Tuscany 2012

September 28, 2012

Our final entry into our Tuscany tour came in from Clairese Huennekens, one of our 35 travelers. I thought it'd be a fitting close to a great trip so here goes.
With the suggestion of Valerie, I headed up to the Borghese Gallery. I was thrilled. It is a beautiful Villa built by a Borghese, Pope Paul V. This was aimed at beautifying the City of Rome and in so doing glorified his name. I felt like I was in the most lovely gardens in the middle of a large city. I compare it to Central Park in New York, a place of quietude and great beauty. Families walk to the various food venues. I had the concierge call for a ticket and he could only get one and sent me on my way for a 3 p.m. entry. I cannot tell you how thrilled and excited I was. I walked up the steps of the white marble, taken from the quarry of Carrara, a place we had just visited four days earlier. The Borghese Gallery is an Italian Villa built in 1605. I turned and looked out over the ingenious fountains, the secret gardens, the grotto, the enclosures for exotic animals and the flower gardens. This was just the beginning of my beautiful Borghese Day in Rome.
I have fallen in love with Bernini's Apollo and Daphne (1624) but the strong perfect David, a Berninie piece, stole  my heart. It dates from 1623. It is said that Pope Urban VIII held a mirror up to Bernini so that he could model David's face after his own. This is a David in action, holding the slingshot with his muscles ready to release the stone. His torso was so twisted in action it was unbeliveable. I spent three hours in the galleries of Baroque and Renaissance paintings by Raphels, Caravaggio, Rubens and Titan. This was truly an Artist's dream moment! This is art history in the flesh. I then headed out to ride the small train to tour the gardens.  Lovers strolled and families with children rode the little ponies. I will return to walk with my daughter, son and grandchildren. My trip with Someday Travel had given me my dream. Thank you, Love Clairese. 

September 21, 2012

We are back! The group arrived safely in Fond du Lac around 7:30 Friday evening. It was a great trip with super travelers...it's great to go, but good to return safely, as well.  We definitely made another "Someday Travel Dream"come true!

A great "welcome home" sign from Robin's family 

September 19 & 20 - Rome, Italy

After a festive evening at our Farewell Dinner on Tuesday, we awoke Wednesday to a fine breakfast then proceded to enjoy the Vatican Museum tour to include the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Square and Basilica.

Many people don't realize that since 1929, Vatican City has been an independent sovereign state. In addition to being the head of the Apostolic Catholic Church, the Pope has full legislative, executive and judicial power and Vatican City is completely independent of the Italian State. The Vatican has its own stamps, its own railroad station, its own security service, its well known Italian-language newspaper and a real police force known as the "Swiss Guards".

Swiss Guards (Valerie Graczyk, Clairese Huennekens & Camille Meyers)
We toured St. Peter's Square & St. Peter's Basilica, which is the largest Catholic church in the whole world. St. Peter is buried under the Papal Altar in the Basilica and the actual body of Pope John XXIII is the only pope to be laid above ground and can be seen inside the church. With all the beauty of St. Peter's, perhaps the most beautiful piece is Michaelangelo's Pieta, located just inside the Basilica. To think it was made with marble from Carrara, a site we had visited just last Thursday!

The Pieta
St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica - the Pope's private stairs!
From St. Peter's Square we had "the pipe" pointed out to us. It is situated over the Sistine Chapel and with its smoke from inside the conclave, it informs the whole world when a new Pope is elected. We also saw the balcony that the newly elected Pope uses to address "his flock" once elected and also the window in his residence where he appears every Sunday morning to bless the people in the Square, which he does in many languages.

