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.
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
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.
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…