taylweaver: (Default)
Hi from Israel. Yes, I am in Israel! When I landed in Italy, it was fine, but when I landed in Israel, I felt so happy just to be here. It feels so familiar, and it has been too long. Oh, and did I mention the part about there being so much kosher food? I had a great dinner this evening - just basic food, but it was real food.

Also, the new airport in Tel Aviv is gorgeous! It is so full of wide open spaces, lit with plenty of sun that comes in through broad banks of windows. There are no stairs that I could see - only ramps and moving walkways. It flows.

The Duty Free area is circular, with a beautiful fountain in the center that is vaguely reminiscent of a rain shower - the ceiling is an inverted dome, and the water pours out, along with what looked like daylight, from a hole in the center, down into a circular pool below, where the water ripples with the constant cascade. Around it, there are armchairs and tables, cafe style. Even the sound of it was beautiful as I walked past it one floor up - the sound of falling rain.

And then the next corridor is all window on one side, and classic Jerusalem stone on the other - there are even things that look like mosaics or something from archaeological sites on the walls.

The whole thing was just beautiful to walk through. Plus, I'm in Israel now!

Anyway, here, at last, is the final Italy update:

Yesterday, we began at the Pitti Palace - after being smart this time and storing our bags in the train station - for less than $10 between the two of us and well worth it. The Pitti Palace has two sets of museums and we chose the one without the art. We didn't need any more art. The one we chose had a costume gallery - ballroom gowns and such - but we didn't get too much out of those. We thought it would be cool, but we were disappointed. The good news is, beyond the ballroom gowns was a display that was anything but disappointing. I don't remember whether it's called Florence Mosaic or Florentine Mosaic - but if you have seen tables and such with inlaid stones in patterns - the sort where the table turns out shiny and smooth - well, it was that stuff, only fancier. They used the color and patterns in the stones to the full effect. For example, they had flowers in which the petals were shaded appropriately through using pieces of stone that were light on one end and dark on the other. Even better, there were mosaics based on paintings - and most of them looked better than the original paintings - in fact, from a distance, they look like paintings instead of smooth, flat, joined pieces of semiprecious stone. It was just amazing.

There was also one room in the ballroom gown section that really caught our interest - they restored - or tried to restore - some of the clothing that a family of the Medici line was buried in - so the clothing - or pieces of it - was laid flat, and there were explanations on the walls - thankfully also in English. So those two rooms were pretty cool.

We also went to the "Silver" Museum, also in the Pitti Palace, on the same ticket. I put silver in quotes because while some objects on display were silver, many were just other examples of expensive knicknacks. They had stuff carved out of ivory and china plates and jewelry... all sorts of fancy stuff. Plus, the rooms themselves - throughout the palace - were fascinating. One room, a ballroom, was painted in such a way that it created an illusion of 3-d columns and arches where there was only flat wall - a way to make the room look, well, maybe not quite twice as big, but it created quite a sense of space.

Our ticket also allowed us entrance into the Boboli Gardens - but we were so tired, and the gardens were so huge - that we barely looked at one end of it. Then we walked back to the center of the city - hooray for cities where you can walk places in 15 minutes - and took some more Duomo photos on the way to our train.

Once in Rome, we checked in to our final B+B, then headed out to the Jewish Ghetto to find the synagogue and accurate kosher restaurant info. We arrived at 5 PM - just in time for a ghetto tour - then returned to the museum just in time for a tour of the shul itself. It has two shuls in one - there is a sfardi shul in the basement - and both had fancy pieces that used to be in the shuls in the Jewish Ghetto before the ghetto was torn down in the early 20th century. The dome in the main shul is square, and the inside is painted in a rainbow pattern - a Noah reference. It's beautiful. We also learned that in Rome, you don't belong to a shul - you pay membership dues to the Jewish community - which then gives money to all of the shuls.

Then, off we went to the Trevi Fountain - not as romantic as promised. A beautiful fountain, but way too many people sitting around it. Same with the Spanish Steps - only those were not as beautiful. But we did give our feet a short break there.

Our last stop of the night was real food at last at a fancy restaurant called La Taverna del Ghetto. The prices were not bad, the food was okay, and we were seated out on the sidewalk in the pleasant evening air with some guy playing accordion nearby. It was just what we needed.

We got back late after one more walk down the square near where we were staying. And then, this morning, we headed to the airport and on our separate ways - [livejournal.com profile] mbarr to America, and me to Israel. I arrived mid-afternoon. He should be back by now as well - just barely.

No clue how often I will update from Israel - I am studying, not touring. I hope to relax, hang out, shop and enjoy. It's as familiar in some ways as a second or third home - but I have been away so long - seven years! - that there are changes as well.

I will also try to keep you posted in terms of the war. For now, I don't feel so affected - I am in Jerusalem, away from the danger. I don't intend to go anywhere further north than here. So I am safe - and looking forward to three weeks of enjoying myself.
taylweaver: (Default)
Hi from Florence.

Welcome to Day Four of our Italy adventure.

