 1499.  Legend states that during the Siege of Florence (1530) Michelangelo wrapped said campanile in mattresses to protect it from being damaged.

    After visiting San Miniato I walked to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which is a noted place among tourists because it gives an amazing view of the city.  Finally, I walked to the Boboli Gardens, which are also popular with tourists because of their beauty.  They were very nice, but I was a bit underwhelmed with them.  I think this is mostly because I was at Versailles just last week. 

     
  2. Lemon Raspberry Breakfast Rolls from Joy the Baker

    These were on my other blog (not travel-related) and I thought I’d share the recipe here.  There are a few thing that I thought I’d miss when I left for London, but I never really missed them.  There were other things that I didn’t even consider that I find myself missing very much.  Baking, interestingly enough, is one of the things I miss the most about being home.  Over here I don’t have the supplies to bake and so I’ve been collecting recipes for when I get back home.  These are one of the things that I want to bake- they look so good!  Also, I think Mom will probably like them because they have lots of raspberries in them.

    (Source: shepaintswithwords)

     
  3. Around Rome-

    Even though I was disappointed with St. Peter’s, I still had a really nice time in Rome.  I got to do some things that I hadn’t when I was living here in 2012, so that was really nice. 

    Many of these pictures are of the Capitoline Museums, which is probably the #1 thing I didn’t do in Rome that I should have.  The museum is one of the largest in the city and has an incredible collection of Ancient Greek and Roman art.  They also have an awesome view of the Roman Forum, which you can see in the last photo in this set. 

    While in Rome I also stopped at Kelly’s and my favourite gelato place which is right next to the Trevi Fountain.  Now back in London, I already miss the gelato!  I’m having ice cream tomorrow, but it won’t be the same.

    Also, it was incredibly warm and sunny while I was in Rome.  I wore a skirt and short-sleeve shirt the first day I was here and was not cold at all!  It is less warm now and I am sad about it.

    The large middle picture in this set is a church that I randomly wandered into.  One of my favourite things about Rome is that no matter where you go, if you see a church (respectfully) go look at it- it’ll be amazingly beautiful (thanks, Counter-Reformation).

     
  4. It’s looking a lot like spring here in London, but that also means it’s looking a lot like exam season. I have been revising (UK studying) with a new friend, however which has been fun. She and I are in two classes together, which is great.

     
  5. St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome-

    Sorry I’m just posting photos now, Italy, as you may remember from when I was here in 2012, has really terrible internet connection speeds, so I’m just updating now.  Well, here we go, then.  I’ll be posting things from both Rome and Florence in the next few days.

    To me, climbing the dome of St. Peter’s seemed to be the ultimate cathedral climb.  I mean, it is the cathedral.  It’s so incredibly famous, not to mention is the center of the Catholic Church.  I was very excited to be doing this climb, and I was so let down by it.  To me climbing churches isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey.  It’s about understanding the inner-workings of these massively complicated structures and it’s about walking the same paths that others have for hundreds of years.  I can tell you this right now: St. Peter’s doesn’t get it.  They see the climb as the thing one has to do to see a pretty view.  Instead of using the original passages, the stairs were removed and metal stairs, complete with handrails and slip-resistant treads, were installed.  To add even more insult, there was even an elevator for part of the ride.  Yes, both of these things make the top of the dome accessible to more people, but are we really going to destroy cultural heritage for the sake of a bunch of tourists being able to stand at the top of the dome and take pictures with iPads?  Apparently so.  I’m not calling for all tourists to be kicked out of St. Peter’s- far from it.  No, the interior of the Basilica is fully accessible, which is great!  I fully support this.  But to completely alter the historic space in such a irreversible way for the sake of political correctness is unacceptable. 

     
  6. Sunday bells at the Duomo!

     
     

  7. Florence!

    I *finally* found my hostel in Florence. I’ll be here until the 14th.

     
  8. Palace of Versailles-

    On Saturday I visited the Palace of Versailles.  It is slightly outside the city of Paris, but it can be easily accessed by the RER, which is a train system similar to the Boston/MBTA Commuter Rail (but their trains are nicer).  I got an early start to the day because the Palace gets really busy in the afternoon and I had plans to walk around Paris with Sam later in the day.

