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Nut Cakes and Genius

Siena and Florence

sunny 30 °C

14th September 2013

Last night we had a great meal at the in house restaurant at Ergife Hotel. It was amazing but AUD$120 which we thought was a bit steep. I had scaloppine, a favourite from home. This was the best I'd ever had. Ethan had Ravioli with fresh tomato; and David had mozzarella, grilled vegetables and prosciutto. We were all very happy that we'd had an exceptional meal in Rome.

Today we headed for Siena and Florence via a magnificent drive through Tuscan Hills. We departed at 8.00am and had one small stop at a roadside service station before reaching Siena at around 11.30am. The drive there was breathtaking, many rolling hills and Tuscan Villas tucked away behind cypress pines. Fields of sunflowers, olive groves and vineyards as well.

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Siena has to be the most beautiful place I have been to in Europe so far. It's fan shaped piazza is lined with stunning buildings and of course The Cathedral dome hidden in behind makes a great vista. We followed Tiago from the coach up to the square and sat for a while taking it all in. We had free time for 2 hours and the three of us walked up to The Cathedral and then continued until we found a quaint little cafe in one of the lane ways. They say away from the square is the best because most of the time the cafes in the square are very commercial and expensive. We each had a light lunch, I had frittata this time, David salad and Ethan a calzone. As I got up to pay I noticed a display case of Panforte Siena, my favourite nut cake. I knew it was called a Siena cake but didn't link the two! Here you buy it by the kilo so the lady cut a wedge off it and wrapped it up to go. It was delicious.

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As we headed back to the coach we had 30 minutes of wandering through the small lanes that make up Siena central city area. Lots of boutique fashion houses, cafes and souvenir shops. Nothing took my fancy so we kept walking. As we went through the streets we noticed lots of different door knockers of all of the large wooden doors. Some looked like a little different and we found out that they were the old iron rings that they used to hang fire torches off. Some were also used to tie your horse to when you rode into town.

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The Romans are great story tellers and one of the favourites throughout Italy has to be the one of the naming of Rome. Romulus and Remus twin brothers, who were weened by a she-wolf, both wanted to rule Rome. Romulus killed Remus on Palatine HIll in Rome and from that day forward the place was called Rome. Later in history Remus's son ruled Siena, and because of this there are several statues of the Romulus and Remus being weened by a she-wolf. They are actually all over Italy.

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Next up was a 2 hour trip to Florence which we made very easily, traffic was good on this day. Florence was not what I expected. It is somewhat calmer than Rome and also much cleaner. We were headed to meet our guide Guliana who was taking us through Florence, in particular the Galleria dell' Accademia. This is where Michelangelo's David is displayed. It was chaos waiting to get into the museum. So many tour groups in the streets, street hawkers with prints of the famous artworks all over the ground. There was also a couple of emergencies, ambulances pulled up at the door for two women who had fainted. It was quite hot in there and the air conditioning was not working.

After 20 minutes of waiting we finally got our tickets and went in. We were, as usual, wired up with sound so that we could here our guide more easily. The first room was a room full of amazing Renaissance paintings. One that Michelangelo had worked on when he was just 17 years old while an apprentice. From that room we moved into the next gallery and stood among 5 pieces of unfinished work by Michelangelo. It was inspirational to see how he had started each piece of work and for one reason or another they had not been completed. The guide said that a couple of the reasons may have been the conflict in his life over being commissioned to so much work and not have time to finish them all. He also worked from a solid slab of marble and did not make models like every other sculptor of his time, so perhaps he did not like the form it was taking? We will never know but most of them were perfect in my eyes, albeit unfinished.

In the same room, and bathed in a natural glow of light, is 'David'. What a spectacular piece, and to think he was only 27 when he completed this work. We spent quite some time just looking at this glorious statue. The guide spoke of the rivalry between Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and how Leonardo left town after feeling that he couldn't compete in the early days. Michelangelo was commissioned by both the famous Medici family and at the same time the Popes of the time, and they say that he felt great pressure living in the political sphere.

We had a browse through the rest of the gallery and then took a guided walking walking tour through Florence. We also strolled into the piazza to see the the replica 'David' and some other quite brilliant statues.

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The Duomo was second last stop on the tour and was brilliant. Strangely enough only two sides is kept clean and the other appear very dirty. It was impressive though, the colours of marble pink, green and white for faith , hope & charity.

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The last stop was Basilica de Santa Croce burial place of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli. It has 16 Chapels inside all decorated with frescoes by Giotto. It is located on Piazza Santa Croce surrounded by cafes and shops, and unfortunately street hawkers! From here we walk to our coach and head to our hotel for the first time. It is 6.30pm and we are very tired after a long day of travelling. I open up my panforte siena cake and take a few bites because I am very hungry.

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The hotel is Novotel Firenze and is not anything special. It is near the airport and a long way from town. Tonight we had dinner included at the hotel and it was very nice. We started (Primo) with pesto pasta, then Secondo was chicken Florentine with beans and potato. Dessert was just a tart that was not very nice. Our rooms were very simple and the mattress was thin and looked uncomfortable, but it was like a futon and was great.

We started to prepare for a full day in Florence tomorrow and a Tuscan Hills dinner at night!

Posted by JenMF 11:53 Archived in Italy

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