A Travellerspoint blog

Florence - Day 14 Saturday 9/14

Why Florence?

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In Medieval times, Florence was a center of European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of the era. It is considered by many to be the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called "the Athens of the Middle Ages." Florence has a famous turbulent political history , which included periods of rule by the powerful Medici family. From 1865 to 1871, Florence served as the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. In addition, UNESCO declared the Historic Center of Florence a World Heritage Site in 1982. The treasure trove of art is beyond compare. We have visited Florence twice before while on organized tours, and wanted to return to be able to chart our own course and approach the city in a "less rushed" manner.

DId I mention that the lure of its leather goods (for this girl) cannot be understated?

There are two trains to Florence that depart daily from the airport, and we were on the 11 AM train. Not every train ride affords such historic views (these are of Rome and sorry that the train windows were filthy).


We are trying something new on this trip. Instead of booking hotels, we are using Vacation Rentals By Owner. Here are some views of our apartment.


After settling in, we went out on a walking junket. Here is our first glimpse of the Duomo as we rounded the corner.


The building is so massive that it is impossible to capture more than parts of it in one frame...so here are pieces of the Duomo for your viewing pleasure.


Across the way is the Baptistry, with the famous doors designed and carved by Ghiberti. They are known as the Gates of Paradise, because Michelangelo reportedly said that he believed that the doors were so magnificent that they might well be found at the entrance to Paradise.


We walked by the Church of Orsanmichele.. This niche was considered to be revolutionary, as the foot of Doubting Thomas extends beyond the base, which was radical for the time. (Thank you Art History 101).


Here are a few scenes as we walked to dinner across the Arno River, in Piazza Santo Spirito.


And a few more from our walk home.


We put a lot of miles on these feet today!

No luggage yet for Tommy.

Photos are tagged Florence and Italy

Posted by Cybercsp 14:04 Archived in Italy Tagged italy florence Comments (0)

Rome - Day 13 Friday 9/13

Farewell, Croatia...and hello, Italia! And sadly, another lost bag.

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After breakfast at our hotel, it was time to say goodbye and thank you to Jane and Jay. We had an extraordinary experience with them, and had amazing and enriching experiences in Croatia.

Shortly after we made the decision to visit Croatia, we realized that a quick hop across the Adriatic Sea would land us in Italy...SO, we decided to extend our trip and return to what very well may be our very favorite travel site. We decided to focus our time in Tuscany, specifically Florence.

We headed to the airport in Dubrovnik to catch a 12:35 PM flight from Dubrovnik to Rome. The first flight took us to Zagreb, Croatia's capitol, where we changed planes to Rome, via Split (which, by the way, we flew over on the way to Zagreb...go figure). In Split, while we technically remained on the same plane, we needed to disembark and go through passport control, since we were leaving the country. The "highlight" of this endeavor was standing on the tarmac, in the heat, close to the deafening engines, until everyone had deplaned and we were herded into the terminal.

Arriving in Rome airport at 5 PM, we quickly cleared immigration and headed to baggage claim to collect our luggage. We may need to subtitle this trip the saga of stray luggage This time, it was Tommy's bag that went rogue. Unbelievable. The next flights from Croatia will arrive tomorrow afternoon, when we will be in Florence, so let's add that to the complications....

We are four tired and concerned travelers! Fortunately, we had booked rooms at the Airport Hilton. We had planned this knowing that making the last train to Florence today would have been tight...and who can count on travel going smoothly? Little did we know what a fabulous decision this would be, as we could not leave the airport without filing the paperwork for the missing luggage. We booked both the rooms on our Hilton account, and were all upgraded to the executive floor...which meant that we could have drinks and snacks in the lounge...no need to "go out" to a restaurant!

I have to admit that the bed and bathroom are a luxurious upgrade relative to Croatia (no complaints about any of our accommodations, but beds were low and mattresses firm), and we are hoping for sweet dreams tonight and luggage for Tom SOON.

