The new Museo dell’Opera del Duomo and the Baptistery

On Saturday morning Stefano and I joined a group of about twenty friends on a guided tour of the museum of the Opera del Duomo. The Opera del Duomo, roughly translated as Cathedral Workshop, was founded in the 13th century with the aim of supervising the building and maintenance of Florence’s magnificent cathedral, the Duomo.

After undergoing a period (three years, I think) of top to bottom renovations and a much-needed expansion, the museum reopened in October 2015 (and in fact one of my closest friends worked very hard on this enormous project…I’m so proud!!!), thanks to the purchase and renovation of adjoining buildings, including a former parking garage and a theater. So in October, for the first time ever, the Opera del Duomo’s rich collection of medieval and Renaissance sculptures, consisting of 750 statues and reliefs, finally had enough room to be put on display. And I must say that it is FABBBBBULOUS. Stunning, simply stunning.

IMG_5773We saw one of the museum’s most famous sculptures: Michelangelo’s unfinished Pietà, which, the guide told us, he worked on by candlelight, after he got home at night, when he was 70 years old. Michelangelo evidently didn’t like the way the sculpture was turning out, though, because at one point, in a fit of rage, he hit it with a hammer, damaging it here and there (especially Christ’s arm, which has been reattached–the scar is clearly visible).

The guide told us that Nicodemus’ face (that’s the tall guy holding Christ in his arms) is considered to be Michelangelo’s self-portrait. That’s the wonderful thing about going around a museum with a guide, something that Stefano and I rarely do because we hate to be rushed from place to place, and we like our independence, but I have to admit that a guide CAN give you some interesting bits of information that you otherwise would not have.

For instance, she told us a cute little anecdote about the actual building of the cathedral’s dome. Incidentally, did you know that nobody has been able to build a replica of the dome? That’s right. It has never been done successfully. All the dome replicas have tumbled down. How did Brunelleschi do it? A mystery. An amazing feat of engineering…And we may never figure it out…

Oh, I almost forgot the anecdote, hehe…here it is: according to legend, Brunelleschi used breadcrumbs to show his assistants how to place such a heavy dome on top of Florence’s cathedral. Once they’d understood what they needed to do, he ate all the breadcrumbs, thus destroying all the evidence. He left no plans, no drawings, nothing specific, anyway. How about that, eh? I knew that nobody had been able to recreate this wonderful dome, which I believe is still the largest brick dome in the WORLD, but I hadn’t heard the breadcrumb story…And hey, who cares if it’s not true? It’s cute!!!

IMG_5756An entire wall of the museum’s largest hall, which can be viewed from the upstairs galleries, too (and it’s great to have a different perspective, statues at eye level, etc.), is covered by a spectacular full-scale model in resin of the original medieval façade of the cathedral, which was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296. The original façade was never finished and ended up being destroyed in the 16th century (the Duomo’s current façade was built in the late 19th century).

IMG_5751Opposite the resin façade, you can have a close-up look at two of Florence’s Baptistery’s original doors, including Lorenzo Ghiberti’s exquisite, gilded bronze doors. These two doors were removed from the Baptistery and cleaned in the late 20th century, as I recall.

This means, of course, that the doors photographed by thousands of tourists outside, in piazza Duomo, are actually copies…beautiful copies, but copies nonetheless. The only original door out there right now is the North door, which however is supposed to be cleaned up and placed next to the other two inside the museum soon, so hurry up if you want to take a photo of it out in the open…By the way, these two doors are enclosed in glass, which makes it possible to see not just the external gilded sides but the internal wooden paneled sides, too. Very interesting…IMG_5780

Anyway, I don’t want to bore you with too many details (all the various galleries in the museum, Giotto’s Bell-tower gallery with its 16 life-size statues, the Choir galleries with the pulpits by Donatello and Luca della Robbia, etc. etc. etc.), but I hope you will enjoy the photos I took…yes, you can take photos inside the museum…no flash. The one on the left, by the way, is Donatello’s extraordinary “Penitent Magdalen,” a 15th century sculpture of polychrome wood (one of the few that survived the Renaissance, btw!) that really could have been made yesterday by a famous modern artist.

