Art Italy

Florence, Italy: It’s All About the Art

And other observations during a two-night trip to Florence

Excuse me, but how did this post that I published on a few years back not make it onto my blog?! Here it is, regardless. (In case you’re wondering how I figured out about the literal missing link… it’s because in attending a class to prepare for another trip to Italy in May, I started scrolling through my previous posts, and dear old Florence was missing. Not anymore.

My daughter spent three months living in Venice in 2017 as an intern at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a small, yet world-renowned modern art museum located on the Grand Canal. Her time there was magical, challenging, beautiful, and life-changing. During her last week in Venice, she and three of her intern friends spent three days in Florence, home to 705,000 residents and located on the Arno River in central Italy. Since her return, we’ve enjoyed many conversations about her time in Italy.

The interview answers are just the two of us talking; see the photo captions for more detailed notes and facts about her trip.

Marilyn Yung

How far is Florence from Venice? It’s about a two-hour train ride. We left from the Santa Lucia train station around eight o’clock and got to Florence mid- to late morning.

What did you do first? When we got there, the first thing we did was walk to find our Airbnb. After dropping off our bags, we confirmed exactly what we wanted to do over the next few hours. On the train, we had talked about what we wanted to do. Our goal was to see as much art as possible — obviously, we were in Florence — and there were five or six major things that we knew would require extra planning and waiting in lines for. We had looked up the opening hours of all the museums, cost, and the amount of time to plan for each one. We didn’t give ourselves time to meander.

So what was first on your itinerary? The first thing we went to was the Medici Riccardi Palace. It’s got three levels of distinct architecture (see the caption for photo below). The palace is absolutely huge and nearly impossible to photograph from the outside.

This photo shows the exterior of Medici Riccardi Palace in Florence. The bottom level is rough in keeping with the era’s sumptuary laws that forbade ostentatious displays of wealth. Building of the palace began in 1444. The second level looks less rustic and the third displays a more refined, smooth texture on the stone. By Yair Haklai [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons

What was next? The Medici Chapel. Absolutely incredible! The exterior is very misleading. It doesn’t look that big on the outside but then you go inside and it’s massive! The inside uses a really dark marble pretty much throughout. The dome is painted in frescoes. There are relics everywhere. The chapel is covered in ornate paintings. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Inside the Medici Chapel’s Chapel of the Princes mausoleum, built from 1604–1640. The mausoleum reveals the dark stones and marbles used on the interior. Sourcing such rare stones caused the construction of the Medici Chapel complex to span two centuries. | Photo: K. Yung
Frescoes painted in 1828 by Pietro Benvenutti adorn the dome of the Chapel of the Princes mausoleum. The Medici family dynasty ruled Florence for several centuries. The dome features scenes from the Old and New Testaments. | Photo: K. Yung

So after the Medici Chapel, what did you have for lunch? We went to a little cafe that was very good. I decided to try gnocchi for the first time. Gnocchi are soft dumplings made from potatoes. They can be made from other things like flour or cheese, but potato gnocchi are the most popular. I really had no idea whether I would like it or not and it was very good. I followed that up with a lemon and mint gelato, which was amazing.

It’s hard to believe, but this is lemon-mint gelato. | Photo: K. Yung

And then? After that, we went to The Brancacci Chapel. It’s part of Santa Maria del Carmine church. The main purpose to seeing this chapel, other than the architecture, was Masaccio’s paintings called “The Tribute Money” and “The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden.” These are discussed in any art history textbook. These two paintings are important because they are some of the first that show one-point perspective used correctly.

The Brancacci Chapel is located within the nondescript Santa Maria del Carmine church. One would never know that inside this chapel are the masterpieces that follow in the next photos. Photo: giovanni sighele [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Focus on the top half of this image. At the far left is Masaccio’s “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden,” one of Masaccio’s most famous paintings. Why is it important? It shows non-idealized human figures showing horrified emotion. “The Tribute Money” is the main panel. Art history buffs visit the chapel specifically to see these works. | Photo: K. Yung

The Brancacci is a teeny tiny chapel actually, and it’s weird to think that super-famous paintings are inside a room that’s about the size of someone’s living room. But compared to the Scrovegni Chapel, I would say it’s larger. One chapel within the church is about the size of the total Scrovegni. Also, all of the paintings in the Scrovegni are by Giotto, whereas in the Brancacci, there are works by Masaccio and others. For example, one chapel had paintings from the Baroque era…a totally different time period and style.

What did you see after the Brancacci Chapel? We went to the Palazzo Strozzi to see an exhibition of video installations by Bill Viola. He’s an American artist and the show was called Electric Renaissance. It was kind of nice to see this contemporary art — made by someone from Queens, New York, no less — contrasting with the old. They brought in some Renaissance paintings and placed them near Viola’s work.

