Milano, Finalmente

DSCN6756Day 8, Friday, April 8, 2016: A day in Milan.

Milan at last or as they say in Italy “Milano, Finalmente!” Milan is our last city of our Italian tour and this is our last day before our travel home begins.

Piazza della Scala
Piazza della Scala

Our day began with a short bus ride through the Brera neighborhood where many artists, fashion designers, people of influence in the design/art world, etc. live and then a short walk to Plazza della Scala. From the Plazza we began our guided walking tour where we were able to view the La Scala (The Opera House), Gallerie D’Italia and the entrance to the Victor Emmanuel II Galleria.

Galleria
Galleria

We made our way into the impressive Galleria Victor Emmanuel II. This impressive Galleria was this first of the modern era of a unified Italy built by the King, Victor Emmanuel II who either fatally fell or was pushed from the top of 4 Story Glass Dome. Since the beginning of the Galleria it has been home for the luxury shops of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Prada. Our tour was briefly stopped for a quick limbo contest that some street entertainers were conducting to earn a few Euros, some in our group did an amazing job.

Limo Contest
Limo Contest
Milan Duomo
Milan Duomo

From the Galleria we made our way to Plazza Duomo. This is Milan’s main square and is very large. We made our away around the impressive and very large Duomo. The Duomo is a 14th century church and is the fourth largest church in Europe. The sculptures and the “Lego style” uniquely cut  bricks make the structure very unique.

DSCN6733A walk through the Plazza del Duomo to our journey through the Brera Neighborhood ended in the courtyard of the Brera Gallery. The Gallery houses some of the top Italian collection of paintings as well as Napoleon’s looted art. The Gallery is also a very prestigious art college and it was graduation day when we visited. There were many graduates walking with their families in their graduation gowns and a wreath on their head.

Sforza Castle
Sforza Castle

From the Gallery we made our way deeper into the Brera neighborhood to  get to the Sforza Castle. This brick 13th century military castle is a fortress within a fortress. It has a gate and city walls to protect from foreign enemies with a Renaissance palace inside another fortress to protect the Royals from enemies “within” the city walls. From outside the castle you can see the Branca Tower across the Palazzo Dell’Arte.

Piazza Castello
Piazza Castello
Piazza Castello
Piazza Castello

Our tour ended back at our original entrance of Sforza Castle at the Piazza Castello. From here we were able to venture out on our own to shop at the high end stores, lunch, or explore more landmarks in detail. This would also be our meeting spot to leave for our last Italian diner at Restaurant Da Cecco.

This was our last day in Italy. We had amazing weather, on a great trip, with a great group of people!! The only bad part of the trip was the air travel and the delays. For more information on the trip visit the previous Italian Day Trips Postings or view more pictures of the trip visit our Flickr Italy Group Page.

Previous Italian Day Trip Postings:

Day1-2: All Roads Lead To Rome

Day 3: Rome

Day 4:  Giorno di Viaggio per Firenze

Day 5: La Nostra Giornata a Firenze, Italia

Day 6: Prestazoni a Livorno

Day 7: La Musica A Cremona

Mona Shores Orchestra Italy Flickr Page

 

La Musica a Cremona

Stradivari Museum, Cremona Italy
Stradivari Museum, Cremona Italy

Day 7, Thursday, April 7, 2016: A day in Cremona and then travel to Milan for our final city in Italy.

Duomo di Cremona, Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta
Duomo di Cremona, Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta

We started our day with a guided walking tour of Cremona. Cremona is a northern Italian city with a long rich history since 400 BC that has been occupied, destroyed (Natural or War), and been rebuilt over the years but rich in Romanesque-Gothic art. The tour began outside a clothing  store where a window beneath our feet to view a lower level revealing the original Roman Era streets, shows how the city has been rebuilt on the rubble.

The tour took us to the Piazza del Comune where Duomo di Cremona, Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assent is. In the Piazza we are able to see how the Church and the local government occupy the Piazza this has had much influence on the city. Streets from the Piazza we able to see one of the many store fronts of master local violin makers.