    The Palace of Versailles began as a hunting lodge commissioned by King Louis XIII in 1624.  The original structure, which is smaller than what can be seen today, was designed by Philibert Le Roy and was made of red brick.  Only eight years later Louis XIII enlarged the château.  

    Versailles was enlarged again under Louis XIV, the successor to Louis XIII.  The first Louis XIV enlargements were begun in 1661 under the architect Louis Le Vau, landscape architect André Le Nôtre, and painter Charles Lebrun.  The reasoning behind these expansions was Louis XIV’s wish to establish a new location for the French royal court.  This occurred officially on May 6, 1682.  By moving his court to Versailles, Louis was able to keep more control over it and to distance the court from the citizens of Paris.  To keep even more control, Louis XIV required his high-ranking nobles to each spend a part of the year at court, which prevented them from spending too much time in their own home regions.  Furthermore, many elaborate rules and rituals were established for the French court to put Louis XIV in an even greater position of power.

    Under Louis XIV there were four building campaigns to enlarge Versailles.  The first campaign occurred from 1664-1668 and added more space for guests as well as made the gardens larger.  The second building campaign (1669-1672) enclosed the original hunting lodge on three sides and created two large apartments, one for the king and one for the queen.  A terrace was also added that would later become the famous Hall of Mirrors.  The third campaign (1678-1684) was done under the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart.  This is when the Hall of Mirrors was constructed, as well as the new North and South Wings.  The gardens were further expanded as well.  Finally, the fourth building campaign (1688-1697) created the royal chapel.

    Louis XIV died in 1715, leaving Louis XV, only five years old, as ruler of France.  The court moved back to Paris until 1722, when it returned to Versailles.  Louis XV renovated many of the apartments and created new ones for the ever-expanding court.  The only notable change to the gardens made under Louis XV was the construction of the Bassin de Neptune (1738-1741).  

    Finally, Louis XVI finished many of the projects left by Louis XIV.  More notably, Louis XVI also completely renovated the gardens, forming them into the English-inspired style that was popular during the late eighteenth century. 

     

  9. Paris —-> Rome

    I am currently in Orly airport waiting to be able to check in to my flight to Rome! I have had such a wonderful time in Paris and I will post more pictures soon.

     
  10. Chartres Cathedral-

    Yesterday I visited Chartres Cathedral.  The cathedral was a bit of a hike to get to- an hour on the Paris Metro and another hour and a half on a regional train to get to Chartres, but I’m so glad that I went.  The cathedral is incredible, I got to climb the North Tower, and the town of Chartres is just lovely.  I really like climbing cathedrals and churches.  I know this must strike some as odd, but hear me out.  My primary interest in doing these climbs is that it allows me to understand the building better- to get to know them.  Because stairs to higher levels were constructed for maintenance work or other “behind the scenes” objectives, one learns much more about the construction of the church and how it was constructed.  Furthermore, these hidden spaces give one an idea of how much attention to detail was paid during the construction of a church.  Frequently one can get up-close with the church’s ornaments in a way that one would not otherwise be able to.  One can also see that frequently non-public areas of churches are just as decorated as the public areas. 

    Now, history time: 

    Construction on Chartres Cathedral as we now see it began because of extensive damage done by a fire that broke out on June 10, 1194.  The only part of the structure to survive were the Western towers which were then incorporated into the new structure.  Most of the nave was constructed by 1220 and the vaulting was finished by the 1250s.  On 24 April, 1260 the cathedral was consecrated in the presence of King Louis IX of France.  In 1506 lightning struck the North Tower and it was rebuilt in the style of the time, making it look very different from the rest of the building.  In 1836 a fire destroyed the wood roof and it was replaced with an iron and copper structure that is seen today.  In 1939 all of the stained glass was removed from the cathedral prior the country being invaded during World War II.  After the war all of the stained glass was replaced. 

    The North Tower, which is the one I climbed, is 371 feet tall and has approximately 300 steps from the bottom to the top.