Our Last Weeks in Florence and Coming Home

It has been a couple of weeks since we left Italy, but a lot has happened since we got home and we haven't had time to sit down and do a final post about our time in Florence.
The title photo is courtesy of Bob Blesse who we sadly have to leave behind in Florence - seeing as he lives there with his wife Vicki.
The Christmas tree wasn't quite finished when we left Florence, so we didn't get to see it lit up - thanks for the photo Bob!

We finally left Firenze on Thursday the 3rd December after weeks of saying goodbye to all of our friends and trying to work out what we could bring home and what had to be left behind. We had arrived in Firenze one year ago with one suitcase each and now we were only able to leave with one  suitcase each due to the airline restrictions! 
In the end, we ended up having to send two packages home (mostly Lyn's printmaking tools and etching plates) and throwing out lots of shoes that had taken a beating on the stone streets and clothes that had been destroyed by the super-aggressive washing machine in the apartment.

The last few weeks seemed to fly past and there were still things we didn't get to see - to make it harder everyone had colds (more like a flu) and we were surrounded by sneezing coughing people. Lyn had to have a few days off sick from school and the two Il Bisonte instructors (Manuel and Vincenzo) were sick and they had time off as well.
In between all the sickness, we had to clean the apartment, send things home, decide what to keep and what to throw away and also attend many farewell dinners and get ready for the Il Bisonte Exhibition - it was just as stressful as when we left Australia a year ago!
The weather suddenly became cold and we were back to wearing coats and scarves and even had the heating on a few times. It was difficult to get washing dry on the outside clotheslines, so it was back to the drying racks and leaving clothes draped across the heaters again.
Guy and I tried to visit a few places that we hadn't been able see  during the year because of the weather and the many tourists and the long queues - although there were still plenty of people in Florence, they seemed to be mainly Italian tourists visiting Florence for the Christmas shopping and socialising.
Below is an outline of our hectic last few weeks.

The English War Cemetery
On the 11th of November I decided to visit the English War Cemetery in Florence, partly because it was Rememberance Day, but also because I was thinking about my father who had recently passed away and who was also in the Navy during the 2nd World War.
I caught the bus out to a suburb of Florence called Girone, to the best of the city on the banks of the Arno River and got there almost exactly at 11am.
It is a beautifully manicured war cemetery that is cared for by the locals and is very peaceful.
The Arno River was an extremely strategic position and was known as the "Arno Line". There was ferocious fighting conducted all around Florence during the war, especially as the Allies advanced against the retreating German army.

There are 243 Kiwis and 4 Australian pilots buried here along with 964 UK soldiers and another 405 soldiers from Canada, India and other non-allied countries.

Going here was a nice way to commemorate Rememberance Day.

The Musems Of Paelentology & Mineralogy
These two museums are side by side and very close to Piazza San Marco.
They are quite small but very well laid out with some very interesting exhibits.
The Entry To The Paelentology Museum
A Skeleton Of A Mammoth
One Of The Exhibition Halls
Skull Of A Sabre-Tooth Tiger
The Museum Of Mineralogy is just across the alley from the Paelentology Museum.
There are many samples of various crystals and rocks and some of the colours and shapes are incredible.
Light-Box Showcasing Some Of The Colours Of Semi-Transparent Rocks

The Museum Of The Church Of San Marco
One of the museums that we had been told that we must see, was the Museo del San Marco which is attached to the Dominican Convent of San Marco which (of course) is situated on the Piazza San Marco.