Okay, enough, before this gets too boring! 😉 I highly recommend that you make time for a visit to this museum on your next trip to Florence! Ah, and don’t forget to walk up (or take the elevator up) to the museum’s panoramic terrace, which offers a breathtaking view of Brunelleschi’s dome and the rooftops of my beautiful city. I took the photo on the right up there, in fact. Another recommendation: buy a cumulative ticket. Our ticket, which cost 12 euros, enabled us to visit the Baptistery as well as an art exhibition going on right now in Palazzo Strozzi. So check it out and see what’s being offered.IMG_5820

Next, as planned, we visited Florence’s Baptistery, with its newly cleaned facade. I hadn’t been inside the Baptistery since I was a kid, I think. Ah, it’s a real beauty. Definitely worth seeing. Plus, it will give you an advantage when Dan Brown’s “Inferno” comes out. 😉

After the Baptistery, our group split up, and Stefano and I headed off to have a romantic lunch in town. Alone. We went to a small restaurant where we’d had dinner years ago, while we were still in the dating phase.

We began chatting (my, er, “fault,” as usual! 😉 ) with an adorable young British couple having lunch next to us. They asked us if we had recommendations on places to have decent meals. I jotted down a few restaurant names for them, and we continued chatting. After lunch we went to the above-mentioned art exhibit, and then took the bus back home to our kitties.

A lovely day. Simply lovely. :-)

The holiday post I would have written…

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As I announced a few weeks ago, Stefano and I spent the holiday season visiting my parents on Cape Cod, U.S.A. We had a very nice, quiet visit…My parents are now in their upper 80s but still doing quite well, knock on wood! _1080860

The title of my post should continue “…had I been able to.” In the States, the only computer I had access to was my mother’s old Apple computer. And it was so maddeningly slow that I finally gave up on it. _1080884

So instead of writing a holiday post back in December, I’m going to write one now…now that I’m back in Florence (we landed in Florence yesterday afternoon) and able to access my fabulous, FAST desk computer. Let’s just pretend for a moment that it’s around December 25th. 😉

Let’s see. I wanted to tell the story of our flights to the U.S. and back to Italy.

First, our flight to the U.S.A. on December 23rd. _1080973While Stefano and I were waiting in Frankfurt Airport for our connecting flight to Boston, we heard our names being called. We went up to the gate agent who informed us that we had been upgraded to Business Class because the flight was overbooked and also because of Stefano’s frequent flyer status. Well, knock me over with a feather!

_1090086Flying in Business Class has been on my “bucket list” for a while now. But we haven’t been able to afford it, so I figured I’d never have the opportunity (no big deal, really…I mean, I have more important items on my list!). This upgrade was therefore a completely unexpected and fantastic early Xmas present for me. I got so excited, in fact, that I began doing a little happy dance, right in front of all the other passengers and gate agents. Such a happy moment. _1090072

And there’s more: our plane was one of those double-deckers. Yes, you guessed it: our seats were located upstairs, on the top floor! Another wee item crossed off that bucket thingy! 😉

I was so thrilled that I couldn’t sit still. I examined every item in the holiday goody bag; I checked the settings on the seat (you can lie FLAT if you want to…the seat basically turns into a rather narrow but comfortable bed); I watched three movies; I stretched out, and I drank a glass of champagne…total bliss. Needless to say, we had a wonderful flight–even the food was very good. I felt like a princess… _1090058

so much so that when we reached the check-in desk at Logan Airport in Boston day before yesterday, I asked the agent how much it would cost for us to be upgraded again to Business Class. I figured it would be too much, but it doesn’t cost anything to ask, right?

Her fingers went clickety-clack clackety-click on the computer, and after a few minutes she told us that our return flight was overbooked and we’d been upgraded to Business Class…AGAIN. Unbelievable. I felt like a little kid opening presents on Xmas morning…_1080946

However, I have to confess that I felt badly for the folks marching past us on the plane on their way to their seats in Economy (where I’ve always traveled, of course, and where I will travel again, no question about that!). I mean, I strongly believe that all seats should be comfortable on long flights, not just Business and First Class seats. All seats. _1080904
But…that’s the way things go. The more money you can spend, the more comfortable you will be. When I told my parents about feeling badly about traveling in Business, Dad remarked, “Oh well, then of course you must have gotten up and given your seat to someone else, right?”

(He’s such a clown…)_1080957

Um, no. I didn’t.  The thought didn’t even cross my mind, I admit.

But I did feel a bit guilty for traveling in such luxury…I felt it wasn’t fair…and it isn’t, really.

_1090018Anyway, here are a few of the photos I took while I was on Cape Cod.

