Mythological Secrets of Greece: Nea & Palea Kameni

Nea Kameni is the eastern Mediterannean’s youngest volcanic landform, and today it is a protected natural monument and national geological park. Nea Kameni and the neighbouring small island Palea Kameni (the new and old burnt islands) have formed over the past two millennia by repeated eruptions of dacite lava and ash. The most recent eruption occurred in January 1950 when the volcano dropped lava within a range of 850 meters, and explosions lasted for three weeks.

“This year a small islet, hitherto unknown, made an appearance close to the island of Thera.” ~ Roman historian, Cassius Dio, 47 AD

Volcanic Nea Kameni @EvaVarga.netNea Kameni is visited daily by dozens of tourist boats. We were amongst them – enjoying an late afternoon cruise in a kaiki (traditionally, a small wooden trading vessel, brightly painted and rigged for sail) to the volcanic island within the flooded Santorini caldera.

This excursion can be bought in any hotel in Santorini, as it is very popular. Boats leave from the new harbor, Fira, and it takes about 20 minutes to travel to the volcano in the middle of the caldera.

Nea Kameni

Upon arrival, we hiked a gravel path to reach the top of the 130-meter-high volcanic crater. There is a small entrance fee to help pay for the upkeep and the monitoring systems.

The ascent to the rim of Nea Kameni requires walking up some unstable terrain, under Santorini’s trademark blazing sun. We were glad we wore comfortable sandals and protective gear to shield us from the hot rays. From here we had a magnificent view of Thira (Santorini) before returning to the kaiki along the same path.

Magma exists at depths of a few kilometers; it’s visible through hot springs and hot gases, giving Nea Kameni its trademark sulfuric aroma. The kids got a kick out of the fact that we hiked the rim of a volcano inside another volcano! 

Palea Kameni @EvaVarga.netPalea Kameni

After the hike, we sailed to the volcanic islet of Palea Kameni where we could enjoy a short swim to a protected bay along the shore. The water went from green to orange-brown and we all giggled when we began to feel the temperature change, the hot and cold perfectly showing the effect of the waters coming up from below within the volcano.

You could just feel the tension melt away after a unique afternoon swim in the heated waters of the thermal springs. Although it wasn’t hot enough to be dubbed a ‘hot spring’ we found the water temperature to be refreshing after our hike on nearby Nea Kameni. Yes, our clothes did get stained a little but we had been forewarned.

We closed the evening with a wonderful buffet dinner aboard the kaiki as we watched the sunset over the islands. It was spectacular conclusion to our holiday in Greece.

This is the first in a five-day hopscotch exploring the Mythological Secrets of Greece:

The Acropolis & Ancient Athens 

The Island of Mykonos

The Island of Delos

The Lost City and Paradise in Santorini

Nea & Palea Kameni  (this post)

Hopscotch-2017-67808

Find more homeschool related topics to explore at the iHomeschool Network’s Homeschool Hopscotch

Mythological Secrets of Greece: The Lost City and Paradise in Santorini

Comprising of small circular archipelago of volcanic islands in the southern Aegean Sea, Santorini (locally known as Thira) is all that remains of an enormous volcanic explosion. The island’s spectacular physical beauty coupled with its dynamic nightlife makes it one of Europe’s most popular hotspots.

A Lost City & Paradise in Santorini @EvaVarga.netSantorini Eruption

During the Bronze Age, geologists called the then-circular island of Santorini, Strongyli, which means rounded. After a devastating eruption, however, Strongyli collapsed into the Aegean Sea, creating Santorini’s now-signature crescent shape, as well as several surrounding islands.

Santorini volcano has erupted 11 times so far, but it is believed that the eruption in ~1630 BC was one of the most explosive in history. There is a theory that this eruption indirectly affected the disappearance of Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, by creating a gigantic tsunami.

Minoan civilization was considered to be the most culturally advanced society of that time. Another known theory says that this eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis.

The Lost City of Akrotiri, Santorini @EvaVarga.netAkrotiri

One of the most memorial excursions we enjoyed while in Santorini was a visit the prehistoric Akrotiri, believed to be associated with the Minoan civilization, located on the nearby island of Crete. The earliest evidence for human habitation of Akrotiri can be traced back as early as the 5th millennium B.C., when it was a small fishing and farming village.

