Toscana e Firenze
REGGELLO, located in the province of Florence which is in the Tuscany region, was our home base for the next two days. We stayed at Villa il Crocicchio, a farmhouse-turned-hotel that’s surrounded by acres of olive groves and vineyards. Part of the structure dates back to medieval ages. This was definitely another favorite stop among our group. It was probably the first place where we could all truly stretch out and relax.
Okay, like Venice and Lauterbrunnen, just being there was a highlight.
Our hotel. The rooms at the villa were generously sized and comfortable. The scenery was amazing – surrounded by rolling hills in the distance. They had an outdoor pool, a ping pong table, and you could stroll along the dirt roads next to olive trees and vineyards.
The food! We watched a cooking demonstration our first night. They prepared ravioli and “Cantucci” cookies, a kind of biscotti. The ravioli and cookies were just parts of our delicious dinner and dessert.
Background image: The Arno River seen from the Ponte Vecchio
Right: Villa il Crocicchio
FLORENCE, the heart of the Italian Renaissance. I looked forward to two things going into Florence: Botticelli and gelato. Jennifer, a former chef, told us that of all the places she’d been in Italy, the best gelato she ever had was in Florence.
Ricardo was our local guide for the day. He took us to the Uffizi Gallery, Duomo, and Baptistry.
The Fountain of Neptune, nicknamed, "Biancone", by Bartolomeo Ammannati. It is featured at the Piazza Signoria in Florence.
Above: Villa il Crocicchio, where we stayed in Tuscany for two days
One of my most favorite things was seeing both Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus up close and in person. There's a special kind of pinch-me-please happiness associated with that. Another favorite was da Vinci’s Annunciation.
Going across the Arno River on the Ponte Vecchio and passing by all the jewelry shops. You also get a great view of Florence from the other side of the river.
Yummy pizza from a place called Pizze Covaccini. According to the sign by the door, they won an Oscar Cibo di Strada award, which recognizes the best in street food.
The Bargello Museum, which has two of the original panels from the Baptistry doors.
Duomo and Baptistry – we only saw them from the outside, but both are quite impressive. The green and white marble stood out among the creams, yellows, and browns of the surrounding buildings.
Gelato! I tried getting gelato on my own, but we ran out of time. But Jennifer and Åsa treated us to gelato later that day, yay! I got chocolate and raspberry.
The Galleria dell’Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David.
GOT A HANKERING FOR GELATO?
Jennifer said that the best gelato shops keep their gelato covered. That usually means they haven’t used preservatives. And you’ll know when you’ve had good gelato vs. bad. Try different flavor combinations, too. Some of our favorite flavors were chocolate, raspberry, a berry combination (can't remember exact flavor), and pistachio.