• Pisa, Vinci, San Gimignano, Siena and Florence (Part 4 of 5)

    6/25/2019 12:43:28 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    florence, italy, pisa, siena, trafalgar

    photo by Hilda Spillers of CTC Travel

    Pisa, Italy is famous for the Leaning Tower. For years, it has gone through renovations to keep it stabilized. These days, people can go up the tower if they choose. Most visitors enjoy taking creative photographs with one “propping up” the leaning tower or “pushing” the leaning tower. It is comical to observe people working on all types of creative poses!
    The Leaning Tower is the bell tower for the beautiful large Cathedral of Pisa that is worth walking in to explore. The Astronomer and Physicist, Galileo Galilei, grew up in Pisa. During the Renaissance period (rebirth from the Middle Ages), Galileo sat in this Cathedral. Our local specialist informed us that Galileo would observe the large chandelier move back and forth from the breezes. He experimented and over time, the Pendulum Law was declared.  It was fantastic to reflect on what took place here. Imagine Galileo conducting other experiments such as dropping objectsfrom the Tower to document the rate they would fall. The result was the Law of Gravity.

    We had plenty of time on our own to shop the local vendors and either dine at one of the many outdoor cafés or stop in a local deli for a RosemaryFocaccia sandwich.We then met up with our group to move on to our next visit to the charming Tuscan town of Vinci. 

    Vinci is where Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452. “He was the most diversified Renaissance Man,” to quote our Trafalgar Tour Director. We walked the through the same streets as this amazing inventor,scientist, artist, engineer and architect.There are several Leonardo da Vinci museums in Italy. Next to this small museum, we walked right into the very Baptistry where he was baptized.I learned so much detail about this man and his thinking processes. What affected me the most, was that he put all these thoughts into action to improve production and the future of medicine. 

    That evening, our group had dinner at a larger farm house that offered terrific authentic Italian cuisine with family style service amongst barrels of wine and lively music. What is nice about traveling in Tuscany is that the drives are relatively short distances between many of these key places. The next day we visit San Gimignano and Siena.

    San Gimignano dates back to the 13th century and is one of the oldest and most preserved medieval towns in Italy. It is known for the many stone towers that were used for grain storage within the surrounding high stone walls. For generations, the height of the towers became somewhat of a competition amongst the families. We each received a treat of their famous gelato that was included in our tour. I had chocolate gelato and of course it was delicious! It was a pleasure to walk along the streets and imagine what it was like to live during medieval times here.  The shopping was delightful with colorful pottery, leather purses and shoes.

    We had a scenic drive in the Tuscan hills to a “Be My Guest” experience where we had a lovely lunch at a farm house hosted by a family where the adult daughter has become a talented Chef. We were presented with gourmet type cuisine in a wine cellar. To describe the garden like environment, we approached this place by walking up a lane that was lined with giant Italian Cypress trees. One could tell that this grand home had such history.The Wisteria and flowers were beautiful. The owner couple were genuine in wanting to share their stories of life in the peaceful Tuscan hills. There have been references of World War II throughout our trip regarding what buildings were respected and NOT bombed, like the Vatican and the Colosseum in Rome, for example. Here at the farm house, the owner pointed out the indentation in the stonewall on the side of the house from a bomb shell. In Europe, there is such history. Survivors moved on from the war and here we were enjoying the result of working from the farm to the kitchen to the table to create an experience for travelers. Trafalgar tours gives back to the hosts where they visit. This helps support them and to motivate the younger generation to stay and to help preserve this way of life.

    A reminder that you can see my photos on the CTC Travel (Dallas) face book page. Just look for about 10 posts in April of 2019. Next, we took a 45 minute drive to the popular city of Siena.

    Siena dates back to the medieval 14th century and over time, it became a strong business center. It is famous for the horse races, Corsa del Palio, that take place twice per year around the Piazza del Campo which is the town square. Large festivities surround the races of the 17 competing districts. This city is vibrant with terrific shopping and restaurants all around.

    The next day we went Firenze, Florence! It is the capital of the Tuscany region and it is known as the Merchant City. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is magnificent. We walked all through Florence with the guidance of our wonderful Tour Director. Afterwards, we had flexibility to explore on our own. There are many museums and one must make choices of what to see in the allotted time. Michelangelo’s famous marble sculpture of DAVID is a popular choice. You must purchase tickets for the museums and pay attention to the length of time it takes to visit. If you are ok with seeing a smaller copy of DAVID, there is one in Piazza dellaSignoria (Signoria Square).Even the outdoor copy was amazing. Shopping for leather goods such as jackets, purses and shoes was a popular choice. There is also fine jewelry and art. Many choose to visit the famous Ponte Vecchiobridge where there are many local venders selling their goods. I enjoyed Florence so much!

    Read along for the last part of my journey as our group circled back to Rome to see more popular sights.

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