For this blog post we have moved on to Florence, The capital of the Tuscany region of Northern Italy. We thought we’d stop here so we could visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa (next blog) but when we arrived we were stunned by the beauty of the city and the whole Tuscany Region.  Like so many of our stopovers we really would have liked more time but with 4 months on the road we were getting a bit weary.

The Works of Masters

Firenze (its’ Italian name) is famous for being a centre of culture, monuments and Renaissance art and wow, did we see some of this.  We began our investigations with a visit to The Galleria dell’Accademia to see the famous Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture.  The gallery is also home to many other famous artworks by such well known names as Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, Andrea del Sarto, Allessando Allori and Orcagna.  The gallery also opened a musical section which houses  masterpieces by Stradivari and Bartolomeo Cristofori, inventor of the piano.

Is Michelangelo the Greatest…

I just had to put in multiple photo’s of ‘David’.  I do appreciate fine art but to see the detail of this work brings your understanding of what really is fine art to a new level. Just zoom in on his feet and hands to see the rough skin and veins on this wonderful statue.  You could swear there was blood pulsing through his hands.  Michelangelo really was a genius.  Alongside ‘David’ and many other Michelangelo’s were paintings by many masters, reliefs and a magnificent embroidered alter front from 1336.  Couple this with the Sistine Chapel we saw only a few days earlier  and we truly know how lucky we are to have seen these unique pieces of work.  (We also saw Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in Paris in 2005).

Or is it Da Vinci?

Speaking of Da Vinci, that was our second stop. The Da Vinci Museum.  I have always said if Leonardo was born today he would still be ahead of his time.  The man was pure unequalled intellect.  To wander through this display confirms how great he was.  Many of his ideas from the late 15th and early 16th century are still in use today.  For example, the ‘gym’ and don’t even start on his theories of flight.  Put that all together with his art and his studies of the human body and he has no peer.

How Gorgeous Can One City Be?

After a few hours of Leo’s work we exited the museum and became spellbound by the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral.  This immense structure was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to a design of Arnolfo di Cambio and was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi.   The exterior glows in whaite marble with green marble inlaid panels.  We walked around and around the piazza taking in the spectacle.  The front of the cathedral has a most ornate and gorgeous set of gothic reliefs and statues that really take your breath away and along side it is the Baptistery equally resplendant in green and white marble.  It was so good every girl and her dog was there trying to push through the walls.

Great Tour, Poor Guide.

A day or so later we went on an organised (well, not so organised) tour.  The sights were wonderful even though I came so close to a punch up with the guide.  But that’s another story. 

Beauty Knows No Bounds

First stop was the medieval city of Siena .  Siena started life as an Etruscan settlement, (c 900-400 BCE) and is now a UNESCO listed city. With a population of less than 60,000 people Siena has several claims to fame not the least of which is the twice annual Palio horse race around the town square.  Want to see some dangerous fun?  Watch this You Tube Video

I’ve got to say Siena is a gorgeous and fascinating place.  The narrow cobbled lanes are hilly and the buildings mostly 13th century.  The town square, home to the Palio Race is just magnificent. As expected the cathedrals are also a sight with their medieval construction and magnificent stone work.

Another ‘Fort’ City

From Siena we drove to San Gimignano which is another medieval town encircled by stone wall fortifications.  San Gimignano is a town through which a trail ran from Canterbury, England to Jerusalum and the Holy Land.  It was a trail travelled mostly by pilgrims heading to St Peter’s Tomb in the middle ages. The narrow cobbled lanes now house mostly market shops aimed at tourists though a fair population of locals still reside here.

Is It Me or Is That Tower Drunk?

Moving on from San Gimignano we had a lunch and wine tasting at a Tuscan winery named Poggio ai Laghi.  After lunch we moved on to the main attraction, The Leaning Tower of Pisa. I am sure that everyone is familiar with the tower.  What we didn’t know was that it is a small part of a piazza which includes a great cathedral and a Baptistery as well as the Tower.

That’s it for this post.  From Florence we head off to the romance of Venice and its’ canals. As usual keep an eye open for the next post coming your way.

Bye for now,

Garry & Shane

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