We arrived in Florence (Firenze), the capital of Tuscany and proceeded to the hotel. It is a luxury boutique hotel in the pedestrian area just a short walk from many of the city’s major sights. We went out to explore and wandered to the Piazza del Doumo to take in view of the iconic Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower. We continued on and crossed the Ponte Vecchio before making our way up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a view of the Florence sky-line. Here Leanne and I waited and watched the sunset. That evening we had an excellent meal at La Bussola.
The next day we visited the Medici Chapel and the Bargello Museum before our reserved entry time into the Uffizi Gallery to see Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. We benefited from being in a city famous for its museums during cultural week. This meant all the museum entries were free for us, but it also meant the crowds could get big midday. When we left the Uffizi there was a torrential downpour. We took shelter against the wall of a building while we waited it out. In the late afternoon the sky cleared and we climbed Giotto’s Bell Tower for an impressive view of the Doumo and city. Our last museum of the day was the Academy of Fine Arts to see the original David statue. We finished our day off with dinner at Buca Mario’s, a restaurant that has been there since 1886.
The next morning we went through Pitti Palace and its museums before heading into the Boboli Gardens. We followed this with lunch at Obika for fresh, regional Burrata and smoked mozzarella. Then we picked-up our rental car and drove illegally through the narrow pedestrian streets to reach our hotel. It was a little stressful and local shop owners were laughing at us. The hotel kindly registered our plates so we wouldn’t get fined. Fortunately they could do this for their guests given their location.
We escaped from the city and travelled out into the Tuscan countryside. We arrived at our multi-level rental villa out in a remote location. Here we were able to enjoy the comforts of home: grocery shopping, home cooked meals, and doing our own laundry. It was a needed break from being on the go. We had a self-catering apartment in part of a larger complex, but we were the only ones staying here. It is an idyllic setting and would be perfect for a large group of friends and family to share space in. There is no road traffic whatsoever and other than the occasional frogs at night it was completely quiet.
It rained heavily the following day and we had limited success exploring. We spent most of our time around the villa after making a short visit to Siena. The following day, however, was a big success as we went to Greve in Chianti to visit the Saturday market. We thought it would be a farmers market, but it felt more like a flea market. Our next stop was to the famous butchery of Dario Cecchini to sample some meats and wine. Following that we drove into a remote area with a beautiful view to have lunch at Osteria Alla Piazza. From there we drove through the incredible countryside to reach the grounds of Barone Ricasoli and did a wine tasting at the birthplace of Chianti Classico. The roads in this region are such a joy to drive. They curve continuously through the beautiful rolling hills and there is minimal traffic. I am so happy our rental had a manual transmission to get the most out of it. I really enjoyed it, but still felt a sense of envy when we would see the occasional motorcycle travelling the other way. Of course, I didn’t feel that way during the brief hailstorm we encountered. I would love to return for a motorcycle trip one day.
With the sun shining we decided to return to Siena. We enjoyed the views and people watching at the Piazza del Campo. In the evening we had our third home cooked meal. All of them were delicious and accompanied with local wine. As a comparison to the cost of wine in Canada, we had the most expensive bottle of white they sold at local supermarket. It cost just over 5 Euro. Many thanks to the chefs Doug, Carol and Leanne for all of the great meals.
I am posting this on the morning of our last day in Tuscany. We have a couple more visits planned before heading to the coast further north. We continue to post photos here. Given the size of the album now it is probably a good thing no photos are allowed in the Florence museums.