No taxi problems today; no heavy bags to shlep. Lots of walking. More sore feet - but worth it.

We did a lot today. A big thank you goes out to AF and RL - neither of whom actually read this - for suggesting a wonderful bus tour - which, despite some problems with reserving it, we got onto. We began our day by not walking, thanks to that, as we toured parts of Florence on a bus with two tourguides - one doing English and one doing French and Spanish. This wasn't quite ideal, but it was fun to note when the different tour guides said different things about what we were passing - which we could do, since we were getting bits and pieces of the Spanish/French.

The tour took us up to the Piazza de Michaelangelo - or maybe I have the name a bit wrong, but something like that... Point is, it's on the top of a hill far enough from the city center that one needs a bus to get there anyway. It's also the place to go for a gorgeous panoramic view of the entire city. We got some wonderful photos, and a lot of info from the tourguide on how Florence was once governed not by dukes/royalty/nobility but by the merchant class, and how it was a republic. The government was selected the way we pick juries - people who qualified - tax-paying guild members, I think - were selected at random to serve set terms. The ones serving in the higher positions - I forget the name of the position - served for only two months - and were sequestered the entire time. A very interesting system.

We also got a very quick view of a copy of Michaelangelo's David - only from afar because we had to rush back to the bus.

Then down into town, where we got off the bus and went on a walking tour that took us to a few biggies like the Duomo and also showed us some of the smaller stuff - things we wouldn't see on our own, like hooks for drying dyed wool that indicated certain houses - or "palaces" - belonged to wool merchants. Palaces, by the way, tended to be the size of small apartment buildings. We also saw a wine door - a small door used for selling wine - it would get poured out into the buyer's vessel.

Our tour ended at the Borgello - the other days of the week, it ends at the Academie - where the original Michaelangelo David is, but that one is closed on Mondays, so we ended up at the Borgello museum instead. Worth missing the David for, seeing as we didn't need another art gallery. This museum had paintings, but also Donatello's sculptures and other interesting finds. So it was different enough from the Ufizzi that it was good.

After the tour ended, it was lunch time, and we headed over to the neighborhood where the food is - only to discover that the kosher bakery isn't - the Jewish Travel Guide from this year has outdated info - and so we ate lunch at the same place again - only this time, we asked for pizza. Not on the menu. And just what we needed. It was not bad.

Syanagogue tour - since we were there anyway. We learned there is an orthodox community today, and we learned the history of it. We found out that the synagogue survived WWII because the Nazis used it as a warehouse, and that the Torahs were not destroyed because the Nazis couldn't get the ark open - apparently, there are scars on the doors from their attempts - but we didn't get to see those. Ironically, the Torahs later succumbed not to man, but to nature - the flood of... was it 1966? - filled the inside of the shul with a bunch of water and, just like in New Orleans, the Torahs were damaged beyond use. One is in their museum, which we visited; the rest were buried. They did, however, manage to restore everything else - the paint is a teensy bit darker under the flood line, but other than that, no noticeable damage.

Then we made an unfortunately quick stop at the Museum of Science and Technology - we got to see all sorts of scientific equipment from throughout history - fancy stuff, plain stuff, just plain weird stuff... a huge 3-D representation of the heavenly spheres with Earth in the center, Gallileo's telescopes, etc. Too bad we didn't make it until 40 minutes before closing. If we ever get back to Florence, we fully intend to return there for a second pass.

By this point, we were exhausted, but we walked over to the Ponte Vecchio - the bridge with the shops on it - and then had some gellati - a cross between ice cream and sorbet, it seems - it was rather good and refreshing.

We did some shopping on the way to dinner - random little stores, stopped to photograph sculptures in the square near the Ufizzi, bought dinner food in the little kosher store, went on a too-long excursion for veggies - and ate in a park by the synagogue.

We were utterly wiped by that point, but the day was well worth it.

Tomorrow, one more museum, and then back to Rome. We'll see what we see, and that will be it.
taylweaver: (Default)
Hi all. Here is another late night update.

Today was yet another day filled with random delays and things that did not go according to plan. that having been said, it all worked out in the end... though we are two very footsore travelers.

We began at the Colliseum and got there good and early - we beat the crowds and the heat - and also the first scheduled English tour so we did the audio tour instead - and it went just fine. We also took many photos. (Alas, my card reader decided to have issues, so my photos will have to wait a month - but Matthew's should be up sooner.

We saw the Arch of Constantine from inside the Colliseum, then passed it on the way to the Forum. In the Forum, we managed to just miss a tour in the other direction - that is, it started about five minutes before we got there. So we wandered around on our own - and thankfully found a guide who gave us the hyper-crazy tour because we were in a rush - but it was enough. Plus, it gave us just enough time to head off to our train...

... except that we didn't realize that paperless ticket (online) really meant paperless, and managed to miss the train while trying to print it out.

Thankfully, we got on the next one for 8 Euros more.

Of course, it meant we had to take our bags with us directly to the Ufizzi. And did I mention the taxi strike? Thankfully, it was only a 15 minute walk - though that was long enough with all the added weight.

