One More Day of Climbing – Day 3

Day three of Italy mirrored the past two in one particular way. climbing. Today we got to walk through the Boboli Gardens and see all of the beautiful plants, trees, and flowers. We climbed up to the top of the gardens and all I could think of was how each day thus far had included climbing something. I even made a few friends along the way 😉

Work it, honey!

I’ll call him “Gary.”

I couldn’t catch him 🙁

At the Boboli, Regina gave us a run down on how she tends to go about her botanical paintings and showed us a demonstration. We each then chose our own specimen to sketch for a few minutes.

After the gardens we met with everyone’s favorite photography professor for lunch. I ate risotto that tasted like the love child of rice and lasagna. It was to die for!

After lunch we made our way to the Medici Palace where we took in some incredible art and saw some photo realistic pieces where the artist put himself into famous works and added other modern elements to those works as well.

Today was filled with great food, people, art and animals. Could it have gotten any better?

# of Dogs seen today: 21 (One was named Gluk and I don’t think any other name would have fit this dog any better.)


Nature in a metropolitan city

It is often difficult to connect with nature in a large city like Florence. People crowd the streets, pulling suitcases across cobblestones and talking loudly into their wireless headsets. We learn about the Popes, emperors, nobility, artists, and saints. But today I got a glimpse of Florence’s lesser-discussed residents.

We started the day off with a trip to Boboli Gardens, a regal garden with steep inclines and beautifully trimmed hedges, lined with majestic architecture and marble sculptures. I was in awe of the space and couldn’t stop looking up at the trees. It seemed amazing that a garden such as this could be in the heart of such a busy city like Florence.

But as soon as we found some flowers, I began to notice the creatures that lived there.

You would never realize they were there (except the pigeons, they’re really good at making their presence known) unless you paused for a moment and studied. Florence–or any metropolitan city for that matter–is such a big, busy place. The natural beauties can easily be overlooked.

Italy 6.13.18

David was definitely the highlight of yesterday’s museum adventures! Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures were also very interesting – the way the figures seemed to be fighting to get out of a prison of marble was one of the most unique things I’ve seen on this trip so far!

Day 3 — Boboli Gardens

We got all suited up with our art supplies and headed with the Boboli Gardens at the Palazzo Pitti for an awesome day.

As soon as we entered you can see the ancient art compared to the newer contemporary sculptures that create a nice balance between the new and old. The views from the garden are incredible, with both beautiful mountain views and the skyline view of the city.

We had a little botanical garden lecture from Regina, learning more about the science behind the art of botanical drawings. Also, this was my first time seeing a pine cone on a tree! We took a seat, soaking up the sun, enjoying the view, doing some sketches. Life is good.

We met up for lunch at a small local restaurant and got a surprise visit from Pavel! I finally got to eat my favorite dish of ravioli with some delicious sangria — and of course gelato!

On our way to the Palazzo Medici, we stopped by another art store, because why no? It seemed to be more of a franchise. The Palazzo has some cool contemporary art by artist Alexander Calder. It was really interesting that they displayed his process from sketch to posters to blueprints of his sculptures that started out looking like a child drew it!

From there we did some shopping, hit the pool for a little bit, and then we went to dinner as a family for a pizza dinner.

Today was an excellent food day with some awesome outdoor experience at the Boboli Gardens!

Day 2 – Uffizi and Academia Galleries

Day three of Florence started with a walk to the Uffizi Gallery where we got to see countless statues, David and Goliath by Caravaggio, and The Birth of Venus. They were all incredible works that I never imagined getting to take in in person.

After the Uffizi we go to go up the clock tower. Right when we got to the top the bells started to chime. Hearing the bells while looking out over the roof tops of Florence was incredible. It was a moment that I will never forget. From the top of the tower we could see a perfect view of the Duomo and the Bell Tower.

Next we went to the Academia where we got to see The David. I’ve always seen pictures of David and thought it was a nice statue, however, getting to experience the sheer size of that statue in person was unlike anything I had seen before. I was in awe of just how massive this statue was.

Day three (technically day two) was what I would consider an absolute success.

# of dogs seen today: 31 (I got to pet a few today and it made my day)

David and Goliath

The Birth of Venus


On top of the clock tower


Day 1 – Bell Tower/ Duomo and Baptistery

Day two of Florence was the day that the group really started to get our bearings on the city. We started off our day by climbing up the bell tower, all 380+ steps. Those stairs were all worth it however, because the view from the top was absolutely breathtaking. We could see every rust orange colored roof for miles and miles. We had a beautiful view of the Duomo from the top of the Bell Tower as well and it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It didn’t seem like I was REALLY in Italy until the moment that I got to look out over the entire city.