Girolamo Savonarola was a famous resident of this convent. He was the person that (for a short time) was the spiritual ruler of Florence after the Medici were expelled from power by the French. He was a real puritan and preached fire and brimstone before he upset the authorities and other sections of the church. He was eventually hanged & burnt at the stake outside the Palazzo Vecchio - there is a plaque at the spot that he was executed. They did not mess around in those days!
The museum is famous for it's frescoes, especially in all of the monks cells on the upper floor of the building and contains a lot of the old stone vestments that came from the buildings and city walls when the city was being rebuilt, as well as beautiful paintings and icons.
It also has a large collection of illuminated books and has a facility dedicated to restoring historic manuscripts.
Courtyard of the Convent
The Sacrament Chapel
Some Of The Collected Stone Vestments From the Old City
Old Coats Of Arms from City Buildings
A Fresco Of The Annunciation At The Top Of The Stairs
 Leading To The Monks Quarters
The Monks Quarters (Each Room Housed A Monk)
Each Room Has A Unique Fresco

Girolamo's Savonarola's Room
Illuminated Manuscript & Printing Exhibition
We really enjoyed this museum because there were not too many people around, the place was very peaceful and the art was stunning.

Lyn's Exhibition
The climax of the year for the artists at Il Bisonte is the exhibition of selected works by all the students.
The exhibition is held in an exhibition area owned by one of the major banks in Florence, right in the middle of the city.

Everyone from Il Bisonte pitches in to help setup the area and hang the prints. There was a lot of work to do over a few days, but it was good fun and Guy enjoyed helping out.
Yuta, Vincenzo, Lourdes & Clara Hang The First Print - Lyn's!
Opening Night Of The Exhibition
There were a lot of people at the opening of the exhibition and it was nice to see the support that Il Bisonte has from the people who live in Florence.
After the opening, all of the Il Bisonte printmakers headed to a local private club ("L'Appartamento") for a few drinks and pizzas as a way of winding up the year.
Pizzas All Around
Thanksgiving At Bob & Vicki's
On the 26th November, Lyn & I were invited to dinner at Bob & Vicki's place to celebrate American Thanksgiving.
Bob's son Matt (with his girlfriend Lauren) was in Florence for a month so they had decided to cook the dinner with all the trimmings.
Bob and Matt cooked the tastiest turkey Lyn & I have ever tasted and Vicki cooked a pumpkin pie that was delicious.

It was a lovely evening and a good way to enjoy the company of some dear friends that we have made during our time in Florence.

Our Dinner Party In The Apartment
Over the year, Lyn's colleagues from her art course have involved us in many get-togethers and so we decided that we wanted to throw a dinner party to thank everyone for their friendship.
It was a bit of a tight fit, but we all squeezed into our living room around the table and had a great (and rowdy) evening.
Yuta, Giulio, Lourdes, Nino, Giulia & Pasquale joined us and a lot of laughs were had and stories told of what had happened over the year we were in Florence.
We finally got rid of them at about 2:00am after a mountain of food was eaten and quite a bit of local wine was drunk.

Dinner With Giulia's family
One of Lyn's closest colleagues at Il Bisonte was Giulia. She used to stay with us when she had to work late and so she wanted to take us to her home and have dinner with the family.
Lyn & I had already met her family at an art exhibition earlier in the year and so we caught the train out to her town (Limite sul'Arno, close to Montelupo which is west of Florence) and spent a very enjoyable evening with them.
Giulia And her Chicken
The Baptistry, Cathedral & Duomo Museum
The Cathedral and Baptistry are two of the main landmarks in Florence, but Lyn & I had never actually been inside the two buildings except for when we attended the St Patricks day service with Bob & Vicki in the rear of the cathedral.
On the Monday before we left Florence, we spent a very enjoyable day visiting the Bapistry, Cathedral and the newly renovated museum dedicated to the history of the cathedral.
Baptistry, Cathedral & Giotto Tower
Baptistry Ceiling
Inside The Cathedral
The Unusual 24hr Clock In The Cathedral
(It runs counter-clockwise and the 24hr mark is at sunset)
Under the cathedral are the remains of the older Roman civilisation and they have been carefully excavated to show how the original church was laid out. It is very well done and you get a real sense of the earlier periods of Florentine life.
A Crypt Under The Cathedral
The Excavated Area Under The Cathedral
An Original Alter Under The Cathedral
The Duomo Museum ("Museo del Duomo") has only just been reopened after a full renovation that has lasted several years.
It contains artefacts that recall the history of the cathedral, ranging from the earliest times though the centuries of construction to more contemporary art and icons relating to the church.
Area Containing Facade And Bapistry Doors
Full-Sized Replica Of Earlier Facade Of Cathedral
Original Bapistry Bronze Doors
Statues from The Earlier Facade
Michelangelo's Pieta
Statue Of Mary Magdalene By Donatello
(Gilt Covered Wood)
Church Icon
This is an amazing museum that is well laid out and you need a fair bit of time to thoroughly explore it.