Beaches…guests at my parents’ bird feeders…a seagull in the fog in Chatham (Massachusetts)…two very playful dogs running on the beach (they ran up to us and got us a bit wet and sandy…so cute!)…and so on. _1090081If you hover over the photos, you should be able to read my comments on most of them…

I guess that all that remains to be said is: Belated Happy New Year, everyone!!! 😀 I’m off to feed my hungry cats and have dinner now…Ciao!

Happy Holidays!

06.12.24-Christmas-0014Stefano and I are leaving for the United States tomorrow morning…very early…zzzzzz.

We’ll be back in Florence on January 6…so we’ll be spending exactly two weeks with my parents on Cape Cod. We are, as usual, leaving our cats in very good, capable hands, those of our fabulous house and cat sitter, also a good friend. 09.12.13-Christmas-0077

 

I didn’t want to post an anonymous Xmas greeting on the blog today, so I went through our old Xmas photos and, well, here are a few. Of course, the main theme is…cats, cats…and more cats!!! :-)

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If you hover over the photos, you’ll be able to see the date each photo was taken, etc. You can also click on at least some of the photos to make them bigger. I don’t know why the “make ’em bigger” option doesn’t work for ALL the photos…technological mysteries…

I’ll be back online day after tomorrow…Again, I apologize to those who sent me messages to which I haven’t replied yet. I’ll try to get to them in January. 09.12.25-Christmas-0294
If you would like an answer before then, please send me another message, since I won’t be able to access/read your “old” messages (which have been downloaded onto my main computer, this one, that is). 11.12.19-Christmas-0027

HAPPY AND HEALTHY HOLIDAYS TO EVERYONE!!! :-)

B-cell disorders and curcumin

A few days ago, a very kind and generous blog reader sent me the full study that I’d mentioned in my December 18 2015 post. Here are a few highlights…

First, I’d like to say that what I really like about these researchers, Golombick et al, is that they are looking for NONTOXIC ways to “develop early intervention strategies.” As you know, the conventional myeloma world is looking mostly at TOXIC early intervention strategies, which, as we know, can be very risky (just read my December 7 2014 post about the subpopulations of myeloma…).

Before I go on, this study is really a sort of “summary” that combines the data from previous studies carried out by these researchers on MGUS, SMM, and early-stage CLL patients. So we can actually access all the data on our own…

Since I’ve already posted about the MGUS and SMM patient studies (plus the one on a patient with laryngeal amyloidosis, which you can find by doing a search of my blog…), I wanted instead to focus a bit on a study carried out on early-stage CLL patients, a study published back in June but that I didn’t know about until this morning (it’s not myeloma-related, you see…). And the only reason I found out about it is because it’is discussed in our above-mentioned “summary” study. Here’s the link (to the CLL study): http://goo.gl/IPqo1n You can download and read the entire shebang for free…

Now for a bit of VERY interesting information: these CLL patients, 21 individuals with stage O/1 CLL (that is, early-stage chronic lymphocytic leukemia), took Meriva curcumin. Meriva, non C3 Complex curcumin…

Well, well. For the past three years or so, I’ve actually been curious to try Meriva, and back in 2012 I actually wrote a post about it. I should really test Meriva at some point…In fact, it makes sense to buy some while I’m in the U.S.A. for the holidays (we’re leaving day after tomorrow!). So now it’s on my list of things to buy…funny cat Xmas cartoon

You’re probably curious about dosage, since I was, too. You may find this incredible, but the dose administered to the CLL patients was just two grams a day. No kidding. Two grams…

And at that dose, a small percentage of these CLL patients had a more than 20% decrease in their absolute lymphocyte count, which is very good…this decrease occurred after just a few months in 4 patients out of 21. The rest of the patients didn’t respond to curcumin, apparently.

At least, they apparently had no response to this type of curcumin, and/or to this dosage (this last sentence is my own, by the way…just a thought I had while reading the study…). Hmmm, I wonder what would have happened if those CLL patients had taken a higher dose…just wondering…especially since I can’t even imagine going down to 2 grams a day…nope…no way!

Well, perhaps a dose increase might be an idea for a follow-up study…Anyway, this is an interesting study, and I know it’s not a myeloma-related one, but please go have a look, at least at the Results, Discussion, and Conclusion parts. There are a lot of details that I don’t have the time right now to post about…

Let’s get back to our MGUS, SMM, and CLL study now. It ends by suggesting that curcumin may be beneficial to some folks with MGUS, SMM, or early stage CLL, and that early intervention with curcumin “may lead to prolonged survival and delay in progressive disease in some of these patients.”

