Victoria's Birthday
June/July 2002

One of dozens of breathtaking astronomical instruments at the
Museum of the History of Science, Florence
(a well-kept secret, tucked just behind the Uffizi).

Fresco cycle depicting the life of St. Benedict in the cloister of the monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore.
One of Victoria's favorite panels shows the young Benedict miraculously healing mom's broken baking dish.

Benedict studying? at the academy in Rome before getting God's call.

Benedict sneaking away from studying at the academy in Rome before getting God's call.

Portrait of Benedict after God's call, displayed in conjunction with a crucifix that reputedly spoke to him.

Ceiling of the main church at Monte Oliveto, remodeled in a paroxysm of baroque.

The high altar at Monte Oliveto, ditto.

Dome, Monte Oliveto.

The exterior of Monte Oliveto.
The monastery is inhabited by a group of Olivetan monks (also known as White Benedictines),
who still sing the hours in accordance with Benedict's rule.

The view from our patio at the hotel L'Olmo,
a delightful and sumptuous country inn just south of Pienza.

Fig leaf covering what?
Palazzo Medici, Florence.

Ceiling, Palazzo Medici, showing the ascension into heaven of the last male members of the clan.
Note the cherub bearing a severed head.

Chapel of St. John the Baptist, the Duomo, Siena.
The statue of John is by Donatello.

The Duomo, Siena, even more magnificent in person.

The Duomo's dome.

The Palazzo Pubblico, Siena

The Campo, Sienna's monumental central square (which isn't square).

Santa Anna

An Italian fence lizard that lived in the rock wall beside our villa in the hamlet of Castello, north of Lucca.

Castello - our villa is the highest one.

Windows in the very picturesque town of Barga in the Garfagnana region north of Lucca.

Street scene, Barga

Roofs, seen from the plaza of the Duomo, Barga.

Steps, Barga.

Arched passageway, Barga.

San Pellegrino en Alpe
a monastery and village perched on top of the steep Orecchiella mountains north of Barga.
The monastery has been converted into a museum of peasant life,
with hundreds of fascinating and beautiful hand-made tools and other implements.

Moth, seen on a path in a regional nature preserve in the Orecchiella.
These moths were quite plentiful. Several lit on Victoria,
apparently attracted by the scent of her deodorant.

Bufo tadpoles, nature preserve, Orecchiella.


Our second villa, an apartment in the Castello Ripa d'Orcia.

Castello Ripa d'Orcia, which first appears in written records in 1066.
It has been in the Piccolomini family since before Columbus set sail for the Indies.

The monastery of Sant'Antimo,
reputedly founded by Charlemagne around 781
and shut down in 1462 by the Vatican after the abbot was accused of "villany."

High altar, Sant'Antimo.
Today, a group of Cistercian monks inhabit the abbey
and sing Gregorian chants in the church at appointed hours throughout the day.
(We bought a CD.)

Alone among Tuscan churches, Sant'Antimo was designed in the French Romanesque style,
with a single nave surrounded by an ambulatory. Wonderful for walking meditation.

Thirteenth-century battlements, Monteriggioni.

italian fence lizard
Pocarcis sicula

Assisi, the refectory of San Damiano, convent of the Poor Clares, founded by St. Clare.
(She was a devoted follower of St. Francis, immortalized by him as the "sister moon" to his "brother sun.")

High altar, the church of Santa Croce, Florence.

Santa Croce (the ropes protect some of the 270 sculpted tombstones set into the floor).

Galileo's tomb, Santa Croce.
The astronomer's remains were moved here in the 18th Century
after the church decided he was not a heretic and should have a Christian burial.

A view from Ripa d'Orcia

Dublin Museum of Natural History

Dublin Museum of Natural History

Dublin Museum of Natural History


Tracy Hicks
223 North Shore
Dallas, TX 75216
214 948 0609