Florence, Italy

We journeyed only an hour this morning from the rural vineyards of Tuscany to the heart of Florence.

After navigating the narrow streets in our rental vehicle, we dropped our bags and the car at our hotel right around the corner from the Basilica de San Lorenzo. We joined the throngs of tourists to find some lunch and run an errand before we started our touring.

Our ‘errand’ was to pick up some specialty paper for Brian’s Mom. She’s creating art using ‘Marbled’ paper and wanted us to pick some up while we were here.

Paper marbling is done by floating colors on a liquid – either water or an aqueous glue-like ‘size’, creating patterns and then transferring the patterns to paper or other absorbent surfaces. The technique may have started in China but for sure was done in Japan in the 12th century, Islam by the late 15th century and made it to Europe in large scale by the 17th century. Florentine bookbinders became particularly recognized for the skill of their designs in calligraphy paper and endpapers in books. Over time, as the craft died out through most of Europe, it steadily became more centered in Florence which is now one of the only places with artisan workshops making handmade marbled paper.

The popularity stems from the fact that each piece is unique. The temperature and humidity as well as slight variations in the color drops or patterns mean each piece is different.

Example of marbled paper

We went to a shop about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. It’s owned and named for Ricarrdo Luci, a 4th generation book binder and marbled paper artist. His shop is filled with beautiful examples of his handmade leather notebooks as well as marbled paper and items made from them.

Running an errand in Florence

The shop wasn’t too busy so Riccardo himself immediately offered to give us a demonstration of his process. He first described the ‘glue’-like solution that fills his tray. It looks a bit like water but it is viscous, based on seaweed/algae and its exact recipe is a well-kept secret.

He then added a few colors by dripping dots of paint into the tray – large ones to start and smaller as he added colors. He let us pick the pattern and then he used ‘combs’ to make a classic peacock pattern. He said the colors were inspired by what we were wearing and the colors of our masks.

Marbled paper inspired by the 5 Adventurers

Of course we decided we had to buy that one. While we were looking through the selection to choose some for Brian’s Mom, CreeperKitty saw some patterns and colors he really liked so he asked Riccardo if he took requests. Together they created a very cool souvenir which Dad captured on video.

CreeperKitty and Riccardo create art
CreeperKitty’s one of a kind souvenir

After that Adventure we turned our attention to the wonders of Florence. We did a one hour Renaissance walking tour that took us by a lot of the major sites, some of which was a repeat for Brian but still fun to see. The Duomo…

Duomo’s famous dome

The Plaza Vecchio…

The Uffizi statue gallery…

The famous Ponte Vecchio and the river Arno.

Ponte Vecchio
Gazing at the Arno

The Lego store…oh wait, that wasn’t on the official tour, we added it in ourselves.

Lego store fun

We also spent time at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum. Although known for his painting, da Vinci is also revered for notebooks which contain drawings of machines and mechanisms. This museum has taken those drawing and working with engineers, built the machines drawn by da Vinci. Each prototype is shown alongside the drawing and a description. Almost everyone has seen a sketch of a Leonardo machine – but to see them built and in many cases working was really interesting and something we all enjoyed.

da Vinci’s helicopter rotor

Downstairs, a number of mechanisms were available to touch or manipulate which was the part the kids liked most.

Robot drummer

We ended our day full of Adventures with a lovely dinner at a street side cafe.

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