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
Arrival at Villa il Crocicchio
We all took a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city at the Villa il Crociccchio. The chef there gave us the best biscotti recipe in the world! Since arriving home I've already made it a half a dozen times!
Villa il Crocicchio - Details
The villa was neatly tended and surrounded by mountains. We were free to roam the grounds or have a drink at the bar.
Villa il Crocicchio Hammock
It was nice to be able to switch gears from the fast pace of Venice.
These grape vines were very close to the villa. The grapes were still very small.
Pool with a View
It was a little too chilly to take a dip in the pool, but a few brave souls did!
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.
Ricardo - our Guide for Florence
Il Duomo di Firenze Facade
The Piazza Duomo is always crowded with visitors, included this group of students all clad with yellow hats.
Art for Sale
Street artists sell their works all over Florence (left). How does the artist's rendition compare with the close up of Brunelleschi's Cupola (right)?
Il Duomo di Firenze Details
The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white.
Baptistry Doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti
Ricardo educates us about the north doors of the Baptistery, which were dubbed by Michelangelo the Gates of Paradise (left). Closeups of the bronze relief depict The Story of Joseph (upper right) and The Story of Abraham (lower right).
Waiting in Line to the Uffizi
The line for the Uffizi Gallery was incredibly long, but luckily our group had reservations and we were able to bypass most of it.
Surrounded by Beauty
There was so much artwork to see including the famous Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli (left), Madonna and Child by Raphael Sanzio (center) and Madonna with Child and two Angels by Filippo Lippi (right).
Surrounded by Artwork
The Birth of Venus is constantly surrounded by cameras (left). While crowds amass over there, you can get a much closer look at lesser known works like Michelangelo's Doni Tondo or Holy Family (right). It was painted around 1507 and is considered one of the masterpieces of the XVI century Italian art.
Ponte Vecchio, translated to Old Bridge, is another symbol of Florence. Shops have been on the bridge since the 13th century. Interesting fact, during World War II the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge across the Arno that the fleeing Germans did not destroy.
On the Ponte Vecchio
The view of the Arno from the center span of the Ponte Vecchio. The Ponte Santa Trinita is in the background.
A view of the Il Duomo di Firenze from the Piazzala Michelangelo. Filippo Brunelleschi's dome is immense and is the largest masonry dome in the world.
Real Baptistry Door Panels
Sculptures in the Bargello
David in the Accademia
Unfinished Works of Michelangelo
Finally Some Gelato!