So enough contemporary work, right? You’re in Florence after all. What was next on the agenda? A friend had recommended to us that we go to the Museo Nove Cento. It was a big disappointment, however, The curation was poor and by that I mean that there was little direction for visitors inside. We couldn’t tell which direction to start walking. There were many pieces without wall texts, those cards that are mounted next to the painting or whatever the art is that tells you about the artist, the media, the date and such. Sometimes there were way too many works placed on the wall, which would make it hard for a piece to stand on its own with space to contemplate it. None of us was impressed with it at all. And we were starting to get really hungry, so we went back to our Airbnb to relax for a bit before going out for dinner.

Did you find a great Florentine restaurant? Well, actually we found a restaurant called La Petite and of all things, I decided to get a burger and sticks. Sticks was the name they gave to classic French fries. It was all very good. We passed on drinks that night and just had waters.

What was on tap for Saturday? We went to the Uffizi Gallery. This is where the two of Botticelli’s most important pieces are: The Birth of Venus and Primavera. The Uffizi is probably the most revered museum in Florence.

My daughter looking at Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” inside the Uffizi Museum. This is one of the Renaissance’s most well-known and iconic paintings. | Photo: K. Yung.
Sandro Botticelli’s “Primavera.” | Photo: K. Yung

There are also other incredible works by Raphael, Van Der Goes, da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Parmigianino. The Uffizi is seriously a huge museum chock full of art and hands-down the most renowned. It’s a sin to go to Florence and not go there.

The Uffizi Gallery in central Florence. Photo: Mariamichelle on Pixabay

After the Uffizi, where did you go? We went to the Convent of San Marco. This is a convent with incredible cell-like living quarters. Inside each cell is a beautiful fresco that’s painted on the wall.

Beautiful frescoes inside a cell at the Convent of San Marco. | Photo: K. Yung

Even though those are interesting to see, the main reason people go to the convent is to see a fresco called the annunciation” by Fra Angelico. It’s amazing. You can find it at the top of the stairs. The convent also has a collection of antique books owned by former residents.

The Annunciation at the Convent of San Marco. | Photo: K. Yung

Where did you have lunch on Saturday? After that, we got lunch at a little nondescript café –have no idea what it was called — and then we decided to take a break from art and went shopping at a Cos store on Via Della Spada. I had never been to Cos before and I thought it was the coolest place ever. Several of us tried a few things on and made a few purchases. We also went to Zara, a popular, inexpensive clothing store. The place was absolutely jam- packed. There was a 45-minute wait just to get into the dressing room. So that didn’t last long because we still had to get to the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David.

How was that? Seeing The David was the most amazing thing. I’ve never been stopped in my tracks by something until that moment. It is presented beautifully. You walk down a hall, turn a corner and it’s at the end of a long entry hall.

The hall leading to The David provides a prelude to this great work of art. | Photo: K. Yung

Sunlight streams in from above. It is majestic. Stunning. The David makes you ask, How did someone create that? Its size is part of the spectacle because I didn’t expect it be that large. The hands on The David are disproportionately large to highlight the importance of his hands in slaying Goliath.

Notice the oversized hands on the David designed by Michaelangelo to emphasize the hands that slay Goliath. “Before it was moved to the Accademia in 1873, it stood guard outside the Palazzo della Signoria, Florence’s city hall, for 370 years…,” according to this Mental Floss article. | Photo: K. Yung

We spent about an hour looking at The David, awestruck, and then suddenly we realized it was just about time for dinner.

Another burger? Very funny. No, even better… Mexican! We went to Tijuana Mexican Bar and Restaurant. Actually, it was excellent. I had the best tequila I’ve ever had there. I also ordered a quesadilla with black beans on the side. It was delicious. That night while we were eating, I had this bittersweet realization that it would be one of the last times I would be out with my friends since my internship would be over in about four days.

So you were sad to be leaving? Yes, I guess… sad to leave Florence the next morning, but then also sad to be leaving Italy. I was ready to go home, but at the same time, not ready at all for my time in Italy to be over. I felt like I was just becoming accustomed to living in Venice. I knew my way around. I could manage the language better that I ever dreamed I’d be able to. I could have stayed another three months, honestly.

What was still on your bucket list for Florence? Well, we still hadn’t been to the Duomo, so we knew the next morning would be when we would go see it. However, we had found out on the way to Florence that tickets were sold out for touring the Brunelleschi dome, so we decided to go up the bell tower — Giotto’s Campanile— nearby instead. So we got up on Sunday and by 10 a.m. we were in line to get tickets to go up.

