Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Under the Tuscan Sun!

Wednesday, February 12th, we left Rome for Florence. We took the Metro in Rome to the Termini Train station where we caught the train at 1220hrs to Firenze Saint Maria Novella Station (Florence Station), arriving at 1351hrs. We were close enough to the hotel to walk there from the station. Thankfully, I have google maps on my iPhone and we used it to guide us to the hotel, which is tucked away in a cute little alley.

We stayed at the Brunelleschi Hotel at Piazza Saint Elisabetta 3. What a beautiful place with a lot of history!

Hotel Features.
Formed from the Roman-era Byzantine Pagliazza tower and the medieval church of San Michele in Palchetto, the Brunelleschi Hotel's unique, historical facade contrasts with its contemporary interior.
The view from our room:
We checked in, dropped off our things and went exploring. We love Florence! What a beautiful city! There were a lot of beautiful things to see in Rome, but, for us it was just too big and busy. We prefer smaller cities and towns, and the countryside.

We went to the Piazza della Signoria, where the copy of the Statue of David is located.

 The City of Florence symbol, it's so beautiful!

We walked by the Duomo (church in center of town), Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. What a beautiful structure!

We walked and walked some more!  We saw some interesting things....
 and later the moonlit Duomo!
That day it had been eight days since I had had a mole removed on my forehead. I had brought supplies to use to remove the stitches and did so without any problems. After I removed the stitches I made the mistake of taking a shower, and that caused the incision site to split open. Yikes! So, we called down to the front desk and they had a nice young man from the hotel walked us over to the Pharmacy to get some butterfly bandages. We were able to tape it up just in time to make our dinner reservation!

We decided to 'stay in' that first night in Florence and had dinner in the hotel's restaurant, The Santa Elisabetta Restaurant, where we had a delicious, relaxing dinner!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

We decided to go see the sights, so we were up for breakfast around 0730hrs. The breakfast served at this hotel was set up so beautifully and everything was fresh and delicious!
Refueled, we were on our way!

Our first stop was to see David at the Accademia Gallery. Unfortunately no pictures are allowed inside. We heard that in the summer months the line to get in can be hours of waiting. We were able to walk right in! And yes, it would be worth the wait. In person, it is a sight to behold!

Via Wikipedia:
David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created between 1501 and 1504, by the Italian artist Michelangelo. It is a 5.17-metre (17.0 ft)[1] marble statue of a standing male nude. The statue represents the Biblical hero David, a favoured subject in the art of Florence.[2] Originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roofline of the east end of Florence Cathedral, the statue was placed instead in a public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence, where it was unveiled on 8 September 1504.
Because of the nature of the hero that it represented, it soon came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in theFlorentine Republic, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of theMedici family. The eyes of David, with a warning glare, were turned towards Rome.[3] The statue was moved to the Accademia Gallery in Florence in 1873, and later replaced at the original location by a replica.

After leaving there we went to see the inside of the Duomo di Firenze.

 I saw "OPA" all over the floors in the Duomo, it literally means "Opera"....

'Opera' literally means 'work' and that's what you can see here, all the works carried out for the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, the bell tower and the baptistery.
Construction of the Florence Duomo complex started in 1296 when the first brick was laid for the basilica.
The OPA - the organization to oversee the work - was set up way back then and still exists today within the museum headquarters. 

What's unique about the Opera del Duomo Museum is that you get to walk amid the same rooms where the Renaissance masters themselves (Brunelleschi, Donatello and Michelangelo) actually carried out the works that people today come from all over to admire - 

See more at: See more at:

After going through the cathedral I did something I will never ever evvvvvver do again!  I agree to go to the top of the Cupola......only because I knew if I didn't go Andrew wouldn't go, and I knew he really wanted to go up there. we went......
 and up we went....

 This sign is posted here for people like me who are terrified and just want to go down! There is no where to turn around, the only way out is up!
Since I was up there, I decided I should take a couple of pictures! It was beautiful but I really couldn't enjoy because I was dizzy and scared!

After the second level of the dome there was a place to go down. I told Andrew he could keep going up, but I was going to get out of there!  Andrew decided to go down with me. Going down was actually more frightening than going up! The stairs were very windy with no railing, so I was hugging the wall the entire way down!  Boy, was I glad to get back to ground level!

After that experience I needed to sit down, so we got a nice cup of coffee and a piece of chocolate cake.
 Recharged, we set out for Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti) (no pictures allowed inside:

It's a beautiful Palace with a lot to see. Everything is written in Italian and English, which was very nice.

After Pitti Palace, we just walked around the town.

 We stopped for gelato and pizza!

Florence is a beautiful town!

That evening we had a light dinner at a place called Donnini's in the Piazza della Repubblica where we had a delicious meal! The restaurant was established in 1894!
 Gelato for dessert!
 We found the poet Dante's church, where he met his one true love, Beatrice:


Friday, February 14, 2014   Happy Valentine's Day!

We woke up early Friday morning, ate a nice breakfast and headed over to Deanna's Terracafe (across from the main train station in Florence) where we were meeting with a tour company for a bus trip to  Montereggio, San Gimingnano, Siena, and Chianti. Busy, busy day!  It was nice not having to worry about where to go, how to get there, etc.

We had 17 people in our group. The guide spoke in English, French and Spanish.