The group in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
St. Peter's Square
The museum was breathtaking. We walked through corridors lined with pieces of art, paintings, etc. leading to the Sistine Chapel. It was named after Pope Sixtus IV since it was he who instructed that a "Chapel of Chapels" be built.  Michaelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to "redecorate" the vast surface of the inside because it was thought at that time to be a very plain chapel, too plain for the "Chapel of Chapels". Michaelangelo was only 33 years old when he was commissioned to paint the walls, and ceiling. Our guide told the story that the Pope changed his mind about painting the chapel but Michaelgelo told him no, that he was paid to do it so do it he would. The Pope relented. He told the Pope he intended to paint the ceiling and the Pope replied that it would be silly to paint the ceiling because "who would look up to see it"? We all chuckled as we craned our necks to see the masterpiece painted on the ceiling.

When we left St. Peter's, we were dropped off just above the beautiful Spanish Steps which we handled very easily since we were walking down. The Steps were followed by a short walk to Fountana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain). It is a Aqueduct by design but has become the most popular fountain in Rome. We took a break for lunch and took pictures of the tremendous statues that are part of the fountain. Lore has it that if you throw a single coin into the fountain over your shoulder you will return to Rome. Throw 2 over your shoulder and you will find love. Coins were flying in to the water by most. In the early days when money was a little tight at the Vatican, the money went there. Now it all goes to various Rome charities.

We then took a short hike to see the Pantheon. In pagan religions, the "pantheon" was the temple dedicated to "all the gods". Over time the term came to stand for a mausoleum of illustrious figures. The Pantheon of Rome is the best preserved. It was erected, or begun, in 27 BC and is the widest masonary dome (height & diameter are equal...43.3 meters) ever raised.

We concluded our tour with a visit to Palazzo Nuovo and free time before heading to the bus. Travelers toured the building, ate, had a little "vino" and bought umbrellas to avoid the light rain, the first rain we encountered in 9 days!

We concluded our day with an informal gathering in the lower hotel's bar (which was conveniently closed) and we just talked, joined in laughter, played a game and of course enjoyed more vino bought right in Italy.

Our last day is a free day so travelers will be visiting such sites as The Forum & The Colosseum on their own. Maybe we will be able to add comments to the blog. We leave Rome tomorrow and will be back in the U.S.A. around 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept 21.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dear readers of our blog. I apologize for not updating our blog completely yesterday. Following is a brief update on Monday and part of Tuesday.

On Monday we left Florence and headed to one of our favorite cities...Siena...which lies in the heart of Tuscany. We arrived and took a walking tour of the main points of Siena. Since it is so hilly we sent some travelers to the center of town via taxi which they really appreciated. We only spent the single night in Siena. After the tour we visited the Enoteca Italiana for some wine tasting and a light lunch. It was a success and in keeping with our theme of our "Art & Wine tour, it turned out to be a prelude to our afternoon visit to Rocca delle Macie winery and a light lunch. We also toured and learned about their wine business. Rocca is in Castellina in Chianti. After a short time we retrurned to Siena to a most welcome sleep. Some of the travelers took the opportunity visit one of Europe's greatest main squares, in our humble opinion. It is the di Campo and it's where Valerie & I had our dinner. After a rare single night stay on tour, we departed for Volterra. The main stop was at the Etruscan Museum. The Etruscan's, while holding to the fact there was a life-after death, cremated their dead and placed their ashes into highly decorated Urnes. The museun holds the worlds largest collection of Tuscan Urnes in the world.

Then came Luigi! What a showman and salesman. He is an owner of Tenuta di Torciano where we stopped for another wine tasting esperience, and this was soon dubbed as the greatest wine & Olive oil yet. Luigi kept everyone laughing, relaxing some of those" travel pains" we get once in a while riding a bus. He was uplifting and without realizing it 2 hrs had passed when only 1 was scheduled. What a delightful afternoon. To make up some time we only visited San Gimignana for an hour, then we were off to Rome for a Farewell Dinner to wish 7 our group returning to the U.S. well.

Our arrival and first day in Rome will be shared tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We enjoyed two Tuscan towns today and a very special "wine tasting lunch".  Everyone is doing great!  This evening we held a Farewell Dinner for 7 of our travelers who depart for "home" tomorrow in true Italian style: 4 courses and hours of conversation!  Tomorrow the remaining travelers depart for Rome.

