This was my third visit to Florence and after reading that November was usually quieter for tourists I was surprised to have to dodge so many people on our way from the station to our accommodation. The streets and piazzas were humming, but it was the weekend and upon arrival at our hotel we discovered that the Pope was coming to town and that was when it all started to make sense. We were told that the Pope would be passing underneath our hotel window and that it would be the first visit by a Pope in almost 30 years.
On this trip we didn’t visit the Uffizi or see the David however we did spend time hanging out in Piazza della Signoria, I love the loggia and spent quite a bit of time with the beautiful sculptures residing within. We also went for a stroll across to the other side of the river, a lovely part of Florence that is home to wonderful artisans and the Antico Ristoro di Cambi where we tried the famous and delicious Bistecca Fiorentina. Florence is perfect for strolling and it seemed that wherever we went there was something for us to enjoy, whether it be gelato, coffee or a work of art.
The rape of the Sabine
Il Papa visiting Florence as seen from our accommodation
2014 was going to be the year for taking more photos, practicing what I’ve learned and improving my understanding of ‘manual’ mode. Not sure that I’ve succeeded on all counts but here are ten of my favourite photos from 2014, some you will have seen before.
Ailsa’s latest travel theme on Where’s my backpack is metal. Although I haven’t travelled far in recent times I did manage to find some shots that fit the criteria by trawling through my photo archives.
Decorative metal, Melbourne
Detail of sculpture at Sydney’s Sculptures by the Sea 2013
Artistic metal tap, Lucerne Switzerland
Sculpture, Federation Square Melbourne
Metal armour, Paris’ Army Museum
Rothenburg ob de Tauber garden tap
Climb several hundred stairs of a tower for a great view of San Gimignano and the gigantic bell.
We bought the Roma Pass for 25 euros from the Palazzo Massimo, one of the National Museums of Rome (Museo Nazionale Romano in Italian). The pass is valid for 3 days and included entry to 2 museums or archaeological sites and 3 days of transport on trains and buses within the city plus discounts at other attractions. The Palazzo Massimo is near Termini Station and it is one of three different museums housing the collection of the National Museum: the Baths of Diocletian, Palazzo Massimo, and the Palazzo Altemps and all three count as one museum so you can use the pass at another site without having to pay for entry. We used the pass again to bypass the long queues at the Colosseum, a guide touting for business tried to tell us that we still needed to join a guided tour to eat the queues but I had read my travel guides for Rome and we ignored his ‘advice’. Entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill is included with entry to the Colosseum so technically, you can visit all 6 sites mentioned with the one pass but it is alot to squeeze into 3 days especially if you have other attractions you want to see.
The two other museums we visited during our stay in Rome were the Vatican Museums and the Capitoline Museums. We decided to do a guided tour of the Vatican Museums because we wanted to understand what we were looking at, it was a good idea however I think we would choose an early morning private tour next time, they cost alot more but you enter the museums before they actually open. The crowds in the Vatican Museums made it almost unbearable at times, yet it didn’t take anything away from the beauty of the Raphael rooms and Sistine Chapel.
The Capitoline Museum was less busy, almost empty in comparison and on a hot day it was one of the best places to be, cool and comfortable, away from the mad rush outside. I explored this museum by myself, my husband was a tad over the museum/church thing by then and I wasn’t leaving Rome without seeing the colossal feet or statue of the wolf feeding baby Romulus and Remus. From memory it was 11 euros to enter the museum, average price for a tourist attraction in Rome and by now my Roma Pass had expired. The sculptures and mosaics contained within are a must-see for any art lover or history buff, I had only seen these pieces were in art books or text books at school and here I could almost touch them.
The Swell Sculpture Festival is held each year in September, this year is the 9th year of the event and I always try to spend a couple of hours meandering through the art, dodging other onlookers and feeling the sand between my toes. The art is free to see, the backdrop is the blue sky and white sand of Currumbin beach on the southern end of the Gold Coast in Queensland. You can buy programmes, vote for your favourite sculpture or just sit in a cafe across the road and enjoy the view.
For the last two years we have used the event as a day out with the dogs, last year we went in the afternoon which meant it was cooler for two black dogs and the changing light as the sun set enhanced the sculptures. This year it was mid-morning, no dogs because it was much too hot and on a beautiful Sunday we knew that there would be too many people about and navigating with dogs the size of ours can be difficult in a crowd. Parking was not free, for $5 we parked in the car park of a the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, the money going to a good cause and we were guaranteed a place to park.
The range of sculptures is always fascinating and after a few years attending the event you can identify the particular style or medium used by an artist: metal, resin, timber, stone, plaster or clay. The sculptures are usually lined up along the esplanade with only a couple located on the beach however this year there were many more on the beach and I particular liked the green polar bear and reflective sculpture, they do have proper titles but I was stingy and didn’t buy a programme. The heat coming off the sand and the glare of the sun on some sculptures proved too bright in some instances, we stood in the cool water watching as the waves rolled in, the water splashing our legs cooling us instantly and the ocean breeze certainly helped as well.
In the end the heat was too much for us and it was getting close to lunch time, the soft serve ice-cream we bought from a lovely lady in an ice cream van was delicious but we craved real food and some air conditioned comfort. Next year I think we’ll venture down in the afternoon, being the 10th anniversary of the event I imagine that there will be some spectacular displays and celebrations.