Plus, as we know, the obvious advantage of curcumin is that it is not toxic at all  (unless you have gall bladder issues, so please do be careful about that!!!).

I agree with the conclusion reached by these researchers: we need larger studies. The problem is where to find the funding for these larger studies…same old, same old…uff.

In the meantime, I would like to send a message to Dr. Golombick publicly: THANK YOU, THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!, for your indefatigable work on behalf of blood cancer patients. :-)

P.S. I might have asked this in a previous post, but does anybody here take Meriva? If so, with what results? And what dosage? Thanks! :-)

New study: curcumin may lead to prolonged survival and delay in progressive disease of some MGUS, SMM, and CLL patients

Hot off the press: http://goo.gl/F0whJs Here’s what the abstract tells us:

“Clinical studies with patients with early hematological malignancies (ie, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, smoldering multiple myeloma, or stage 0/1 chronic lymphocytic leukemia) suggest that early intervention with curcumin, derived from the spice turmeric, may lead to prolonged survival and delay in progressive disease in some of these patients.” 

I’m curious to see the full study…But it hasn’t been published yet…Still, this is a rather nice Christmas present, don’t you think? :-)

Waiting for Christmas…views of Florence…

First of all, I’d like to apologize to those of you who have written to me and are still waiting for aIMG_5459n answer. This last period has been hectic for me, and it’s just going to get “worse” next week…I mean, more hectic. Mostly, in a good sense, though! :-)IMG_5466

For example, I finally met the woman who founded the Italian MGUS support group on Facebook (we celebrated the group’s sixth year “birthday” just last week). I “met” her on Facebook when I joined the group, about five years ago. At a certain point she asked me if I would help her co-administer (is that even a verb? Hmmm) the group, which back then counted about 200 members (it now has 419 members!…and more co-administrators, too). IMG_5473Anyway, throughout the years, she and I have stayed in touch in many ways–phone messages, emails, phone calls–but we’d never actually met “in the flesh” until two days ago, which is when she, her husband and adult son made a stop in Florence on their way back home from Rome to Trieste, where they live. And so we met. Finally.

And what a wonderful meeting it was. Indeed! It didn’t feel as though we were meeting for the first time. No, it was like two old friends getting together after not having seen each other for quite a long time.
We chatted and chatted…and…chatted…for HOURS. Her husband and son were incredibly patient, I must say! :-)IMG_5481

In the late afternoon I drove them to the Piazzale Michelangelo, a large square offering the most stunning panoramic views of Florence, especially at sunset, as you can see from my not-so-splendid photos below…

IMG_5484A couple of cute things happened while we were at the Piazzale. Number 1) While we were admiring the views, we suddenly heard a small group of friends whooping and clapping right next to us. Soon the entire Piazzale was clapping, jumping, and screeching with joy. Everyone stopped doing what they were doing–taking selfies, mostly. What had happened, you ask? Well, a young man had just proposed to his girlfriend. And this happened right next to us. Such a happy moment. IMG_5482

Number 2) About a half hour later, a very cheerful group of friends wearing Santa hats came up to me and asked if I would take a photo of them. I said yes, of course, but ONLY if I could take a photo of them afterwards. I added, “you guys are too cute!” They said, sure, go right ahead. So I am posting that photo, too (my next-to-last photo). Such a cute bunch, they were! :-) IMG_5593IMG_5580

Anyway, from there we went to nearby San Miniato al Monte, one of the loveliest (in my opinion) churches in Florence. And then we drove back to my house to meet Stefano and go out for pizza.

Such a lovely meeting, such a lovely time. :-)

Apart from that, I’ve been working a lot, baking Xmas cookies for my friends and neighbors, wrapping presents, AND getting ready to leave for the U.S.A. Yes, Stefano and I will be spending Xmas and New Year’s with my parents on Cape Cod. Busy busy and…BUSY!

So…again…I apologize for not having answered any messages in this period. Please be patient. Or, if you really want to hear from me, write to me again, and I’ll do my best! IMG_5577

I thought you might enjoy these photos I took of Florence on two separate occasions. I took most of them (the “day” photos) when I joined a close friend for a walk in the center of the city last week. The three “evening” shots, that is, the last three photos, were instead taken at the Piazzale Michelangelo a couple of days ago…

By the way, if you hover over the photos for a second, you will be able to read a brief description of where each photo was taken…

Animated myeloma 2015

Last year (you can search my blog for “animated myeloma”…Hint: it’s my November 1 2014 post…), I posted about a series of short animations made by Myeloma UK. An absolutely brilliant idea: myeloma explained with cartoons…short, simple, not scary at all.