Wine tasting lunch
Wine tasting lunch
 Monday, September 17, 2012

Tomorrow we have short sojourn to what we consider one of the top 3 cities when visiting Italy and maybe Europe as well.

We departed Florence and arrived in Siena mid-morning and had a walking tour of some key highlights of this unique city. We've spoken of the pride that exists within each Tuscan Province, and Siena is no different as our guide explained. She was sure to point that there are few Italian cities that are so complete that they retain most of the buildings & characteristics of 700 years ago, that Siena does. She showed pictures of the Palio, horse races between the 17 contrades in the city. They are held twice a year and are not done for money or recognition, but for honor.  She showed us the Church of San Domenico, explained about their banking situation, toured the Cathedral in depth and then led us to what Valerie & Wayne believe is the highlight, the "frosting on the cake", a "ten" in all aspects---the Piazza del Campo, the town's center!

Following this we then ventured to the Enoteca Italiana located right in Siena. It is both a restaurant and a fantastic collection (and for purchase) of all wines produced in Italy. Following this wine tasting opportunity, a few travelers opted to remain in Siena to explore Siena while the remainder took a short bus ride to the Rocca delle Macie winery. We had an excellent guided tour and concluded with wine sampling. This was certainly consistent with the theme of our trip, "Art & Wine tour" to Italy.


Following the wine tasting we returned and checked into our rooms with porter awaiting our arrival, getting luggage up to each room. While this was taking place, preparations were being made by the travelers to crash, shop and/or eat nearby or in the des Compo or explore the city on their own.

Tomorrow we depart for Rome after stopping in at Volterra & San Gimignana. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Florence - Our day was designated as an "option day" with travelers able to pick and choose to go on all or some of the scheduled events/places. Someday Travel prides ourselves in being open and flexible to change and are open to doing so with the schedule. This is done to better serve all the travelers, which we did today.

Our first stop was the Uffizi Gallery. Built between 1560 & 1580, it originally was a suite of offices. It was the Medici family that took over this space for their family and staff. Over the centuries they commissioned some of the greatest works of art during the Renaissance period. Their great collection of masterpieces was bequeathed to the city of Florence on the condition that it never left the city. Their entire collection of paintings went to the Uffizi & Palazzo Pitti galleries while sculptures & other antiques went to the Museo Archeologico. In the Uffizi alone, the artwork spreads over some 45 rooms and any attempt to describe them here could  never do the gallery or artwork  justice. Ask any one of our 35 travelers and you might just begin to scratch surface of all there is to see in the gallery. Like the Louvre in Paris, it is must-see gallery even if you're not a student of the arts.

The "taxi group" to the Uffizi from the hotel in Florence
After the Uffizi, we had the extremely rare opportunity to walk and observe more historic art masterpieces that lined the walls in the Vasari Corridor. This corridor was constructed and goes across the Arno River, traveling entirely across the historic Ponte Vecchio bridge. It connects the Uffizi and the Palazzo Pitti gallery and was built by the Medicee Family as a means of traveling between both of their residences without needing to walk in public, plus as an escape route if attacked at either location! As I already mentioned, the corridor is open to a very limited number of people every year and those in our group that took advantage of this opportunity had the thrill of doing so today.

View from inside the secret Medicee passageway over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge

The Ponte Vecchio bridge

Upon leaving the corridor, travelers also had the opportunity to walk through Giardino (garden) di Boboli & Giardino Bardini. With vivid memories of these "gardens of green" still floating in our minds, we took time for lunch on the way back to the Baptistry, everyone selecting different places to satisfy their pallats on the excellent Italian food. Once we reassembled after lunch, we visited the Medici Chapels. The Medici family held power in Florence almost continuously from 1434 until 1743. It was Anna Maria Luisa, sister of the late grand duke, Gian Gastone Medici, that bequeathed the artwork to the city.

Giardino di Boboli

We finished our day with a tour of the Basilica of St. Lorenzo, Florence's oldest church, founded in 393 and served as the city's cathedral. It was also the Medici's parish church.