It was still so soon after the campanile ticket office opened that there wasn’t a line yet. So we decided to go on up. Climbing was tiring and you’re just squished up against the walls, rubbing along bodies — there were already other people coming down — as you climb. We got the pictures of the actual dome … the Duomo from the top of the campanile (see image at top of this article). It was a beautiful moment. Incredibly picture-worthy!

After we got back down to the ground, there was a huge line to go up. It was easily a two-hour wait. We’re glad we got there close to when they opened.

The line to Giotto’s Campanile grows very long by mid-morning. | Photo: K. Yung

Then we grabbed a sandwich at a spot near the Duomo and we still wanted to go inside the baptistery of St. John and see the Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise. As we were eating, we noticed a really long line to get inside, so two of us decided to wait in line while the other two of us went inside the baptistery where the gates are. And then we switched off.

Gold sparkles on the ceiling inside the baptistery at the Duomo . Because many visit here primarily to see the Gates of Paradise, they are surprised at the beauty of the interior of the baptistery. | Photo: K. Yung

Inside the baptistery, I totally did not expect that it would be completely gold. In art history classes, you usually just study the Gates, which are gold, but the inside of the baptistery is also covered in gold mosaics. The gates show biblical scenes

As for the Duomo, which by the way is part of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the exterior of the building is spectacular with its green, orange and white marble stone.

This photo doesn’t show the extreme ornamentation of the Duomo at Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, but it does convey how the Duomo is prominent in many views of the city. | Photo: K. Yung

The entrance to the museum at the Duomo is underground and that’s also where the original Gates of Paradise are. But for some reason, the museum was closed that day. So, I still haven’t seen the original gates, but I have seen the two copies that exist. One copy is in the baptistery above the museum and the other is at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

A copy of Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise were recently added to the permanent collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. | The original gates are in the baptistery of St. John at the Duomo in Florence. Lorenza Ghiberti, a goldsmith and sculptor, created the gates from 1425–1452. | Photo: K. Yung

So was that the end of your time in Florence? Not quite. After that, we went to go see Santa Maria Novella church because we had passed it coming into Florence, and since we were heading out to leave we thought we should go ahead and see it.

The Santa Maria Novella church in Florence. | Photo: K. Yung

Inside there is Masacchio’s Trinity. It’s very important in that it shows the first official correctly-used one-point perspective. It’s actually just a fresco on the wall. And while the church has so much more to see, seeing Trinity was our priority. I remember wishing I wasn’t so tired and could have enjoyed it more, but we were so exhausted from just going-going-going the previous three days.

The Santa Maria Novella church in Florence. | Photo: K. Yung

Any unexpected surprises? Yes. I know it sounds funny, but seeing the trash being collected was amazing. There are above-ground trash bins with large in-ground canisters below them. These automated trucks came along and a huge arm with a giant magnet on it pivots over and picks up the canisters and empties them into the truck. I thought it was interesting to watch, really.

Trash haulers remove garbage from underground vaults. | Photo: K. Yung

How was your Airbnb, by the way? It was great. The owner was really helpful. I definitely remember it being very loud there with all the traffic. In Venice, it’s relatively quiet without all the cars and I think I was just used to that. It was a gated apartment. There was a loft with a queen-sized bed and another bedroom with a twin bed. Down below on the main floor there was a nice couch. It also had a full kitchen. Everything was stone and so nothing absorbed any sound.

So, after seeing Santa Maria Novella, it was time to board the train? Yeah, we went back and got our bags, got on an express train and returned home to Venice for a party that evening. We left around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and got back to Venice around 6. Then we took the vaporetto to Guidecca for a party. We all chipped in for some pizzas and then hustled our way out to the party.

How would you sum up Florence? So. Much. Art. Everywhere you look there is something important. Florence is all about the art. Rome has the coliseum. Venice has the water. Florence has the art.

I make no apologies. As a writer and parent, I feel perfectly entitled to take full advantage of my daughter’s 2017 experience in Italy by wringing every possible story from it! Yes, our family did visit her there for a week that year and while we saw so much in that short time, we envied the luxury of time her three-month internship allowed.

We’ll be returning in May 2023 for a two-week trip to Florence, Siena, Venice, and Rome. Become a follower to catch those posts when they publish. Thanks for reading!

Featured Photo Credit: The Duomo of the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore as seen from Giotto’s Campanile in Florence. | Photo: K. Yung


A Walking Tour of Naples, Italy

I’m reblogging this post from The Gen X Travels, a fellow WordPress blogger, for two reasons: 1) it has some great “in the moment” photos that I think my travel readers will enjoy and 2) because I want to be able to find it later when I’m planning my own trip to southern Italy. All of my Italian travel has involved northern Italy and I’m dying to head south. Enjoy!

I traveled to Italy, April 2022 and my first stop was Naples, where I enjoyed a walking tour of the old town. This trip was with a group of women and…

A Walking Tour of Naples, Italy

Featured Photo Credit: Danilo D’Agostino on Unsplash

Art Art & Architecture Travel Videos US Travel

Carhenge: Ever heard of it?

