Three Towns in Tuscany

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence

Tuscany is something out of a dream — rolling hillsides of olive trees and sheep and vineyards surrounding ancient farmhouses, castle towns and Florence, the center of Tuscan culture and history. No bill boards, no strip malls, no fast food.

Sunflowers through the train window

We arrived in Florence by train from Rome — an easy 90 minute ride — and settled in to our apartment in the center. We first visited Santa Maria del Fiore just two blocks away.  The striped marble church is one of the largest in Europe and is known mostly for its beautiful dome or “Duomo.” The Duomo was famously designed by Filippo Brunelleschi who never drafted architectural drawings or disclosed how he engineered such a large, complex structure. Brunelleschi had previously lost the competition for designing the church’s Baptistery doors and remained bitterly secretive about what he was doing throughout the 16 years of work on the Duomo’s construction.

At Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, we saw masterpieces by Botticelli, Carvaggio and Leonardo, among others. The gallery is one of the world’s most important museums

Botticelli’s “Venus Rising.”

In Piazza Signorina with Michaelangelo’s David, which was revolutionary when it was sculpted because it was the first depiction of David that (1) was nude and (2) portrayed him as a powerful challenger to Goliath.

We were lucky to be able to spend lots of quality time walking through town with my wonderful friend Lise, who is a licensed tour guide in Florence with a million interesting stories about the city’s history, the churches and walls and art.

Lise explained that Renaissance masters were commissioned to paint things like meat because meat was a sign of wealth and influence at the time. Ugh.

After getting Lise’s tips for the best gelato and hot chocolate in town, we visited her farm house in Vaglia, 15 miles north of Florence.  We had a traditional and amazing meal with Lise’s family and relaxed with the chickens and a dog named “Hardy” who holds your hand when you walk with him. He reminded us of Simon.

The next day we hopped a bus to visit the medieval hill town of San Gimignano 40 miles south of Florence. There, in 1250 or thereabouts, a young girl named Fina took an orange from a strange man, fell into a prayerful coma, died and became a saint. Avery and Bella thought they could do better…

While the girls shopped for gifts in San Gimignano, I went to an exhibit of Man Ray photographs, which was impressive. This is my favorite

Fresco of Saint Fina in the chapel at San Gimignano.

We missed our bus, almost lost a phone, and were exhausted by the time we returned to Florence but we celebrated our ultimate travel success with pizza and pasta. That’s amore.


  1. First time I visited Florence, I was 12. Indelible in my memory, in much detail. Fewer tourists back then, but otherwise no doubt very much the same place.

    Wonderful gift to those young women.

  2. Such a magical place. Wonderful that you all got to share time and a meal with an Italian family. You’ve opened the girls eyes and minds to place most people never get to see. I bet you will see their lust for world travel grow…just like yours.

  3. Firenze is my favorite city in Italy and justifiably deserves my award as Greatest Gelato City in the World!!!

    What a marvelous experience you and the girls are having!!!

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