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Entries in museums (20)


Photos 300/365 (series)

It's that spooky time of year, the time when the after world and all its haunts is only thinly veiled and the passage between more easily traversed. It's the time of year for visiting with the past. Detroit has a lot of past, and hopefully a lot of future, too. We sandwiched a bit of that future between two enticing slices of past today—a tour of Ford's original plant, dinner at an up-and-comer, and a ghost walk at historic Fort Wayne.

It was the perfect day for it, and not just the date, situated ideally close to Halloween, but also the weather, which, while chilly, held just the perfect hint of rain to add a sense of the gothic to our plans, and a rich emotion to the photos. The tour at the plant was thoroughly enjoyable, and very informative, then dinner was warm and delicious—an experience as much as a meal, and one I'd willingly recommend. But the ghost tour at the fort was on odd cherry on top of our day. While the opening video was again enjoyably informative, the ensuing walk was less a tour and more a strange introduction to ghost hunting. Though I think we had all expected something on par with the entertainment at Greenfield Village's Hallowe'en Nights, the long stretches spent trying to communicate with "the other side" was made far more interesting than it sounds by the spookiness inherent in both the weather and the abandoned feeling of the historic fort.

All said it was delightfully exhausting, and, in the end, perfect.


Day 13, getting to know David

Our third and final full day in Florence was, you guessed it, full. It found us up bright and early and waiting in a continuously growing line outside the Accademia.

We had pinned our hopes for the morning on getting to the museum early enough to see Michelangelo's David without having to wait for hours with hundreds of other people. This is where the Firenze card was pure magic. Because, even though we watched the tour groups pile up outside their own entrance, and the individual sight seers crowd around theirs, we were ushered in through our own, special, Firenze Card door right at opening time. Two rooms and a hallway later we found ourselves in David's larger-than-life presence. The hall was large and high ceilinged, and, with only about fifteen of us in there, library quiet. Yep, fifteen of us, give or take. We had plenty of room to walk all the way around the giant guy, and, for some reason, the almost private showing lasted for at least a good fifteen minutes before others started to trickle in. It gave us plenty of time to really take in the work and feel a bit of awe in its presence. We had so much time that we actually left to see other exhibits and were utterly surprised by the crush of people packing the hallway when we came back through it not a half hour later. 

Firenze Card for the win. 

The rest of the Accademia was less than exciting, although they did have a pair of hurdey gurdies that was to die for. It's possible that the real bagels we found at a little shop around the corner were more to die for, but that might be because it had been weeks since we'd enjoyed real honest-to-goodness bagels.

When we left the Accademia we wandered by Brunelleschi's orphanage and then over to the home  and chapel of the Medicis. The Medici home was something I had greatly looked forward to, and while it didn't deliver on the level that I had hoped, it's "open for visitors but not quite a museum" status was somehow just the thing. Disappointing was the vulgar Pinocchio art exhibit that cluttered the hallways, and that much of the original home currently houses government offices of some kind and so was off the tour, but I still got a chance to stand in the courtyard and  imagining Michelangelo and cohorts running up the wide, sweeping staircases and through the long hallways. That was what I had wanted, and it was there for the taking. The chapel was less impressive, and partly under construction. That was fine.

We finished the morning with a climb up Giotto's tower (lots of climbing in Florence, lots of climbing), and this has to have been one of the most magical moments for me, because we reached the top just at noon, and the entire city erupted in ringing bells. It was amazing.

We took the afternoon off for shopping, gelato, and beer, then finished the day with a tour of the Palazzo Pitti. From town we followed the Vasari Corridor, over the Ponte Vecchio and through the narrow streets, up the hill to the palace, all the while imaging the Medici rulers using the covered walkway to get to their offices (Uffizi) on time and in one piece (that, or Dan Brown's Inferno, one of the two). The Pitti Palace was a confusing place, in terms of camera rules, so there are few pictures from inside the museum, but a handful more from our romp through the Boboli gardens there.

And that was it. That was Florence. The next day was again one of driving through foothills and on up into the Apenine Mountains for the last bit of magic on our trip. And magic it was, too.

Brunelleschi's Orphanage, the Ospedale degli Innocenti

Look for Lorenzo, the plaque said, he's the one in the red hat.

The Medici tombs in the Medici Chapel

The Duomo, buried in the center the city you run into it all the time

Giotto's Tower (photo from day 2, but since we climbed it on day 3, I think it goes here)


The Tower is the best place to photograph the Duomo, the Duomo the best place to photograph the Tower.

Cool bat with a mustache thingy...I have whole folders full of great doorway and window decorations

Tiny beers for you!

