Finding Florence and Treasuring Tuscany!!
15.07.2012 -19 °C
8 November 2005
Ever since watching that movie "Under the Tuscan Sun" starring Frances Mayes, I have been dying to see for myself whether the fields of sunflowers, stretches of wineries, oak trees, rivers and Italian country terracota villas were simply an empty Hollywood promise of exotic and dreamy getaway...but it seems, for once, art was not imitating life, it was magnifying it in romantic proportions!
The city gate of Florence beckons...
Our first fling with Tuscany began with a date with its magical city of Florence. I have to say, Rome aside, I think Florence is my next favourite city and probably the only city in Italy that I can actually imagine living in. It has that perfect blend of natural and historic beauty without being too suffocating and a tourist trap, well, at least that was my view when I was there.
The first things I noticed were these funky cow statues littered all across the city, each painted differently to represent some symbolic expression by its artists.
Cows with attitudes!
Of course, one cannot utter the word Florence without linking it to Michaelangelo's statue of David. Now that's one fine specimen! Located at the Galleria dell'Accademia, this towering marble carving exposes (excuse the pun) every sinewy muscle imaginable making this handsome statue a truly marvelous erection...*cough* Is it just me or its suddenly getting hot in here! Err...anyway, adjacent to the statue of David once one is able to tore one's view from him, there are other magnificent statues on display, including the work of Giambologna, one of Italy's celebrated artist in the 16th century. These are entitled "The Rape of the Sabine women". Gruesome yet poignantly and depicted with these almost-coming-to-life display of series of statues that narrated the stories of these poor women's anguish and fear.
Gheri and I next visited the great Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) and the Giotto's Bell Tower (which we ran out of time to go in). The Duomo and its dome of course have been the standard feature of almost all postcards depicting Florence. Beautiful 13th century gothic style carving in the traditional black and white strips (like ones in Genoa) forms the facade of the Duomo while the inside is more stark and bare, perhaps a depiction of holiness and purity of the church. After climbing around 463 steps to the top of the dome, you do get a lovely view of the city.
Then it was time for lunch! At the base of the Duomo, oddly an area called Piazza del Duomo are many wonderful small cafes, one of which we stopped by for what is now our standard lunch, which is a baguette with salami, washed down with a glass of wine followed by a strong cappuccino!
Next up and again very nearby to us is the next point of interest, the Piazza della Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio! The Palazzo, now the city hall of Florence was once a Romaneques crenellated fortress palace with a clock tower! Very impressive and majestic indeed.
As the day was drawing to the close, I suddenly wanted something more serene. Gheri and I decided to go check out the River Arno, the main river that flows through the city. It was indeed picturesque especially when you gaze down the river and see the different bridges, including the one very famous Ponte Vecchio. This is particularly a special bridge built and re-built in the 14th century and the only one in Italy to remain intact following World War II. Now housing the Centro Storico, which boasts a series of very upmarket and stylish shops as one local man cheekily pointed out to us, "It's a place where a woman rejoices and a man cries". Why? Because there are many jewellers stationed here selling the most exquisite of diamonds and gold. Sadly on my backpacker's budget, I wouldn't be wearing any bling bling soon!
9 November 2005
The next day, Gheri and I hired a car to venture out of Florence so we can see more of the countryside, that's right, Tuscany, here we come! We started by visiting an ancient medieval town called San Gimignano! This town, famous of its high towers were found by the Etruscans in the 3rd century B.C. It was famous for being a stopping point for Catholic pilgrims travelling through to Rome or the Vatican City. Quite an impressive medieval city when you think of how big and high the buildings were given the period they were built. Check out the photos:
We then had lunch at a very small cafe, bought some postcards and take lots more photos including of a lil lost black and white kitten running around the old abandoned fortress.
As the sun dipped lower toward the horizon, we left San Gimignano and just drove around aimlessly really as I was desperate to search for your typical Tuscany landscape that has filled my dreams and imagination seeing watching the movie. I was definitely not disappointed as slowly we drove past wineries, rolling hills and valleys that took my breath away.
My favourite one...I could live here and die happy!
I was quiet on the drive back to Florence not because I was tired or unhappy but I was just filled with this quiet peace and tranquility, happy to let the beautiful gorgeous views warmly take hold of my heart and touch my soul. I surrendered to the feeling of bliss and joy that's Tuscany...
AO Rating: I will definitely come back to rekindle my romance with you Tuscany, maybe stay for many months so we can have a wicked affair! Until we meet again, Ciao!