Nebraska’s version of Stonehenge

Last week, my husband and I took a three-day trip to Mount Rushmore from southwest Missouri. On the way to and from, we ventured off the beaten path to see some less-visited sites. One of those was Carhenge.

Can you guess what it is? Yep, you’re right. It’s a Stonehenge made of cars.

At left, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stonehenge in England and at right, Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.

And believe it or not, it’s been on the back-burner of our mental bucket list of places to see for several years now. So you can imagine our delight last Thursday when we learned (thanks to Google Maps) that we would be within a few miles of Carhenge when we passed through Alliance, Nebraska (pop. 8,500) later that afternoon.

Another shot

I first heard of Carhenge right around the time I graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988. The project’s completion in 1987 made the news back then in the Midwest for a little while. Then gradually, the news died down, and it became another one of those odd-ball sights the Great Plains is known for.

…y’know, an odd-ball sight that attracts 90,000 people each year and appears on the home page of its official owner, the city of Alliance, Nebraska.

Let’s get to it. Here’s a quick video of me simply rotating the camera around the central site:

The cars were at one time left in their original paint colors. But I would imagine that over time, the paint began to wear and/or the metal finishes began to rust, so a “Stonehenge gray” color was eventually applied to all. Works for me.

Here’s a photo of the site before the cars were painted gray.

Carhenge before it was painted gray.
You can buy this postcard in a very sparse information center/gift shop for 79 cents. That’s cool.

Some Facts About Carhenge:

Carhenge design versus Stonehenge design
Henges by Dan Lindsay | Wikimedia Commons License

More facts:

  • Some of the pits that hold the upright cars are five feet deep.
  • The cars that form the arches are welded to form a complete structure.
  • Reinders built Carhenge as a memorial to his father and while living in England studied Stonehenge to learn its size and proportions.
  • During the solar eclipse of August 2017, the path of totality (the path that would experience a total eclipse) passed right over Carhenge. Four thousand people, including the governor, viewed the eclipse from the site.
  • Carhenge won a Travelers’ Choice Award from Trip Advisor in 2020.
Another shot
Trucks were also used to form the monumental sculpture.
Needless to say, Carhenge is an unusual experience.

The information sign below tells about the main Carhenge circle and some outlying sculptures made of found objects, farm implements, and auto parts.

Carhenge informational sign
The sign

Sign here, please.

While you can walk right up to the main sculpture, don’t write anything on the cars. If you feel the need to leave your mark, do it on this white car placed here specifically for that purpose.

Autograph car at Carhenge
Sign here, please. To the right of the autograph car is an assemblage also made by Jim Reinders called “The Fourd Seasons,” inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The sculpture includes all Ford automobiles and represents the four seasons of Nebraska.

Here’s another example of some of the outlying pieces around Carhenge. This is called Carnestoga after the old Conestoga wagons that at one time were the High Plains vehicle of choice.

Carnestoga at Carhenge
Carhenge from a distance
Here’s one final shot as we left Carhenge.

Don’t forget to visit the small information center/gift shop at the site to drop in a donation and buy a souvenir. They have t-shirts, postcards, key rings, cold drinks, and a few snacks et al to make your Carhenge visit complete.

The bucket list

I can now cross Carhenge off my bucket list. If Carhenge isn’t on your bucket list, add it pronto. And then get thee to Alliance, Nebraska to see this funky testament to creativity and cars.

On our way to Mount Rushmore, we also took a quick two-hour tour of De Smet, South Dakota to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes. I’ll do a short post about that soon. Thanks for reading!
While you’re here, check out another post that celebrates the culture and art of the Midwest.
Art & Architecture Mosaic Art US (Missouri) US Travel

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

Unmatched majesty in the Midwest

In March, I had the opportunity to visit The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, Missouri. Named for the city’s patron, Saint Louis IX of France, the structure, according to a tourist guide, “combines architecture of Romanesque style on the exterior with a wondrous Byzantine style interior.”

In other words, WOW.

Yes, I could bore you with a long list of overused adjectives that can’t possibly describe the grandeur of this unexpected delight. Instead, I’ll just get down to brass tacks and provide you with some details so you can surmise for yourself that Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, located in a bustling urban setting at 4431 Lindell Boulevard, is probably one of the Midwest’s best kept historical architectural secrets.