Tomorrow we travel to Siena for a tour plus wine tasting at Enoteca Italiana. It has the largest collection of wine from all over Italy.  Until then, enjoy a couple additional photos of our time in Florence!

Part of the group in front of the palace
Valerie's newest friend in Florence
Saturday, September 15, 2012

A new day!  We left Lucca early for Florence and met our guide. It was a cool & breezy morning to enjoy the visits to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Duomo which is part of the Cathedral but "outranks" it. Duomo means the "Most important church in town" so in this unique situation the Duomo is also the Cathedral. The outside of the Baptistery was explained expertly to us by our guide. We heard about the 3 gates with scenes depicting various religious themes or stories. The south door had scenes from the life of St John the Baptish, the north door with scenes from the New Testament and the east door illustrating scenes from the Old Testament.  We walked down to the River Arno where we stood on the Ponte Vecchio bridge, the oldest bridge across the Arno. It holds some of the best jewelry and good stores in the world. In fact, the bridge has housed jewelry stores since the 1500's! There are two stories of how the bridge escaped being destroyed during WWII. One has it that a German officer was ordered to blow up the bridge following the retreat of the Nazi's. The officer had a love for history so chose not to follow the orders leaving the bridge as the only surving bridge over the Arno in Florence. The second story was that the commanding officer in charge to the retreat from Florence instructed that only one bridge was not to be blown up and Ponte Vicchio was the one. He instead blew up homes on either side of the river to cover the road with debris to slow the advancing Allied Forces. Whichever story you believe, it resulted in the saving of the bridge. Just hundreds of yards from this bridge sits the Ponte Santa Trinita bridge. It is called "the most beautiful bridge in the world. This bridge was blown up in the war and afterwards the river was dredged and the pieces were reassembled to an exact copy of the bridge.

We walked past and through the Piazza della Signora and viewed beautiful statutes including a replica of David, standing in the same place the original David stood for hundreds of years. 

We then went to the see the original David in the Galleria dell'Accademia. What a breathtaking experience. One can see pictures or movies of David but they are nothing like seeing it in person. You cannot visit Florence without seeing this Michaelabgelo masterpiece, and we didn't.

Tomorrow we will visit the Uffiza Gallery, enter the Vasari Corridor, walk through gardens named Giardino di Boboli, Fort di Belvedere, Giardino Bardini and Giardino Vegni. In the afternoon we will go to the Medici Chapels.   It will all be an "optional" day which means our travelers can choose to participate in all or only a couple of the tours. Tune in tomorrow and enjoy some photos from today!

Valerie and Wayne in front of the Gates of Paradise
Vern and Kathy
Florence's Uffizi
Square of Florence with a replica of the David in the background

Friday, September 14, 2012

Who hasn't heard of the Leaning Tower of Pisa? It is such a fantasy site for so many people and our 35 travelers had the opportunity to not only see it, but climb it if they chose to do so. They also had the unique opportunity to visit and learn about the other less known buildings in the area which is named the Campo dei Miracoli. These were the Cathedral, the Baptistry & the Camposanto (cemetary).

While the Cathedral & Baptistry were neat & exciting, I will cover some perhaps unknown facts about the famous "Leaning Tower of Pisa".

It was constructed as a Bell Tower and work began in 1173. When 3 floors were already up, the area on the south side showed the first signs of sinking and work was suspended. It seems that in the past the entire area was submerged under water. As the water receded over the centuries, sediments of sand and other soft deposits naturally occurred. Construction began but the the knowledge of the past was not known by the architects and builders. It took the three floors of construction to be completed before trouble surfaced and the tower began to sink on the south side. Over the next century, as knowledge of the situation and possible correction techniques increased, construction once again began and the Tower was completed in the 2nd part of the 14th Century. To address the softness of the ground, they dug out the area between the Tower & the Cathedral and dumped tons of lead to stabilize the tower. A second critical decision was also made. With the ground somewhat stabalized, construction continued, but VERTICALLY!

