S: Tuscany, October 2009
BC: Florence on the last day of our trip
FC: Tuscany October 2009
1: The countryside of Limite sull Arno | The villa owner was so nice! Her name was Giulia, she's a vet, and the house had been in her family for generations. It belonged to her father before her, and his father before that.
2: What an incredible villa! Colle Panicale is located in the town of Limite sull Arno. Once we found it (I had the wrong address, so it took 2 hours instead of 25 minutes) we were so happy! It's so conveniently located! We want to come back year after year. The house was gorgeous with a great layout. There were brick floors throughout, and very cool beamed ceilings. The house had extra charm from additions made over the years. There was a pool, and a great outdoor kitchen & sitting areas, in addition to loads of fruit trees, vineyards & olive groves. The kitchen was a great tradional farmhouse kitchen. There were beautiful views from upstairs where the bedrooms were. David & I had the room shown bottom right opposite page. Great closets! Ellie took the room shown bottom left opposite page and Sam chose to sleep in a twin bed in a loft in her room. There were 2 bedrooms that we didn't even use.
4: A painting we bought near the Pisa Duomo | PISA | PISA
5: Day 2 - Sunday October 11 After a leisurely morning at our wonderful villa, we left for Pisa at 11:45. It took longer than we thought because the roads were tight & curvy, and we stopped many times for pictures. Once we found Pisa, we just followed the signs to Piazza dei Miracolo with only a few wrong turns. We stopped to eat at Pizzeria L'Europeo & realized while we were there that the Leaning Tower (Torre Pendente) & the Duomo were right behind us! After lunch, about 3 pm, we walked to the Tower and all around. When we went to buy tickets to get in, we found that the wait was 2 & 1/2 hours! We were so disappointed because we had been strolling around in no rush. We could have possibly gotten tickets if we'd gone earlier - maybe we'll have to go back sometime! Our plan for the day, however, was to also visit the town of Lucca, about 30 minutes away, also with a tower. We needed to leave before it got too late. On our way back to our car, we were near the Duomo and stopped to admire some paintings by a local street painter - Jan Kolesan (non-Italian). We really like one, a view of the Duomo and bought it. We thought it would be easy to ship it home. It might have been if we'd known how to find a post office more easily.
6: PISA | Lunch at Pizzeria L'Europea, right beside the Leaning Tower
8: San Gimignano Monday, Oct. 12 | We didn't get the early start we'd hoped for today, but it all worked out okay We had woken up to rain and didn't leave the villa until 10:30, not expecting to spend much time in San Gimignano, just enough to the the Museo Civico and the Collegiata. The drive to San Gimignano was absolutely gorgeous, even with the darkened skies. As we got closer, we saw the skyline - what a sight that must have been in the 1300's! At one time the town had 70 towers; now there are only 13. As we parked the car, it looked like the rain was stopping, so we left our raincoats & umbrellas in the car (not smart)!
9: It took us a while to find a place to eat because I was looking for the perfect view. We finally settled for a view only through the windows, but the food was excellent! | As we were searching for a restaurant, the skies were getting darker by the minute. While we were eating a huge storm came, and the restaurant lost power for a little while!
10: When we left the restaurant, we ran to a huge arched area & stood with a group of bus tourists. Then we took off to find the entrance to the Collegiata (we found the exit before we found the entrance!) Once we were in, we took our time because of the rain. I was so excited to have the extra time - the frescoes by Filippo Memmi, Ghirlandaio and Taddeo de Bartolo filled almost every inch of the space, previously a church, built in the 1100's! | San Gimignano in the Rain
11: After the Collegiata we found the Museo Civico and saw what I wanted to see the most-the room on the first floor named after Dante for a speech he gave in 1300, and the last painting by Pinturicchio.
12: The Torre Grossa, enclosed within the Museo Civico had also been on the short list for the day. When we reached the top (175 ft), to our surprise the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared. Seeing the surrounding countryside was the highlight of the day! | San Gimignano
14: Of course we had to stop for Gelato at the Gelateria del Piazza - they had won the World Championship Gelato Competition several times. We all agreed that it was awesome! We wandered around the town for a while, so happy to be able to see it without the rain. | San Gimignano
15: In the afternoon we stopped at the Torre Guelfa for coffee, visited the Museo Criminale (Torture Museum) & ate dinner at Le Vecchio Mura. As we were leaving the town, David got this great picture of the town wall!