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assent

We able to enter Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assent and get a small tour of the Frescoes on the walls. The cathedral is home some of the oldest frescoes, from the late 14th and 15th century, portraying the Life of Mary and Jesus.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assent
Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assent

Our guided tour ended at the Stradivari Museo del Violino. Here we able to see many priceless Stradivari instruments on display, learn the history of the instruments, process/tools into making the instruments, the important elements of the instruments, and much much more.

Birthday Girl
Birthday Girl

After lunch on our own, we made our way to Milan for late afternoon arrival. We had free time to take on some of the incredible shopping of Milan before dinner at Restaurant Scorpion. Dinner this night also included a Birthday Celebration for Alexis.

Note: Pictures and details of the trip will be posted over the next several days in chronological order of the trip.

More pictures of Day1-7 are on our Flickr Italy Group Page.

Prestazoni a Livorno

MSO Italy performance Group on top of the Fortress.

MSO Italy performance Group on top of the Fortress.

Day 6, Wednesday, April 6, 2016: Day is a travel day from Florence to Cremona with a performance in Livorno, Prestazoni a Livorno.

MSO Italy Performance Group taking pictures on the Sea
MSO Italy Performance Group taking pictures on the Ligurian Sea

Our day began with a short one and half – two hour drive to Livorno, on the north western Italian coast of the Ligurian Sea. We arrived in Livorno before lunch, so the group had  free time to explore the coast, eat on their own, shop, etc. Most of us enjoyed the very sunny day on the ocean with lunch on shoreline.

Fortezza Vecchia
Fortezza Vecchia

Early in the afternoon we met by our gracious host, Mr. Andrea Pellegrini, at the 14th century Fortezza Vecchio. We made our way through the fortress to performance room. The orchestra rehearsed and the remainder of the group explored the the rest of the fortress.

Inside Fortezza Vecchia
Inside Fortezza Vecchia

The fortress is being restored, into a more of a tourist friendly site and community use. The fortress has long history of use since the 14th century on the coast and has stood guarding Livorno. The fortress and Livorno received extensive damage during WWII in pre-invasion Allied bombing. For more information on the history of the fortress visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Fortress,_Livorno

Dinner in Livorno, Italy
Dinner in Livorno, Italy

After rehearsal Mr. Pellegrini took us across the channel for an amazing pizza dinner. We were able to see the pizza get hand tossed and made. Very good pizza!!!

We made our way back to the fortress for a pre concert reception. The concert in the fortress included a performance from the Livorno Municipal Concert Band. They are an amazing band and gracious hosts. After Livorno Municipal Band Performance Mona Shores took the stage playing various music from the US & Italian National Anthems to music from Italian Composers to some American classics. Below are a links to two of the pieces Mona Shores performed.

Livorno Municipal Band
Livorno Municipal Band

Shenandoah and America The Beautiful:

Stars and Stripes Forever:

Post performance reception at Fortezza Vecchia.
Post performance reception at Fortezza Vecchia.

At the after concert reception the students and members of the Livorno Municipal Band were able to meet and talk. It was a short reception because of our long drive/late check in to Cremona. I think all would have like the the reception to last longer.

Note: Pictures and details of the trip will be posted over the next several days in chronological order of the trip.

More pictures of Day1-6 are on our Flickr Italy Group Page.

 

La Nostra Giornata a Firenze, Italia

Gates of Paradise
Baptistery of Saint John, Gates To Paradise

Day 5, Tuesday, April 5, 2016: Day 4. Our day in Florence,Italy; La nostra giornata a Firenze, Italia. Our day began with a guided walking tour of Florence. More of a guided Renaissance walk through Florence with not your average tour guide. A tour guide who is also a university history professor, took us on the Renaissance journey of the history of the buildings, art history & political statements of the buildings, paintings, and the sculptures. He showed us how the birth place of the Renaissance was in Florence, how it affect the region to how Florence is a Fashion Capital of the world to how its influence even shapes all the Apple stores.

Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio

Our guided tour took us from Plazza di San Giovanni, to the Piazza della Repubblica, to the Strozzi Palace. Continued with a walk over the oldest bridge in Florence the Ponte Veechio and the to the Piazza della Signioria.

