Sunday, December 18, 2016


Another one of those early starts again this morning.
You would think we would be getting used to them by now,  but we are starting to feel it...
We had  to have our suitcases our ready by 6.45am and we needed to be ready to board the bus by 7.45am. 

 We were back on the road again today as we left Rome to head to Florence.  It wasn't too long a trip today, only about three hours.  We did have a half hour stop for morning tea and arrived in Florence around 11am.

 Our hotel rooms weren't going to be ready until after 3pm so we got dropped off and walked to the Piazza Santa Croce.  The main attraction in this Piazza was the Basilica of Santa Croce and it's 16 chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and is his pupils.  In front of the Basilica there was a marble statue depicting Dante, named "Monument to Dante".   This Basilica is really quite a small church in comparison to the other famous church in Florence " Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flowers".

We walked across to the opposite side of the Basilica to see te Palazzo Cocchi-Serristori which was rebuilt in the late 15th century for Lorenzo de Medici, a very high ranking family in  Florence at the time.  Our guide showed us all the statues in front of this palace and told us they were all originals except for "David", a copy from marble had been made to stand where the old "David" was and Michelangelo's original "David" was now in the "Academy of Art".  We also visited a couple of contemporary sculptures in the square ( the Gold turtle)

 From here we walked back to the Golden Korner where we were given a talk about Venetian Gold and shown so many lovely design pieces.  Way too expensive so of course now of us bought anything.

Our next stop with Gary was to "Peruzzi" finest Florence leather where we heard about what good leather is and how to look out for it.   Steve ended up buying a couple of really quality leather belts for himself, one a reversible one, and a brown one for wearing with casual clothes. 

We then had about an hour's free time to go and have a bite of lunch and to have a good look around the square, do some shopping and have some lunch.  Steve and I grabbed a quick Penni salad sandwich and some iced tea, and then went off looking for the Aegean Oil for Danielle ( Chloe's flat mate back home)  We couldn't find it and then about 15 minutes before we were due to meet Gary, we headed back to "Peruzzi" to buy some little leather coin purses to take home with us as gifts.

 We had to meet Gary and our guide Alex to go on a city tour of Florence.  Her first port of call with us was to walk to the "Piazza del Duomo" where we saw the Florence Cathedral which is called "Cattedrate di  Santa Maria de Flore" (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers).  This is the main church in Florence.  The church was being in  1296 in the Gothic style and completed structurally in 1436.  It is now part of the UNESCO World heritage Site and the cathedral's  consists of three buildings, the Baptistery, and Giotto's campanile.  It is one of Italy's largest churches.  It's dome is also the largest brick dome ever constructed. 

 We didn't actually go into the church.  The outside was impressive enough and the queues waiting to get in went on forever.  We did get to visit the golden "Gates of Paradise" on the Baptistery doors.  They were extremely impressive.

From here we continued our wall through to the "Accadernia Museum" (Academy of Arts) where we got to see Michelangelo' very famous statue of "David" which he did when we was quite young ( 26 years of age)
 One of the things we learnt at the Academy of Arts  was that whilst the other great sculpturers  practice on limestone first to make their cast before chipping into their marble, Michelangelo could see his sculpture in the block of marble and just carved straight into it to do his work.  "David" was truly impressive. 

 We left the Academy of Arts at approximately 3.30pm to head to our hotel on the other side of the river. 

 What a rather unusual hotel, quite eclectic, too hard to describe, the photos will have to speak for themselves.  We stayed at the UNA Hotel right in the heart of the old town of Florence.  This hotel was truly bizarre.

 We had a couple of hours free before we had to be ready for our "Dinner in the Tuscan Hills".  What a wonderful evening it was too.  We had a beautiful drive up into the Tuscan hills surrounding Florence to a place called "Machiavelli".  Absolutely gorgeous setting surrounded by olive groves and vineyards and amazing countryside.

We were treated to a cooking class with one of their pasta making chefs.  It was really interesting to see her make the pasta from scratch and to see how quick she could do it all.

 We then enjoyed the most AMAZING Florentine meal complete with lots of champagne and Chianti wine straight from their own vineyard.  The blue champagne and Strawberry champagne were to die for.  I even managed to have a few glasses.  I wish we could get this back home....

The live music tonight was excellent and created the most wonderful atmosphere.  The guitarist was really excellent and quite a few of us bought their CD, more so as a memento of a wonderful evening in Tuscany.

We left here about 10.15pm and didn't arrive back at our hotel until just after 11pm. It was a great drive home as one of the couples got Marizio ( our bus driver) to play his newly acquired CD on the bus for the drive home and we all sang along to it as we traveled.  Just a great night all round and one we won't forget in a hurry.


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