16: We actually got up early enough to catch the 8:02 train! We ate at the Florence train station before heading to our meeting location. We were meeting our guide, Giuliana at the column of the Piazza della Repubblica, at 9:30. Giuliana spoke English very well, knew her history and was extremely proud of her city. She explained the history of the square - in the 1800s the area was squalid and was cleaned up when Florence was briefly made the capital of Italy. As sewers were dug to clean up, the foundations of the first Roman town were discovered ten feet down. The one column that remains in the square had been there since Roman times; people had just forgotten why! She took us to the Piazza della Signoria to see the sculptures (the David there now is just a copy). She also took us to the Piazza del Duomo to see the Campanile, the Duomo and the Baptistry. We spent the most time at the doors of the Baptistry (the first set was done by Andrea Pisano in 1329; the other two by Ghiberti after winning a competittion in 1401 - he worked on them for the next 50 years, 21 on the North Doors, then 28 on the East !) We just walked into the main part of the Duomo to see Brunelles-chi's dome and the paintings by Vasari. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to go up the steps. | Florence Tues, Oct 13
18: One of the places we saw with Giuliana that morning was a museum that was once a palazza owned by a wealthy Florentine family in the 1500's. 2 remaining sisters in the 1700's converted the palace into condos. In the 1800s the house was restored to its original conditions by an antiques dealer. We only had a few pics, not worth scrapbooking. The last place we went with her was Santa Croce (Holy Cross), the headquarters of the Franciscans in Florence. It was the burial church for Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Galileo, and "all the famous Italians." In 1966 a flood came through the crypt and made a jumble of mixed bones. All but Galileo (who has a tomb on the main floor) are now buried in common grave - what a sad ending! On the back side of Santa Croce is a leather-workers' school. We got a small private presentation by an apprentice. It was really cool to watch him choose and heat the tools he planned to use, and then Imprint a piece of leather. By the time we left, it was almost 1:30 and we were all starving. The kids were exhausted and ready to sit. She dropped us off at one of her favorite restaurants - Enoteca Boccadama (which happened to be owned & run by the mafia).on the Piazza Santa Croce. The food was great & we were so happy just to have a seat for a while! | SANTA CROCE | Florence
20: Eating (& reading) in Florence | Lunch at Enoteca Boccadama | Dinner at Buca San Giovanni
21: After lunch we decided to wander around town & climbed the stairs of the Campanile (the Bell Tower). It was a great view of the city & the top of the Duomo. We shopped for souvenirs and for a new book for Sam (it turned out to be more difficult to find a bookstore with English books than you would think). By the time we were finished it was almost time for dinner. We found a great place on the edge of the Piazza del Duomo - Buca San Giovanni!
22: Wednesday, Oct 14: We had a very relaxing morning today! We were all up by 8, but not in a hurry to go anywhere. We fed the horses some carrots, and met Giulia's grandfather (the groundskeeper; spoke no English, but so nice). Sam & Ellie befriended a kitten with a bad eye infection. We walked through the olive groves and vineyards, eating grapes right off the vine! There are also fruit trees - pomegranate, cherry, peach, lime, lemon - what a truly awesome place! We drove into town with plans to go to McDonald's for breakfast, but couldn't find it. Instead we went to InCoop, a grocery store, ate yummy sandwiches at their deli, and shopped. It was bigger than the store we'd gone to on Saturday and we had fun wandering the aisles. After the shopping trip, we took some family photos at the villa , then left for Siena. | The Villa Oct 14
24: We had decided to drive to Siena, but I fell asleep as soon as we got in the car - I was the map reader for the trip. David missed the autostrada (highway). It took longer, but was a beautiful drive. | Siena Oct. 14 | By 1:45, we were pretty hungry & not too far from Siena. We stopped at a pizzeria (which, oddly, had no pizza that day). it was called La Perla del Chianti and was in a town called Poggibonsi. We really just ate there because David really likes saying, "Poggibonsi!" While we were there a rather important-looking man entered with another man. He nodded at us and said, "Buon giorno." He nodded at the other family in the restaurant, saying more loudly, "Buon giorno." Then he spread his arms wide and said, "Buon giorno a tutti!" which means, "Good day to all!" This may well be one of the highlights of our whole trip!!! | Siena is gorgeous!
