It took a great deal of time to find parking, and once we did, I really felt for my doh and Dad who had to push both Ma and myself to see the sights. The roads are all largely cobbled, which makes it a rather tricky business for wheelchairs, but they were both amazing and I am so lucky that we have these wonderful men in our lives as without them we wouldn't have seen these beautiful sites. After a rather expensive lunch, and worming our way through the markets, we finally arrived at the Piazza del Duomo, and were overwhelmed by the size and beauty of The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, which is English is known as the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower. It is ordinarily referred to as 'Il Duomo di Firenze' and work on this main church in Florence begun in 1296 and was completed in 1436. The basilica is faced with marble panels in various shades and its design was led by the famous Italian architect Arnolfo di Cambio. This Cathedral complex also included the Baptistery of St. John, which is one of the oldest buildings in Italy (built between 1059 and 1128) and also Giotto's Bell Tower. Apparently these three buildings form part of UNESCO World Heritage Site and when you are standing in this Piazza it is very clear to see why.
Outside the Duomo, the kids sat down to have their picture drawn by a very talented caricature artist, which the kids thought was great fun. We also bought a painting , which I will share with you at a later stage. Our next and final visit was to the Piazza della Signoria, which is a lovely big square with an array of statues, including Michelangelo's David, which was sculpted as a declaration of civic solidarity of the Florence republic. The original is now held in the Accademia in Florence. Unfortunately this was closed on the day we went, but to be honest, we were happy to be in the Piazza and the kids thoroughly enjoyed looking at the various sculptures and having the freedom to run around. Also pictured (bottom left) above, is the work of Benvenuto Cellini's 1545 bronze sculpture of Perseus with the head of Medusa, which in my opinion is a masterpiece and by far my favourite statue on the Piazza. There are also many other wonderful statues, such as Hercules and Cacus, The Rape of Sabine, and Hercules slaying the Centaur among many others.
As we walked back to our car through the beautiful Firenze and I knew that one day I would be back to spend a week so I can trawl through the city, visit the Museums, such as the Uffizi and soak up all the culture. The hours we had there were too short, but perfect for the kids at this age. We all loved it and I think it is a day we will all remember for the rest of our days.
It was time to leave our lovely villa and head down to Rome. My wonderful husband drove us down and also around Rome (eek) to find our accommodation, I think he deserves a gold medal for achieving that!
Rome was manic, but wonderful. We jammed so much into two days, but we all loved it and it is a city like no other. This was my second visit here, so even though I felt a little familiar with some of it, the experience was completely different. This time I had my lovely family, including Ma and Pa and I think it was simply magic for them to see all these old buildings. One thing about being South African is that we have very short history as Cape Town was only founded by Jan Van Riebeeck in 1652, so anything that goes further than that has the tendency to baffle our brains a little.
We booked tickets to hop on and off the sightseeing buss and it was by far the best decision we made. We could easily get our wheelchairs on and somehow it also offered a little breather for Pa and my doh who worked so hard to get us round this magnificent city. If Florence was bad for wheelchairs, Rome, was somewhat worse, but again these men just took it in their stride and got on with it, so thank you!! On our first day we visited the Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre which back in the day could hold between 50,000 to 80,000 spectators. It was the largest amphitheatre of Roman Empire and work began under the Emperor Vespasian in 70 AD and was completed in the 80AD using stone and concrete for its construction. It is considered as the greatest work of Roman architecture and when you approach it, you completely understand why.
We also visited The Pantheon, which translates as the Temple for all gods. It is a great place to visit as it is free, the kids loved it and it is the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome, so definitely worth a visit. The building is circular with a central oculus (opening) at the top, which is shown in the middle picture above.
Our second day there was by far the best day, we made our way to the top of the Spanish steps and for those of you who read this post you will know that there was an expectation for some fun on our holiday with our wheelchairs. I can tell you that there were many funny and happy moments where Pa tried to have a giggle and as expected he did not fail us on our way to the Spanish Steps. To get to the top we had to go down a steep road and lets just say the boys wanted to have fun! Fortunately the two woman are adrenalin junkies, so we were all up for it, not so sure the kids on our laps were too keen! By the time we got to the top everyone was ready for yet another gelato (ice cream) and seeing I couldn't eat any of them, I headed straight for the art. There were some really talented artist with some amazing work. I could have spent half a day just admiring the art and the view from the top of the Spanish Steps (as pictured bottom right). Fortunately we left with a beautiful oil painting of Tuscany that I have shown you here, but more about this story later on. We then managed to get to the bottom of the Spanish steps without taking the direct route (heehee), not that the men weren't tempted, just think of the endless possibilities for these guys! We enjoyed a lovely lunch sitting on the Spanish steps and the kids playing in the fountain, it was a moment I will always remember.
From here we went to the Trevi fountain, which illiterately means 'three street fountain', simply because three streets lead up to it. It's famous for featuring in movies such as Three Coins in a Fountain, La Dolce Vita, Roman Holiday (with Audrey Hepburn). We all enjoyed throwing a coin over a shoulder to make a wish. It is interesting to know that an average of 3000 coins per day is collected, averaging around $4,000 and the money is all given to the Catholic charity Caritas. The funds are used to provide services for needy families in Rome.
On our way home we stopped for our last supper and it was at this point where I asked the question that I ask my children every day, 'so what was your best bit today?'. Once they told me they returned the question to which I said buying the painting, it was at this point that I realised that we had left the painting at the entrance to a shop as we fled inside to shelter from the rain. Panic fuelled my veins, but somehow I knew it was highly unlikely that someone would have known that the painting was there. In an instant my doh (darling other half) was sent on a mission to find the painting. Not only was it expensive, but it was something that we both wanted to take back as memory of our holiday. It was a very long 30 minutes, and even though I was confident that he would come back with the painting, there was a small part of me that doubted the likelihood. Fortunately his fell running skills paid off and he was back in no time with the painting in hand. Phew, I think I almost cried, but it was a relief and it made me think of the book The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes. I am a big fan of Jojo Moyes and have read most of her books, but if you havent' read this, treat yourself and get this book. It is captivating and intensely enjoyable.
The story behind our painting is so much more memorable and it wouldn't be hanging in our kitchen if it wasn't for my doh. I am a very lucky woman to have such a wonderful man in my life who never (well hardly ever) complains and always sticks by my side no matter what. I can honestly not be more happy to have met my soul mate and the love of my life and there is not a day that goes by where I am not grateful for the fact that our paths crossed.
We so enjoyed our holiday, every aspect of it and it was so very special to have shared it with Ma and Pa. We talk about it often and wish we were back there, but all good things have to come to an end. Fortunately we have wonderful memories that can keep it all alive!
'Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.' (Jean de Boufflers)