Our tour guide provided a very informative half-hour private tour. Between his knowledge and information gleaned from the beautiful guidebooks shown above, we learned that…

  • The cathedral structure, originally called Saint Louis Cathedral, was built over five years from 1907-1914.
  • The mosaics that adorn the cathedral were designed, produced, and installed from 1912-1988.
  • The mosaics were made by the Ravenna Mosaic Co. of St. Louis, a company founded by German father-and-son team Paul and Arno Heuduck primarily to create the Byzantine mosaics for the cathedral.
  • The cathedral, according to my guidebook published by the Friends of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, “combines the best of Byzantine, the style of the eastern half of the Roman Empire in the early Christian centuries, and of Romanesque — a combination used, among others, by the architects of the Basilica of Saint Mark Cathedral Church of Venice.”
  • The central dome soars 217 feet.
  • The dazzling mosaics are unmatched in the Western hemisphere and this one structure contains one of the largest collections in the world.
  • In 1997, Pope John Paul II designated the Cathedral of St. Louis as a Basilica in order to recognize its beauty and significance; since then, the structure has been known as The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. In 1999, Pope John Paul II presided over an evening prayer service at the basilica to conclude his trip to North America.

A view of the Central Dome

The central dome features brilliant red tesserae.

About those mosaics

  • 41.5 million pieces of glass were used to decorate the hundreds of mosaic artworks that cover nearly every interior surface within the basilica.
  • Seven thousand different colors of tesserae were used.
  • Thirty-eight different shades of gold mosaic were used.
  • There are 83,000 square feet of mosaics within the structure.
  • Twenty-five miles of scaffolding were erected to complete the mosaics.

The exterior of the building was simply too massive to photograph on my iPhone. Here’s a better shot courtesy of <a href=”http://A.reyestena, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons:

When we visited, the trees were still bare. This photo from Wikimedia Commons shows how the green of the trees picks up the green of the dome’s tile roof.

And now for the Narthex

The narthex, similar to an entry hall for gathering together before or after a service, features a barrel-vaulted ceiling and dazzling gold mosaics.

A view toward The Historic Bay and Dome

The historic dome features blue tesserae. The mosaics in this dome and bay feature the history of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, including important milestones of the establishment of the Catholic Church in St. Louis, and works of charity and services performed by area Catholic groups, such as parochial schools and Jesuit missionaries.

The Sanctuary Dome and Baldochino

The baldochino, shown at left above, hovers over the main altar.

More sights within

The Bishops Hall

Our visit lasted about an hour and a half. Due to our schedule, we didn’t have enough time to tour the Mosaic Museum located below the narthex. I did snap a few photos (see above).

The cathedral is located at 4431 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63108.

The cathedral’s visiting hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Mosaic Museum’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Tours can be arranged for any size group. Tours are given Sundays at 1 p.m. and anytime Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

After our tour concluded, I snapped this quick picture of my daughter and son (center) walking with their significant others.

If you’re ever in the area, definitely carve out an hour or so to see this marvel for yourself. It’s an awe-inspiring place of worship that’s worthy of your time when visiting St. Louis.

Got a thing for cathedrals?

Here’s a post from northern Italy about another one.

Thanks for reading! Click like, become a follower, and leave a comment.

This is a photo of my daughter and I in Bologna, Italy in 2019. Now that school’s out for the summer (and all the pandemic travel restrictions are lifting–YAY!), I can get back to posting more regularly on this blog. Jump over to my teaching blog to read about my extremely full and rewarding teaching life.

15 Reasons to Travel to Istria, Croatia

I love this post by the Adventurous Kate blog and wanted to repost it here to share with you (and keep for myself for revisiting later at my leisure)!

Enjoy! And thanks again to the Adventurous Kate blog!

The first time I traveled to Istria, Croatia, it was on a bit of a whim. I was desperate to finally visit the Balkans in general and Croatia in …

15 Reasons to Travel to Istria, Croatia
Art Italy (Venice)

Orientalism in Venetian Art

Orientalism in Venetian Art

Orientalism in Venetian Art

Featured Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Greece (Athens, Delphi) Greece (Peloponnese)

How to get from Delphi to Olympia by bus

See this restaurant? It doubles as the Delphi bus station.  

COVID-19 Preface: Greece officially reopens to travelers on Monday, June 15. According to this Associated Press story published today, “Timely and strictly enforced lockdown measures have so far kept the infection rate in Greece low and the death toll below 200.”)

It was a little confusing. The Delphi bus station appeared closed.

An arrow painted on the building facade, however, pointed to a restaurant called “In Delphi Cafe” next door. Nearby, a man wearing a crisp white shirt and black trousers, waved us down from his curious position in the middle of the street. (It’s a slightly confrontational technique to entice wandering tourists to stop for a bite.)

“Dinner menu?” he asked. 

A bus schedule would be more like it, I thought, since my husband and I still needed to plan the next leg of our trip from Delphi to Olympia. We smiled, and asked, “Bus tickets?”

“Go inside the restaurant, please. Someone will help you there,”  he answered.

