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First day in Florence, Italy, and the city has already taken my breath away countless times.
Pappardelle sul cinghiale for lunch, Piazza del duomo with its majestuous dome, Campanile and Battistero, Piazza della Repubblica, Mercato Nuovo, Piazza della Signoria dominated by the Palazzo Vecchio, watching the sunset from the Ponte Vecchio, and having a pizza for diner in front of Santo Spirito. These were our first stops in the Città dell’Arte during our amazing, short, yet very busy, afternoon. 15 kilometers were walked and 50 floors were climbed. Can’t wait to see what other wonders Tuscany has to offer…
Iphone reports 18 kilometers walked and 80 floors climbed… and our legs and feet are dead. Following a stroll in the Mercato Centrale, climbing the 463 steps in the Duomo after a more than two-hour long queue did help to reach these numbers! Thankfully, new encounters helped survive this necessary wait, wait that was very well rewarded by the stunning view of Florence from the top of the cupola. The cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore was next, followed by a walk in the wide Boboli garden full of sculptures, and the charming Bardini garden.
The highlight of the day was to watch the spectacular sunset on the Arno River from the Piazzale Michelangelo.
Visiting Florence is like being in an amusement park with historical monuments and art as attractions. Today was very “Michelangelo-y”!
From San Lorenzo church and its beautiful library, to the Galleria dell’Academia, home to the “David”, without forgetting the marvellous Cappelle Medicee, Michelangelo’s work of art surrounded us and amazed us from beginning ’til end of the day.
San Marco and the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata were also part of our day, as well as the famous bistecca alla Fiorentina that I finally got to taste and a well-earned dinner at the Osteria del Porcellino next to Mercato Nuovo.
Last full day in Florence! Early rise to visit the Uffizi gallery and its impressive art collection. Four hours were barely enough to see each of its wonders. One of the great surprises we had there was this stunning view of the Ponte Vecchio reflected in the Arno river.
For lunch, Tuscan/Italian specialties at Antico Fattore were a must: ribollita, pici al ragú bianco, fiori di zucchine fritte…
Our meal was followed by the visit of Santa Croce, where Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli, Galileo, Rossini and other great Italian figures rest today.
All in all, today was not as heavy as the previous days, but just as beautiful. A chill evening was very much needed!
This morning was again an early departure: we kissed Florence goodbye and embraced Siena’s beauty.
The city is a maze of high brick facades, one of which possesses the world’s smallest window. While wandering around, we got lost and discovered tons of small mysterious passages leading to beautiful hidden places that were so peaceful. I like to think we were the only ones to ever set eyes on them.
We visited the Cathedral Santa Maria Assunta and its baptistery, climbed to the top of the Facciatone, went back and forth on the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo with its Palazzo Publico and Torre del Mangia where we were stunned by the most amazing view on the Tuscan landscape.
We finished the day in music in the Palazzo Chigi Saracini with a guitar concert, which was followed by an amazing dinner at Enoteca I Terzi where I got to taste the most amazing lamb in a “vino Santo” sauce.
We left Siena to go to Montepulciano, city of wine and underground tunnels. Our bus drove by beautiful Tuscan landscapes full of cypress trees and romantic isolated villas in which I totally picture myself living my golden years…
When we arrived, it was already time for lunch at “Le Logge del Vignola” to taste new specialties: pappa al pomodoro and tagliatelle al tartufo nero.
The village of Montepulciano is so enchanting, it was difficult not to stop at every narrow alley leading to the amazing view of the Tuscan countryside (i.e. every 2 seconds)…
Wine was flowing at every corner, diverse olive oils flavored with different aromatic herbs were displayed in every single shop…
I left my heart in Montepulciano!
Our return to Florence was delayed (a lot…), but we did finally end up in our cozy hotel room after more than an hour spent on the rails in a gloomy night train that made me feel like I was in the Hogwart Express!
A day in Pisa
We took the train early in the morning and walked all the way from Pisa’s train station to its Piazza dei Miracoli.
From afar, we could already distinguish the famous leaning tower of Pisa, and I must say that even if it is such an Italian cliché and you totally expect to see it lean, you’re still surprised and wowed when you witness it with your very own eyes for the first time!
It’s like a real miracle…
Climbing the tower was as impressive as the tower itself, and the feeling you get at the top is priceless! It’s like you can slip, slide and fall at anytime…
I couldn’t help taking the classic picture with the tower!
The cathedral, the baptistery and the Camposanto Monumentale are majestic too, yet not as much as the ones we’ve seen so far in Florence and Siena.
Before heading back to Florence, we stopped for lunch at “Osteria dei Miei Sapori” where we ordered excellent pappardelle alla lepre and amazing branzino alla griglia con verdure.
Our journey back to our hotel was made very long, tiring and full of waits by the strikes in the public transports. It was a relief to finally step off in Florence after an hour standing in a hot wagon. Our dinner at “La Ménagère” was well earned!
We finally allowed ourselves to sleep a little more than usual today!
After a cup of tea/coffee at Guibbe Rosse (historic literary café), a little bit of shopping, and a quick lunch, we met our tour guide at Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station: today was wine tasting day!
We toured in the Chianti region from one winery to another (Poggio Amorelli and Lornano) and ended by a visit of the village/fortress of Monteriggioni
Despite a delay of 30 minutes and an empty gas tank that stopped us for at least another 30 minutes, the experience was amazing and unforgettable! Tuscany definitely changed my vision and appreciation of wine.
Now, we’re back in Florence with 4 bottles of wine, a huge smile on our faces, and great memories.
Last day in Tuscany…
We decided to end our trip with a visit of the village of San Gimignano!
Entering this fortress is like traveling back to medieval times with authentic stone buildings and that special “ancient” atmosphere. Spending the day in San Gimignano is a real time-traveling experience.
Of the 72 towers that gave the village its reputation of “old New York”, 13 remain today, making the city very recognizable from far away. We had the famous panino porchetta for lunch and bought many mouth-watering tuscan products.
Back in Florence, we did our last shopping for souvenirs and had dinner at Buca Mario, which was many times recommanded to us: crostini with buratta, smoked salmon and truffles, fresh cappellacci al burro e salvia, lamb all’aglio with rosemary and roasted potatoes, and cantucci alla mandorla with vino santo, were our 4 divine choices for our last diner in Florence.
We then took a short walk to the Ponte Vecchio to say our goodbyes, to the Uffizi gallery where we stopped to listen to a duo of violonists, and back to the hotel.
A romantic evening that will mark my whole trip in Tuscany.
Our stay in Florence came to an end and we are now in Geneva for a day.
I left Italy very nostalgic, thinking back to all the beauties I saw, all the wonders I tasted, and all the dreams that came true during our trip.
Florence was far better than what I used to think and Tuscany in general is more beautiful than all those clichés I had in mind before landing on the land of art.
I’ll always keep the best memories of this little part of the world that has been sharing so much with all of us for such a long time…
See more pictures on www.our-odysseys.com
With U-Members: Matteo Amen