29 March 2016

tuscan adventures

From Florence to Lucca - Italian Dairies Day 4

It was a busy day this one. Three major destinations in less than 12 hours! That's a lot of being a "tourist" for even the most hardened of travelers! It all starts with the morning to work our way around Florence before being guided through Pisa and Lucca. So a hearty breakfast was required. Once we'd scoffed our way through as much continental breakfast and cups of coffee humanly possible, the cobbled streets of Florence soon beckoned.

Florence from the bell tower
800+ steps!
It didn't look very high really but 413 steps later I felt very differently. I'm not great with heights even though I've been up most of the worlds tallest buildings! The bell tower of the Duomo (Florence Cathedral or Santa Maria Del Fiore) gives fabulous views of the city and the Tuscan hills beyond. The steps, although awkward in places were surprisingly easy (must be getting fitter!) At the entrance we purchased a mini pass (around 15 euros) which lets you into five individual places, (the tower and the cathedral dome being two of them.) Well we're always one for a challenge so having looked at the wonderful view from the bell tower we head almost immediately up the 460+ steps of the cathedral dome! Same view, yes, but getting up close to the dome's incredible painting is something else (see image below.) 

We walked through HELL! So graphic were its details and so high up were we, I didn't really want to hang around for long. Although a traffic jam of people, looking at said painting ensured we'd spend longer than necessary in this most amazing of buildings. That aside it was well worth the effort. One thing. Why do people write stupid graffiti on ancient walls? It was everywhere; "I waz here" penned ditties! Earliest I could find was from around 1967! Still didn't look nice. 

"413 steps to the bells"

Florence cathedral
The Last Judgement by Vasari and Zuccari
So after the towers, a spot of lunch and a quick gander around the streets and shops we were speeding our way towards Pisa (about 1hr 30mins coach ride) from Florence. If I can be absolutely honest, other than the tower and its adjoining museums and the church there doesn't seem to be much else. Just lots of tacky souvenir shops outside the walls; awful. When you first look at the tower you're struck by just how little it seems to lean! I know they have pulled it up slightly but still it didn't seem to be leaning as much as I thought. We took the typical picture, although we tried to be a little different (see below). I'll let you decide if it worked or not. And that really was that. It was impressive and beautiful and leaning so I suppose it ticked all the boxes really. 

leaning tower of pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The author "not" succeeding in his picture attempts
Our next stop was Lucca, a medieval walled city that just so happened to be the birthplace of Puccini. And remains a city of sound with its summer festival. Anyone for a bit of Lionel Richie this summer? It's a beautiful city and if you enjoy looking at your churches there are plenty to choose from. Our guide told us it was the city of a 100 churches. Felt more like a 1000! Although I'm not complaining before anyone asks. Ornate buildings, beautiful courtyards and squares make it a town to get lost in. And that we did, all be it with the help of our guide (Angela). Who incidentally was very good. Knowledgeable, friendly and clearly passionate about her job. If you are ever in the region then a stop off here is highly recommended. As the sun started to sink between the nearby hills we were whisked back to Florence and our final night in the Tuscan capital.

On the streets of Lucca
At the site of the amphitheater with our guide

tuscan hills
Sunset over Tuscan Hills

So a day then full of culture, history and surprises. With a final morning left to enjoy Florence we were coming to the end of our Italian adventure. Tomorrow was all about gifts and last looks. Until then we can reflect on what had just been, and think about how nice it would be to spend lazy summer evenings drinking wine in one of Lucca's many squares! Just a thought but oh what a nice thought.

Once again thanks to everyone for their continued support, the response to these diaries has been phenomenal.  

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