By the end of the 3rd millennia, this community developed and expanded significantly due in part to the trade relations it established with other cultures in the Aegean, as evidenced in fragments of foreign pottery at the site. Akrotiri’s strategic position between Cyprus and Minoan Crete also meant that it was situated on the copper trade route, thus allowing them to become an important center for processing copper, as proven by the discovery of molds and crucibles.

The large extent of the settlement, the elaborate drainage system, the sophisticated multi-story buildings with magnificent wall-paintings, furniture and vessels, show its great development and prosperity. The various imported objects found in the buildings indicate the wide network of its external relations, including the Greek mainland, Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt.

The town’s life came to an abrupt end in the last quarter of the 17th century BC when the inhabitants were obliged to abandon it as a result of severe earthquakes. Upon the eruption that followed, volcanic materials covered the entire island and buried the town, similar to Pompeii. In contrast, the excavations here revealed no human remains exist, indicating the people had time to evacuate.

Cycladic Architecture in Pyros @EvaVarga.netPerivolos & Pyrgos

On our first morning on Santorini, the coach drove to Profitis Ilias, the highest point on the island, for stunning views. There are more than 300 churches and monasteries located here and many of the iconic blue domed structures were visible from our vantage point. Thereafter, we enjoyed a walking tour of the village of Pyrgos to see the classic Cycladic architecture.

In the afternoon, we made our way to the black sand beach of Perivolos, passing picturesque villages. Here we enjoyed a traditional Greek meal at a beach side restaurant before spending the remainder of the day in leisure, swimming and sunbathing.

Paradise of Oia @EvaVarga.netOia

Often touted as the most picturesque village in the Greek islands, Oia is perched upon the island’s craggy northwestern edges. With its stunning views of the caldera and surrounding islands, blue and white church domes, and lack of power lines to clutter its panoramas, Oia is paradise.

Red, white and black volcanic rock decorate curvy footpaths, and there are other delightful elements: whitewashed windmills, fuchsia bougainvillea blooms trailing on buildings, and the occasional mural or quirky shop decoration to inject a bit of whimsy.

Oia was most prosperous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thanks to its merchant fleet, which engaged in trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly from Alexandria to Russia. Today, large number of tourists visit this place during afternoons to witness one of most beautiful sunsets in the world. This is also most photographed scenery in all of Greece.

This is the first in a five-day hopscotch exploring the Mythological Secrets of Greece:

The Acropolis & Ancient Athens 

The Island of Mykonos

The Island of Delos

Santorini (this post)

Nea & Palea Kameni 

Hopscotch-2017-67808

Find more homeschool related topics to explore at the iHomeschool Network’s Homeschool Hopscotch

Mythological Secrets of Greece: The Island of Delos

The island of Delos is located near the center of the Cyclades archipelago and is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece. It held had a position as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before Greek mythology and by the time of the Odyssey, the island was already famous as the birthplace of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis.

From our base in Mykonos, we made an excursion to the nearby Delos (just 30 minutes by boat) and spent the day here with a local specialist learning about the history of the small island. Today, it is inhabited only by an antiquity guard and an employee of the Archeological museum and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Delos @EvaVarga.net

Ongoing excavation work takes place under the direction of the French School at Athens and many of the artifacts found are on display here at the Archaeological Museum of Delos as well as on the mainland at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

In the past, Delos was an ancient center of worship – a temple to the twins Apollo (god of the sun, music, and healing) and Artemis (goddess of the moon, maidenhood, and archery). It was here that it is believed Leto gave birth to her children; fathered by Zeus.

Delos, if you would be willing to be the abode of my son Phoebus Apollo and make him a rich temple; for no other will touch you, as you will find: and I think you will never be rich in oxen and sheep, nor bear vintage nor yet produce plants abundantly. But if you have the temple of far-shooting Apollo, all men will bring you hecatombs and gather here, and incessant savour of rich sacrifice will always arise, and you will feed those who dwell in you from the hand of strangers; for truly your own soil is not rich.
 Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo 51–60

During the Hellenistic period (323 – 30 BC), it became one of the most important center for commerce and religion in Greece. Its inhabitants were wealthy merchants, seafarers and bankers who came from as far as the Middle East. The Romans made it a free port in 167 BC, which brought even greater prosperity to the island. The shift in trade route and the waning interest in ancient religion in the following centuries brought the decline of Delos.

It was fascinating to walk along the streets and homes of ancient Delos. Though not as completely excavated or restored as Pompeii, it is much older. Most fascinating to me were the intact mosaics on the floors; the more elaborate and intricate the design, the more wealthy the home owners. In the House of the Dolphins the atrium mosaic features erodes (winged gods) riding dolphins.

