Posts Tagged ‘italy’

Today was our last day in Italy before our trip home. We booked a full day tour in Tuscany and it was awesome!

Our first stop was in San Gimignano and it was a quaint, charming medieval town on a hill with 14 remaining towers but originally had over 70!

We strolled the streets, visited the church and climbed the Torre Grosse (holy crap was it windy up there!) and the last stairs/ladder to the top was very steep – not for the faint of heart. This was the view as we approached the town gates:

After entering the gates, one main street:

Peeking down a side street:

Chris with the Torre del Diavolo (see the horns?):

Duomo di San Gimignano:

Torre Grosse:

Up we go!

View from the top of the twins:

Caged bells at the very top:

Inside the duomo:

Great paintings along the sides depicting stories:

The last supper:

Noah and the ark:


Next stop was lunch at a winery called Casa Frasse. We had 2 wine tastings in the courtyard, then had lunch including antipasto, then pasta, then a main course, then panna cotta for dessert. It was good!

Next stop was Siena!

The middle guy is Dante:

The she-wolf, related to the legend of Remus and Romulus:

The square (Piazza del Campo) where the famous Palio annual horse race occurs. Siena is split into 17 districts or “contrada”, each represented by an animal whose emblem is posted on the buildings of the district so you can easily see which contrada you’re in. Read more about the Palio here – it sounds like a great event!

The duomo in Siena – so beautiful with three different colors of marble (white, green and red):


Last stop was the fortress of Montereggione which protected and defended Siena.

Vineyard and olive trees outside the town walls:


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We slept in today – no tours planned (except for this evening). We visited the Bargello museum, well-known for Renaissance sculpture.  It was very beautiful:

Michelangelo’s Bacchus:

Giambologna’s Flying Mercury:

In the ivory section – cool game board:

Donatello’s David in bronze:

Donatello’s David in marble:

Jason and the golden fleece:

There was a porcelain section – this piece caught my eye – pretty:

As well as an armor and weapons section:

Check out that middle helm – intimidating!

I liked that there were people sitting and drawing:

We got some shopping done today as well since it was our last chance before our full day outing tomorrow. We picked up some goodies for us as well as some souvenirs.

Wallet for me 🙂

Gloves for Chris:



Had to try an aperol spritz:

Tonight we had booked a dinner and wine tasting at a private Tuscan villa and it was fabulous:

The garden:

Olive trees:

Couple of pics of us with that view:

In the cellar for the first tasting (white blend) and bruschetta:

In the dining area for antipasto (below) and the pasta (pasta with pesto) and main course (pork, salad, potatoes) – with tastings of 2 red wines (I forgot to take pics!!) and dessert (cantucci with vin santo). It was a lovely evening and we met great people as well.


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It was a rainy day today so we moved our Tuscany tour to Tuesday instead and took it easy today.

We strolled over to the Spedale degli Innocenti just to see the outside. We went to visit the San Lorenzo church to see Donatello’s tomb.

Then we headed to the Galileo museum which was a pleasant surprise as well – very cool:




Look at the huge telescope:

Chemistry set:

I only got a night shot of the San Lorenzo church:

We went back to Za Za for dinner. This time we shared a caprese salad to start. I had the beef tenderloin with rosemary potatoes and Chris had the Tuscan white beans with sausage and sage. I had tiramisu for dessert and Chris had strawberries with lemon and sugar.

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Another early start and we were 2nd in line at the Uffizi Museum (with our Firenze card in hand). The Uffizi is the larger museum that holds great Renaissance works of art. It’s a must see for any art-lovers in Florence. Getting there early allows pics of the building without the horde of tourists. Bonus! 🙂


Birth of Venus:


When we were there, an exhibit on the restoration of Leonardo Da Vinci’s work was on display – very interesting to see his original drawings that became an unfinihsed painting:

View of the Uffizi (both sides) and the Palazzo Vecchio in the background:

Loggia dei Lanzi – outside the Uffizi:

Quick walk over to Santa Trinita church:

Next stop – Santa Croce with many well-known tombs:


The cloisters

The lucky pig – if you rub its snout, it brings you good luck:

The Mercato Vecchio:

We visited the Palazzo Vecchio:

Dante’s mask (any Dan Brown fans out there?):

Chris climbed another tower. 🙂

Great shots of Florence and the Duomo from up there:

And of Santa Croce:


Night shots of the Palazzo:

Nearby carousel:

Duomo buildings:

For lunch, we had a tagliere (board) for 2 at La Prosciutteria – yummy:

Lunch at La Prosciutteria - tagliere for 2

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After having walked past a few times already, today was the day we would visit the famous Duomo and related buildings. We got an early start (there were only a handful of people in the piazza at 8am – in a couple of hours it would be a madhouse) and visited St. John’s Baptistry first:

Next was the bell tower – or the Campanile, which Chris climbed all the way to the top – I stayed at the first platform. Lots of great pics from the various viewing points. The stairs were pretty steep but Chris was a trooper and climbed all 414 steps!

Front of the Duomo on our way to the tower:

View from the glassed-in first platform:

From from the 2nd:

One of the stairways – pretty steep:

View of Santa Croce:

View down into the tower – you can see me in the green top:

More stairs!

The very top – all caged in for safety reasons:

Gorgeous view of the Duono from the top:

These are the steps to the top. If you have claustrophobia, may not be your cup of tea:

Next we visited the Museo dell’opera which housed Duomo-related art and plans for the building. This was a  pleasant surprise as well.

The doors from St. John’s Baptistry:

Another of Michelangelo’s Pieta – this one was meant for his eventual tomb, however, he took a hammer to it because he found a flaw in the marble. It was eventually put back together and is now on display in the museum.

Many exhibits about the building of the Duomo and plans and ideas for the facade; this whole wing was very interesting.

Gorgeous and HUGE:

With me, for size perspective:

By this time, it was 10:30 and there was a line at the Duomo that we didn’t want to wait around in, so we decided to come back at end of day (and waited only 5 mins!). For now, we continued on to the Pitti Palace, which took us over the Ponte Vecchio:


Palazzo Pitti:

We visited the Palatine Gallery and Royal Apartments:

View of the gardens from the window (more on those later):

(Sorry for the Game of Thrones reference – but – we found a painting of Bran in the palace!)

The Medici symbol was everywhere in Florence:

Onward to the Boboli Gardens right behind the palace. We only did a fraction of them – they are very large and our feet were killing us at this point, but we wanted to enjoy some green space.

We sat on a shaded bench and were quickly approached by several birds (looking for food most likely) – sorry buddy!

Me holding my leather purse purchase on the Ponte Vecchio. Swoon.

After this, we headed back over to the Duomo to see how the line looked and we got in very quickly! For all the intricacy of the outside, the inside is rather simple.

We wet down into the crypt underneath the church:

This wasn’t actually on display but with my awesome zoom and strategic placement between metal bars, we got a pic of some unlucky fellow:

Night shot:

For dinner we had reservations at the Club Culinario Toscana da Osvaldo and it was fabulous. We shared the fried zucchini flowers to start. I had fresh pasta with pork rib and Chris had the lamb stew. Delicious. For dessert, Chris had the tiramisu and I had a chocolate raspberry tart (it was warm! yummy).


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We took the fast train from Rome to Florence (1.5 hours, very efficient and modern) and dropped our bags off at the hotel, then off to pick up our Firenze Card and over to the Accademia to see David. 🙂

This was the view outside of our hotel 🙂 Great location down the street from the Duomo.

The Galleria dell’Accademia had some nice art, the main draw being Michelangelo’s David but there were other works of note as well.

David – 20 feet tall, much larger than expected:

View with people to provide some perspective at the size of the statue:

Next stop was the Medici Chapel – where the tombs of the Medicis are. This was a pleasant surprise – very beautiful.

The massive size of the tombs showed beyond a doubt how wealthy they were:

Restoration going on:

With me in the photo – just to provide size perspective. They are massive.

Next stop Santa Maria Novella:

I wasn’t sure that the pics of the stained glass would do it justice but they turned out pretty good!

See the line on the floor that ends to the left of the door? That’s the line of the Tropic of Capricorn (more on that in a second).

This was in the middle of the floor with a line running from it to the left side of the main door. At a certain time of year – solstice (day, hour, minute), the sun comes through the window and illuminates this sun. Neat.

