off to Florence - part 1:
Monday - off to Florence/Tuscany. Spotted lots of apple/grape and maybe some olive farms on the busride. Quick lunch at Autogrill Cantagallo, the Italian equivalent of a Howard Johnson's on the highway, just south of Bologna (except that the food was quite good).
Made it to the Hotel Silla, and after dodging some bikers, made it into the hotel, unpacked, took a walk around (the hotel is a bridge away from the Ponte Vecchio, so had to check that out), and back for a quick welcome glass of wine, a chat on Italian history by Trish, and then a Renaissance walk around Florence. Buildings from the 13th century, the Duomo complex (which included an impressive cathedral, decorated on the outside in the 1860's, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, with an incredible dome (Brunelleschi's Dome), a Baptistery (the bronze doors! (the real doors are at the Duomo’s museum)), and a campanile). We were also introduced to Edoardo, a gelataia near the Duomo. 56 thumbs up if I was counting. Finally after a bit more wandering, a group dinner at Giglio Rosso (pasta 3 ways - ravioli with creamy tomato sauce, gnocchi with cheese sauce, plus Spaghetti all'Amatriciana (spicy) - i think it was spaghetti, could be a different pasta, sauce was great). Then florentine steak (unseasoned), but with arugula (peppery) and parmesan (salty) so no need to season it. Then dessert. Thankfully, one of our tour-mates (Troy) had a birthday that day so we had a selection of desserts along with the birthday cake (almond). Oh yes, and afterward, the digestifs were passed. Wow! Our eldest son Breton had a sip of limoncello. Not a gateway drink!
Tuesday - first breakfast at the hotel - much fun this morning with the pancake machine and especially the automatic hot coffee/espresso machine. Tour of the Palazzo Davanzati, a 15th century palace with our Florence guide Angelo. Also, various other neighborhoods, a somewhat nondescript church with an interesting piece of religious art from a teenage artist from back in the 15th century, more walking and then lunch that we made ourselves at In Tavola, a cooking school. A fun 3 hour lunch! Homemade pasta (in our group, my youngest son Evan took control of the pasta making machine), a chicken/mushroom dish, and tiramisu. The kids ate way way too much! With some free time, we walked around the neighborhood near the hotel, and did a little window shopping here and there.
Dinner was on our own, so we went to Osteria Antica Mescita San Niccolò near the hotel, and had a light dinner, given what we did for lunch. Eating outside, we chatted with a mother/daughter from the Boston area at the next table, and a nice couple from St Louis who were seated next to them. Funny how one does things like that on vacation and seldom at home!
Wednesday, gallery day! Starting out at the Uffizi gallery with Angelo and Tanya, another Florence based guide. Got to see original artwork from Botticelli (Birth of Venus, La Primavera), Francesca (Duke and Duchess of Urbino), Uccello (Battle of San Romano), Titian (Venus of Urbino) or yes, and Michelangelo (Doni Tondo), among countless others . I’ve seen these works in books and elsewhere, but until you see the originals... Just speechless. And yes, plenty of religious artwork also from the 15th century (Raphael, Giotto, Fabriano…), too many to mention. After the Uffizi, came lunch time and some free time spent in the Galileo museum.