Delos: House of Dionysus floor mosaic @EvaVarga.House of Dionysus

The House of Dionysus was a luxurious 2nd century private house named for the floor mosaic of Dionysus riding a panther. The mosaic depicts the god with outstretched wings and ivy wreath, mounted on a panther with a wreath of vine branches and grapes around its neck. In his right hand the god grasps a thyrsus, a staff crowned with ivy, as if it was a spear.

On the ground, between plants, a kantharos, a wine vessel, another attribute of the god of wine. The wings suggest a Dionysiac daimon, a supernatural being acting as an intermediate between gods and men, rather than the god himself.

The Terrace of Lions

The Terrace of the Lions (pictured at bottom in the collage above) was dedicated to Apollo by the people of Naxos shortly before 600 BCE. Originally there were nine to twelve marble lions guarding the Sacred Way. The lions create a monumental avenue comparable to Egyptian avenues of sphinxes. Today only seven of the original lions remain.

Delos: House of Cleopatra @EvaVarga.netHouse of Cleopatra

The remains of the House of Cleopatra (138 BC), a dwelling of a wealthy merchant family. It was named after the wife of the owner. Headless statues of the owner of the house, Dioscourides and his wife, Cleopatra, are visible here.

The open floor plans of the homes permitted natural light and fresh air to circulate. The city also featured a complex underground sewage system. Located near the theater is a cistern, evidence of the advance water system developed by the ancient inhabitants to overcome the shortage of fresh water supply in the island.

This is the first in a five-day hopscotch exploring the Mythological Secrets of Greece:

The Acropolis & Ancient Athens 

The Island of Mykonos

The Island of Delos (this post)

The Lost City & Paradise in Santorini

Nea & Palea Kameni

Hopscotch-2017-67808

Find more homeschool related topics to explore at the iHomeschool Network’s Homeschool Hopscotch

Mythological Secrets of Greece: Mykonos

We departed Athens very early in the morning aboard a high speed ferry to the island of Mykonos. Our early departure meant that by the time we arrived on the island, our rooms were not ready. We thereby opted to spend the day poolside and begin our exploration in the early evening.

In Greek mythology, Mykonos was named after its first ruler, Mykons, the son of the god Apollo and a local hero. The island is also said to have been the location of a great battle between Zeus and the Titans as well as where Hercules killed the invincible giants having lured them from the protection of Mount Olympus.

Mykonos @EvaVarga.net

Mikri Venetia (Little Venice)

From our hotel, we took a small bus to the city center, Chora, where we met up with our local specialist for a walking tour of the historic town. We began in Mikri Venetia or Little Venice (pictured at top in collage), where rows of fishing houses line the waterfront with their balconies hanging over the sea.

The first of these was constructed in the mid-18th century with little basement doors that provided direct access to the sea and underground storage areas led people to believe that the owners were secretly pirates.

Some of the houses have now been converted into cafes, little shops, and galleries. Little Venice is considered one of the most romantic spots on the island and many people gather there to watch the sunset.

Kato Mili (Lower Mills)

Our next stop were the windmills, a defining feature of the Myconian landscape. Though there are many windmills dotted around the island, most are concentrated in the main town. Standing in a row on a hill overlooking the sea (pictured at bottom in collage), their sails would harness the strong northern winds.

Built by the Venetians in the 16th century, the wood and straw capped windmills were used to mill flour. They remained in use until the early 20th century. Today, many have been refurbished and restored to serve as homes to locals.

Mykonos Alley @EvaVarga.net

As we were led through the narrow alleys and streets, she pointed out the many tiny chapels and churches – over 800 in total – most all of which have red domed roofs (in contrast to the blue domed churches on the island of Santorini).

She explained that when sailors would arrive safely at the shore, they would build chapels in honor of their name saints to express gratitude for their safe arrival. Thus, each is privately owned and thus closed to the public.

Mykonos Chapel @EvaVarga.net

The most cosmopolitan of all the Greek islands, Mykonos is well known for its splendid beaches. During our stay here, we enjoyed a full day relaxing on the beach. On the southern side of the island, where we were staying (Plati Gialos), there are several nearby sandy beaches.

We opted to begin at Elia Beach, the farthest away and planned to work our way back. To reach any of these shorelines, the fastest and easiest way is by water taxi. Comfortably seated – relatively speaking – we were on our way.