25: After we found Siena, parking and finding the city center weren't so easy. We followed signs to the Piazza del Campo & Duomo Their fan-shaped piazza is huge and quite impressive! Sam insisted on going up the 500 steps of the Torre Mangia, in the Museo Pubblico, and we were so glad we did! The views from the top were beautiful. We were only allowed to stay 15 minutes but it was so windy that we didn't mind. When we came back down we went through the museum and saw Simone Martini's Maesta, 1315, a chapel covered by frescoes by Taddeo di Bartoli, and best of all - The Allegory of Good and Bad Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, 1338. The kids and I had read about these while homeschooling.
26: The guidebook I was using had the last admission to the Duomo at 5:30, and we had just realized it was 5:35! We ran up steps from the Campo, past an unfinished section on the side & around to the front. They were still letting people in! This is probably the most amazing church we'd ever laid eyes on. From the striped black and white marble columns, to the arches and niches, every inch of the church was covered with something spectacular. The carved marble floors may have been the most amazing thing of all. I could have spent hours there, but was happy just to have gone. We left as it was getting dark and cold. We had just an okay dinner, then drove back home.
28: On Thursday we were supposed to meet our guide Giuliana at the same time (9:30), but since we had done it on Wednesday, we ate breakfast at the villa and took a later train in to Florence. We met at the first gate of the Baptistry, but immediately went to the Accadamia to see David. It was awesome to walk past the lines! Giuliana is quite the "crowd swimmer" and can part a crowd like I've never seen. David was quite a site! We also saw other statues, mostly unfinished, by Michel-angelo, and heard his life story. After the tour at the Acca-damia, we had a tour of the Uffizi! It was unbelievable. She went in chronological order, from Cimabue and Giotto, through the High Renaissance, and it was an incredible tour! My favorites, of course, were the Botticellis! Sam & Ellie took books and read periodically, but they did learn a little... | Florence Oct. 15
29: After the Uffizi, we ate at a trattoria near Ponte Vecchio for lunch (no mafia connection this time). We loved the restaurant - Antico Fattore. It is famous and had shelves full of travel books in which they were mentioned! We left there and were wandering around the Ponte Vecchio and were stopped by a very nicely-dressed Italian man. He complimented the family, mentioned that he had been to Harperville, Mississippi (because we were from the South, but what a coincidence) and invited us to his shop. His name is Filippo Asti, of the Asti-Spumante family, and he owns a leather goods shop with beautiful coats. We came away with new coats for Ellie, David and me, along with a free belt for Sam! We looked him up on the internet when we got home and realized that this is what he does - so we make have been taken, but have great memories of the afternoon, as well as awesome coats!
30: Oct. 16 - The Villa & Vinci For Friday we hadn't planned much for the day. We knew we needed to pack, Giulia, the villa owner had scheduled a horseback riding lesson with the kids, and we wanted to see Leonardo's town of Vinci. We got sad news from Wo that Nanny had passed away, Giulia had the flu and had to cancel the lessons, so needless to say, all were sad. (Ellie was encircled by cats as she cried!) We did find the town of Vinci, had lunch at a great pizzeria, & toured a Leonardo Museum that was interesting, but on the dinky side, Only as we were driving out of town, we realized that it wasn't the main Museum! Guess we'll have to see it the next time.
31: It worked out okay that the kids didn't get to ride the horses. We had been semi-communica-ting with Giulia's grandfather all week. Late Friday afternoon, he came, but also had his wife, Lucia with him. We walked around the grounds with them as they fed the animals - cool!. We decided we wanted sushi for dinner and knew we had passed a place in Empoli, but it was while we were lost. We found it easily and it was awesome!
32: After saying goodbye to Giulia and the cats, we drove into Florence to find our hotel - we just kind of happened upon it! We checked in and went into the city. We started off towards San Lorenzo, which has the unfinished facade. We got sidetracked at a cool market, but still made it. Unfortunately, the Leonardo marble staircase was closed. Next we went to San Marco to see the works of Fra Angelico. This had been one of my top priorities of the trip and it was so worth it! Right across from the church we stopped for gelato - it was the most expensive of our trip because it was served in silver goblets (we didn't realize it when we placed the order)! It was 4:30 by that time and we wanted to go to the other end of town, to San Miniato Al Monte, a church on a hill overlooking the city, by 5:00; so we took the first taxi ride of the trip. We made it in time to accidentally sit in on Mass, but left and waited in the outer chapel and heard what we came to hear: monks in Gregorian chant. It was such a cool way to end the trip! We walked past the Palazza Pitti (the last home of the Medici - top middle above), found a restaurant, ate quickly and almost missed the shuttle back to the hotel! | Florence Oct. 15
33: San Miniato Al Monte | Piazza del Michaelangelo | Views from San Miniato al Monte