Saturday, May 31, 2014

Italy! (Day Six) TUSCANY!

Today we traveled through Tuscany to Florence!  This was a BEAUTIFUL drive through Tuscany.  Along the way, our Disney guides told us lots of information about Italy.  We even got a little Italian pronunciation lesson from Marco (who is from Northern Italy).  I really loved the time in the bus when we got to hear from our guides.  Marco liked to joke about how totally NOT Italian the Olive Garden is.  He also talked about a lot of misconceptions Americans have about Italian food.  He was SO FUNNY!  He had us in stitches a lot of the trip.

We met up with our local guide who started us out at the Accademia building where we would be able to see the famous David statue (among other beautiful artwork).  Another Disney perk...we walked past all the people who had been standing in line for hours, and went straight in for our tour.  Awesome!  As we wandered through the museum, listening to our local guide (who was not quite as entertaining as our one in Rome), this is what Bryan and Mark looked like...

I, on the other hand, was looking at THIS...
Before coming here, I wasn't sure what the big deal was with the naked statue of David.  Now however, I completely understand.  First of all, it is larger than I ever imagined.  Second, it is amazing to me how Michelangelo could carve such detail into something as hard as marble.  Just the veins popping out on his hand alone...that is AMAZING work!  I was so happy to be able to see it!

Next, we walked to one of the most popular sites in Florence, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or "the Duomo".  Beautiful church!

Then we walked to the Piazza Della Signoria, where there is a reproduction of the David statue, along with a ton of other original famous sculptures.
Check out Bryan mimicking the David statue behind him.  Glad he didn't try to copy EVERYTHING about that statue.  We could have got in some trouble!

Next we walked to the most famous bridge in Florence - the Ponte Vecchio (which means "old bridge").  This bridge dates back to medieval times and has always been lined with shops.  Today, those shops house some very expensive jewelry stores.  My smart husband kept me away from there ;) 

Time for lunch!  Another yummy Tuscan feast!

Mark picked up a can of Italian tomatoes and teased Marco that he was going to have Chef Boyardee.  Yuck!

Bryan is always kind enough to drag my camera backpack around (which is actually quite a load).  We lovingly call him the "burro" (donkey) since he packs it around all day.  In Italy, burro is butter.

We enjoyed taking a rest outside the Basilica of Santa Croce, where Dante, Rossini, and Michelangelo's tombs are.  It is the largest Franciscan church in Italy.

From here we went to do a tour at the Palazzo Vecchio, which was one of my favorite parts of the day.  This is Florence's City Hall.  It was my favorite mostly because it is where a good portion of Dan Brown's book, Inferno, takes place.  We had a WONDERFUL tour guide here, who took us on the same tour Dan Brown was taken on while doing research for his book.  We got to see all the fun things that he used in his book!  This tour is called The Secret Routes Tour.

We started at this secret door out on the street, that leads into some secret tunnels.

We went through some small winding staircases to get to some of the hidden rooms...

This room is the massive "Room of the Five Hundred", and once held the Council of the Five Hundred, a governing body created by Savonarola during his short stint in power. The long room is largely decorated with works by Giorgio Vasari, who orchestrated the redesign of the room in the mid-16th century. It contains an ornate, coffered and painted ceiling, which tells the story of the life of Cosimo I de' Medici, and, on the walls, gigantic depictions of battle scenes of Florence's victories over rivals Siena and Pisa.

The famous Hercules and Diomedes sculpture, by Vincenzo de' Rossi (also mentioned in Dan Brown's book).  Totally made me laugh.  Bryan and Mark started talking about how true to life it is when it comes to both professional soccer and water polo.  Guys can be vicious when they want to win! :)

We went into the attic to view the trusses holding up all the artwork in the ceiling of the previous, massive room.  This was also in Brown's book.  So cool!

Dante's death mask, which plays a key role in Inferno...

Here we went behind the secret door in the Map Room (also in Inferno)...

This beautiful room which was the dressing room of Bianca Cappello, wife of Grand Duke Francesco I de 'Medici.  She wanted a way to secretly look out at the Chamber of the 500.  There is a grating here that we got to peek through to see down to that room.

We saw reproductions of the clothing that would have been worn at that time...and even tried some of it on...

We climbed around 250 steps to get to the top of the tower at the Vecchio.  AMAZING views!

Bryan was DYING to find a soccer jersey, and he finally found what he was looking for! 

Next we decided to climb the 416 steps to the top of the tower at the Duomo...some shots from about halfway up...we kept climbing...

FINALLY at the top!  Totally worth the climb!!

After arriving back to our hotel that night, we decided to walk to the next little village over to find a place to eat.  So glad we did!  The lighting was perfect as the sun was setting and I got some great shots of the surround Tuscan hillsides.  Beautiful!  We had a lovely dinner with bruschetta and pizza.

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