Our Get-Together For Dinner
Our final, final farewell dinner was at a local restaurant (Icche C'e C'e) with Bob & Vicki, Susan, Karen & Ben and Sandy a few days before we left Florence.
Once again, we had a great evening with good company and nice food.

The German Christmas Market At Santa Croce
The night before we left Florence was the first night of a Christmas festival dedicated to German food and crafts.
Guy met Bob & Matt and headed over to Santa Croce to have a look at the market.
The Market In Piazza Santa Croce

Wow! It was like a being in Germany - mulled wine, bratwurst sausages and all the other good foods that Germany is famous for.
It was very cold, but the atmosphere was great and we spent a nice couple of hours walking around and taking it all in.

Leaving Florence
We left Florence, taking the high-speed train to Rome, then the Leonardo Express train from Rome out to the airport.
Bob came to see us off at the station which was nice and it was quite sad to leave our good friend.

We were apprehensive about our luggage as both suitcases were over 30kgs and we both had a lot of carry-on luggage, but the check-in staff were very helpful and in the end we did not have a problem.
The flight back to Australia was comfortable (a 5hr flight followed by a 13hr flight) with one short stop at Doha in Qatar.
We got in at around 10:30pm and were happily surprised to be unexpectedly met by Susie & Pete - it was a very happy homecoming.
We finally got home at about midnight to find that the spare key to get into the house was missing!
We then had to wake up Marni (our next door neighbour) to get in, but it was wonderful to be back in our own home.
Guy woke at 5am (the dreaded jet-lag kicking in), so he got up, made a cup of coffee and sat outside watching the sun come up and listening to the birds. This was a really pleasant way to start the day and he said that this was when he knew that we were home.

Erin & Tyrone's Wedding
Once we were home, we had a couple of days to get the house organised before Lyn's mum and Eric came down from Sydney and Lyn's sister Lorraine came down from northern NSW.
This was a pretty hectic time, but we got the place sorted out, they arrived and then we headed down to Mount Martha (south of Melbourne) for the weekend, the wedding being on Saturday afternoon.
We stayed at an Airbnb house at Safety Beach while Liam and Jo and their children (Alba and Yarran) and Jennifer and John (Jo's parents) who had also come over from the UK to attend the wedding also rented a house in the same area - so the wedding was also a great opportunity for us to catch up with friends and family (as well as Erin and Tyrone finally tying the knot).
The wedding was beautiful and held in a lovely private garden.
The weather was awful on the Thursday & Friday (going from hot on Wednesday afternoon to cold & windy on Thursday morning), but by Saturday afternoon it had become fine and sunny again and was very mild during the ceremony and evening.
Erin, Tyrone, Jarrah and Jye
Alba and Yarran
Marlene, Lyn and Lorraine
Jarrah and Jye At Safety Beach Having An Ice-cream

So that's the end of our adventure in Italy and also ourblog!!
It has been a great year and we have enjoyed writing the blog as well as seeing how many people have been following our adventures.
Lyn & Guy



  1. I've really enjoyed keeping up with your blog. Thanks for taking the time to put it together, it was all very interesting. It looks like it was all a very worthwhile experience. I bet it feels nice to be home now though. Cheers, Andrew

  2. We really enjoyed reading your blog. Thank-you for sharing your adventure with us and your hospitality in Florence. We look forward to reading about any new adventures you have lined up.....and hearing about future Gallery exhibits of your work - Dream BIG!