Last days in a Tuscan paradise.
Sadly we are up to our last day in Chianti, with the worry of packing everything up for the train ride to Rome, three days there and then home.
We explored Florence ( Firenze to the locals) on our second full day and got the chores of train tickets and locating the car return point out of the way. We were in the Europcar office when Danny walked in, a doppelgänger for our bro in law! Both of us must have looked a sight as we were on different sides of the office, mouths open!
We walked for hours checking out the amazing, detailed beauty of this city. The Dumo, piazzas, bridges, everything seems to have the artisans touch.
The shopping too is amazing, although the markets pressure techniques left us cold, all 'same same' not much different.
Wednesday we headed for Siena, an old walled city 25k south of where we are staying. Much smaller than Firenze it was a pleasure to explore within its walls, although we got dreadfully disoriented in its maze of narrow alleys and tall buildings and walked ourselves ragged before we were able to find a taxi to take us back to the car. The cities central square is amazing.
On Thursday we also organised guided tours of the cities main Galleria degli Uffizi and Galleria dell Accademia, the small museum containing the works of Michelangelo for Saturday. The gallery contains many of Michalangelo's unfinished sculptures and of course the celebrated statue of David. Our guide provided insights into his methods, unquestioned genius and provided perspective on the politics of the time. The statue is truly a wonder that has to be seen to be appreciated.
The Uffizi , like Paris's Louvre, is too big to absorb in few hours. Our guide Roberto, gave us an understanding of the progression of the renaissance, it's influences and how it was related to the powers and politics of the time, as well as an appreciation of its major works and the building itself. It is amazing to think that at the time of the Medici power so much conflict ensued between rival centres Firenze and Siena for so long, cities only 60 k or so apart! Even recently locals were still concerned if their offspring wanted to marry someone of " enemy" heritage! ie from Florence!
Our host here in Lecchi is an Archeologist with the Florence uni, and he suggest we visit two sites in the area today (Sunday), both with heritage going back 1000 years.
The first was a castle owned by the same family all that time, with one member Bettino Ricasoli largely responsible for developing the wine industry in Italy, the unification of the country and twice Prime Minister in the early 1860' s. Charles, our host, had an invitation to dine at the castle with Bettino's descendants in one of the richly decorated state rooms that had hosted Italian royalty in the past and he had referred to the Medici as a powerful family, at which point the Baron stiffend and referred to them as " Nuevo riche"!
The second was an Abbey, Badia a Coltibuono established by the original Benedictine monks who occupied the site until Napoleon invaded and chased them off. Today the crypt beneath the Chappell is used to house the oak vats holding the produce of Coltibuono wines, whose logo features the planting stick, a symbol of the Benedictine order. The abbey is now a B& B, and when we visited was hosting an international vintage & veteran rally.
Where we are staying has a number of castles in the area like the one we visited today that were on the border between the major power centres for centuries and the area has been the site of many battles.
Charles, our host and tour guide, is working on a drive tour for our last day, briefing at 0900!