Friday, 24 July 2015

Visiting Italy: Florence

A short train journey took us from the Tuscan countryside  right into the heart of Florence. We were staying in a little apartment in the centre of all the action, from which we could walk just about everywhere. 

First stop, the spectacular Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The building is amazing, the facade completely covered in pink, green and white marble, all carved with incredible details. 

Next, we stumbled upon Piazza della Signoria where there was an impressive collection of renaissance statues lining one side of the Piazza. One evening, an orchestra performed in the Piazza, right in amongst the shadows of the statues. The music filled the square, bringing the atmosphere alive!

The river was a short walk from Piazza della Signoria. Arching over the river was Florence’s oldest bridge. From where we were standing, the Ponte Vecchio looked like little houses had been stuck on its side, floating above the water. Some even had window boxes! We walked along the river towards the bridge whilst being entertained by the fleet of paddle boarders who were frantically paddling their way around a watery race course!

The ‘houses’ turned out to be jewellery shops, which lined sides of the bridge, their glinting treasures shining in the sunshine. We found a gap in the shops and gazed out over the riverbanks of Florence. What a view!

Our stroll over the other side of the river took us to Pitti Palace, a building once owned by the Medici family. Luckily for us, we were visiting on a Sunday and so the entry to the palace’s three museums was free! After a short queue, we delved inside, and came face to face with some gilded rooms, amazing costumes and lifelike sculptures, along with some more great views over Florence!

We braved the scorching heat and ventured out into the Boboli Gardens at the back of the house, tackling the steep climb to the fountain at the top.

Florence was full of art - the Pitti Palace was stuffed full of paintings and sculptures, and there were  other galleries all over the city. One morning, we went to pay Michelandelo's David a visit. The statue was incredibly impressive, towering over the crowds of people gazing up at it, looking as if it would spring to life!

We found some great little places to eat hidden in away down Florence's side streets. One restaurant which was right next to our apartment had a queue outside every night! 

Look at all the colourful plates of food!
We managed to spend half a day in another little café and ending up ordering some delicious brochette - it tasted just as good as it looks!

All too soon however, it was time to leave so we packed up our stuff and headed for the train station. Florence had been just amazing, but Rome was calling!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Visiting Italy: Tuscany

Finally, after weeks of excitedly waiting, it was time to go on holiday. I had spent the week writing lists and faffing over how to fit everything I wanted to take into our ridiculously small luggage limit (7.5kg of hold baggage each!? What?!)  but now it was time. The boyfriend and I were heading to Italy!
We were off for two weeks and had decided to travel around a little bit, so our trip involved a few days in the Tuscan countryside, a couple of days in Florence and a few more in Rome. It was going to be glorious!

We landed at Pisa airport and after a couple of short trains, we arrived in the small village of Rignano Sull'Arno that was to be our home for our Tuscan stay. It was beautifully hot, the sun beating down a sizzling 35oc, and, after setting off walking for all of about 10mins, we found ourselves to be a tad lost.  Wandering around, we discovered just how hilly a tiny village can manage to be (very!), before eventually and exhaustedly finding the gates to our accommodation.

We had booked all our accommodation for the trip through Air B&B (basically a site where people offer up their spare rooms to tourists for very reasonable prices) and we seemed to have struck gold. Our very friendly host Leonardo (how much more Italian can you get?) showed us into our own little stone cottage which had a little sitting room, kitchen, a large bedroom and a rather unexpectedly modern bathroom. He showed us around, recommended his brother’s pizzeria, and then left us to inspect the pool.

The view from the pool was amazing. The ground to the side of the pool just dropped away and suddenly we had this beautiful view over the Tuscan countryside. We could see for miles and miles all around! I was instantly very happy and knew where I’d be spending all of my time!

Tuscany was wonderful. I managed to read an entire book (something I haven’t done in a long time), get a tan (something I haven’t done in even longer), eat some great pizza (Leonardo’s bro’s place turned out to be really good!) and just generally catch up on some well needed sleep. I was in bliss!

Soon however, it was time to go to Rome…