And now we have a few more. So far I’ve watched the one about the clonal evolution of myeloma. Very interesting. Anyway, here you’ll find the list of the new animations, including one on amyloidosis: http://goo.gl/LOSije

Well done, Myeloma UK! :-)

P.S. By the way, I haven’t forgotten about cannabidiol and ion channels…I’ve been working on this topic whenever I have some free time and FEEL like doing some research…To be honest, though, sometimes I’d just rather go take a walk through the center of Florence with a good friend (upcoming post)… :-)

Arezzo

_MG_3359I was just looking through some of my old blog drafts (delete delete delete!)…drafts that never reached the publication stage for one reason or another. Among them I found one that I had written exactly ONE YEAR AGO…on December 1 2014. No kidding. I didn’t publish it at the time because one of our beloved cats became terribly ill soon thereafter (the kitty is fine now, by the way). And after that period of much worry, my Arezzo draft simply got pushed aside and forgotten…until today.

So this post refers to a day (in late November 2014) that Stefano and I spent in the lovely Tuscan city of Arezzo with some good friends of ours.

_MG_3366We had reserved afternoon tickets to visit the 15th century frescoes painted by Piero della Francesca inside the Basilica di San Francesco. Piero della Francesca was among the first early Renaissance painters to use perspective, which may not sound like much today but back then was a huuuuuge innovation.

The sequence of frescoes depicting the Legend of the True Cross is considered to be an early Renaissance masterpiece.

It deserves that title, in my opinion. Among other things, I was struck by the expressions of terror on the horses’ faces, which cannot be seen that well in that first photo…but I thought it was simply extraordinary…

Anyway, here are a few of the photos I took (no flash allowed, of course!). The two photos of the Piero della Francesca frescoes look a bit distorted because I was looking up at them. In other words, they weren’t at eye level…same problem with the church in the third photo. _MG_3388

If you look closely at the photo of the façade of the church “Santa Maria della Pieve” (photo no. 3), you will notice that all the columns are different. One is even a statue. This is its most striking feature…so, when you visit Arezzo, make sure to have a good look at this façade.

By the way, if you click on some of the photos, you can make them bigger. The only photo that doesn’t do that for me is the second one. No idea why…_MG_3407

My last photo is of Piazza Grande, a stunning Medieval square with a sloping pavement in red brick. It used to be the main marketplace of Arezzo. The photo unfortunately gives only a partial view of it…

Anyway, even though this is hardly a recently-written post (!), I still hope you will enjoy it. :-)

Lowering our IL-6 levels with…art, music, and nature

Today I came across some rather curious results (I’m trying not to say “interesting results” all the time… 😉 ) of a UC Berkeley study, which I just had to share with you: being exposed to art, music, and nature apparently gives a boost to the immune system. And, more interestingly for us, activities such as admiring Botticelli’s “Primavera” (or “Allegory of Spring”), see photo, or listening to Mozart or taking a walk in nature appear to lower the serum levels of interleukin-6, or IL-6 for short. A brief reminder: IL-6 is an important growth factor for myeloma cells, about which I’ve written heaps of posts, so I won’t go over it again (if you’ve never heard of it, just do a search of my blog for IL-6).

Here’s the Telegraph article discussing the findings of this study: http://goo.gl/Vw5Yzu

Primavera_03What I’d like to see next would be a study testing these three activities on a bunch of myeloma patients at various stages. Now wouldn’t THAT be amazingly interesting? :-) In the meantime, while I’m waiting for that study to take place (hah!), I’ll go for a walk in the park while listening to Mozart on my iPod, on my way to the Uffizi Gallery to check out Botticelli’s beautiful paintings (I love Botticelli!).
Oh, and while I’m walking, I’ll have to remember to strike some yoga poses, too (yoga reduces IL-6 levels, too…see the post I wrote on January 15, 2010). And…

Well, okay, I’m getting a bit too silly. 😉 But hey, we have absolutely NOTHING to lose here. There can be no toxic side effects to listening to music or admiring a work of art. The effects can only be positive. So why not give it a try?

Now, where’s my iPod?