We had our own, “Under The Tuscan Sun” experience, there was more rain than sun which we thought added to the romantic and unhurried feeling of our time in Ripoli, Tuscany.
Our accommodation, an Italian Castle, was originally built in 1146 as part of Tuscany’s defenses and is one of the few remaining in the region. For the last few hundred years, it has been owned by the Paoli family, the current owners are the six generation. The Grandfather of the current owners, Rodolfo, was an accomplished Orchestra Director, Music Professor and an exclaimed expert in German composers. Being fluent in German Rodolfo was able to act as a kind of double agent, entertaining the Fascists and Nazis during WW2 in the formal living room of the castle while hiding out allied soldiers and jews throughout the house and then helping them escape via the resistance. One of the most famous person he help was the brother of Albert Einstein. Because he had already defected to the United States, Hitler was searching for all his relatives.
Our first night in Tuscany involved a cooking class run by the owners of the castle we were staying in. Carolyn and I learnt how to make traditional Italian pasta which was then cooked and served as our dinner that night. The cooking class was well worth doing, a great way to meet people and get into the local culture. The fact that were staying at the same place was a added bonus.
One of our main reasons for visiting Tuscany was to see Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery in Florence. We were somewhat overwhelmed by the size and perfection of the sculpture. We hadn’t really connected the fact that Michelangelo’s David was based on the David of the Bible as he was about to battle Goliath. The sculpture is a must see if you are ever in Florence, be sure to book well in advance otherwise you might not get in on the day and the line to buy tickets was extremely long. Carolyn had also booked tickets to climb to the top of the dome of the Duomo (Florence’s Cathedral) which gave spectacular views over Florence. You will want to do this as well if you ever visit Florence.
We finished of the day in Florence with another cooking class, this time we learn’t how to make pizza and gelato. With pasta, pizza and gelato under our belt we have close to 90% of the Italian diet sorted. Again, the cooking class was a great way to get into the culture and meet people. This time we were teamed up with three lovely ladies from the US and together we had a lot of fun.
In addition to seeing The David, we also planned to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We had read and heard so much about the Leaning Tower that we were a litter underwhelmed when we saw it first hand. Already seeing The David, which was breath taking, we think didn’t help nor did the little bit of stress getting there in the Italian traffic. We climbed it and took that all important photo, we just weren’t inspired by it. We think we should have done the Leaning Tower first and then saw The David. From Pisa we heading over to Lucca, the last walled city in Italy where you can ride around the top of the walls. It was a pleasant city which had the best gelato so far on our trip.
Florence and Tuscany were a great place to spend a few days and it was especially nice staying just outside the city. Tuscany wine exceeded its reputation (we took a few bottles with us), the food was great and the people were a pleasure to meet.
Link to Florence Photos – http://altmanstravel.com/photos/florence/
Link to Pisa & Lucca photos – http://altmanstravel.com/photos/pisa-lucca/