Il Papa Comes To Town

On the 10th November, the Pope (Il Papa) came to Florence to visit the residents and to rededicate the Bapistry (next to the Duomo) that has recently been renovated.
The city went wild for the day with all the streets closed to traffic in the central part of Florence and barricades set up so that the Pope could be driven through and meet the people.
It was actually a really special occasion and it was nice to see that everyone has a lot of respect for this man.
The piazza all around the Duomo and the Baptistry was packed and the actual ceremony conducted in the cathedral was broadcast to several big screens throughout the city.
Try Parking Your Car In Front Of The Cathedral Like This
And See What Happens!
Watching him speak in Italian on the big screen in Piazza della Signoria made me realize just why everyone likes the Pope - he speaks very quietly, seems genuinely humble and yet has a way of getting his message across.
The Big Screen Outside The Palazzo Vecchio
The baptistry has been surrounded by scaffolding and covers since before we arrived in January, so it was nice to actually see it uncovered while we were in Florence.
The local tradesmen have done a great job of cleaning the exterior up and renovating the whole building and it looks stunning, like it was only just built. It positively gleams.
The Baptistry In All It's Glory
A Few Of The Locals
This Little Girl Was Very Excited

The Crowd In Piazza della Signoria As The Pope Drove Through
Last weekend, Lyn & I decided to get out and enjoy the wonderful weather we are enjoying in November. All the leaves are falling from the trees so the colours are very nice, there are a lot less tourists around and the whole city feels more relaxed.
According to all the locals that we have spoken to, November is supposed to be one of the wettest months of the year and cold, but to date, the days have been reasonably warm (17 - 20 degrees) and most of the month has been sunny.
On Saturday, there was a large "antique" market in the Piazza close to the end of the Cascine Gardens down by the river, so we walked down and had a browse.
There was a lot of really nice furniture there as well as all sorts of collectible stuff, old jewellery, books and knick-knacks.
Lyn found a really nice old miniature old painting in nice wooden frame, but it was not cheap and without knowing exactly what we were looking it, it was hard to know what the worth of stuff is.
Never-the-less, it was nice to walk around and inspect all the old things that were there for sale.

On the way down to the market, we crossed the Arno on one of the main bridges and Lyn noticed a strange looking animal in the river - something that looked like a cross between a very large rat and a wombat!
We watched it for some time and took a few photos - this animal was absolutely oblivious to the traffic and people.

It was only when we got home and looked the images up on the internet did we find out that it was a Nutria (known as a Coypu in Latin America), an amphibious animal in the same family as beavers and otters.
Apparently, they are not native to Italy, but introduced a long time ago as a source of fur. Since then, they has escaped to the wild and now are considered a pest in the rivers.

Since our return from the UK and Scotland, we have also done the last "That's Prato" tour that we can fit in while we are here.
We went to the town of  Montemurlo La Rocca ("The Rock of Montemurlo", which is above the town of Montemurlo) where Lyn had gone before (while Guy was in NZ), but this time, it was to visit the "Festa della Castagna" (the Chestnut Festival). The harvesting has just finished for the year.
We had a long steep walk up from the town to La Rocca - last time when Lyn went, they were taken up to La Rocca by a fleet of ambulances!

From here, we travelled to a small winery (only 5 hectares) close to Prato where they make a specialty red wine (Pinot Nero).
We arrived right on dusk (because the days are really drawing in now) and we managed to get this great photo before the light disappeared (and the battery went flat on the camera!).

They gave a tour of the production area and then took us down into the cellars where they store the wine to age it.

I did not like the wine that much, but in the wine tasting area, there were some amazing old safety posters that both Lyn & I absolutely loved.
Considering the (lack of) safety measures that we have seen on building sites and around the streets of Italy (especially Florence), we were pretty impressed with how safety-conscious they were in the early days.

The Last Prints Of The Year
I can't believe that I have nearly finished the year at Il Bisonte! 
We had our exam on the 16th November and then we had to present our work to the four Il Bisonte master printers (Nicholas, Manuel, Vincenzo and Rudolfo) and a gallery owner from a local gallery.
Everyone was very nervous, but I actually wasn't as I am not planning to be a world famous artist who wants to make a living from my art!
Maddalena translated the exam questions into English using Google translate for me. I found the translation to be a little weird, but I passed the exam even though I had a few wrong that I really know the answers to!
The review of my work was good, they were impressed with my two books on the colour etching process and they seemed to think my work was OK.
I explained that this year I was focussed on learning the different techniques and experimenting and that the prints are probably not representative of a style I may have.
I think we will get a written assessment of our work with our certificate of attendance at Il Bisonte.
Since the exam on Monday, we have been getting ready for the exhibition, which is being held on Monday the 23rd November at 5pm.
The address of the exhibition will be; 
      Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze
      Sala delle Colonne, Via Bufalini 6, Firenze
It will be hard to work out what I can take home with me as the cost of sending parcels home is horrendously expensive!!
So far I have only printed three prints of every plate - two for Il Bisonte and one for me, and I will send the etching plates home. They should arrive in the next few months (I hope!)
I was able to get Vincenzo to walk me through viscosity printing again and so I was able to print from some of the plates I made a few months ago.

These were printed with three colours - sepia, green for the mid colour and blue for the background.
I used the same colours for both the shell and the seahorse. I printed them on the Amalfi paper I bought a few months ago - it's 300gsm.
I also bought some Fabriano Rosaspino in Rosa (pink) and printed a few other things on it.
Piazza Pitti - finally finished!

The moon over the sea - finally finished!

I was also able to put my woodcuts onto some nice Khadi (from Nepal) paper that Liam gave me when I was in the UK. It is beautiful paper - 100% cotton rag and handmade. 
The technique of mounting the woodcuts (which were done on Japanese paper back in the 1st semester) involves applying the rice paste on the back of the woodcut the day before and letting it dry overnight and then wetting with a spray the next day and rolling it through the press onto wet paper (as if doing an etching) 
Woodcuts before being mounted

Everyone working hard to finish their prints before the exhibition
I decided to have one more try at a multi plate colour etching before the semester ends. 
Warning... non-printmakers won't like this explanation!!
Now that it is autumn and the weather is so much cooler, all of the trees are turning gold and losing their leaves. I collected some leaves on the way to Il Bisonte and then using soft ground on the plate, I ran them through the press.
I then placed the plate in nitric acid for 5 minutes, inked the plate and then transferred the image onto  the next two plates. I left the ink on the plates and put aquatint rosin onto those two plates. 
I then stopped out (using the blue varnish) some of the the leaves on both plates and put the plates into nitric acid for 2 minutes at a time.

Printing 2 plates on each other
I have been experimenting with different colour inks today and have decided on yellow, sepia and sanguine plus a dab of red.
So this is how some of them turned out!

Tomorrow I may have time to do a bit more, but I may have to leave it till I get home. 
I may have time to print again before next week, but I doubt it!


  1. Wonderful blog! You two have made the most of your time here in Florence. I'm sure you're anxious to get home to Australia, but we will miss you terribly. Lyn's accomplishments as a printmaker are really outstanding and your prints are marvelous both aesthetically and technically. We really enjoyed the Il Bisonte student exhibition! Thanks for all the good times, I'm looking forward to planning my trip down-under.

  2. Thanks Bob, we will really miss you and Vicki. We hope you come to visit us- we would love to show you around!

  3. Love that moon over the sea and the marine prints Lyn.

  4. Thanks! Just packing up everything as school is finished. How are we going to get everything in the bags????? Lyn