Paper, book art and the Museo del Duomo Monday, Aug 31 2009 

After breakfast, we made use of the beautiful Sala del Tacca, our classroom in the hostel that will be our home base for our group gatherings in Florence. The Sala was the former refectory of the convent that used to occupy this building and has enormous ceilings with intricate wood carvings as well as four gigantic windows that provide natural light with views out on to the teracotta rooftops of the surrounding buildings.

Curt gave the students a brief history of paper, then demonstrated numerous book-binding techniques with the goal of having each student conceive, design and create an individual book to be used for whatever purposes they decide: journal, sketch book, scrap book, etc. Most of them got a good start before we broke for lunch.

At 2:30, we all met at the Museo del Duomo, the repository for many works taken from both the exterior and the interior of Santa Maria delle Fiore (the cathedral, the baptistery and the campanile), the majority of them replaced by replicas. After the Bargello, this museum houses the most important sculpture collection in Florence.

The students now have the weekend off and will most likely be exploring their new home town.

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Day One: View from the Cupola Friday, Aug 28 2009 

Our group is complete: 19 students, all present and accounted for in Florence! After a quick breakfast of pastries and fruit, we exited our ostello and walked directly to the historic center of Florence and the Duomo of Santa Maria delle Fiore. We’re not going to lie, it is pretty warm in Florence right now, but despite the heat, we began the 487 step climb to the top of the cupola and an amazing view of the city that is to be our home for the next three+ weeks.

Down the steps and time for lunch. We walked through the Mercato San Lorenzo (street market outside the church) to the Mercato Centrale (for those of you familiar with Seattle’s Pike Place Market, it is very similar, minus the flying fish.) We found various lunch “a portare” (take out) options and satisfied our hunger with panini, fruit and pasta.

A few housekeeping items next: the cell phone store for rentals and the store where you can buy an Italian Sim card. Then, everyone was on their own until our 4:00 orientation meeting at the Ospitale.

At orientation, we discussed a wide range of topics from health and safety to tipping.

Speaking of tipping, we launched our program with our first group dinner at Trattoria Cancelli where Mario, the host, provides a wonderful assortment of primi and secondi. Our walk back home would not be complete without a stop at Gelateria Carraia, home of the one euro “piccolo cono.”

A great start to what will be a great time in Tuscany.