Palazzo Pitti

The ornate ceilings and walls were *painted on* (mind blown)

Boboli Gardens

The best views of the city are from the Boboli Gardens—note Giotto's Tower, Brunellschi's Dome on the the Duomo, the smaller almost identical dome of the Medici Chapel, and the fortress-like top of the Palazzo Vecchio

The Grotto and the Vasari Corridor 


Day 12, the Uffizi and more

Our second full day in Florence was as full as the first. When we first arrived in the city and picked up our Firenze cards, there was a brief moment of panic as we took in the long list of visiting possibilities compared the the short number of days at our disposal. There is a lot to see in Florence. A lot. But the good news is that the old city center is relatively small, and pretty much everything is walkable. The further good news for us was that, thanks to the cards, some planning ahead, and our being there outside of peak tourist season, we spent very little of our little time waiting in lines.

Still, we spent our first evening planning every minute of every day so as to maximize the time and get to as many sites as we could. It reminded me a bit of Disney planning—deciding which activities are most important and then planning which lines will be shortest when and how to get to them all. This may have added to the carnival feel I got from the city as a whole.

So, our second full day in Florence was as full as the first. We focused on the Uffizi, the Galileo Science Museum, The Basilica of Santa Croce, the inside of the Duomo, and the Church of Orsanmichel. The Uffizi was amazing, but does not allow pictures, though I accidentally snagged the photo button a few times while I was trying to take notes on the various pieces of art, so I have a couple of shots to mark the visit there. The Galileo museum did allow photography, and was surprisingly enjoyable. Although, like the Casa di Dante, it had little that was actually Galileo's, unlike Dante's sort-of-maybe-almost museum, Galileo's provided lots to see, read, learn, and do. They had wonderful videos that demonstrated how many of the pieces were made, used, and worked. Plus they had lots of very old globes, clocks, and telescopes, and I love very old globes, clocks, and telescopes.

The Basilica of Santa Croce, a.k.a. the church with all the most famous dead people in Florence, was one of hte most simple churches, but one of the more beautiful for it as well. We followed our visit there with a trip inside the Duomo (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) to see the dome from the floor below. As beautiful as it the duomo is outside, the inside was a little of a let down, but the Baptistry across the way was hiding a surprisingly golden dome behind Ghiberti's famous doors. And Orsanmichele was exciting mostly for the ring of statues set in its walls, particularly the St. George and the Dragon by Donatello.

We finished with beer, and some time to rest our feet before a delightful dinner outdoors on a small square near the Palazzo Pitti. 

Resting our feet at the Uffizi
Birth of Venus, by Botticelli, housed at the Uffizi

The Portrait of Leo X, by Raphael, housed at the Uffizi

The Galileo Science Museum

The Basilica di Santa Croce

Galileo's tomb

Michelangelo's tomb


Santa Maria del Fiore

Plaque to Brunelleschi

Dome inside the Baptistry

Church of Orsanmichele

Donatello's St. George and the Dragon

On the Arno near the Ponte Vecchio

Standing under the Vasari Corridor

The Vasari Corridor over the Ponte Vecchio

clams for dinner!


Day 4, Ancient Rome (9/17)

This was the day that we returned to the classical period of our history. It was also the day on which my camera stopped focusing properly, a state of protest it maintained until the very last day of our trip, of course.

It's a tossup for me between classics and Renaissance. I love them both for very different reasons. Calvin, on the other hand, seems to be most in love with the ancients. On many occasions, this day being no exception, I was exceedingly glad that we had spent so much time this summer studying our Italian and Roman history.

We started our tour of the classics in the Roman Forum. Walking paths between the ruins of what was once the heart of an enormous empire, surrounded by the remnants of marble columns and arches, was an awesome experience, in the true and literal sense of the word. Those remnants are giant, and can give only an impression of what the original span of the forum must have been. Sculptural detail and signs carved out in Latin attempt to carry you back to the past, and if you stand in just the right spot while reading descriptions of historical moments can take your breath away. If you have an active imagination, that is.

But equally as impressive is taking a moment to look around and think about the present meeting the past. It's the little things, like watching Calvin stop to take a rest, sitting on ground once traversed by the powerful and tyrannical rulers of a vast empire, that kind of make my head explode with the complexity of history and time.

After the Forum we wandered around Palatine Hill for a while. Rome-the-current is in the process of rebuilding parts of the palace that original occupied this space. Still surviving ancient times, though, were some floors, a handful of walls, a mosaic fountain, and the indoor arena. The pigeons love it. Heading back down from Palatine Hill provided some of the best views of the Colosseum, our next stop. Of course, the Colosseum being an enclosed space, we found ourselves once again battling massive groups of guided tours, but again the battle was worth it.

