Band Trip – Pisa and Lucca

A few surprises today. We felt that seeing Pisa would not be so exciting or worth the time but actually as you walk through the old wall and see the beautiful church, baptistery and tower all bright white on an open piazza with not much near them it was worth a stop – the leaning tower was such a popular photo spot with the kids who all wanted pictures taken that made it look like they were holding it up. I was so busy taking photos of them I didn’t get any on this camera – so coming later. After a short stop in Pisa, we were off to the medieval walled city of Lucca. This town was a little like a smaller version of Florence. The kids were excited to find posters up advertising their concert.

While the kids were setting up for the concert and rehearsing many of the adults found a cute little place on a piazza to have a little Chianti. It was so relaxing to not be hurrying somewhere.

Again most pictures coming later but I do have a couple from the concert. It was held in a former church now used as more of an auditorium. It was an incredibly beautiful venue and the accoustics were superb!

Mike fell asleep anyway….he had to get up at 8AM to join us from Florence.

The concert had quite a few enthusiastic people in the audience. One elderly man came by to talk to us because he loves America and American music – he had driven from another town to attend. It turns out he has spent time in the US in Florida as a young man in 1950 and then for a couple of years in South Carolina. He walked the whole way back to our busses just to talk and then told me he would never forget me…. Hoping Bill or Kevin got a picture of him.

Dinner was in a restaurant just near the walls of Lucca – one of the few places big enough to hold all of us.

Band Trip Florence

Got on the bus early this morning and set off for Florence. We did not get on the bus early enough and ended up sitting back with the kids but they were fun and I actually slept part of the way. Our tour guide is fantastic with the kids – here he is singing with the kids.

In Florence we found Michael (our nephew) just as we were beginning our tour. We saw Santa Croce church and square, then walked through the Signora Piazza, the public piazza and them came to the Duomo.

Because we were late we did not have time to go in but left immediately for our appointed time at the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David which one might think would be anticlimatic after seeing hundreds, maybe thousands of statues. It was not – when you see the perfectly set up display even from a distance you know you are in the presence of greatness. Sorry pictures not allowed.

We returned to the Duomo during our free time so Kevin and Judy could go inside.

Next we jumped back on the bus to Montecatimi Terme to our hotel. Walked around the downtown a couple of hours – it is just full of hotels and spas as it has hot springs there.

Dinner was in the hotel and was fairly typical of what we have come to expect for large group type food – everyone gets the same – but the pasta has been good, different every time and the veal scallopine that night was tasty.

Band Trip Day 1

Lots of hurry up and wait – and wait with big groups. But the advantages have been everything planned, tickets included to museums, people who gave greats tours and taught us so much!

We have a guide in our bus, the very personable and funny Flavio.

We made our way to Venice first on 2 large motorcoaches and then on a large boat – dropping us off a short distance from St Marks.

We walked to the Doges Palace for our tour which was led by a wonderful guide, Louisa, whose family has lived in Venice for five generations. The story of the Doges palace, the history and psychology behind the design of the building was fascinating – unfortunately no pictures allowed except in the hallway.

That’s gold leaf on the ceiling – it was everywhere – the incredible opulence of it was designed to impress people visiting with the importance and wealth of Venice and the Doge – a figurehead leader elected but for life – they were mostly older so that they were not in office too long.

The stairs were very steep and we were told they were designed that way so visiting ambassadors were out of breath and more awed by the time they reached the top.

The rooms and artwork – all items that were as they were historically were beautiful and very interesting. They included the courtrooms where people were tried and sentenced. If they were to be imprisoned the prison was next door – and the way in was through a short bridge – high up on the buildings- called the Bridge of Sighs. As prisoners were led through they had a view through small openings of their last view if beautiful Venezia (Venice)

The prison was considered fairly humane – not as bad as some places…. Six people to a cell.

Kevin and Megan

The inside of St Marks is also covered in gold leaf on the ceiling and higher areas – this very ornate church was the personal chapel of the Doges and did not get funded by the Vatican so they did not feel obligated to follow any direction from the Pope. St Mark died in Alexandria and in the 800’s the bones of St Mark were stolen and smuggled into Venice under carts of ham (which the Muslims did not want to touch and so did not examine the cargo. This made St Marks important somewhat as St Peter’s in Rome was for having St Peter’s bones.

Inside pictures not allowed to “protect copyrights” – read, to sell more books and postcards…

Next was a gondola ride which was actually very nice and less expensive when shared among six of us. Then it was goodbye to Venice….

After a 30 min drive to the small town of Fosso, the band set up and we walked to a restaurant for dinner. The food was not so interesting but Kevin reminded me to photograph it – he had been reading my blog before they joined us. First was a very good pasta with speck (a kind of bacon) but not pictured.

Polenta but a very soft one – the meal two nights before with cuttlefish had polenta that was more like a soft cornbread. Also stew that was like pulled pork. Also a dish of radicche (not sure of spelling) something like spinach, asparagus, kale rolled into one.

Most of the kids would not touch this but it was pretty good.

Concert was well promoted and many local people came. They seemed to really like it and the band did very well. Megan had a trumpet solo (for the family)

View from rehearsal