Known locally as the windy island, Mykonos certainly lived up to its name. Strong wind swept across the shore all day. We all enjoyed the water and took turns lounging on the chaise under an umbrella (these were available for rent at 10€ each, thus we opted to secure only two). The sand was so strong, however, it bit into our skin – free exfoliation! 😉

Mykonos beaches @EvaVarga.net

At the dock where the water taxi dropped us off was located at the center of the beach. From here, we had the option of walking left (West) or right (East). We chose the right as our tour guide had informed us in advance that clothing was optional to the left.

After a few hours of incessant wind, however, we gave up and headed back. Along the return route, the water taxi stopped briefly at each beach we had previously bypassed – Agrari, Super Paradise, Paradise, Paraga, and finally our home beach at Plati Gialos. Had it not been so windy, we likely would have stopped.

This is the first in a five-day hopscotch exploring the Mythological Secrets of Greece:

The Acropolis & Ancient Athens 

The Island of Mykonos  (this post)

The Island of Delos

The Lost City & Paradise in Santorini

Nea & Palea Kameni

Hopscotch-2017-67808Find more homeschool related topics to explore at the iHomeschool Network’s Homeschool Hopscotch

 

Mythological Secrets of Greece: The Acropolis & Ancient Athens

We began our tour of Athens with a visit to the Acropolis, an ancient citadel located on an extremely rocky outcrop above the city of Athens, a sacred site since Mycenaen times. From atop the Acropolis, 360 degree views of the surrounding valley are seemingly endless.

Acropolis & Ancient Athens @EvaVarga.netWe could even see the Aegean Sea. It was easy to understand the importance of this site since Mycenaean times. Athenians worshipped their deities here in temples erected in their honor. The ground was uneven and marble slabs were dispersed amidst gravel. During the height of the Grecian empire the ground would have been solid marble. The marble walls adorned with brightly painted frescoes.

The Acropolis

Parthenon

Perched atop the Acropolis is the Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena whom the people of Athens consider their patron, and one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power.

It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered the zenith of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered some of the high points of Greek art. The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy, and western civilization.

Though critical to ensure the stability of the partially ruined structure, it was unfortunate that the Greek Ministry of Culture was carrying out restoration and reconstruction projects during our visit and thus scaffolding marred our view. I enjoyed listening to our guide describe in detail the metopes and pediments that originally adorned the outer Parthenon.

Ancient Athens: The Parthenon @EvaVarga.netThe metopes of the Parthenon were a series of marble panels (92 originally) which are examples of the Classical Greek high-relief. The metopes of each side of the building had a different subject, and together with the pediments, Ionic frieze, and the statue of Athena Parthenos contained within the Parthenon, formed an elaborate program of sculptural decoration.

The sculptures of the pediments (gable ends) of the temple illustrated the history of the gods. The east pediment narrated the birth of Athena from the head of her father, Zeus. The west pediment depicted the contest between Athena and Poseidon during their competition for the honor of becoming the city’s patron.  Unfortunately, the centrepieces of the pediments were destroyed – only small corners remain.

Temple of Athena Nike

The Temple of Athena Nike Built around 420BC, the temple is the earliest fully Ionic temple on the Acropolis. Nike means victory in Greek, and Athena was worshipped in this form, as goddess of victory in war and wisdom. The citizens worshipped the goddess in hope of a successful outcome in the long Peloponnesian War fought on land and sea against the Spartans and their allies. (pictured at top in the photo collage)

Ancient Athens: Erqchtheion Temple @EvaVarga.netErechtheion

The Erechtheion was particularly impressive with the famous “Porch of the Maidens” (caryatids) disguising the supporting columns unobstructed on the south side. This ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.

It was built between 421 and 406 BC and derived its name from a shrine dedicated to the legendary Greek hero Erichthonius. Others suggest it was built in honor of the legendary king Erechtheum, who was mentioned in Homer’s Iliad as a great king and ruler of Athens during the Archaic Period.

Surrounding Athens

Temple of Zeus

The temple, built in the second quarter of the fifth century BC, was a fully developed classical Greek temple of the Doric order. The temple housed the renowned statue of Zeus, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was lost and destroyed during the fifth century AD and details of its form are known only from ancient Greek descriptions and representations on coins.