How was this accomplished? They simply shortened some pillars between the final floors. Those on the south side were longer than on the north side for the remaining floors so the final levels would be vertical to the ground when finished, or at least look vertical. If you look closely at a picture of the Tower, the top floor does appear to be more vertical to the ground than the base. It didn't completely solve the problem so from 1990 until about 2001 the tower was closed for more work.  Right now, the famous tower has stabalized, with the tower being 179 feet high on the north side and only 177 on the south side.

We departed Pisa and traveled to Viareggio, Andrea & Dawn's home. We were treated first with a personal visit to theirs and Andrea's father's home which contained the art gallery of Andrea's father. What a delight! We then were treated to 2 1/2 hours of free time in the wonderful city nestled on the shores of the Mediteranean Sea. Our travelers walked the beaches and soaked their feet in the water, they observed the luxury ships and luxury sail boats made right in Viareggio. Kevin even went swimming and took great videos of his experience. Others ate in seaside restraurants and just lavished in the 80+ degree day.

Too soon it was time to take our feet and bottoms out of the sea and return for our final night in Lucca. Travelers chose what they'd do on their final day and night in Lucca. Some walked the streets, some shopped, some simply crashed or took the time to pack for the departure the next morning. A group of 17 decided to go to a Puccini concert in town. It was fantastic and walking out of the restaurant there was dancing in the cool and refreshing night. Locals danced the tango and other dances right there in the square! What a fitting climax to 4 days of wonderful memories.

I promised to share an experience shared by Gary & Joni Greenfield and Jim & Camille Meyers and it does need to be shared. Back on September 12 they walked to the Cathedral of Lucca to see the archaeological complex beneath the Cathedral. This fantistic "dig" consisted of the museum that displays the treasures of the Duomo of St. Martin & the church of Saints Goiovanni & Reparata (dates back to the Middle Ages to the late 15th century). There were 108 steps in the Bell Tower. They said that the most amazing site was the Archaeologal site that was underneath this 12th century church. It contained the remains of the history of the town, excavations that have brought to light 5 stratigraphic levels levels spanning from the 1st century BC and the beautiful Romanesque baptistry and the entire church. Simply amazing!

Tomorrow we travel to Florence for two days and nights. Stay tuned and please spread the word about our  trips.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How does one try to capture a day of fun and history in a few words? I guess I can't, but I will try to paint a visual picture of some of the things we experienced today. 

First we went to the Cave Museum of Fantascritti in Carrara. Our guide was the grandson of a former worker in the marble caves and he shared and showed us some of the tools used in the days of Michaelangelo, who incidently hand picked his marble blocks for his masterpieces. Carrara marble is mostly pure white so you see that in his pieces. He would physically go the quarry in Carrara to select his marble, but I'm getting ahead of myself!

The guide shared that oxen were used to pull sleds loaded with tons of marble and had a donkey in front. The irony was that oxen preferred to be led so they placed  a donkey in front of each team. He shared that before trucks, all marble was moved down the mountain by the hoist and pulley method. Some pieces weighed tons and were very difficult to move from the quarry in the mountains where marble is extracted, to the ships docked in the harbor which then carried the blocks away. It was not unusual that a sled used to move these heavy and huge blocks of marble to be pulled by 60-70 oxen. Which brings us back to the donkey. He informed us that oxen work best when led so they'd put a donkey in the lead and off they went pulling their heavy load.

Time to get back to Michaelangelo. In his day, marble, as hard as it is, would be split with wooden wedges! Fig trees were the best wood because they absorbed water so well. Wooden wedges were placed in a crack and water was added causing the expansion of the wood and splitting the marble. Eventually wood gave way to steel and iron and to diamond tip drills. Dynamite was also used until the 60's but no longer is used for two reasons: it was dangerous to the workers plus it damaged many pieces of marble. To move and/or pull marble blocks weighing tons and tons, it was placed on a sled and it was eased down the mountain rolling or sliding on pieces of wood. In Michaelangelo's day, they didn't have steel cables but used twisted rope about 2-3" thick. But let me tell you what was so important about Carrara marble that we put it on the tour. First, Carrara is where Michaelangelo got his marble for his masterpieces: The David, The Pieta and the equally fabulous Moses. The second reason is that it is also where Andrea Bucci, our guest sculpture, gets his marble!