David
David
Duomo
Duomo

After our guided tour and free time for lunch we met back up at the Piazza della Duomo where we made our way to Accademia. Accademia is home to Michelangelo’s David and the unfinished Prisoners. The art work and sculptures in the Accademia are amazing. Some of the orchestra members while visiting Davis had a Hunger Games celebrity run in with actress Willow Shields (Correct me if I am wrong on the actress). They do have photos to prove it, maybe they will share.

We all had the rest of the afternoon off, to shop, stay in the Accademia, visit the leather markets, relax, get gelato, etc.  till a pre dinner rehearsal for the performance the next day. We finished our day with dinner at Restaurant Alfredo. It was an early night with a performance in Livorno and traveling to Cremona the next day.

Note: Pictures and details of the trip will be posted over the next several days in chronological order of the trip.

More pictures of Day1-5 are on our Flickr Italy Group Page.

 

Giorno di Viaggio per Firenze

Il Campo, Siena
Il Campo, Siena

Day 4, Monday, April 4, 2016: Day 4 was a travel day to Florence,

Siena view down the hills
Siena view down the hills

giorno di Viaggio per Firenze. On our route to Florence we made two major stops. The first stop in the beautiful city of Siena and the second stop in Pisa to the Leaning Tower. It was a long day on the bus but the views of the Hill Towns through Tuscany were amazing.

Streets of Siena
Streets of Siena
Narrow Streets of Siena
Narrow Streets of Siena

Siena is a fortified medieval town built on top of three hills and competed with Florence for political and economic superiority. The city is made up of 17 neighborhoods and each neighborhood purpose was to organize and defend their city section from invading forces.  This small city of 60,000 fits into a very small footprint on the hills with each neighborhood or Contrada is alive and very competitive with it fellow Contrada. The Contrada’s compete twice a year in Siena’s Palio. Palio is  very competitive bareback horse race that take place in the Il Campo (The city’s square). The Palio is now a major sporting event in Italy attracting thousands to Siena and broadcasted on Italian TV.

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Plazza Del Duomo

Our guided walking tour began outside the city walls Porta Ovile walking through the Giraffa Contrade. The narrow streets wind up and down throughout the city. Each Contrade has its own church, and stable. We made our way to the Santa Maria Di Provenzano which was originally a hospital. We walk through the streets to the, Piazza de Mercarto, and Plazza Del Duomo. From Plazza Del Duomo we walked through some incredibly narrow, hilly streets to a stable tucked in the Contrade. We finished our tour in the Il Campo, where we had some free time for lunch and shopping.

Il Campo
Il Campo

After lunch we met at the base of Mangia Tower in Il Campo. We walked to the Church of San Domenico which is the resting place for Siena’s patron Saint Catherine (1347-1380) head and left thumb. Yes you read that right, they have on display her head and left thumb. We finished our time in Siena with a walk from the Church of San Domenico to the Siena Fortezza where our bus was waiting for us.

Church of San Domenico
Church of San Domenico

From Sienna we made our way to Pisa cutting through the countryside of Tuscany’s Hilltop towns on a small two lane road. The trip to Pisa was a needed rest after the hill walk through Siena. The countryside and views were spectacular.

Leaning Tower of Pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa

The immediate surrounding area to Pisa is a mostly a industrial area and once into Pisa sights of the Duomo, the Baptistery and the tower its very touristy. Our trip to the tower was a very quick one, long enough for our driver to take a break, visit the WC and visit the tower.

The tower has one of the most amazing lawns you will ever see!!! Two things I found annoying at the Tower. First, the number of tourists trying to take to take pictures of them either pushing or holding up the tower. Second, the number of aggressive immigrants trying to sell Selfie Sticks and/or bracelets.

Leaning Tower of Pisa & Duomo
Leaning Tower of Pisa & Duomo

From Pisa we made our way to Florence where we will stay for the next couple of days. After we arrived at our hotel, Residence Palazzo Riscasoli, where we made our way for a late (Normal time for the Italians) dinner at a local restaurant. We on walk from dinner back to the hotel the city was alive with street musicians, people socializing at the church plazas, and of course the restaurants filled.

Note: Pictures and details of the trip will be posted over the next several days in chronological order of the trip.

More pictures of Day1-3 are on our Flickr Italy Group Page.

 

Rome

Mona Shores Orchestra Italy Performance Group at the Church of Sant'Agnse in Agone, Piazza Navona -Roma
Mona Shores Orchestra Italy Performance Group at the Church of Sant’Agnse in Agone, Piazza Navona -Roma

Day 3, Sunday, April 3, 2016: Roma and Performance at the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agnoe, Piazza Navona

Colosseum
Alexis and Trisha with the group passing by at the Colosseum

Our first full day in Rome began with a early morning guided walking tour of Rome. Our charter bus left the hotel back tracking our route from the night before crossing the Arno River to run along the Vatican Walls. The Morning light of sunny blue sky day, fresh eyes, and spring in full blossom made it an amazing ride.

Our bus went through a few vatican permitter neighborhoods as it started to wind up a hill where we got our first glimpse of the Colosseum. The bus parked at the top of the hill at Parco del Colle Oppio which is the site of Nero’s Golden House. We met are guide here and made a short walk from the bus down to the back side of the Colosseum from the front entrance.

We were informed our timing was good, the scaffoldings were down from the cleaning and preservative measures of the Colosseum that had been up for a few years. Also being a Sunday, the roads around the Colosseum were closed for easy touring of the area. At this point in time we mainly saw locals doing their morning run, thinking we have beat most of the tourist to the colosseum. We were wrong because as we made the turn to the front, a massive multi-hour long wait line had formed to enter the Colosseum.

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Palatine Hill

At the base of Colosseum we stood next to the Arch of Constantine, looking up at Palatine Hill to our left and the Colosseum to the right. Where our guide told us the history of the area we could see. The significance of leaders to pass through the arch as a symbolism of victory, including Napoleon and Hitler.

Arch of Constantine
Arch of Constantine
Arch of Titus
Arch of Titus
Maggie and Lauren
Maggie and Lauren at Forum of Augustus

From the Arch of Constantine we continued our way past the Colosseum to get a great view of the Arch of Titus up to the Roman Ruins of Caesars Forum and Trajan’s Forum. From here we had some impressive views of Basilica Julia and the Arch of Septimius Severus.

Our walked continued to Piazza Venezia where we saw the Victor Emmanuel Monument. In the the Piazza we could see the balcony on Palazzo Venezia where Mussolini made many of his famous speeches and the building across where the Pope allowed Napoleons mother to live after he was banished from France.

From Piazza Venezia we made our way down some very narrow streets stoping to see the smallest Roman Church (Big enough for maybe 3 people) to the Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain

Once again our timing was awesome for Trevi Fountain, Jan informed me this was the first time in three years he had seen it without the scaffoldings up for cleaning and preserving the fountain. The fountain is the most massive, bright, clean, flowing fountain I have seen. The fountain was built to celebrate the reopening of several Romans Aqueducts and is a highlight of Baroque style architect and art. It is believed if you trow a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain you will return to Rome.

DSCN6243At Trevi Fountain we took a break to throw coins, take pictures and a much needed bathroom break. Luckily for us their was a bathroom in a gelato shop right across from the fountain. Bathrooms are very limited in Rome or Italy at this moment. To the complaints and apologizes from our Italian Hosts the bathrooms are closed for security reasons. I should also point out along this walk we have passed many combat ready soldiers guarding sites and routes, more on them later.

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The Church of San Ignazio

From Trevi Fountain we made our way to the Pantheon with a stop at the church of San Ignazio. We had a brief visit before we were asked to leave as a church service was beginning. The church is stunning with Baroque illusions of a false dome painted on the ceiling.  At the Pantheon we are able to view the Piazza della Rotunda, the Egyptian obelisk known as Macuteo, and the Della Porta Fountain. The Pantheon was closed to tours for a church celebration in progress.

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Piazza Navona

We made out way from Pantheon to Piazza Navona. We finished our guided tour at Piazza Navona.  We learned the history that the Piazza was originally a stadium, the Four River Fountains represented the four known continents of 1650, and the history of the Church of Sant’Agnse in Agnoe who’s doors open to the center of the Piazza.

