Tuscany: Florence Day 3

During our visit to Florence we also visited Uffizi Gallery and the Academia to see famous works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello and others. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed so I can not share my experience with you. Both museums are a must see to your visit to Florence.
We also spent time on this often photographed bridge Ponte Vecchio. The bridge which dates back to 972 has been destroyed in the past by floods but now serves a shopping district for jewelry.

On our last day of florence we visited the Boboli Gardens located behind the Pitti Palace. The peaceful gardens were a nice break from the busy and bustling tourist districts.
The gardens house many historic and contemporary artworks.

 Egyptian obelisk

Turtles holding up the obelisk?

Fountain of Neptune

Casino del Cavaliere(Porcelain Museum)

Views from the garden

Monkey business

Garden tunnel

Lemon trees at Isolotto’s Basin

Man’s best friend.

Some contemporary art

Grotticina di Vulcano grotto of Vulcan)

The Dwarf Morgante by Valerio Cigoli
Very interesting.

The gardens are another must see on your visit to Florence. As you can see, there is so much to do in Florence. Please don’t cut your visit short and rush through it in a day or two. To fully enjoy all that Florence has to offer, I would stay at least 3-4 days.
Happy travels!

Tuscany: Florence Day 2

For our second day in Florence we visited the Palazzo Vecchio

We started the day visiting the Cathedral Museum in Florence. It has a good collection of renaissance sculpture. We were able to view many pieces by famous artists. Below are pictures of some interesting works of art.

Michelangelo – Pietà

reliefs of Luca della Robbia (1400-1482) – original marble

After as stop at the museum we went nearby to visit the Palazzo Vecchio. This palace/fortress had many uses throughout the years. Now it is available to tourists as a museum and a government building to the people Florence.

On the way to the Palazzo Vecchio we took a stop at the Piazza della Signoria  to see   Bartolommeo Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus

We also came across Benvenuto Cellini’s statue Perseus With the Head of Medusa

First noticeable is the famous tower of the palace.

Inside there are many interesting ceiling patterns.

Artwork inside the Hall of Lilies.

Hall of Maps

More interesting ceiling decor.

Artwork from the Sala dell’Udienza

Sala de la Audiencia de Francesco Salviati

Salone dei Cinquecento

View from the terrace.

There are many museums to see in Florence but these should remain in the must see.

Tuscany: Florence Day 1

Upon my two prior visits I have always wanted to visit Florence. When I took humanities in college, many of the great works I learned about resided in Florence. It was the center of Renaissance and the beneficiary of many wealthy and talent residents in its past.

We stayed at the Il Ghiro Guest House. It was centrally located and not far from the train station. It wasn’t fancy but it was clean and we had a private bathroom. It only got a bit noisy at times but that is what to expect from hostels. The highlight of our evenings was coming back to our hostel and seeing “gypsies” that we had seen begging earlier in the day with sad eyes. In the evening they had beers and were all smiles.

We started our first day climbing the 414 steps of the campanile (or bell tower) of Florence’s famous Duomo.

From the top we had great views of the Duomo and Baptistry.

Look down the middle….

Also below we saw a parade go by.

And how can I forget these great views of the city.

After the bell tower we wandered around town a bit and stop to look at some statues.

Fountain of Neptune

We happened upon a flag fight.

The best part of the day is when we were there the same time as the Florence Wine Event. We decided to take part.

Carlos demonstrating the proper way to carry around your wine glass. Why don’t they have these bags at wine events in the USA?

And as the day comes to a close we head back to our hostel for a good nights sleep. Ciao!

Orvieto

At the end of my last Italy trip we spent 1 night in the Umbrian town of Orvieto, Italy. Orvieto resides on top of a large volcanic tufa. The city was started during Etruscan times and the location chosen due to its safety from invaders. Upon arriving to the city by train, you have the choice to ascend to the city center by bus or by funicular. For our arrival, we chose to take the funicular.
From the city one can experience spectacular views of surrounding areas.
Most spectacular in the city is the city’s Duomo. This gothic church has one of the most magnificent facades that I have ever seen. So many details were put into the decor of this cathedral.

The facade was restored in 1995 so now all can clearly see scenes depicted on the outside.