Ancient Athens: Temple of Zeus @EvaVarga.netThe temple was of peripteral form, with a frontal pronaos (porch), mirrored by a similar arrangement at the back of the building, the opisthodomos. The building sat on a crepidoma (platform) of three unequal steps, the exterior columns were positioned in a six by thirteen arrangement, two rows of seven columns divided the cella (interior) into three aisles.

The temple lies in ruins today perhaps due, in part, to the materials and design. The main structure of the building was constructed of a local limestone that was unattractive and of poor quality, and so it was coated with a thin layer of stucco to give it an appearance of marble to match the sculptural decoration. It was roofed with marble cut into the shape of tiles and thin enough to be translucent.

Panathinaikos Olympic Stadium @EvaVarga.netPanathinaiko Olympic Stadium

The Panathenaic Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium and the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. It hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896 and was once again used as an Olympic venue in 2004.

Annually, it is the finishing point for the annual Athens Classic Marathon. It is also the last venue in Greece from where the Olympic flame handover ceremony to the host nation takes place.

We would have liked the afternoon free to explore the Placa – a lively region of downtown that remains architecturally unchanged. However, we had signed up for the optional Cape Sounion tour. We thus had to return to the hotel for a quick lunch before departing once more by coach.

Temple of Poseidon

In the late afternoon, we enjoyed a relaxing drive along the Athenian Riviera coast to the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula, which projects into the Aegean Sea. Here we visited the splendid Temple of Poseidon which, like the Temple of Zeus, was constructed in the fifth century BC. In a maritime country like Greece, the god of the sea occupied a high position in the divine hierarchy. In power, Poseidon was considered second only to Zeus.

The ancient temple is perched above a 197-foot drop down to the Aegean Sea below and is surrounded on three sides by the sea. It is clear why the ancient Greeks had selected this location for the temple to honor Poseidon.

Ancient Athens: Temple of Poseidon @EvaVarga.netConstructed in 444–440 BC over the ruins of a temple dating from the Archaic period, the design of the temple is a typical hexastyle featuring a rectangular cella (interior), with a colonnade of 34 Doric columns quarried of white marble on all four sides. Today, only 15 columns still stand.

The area is steeped in Greek history and was once the site of the world’s first lighthouse. It was here that it is believed to be where King Aegeus threw himself from the rocky precipice, a 197 foot drop to the sea below, thereby lending his name to the Aegean Sea.

Ancient Greek religion was propitiatory in nature, essentially based on the notion that to avoid misfortune, one must constantly seek the favour of the relevant gods by prayers, gifts and sacrifices. To the ancient Greek, every natural feature (hill, lake, stream or wood) was controlled by a god.

Dinner at Psiri

We ended the evening with a delightful “meze style” dining experience at a wonderful restaurant located in the lively area of Psiri. Dining “meze style”, we were provided the opportunity to taste many Greek cuisine dishes, which were served in the center of the table for everyone to enjoy.

Seating was al fresco right next to the street – quite the experience as motorists zipped through the narrow street. Everything was delicious and our company was wonderful!

This is the first in a five-day hopscotch exploring the Mythological Secrets of Greece:

The Acropolis & Ancient Athens (this post)

The Island of Mykonos

The Island of Delos

The Lost City & Paradise in Santorini

Nea & Palea Kameni

Hopscotch-2017-67808

Find more homeschool related topics to explore at the iHomeschool Network’s Homeschool Hopscotch

 

Falling in Love with Italy: Pisa & Florence

Our destination today is the famous town of Pisa where we explore the Square of Miracles, featuring the Leaning Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery. We then head to Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance where we visit the Academie de Arte to view Michelangelo’s David. Along the way, we observed ancient Roman aqueducts from our coach; I even managed to catch a decent photo with my iPhone (below).

pisa and florence

Tip: Click on the links of the notable sights to enjoy a photo sphere in Google maps, a 360-degree panorama.

Pisa

We departed for Pisa immediately after breakfast as usual. Upon our arrival we observed the usual roadside vendors selling kitschy tourist souvenirs. When we entered the square, I was surprised by the size of the area surrounding the tower. For some reason, I had always pictured in my mind the tower surrounding by other buildings in congested metropolitan area. I had not expected the  large green open spaces. Fortunately, these were roped off to confine the crowds to the pathways. The crowds were so intense the grass would otherwise not grow.

leaning tower pisaThe first structure we came to from this entrance was the Baptistry (pictured in the bottom photo above) – a large dome topped circular building. The cathedral was in between the Baptistry and the Leaning Tower. This Unesco World Heritage Site, Piazza del Duomo di Pisa, is unique. The tower was impressive indeed. Like many other visitors, we did our best to take a creative photo despite the crowds.

installation art pisaWe were afforded little free time here, not enough to wait in queue to climb the stairs of the tower but enough to capture photos and enjoy the architecture. As a result, we chose to dine quickly, choosing a McDonalds – trusting in free public restrooms and wifi. It’s also fun to compare menus. We still reminisce about the delicious black & white burgers and teriyaki rice wraps we had in China. Patrick and I both tried the McLobster sandwich and were pleased.