Next we made our way to the Baptistery. Let me tell you, getting to be one of the first people to enter the Baptistery that day was quite the experience. It was incredibly quiet when we first walked in since it wasn’t too crowded and that made for the perfect setting to really appreciate the art and history that surrounded us. I remember walking in and just being in absolute awe of the ceiling above me. I didn’t even realize it was mosaic until I was told later and THAT is unbelievable to me. The imagery was so detailed and the shapes were entirely organic that a mosaic seems completely impossible! I still can’t believe it, honestly.

Florence has my heart and quite frankly, I don’t think I want it back.

# of dogs seen today: 36

Low key lookin’ like Jesus

Climbed all the way up this bad boy.

Baptistery ceiling

View of the Duomo from the top of the bell tower.

Art is design is communication is universal

Many people ask me, “What is graphic design? Do you make graphs and posters?” To that I say, yes and no.

Art and design are almost synonymous in that their main purpose is communication. Fine art typically aims to communicate an expression, an event, or an idea. Graphic design as an enterprise communicates information and uses the same principles of fine art (heirarchy, composition, and how the human mind interacts with / translates imagery).

Graphic design–and fine art–is so much more than just pictures. It is a universal language that combines the human tendency to associate imagery with past experiences and the human mind’s innate organizational skills.

We visited the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery today. The Uffizi is a collection of Ancient Roman, Ancient Greek, Byzantine, and Renaissance art belonging to the most powerful aristocratic family of Italy, the Medici, who reigned before and during the Renaissance and subsequently sponsored the Renaissance movement as we know and love it. The Accademia Gallery is home to 6 of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures and David, an impressive giant of a statue who is known to all who have studied art at some point in their lives. (Live out your worst nightmares in the next room over, as hundreds of plaster cast busts and statues stare lifelessly at you from all corners of the room.)

But my favorite piece of art today is this street sign. At first, I thought it was a turtle (my contact lenses need to be upgraded). But then I noticed a clever little thing: a nude model. This homage to fine art made me chuckle as I thought of Ophelia and Venus, among other naked women lounging on settés and beds.

It’s nothing fancy, but I’m sure that anybody from any culture would have understood what it was. Maybe they would have laughed too. Maybe some little kid would think it’s gross. Maybe an art critic would over-analyze it, bringing the sign’s “do not enter” meaning into the equation.

It is the simple idea and irony of the image that makes the art so clever. It is the way artists think about such normal things and find a way to change them.

I challenge everyone reading this post to find an everyday item and alter it without changing its overall purpose. An envelope, a paperclip, a light bulb or a screwdriver. How can you add another association while also maintaining the simple function and familiarity of the item?

It’s harder than it looks.

I may love Florence, but my feet do not

Not many people can say they walked 1.8 km to ascend and descend over 400 stairs and take in a birds eye view of Florence, before 11am on a Tuesday. At least 8 Riverhawks can.

This is not my first time in Florence, nor hopefully will it be the last, but this was my first time climbing anything so exhausting. I thought my knees, feet, thighs, and breakfast would all cease to exist. My reward was a view unlike anything I have ever experienced, and the triumph of completing my 2nd European tower climb. (My first was St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which I have completed twice.)

One of the greatest things I love about these cities is that you can walk everywhere. Europe in general puts a large emphasis on efficiency and conservation, so the majority of people here walk or bike to get places. It is quicker and easier to walk somewhere than to take a cab down the winding, narrow, tourist-filled streets.

My Fitbit is doing all it can to catch up to European Andréa, since American Andréa is so boring and idle. My 10,000 step goal is reached by noon almost every day here, when on a normal American day I barely reach 8,000. (Unfortunately, the exercise does not outdo the food–this is the land of carbs, after all.)

Day Two

There is no way to describe how unreal seeing the David in person is. I have been learning about the subject for what seems like years now, and it honestly took my breath away. Day two, we visited the Ufizzi, and also the Academy Gallery to view works by various Italian Masters. Other than David, an excited aspect was seeing numerous painting which I referenced and studied throughout my art history publication process. Over the course of the last year, I worked under the mentorship of Professor Cadero-Gillette studying European playing cards ranging in date from 14th to the 18th century. The main focus of my study was actually a Florentine Minchiate deck that I privately viewed at Harvard University Art Museums. A rainy walk home followed. I’m basically a local now!