After Carrara we traveled to Colonnata for a lunch at Locanda Apuana, set in the Apuan Mountains. For over 2 hours (typical for Italy) we sat and enjoyed laughter, local food, including Lardo, and of course, local wine. The intent of this trip was to travel & experience "off the beaten path" food and sites, and we certainly accomplished that today. But we weren't done!

In the evening we witnessed probably the most important religious & social event in Lucca. It is called La Festa dell'Esaltazione della Santa Croce, or the festival of the Exhaltation of the Holy Cross which is celebrated on September 14. Tonight we observed Volto Santo (also known as the Holy Face of Italy) as it was paraded along the medieval streets of Lucca with every place entirely illuminated by lighted candles. All lights are turned off as hundreds of believers walked holding lit candles. Simply beautiful and full of special memories. 

Tomorrow we're off to Pisa and then Viareggio, Dawn & Andrea's home town. Who knows, we might even dip our toes in the Mediterranean Sea!

I have a few comments from our travelers today, but only have space and time for one (I'll use the other comments in tomorrow's blog). 

"To the Miller family in Montana, Aunt Jean is having a great time and is going to stay here....ha ha!"

Marble quarry in Carrara
Marble quarry in Carrara
Wayne Graczyk in a huge marble cave
Kevin Miller in a marble cave
Tunnel we drove through to get inside the mountain
Religious procession in Lucca for the Feast of the Holy Cross 
Religious procession in Lucca for the Feast of the Holy Cross
Religious procession in Lucca for the Feast of the Holy Cross
Religious procession in Lucca for the Feast of the Holy Cross
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Lucca, Italy

Besides being the home of Andrea Bucci's gallery, Lucca deserves to be seen and admired not only for the works of art it encloses, but also for the rare and precious example of an almost completely intact historic centre.

Lucca was saved from the destructions which destroyed the most important Italian urbane in the last century by the presence of the mighty city walls dating back to the 16th century.  The walls have remained intact and they continue to enclose and isolate the town in their "green circle", more commonly called "the walls" around Lucca.  There are many walled-in towns in Italy, but only a few, like Lucca, can boast as many as four circles of walls which are, in great part, still standing.  The first circle was built by the Romans.  The second circle, which is from the 12th-14th century, is medieval and covered.  The third circle dates back to the 16th century with the fourth and final circle whose buildings lasted over a century.

We entered this walled city early in the morning visiting and viewing such sites as: The Cathedral with the holy face, the famous wooden Crucifix which legend says was cared into a cedar of Lebanon by Nicodemo, but was believe to be the carving led by Angels.  We also viewed Piazza San Michele, the Amphitheater, the Palazzo Ducale, now office of the Province and so much more.

Our guide was very knowledgeable and had many humorous antidotes to give her presentations substance, yet in a light manner.  Being from Lucca, she tactfully let us know that it was Lucca, not Florence or Pisa, that is the oldest part of Tuscany.   She also shared that tomorrow is the infamous Holy Day with a religious procession, which we will be present for and can capture by camera or video.  We are being led by Dawn Wallschlaeger to a vantage point to witness this great (and for many) once in a lifetime experience!

When asked who paid for these fantastic and beautiful buildings and artwork, it was simply stated that unlike today's society, it was the wealthy community residents that stepped forward.  Why?  Because in their culture what was important was the town and the people, unlike today's society which is so individualistic.

The day concluded with a beautiful and personable wine social at Andrea's art gallery.  What a delight as our travelers and many others joined in toasting Andrea and Dawn's artwork and generosity!  We all walked home in a light breeze and temperature about 68 degrees.  It was a great evening and I asked our travelers for some of their reactions to our first day in Lucca...

Al & Jeanne Noedstrom took a bike ride around the famous Lucca Wall.  It was about an hour ride and Jeanne said, "It was awesome!" and said her daughters won't believe she did it, along with Al.  She also said "Al is doing great."

Kevin Miller shared that, "after a fabulous tour of Lucca and 3 bottles of wine (shared with other travelers), I had a whirlwind of whirlwind tours of the walled cities."

Carrie Griep said the trip has been, "beautiful - love it all - it's been a unique experience.  It's my first experience overseas and the guides are fantastic!"  At the Bucci reception she said the shrimp was "the best".  Linda simply said she agreed, and that said it all.

Dave and Linda Geiger said, "The architectural scenery and buildings were amazing with what they did back in those times."  They shared just how clean the city is and Linda observed how she'd like to "learn to ride a bike in a little black dress and high heels.  They look great!"

And, finally, Steve and Lynne Uecker shared their wedding day during a "lull" in the day's events.  Somehow we got to the topic of weddings and the heat here, and Lynne shared they were married in 104 degree heat!  She said it impressed upon them what Hell was like.  Their wedding colors were black and white and a fellow funeral director decorated his hearse with Reagan signs and a wedding bell on top.  People commented that they didn't know if it was a wedding or a funeral.  Of course, we know it was the beginning of a successful marriage!

So, we sign off and look forward to the marble quarry a lunch of delicacies of the locals and the religious procession tomorrow.  More to come...for now, enjoy the photos from today!

Tour of Lucca, the walled city
Andrea Bucci, our art host 
Valerie and Wayne Graczyk - City gate in Lucca

Kevin Miller and Valerie Graczyk - St. Mary's outside the wall

Anne Velasco and Jean Brignone - St. Martin Cathedral 
Puccini Statue 
Valerie Graczyk at Andrea Bucci's gallery 
Andrea Bucci's gallery 
Valerie Graczyk and Andrea Bucci in the gallery

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What a day of travel!  Anyone that has traveled abroad knows that tiredness, coupled with the excitement of being in another country, tends to drain the body and mind.  Flying out of O'Hare with a layover in Paris we arrived in Florence, Italy where all 33 travelers were ready to continue on to Lucca.

We altered our schedule a little as we enjoyed a brief walking tour of Florence.  Standing on an overlook with a panoramic view of the famous Duomo standing proud and tall...it was a magnificent sight!  We walked for what felt to some like 20 miles, although it was probably less than 2 miles (that's what little sleep and a long flight will do to you).  Plus, we don't quite have our "cobble stone" legs and feet under us yet, which honestly makes a big difference.  Needless to say, although it was a beautiful hot day, we were all tuckered out!

We then traveled on to Lucca to check into our hotel and were anxious to meet up with Dawn, Wayne & Eileen Walschlaeger for our official welcome to Tuscany & Lucca.  Photos of our time in Florence and Lucca are below.

Gary and Joni Greenfield walking the streets of Florence
Clairese Huennekens, Jim & Camille Meyers in front of the Duomo
Kevin Miller overlooking Florence
Camille Meyers, Valerie Graczyk & Clairese Huennekens
Ray and Cale Wifler
Welcome to Lucca reception with Dawn and Andrea
Welcome to Lucca reception with Dawn and Andrea

Monday, September 10, 2012 

We leave today for Italy!  This is our tour from the Windhover Center for the Arts in Fond du Lac.  Following are two favorite memories I hold in Florence, Italy where we will land.  The first one is one of my favorite things ... GELATO!  The second photo is of Wayne in Rome.  Notice his foot is resting on a one-thousand year old Roman ruin!

Once we land in Italy we will post current photos and will blog about our adventures.  Thank you for following us!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day!  We are t-minus 7 days from leaving for Tuscany!!  We will be blogging throughout our trip from September 10th thru the 21st.  Be sure to follow us on our journey.