No photos today, but you can see photos from our past visits to Rome in the Photo Gallery , under Rome

Posted by Cybercsp 23:05 Archived in Italy Tagged italy rome Comments (0)

Cavtat - Day 12 Thursday 9/12

Our final day with Niche Touring

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After breakfast, we headed to Konavle. Located in Croatia’s southernmost region, Konavle is the agricultural region of Croatia, and its major crops include corn, wheat, potatoes, barley, soybeans, sugar beets, and sunflowers.

Random fun fact: This agricultural area is also known for, of all things, a style of jewelry, Konavle earrings. This style of earring achieved international notice when they were a favorite style of Queen Rania of Jordan.

Our first stop was the village of Gruda, where we went to a studio where women are trying to preserve the ancient traditions of embroidery. Our hostess was wearing traditional garb.


They are teaching school children how to raise silkworms in the manner of their ancestors


...that will lead to production of the silk thread for their embroidery. The intricate local patterns (which served in the past as nonverbal communication regarding the wearer’s status, are painstakingly intricate. Here are some preserved samples.


Our next stop was Sokol Grad (the castle of Sokol). It was a vigorous climb!


Along the route to the top, we stopped at various rooms that provided insight into the castle’s past.


By now, you should recognize the peka bell oven.


Did I mention that it was a hot and rigorous climb?


A few last shots of the views...


Here is the first runner up for the graveyard with the best view.


Our final excursion took us to meet Ivo, who has lovingly restored his family’s watermills, which were destroyed during the war.

The walk along the water was peaceful.


You may or may not be able to judge the force of the water as it comes down the mountain.


We were greeted with rakia and snacks by women in their traditional garb.


Ivo demonstrated two types of mills. This first one uses large millstones to grind the grain. Ivo demonstrated how he can adjust the mill to alter the texture of the final product.


This second mill pounds cloth to strengthen the fibers.


Our final stop was for a farewell luncheon that took place along a fresh water trout stream. We started with rakia, moved on to prosciutto and cheeses, then salad, followed by a platter of freshly caught grilled trout and one of assorted meats. And, of course, lots of local wine. Then, dessert! We will be lucky if we fit in our airplane seats tomorrow!


Jane said a few final words to wrap up this fabulous adventure.


When we returned to the hotel, we packed up the bags (always sad) and headed out to catch our final Cavtat sunset. We enjoyed watching the yachts
reprovision and welcome their guests (just like Bravo’s “Below Decks”)! We ended our evening all together, back at the hotel for some drinks and handmade chocolate rakia. Everyone else is leaving the hotel at 5 AM, so we said our goodbyes tonight. We do not have to leave until 10 AM!

Photos are tagged Croatia and Cavtat

Posted by Cybercsp 12:36 Archived in Croatia Tagged croatia cavtat Comments (0)

Cavtat - Day 11 Wednesday 9/11

Decisions, decisions....

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Today, we had a number of choices regarding how to spend our day. Jane offered a full day optional excursion to Montenegro, which we considered; however, we were the only two people interested. We decided against returning to Dubrovnik, opting instead to spend a leisurely day in lovely Cavtat.

We enjoyed sleeping in this morning! After breakfast, we set out to hike up to the Mausoleum. Along the way, we ran into Jane, who took us on a short detour to see a friend's home, where she and her family have rented an apartment. It was a lovely property that even had a private chapel on the grounds.


It was a steep walk up to the mausoleum...


...but the views were worth the effort.


This graveyard may win the award for the best final resting place with a view.


The highlight was seeing the interior of the Račić Family Mausoleum. The Račić family were wealthy shipbuilders. In 1918, the Spanish Flu claimed the lives of the father, son, and daughter. Mrs. Račić comissioned family friend, the Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović, to build a tomb in the Art Deco style of the day. It is stunning.

The entrance door is flanked by angels.


The main altar has a scene where Jesus is being removed from the cross, while the statue of Mary and the Infant Jesus above the altar suggests the promise of eternal life.


The surrounding columns feature faces in grief.


Note the carved angel faces floating in the dome, waiting to guide the departed to heaven.


Here are some of the side altar figures, starting with St. Rocco. We have seen many chapels dedicated to this saint in European cities to guard against the plague. He is always shown with a dog who licks his wounds.