Tuscan Hills

We then proceeded to the heart of the Renaissance, which we discovered was a signifiant distance. We thereby arrived at our hotel, Art Gallery, late in the afternoon. We had very little time to freshen up before we needed to join our group again for the option Tuscan Hills Dinner at Villa Machiavelli.

florence vineyardThe drive to the villa was very scenic, through the Chianti hills, past vineyards and sunflower fields (sadly, they were no longer in bloom). The ancient stone house of Machiavelli was perched a top a small hill and was overlooked by an imposing castle across the vineyard. It was here that the political theorist wrote his immortal, The Prince.

After a toast of blue champagne, a living history interpreter portraying Machiavelli’s spouse, led us on a tour of his home including the wine cellar. The meal and our dinner companions were wonderful – one of the most memorable evenings of our stay in Italy. As we dined on tapas of cheese, bruschetta, ravioli, and gnocchi, we enjoyed three different wines (each paired to a specific dish). My favorite was the Volare, a pinot grigio and pompelmo rosa blend.

A musical trio – violinist, guitarist, and a vocalist – provided us with entertainment. Prime Rib was the main course and it was served with yet another wine. Everything was so very delicious. I had a fabulous time! We even purchased a case of wine to commemorate our evening.

Florence

The next morning, the itinerary included a walking tour of Florence. Giuseppe gave a short overview of the morning, detailing for the first time to the group that we would see the location where Michelangelo’s David had initially been located but that the original had been replaced with a bronze replica. The marble statue had been moved to the Academie de Arte. We (along with a couple from Colorado) had informed our guide early on that we were going to try our luck and get tickets to see David opting to forgo the walking tour.

He tried to talk us out of it initially but upon discovering how important it was to us, agreed to try to pull a few strings. I didn’t expect him to follow through – he had seemed unmotivated. Much to our surprise, he not only got us tickets in advance but we were able to skip the lines entirely, jumping in with another tour group. He asked only that we didn’t say anything to the others in the group and we slipped away as the group walked past the academy.

davidMichelangelo’s David

Upon entering the gallery in which David was the centerpiece, chills ran up my spine. I had never before been so moved by a piece of art. It was incredibly beautiful. I was amazed at the detail – the veins of David’s hands, his toenails, his muscles, his shoulders. Perfection. Photographs do not do it any justice.

At the Galleria del Academie de Arte, we also enjoyed several other sculptures by Michelangelo – some unfinished – in addition to a large gallery of busts and smaller works by less familiar artists. The museum obviously attracts a lot of attention because of the David, but the rest is a lot of religious art which is great but you really have to be into religious art.

Of most interest to us was Marco Polo’s bible – though many of the pages had begun to deteriorate, the text was still legible and the illuminations vibrant. Jeffrey was most interested in several volumes of illuminated works that looked like hymnals. dante florencePiazza de Saint Croce

When we completed our self-guided tour of the museum, we headed to the Piazza de Saint Croce, one of the main plazas or squares located in the central neighborhood of Florence. Here we were to meet the rest of the group. Along the way, we did a little shopping and took several photos by the Ponte Vecchio – a Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River. It is noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common.

florence duomo

Florence Cathedral 

As we continued on our way to the piazza, we came across theand the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (the main church of Florence). Il Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style with the design of Arnolfo di Cambio. It was so grande that we had difficulty getting a decent photograph.

The exterior of the basilica is faced with marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white, an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade. The complex includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence. The the dome was once the largest in the world and remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

Dante

Once we reached the piazza, we got a quick bite to eat at a cafe and wandered about the piazza to pass the time. Here we observed the statue of Dante, a major Italian poet of the Late Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature.

@ @ @

This concludes my Falling in Love with Italy hopscotch. I am planning another series in October to share our experiences in Greece.

Hopscotch-August2016My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing.