San Mineato al Monte Friday, Aug 29 2008 

A hike up the hill to San Mineato al Monte for a drawing session. This 11th-century church is the oldest existing religious structure in Florence, right after the Baptistery.

The students spent several hours drawing and were able to put into use some of the techniques they learned on Wednesday. The vista from San Mineato allows yet another fabulous view of the Florentine skyline. The church itself with a beautiful green and white marble facade also provided a good subject for drawing.

San Mineato was a third-century Christian who was decapitated by anti-Christian mobs in Florence. Story has it that he grabbed his severed head and headed up the hill to a cave. The current church stands on the site of a previous 8th-century structure dedicated to the saint. There is also an incredible cemetery that surrounds the church.

The Olivetan monks who maintain the church are also known for concocting elixirs and potions for a wide range of maladies. Several of us bought the ointment for mosquito bites which have left our group somewhat spotted.

Several groups were departing for the weekend, heading to Naples, Rome and the Cinque Terre. About 1/2 of us will remain in Florence for the weekend.

Great end to a fabulous first week!

Il Giardino Boboli and il Palazzo Pitti. Thursday, Aug 28 2008 

With sketchbooks in hand, we walked to the Boboli Gardens to draw on site. The goal was to produce at least 3 drawings from that many different vistas. The gardens contain grottos, an immense number of statues (including some wonderful grotesques around the major fountain) and recreations of the gardens at Pompeii.

After lunch, we went to the Pitti Palace. A special exhibition of Flemish paintings was there and it was fascinating to see the cross-influences between northern and southern artists. The Pitti includes multiple museums, including one dedicated to fashion and another to modern art.

Another great group dinner at a restaurant on the other side of the river, near Santa Maria Novella.

Uffizi, research and some drawing. Wednesday, Aug 27 2008 

After an early breakfast, we set out for the Uffizi and our first major “art hit.” Favorites were the Niobe Room, Botticelli and Parmigianino’s Madonna with the Long Neck.

Research groups set out to explore their assigned neighborhoods as part of their pre-departure research on Florence: the Oltrarno, Il Centro, and north, east and west of the city center.

We then met at the hostel and walked over to the Arno together. A ramp leading down to the river afforded a great spot for our first drawing experience together. Curt led the students through a series of timed drawing exercises, including the process of erasing a drawing and layering new marks on the same piece of paper. This group has incredible potential to develop their individual drawing style over the next four weeks.

Studio time and a neighborhood hike! Tuesday, Aug 26 2008 

After breakfast and an orientation for the week’s activities, we got down to the business of creating sketchbooks to use throughout our stay in Tuscany.

Curt demonstrated various binding techniques and then the students began to show their individual creativity by making sketchbooks of all shapes and sizes.

At 4:00, Lorenzo and Marzio, who both work at our hostel, took us for a 2 1/2 hour, 6-mile hike throughout the Oltrarno neighborhood, including a climb up a hill toward Bellesguardo, a beautiful residential neighborhood with a high-end, 4-star hotel at the top. They pointed out various amenities along the way, including places to eat, do our laundry, and enjoy outdoor concerts.