I couldn't include everything we did, saw and ate in Florence in one wrap up blog post, so I'm just going to include a few highlights of our last few days in Florence. I mentioned seeing Michaelangelos David - of course there is no photo of that experience as cameras were off limits in the museum - but the statue was phenomenal and justified all of the hype! After our visit to see David however we hit the Medici Villa - not too far from the musuem. It had fewer people and was relaxing as well as beautiful. Some snaps from the villa:
I think our favorite part of the villa however was the garden which had several orange trees that smelled beautiful and a fountain or two to provide relaxing water sounds. We gave our tired dogs a rest here and soaked up the Italian sun:
So nice! Of course we also ate more gelato:
All right. If I'm honest we ate gelato every day. At least once a day. It was life altering, what can I say?
One of the nicest days we spent was walking around the Boboli gardens. It's part of the Pitti Palace. You can get a ticket to see the Boboli gardens, portions of the Pitti Palace and the Bardini gardens for only 6 euros - an amazing bargain in my opinion. My understanding from reading a few internet sites is that the Bardini gardens are a continuation of the Boboli gardens (although you leave the Pitti Palace site, walk through a city street until you come to an entrance for the Bardini gardens - it's a bit of a hike) and that they just recently reopened.
The Boboli garden is huge and there are surprises around every corner. We actually found ourselves gasping at times when some new and beautiful area came into view. Here are a few highlights:
At the top of the Boboli garden there is a GORGEOUS rose garden and I think we arrived at the perfect moment to find all the flowers in bloom:
As gorgeous as the rose garden itself is, it also provides a great location for photos of the Florence skyline and the surrounding Tuscan landscape:
While the Boboli gardens are amazing I can safely say that the spot where we spent most of our time gasping was in the Bardini gardens. This is not just because the gardens themselves are beautiful, but because they provide breathtaking views of Florence and the Arno river. And one of the GREATEST spots to enjoy this view is from a little building that serves perfect cappucinos for you to sip while chanting over and over "this view is unbelievable":
Some other shots from the Bardini garden that I hope give some idea of how beautiful it is:
Ahh, Tuscany! Such a gorgeous place. It's so wonderful being in Europe and being able to take quick, fairly cheap and fast trips to countries I've always dreamed of visiting. The tough part is, after a trip like this, I want to go back to those cities I've really enjoyed but at the same time want to see as many new locations in Europe as possible while we're here. It's a pretty good problem to have I know. I've yacked so much about the great food, the great people and the beautiful scenery so much to the hubby though, I think sooner or later I'll be back in Tuscany! Ciao, all!
As I mentioned, the whole trip to Italy started with a plan to go to a cooking school in Tuscany. Katie found our spot on the internet: A Taste Of Tuscany. It was great! You can actually stay in one of several villas they have on the property - but you need a reservation of about a week. As we were just in town for the weekend, we stayed at a hotel in Florence, but after getting a look at the villa that housed the cooking class and the surrounding buildings - I could seriously see going back just to soak up the Tuscan scenery!
The school itself is set in a 13th century villa:
We looked around the villa a little, but hey - we were there to cook, right? So we got to it!
Our menu was bruschetta, ravioli stuffed with eggplant, gnocchi with pesto sauce, chicken and tiramisu! All from scratch and all delicious! In addition to our foursome we met Carrie, Martha and Nancy - great women who felt like old friends as we dived into our cooking class. Some action shots:
That is Lisa our chef/teacher showing us all the best way to chop up tomatoes for bruschetta.
We all got a chance to crank out the pasta in preparation for making our ravioli.
Here is Katie, Nancy and I pushing all the air out of our just stuffed ravioli:
We also rolled out gnocci:
After we were done cooking and learning we sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labor:
It was really, really fantastic! I don't know how much I've improved my cooking skills, but I do feel brave enough to try making gnocchi and tiramisu from scratch! The hubby is pretty thrilled!
Spring has been pretty good to me travel-wise. First I had the trip to London with the hubby and then last week I set off with three friends to see beautiful Florence!!!!
Ahhh yeah! Florence is gorgeous!!! We stayed at a little hotel called the Hotel Balcony. Pretty basic rooms, but such a great location. You could see the Duomo from the very pretty and comfortable hotel balcony. (hence the name!)
See? You can just see the top of the Duomo in the photo of my three travel mates - Katie, Eva and Amy. O.k., so maybe it wasn't a clear view of the Duomo. But you only had to walk about three blocks to stand right in front of the church and soak up its grandeur:
Yeah - I took quite a few pictures of the Duomo. But it's freakin' gorgeous right? I know!!
We had a leisurely lunch at a cafe in the piazza in front of the Duomo and then did a stroll through town, hitting some of the highlights. First, the Piazza della Signoria:
That is a statue of Neptune by the artist Ammannati. There is a copy of the statue of David opposite the Neptune statue but I foolishly did not take a photo of that statue because I figured we would be going to see the REAL statue of David on Saturday and I would take a photo of the real deal. Except you totally can NOT take photos of the real statue of David - museum rules. So my bad guys, no photo of the excellent physique of David.
This is a beautiful Piazza though with statues everywhere. Someone with a bit more knowledge of art could really tell you all about it. All I can say is - look how PRETTY!!!:
After the Piazza, it was up the street, a quick right and boom! This:
The Ponte Vecchio. How gorgeous is that? It's the oldest bridge in Florence, built first in the 11th century and then rebuilt in the 13th century after it was destroyed by a flood. The proprietor of our hotel - Francesco (more about him later, such a great guy!) - mentioned that this was the only bridge the Germans didn't destroy at the end of WWII when they were retreating from the allies. They did however blow up all the old buildings on either side of the bridge. The buildings were reconstructed in the 1950s and Francesco described them as "disgusting" but I didn't see anything in Florence that could possibly be described as disgusting.
The buildings and stores on the Ponte Vecchio itself are pretty ancient - they are primarily jewelry and goldsmith shops that have been passed down from generation to generation. They have beautiful things but you need about a kabillion dollars for a real shopping spree on this bridge:
Whew! So after that exhausting walk (work with me people, I am trying to justify everything I ate by imagining a HUGE amount of calories burnt off by strolling through Florence!) we were ready for Gelato!! People, let me say that all of the ranting and raving and wild eyed, gasping assurances that Gelato is the BEST THING EVER that I endured by friends who had visited Italy in the past STILL did not prepare me for the awesomeness that is GELATO!!! Is it the creamy texture? The perfect level of sweetness? The variety of flavors? I don't know - what's with all the questions? All I know is that it is heaven in a bowl. The only bad thing about Gelato is trying to decide what flavor you're going to eat:
So the stated reason for this trip to Florence was to take a cooking class. I'll be honest though, we ate a lot more than we cooked on this trip. But the cooking class was fantastic and I can't wait to blog about that next. Ciao!