Lastra a signa or ‘Last time I’ve seen ya !’
18.05.2011 22 °C
Well, after a few idyllic days in Venezia we got ourselves back to the station for yet another train journey to Florence…..hoping like hell it had to be better than the overnight disaster last week….and this time it was lovely…first class all the way and what a shame the trip only took 2 hours. Training it through the Italian countryside is a joy to behold! Such beautiful vistas around every turn- Terracotta rooftopped farmhouses, green rolling vineyards,blue hills and those incredible medieval hill topped villages-
Our accom in Florence is out in the Tuscan hills in a place called ‘Lastra a Signa’ and Villa Pandolfini is the 600 yr old villa( originally a hunting lodge for Italian Royalty- Bonaparte himself stayed there!) and has been kept pretty much original to this day- The estate boasts a vineyard, 1000 tree olive grove, a very impressive pine lined driveway and about 6 villas all well appointed for couples,families etc. Our enormous bedrooms had 20-30 ft ceilings with huge windows and a gorgeous terrace featuring a superb frescoed ceiling- quite stunning-
This place is run by an elderly but incredibly sharp lady called Tosca( Tosca from Tuscany sounds a bit corny doesn’t it?) who rules the place like a feudal lord- but wonderful to her guests and passionate about all things historically Florentine and Tuscan. We noticed on our first night there outside there glowed some sparkly lights and were amazed to find them to be fireflies- never seen them before and they are incredibly pretty-especially on a warm spring night. Cute little beasts they are!
It also has a cooking school in house for interested participants- personally, we all liked the idea of not cooking and eating out in many of the local eateries- and we found a great little local trattoria near the train station called ‘Enricos’ that proved so good and cheap we ate there 4 nights out of 7!! Lovely family and became quite good mates with them all by the end of our stay-
Again, our first day started with the on/off bus to get our bearings and before we knew it- we’d sorted Florence out pretty quick smart….its relatively small and once you know where the Arno( river) ,The Pontevecchio( bridge with shops on it!) and the Duomo( great big basilica in the heart of Florence….well, you’ve pretty much covered the whole place. From Piazza Michaelangelo ( a hill monument overlooking Florence- we had a very nice coffee at Loggia a wonderful restaurant overlooking the monument) you can see across this beautiful landscape and that Dome(Duomo) sticks out like the proverbial!
…and speaking of Dogs bits……well, we’ve never seen so many statues…and certainly so many nudies!! The Statue of David lives here, of course and the male genitalia features enormously in Florentine sightseeing!... I know its art but ssshhheesssh, so much and all above eye level so hard to avoid!Ha!
We thought we’d take in a bit of local culture and booked to see La Traviata staged in an abridged form in St Marks English Church- It was performed in full costume with wonderful performers singing in Italian, but had an English explanation of each scene! Quite remarkable given a piano and voices only resonating thru this lovely old church..and a very intimate audience of about 100 people…a great way to see an opera and not be too intimidated- I think its one of trip advisors best things to do in Florence- check it out!
As we stayed a bit out of Florence we needed to catch a local train daily..it became our routine to get ourselves in and out of the city ( about 20 mins train and about 20 mins walking!) lots of walking,…..and sore ageing pegs as we walked the streets of Florence for hours on end! So much to see and so much to BUY !!!
Hey, this place is shopping heaven…great shops with everything from fantastic clothes to the great leather goods that its famous for- leather, leather everywhere….and being the beginning of summer of here…fashions are incredibly bright and inviting ( and not too xxy either, well only in some shops)
We’ve all had a bit of a shop…and the weight of our baggage is beginning to show strains in our cases! God, help our excess baggage costs-
Gelati was invented in Florence and on every street corner you see the most incredible array of flavours and mountains of gelati imaginable- and everyone seems to walk around with a gelati in hand- and yummy they are making it a daily staple( just as well for the daily walking).
Mahony and Robyn did their dome climbing again and got to the very top of the Duomo- quite a feat when you see the very narrow internal circular staircase that gets them there!
Such adventurers these girls!
The Uffizi gallery is quite an event in itself and after queuing for about 1 ½ we finally got in- seeing Bottecellis’Venus” was worth the wait and simply the most beautiful thing there. Wonderful frescoes on every ceilings there and the odd De Vinci and a few other lesser knowns Caravaggios etc there as well- amazing! Heaps and heaps of statues of course with lots of eye-level you know whats!
We arranged with a local driver to take us up into the Tuscan hills for a day away from the hustle and bustle of Florence….Riccardo picked us up in his very lovely airconditioned( remember its high 20s here at the moment!) bus and took 7 of us
(including Anne and Merc) for a 5 hour drive around Tuscany…
Wow, what a place…and everything you’d dream it to be…
Our first stop was San Gimignano which is a medival fortress town atop a hill up in the Tuscan hills. Quite an outstandingly beautiful place that has 14 enormous towers that impose the landscape incredibly. Apparently in the middle ages you got a tax benefit from building a tower and everyone went berserk trying to out do each other…and at its peak there was 115 towers in total. Pretty good for a place the size of the MCG! Our trusty driver Riccardo advised us that its pretty touristy there and that if we went a little further to Volterre we’d get a similar place with far less people- so off we went. Volterre is equally as beautiful and is known for the quarrying of alabaster…so every shop had alabaster made into all sorts of stuff. Also known for filming ‘Twilight’ in the region!
We had a lovely lunch at a restaurant called ‘La Poggia’ quite appropriate given all the eating we’re indulging in at the moment…but after asking the waitress what it means in Italian we were told it means ‘at the top’! After a couple of hours drive home up and down windy roads( and some very hairy turns I must tell you!) we arrived back at Villa Pandolfini pretty buggered after a hard day touring! Bloody hard slog this travelling you know!
And how lovely and convenient to have our own driver….very cost effective for 7 of us and a great way to get around unencumbered by public transport issues.
By this stage as you can imagine…we are starting to accumulate quite a bit of excess baggage( leathergoods,clothes,books,souvenirs,glass etc) so Clare and I ( Moy) thought we’d inquire about a parcel or two home by Italie Poste…so after getting what we thought was a very reasonable quote we all confidently packed boxes of stuff and taxied ourselves down to the local PO to send it off…..not to be, sadly as the poor women behind the counter couldn’t speak English at all, had no idea what 7 women with huge boxes of stuff wanted to do…and was busy with her routine customers anyway…what a mess…so we all went home with our boxes and repacked our cases with bulging sides!!
Turns out it is extraordinarily expensive to post back to Australia…and we need to reassess what really needs to go- shhheesshhh, so bloody hard when you cant speak the language!
So our last day in Florence was spend wasting time in the Post Office…and then got the train back into Florence for one last look……and a wee shop just for posterity! Ha!
Off to Roma tomorrow and 4 days in the countries capital-