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Published: February 17th 2016
Together in Florence!Benvenuto a
A beautiful clear day to climb to the top of the famous Duomo cathedral.
the blog of our Italian Rendezvous. Mama Mia and Jessi Leigha. Each traveling from opposite sides of the world - Mama from Michigan, USA and Jessie from Ankara, Turkey. A 12-day tour where every day and every activity is considered icing on the cake of just being able to share time together. Buonappetito!
First stop, Florence. This is the place of Chianti and olive oil. They wouldn’t dare serve their pane without the accompanying olive oil! And for those who are oil snobs (which we now consider ourselves to be), it should be biologic (i.e., organic). Molto buono! So food is often a priority in my mind, but in this Renaissance city of approximately 350,000, art takes a close second – perhaps even first. Oh, the beauty and perfection of Michelangelo’s David. Worth traveling to Europe if only to see this. But there’s more – multiple galleries and cathedrals of more! Enough colorful frescoes, Madonna’s, and marble sculptures to make you dream in Renaissance Technicolor. Warming up our calves and toes, we begin to accumulate the miles of scrambling over Italian cobblestone streets as we explore it all and search out the
Can you spot us?
A friend snapped this shot of the Duomo from another vantage point at the exact time that we were on the top ring of the cupola.
best locales for authentic local foods. Because Jessie’s most favorite food in the world is truffle mac and cheese, and because this is the location of the top truffles in the world, I arrange a surprise day trip to the Tuscan countryside to hunt the fragrant and delicate white truffle. Perhaps one of my favorite memories of the trip is the mixed overwhelming joy, shock, and emotion on her face when our guide, meeting us early in the morning, explains to her our plans for the day. This was a truly incredible opportunity to hunt with the expertise of Francesca and her special trained dog, Ciocco. This adorable little water terrier can sniff out the truffle spores as they are released – a matter of timing within minutes of their release. After the hunt, a gourmet lunch featuring multiple truffle dishes and wines was prepared by her and her family and served in her family country home. Magnifico! From there we drive the hills to an eco-winery, San Michele a Torri, where we learn the art of tasting wine and the reason to do so in moderation. 😊
Next we catch a bus to the
463 steps up and 463 steps down.
Climbing down from the Duomo, you can see the "dome within a dome" design.
Tuscan town of Siena. Built on 3 hills, this Gothic Renaissance (no, that’s not an oxymoron) town charms us up, down, and around every narrow and steep cobblestone street that we traverse. Standing in the impressive Il Campo Square at city center, we suddenly realize where the color “Siena brown” got its name! The bricks and buildings are the obvious inspiration. To catch some expansive Tuscan views, we subject ourselves to more climbing, but this time up narrow, winding, and somewhat dubious steps in the Siena Duomo and the Il Campo Tower (approx. 400 steps each) – both circa 1200’s. Breathe in the fresh air! This is the place to ponder the history of Europe and religion and to compare and contrast to our own as well as that of other cultures. These are the topics to which Jessie and I seem to gravitate most as we wander and take it all in.
Next, we relax in an Italian motor coach for a 3 hr. scenic trip south to Rome, our final destination. Roma, the center of the Roman Empire during their 1000-year reign from 500BC to 500AD. So much past and present to appreciate in this
Fresco ceiling of the Duomo - 1500's
We were able to be right up against the paintings as part of the climb to the top.
city. Our wonderful B&B hostess, Lucilla, helps us to plan out days and suggests favorite Roman restaurants and off we go! We imbibe the joy and warmth radiating from the Pope during his Wednesday address to the people, study the ruins at the Roman Forum and Colosseum, hike and explore Rome’s piazzas, water fountains, and parks, battle the crowds through the Vatican Museum, gape at the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s basilica, and eat more than our fair share of homemade pastas and fresh mozzarella. Each night we fall into bed, feet and legs aching and tingling from all the walking. In the park at the Borghese villa, we chance rent a 2-person bike and laugh and sing ourselves silly trying to handle this power assist contraption with spongy brakes and slow response steering.
Ciao! It's our last day in Italy. We hop on a smooth high-speed train (300kph) to Naples followed by a slightly rickety regional train to Pompei in order to explore the fabled ruins. Standing for the 40 minute ride in the packed regional train, I find myself smiling and laughing inwardly at all the cacophony of conversation on the train. Hands animatedly gesturing
Santa Croce church
The peaceful aura and the tombs of so many famous Florentines (Michelangelo, Leonardo DaVinci, Mussolini, Gallileo etc...) made this my favorite cathedral.
as they express themselves. This is a loud place! The vision of the austere, perfectly composed Koreans, 90% on their cell phones when on public transportation, is such a contrast to this place. Perhaps similar could be said of our own American culture as well. Rarely would an Italian choose a cell phone if there were someone to share a conversation with. I am going to miss simply listening and watching the Italians converse. Once at the ruins, we join an impromptu tour group and spend the next 3 hours in amazement. When Mt. Vesuvius erupted, hot ash blanketed Pompei and resulted in leaving us with a preserved moment of life in the Roman Empire, 1st century AD. Surprising to view how really modern and comfortable their lives were, complete with amenities like second floor toilets, heated steam rooms, fast food counters with brick oven cooked breads, public water spickets, and mosaic floors with warnings to “beware of dog” at the entry. Returning back to our B&B “home” after yet another long day, our last Italian purchase is a small, hard ball, with which we massaged our aching feet. 12 days gone by in a blink. Somehow I pack 5
Lunch at the Yellow Bar
Homemade pasta, olive oil so tasty that I bought a liter to take home, a bit of Chianti, and a table with a view of Florence street life made for a great welcome to Italy on our first day of touring.
wine bottles, 1 liter of olive oil, and a few small souvenirs into my already stuffed little suitcase and off we go.
Check out the photos to see and read more about some of our memories. Til we meet again, Arrivederci Jessie and Grazie Mille Italy for a wonderful holiday!
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