We ventured inside. The restaurant immediately reminded me of the beautiful double-story trattoria from Love Actually where Jamie proposes to Aurelia. A balcony. Warm gold-colored walls. Heavy timbers. Sparkling glassware.

A woman behind the counter asked us if we needed bus tickets in plain-as-day English. 

“Yes, we are going to Olympia in two days and we need bus tickets,” my husband explained. 

She called to another waiter, who dried his hands and stepped to a computer at the bar. 

So this is the bus station, I thought to myself. Hmmm. Interesting.

An employee wearing jeans, t-shirt, and a white apron wrapped around his hips walked in carrying a stainless steel container covered with plastic wrap. He had come from the direction of the “bus station” next door. They must use the “bus station” for storage, I thought.

This photo was taken from the balcony of our hotel the night we arrived. We spent two nights in Delphi, a quaint and quiet mountain town known for its famous archaeological site. Towns around Delphi, such as Arachova, are winter skiing destinations.

Our waiter/ticket clerk stared at the computer screen, squinting, and asked us when we wanted to arrive in Olympia.

It would take all day, he said. Of course, that was fine.

It was what we expected. For although it only appears to be a jog to the southwest on a map, the bus route would take us to Itea, a small town on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth just a few miles south of Delphi.

Then the route would trace the edge of the gulf for nearly three hours before crossing south into Patras. From Patras, we would take a bus to Pyrgos (NOT the Pyrgos on Santorini, by the way).

From there, a final bus would drive us the remaining thirty kilometers to Olympia, where we would meet our AirBnB host, the fifty-seventh (okay, not really, but it seemed like it) man named Kostas who we met on our trip.

Here’s the route our waiter/ticket clerk gave to us, written on the back of a receipt:

We purchased and received our tickets, thanked the young man, and told him we would be back for dinner.


Roast lamb, moussaka, wine, potatoes, salads… all served on a candle-lit table under the leafy branches of a tree so large it sheltered like an umbrella not only the peninsula that served as the outdoor seating area for the restaurant, but also the two streets that ran on either side.

Delphi’s In Delphi Cafe is charming. We chose to sit under the large oak tree outside on a peninsula bordered on either side by highway 48, which here is actually a street..

Below is a photo of our hotel, Art Hotel Pythia, in Delphi…it was manned by one employee. In the mornings, he had to cover BOTH the front desk and the upstairs dining room simultaneously. Speaking of the upstairs dining room, it offered a very generous and complete complimentary breakfast selection of eggs, meats, fruits, cereals, coffee, pastries.

It was fabulous breakfast, even though it had been overrun by a large traveling group of students who had already dined and left. Tables were littered with used china and glasses, since the one staff employee hadn’t been able to leave the front desk to clean. Still, there were pastries and eggs to be had, and it was nice to see actual dishes being used instead of paper and plastic.

We sympathized with the employee and knew he was doing the work of three to four people.

This hotel with its impossibly small staff caused us to wonder about Delphi’s economic outlook. The town appears to be a sleepy village holding on for dear life during Greece’s financial crisis. Across the street from Art Hotel Pythia was an abandoned multi-story hotel that was probably packed during the Olympic Games in 2004.

Thank goodness for the amazing archaeological site just down the road! Read my post about the site here.

Art Hotel Pythia, our hotel in Greece.

The day we departed Delphi, we left our hotel around 11 a.m. and waited outside the restaurant/bus station for the large, air-conditioned bus that arrived about fifteen minutes late. We loaded our luggage into the lower bins of the bus and boarded.

It was a packed bus. There was a group of about ten kids travelling to the beach at Itea. Like kids everywhere, they were talking and joking, laughing over shared phone screens.

This map shows the route our bus took from Delphi in the upper right corner down to Olympia in the lower left corner. The small white dot in the blue road above the word “Archaeological” is in about the same spot as Pyrgos, our final stop before reaching Olympia.

Our bus made its way down to Itea on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth, which you can see in the distance in the photo below. This was a beautiful drive with two or three tight hairpin curves.

The weather was warm and sunny when we left; as we drove, the temperature rose. Thankfully, our bus was comfortable and air-conditioned.

After passing more and more olive groves on the way, we eventually stopped at the bus station in Itea on a road that fronted the shore of the Gulf of Corinth.

Itea was a quiet little town that, based on the many outdoor cafes and shops, we could tell would be busy with tourists in July and August.

I took this photo of my husband Mitch standing across the street from the bus station at this small dockside park.

We were nervous about missing our bus to further points south, so we crossed back over to the bus station and waited. The bus station was little more than a hallway with a counter at the back, so we couldn’t wait inside where it was warm. Instead, we bought spinach pies at the small restaurant next door and ate them sitting outside on the sidewalk next to our four pieces of luggage.

And then we waited. It was fun.

