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On my recent flights, I got to watch several movies. See below for some reviews:

Logan

I LOVED this. I loved how fierce Laura was – yes, it was unusual to see a child being so violent but it was very cool to see a mini she-wolverine in action. I thought the story was interesting and the characters’ interactions were really entertaining. Love the chemistry between Logan and Laura, Logan and Charles, Charles and Laura. There was really funny dialogue, like laugh out loud funny. Watch it. Rating: A

Queen of Katwe

It’s a story of Phiona, a girl from Katwe, an impoverished town in Uganda, who learns to play chess and competes in various competitions. There were some great characters in this movie and it’s a pretty subdued drama – a pretty tame Disney story. Recommended for anyone who enjoys chess or movies about people beating the odds. Rating: B-

The Circle

Emma Watson and Tom Hanks star in this modern movie about The Circle, a successful company on the leading edge of social media / technology. Mae (Watson) joins an experiment to “go transparent” and broadcasts every moment of her waking life (bathroom breaks are the exception) with her followers, to great success that ends in a tragic way (no spoilers). Very interesting take on how things could be, or almost are today, really. I enjoyed it. Recommended for people who enjoy or appreciate innovation or the new age of social media. Rating: B+

The Dinner

Subdues drama about two brothers and their wives who find out about a crime their kids committed together over dinner. A solid cast and good writing kept me from switching it off. It was an OK story, and comic relief was provided by the restaurant’s antics (a really uppity place pretty full of itself) but I found it enjoyable.  It’s not for everyone though. Recommended for those who enjoy movies centered on dialogue and don’t need bells and whistles to be entertained. Rating: B-

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Our recent trip to Italy (first of several posts here) gave me the opportunity to tackle a bunch of life list items in one go. I’ve been able to cross off the following, mostly travel and food-related ones this time – the best kind :)):

  • Travel to Italy
  • See the Sistine Chapel, Italy
  • See the Colosseum, Italy
  • Travel to Tuscany, Italy
  • Enjoy pasta and wine in Italy
  • Take a train in Europe
  • Eat pizza in Italy
  • Have gelato in Italy

I also upped the count for this one:

  • Travel to 50 countries (19 done, 31 to go)

I’ll be able to knock off a couple more on our next trip which has already been booked for next year (more on that in a future post!).

This brings the Life List total to 309 items completed of 441 total.

🙂

Today was our last day in Italy before our trip home. We booked a full day tour in Tuscany and it was awesome!

Our first stop was in San Gimignano and it was a quaint, charming medieval town on a hill with 14 remaining towers but originally had over 70!

We strolled the streets, visited the church and climbed the Torre Grosse (holy crap was it windy up there!) and the last stairs/ladder to the top was very steep – not for the faint of heart. This was the view as we approached the town gates:

After entering the gates, one main street:

Peeking down a side street:

Chris with the Torre del Diavolo (see the horns?):

Duomo di San Gimignano:

Torre Grosse:

Up we go!

View from the top of the twins:

Caged bells at the very top:

Inside the duomo:

Great paintings along the sides depicting stories:

The last supper:

Noah and the ark:

  

Next stop was lunch at a winery called Casa Frasse. We had 2 wine tastings in the courtyard, then had lunch including antipasto, then pasta, then a main course, then panna cotta for dessert. It was good!

Next stop was Siena!

The middle guy is Dante:

The she-wolf, related to the legend of Remus and Romulus:

The square (Piazza del Campo) where the famous Palio annual horse race occurs. Siena is split into 17 districts or “contrada”, each represented by an animal whose emblem is posted on the buildings of the district so you can easily see which contrada you’re in. Read more about the Palio here – it sounds like a great event!

The duomo in Siena – so beautiful with three different colors of marble (white, green and red):

  

Last stop was the fortress of Montereggione which protected and defended Siena.

Vineyard and olive trees outside the town walls:

 

We slept in today – no tours planned (except for this evening). We visited the Bargello museum, well-known for Renaissance sculpture.  It was very beautiful:

Michelangelo’s Bacchus:

Giambologna’s Flying Mercury:

In the ivory section – cool game board:

Donatello’s David in bronze:

Donatello’s David in marble:

Jason and the golden fleece:

There was a porcelain section – this piece caught my eye – pretty:

As well as an armor and weapons section:

Check out that middle helm – intimidating!

I liked that there were people sitting and drawing:

We got some shopping done today as well since it was our last chance before our full day outing tomorrow. We picked up some goodies for us as well as some souvenirs.

Wallet for me 🙂

Gloves for Chris:

After-museum-break:

Lunch:

Had to try an aperol spritz:

Tonight we had booked a dinner and wine tasting at a private Tuscan villa and it was fabulous:

The garden:

Olive trees:

Couple of pics of us with that view:

In the cellar for the first tasting (white blend) and bruschetta:

In the dining area for antipasto (below) and the pasta (pasta with pesto) and main course (pork, salad, potatoes) – with tastings of 2 red wines (I forgot to take pics!!) and dessert (cantucci with vin santo). It was a lovely evening and we met great people as well.