Four Rivers Fountain
Four Rivers Fountain

Our guided tour ended in Piazza Navona but we would spend the remainder of the day in the Piazza. The group had free time to get lunch on or around the Piazza, shop, relax, take in the sights etc. before the 4 PM performance at the Church of Sant’Agnse. For movie buffs Piazza Navona and the Four River Fountains was a major scene in the Tom Hanks movie Angels and Demons.

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The ceiling of the Church of Sant’Agnse

The Church of Sant’Agnse is one of Rome’s most famous churches. It was built in 86 AD over the remains of Roman emperor Domitian’s stadium. Its had many religious uses over the years but between 1644-1655 it was converted to the papal palace for Pope Innocent X. It was Pope Innocent X who commissioned Baroque architect Rinaldi to build the family chapel, the Piazza Navona and the Four River Fountains. The church has many years of frescos and statues commissioned throughout the ceilings and walls.

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Church of Sant’Agnse

At at 2:30 we entered the Church of Sant’Agnse from the rear. Students changed into their uniforms in the family chapel. For us non performing members of the group we were able to tour the church, take pictures, and soak it all in to ourselves. At 3PM as the orchestra began to rehearse the church open it doors the tourists began to flood in. Hundreds, maybe even a thousand plus, of people stopped and watched the rehearsals and performance. The rotunda, the pews, and the lobby kept filling and rotating. The acoustics in the church were amazing, as can be heard in the performance of Capriccio Italien below.

After the performance we relaxed for a bit in the piazza for a dinner reservation on the opposite side of the piazza. The mood of the piazza changes in the afternoon to a very social hangout in the evening. Street entertainers, musicians, and dancers begin to fill the piazza trying to earn a few Euros from the crowds. One thing we learned was not to shop for shoes from DSW on your iPad while waiting in the piazza. Apparently, looking up at the church, typing on the iPad, looking up at soldiers, typing on the iPad, looking at the square, etc. will cause you to be surrounded by Italia Militia they think you might be on a recon mission. (I will leave our shopper nameless but if you need to hear the story from her or her sister.)

Waiting for dinner in Piazza Navona
Waiting for dinner in Piazza Navona

We finished up our day with dinner at Cantuccio Al Senato before heading back to the hotel. This day was one of the most memorable of the trip. Many sights seen and many more worth going back for longer stays to easily spend many days in Rome.

Dinner Time

Note: Pictures and details of the trip will be posted over the next several days in chronological order of the trip.

More pictures of Day1-3 are on our Flickr Italy Group Page.

 

 

 

All Roads Lead To Rome

Selfies at the Vatican
Selfies at the Vatican

Day 1 & 2 of journey to Rome was a long day but fun none the less. We left Mona Shores High School in the morning by charter bus to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport so we could fly to arrive in Rome by 9am to begin a full day of sight seeing. However after several delays with American Airlines we experienced about a 6 hour delay leaving Chicago.

What is an orchestra to do when bored with instruments and a captive audience? Time to pull out the instruments and have some fun:

St Peters Square
St Peters Square

When we arrived in Rome we did find a welcome suprise, Jan Wemes from Educational Tours/Wens Tours. Many of you may remember Jan, he was our guide 4 years earlier on our trip to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.

Unfortunately, our flight delay resulted in us arriving late in the afternoon in Rome as the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peters Bisical was closing. We able to get quick visit into St. Peters Square where some sort of religious celebration was in progress. It

Gelato at the Vatican
Gelato at the Vatican

was long enough of a visit to get some pictures of the square, Swiss Guards, mail a post card, and get our first gelato outside the Vatican Walls and entrance to St. Peters Square.

We finished our day of travels at the Best Western Blu Hotel where we would stay for the next two nights. We had our first Italian Dinner in the hotel which included a a round of pasta.

Note: Pictures and details of the trip will be posted over the next several days in chronological order of the trip.

More pictures of Day1-2 are on our Flickr Italy Group Page.

Mona Shores Orchestra Parent Association

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