Finally, here are some of the other sculptures that adorn the mausoleum:


We had gelato for lunch, which is always a wise choice, and ate it while sitting along the harbor.

At this point, Charlie and Tommy decided to go back to the hotel to finish the remnants of the bourbon, while Maureen and i did some shopping . We then visited the Vlaho Bukovac House, which was the home and museum of the Croatian artist. We can tell you that he was a great lover of the self-portrait...lot of self love there. The walls in the rooms were painted with colorful designs like this one.


Let me also share this rather disturbing portrait of Bukovac’s family members. Or, rather their heads. Food for thought.....


We spied the boys on the balcony as we returned to the hotel.


After a little rest, we went to this seaside restaurant with two other couples from our tour. Jane noted that it is known for its excellent mussels, so Charlie was looking forward to trying them. Of course, they were all out, but there were pork chops, so all ended well. We enjoyed many laughs with our new friends, as well as a memorable sunset.



Photos are tagged Croatia and Cavtat

Posted by Cybercsp 02:50 Archived in Croatia Tagged croatia cavtat Comments (0)

Dubrovnik - Day 10 Tuesday 9/10

Welcome to the Game of Thrones

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After breakfast, we took a 25 minute boat ride to the famous city of Dubrovnik. Perched atop limestone cliffs that overlook the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik’s walled Old Town is often referred to as Croatia's "cultural heart and soul." (Game of Thrones fans will recognize it as King’s Landing.) We were so pleased to have the opportunity to revisit this amazing city!

Some history: Between 1991-1992, Dubrovnik suffered tremendous damage during Yugoslavia's Civil War. It is estimated that 68% of the buildings in the Old Town (Stari Grad) suffered shell damage. Nine historic palaces were completely destroyed by fire, two-thirds of the city's tiled roofs were damaged, the walls took 111 direct hits, and the squares endured 314 direct hits. As the city had no military value, some viewed the shelling as an attempt to break the morale of the Croatians. After the war, laborers worked tirelessly to restore the city to its grandeur, and as the photos will show, succeeded in their endeavor.

Our approach took us past the "Dubrovnik Riviera" where we saw lovely private homes and hotels. You can see that every cove becomes a popular beach.


The approach by sea was spectacular, especially as Mario took the boat around the city walls. In Game of Thrones, the fort served as the Red Keep.


We entered the city through this gate.


Having a guided tour of the Old City was a great experience. When we were here in 2014, we wandered the city on our own, and having a guide provided us with lots of context.

The Sponza Palace was built in the 16th century, and is now home to the State Archives and the Memorial Room of the Defenders of Dubrovnik, dedicated to those who died in the Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995). It is one of the few buildings that suffered no damage during the war.
The patron saint of the city, St. Blaise, blesses the city. He seems to be everywhere that you look.


Here is the prototype for Onofrio's Fountain, which served as Dubrovnik’s main source of water from the Middle Ages through the end of the 19th century, when the city installed a modern water supply that serviced homes directly. The fountain is on the Stradun just inside the Old Town’s Pile Gate. The prototype will have to do, because every time we passed the main fountain, it was covered with tourists.


The Stradun is the main artery in Dubrovnik. At one end is this beautiful clock tower, which is 600 years old this year.


At the opposite end is the other city gate, and here is the entrance to the city by land.


Here is the main Cathedral of Dubrovnik, dedicated to St. Blaise.


These stations of the cross are stunning in their contrast to this ancient church.


Game of Thrones aficionados may recognize these stairs as the Queen's Walk of Shame. They would remind one of the Spanish steps in Rome.


Here is a photo of the interior of the Jesuit Church that is located at the top of the stairs.


Dubrovnik has many narrow alleyways that house restaurants and apartments....


...as well as squares.


This message is touted as the world's oldest graffiti. It was carved by a priest who is reminding the boys who keep him awake with their street games that they will eventually die and have to atone for their sins .


After hours of walking in the heat, it was time for a drink at the Buza Bar. The views are without parallel.


Photos are tagged Croatia and Dubrovnik

Posted by Cybercsp 01:13 Archived in Croatia Tagged croatia dubrovnik Comments (0)

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