Our last stop of the day was at the Capitoline Museum. Calvin was eager to make this last stop and had been awaiting his chance to see the original She Wolf statue (as in Romulus and Remus) and the Hall of Philosophers for months. Running low on time we found ourselves practically running through some of the other wings to get to the far end of the museum and the hall we were looking for, only to find it closed for painting. It was a huge disappointment, but since it was the only real one of the trip, we're finding it easy to overlook. Plus the She Wolf was there, just as we had always imagined her.

It is possible, in retrospect, that this was my favorite day of the entire trip, although it's really hard for me to make a distinction like that. Calvin, on the other hand, is very clear about the Colosseum being his second favorite stop of our entire trip (we'll get to his first favorite stop later).


The Arch of Septimus Severus

The Temple of Saturn
"What's holding the rest of that up? I'm leaving." -Dad

Temple of the Vetstal Virgins

Constantine's Basilica

The Arch of Titus

On Palatine Hill

original palace flooring

Indoor arena

The Colosseum

The Victor Emanuel Monument

Capitoline Museum
The head (foot and hand) of the giant statue of Constantine that was in Constantine's Basilica

Looking at a construction of the original Temple of Jupiter, the foundations of which the Capitoline Museum was built over.

The rememnant of the original walls of the Temple of Jupiter

The Dying Gaul

The Luck Dragon?

View of the Forum from the Capitoline basement

Finishing the evening at a jazz club


Day 3, The Vatican (9/16)

Though poorly curated and a bear of a maze to get through, The Vatican Museum is arguably one of the most important museum stops in the world. It must also be one of the most crowded, and, like many other spots in Italy, not particularly known for its service or assistance. Luckily, Julie had gotten us our tickets in advance, so when we got there at 9 in the morning we were able to waltz right in past the growing line of less prepared visitors, through the metal detectors, and up the flights of stairs to immediately begin our day-long visit.

The vastness of the collection makes it a little hard to navigate, and the massive guided tours that don't care if they are in your way only add a source of frustration. The good news about tour groups is that they are limited in their scope, so we were not bothered by them much in the hall of ancient sculpture, or in the Etruscan artifacts wing. Looking at artifacts from the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians was more difficult, though, and traversing the rooms of Renaissance painting was like trying our hands at being sardines.

It was worth it, though. Going in, my top goal was to see the Raphael Rooms, the original apartments with walls and ceilings by Raphael. It is here that you will find The School of Athens, with its guest appearance by Michelangelo, and the room of Constantine (which was actually created by Raphael's students). Each of the rooms was breathtaking and worth the long walk and elbowing it took to get through them. Also worth the feeling of being crushed and the neck ache from staring up for so long was the Sistine Chapel.

The art, of course, is phenomenal, the talent obvious and amazing, but for me the greatest feeling was one of communion with these figures from so long ago. Different from viewing a painting in a wall, or one that travels from museum to museum, these frescoes are in the places where these people slaved over them five hundred years before. And apparently at the same time. The story that stuck with me tells of Raphael stopping in to see what Michelangelo was working on in the chapel and, being so impressed, then altering his own methods to bring a more lively touch to his work. There was a bit of hero worship going on, too, as Raphael then added Michelangelo to his School of Athens, a figure from the then present breaking in on the world of the classic past.

Beyond paintings, Calvin's favorite spot was the Hall of Animals, an odd and interesting collection of animal sculptures from different artists and eras. I was fascinated by the collection of Egyptian relics from the period of Roman rule (Egyptian gods dressed in Roman fashion), and the cuneiform tablets. For Jon, Nero's giant purple bath of porphyry was the most memorable.

A fear of missing something dogged me much of the way. We only stopped for one much needed rest after doing the ancient rooms and before heading into the painted apartments, and when we finally emerged onto the street late in the afternoon we stopped for a quick lunch/dinner before walking around the museum and into the square, because you can't go that far without seeing St. Peters. After the Sistine Chapel, St. Peters felt enormous, but lacking in its presentation. We wandered through it, we took note of Michelangelo's Pieta, the most notable part of the stop for me, and wandered back out again into a dusky square. We managed a quick stop to the Vatican Post before it closed, and we called it a day. A long day.

To sum it up in one word—amazing.

Outside the Vatican Museum

The Hall of Statues

The Hall of Animals

The giant Porphyry tub

The Etruscan wing

The Egyptian wing

Anubis as a Roman


Trappist beer for lunch


The Room of Constantine

The School of Athens

Michelangelo in the School of Athens

St. Peters in the evening

Michelangelo's early Pieta

Late dinner and drinks