2000 Cycling Season, May 28 - 31


May 28,2000, Sunday - Travel from Luca to Florence

The ride from Luca to Florence went very well. The weather was cool and partly cloudy but there wasn't much threat of rain. As we left Luca it was obvious that on Sundays most Italians spend the day at home with their families. Except for a few fellow roadies, the roads were empty. Riding across the Tuscan countryside was absolutely beautiful. The green rolling hills surrounded by forested mountains made for a very scenic trip as we cruised at an average of nearly 25kph (15mph) over the lightly rolling terrain. This trip was 80k (50 miles) long took us about 3 ˝ hours of rolling time. The last few miles into Florence included a very scenic area that reminded us of the Arkansas River valley between Selida and Canyon City, only with more vegetation and a few less spectacular rock formations. The only thing about this ride that wasn't beautiful was winding through the maze of tiny little streets in Florence as we tried to find our hotel after riding most of the day. Next time we ride into a tightly packed city we're going to do everything we can to ensure that we have a detailed street map before we arrive. Our Michelin regional maps didn't help us at all once we got in the city, so we had to go on a combination of instinct and the map that's in the lonely planet book, which doesn't have all the street names.

Tuscan Landscape between Luca and Florence

Tuscan Landscape between Luca and Florence

Although the ride was wonderful, by the time we got to our hotel we were feeling the effects of the pace of our schedule over the last few days. Since we left Nice about a week ago, we've been pushing pretty hard, both playing until late at night as well as traveling quite a ways by both bike and rail. So before getting caught up into the busy city of Florence we decided to find a simple meal, and have a quiet evening not doing anything. This is the first time so far that we really feel like we've pushed it a bit too hard. I think the change in language (from French to Italian), the change in the train system, our paranoia of the dangers of the area, and the fact that we haven't quite figured out the Italian meal schedule finally caught up with us and made us feel like we've been on the road for a long time.

May 29,2000, Monday - Florence

We started the day with an email from my nephew saying that the Avalanche weren't able to hold together their last critical game against Dallas. Dorothy didn't let this spoil the day however. I think this little trip to Europe helped to distract her!

Spending the evening catching up on reading and writing helped a lot, so we decided to continue to recharged by spending what is Labor day back in the states keeping a slow pace visiting the renaissance art sites of Florence. We visited places and saw things that both Dorothy and I had seen in art history books. But neither of us imagined how powerful of a message they send when you are actually standing in front of them. I guess this was the idea, to portray the power of the god and the church in a way that overwhelms the observer. Most of the amazing architecture and fantastic frescos here defy being photographed by an average Joe. I found myself trying several combinations of ways to hold the camera, places to stand and usually ended up just putting the camera away, because it just couldn't capture the splendor of the site.

A Simple Shot of the Ceiling of the Baptistry

A Simple Shot of the Arched Ceiling of the Baptistry

We started with the Lonely Planet's walking tour at the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, which was constructed in the 12th century. This grandly architected church included many spectacular frescos by Filippino Lippi and what is thought to be the work of the young Leonardo Di Vinci. We then visited Florence's centerpiece the Duomo. The Duomo is a grand cathedral whose construction spanned most of the 11th and 12th century. The sites around the Duomo include the cathedral, the bell tower, the baptistery, and the modern museum that holds many of the original relics from the Duomo. The Duomo is simply amazing. The scope of the buildings alone is awe-inspiring for a professional who spends his life working on big projects. The Duomo itself is a grand green and white marble cathedral that is covered on the outside with the most intricate friezes and statue work imaginable. The artwork inside is equally stunning, both in statue form and in the form of paintings and frescos. Works from all the great Italian renaissance masters cover the walls and ceiling. At the heart of it the cathedral is the ceiling of the dome of the Duomo. The dome itself is about 5 times the size of the dome in the Colorado state capitol building. The inside of this gigantic dome is covered with an intricate fresco depicting the final judgment. This intricate fresco includes powerful scenes the saints sitting in judgment of people either entering heaven and being damned and dragged into hell. Dorothy and I enjoyed the variety of demons and the depictions of the damned being dragged into hell to be tortured.

In the evening we returned to the hotel and turned on the TV to be reminded that it was Labor Day back at home. In addition to feeling a debt of gratitude to everyone who has fought for our country, it made me feel like I should go out and run a 10k with 40,000 of my closest friends. This is one the first Boulder-Boulder that I've missed for anything but injury since in several years. Hopefully it was cool, but not rainy for the run and the parachute's carrying the flag into Folsom field.

May 30,2000, Tuesday - Florence

Today we visited several museums to see more of the splendor of Florence. Today most of the sites fit into the capabilities of my photographic skills, so I can include some pictures of these amazing works of art.

First we visited the Museum of San Marco, which used to be a monastery where several of the great Italian Renaissance painters used to live. Probably the most recognizable is Fra Angelico (Beato Angelico). This old monastery includes several large refectories full of frescos and paintings and also houses the cells that that the fryers from the Dominican order used to live in. Each of these cells is decorated with frescos depicting scenes from the life of Christ. The colors in these frescos are amazing, especially considering their age. My favorite items are the panel paintings by Fra Angelico, which depict different biblical scenes.

Fra Angelico Pannel

Fra Angelico Panel

Next we visited the Museo del Bargello, which houses the biggest collection of Tuscan renaissance sculpture in the world.

Dorothy and Sculpture

Dorothy and Sculpture

Romanesque Sculpture

Romanesque Sculpture

Saint Peter Sculpture

Saint Peter Sculpture

Wasn't this guy in a 60's Star Trek episode? I think it was the one that they came across the little dude with the big ship, who used a puppet to scare anyone he encountered. Now I know where the got the model for the puppet!