Our bus finally arrived and we boarded, knowing this would be a much longer leg of the trip than the short jaunt down the hill to Itea from Delphi.

Our bus ride meandered part of the way through the lowland hills along the coast of the Gulf of Corinth.

We stopped here and there at several towns to drop people off and allow others to load. In the photo above: a market along the way.

Of course, olive trees were everywhere, tucked into any field available. Note the Greek Orthodox church on the horizon.

We stopped several times to board more passengers.

Driving along the coast often meant driving about twenty feet from the water. Waves splashed onto the road in several places.

We passed through several nondescript towns. Many have boarded up or shuttered stores and offices. Greece’s financial state is quite obvious, especially in the more remote and smaller towns. Last summer, some blamed the Olympic Games for at least part of the economic crisis.

Along the road, we would often see Olympic statues such as this one that traces the route the torch bearers took as they carried the flame toward the games in Athens in 2004.

I took this shot of a sidewalk in Nafpaktos, one of a dozen or more towns we traveled through on our way to Olympia. It’s north of the Gulf as we made our way west to cross over to Patras.

We were nearing Patras, Greece’s third largest city (after Athens and Thessaloniki).

This majestic bridge can be seen from a distance. It’s the doorway into Patras and points south on the Peloponnese peninsula

This photo shows another point on the Olympic torch trail.

We were dropped off in Patras as this bus station. After going inside and inquiring about our next leg of the trip, we discovered we needed to be three blocks away at a different station to meet our bus, which was scheduled to leave in about fifteen minutes.

The only solution to get there quickly was to walk.

We each grabbed our carry-on and pulled our jumbo suitcases and took off for the right train station. We charged through empty sidewalk cafes, deserted in the mid-afternoon. At one, an employee was hosing down the seating area. The coolness from the water kept us moving on.

We finally made it to the Patras train station. As Mitch took care of buying our tickets inside, I waited outside to make sure we got on that bus.

Which we did.

Safe and secure in another air-conditioned motorcoach, we settled in for our next-to-last leg of the trip to Pyrgos.

This leg of the trip held its own frustrations for us.

We’re not absolutely sure, but we think we booked a local bus that stopped numerous times. One city we spent an especially long amount of town in was Amaliada. Either our bus driver was lost or he was just playing a trick on us because we spent about an hour piddling our way back and forth in this town.

More dawdling in Alamiada…. but we did spy another church and some non-touristy scenes of typical Greek living: old men sitting at card tables outside of cafes or clubs, kids playing in playgrounds, young men drinking beer in the brittle, dusty grass of an abandoned city park. (I rarely saw women out visiting and socializing, by the way.)

True, Amaliada wasn’t Skopelos, but part of the reason we took bus transit was to see an unfiltered version of Greece. In fact, check out our neighborhood where we stayed in Heraklion.

Finally on our way out of town to Pyrgos, we spotted these hothouses of strawberries and watermelons.
The bus station in Pyrgos was a bright, airy place.

Victory! We finally made it to Pyrgos… ten minutes late.

Our bus to Olympia had departed ten minutes before we arrived. Instead of trying to book another bus for the remaining thirty-mile ride, we opted to take a taxi instead.

It had been a long day, but the end was in sight. And what a different world it was from mountainous Delphi!

Welcome to Olympia! Yesssss.

We met our AirBnB host, the sixtieth man named Kostas, for some friendly introductions. He met us in the middle of the street of our AirBnb, waving his arms to catch our taxi driver’s attention.

Kostas gave us a short tour to the entrance of the Olympia archaeological site so we could find it easily the next morning.

It’s quite a haul to get from Delphi to Olympia in one day, but it’s…

  • quite possible,
  • inexpensive,
  • and full of scenery that runs the gamut from the beautiful to the mundane.

While we plan to rent a car the next time we’re in the Greek countryside, we are definitely glad we took the public transit options that were available on our first trip.

Even though taking the bus requires you to engage in some risk-taking, confusion, second-guessing, and moments that will test your patience, we would recommend it if you want to experience authentic Greece.

Thanks for reading! I’m amazed that story ideas are still surfacing from our travels last summer. Leave a like, make a comment and become a follower for more travel posts. While travel stories aren’t my only genre on this blog, they do seem to dominate my posts lately.

Featured Photo Credit: Marilyn Yung

Italy (Venice) Travel Videos Uncategorized

Making waves in Venice: A gondola and a cruise ship

For Venice lovers: a video clip of each

I’ve been to Venice twice, but neither time have I ridden a gondola or disembarked from a cruise (or embarked on one, for that matter). On my first trip to Venice, I flew to Marco Polo Airport and then hopped onto an Ali Laguna vaporetto to hop off at San Samuele.

