Saturday, March 15, 2008

Tuscany - Day 2

The Santa Croce Church in Florence

Michelangelo's Tomb in Sant Croce
It faces the Tomb of Galileo

Figure atop the Memorial to Dante inside Santa Croce 

Next to the framed tunic of St. Francis of Assisi
in Santa Croce Church
George W. Contreras
St. Francis High School
La Canada-Flintridge, California
Class of 1965

Outside Vivoli's Gelateria

They like their art big in Florence
This fresco is in the Duomo in Florence

The very cool walled city of Lucca
Thanks to David Lassen's advice we stopped here, we were not disappointed!

So far this tower in Lucca is the only one we've seen with trees growing atop it

Pisa's famed "Field of Miracles" with the Leaning Tower in the distance

I know they did a lot of structural improvements a few years ago, but I still wonder why hasn't it fallen

Il Campo in Siena
Scene of the Palio horse race every July 2nd and August 16th
I plan on being there for the July 2nd running 

Siena's entry in the Ad of the Day contest

Day 2 of our trip to Tuscany wound up being a three city journey after some brief sight seeing in Florence in the morning.

First stop was Santa Croce in Florence. Yet another beautiful church that houses the tombs of over 200 people including Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli. Very ornate and a definite must see when you visit. There is a huge statue dedicated to Dante outside Santa Croce and a very large memorial to him inside yet he could not be buried in any Catholic church at the time of his death because he was excommunicated. He's not so bad now it appears.

Near Santa Croce we discovered Vivoli's Gelateria, easily the best of the several gelaterias we surveyed on this trip. I had the riso (rice) that Rick Steves recommended...horchata on steroids! Laurie described her chocolate gelato as akin to Hershey's chocolate syrup. Vivoli's is considered the best gelateria in Florence, the birthplace of gelato, we agree!

We decided to go back to the Duomo before driving into the country side. As you saw in yesterday's post the exterior of this building is spectacular but the interior is very plain and ordinary by the Renaissance church interior standards that have been set by our other church/basilica visits in Italy.

Let me say that Italian country sides at this time of year are flat out awesome! I have never seen the brilliant greens that these fields have and no camera can truly capture unless Jason play God on the computer with it. Ireland can not possibly be greener than Italy in the spring!

Lucca is a very picturesque walled city about 30 miles outside Florence. We walked part of the gigantic 2 1/2 mile wall that still rings the old city center. Good shopping can be found here but it was the afternoon siesta time while we were visiting...Laurie was sad but my wallet was very happy.

Our next stop was Pisa. The "Field of Miracles" has to be seen in person to be appreciated.  The Leaning Tower is, of course, the big draw here and it was fascinating.

Our last stop of the day was Siena. Is there a more beautiful Tuscan hilltop town? In the center of town their main Piazza is called "Il Campo". Twice a year their famous Palio races bring thousands of people to Siena to witness a 10 horse race that does 3 laps around the "Il Campo". Each horse, ridden bareback, represents one of the 17 neighborhoods or contradas  in Siena. Randomly they pick which 10 neighborhoods will race as it would be impossible to get any more than 10 horses in to the narrow raceway. They bring in orange dirt from the hillside, hence Crayola's "Burnt Siena" color, and put it over the cobblestone's and away they go. Lots of pageantry , color and history as they have been doing this racing the Palio every year since the 1300's! I bought a flag of the Torre contrada since their mascot is an elephant. Again, Siena is a must see place especially if you can be here for Palio. By the way, my wallet WAS a lot lighter after we left Siena!

Our flight back to Catania was highlighted by being on time and by nine people in first class, we were in the 5th row just behind them. They boarded the plane in the red team colored scarves and hats of the Grosseto soccer team. From the reaction of the steward and the way they carried themselves, two of them must be really good soccer players. About 20 minutes into the flight the steward took the wife of one of the player and their two young daughters, about 13 and 10 I would say INTO THE COCKPIT, closed the door and let them chit chat with the pilot for about 10 minutes! With about 20 minutes in the flight, the steward took one of the players and did the same thing only he stayed in until after we landed! So much for Italian post 911 security flying measures.

Also funny was the security guard at Florence's airport just before we entered the metal detectors. Following accepted protocol, he checked our passports vs. our boarding cards, saw we were going to Catania, looked at Laurie and warns us to be careful and vigilant while there! Too late but thanks for the thought anyway.

In one of my travel books, "Journeys of a Lifetime - 500 of he World's Greatest Trips", they mention that when in Tuscany you must eat both Bistec alla Fiorentina (a very rare T-bone steak) and Finocciona Salami, they were dead on on both counts!

Finally let me just say that Florence and the Tuscan country side are all that people have raved about to us for years. If you haven't traveled here, do it next spring.



DPLassen said...

Thanks for the shout-out ... glad you weren't disappointed in Lucca.. Also glad you found Vivoli's ... I didn't have the riso, but having had the chocolate gelato there, I think Laurie made the better choice.

md'antuono said...

We told Laurie that Siena and Lucca were two of our great places we spent time in last year. Not sure Siena's opening game in the NCAA's against Vanderbilt will be as interesting as your visit.

George said...

They're due for a win