Tuscany in Food, Landscapes, Cities and Art
Italy has had so many amazing dimensions that it has been difficult to capture it all. We came here for the food which has yet to disappoint. Even though November is nearing winter, the fall colors have been absolutely gorgeous. The preserved cities of Florence and Siena kept their beauty since the middle ages, and the pervasive art of Renaissance tell stories of civilizations long gone.
On day two, we started with “Taste Florence” tour, a four hour navigation around the best foods of Florence. Our guide, who seemed to be buddies with highly regarded shop owners in the area, taught us about Tuscany food and arranged tons of samples for us.
We started with a few pastries, puff pastry sandwich, fresh-pressed olive oil (nuovo olio), a boiled beef sandwich, Sangiovese wines from nearby Chanti, the usual cured meats, chocolates and gelato.
The next few days, we had all sorts of pasta, from tortellini to tagliatelles, ragus to porcinis. Turns out it’s a thing to drink espressos after meals so we started to welcome these 1-2 euro add-ons.
As we moved deeper into Tuscany, we saw some of the most unbelievable views. We drove down the SR-222, the beautiful road from Florence and Siena that cuts through the Chanti region. We stopped by a few small towns of Greve and Panzano for rest and photo ops.
After Siena, we stayed in the Hotel Villa San Lucchese in Poggibonsi, near the touristy, medieval town of San Gimignano. We barely woke up in time for sunrise, because it was awesome.
Photos, left to right: (1) Sunrise out of hotel window in Poggibonsi on day 4 (2) Panzano along the SR-222 in Chainti.(3) Tower of San Gimignano from a castle wall (Note: There is no way we did San Gimignano photos justice so here are some google photos.) (4) Olive trees, vineyards, villages all in one. (5) Checking out view from San Gimignano.
Florence is a nice city where the Renaissance happened, but I believe Siena is an even more beautiful city. It used to be its own proud Republic until Florence took over Siena for good around 1550 AD.
They are both protected as UNESCO heritage sites – this attempts to preserve the rocky buildings that survived through nearly thousand of years of rain, earthquakes, and human destruction. UNESCO has done an amazing job facilitating a live-able city with a good mix of locals and tourists.
When you enter Siena, there is one of the biggest plazas in the world. The best view was at the top of the medieval Torre del Mangia in Siena. It was a bit tiring but absolutely worth it. It’s amazing that this outpost was stood up in the 14th century.
Photos from left to right: (1) The spiralling city seen from the top of Torre del Mangia. (2) Another view of Siena’s famous red buildings. (3) The Piazza del Campo is so big that there are horse races twice a year on July 2 and August 16th.(4) The duomo (the dome is in the back). (5) City center of San Gimignano. (6) Strolling along San Gimignano early before the tourists flood the gates.
There’s a lot of art in museums, but what’s ridiculous is how much wall art there is outside of them. Churches and palaces in both Florence and Siena were absolutely decked out. Oftentimes the four walls had art across every possible inch. The pillars were laden with sculptures and the ceilings covered with frescos. I don’t pretend to understand all of it but I know its gorgeous.
We skipped a lot of the museums after a while, but hit up the Uffizi (the New York equivalent of the Met) and entered churches wherever we could. The main attraction in Siena is the Duomo (dome/church), which was decorated from head to toe, from library to crypt.
(1) The gorgeous frescoes and choir books in a recently restored Piccolomini Library inside the Duomo. (2) The Duomo, with questionable zebra stripe pillars. (3) Some extremely well preserved art from 1300s in the Crypt of the Duomo. (4) Laocoon at the Uffizi – attacked by snakes from the gods after trying to say the Trojan horse was a trap.
As we go on
The posts are on a bit of a lag, but hopefully I can convince some of you to check out the historic, scenic beauty of Tuscany. Next, we move on to San Miniato (also in Tuscany), Modena and Bologna (the home of baloney).
(this was translated from a previous post on https://brianlu.exposure.co/italy-part-2-cities-of-tuscany)