The Ufizzi was rather interesting - or would have been had we had a bit more energy. Once again, audio tours are wonderful things - and we did all the rooms - but we were exhausted! By the time we finally found the exhibit we wanted to see - one on all aspects of the life of Leonardo Da Vinci - we were too tired to get the full effect - but it was still a very cool exhibit on how he approached the world - he was very into things like balance and patterns and geometry and such. Very cool stuff. Alas, in very hot rooms - but what can you do?

Somehow, after even more walking with heavy bags (we had a break from them in the museum), we found our B+B for the night, and took a break to rest our feet before heading back out for a so-so kosher dinner that was far away but necessary - we needed real food after the lunch we had on the train - remember that emergency shabbat food I mentioned in the last entry?

And now it is off to bed - would you believe [livejournal.com profile] mbarr is already asleep?

Tomorrow, we will wander around Florence and enjoy the city sans backpacks. We are looking forward to not having to carry them again until Tuesday.
taylweaver: (Default)
... the only question is, how long does it take to get there?

So here is a trip update from me and [livejournal.com profile] mbarr.

Our trip began with a two-hour delay in the airport, and another hour and a half on the plane before we took off. The airline messed up and the seats we had reserved together were no longer together - but thankfully, after trading seats three different ways, we were good to go. We also found that the Alitalia staff was really pleasant - both before we boarded - when the couldn't help us - and on the plane, when they managed to find Matthew a kosher meal after forgetting his (and no, it was not so good... but we had it.)

We landed, went through passport control, skipped the baggage claim (hooray for hiking backpacks) and we were on the Leonardo Da Vinci Express to Termini Station in Rome in no time. About an hour later, we had found our bed and breakfast - and found out we had to rush if we wanted to get kosher food before the store closed - this was around 2:15, and the stores closed at 3:30. Oh, and did I mention there was a taxi strike? (there may, in fact, still be one). Good thing our hotel was close to the train - but the Jewish Ghetto (a.ka.a. the place to buy kosher food) was not. So much for seeing the Vatican (our original plan for the morning) - we lost that to our flight delay - we barely made it to the Ghetto neighborhood in time to buy shabbat food!

The good news is:

a) while at the food store, someone gave us a phone number - and let us use his phone! - and we got Shabbat meals - after buying the food, of course - but now we have lunch for the trip to Florence

b) we learned that the Sistine Chapel closed at 1 pm on Friday anyway, so we would have spent hours (that's what we hear) in line for the Vatican Museums and then not gotten to see the star attraction anyway. The current plan is that we will at least hit St. Peter's Bacillica on Tuesday afternoon (in the Vatican but not part of the museums) when we get back - and hopefully the Vatican Museums as well.

Anyway, we got a very quick - as in we were rushing too much to see it - tour of the Colliseum neighborhood while on the way to our food - and began to learn our way around. We also managed to find a Sim Card for [livejournal.com profile] mbarr's phone about an hour and a half before Shabbat. People around here are very helpful, by the way - many people offered directions - even if it took three or four tries to find the store!

Over Shabbat, we went to a syanagogue near the top of Termini Station - we are near the bottom - and would you believe the station is 20 minutes long! We missed Ma'ariv - we got there at the end of the 18 minutes - it was that quick. Thankfully, we made it to shul during the shmoneh esrei this morning, so we got a good dose of Nusach Italki. It's amazing how it is familiar yet different, and how many lines I recognized from high holiday services and other random places.

Friday night, we went to dinner with a family who lived two blocks from where we were staying. They are Sefardi, and the father is from Israel, the mother from Tripoli. They have five children, four of whom were around. Most of the family speaks fluent Italian and Hebrew - and also a bit of English - so I was able to get by very well, and [livejournal.com profile] mbarr got by okay also - with a bit of translation from me and from the other guest - an Australian guy who is studying in Israel, but right now is studying a bit in Italy. He has some interesting perspectives on Judaism - somewhere in the general area of modern Orthodox/Chovevei/somewhat egalitarian. We had some interesting conversations.

The family served some interesting foods - dinner was a spicy fish appetizer followed by some sort of meat and potato dish - the meat was inside the potato - apparently, a Libyan specialty. We ate lunch with them too, and that was a mix of dishes - meat, chicken, lamb...

After our shabbat nap, we took a walk around the neighborhood and got to see some random ruins that were fenced off - and adorned by some rather cute sleeping cats! Too bad we couldn't take pictures of them on Shabbat. We then returned to shul for mincha/seudah shlishi/ma'ariv - and shared seudah shlishi with an Achva group that had been to Spain and was going to continue on to Israel.

Tonight, because of the taxi strike, we decided not to venture too far out. Instead, we are hoping to turn in at a reasonable hour (yeah, right) so we can get an early start on the Colliseum in the morning tomorrow, catch a train around noon, and hit the Uffizi at 3 pm - because we have a reservation.

So that's all for now - a lot to say considering we haven't seen the sights yet (except as we ran past them).

We will see when there is time for future updates.

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