“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” ~ Hilaire Belloc
After our fabulous two-day stay in Venice, we hopped on a bus to continue our tour to Florence (Firenze) through the panoramic roads of Tuscany. On the way, we made a small detour to the city of Pisa’s famous Piazza dei Miracoli (Pisa Miracle Square) to see the leaning tower of Pisa and the Baptistery. By the way, did you know that it took about 200 years to build the tower? No wonder it started leaning. Well, that’s not the real reason it started leaning but you can learn more of its interesting story at Tower of Pisa History.
There were many tourists visiting the tower. We didn’t have much time to wander around since we had other prearranged stops but were able to capture some spectacular views of Piazza Miracoli and its buildings. All are beautiful and impressive. Its history is interesting and worth the tour. There are many restaurants to choose from with great views. The street vendors were a bit aggressive trying to push their merchandise on tourist to buy. At one point we were surrounded by a few of them but managed to get through to our bus.
Our tour continued towards a local Tuscan farm in Montecarlo, Fattoria Il Poggio in the countryside where we enjoyed a wine tasting with local food specialties. The meal and wine were delicious. We had a great group – with some quirky folks. We met a woman who decided to drink beer instead of tasting the wine. We could tell it didn’t sit well with the host. Among the group was a Franciscan Priest who tasted a bit too much wine. He grabbed a bottle and took it with him on the bus. I don’t recall everything he said and/or did but I do remember laughing at his actions. There was a lot of singing on the bus as well – Volare, Que Será, Será, That’s Amore and other famous Italian songs.
We arrived in Florence after 5:00 p.m. and checked in to the Grand Hotel Cavour. It’s a beautiful hotel. The rooms were lovely, well maintained and clean and the service was great. We had spectacular views of two church towers. The hotel was just about 1400 feet from Piazza del Duomo, so we headed out to wander the beautiful streets of Florence.
We had dinner at a restaurant within a few feet from the hotel by the name of Yellow Bar. It was packed with happy people. That told us that it was a great place for dinner. The service was okay – not good but not bad either. Our meal was quite large which consisted of the antipasto (starter) the primo (appetizer), the secondo (main course), the contorno (side dish) and the dolce (dessert). We were so hungry that we went for ravioli as our appetizer, steak with caramelized onions as our main course, Spring risotto as our side dish and of course, we could not leave out their delicious tiramisu for dessert. I don’t remember what the starter was. It was a lot of food and so delicious. With full tummies, there was nothing else to do but take a walk and then go to sleep.
*Note to self: not a good idea to eat dinner after 9:00 p.m.
The next day began with a Florence city tour. We visited the Galleria della Accademia and saw Michaelangelo’s famous statue of David. The tour was nice, but the tour guide was a bit on the boring side. He focused so much on how Michaelangelo was Catholic yet created a statue of David without circumcision. I really did not care for that and don’t think it was part of history. Other than the tour guide, it was a great experience. We then walked to the Duomo whose dome was designed by Brunelleschi and viewed the baptistery’s Gates of Paradise. We continued with our tour guide, Simoné, to the museum of Signoria Square ending at Ponte Vecchio. After Ponte Vecchio, we visited Luciano’s Leather Factory in Piazza di Santa Croce which had a beautiful collection of bags and wallets – a bit pricey but great quality. We also made our way to Mercato de Porcellino in Piazza del Mercato Nuovo – a great place to visit for leather, tapestries, table clothes, silk ties, scarves, jewelry, souvenirs, etc., at great prices.
That night we gathered with our group and drove through a panoramic route towards an authentic Tuscan restaurant in the countryside, Ristorante i Tre Pini, for dinner. We were greeted with their very own Prosecco Azul and live music. Dinner was served in courses and it was a lot. That dinner was delicious, the atmosphere was great, the music was entertaining and fun – overall a wonderful experience and night. Florence was amazing!