On my second trip, I took a bus from Marco Polo to the bustling Piazzale Roma where I met my daughter who was there serving an internship at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

So although I still have not ridden a gondola, they continue to fascinate me…

…as they snake through the labyrinthine canals, glossy and black.

It’s possible, as one walks alongside a canal, to glance up from your thoughts and be surprised by one gliding by, silent and serene, mere footsteps away.

It is also possible to be flabbergasted by the gargantuan size of a cruise ship as it lumbers through the lagoon.

These behemoths seem strangely alien in such a delicate cityscape.

Similar to New York  City’s new Super Tall skyscrapers, they appear gawky, out of place, and — with last summer’s near cruise ship collision, — dangerous and unnecessary.  This two-minute video shows the mammoth size of one of these cruise ships as it creeps along the Zattere waterfront promenade in the Dorsoduro sestiere. 

Thanks for reading! Check out my Italy (Venice) category for several more posts (Jewish Ghetto, the hospital, Calatrava Bridge, etc.) about Venice… a city I hope to visit a third time when travel opportunities return. I have a list of sights I still want to experience. Feel free to leave a like, make a comment and become a follower for more travel posts.

My next post: How to get from Delphi to Itea, Greece by bus

Italy Uncategorized

How I found connection in the Basilica of San Vitale

On this Easter Sunday, my thoughts turn to the redemption and salvation provided by Jesus Christ, and our visit three years ago to one of the most beautiful churches in Italy, the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna.

Marilyn Yung

Of tenacity and Easter cupcake sprinkles in Ravenna, Italy

IMG_6531These aren’t paintings, but mosaics made of thousands and thousands of tiny glass tiles known as tesserae. The gold tesserae are actually two clear glass tiles that sandwich a layer of gold leaf. The entire surfaces of these walls are mosaic; the only areas that aren’t mosaics are the windows and the marble columns.  | Photo: Katherine Yung

Here’s a scenario: Your daughter requests sprinkles on the Easter cupcakes you’re baking. However, pretend the shaker needed to sprinkle on the dotted decorations has not been invented yet, and the only way to get the sprinkles perfectly placed and evenly dispersed on the cupcakes is not by scattering them with your fingers, but by applying them one by one… with tweezers perhaps.

sharon-mccutcheon-569839-unsplashPhoto: Unsplash

Adding sprinkles to the cupcakes now will take days, weeks or longer. The task will be one of…

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Food & Recipes Italy (Venice) Reviews of Books/Music/Films

Take Your Taste Buds to Venice

Last week, my daughter ordered this beautiful cookbook, A Table in Venice: Recipes from My Home, by Skye McAlpine from Amazon. Its 287 pages showcase 100 recipes from Venice and the greater lagoon.

Yes, the region may be under lockdown, but our fascination with all things Venice isn’t.

My daughter ordered this from Amazon to try some new recipes from Venice, also known as La Serenissima. The region may be under lockdown, but our fascination with all things Venice isn’t.

The book’s preface titled “My Venetian Pantry” (her first must-have staple is amaretto biscuits) precedes six chapters such as “Sweet Breakfast Recipes,” “Recipes for a Venetian Aperitivo,” and “Fish and Game from the Venetian Lagoon.” Each recipe is accompanied by down-to-earth commentary to guide you through replicating some of Venice’s most renowned local specialties.

In “Vegetable Recipes from the Rialto Market,” British author Skye McAlpine, @skyemcalpine, describes the frank personal service you’ll experience if you visit the iconic market.

For example, she writes on page 69…

“No vendor at the market will let you take a bag of artichoke hearts home without pressing into your hands a bunch of fresh parsley to fry in the pan with them.” Expect this gesture to be accompanied with detailed instructions for how to best prepare the produce as well.

McAlpine also keeps it real.

A resident of Venice since the age of six, she suggests substitutions when needed. If a recipe calls for a certain type of radicchio that’s unique to the Veneto but hard to find elsewhere, she lets you know.

She writes on page 103, “If you can’t get hold of Tardivo radicchio, which can sometimes be tricky to source outside of Italy, then red chicory works well instead. It has a slightly different texture but a lovely, bitter flavor.”

Photo: Pixabay

Of course, the book sizzles with fabulous photography; however, it’s clear that the dishes are the star of the show. A photograph of “Gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and crab” on page 138, for example, shows the dish plopped on a plate without much overt styling.

The result? It’s not the cutlery, the plants in the background, or the vintage china you’ll want to stare at. Instead, like the towering campanile in Piazza San Marco, the Venetian foods dominate the table setting.

Thanks for reading! Tried any new recipes while you practice social distancing? I’ll follow up this post soon with a report on our experiences with some of McAlpine’s recipes. Become a follower to catch that post. Take care!

Featured Photo by Jakub Kapusnak on Unsplash