 

It was a rainy day today so we moved our Tuscany tour to Tuesday instead and took it easy today.

We strolled over to the Spedale degli Innocenti just to see the outside. We went to visit the San Lorenzo church to see Donatello’s tomb.

Then we headed to the Galileo museum which was a pleasant surprise as well – very cool:

Thermometers:

Calculators:

Barometers:

Look at the huge telescope:

Chemistry set:

I only got a night shot of the San Lorenzo church:

We went back to Za Za for dinner. This time we shared a caprese salad to start. I had the beef tenderloin with rosemary potatoes and Chris had the Tuscan white beans with sausage and sage. I had tiramisu for dessert and Chris had strawberries with lemon and sugar.

Another early start and we were 2nd in line at the Uffizi Museum (with our Firenze card in hand). The Uffizi is the larger museum that holds great Renaissance works of art. It’s a must see for any art-lovers in Florence. Getting there early allows pics of the building without the horde of tourists. Bonus! 🙂

Spring:

Birth of Venus:

  

When we were there, an exhibit on the restoration of Leonardo Da Vinci’s work was on display – very interesting to see his original drawings that became an unfinihsed painting:

View of the Uffizi (both sides) and the Palazzo Vecchio in the background:

Loggia dei Lanzi – outside the Uffizi:

Quick walk over to Santa Trinita church:

Next stop – Santa Croce with many well-known tombs:

  

The cloisters

The lucky pig – if you rub its snout, it brings you good luck:

The Mercato Vecchio:

We visited the Palazzo Vecchio:

Dante’s mask (any Dan Brown fans out there?):

Chris climbed another tower. 🙂

Great shots of Florence and the Duomo from up there:

And of Santa Croce:

  

Night shots of the Palazzo:

Nearby carousel:

Duomo buildings:

For lunch, we had a tagliere (board) for 2 at La Prosciutteria – yummy:

Lunch at La Prosciutteria - tagliere for 2

After having walked past a few times already, today was the day we would visit the famous Duomo and related buildings. We got an early start (there were only a handful of people in the piazza at 8am – in a couple of hours it would be a madhouse) and visited St. John’s Baptistry first:

Next was the bell tower – or the Campanile, which Chris climbed all the way to the top – I stayed at the first platform. Lots of great pics from the various viewing points. The stairs were pretty steep but Chris was a trooper and climbed all 414 steps!

Front of the Duomo on our way to the tower:

View from the glassed-in first platform:

From from the 2nd:

One of the stairways – pretty steep:

View of Santa Croce:

View down into the tower – you can see me in the green top:

More stairs!

The very top – all caged in for safety reasons:

Gorgeous view of the Duono from the top:

These are the steps to the top. If you have claustrophobia, may not be your cup of tea:

Next we visited the Museo dell’opera which housed Duomo-related art and plans for the building. This was a  pleasant surprise as well.

The doors from St. John’s Baptistry:

Another of Michelangelo’s Pieta – this one was meant for his eventual tomb, however, he took a hammer to it because he found a flaw in the marble. It was eventually put back together and is now on display in the museum.

Many exhibits about the building of the Duomo and plans and ideas for the facade; this whole wing was very interesting.

Gorgeous and HUGE:

With me, for size perspective:

By this time, it was 10:30 and there was a line at the Duomo that we didn’t want to wait around in, so we decided to come back at end of day (and waited only 5 mins!). For now, we continued on to the Pitti Palace, which took us over the Ponte Vecchio:

  

Palazzo Pitti:

We visited the Palatine Gallery and Royal Apartments:

View of the gardens from the window (more on those later):

(Sorry for the Game of Thrones reference – but – we found a painting of Bran in the palace!)

The Medici symbol was everywhere in Florence:

Onward to the Boboli Gardens right behind the palace. We only did a fraction of them – they are very large and our feet were killing us at this point, but we wanted to enjoy some green space.

We sat on a shaded bench and were quickly approached by several birds (looking for food most likely) – sorry buddy!

Me holding my leather purse purchase on the Ponte Vecchio. Swoon.

After this, we headed back over to the Duomo to see how the line looked and we got in very quickly! For all the intricacy of the outside, the inside is rather simple.

We wet down into the crypt underneath the church:

This wasn’t actually on display but with my awesome zoom and strategic placement between metal bars, we got a pic of some unlucky fellow:

Night shot:

For dinner we had reservations at the Club Culinario Toscana da Osvaldo and it was fabulous. We shared the fried zucchini flowers to start. I had fresh pasta with pork rib and Chris had the lamb stew. Delicious. For dessert, Chris had the tiramisu and I had a chocolate raspberry tart (it was warm! yummy).