Our first stop was Montereggio:
Montereggio is a village medieval of Lunigiana in the province of Massa Carrara , on the border with the province of La Spezia and is part of the municipality of Mulazzo . Ancient fortified village in a strategic position, controlling the way through the Pass of Casoni joined the Magra Valley to the Via Francigena and the Ligurian Sea [1] . Confirm the strategic importance of the village is its depiction in the Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museums [2]

Our next stop, Siena, home of the Palio! I had never heard of the Palio di Siena before this. It sure would be fun to see, it sounds very exciting!
The Palio di Siena (known locally simply as Il Palio) is a horse race that is held twice each year, on July 2 and August 16, in Siena,Italy. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards. The Palio held on July 2 is named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, who has a church in Siena. The Palio held on August 16 is named Palio dell'Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary.
pageant, the Corteo Storico, precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.
The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, circles the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is common for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed, it is usual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys.

After the race, the horses and their riders go through the town....

 Never thought about it, buttttt, guess where Pinocchio originated!!??

We went through the Siena Divina Bellezza Cathedral. 

 There are so many beautiful statues in Italy....this one really moved me....
We walked up the hills of Siena and had lunch at a nice little cafe...

then got back on the bus and set out for San Gimingnano, which was absolutely beautiful! We wished we had had a little more time to spend there!
San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in the province of SienaTuscany, north-central Italy. Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses,[1] which, with its hilltop setting and encircling walls form "an unforgettable skyline".[2] Within the walls, the well-preserved buildings include notable examples of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with outstanding examples ofsecular buildings as well as churches. The Palazzo Comunale, the Collegiate Church and Church of Sant' Agostino contain frescos, including cycles dating from the 14th and 15th centuries.[2] The "Historic Centre of San Gimignano", is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[2] The town also is known for the white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the ancient variety of Vernaccia grape which is grown on the sandstone hillsides of the area.[3][4]

We left there and headed for our last stop, the Sant'Agnese Farms in Chianti. Oh, what a beautiful place!

 The owner, Carlo, had tables set up with plates of breads and cheese with his olive oil and balsamic vinegar. He also had some nice wines there to try. He has such a passion for his products, and after we tried them we could see why! Delicious!  They offer cooking classes there. If we ever go back to that area, I would love to take his class, eat good food and drink good wine!

We bought a bottle of 4 year old Balsamic vinegar. I learned so much there! 
What a view!
That evening we went back to Cafe Donnini's in Florence for dinner. Afterwards we got some gelato and some chocolates!  It was Valentine's day!! Why not! Everything is displayed so beautifully!

Saturday, February 15, 2014
We met at Deanna's Terracafe again for a tour with the same tour company to Pisa and Lucca. 
There were seven people in our group. The tour guide spoke in English and German.
Our first stop was Pisa. There we were connected with another tour guide who took us through the cathedral and explained the Leaning Tower. Apparently it was closed to tourists for several years while experts from all over the world came to assist in 'shoring it up'. It was built on top of an old riverbed and they found that there is no way to stabilize the building and it will fall some day.

The baptistry:

Our guide took us through the Cathedral:

Andrew decided he would go to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I, on the other hand, wanted to stay on solid ground...thank you very much!  I gave Andrew my camera so he could take pictures.
 It's hollow inside!

So, a woman we'd met on the tour, Lys, and I walked through town to the river while Andrew climbed the tower. I took pictures with my iPhone. The river had gone over the bank the week prior...there were sandbags everywhere.

After we met up again, the three of us had a nice lunch next to the Leaning Tower. We had a beautiful view.
After lunch we got back on the bus and made our way to Lucca.

Lucca (Italian pronunciation: [ˈlukka] ( )) is a city and comune in Tuscany, Central Italy, situated on the river Serchio in a fertile plain near the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the province of Lucca. It is famous among other things for its intactRenaissance-era city walls.[2][3]

On our way the tour guide pointed out the Carrara Mountains. This is where my father-in-law from my first marriage was born and raised. What a beautiful area! Some day I hope to be able to return and visit his home town. I had no idea we were going to be so close on this tour. 
We arrived in Lucca...our guide took us to a little shop where we tried a local pastry...then we had some free time.

 There were outdoor markets set up all over town!  Oh my, if we had gotten there by car we would have bought a piece of furniture. There were some beautiful things for sale!

we walked along the city wall back to the meeting point:

Some 'interesting' modern art on display....temporarily.

and some beautiful rooftops seen from the city wall:
 We made our way back to Florence on the bus and arrived around 1800hrs.

We spent our last night in Florence we walked around town and just relaxed. We visited David's anomaly one last time.....

It was a nice easy flight home....less than two hours!

It's always nice to go home after a trip. Oh how odd for us both when we really thought about how comforting it was to hear the Dutch language again!


Tuesday, I received a letter in the mail from the Dermatologists office that removed the mole from my forehead. They had done a biopsy and wanted me to call for the results. I called yesterday morning and was told it was negative. Such a relief!


After our trip to Italy I was inspired to make minestrone soup and remembered that I had brought my father-in-law's recipe with me from the States to The Netherlands. He had typed it up for me many many years ago!  I altered it slightly (added more veggies, and no noodles). Yum! Tullio lives on through his recipes.


Quote from Pink song: Sober

..."the quiet scares me 'cause it screams the truth"

Powerful words!  

Since retiring I have found that I savor silence......most days I don't even think about turning on the t.v. (unless I'm ironing and watch a movie!) or even music. So many years of being barraged by so much noise at my job.......I now love quiet! Sure does give me time to reflect....