A bit of a leisurely morning before we hopped back on the tour bus to finish the tour that we got sidetracked on the day prior. I mean, we saw stores and boutiques and gelato and stuff … lots and lots of glorious stuff. Hmmm … anyway, we got back on the bus.
It was a cooler day with drizzle, so we had every intention of just staying aboard for the entire tour. However, we came to a sweet little stop on the tour – Piazza Mino da Fiesole, in the beautiful village of Fiesole. Fiesole is a metropolitan city in the Tuscany region, Italy. A favorite destination of many writers who have been attracted to Fiesole including Giovanni Boccaccio, John Milton, Percy Shelley, Alexandre Dumas, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Gertrude Stein. Fiesole was also a favorite place of Leonardo da Vinci who, reportedly, experimented with attempts at flight off its hills. (the Los Angeles Times)
Fiesole has become the go-to area to live of the very affluent of Italy. It is known for grand gardens and exquisite residences. This little gem is on the market for 20 million Euros. Today that is only $22,334,880. USD. A Bargain!
We took a few moments to enjoy a traditional Toscana lunch of burger and homemade chips. We were ready for that after 14 days – trust me!
Afterwards, we wanted to see more of the beautiful countryside, but the rain was drizzling and the wind was blowing really cold, We got a couple of shots of the clock tower of the Cathedral of Fiesole (Il Duomo), and the town. There are very few shops – maybe a couple cafes – not much more, other than the stunning gardens and homes.
Took a catnap on the bus ride “home” and spent time packing and doing laundry and getting ready to take the train to Rome in the morning.
Our 14th vacation day! We decided on the Hop On – Hop Off tour bus option, where we get on and off at 30 different points of interest. It turned out to be the perfect thing to do.
First stop – Piazzale Michelangelo. Beautiful panoramic views, replica of David and souvenir shopping for family. Listed as one of the best places to see Florence from above, it is “not just a perfect photo opportunity, but a moment of wonder. You are looking at the city that gave birth to incredible artists, amazing scientists and an enthralling history of discovery and power that has filled novels and movie theaters“. It certainly did not disappoint. Absolutely took my breath away.
Hopped back on the tour bus after a few hours and hopped off at the beginning of the bridge to begin the long walk to the Ponte Vecchio. “Built very close to the Roman crossing, the Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge, was the only bridge across the Arno in Florence until 1218. The current bridge was rebuilt after a flood in 1345. During World War II it was the only bridge across the Arno that the fleeing Germans did not destroy. Instead they blocked access by demolishing the medieval buildings on each side. On November 4, 1966, the bridge miraculously withstood the tremendous weight of water and silt when the Arno once again burst its banks.” The history is rich, but let us not ignore the world class shopping! And, thank goodness, because since we bought so many family gifts, we had to stop in a luggage shop and buy two more suitcases to carry them all home.
After perusing and purchasing our way through several blocks in the shopping district, we found the best gelato in the entire wide world … probably.
Half salted caramel and the other half the darkest chocolate ever known to man – er – woman. Then, the long walk over the bridge and down to the tour bus stop, wheeling our newly purchased luggage behind us. We were stopped before we could take one step to board the tour bus, “Nessun bagaglio è permesso sull’autobus. Devi aspettare l’autobus della città.” We could not bring the luggage on to the tour bus. We needed to await the city bus. And, so we did.
Barely had enough energy to walk from the bus stop to our home base. Joyfully exhausted.
“Sure, Florence is touristy. But where else can you stroll the same pedestrian streets walked by Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Botticelli while savoring the world’s best gelato?” – unknown source
If Tuscany is the quiet diva of Italy, then Firenze is most certainly the diamond! A brilliant way to end a vacation in Italy. Florence. Firenze to the locals. A mesmerizing bouquet of art, architecture and rich history. Words, pictures – nothing can do this city justice. You have to experience it with your own eyes and heart. And four days was not even a speck of enough time to appreciate this diamond.
Day 12: Our first evening was spent waiting for the owner of the rental property to arrive (almost an hour late) and then listening to her go over each and every nuance of the apartment in the greatest of detail … “this is a butter knife … this is a cake knife …) She allotted us ONE roll of toilet paper for four days; 2 tiny trash can liners for a tiny trash receptacle and two dishwashing tablets. Kind of funny now. But then – not so much.
DAY 13: The following day we venture out from the little apartment (also Ikea-ized) and found a neighborhood restaurant – gorgeous inside and fun to listen and watch the locals there for lunch, sharing long tables and sitting family style. Ristorante Alla Vecchia Bettola Firenze.
Then we decide to search out the Boboli Gardens, a park in Florence, Italy, that is home to a collection of sculptures dating from the 16th through the 18th centuries, with some Roman antiquities. We walked and walked and walked some more. Making our way past a tall and winding stone wall – sure that the next turn would be an opening to the gardens. ‘Til we came upon this beauty – Piazzale di Porta Romana.
Note: A plaque on the external wall claims the gate was erected in 1327. Originally and as demonstrated on the 1584 Map by Stefano Buonsignori the gate had a lower outer wall with a small courtyard dominated by the larger gate we see today. And through that entrance is residential mixed with retail. And it is just this kind of place that makes my heart flutter! ! This is where, walking through that ancient gate, you leave the modern Florence and enter historic Firenze.
After absorbing the sounds and sights of this beauty, we made a run to the local grocery store and then “home” to make dinner and relax with a little sister time. Exhaustion has indeed set in!
My nephew, Julian with Alina in tow, arrived perfectly on time to shuttle his mother and Auntie to the airport. Alina was sweet and playful as usual and Julian was ready with open arms and comforting hugs. Delta is in a newer part of the airport in Austin as they are expanding quite a bit. I sat down to get a bit of accounting done and before I knew it, we were ready to board the first leg of our flight: Priority business class from Austin to Atlanta. Newer plane. Exceptional service. And just as my sweet friend, Isabel said – endless mimosas and warm nuts. I just had orange juice, but I COULD have had endless mimosas had I wanted.
In flight, day 2 just sort of morphed into day 3 of vacation and we began our second leg (for Robyn – third leg for me!) in the beautiful Delta One airbus bed cubicles. Not only a semi-private cubicle, but a clean comforter, fluffy pillow and possibly the best peppered beef dinner I have ever had followed by pure vanilla ice cream topped with caramel and chocolate sauce. Just as I told the flight attendant, I never fathomed that the phrase; “best dinner ever” and “I think I ate too much” would roll out of my mouth on an airline.
After dinner, a bit of accounting in my cozy cubicle 4B and snuggled up in my fluffy comforter and pillow to catch a bit of much needed sleep here and there mixed with my Amazon music in my headphones, the time passed relatively easy and comfortably for an 8+ hour flight. Just as we were landing in Paris, the sun was starting to rise. We retrieved our luggage (and way too much of it by the way) then made our way to the taxi area. We noticed several polizia with automatic weapons across their chests and ready at a moment’s notice. Our taxi driver explained that the Italian President Sergio Mattarella was visiting Florence for the 500th anniversary of the death of Davinci. Hence the additional security. Good to know!Checked into the beautiful AC Hotel Firenze (the Marriott), relaxed with a hot shower and a nap before heading out for dinner. We walked to a Ristorante Pizzeria – very authentic. Cute and homey decor. Ordered two different entrees (one was wood fired pizza – Yummy!) so we could share and taste. Since dinner hours begin at 7:30pm and then takes three hours, we were more than ready for a little Law and Order in Italian and a regular night’s rest!