Also amazing are the wall sculptures that depict scenes of the old and new testament.

Some of it can be quite disturbing, especially the hell scenes.

You will also notice many statues lining around the rose window.

These bronze doors were added in the 1960’s.

Metal statues with the symbols (Angel, Ox, Lion, Eagle) of the Evangelists appear on the exterior.

The glittering mosaics pick up light during parts of the day to make a spectacular vision of the church.

Also noticeable are other symbols such as the  Star of David located in the front of the church.

Inside the church are some frescos of the life of the Virgin Mary among many other notable works.

The outside of the cathedral is very ornate but you will notice the interior to be much more simple in design.

Orvieto Unground

Besides the duomo another amazing part of Orvieto is the the Underground. The underground consists of caves under the city that were originally used by the Etruscans.

While underground we learned one of the caves was used to make olive oil .

For a time the caves were used as a cellar.

Pigeons were kept for food. It is still a dish to be found in the region.

Great vistas from the underground.

More pigeon caves

Tranquil path outside the underground

Also in Orvieto we visited an archaeological museum with artifacts dug up locally.

Orvieto proved to be a good choice for a short visit before returning home. I advise one to stop by if you happen to be touring central Italy. You will not see many cathedrals quite like the one here. Additionally the underground tour is a unique experience as well.

Tuscany: Pisa

A short trip by train from Florence (1.5 hours) gets you to the university town of Pisa, Italy. The historic Italian town is famous for its leaning tower. It proved a great day trip from Florence.

The stairs are worn from usage.

Shadow of the tower

Halfway through the climb

Cathedral

Pisa Baptistry of St. John

Love the river cities

Great mountain views

Romulus and Remus fed by a wolf

Tuscan Towns: San Gimignano & Siena

Tuscany has it share of quaint towns and cities. Two of them are San Gimignano and Siena.

San Gimignano

San Gimignano is known for all its towers. The town is full of towers making a landscape you won’t see anywhere else. Unfortunately the day we visited was a rainy day but we were still able to enjoy some lovely views.

Siena

Siena is another great Tuscan town with great architecture. We only wandered around for a day but I wish we would have spent a day or two exploring this town and taking in its culture.

In the history of Siena, the town was broken down in districts or contradas. I believe that we walked by this one which I think used to be Oca (Goose).

Tuscan Towns : Cortona & Chiusi

During my last trip to Italy I was able to spend a few wonderful days in Tuscany. I shared a villa in Foiano della Chiana near Cortona with some girlfriends (and Carlos). We were required to rent a car to get from town to town to explore. We had to get one of the larger cars with trunk space due to the the requirements to hold luggage for 4 women (and 1 guy’s backpack). It proved challenging at first to try to maneuver the car around the roads but we soon got the hang of it. We made sure that enough of us got international driving permits so the driving was distributed among us and not one taking the brunt work of driving everywhere.
Trying to find our villa was very difficult. The directions were vague, and in kilometers (we are not used to the metric system). After a detour down a bumpy dirt road through someone’s farm (my friend swears we were supposed to turn down that road) we eventually find our villa. I wish I had taken more pictures, it really was a great and relaxing villa to return to after sightseeing all day.

Our first night this happens.

This guy is staying with us as well.

The villa contained 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths and a full working kitchen that we used a few nights to make our own dinners. The weather was perfect for open windows and outdoor dining. Out by the resort style pool was a magnificent view and rows of rosemary and lavender bushes in bloom. It really was blissful lounging by the pool, hearing the sounds of bees and nature in the background, and smelling lavender and rosemary while you are reading a book. I can’t think of too many better things in life….except maybe food. Food is kind of great too. I would say my only complaint was the washer that took took 2 hours to wash clothes. I didn’t mind hanging them to dry (I prefer more environmentally friendly) except we did have rain one day and all our wet clothes got more wet.
Exploring near by town of Cortona was fun.

Cortona

Chiusi

One of the day trips we took was to Chiusi. Chuisi has some of the best Etruscan tombs. Unfortunately I did not take any photos but I do have video that I will hopefully upload one day. During our visit to the city center we got to witness a day of games from the bell tower.

National Archaeological Museum