Monday, May 7, 2012

A day trip to Florence, Italy

After a very special time on the shores of Lake Como we drove onto our next port of call in Tuscany, our home for the next few nights was Villa Pitiana. Just 25 minutes from Florence the Villa is set in the beautiful Tuscan countryside close to the village of Donnini. In the words of its website, "the Villa still retains the articulated architecture of a millenary history, from the foundation as a fortified farm, to the utilisation as a Benedectine monastry and eventually to the conversion as a noblemans elegant Villa in the IXth century".
Villa Pitiana
The restaurant in the Villa is exceptional, offering traditional Tuscan food with a contemporary twist. This combined with the elegant setting makes dining in Villa Pitiana a pleasure. To be honest there is not too much more in the immediate vicinity if you don't want to drive, that said the food really was delicious.

View from the rear of the Villa
Our first day trip was to Florence, the easiest way is to hop on a train from the local town, check at reception and they'll give you directions. Wow, finally Florence, perhaps one of Italy's most famous cities, judging by the crowds of tourists that really seems to be the case. 

San Lorenzo Church
Just look at your guide book and you'll see that there is an incredible amount too see in Florence and perhaps you really need a couple of days to do this city justice. We had just one day and for some reason failed to fall for Florence. It felt a little dirty, very busy and the frozen pizza rip off at lunchtime wasn't the best advert for Italian food. That said, you can feel the sense of history as you wind your way around the city. So my advice is if you plan to visit Florence be sure and plan your day so that you know where to go.

Piazza di San Marco
Set in the heart of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore, the Duomo dominates the city with its enormous dome. Its sheer size was typical of Florentine determination to lead in all things, and to this day, no other building stands taller in the city.

Santa Maria del Fiore

Piazza della Signoria is a unique outdoor sculpture gallery which along wtih the Palazzo Vecchio, has been at the heart of Florentine politics since the 14th century. Citizens gathered here when called to a parlamento (public gathering by the Palazzo's great bell. One tip, avoid the tourist restaurants around the sides of the Piazza, it was here that we made our fatal frozen pizza error, obviously not expecting such a disappointing lunch.

Piazza della Signoria

The Loggia dei Lanzi

Neptune Fountain

Last landmark from our visit to Florence is the Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge which is actually the oldest bridge in Florence. Built in 1345, it was the only bridge to escape being blown up during World War II. There have always been workshops on the bridge, in 1593 the owners were evicted by Duke Ferdinando 1 because of the noise and stench they created. The workshops were rebuilt and let to more decorous goldsmiths, and the shops lining and overhanging the bridge continue to specialize in new and antique jewellery to this day.

Ponte Vecchio