The area outside the church (cloisters) was beautiful as well.

We had a very filling lunch at Za Za and were too full/tired so skipped dinner! Chris raved about his spaghetti carbonara and my ravioli with tomato and basil cream sauce was pretty tasty too!

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Today, we booked a skip-the-line tour of the Colisseum and the Roman Forum. It was amazing. The information we learned about how the Colisseum was built and what it was used for was amazing. Our guide showed us pictures/drawings of how it would have looked back in the day and described the types of games that took place (animals, gladiators, etc.) as well as the architecture of the building itself. Fascinating. Made me want to watch Gladistor again just to visualize the building, etc.

When we visited, they actually were preparing for a concert (charity show by Andrea Bocceli) so the equipment normally wouldn’t be there (ha!). It took them 7 years to build the Colosseum – that in itself is incredible.

Notice the roman numerals above the arch – that indicated which section you were seated in. This one shows XVIII. The people of Rome had a membership and were assigned a “section”, but not a seat. Folks arrived and spent all day at the Colosseum to enjoy the games with their families.

When the roman empire fell, many people lived in the Colosseum and eventually, they took apart all the pieces that they could sell for money, specifically the metal. So, where there used to be metal “clamps” holding two blocks together are now holes in the walls. Eventually most of the marble and all of the metal used to build the Colosseum was looted.

A piece of original floor:

Under the floor was where the men who fought, the animals and the gladiators – it was dark, smelly, torch-lit and generally unpleasant. It cost thousands of dollars to bring one exotic animal to fight in the games. They wanted to show the reach and power of the roman empire so the more exotic animals they were able to bring back to Rome, the more they demonstrated their reach and their wealth.

There are conflicting stories about whether men and women (same family) sat together or not. Gladiators were the “studs” or “rockstars” of their day and one story says the men and women sat separately; the women sat in the very top rows under the awning, as far away from the Gladiators as possible. However, because the awning equipment was quite complicated to maneuver, apparently sailors had to be hired to work the system of pulleys and ropes so although the women were kept away from the Gladiators, they were close to the sailors… LOL 🙂

The vestal virgins used to sit where the cross is below. Young girls were selected (it was an honor for them to be chosen) to be a Vestal Virgin and for 30 years, they served in the role. They took a vow of chastity for the duration and they were not allowed to have children. They also trained the next set of Vestal Virgins. If they broke one of the rules, they were buried alive. No mercy in those times.

Public bathroom – all located on the ground floor of the Colosseum. Everyone shared a bench and used sticks that were left in a gutter in front of the bench that had running water to clean themselves after going to the bathroom. Ew.

After the Colosseum, our guide continued on to the Roman Forum.

This is the view from the back and shows the inner ring; the outer ring was destroyed in this area. You can see the base of the outer ring still on the ground (it looks like a white curb/sidewalk in the photo below) but that’s really where the outer ring would have been:

Notice how high the door is from the ground in the below picture. That’s because back in the day, the ground actually was at the same level as the door. The columns were buried several feet in the ground to make them more solid. They never got looted because the roman people were unable to pull them down with ropes (see the indents of rings in the columns a few feet below the capitas – those were made by ropes) because they were so solid.

The bottom steps show a children’s game (getting stones in the right circle) that the kids used to play while they waited for their parents to do their shopping and socialize at the Forum.

This was interesting. At the bottom is the ancient town hall ruins and the new one was built on top of it. For 2000 years this building was used as a town hall, old and new built in the same spot:

We had lunch at Ginger Salute e Sapori; for dessert we had the best tiramisu ever.

After lunch, off to the Pantheon we went to see the inside.

View without people:

View with people:

We visited Sant’Ignazio di Loyola specifically to see the trompe l’oeil dome. The church didn’t have funds to build a dome so they hired a painter to paint one to show the effect of a dome instead.

Painting of a dome:

The last stop was a stroll to the Spanish Steps. In our confused navigation, we ended up climbing a back staircase only to find ourselves at the top of the Spanish Steps and then we climbed down them. 🙂 I was winded!!!

For dinner we found a spot called Ai Tre Scalini and it was fabulous. We sat at the bar and enjoyed a glass of wine and aperitivo (snacks) while we waited for a table.

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