The last thing we squeezed in today is the Galeria delgli Uffizi that houses "the most important collection of Italian renaissance art" of all kinds. This Gallery is also one of the oldest instance of a modern day museum whose collections were originally put on display back to the 16th century. This museum has many more Italian renaissance works than the Louvre in Paris which are all arranged by artist and by period. Some of the recognizable works include Sandro Bottochelli's "The Birth of Venus" and Leonardo Da Vinci's "Annunciation" and Buonarroti Michaelangelo's "Holly Family with Infant Saint John".

Portion of Da Vinci's Annunciation

Portion of Da Vinci's Annunciation

Titian's Venus Of Umbrino

Titian's Venus Of Umbrino

Portions of The Incarnation of Crist by Piero di Cosimo

Portions of The Incarnation of Christ by Piero di Cosimo

Detail Portions of Madana and Child by Lippi

Detail Portions of Madonna and Child by Lippi

May 30,2000, Wednesday - Florence

This morning we finalized our big itinerary change. After dealing with continual headaches of traveling on the Italian train system with the bike, our first experience with the narrow streets of a densely packed touristic Italian city, and given the bad reputation for crime that Rome and Naples have, we decided to store the bike for the next 13 days. With the help of our host at the Hotel Splendor in Florence, we located a parking garage that had a nice little out of the way corner where we could lock up the bike for a few weeks. Obviously this is a big change of plans, but it will allow us to be much more nimble as we move into the more crime-ridden regions of our itinerary. This decision means giving up some wonderful cycling in Siena and the Umbria region around Assisi, but it seems like a reasonable trade of for safety's sake. I really don't like the idea of navigating the narrow streets of Roam with an 18 foot long rack of gear, just waiting for a swarm of children or some teenaged boy to grab and run with whatever they could pry loose.

So at this point we've got thousands of dollars worth of gear scattered all over Western Europe. Out bike boxes are in Chamonix, France, our bike and trailer are locked in a garage in Florence Italy, and we are headed into the southern regions of Italy with the rest!!! Hopefully Dorothy 's and my ability to adapt to ever changing plans will pull us through this major course change and our plans will come together to reunite us with all of our gear again. This seems a lot like of one of my projects at work. Plan as much as possible, then plan to change the plan to deal with the unexpected realities that unfold. I guess that kind of flexibility and tenacity has helped cope with the constant challenges of consulting. Let's hope this one goes ok…

After getting the bike settled we visited the Musee de Academia which houses Michelangelo's sculpture of David. Although I'm not a huge fan of sculpture, David commands all the respect it gets. It is simply spectacular! The detail is amazing for a 15 foot tall piece of white marble. The face is perfectly realistic, and the veins in the neck and arms make it look so real that it would not be surprising to see it move, or take a breath. No wonder this amazing work is recognized as a treasure throughout the world.

Michelangelo's sculpture of David


Torso of David

Torso Details of David

After that one last museum visit, we headed off to the train station again, for a short trip to the town of Siena. However this time, things went much more smoothly because we don't have the bike, and Dorothy is getting pretty good at deciphering the train schedule we purchased in Pisa.

Impressions of Florence

First let me start with a plug for the Hotel Splendor in Florence. The Masoero family who runs this hotel really understand how to make American's feel comfortable. First off most of the hotel staff speaks English very well. Which is exteremly helpfully for the typical American who doesn't speak anything but English. This was invaluable to Dorothy and I when we decided to change our itinerary and leave the bike behind. Not only was it easy to change our plans, but Vincenzo (Vincent) the proprietor helped us find a location to store the bike. As for the hotel itself, it is covered in wonderful wall paintings that help it fit very well into the Florence landscape. Also important to me was that our room even had a big shower, that was close to what I would consider normal. If you visit Florence I suggest you make the Hotel Splendor the base for your visit. Their phone number is: (055).483.427

Since I have never been to New York City, I found Florence to be the most densely packed city I've ever visited. The streets are very narrow and the buildings rise strait up for about 5 stories. This place made the density of Paris or San Francisco look like the plains of Colorado. At first I questioned why we came here in the first place. However after just scratching the surface of the most significant collections of art in the world, I now understand why we found so many American college students here. Many of them that we spoke to said they were in Florence for a month or two with a group as part of a renaissance history, or renaissance art, class. What a great way to learn about this period of history, another culture, while getting college credit at the same time! It really opened my eyes to a different way of learning!

I have also gained a new appreciation for the history of the Catholic Church. The church commissioned all all of these wonderful works, and the fantastic architectural achievements. I also discovered that I need a "dummy's guide to the saints" to help better understand the theme of some of these works. Keeping strait who's who based on the subtle hints can be a real challenge. I'm can't remember which saint is full of arrows versus who is always depicted with a grate because he was burned, versus the one who is always wearing animal furs, and those are the really big easy hints.

I've also gotten caught up in the history of each of these amazing works, whether it's a building a sculpture, or a painting. Not only is there the theme of the work itself, but there is also the history of the artist, and the interesting course that each individual piece has taken through the centuries. Some have been lost for centuries, and then re-discovered, and put on display, only to be destroyed by politically motivated bombings, while others like Michelangelo's David have always been recognized as grand masterpieces that need to be protected. I am beginning to understand the complex discipline devoted to studying categorizing and classifying these important works. Not to mention all the students studying the artistic aspects of these works. Again the closer you look the more there is to see. Dorothy and I have just scratched the surface enough to see that there is a lot here that we barely know anything about. Once again this illustrates that there is so much to learn and so little time!