The secret garden in my neighborhood

Not far from my home in Florence lies a secret garden, the Orti del Parnaso, filled with lots of symbolism, including a ferocious snaked-shape fountain (water not playing in my pictures).

The garden’s name refers to Mt. Parnassus in central Greece.

The “snake” winds along the staircase leading to the lower garden and into the Giardino orticultura and its Tepidarium by Giacomo Roster.



You can enter the secret garden off via Trento, where an elegant iron gate leads to a beautiful belvedere.  This takes you into the Orti del Parnaso, the highest part of Florence’s wonderful horticultural garden.  Once inside, you find yourself on a splendid terrace overlooking a gorgeous panorama of the city of Florence.


Parnassus of course refers to the famous Greek mountain, which in ancient times was considered sacred to the god Apollo and the nine Muses who headquartered there. The mountain was the source of the river Castalia, which provided passage in mythology to the underworld and was a source of purification.

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The fountain in this secret garden completed in 1990 based on a design by Marco Dezzi Bardeschi. It is meant to represent the myth of Python, the monstrous snake son of Gea.  According to the legend, Python was covered with the mud of the Flood and could wrap  the city of Delphi 7 times round with its coils. Python’s breath was so pestilential as to dry out all the plants with which he came into contact (in ancient Greek the verb “pyzein” means “to rot”). Apollo eventually killed Python on Mount Parnassus, near the Oracle of Delphi, and in its honor the pythic games were established. These games were some of the sacred holidays of ancient Greece.

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In 2003 the Florentine Parnaso Garden became the seat of the Giardino dei Giusti, or the Garden of the Righteous, a place dedicated to the memory and commemoration of all those ordinary people who tried to save other human beings from persecution, genocide and acts of violence.

In recognition of this status, in the upper part of the park there is a Carob tree about 60 years old. This tree is symbol of the Garden of the Righteous of Jerusalem, dedicated to the memory of Chico Mendes, a Brazilian trade unionist killed in 1988 for his defense of the Indians of the Amazon.

In the same area there is also a 40 year old crepe myrtle, dedicated to the memory of the Tuscan cyclist Gino Bartali, who during the Nazi occupation courageously helped the Jews persecuted by the regime, an action that in 2013 earned him the appointment of  “Just among the nations. ”


And, finally, here’s a video I found on Youtube:

Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Paris

The best way I know to spend a Saturday afternoon on a spectacular sunny winter afternoon in Paris is to climb to the top of hill to visit the beautiful Sacré-Cœur Basilica and look out at the panoramic view of Paris. It’s a hike, but it’s well worth it!



Look at that sky!



A talented musician serenades the crowd:











The interior:









This church has figured out how to hold mass and let visitors circulate around the church at the same time.  It feels right.





Although it isn’t obvious in my pictures, the statues of Mary and the other one of Jesus are both in silver.  They remind me of the statue I saw in the Musee d-Orsay.













Even though it was well past Christmas and Epiphany, the creche scene was still on display. Very modern and simple rendition.  I guess I’m very accustomed to the more elaborate Italian mode!





The mosaics are splendid. The Holy Trinity in one shot here:




Wait a second, for a minute I thought I was in the Vatican!















Florence’s Duomo: better late than never

For my last birthday,  I climbed the 1,000,000 steps to the top of Florence’s cathedral with a friend who shares a January birthday.  Even though we live in a world where the word “awesome” is overused to the point of oblivion, I can only describe the duomo experience as awesome.

Unfortunately, I have been negligent in getting my pix and videos posted!  I’m trying to catch up!  I’m only about a year (11.5 months to be exact) late.  Oh well…I’ll try to do better in the future.

First, let me share this Youtube video with you, because it captures how I felt!!








































































































Before ending this very long post, I want to add a photo I came across of a 1940s visitor at the top of the  dome






Zip lining from the Eiffel Tower

This past week, in conjunction with the French Open, a zip lining opportunity happened for some lucky people!  I was walking through the Champs de Mars, and thought I was hallucinating when I heard the first zip liner come out of the sky!  Very cool!





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Galleria Vittorio Emauele, Milano

When I was in Milano at Christmas, I saw this beautiful galleria decked to the 9s.  It was a bit less hectic today, and, even without the Christmas finery, this early shopping mall is still a sight to behold.  I enjoyed it from inside and underneath the glass ceiling, but then I went hunting for a way to get outside and on top of the galleria.  Do you think I found a way?



If you said “no,” then you don’t know me very well!  I have the will and I find the way!



So, here it is from the outside, above the rooftop.






Inside Brunelleschi’s dome, Florence

Last month found me climbing the millions of steps to the top of the Florence cathedral dome.  Wow, what a hike and what an incredible view from the top!

One of the many treats of that worthwhile climb is the opportunity to see the Vasari frescoes of the Last Judgement, that adorns the interior of Brunelleschi’s magnificently engineered dome.  This post is dedicated to the Vasari paintings.






Il Duomo, Firenze: urban climbs

My birthday was last month and I marked it in a big way this year.  A fellow-January birthday girl and I got tickets to climb to the top of the Florence cathedral dome.  It is a bit of a hike.  You climb up more than 1200 steps, many very steep, and, even in January, the stairways are crowded.  It was worth every step!

You must be very careful on these stairways, some narrow, some steep, some filled with people going down while you are going up.  I was very, very careful, bc who wants to fall on a stairway from the roof of the duomo?

This post covers the exterior, a separate post is coming soon on the interior of the dome.

So, the first stopping place is the terrace level below the dome, as seen here:



The views, even from this lesser level, are outstanding!  There’s the dome of San Lorenzo:



Beguiling views of the baptistry:


So, as I said, I was extremely careful as I climbed up the duomo stairways.  And then, 2 days later, I missed a step on a small stairway in my apartment building, lost my balance and twisted my ankle.  And I’ve been laid up ever since!  I finally got an X-ray and nothing was broken, thank goodness, but the ligaments were torn, so we think.

Anyway, feeling sorry for myself with my foot elevated for several weeks, I haven’t felt like talking about the dome climb.  I am almost back to walking well by now, and this is my post to celebrate that fact!



Above and below, shots of the January skies over Florence:



Ahoy down there!



Looking to San Lorenzo: when I’m high up above Florence I realize again how small this city really is!



Looking toward Fiesole:



Looking up and thinking: “can I climb that many more steps to get up there?” Not completely convinced.



The quality of the sculptural details at this height was amazing to me.  The architects and sculptors could have been excused for skimping on details: I mean, how many people will ever see the work from close-up?


But they skimped on nothing:







So, okay, chicken, let’s keep climbing.  You made it this far.  So, up we go, and the climb got more severe:


This sweet woman encouraged me every step of the way, which was a lot of steps!




Above: Looking south, way across Florence, we see Forte Belvedere with its tower:



Below: looking across Florence to San Minato al Monte:



Looking over to the synagogue with the green dome:



Looking towards Santa Croce:


In the middle ground, the Bargello and Badia:



Looking toward the Mercato Centrale, with the green roof:



San Lorenzo with train station in background:




Looking way across town to the church of Santa Maria Novella:


Another shot of San Lorenzo with its entire complex shown:


Orsan Michele in foreground, Palazzo Pitti in front of forest (Boboli Gardens).


Below: looking to Piazza della Repubblica:




Below: details inside the Giardino Boboli: