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With the McCaffry family in Florence and Tuscany.

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No this is not Tuscany it is Winchester MA USA.

Before we left, we mowed the lawn, locked the house, stopped newspapers and mail and then headed off for a month hoping when we returned to find our house in good order.

Thankfully we did!

We stayed at the Machiavelli Palace Hotel in the old city just a short walk from the central train station (Santa Maria Novella) and not far from many of the attractions in town.

Breakfast was good and the staff on the reception desk were very helpful.

Mike Pride, did the legwork to find the hotel and negotiated a great price for what we got.

Early on we bought "hop on hop off" bus tickets and that enabled us to get an overview of the city and also get bit out of town and up a hill side for a panaromic view from Piazzale Michelangelo.

 

While the Duomo does dominate the city it is often hidden by the other buildings in the narrow streets.

But whenever you get a glimpse of it, it provides a guide if you are lost.

(Which many of us were for the first few days)

The sun was setting and made this nice halo effect.
Frances and John
Frances and Theresa

Nina and Anthony who unfortunately had not known that we planned to take the next bus to make a dinner schedule in Florence so they missed the bus.

The next bus took them the long way round but they did catch up with us at the restaurant when we were tucking into our desserts.

Lessons were learned that with a group of ten we needed to be absolutely sure that everyone hears the plan.

Bryan set up dinner that first evening we were all in town. It was at a friendly and good restaurant near our hotel.

Interestingly unlike our experience the previous year with a similar size group in Bar Harbor Maine, we had little difficulty in finding a restaurant that could seat 10 right away.  Perhaps it is the greater frequency of having family groups; or perhaps Florence was just not as crowded as Bar Harbor.

The eating got serious when the "Secondi" arrived!

Or amusing depending on your food choice!

This is a Florentine Calzone which is about three times the size of a Boston calzone.

   

The silver lining to Anthony and Nina taking the long route on the bus that first evening was that they visited and liked Fiesole which became a target for a later trip and ultimately the location of Michael's 70th birthday lunch.

Here we are getting ready to try out the Aurora restaurant in Fiesole. It was beautifully located on the edge of the hill with great views down towards Florence.

Theresa and Mike at the Aurora.
We climbed the hill above Fiesole to visit the little church and get even better views of the city and plain below.
The Florence Fiesole bus.
Checking the guide book
Bryan and Sheila made it to the top.
In the church.
View from near the top.
The hop on hop off bus back

We took the train to Pisa. 

It was a good "learning experience" in how to buy train tickets. This stood us in good stead when Frances and I needed to buy tickets to Rome.  The secret we found is to use the automatic machines and not to line up in the booking hall to get a number which then allows you to line up to talk to a booking clerk (with a total elapsed time of about an hour). 

This first sight of the leaning tower of Pisa made us realize that it REALLY does LEAN!

What Frances and I had not expected was that the other structures in the area would all be so very elegant too.
Some of the frescoes in the Pisa area were very ancient and of very high quality although some were damaged by floods and age, and restoration is under way.

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence is a magnet to tourists and the shops along the bridge are all very high end. (expensive) 

Theresa noted however, that if you look through the shops you get great views up and down the river.

  Otherwise the central area where you see everyone standing in the photo is the best place for a view.

Here I am in the Palazzo Pitti with our trusty Florence guide book. I am posing for an email to David and Cindy who kindly loaned us this useful book along with a similar one for Rome.

I would have liked somebody to wheel me through most of the museums and churches on a hospital bed, armed with binoculars, as the ceilings were painted with the most amazing works.

Standing and looking up for long periods gets to be uncomfortable.

I could include dozens if not hundreds of similar photos we took.

Just beautiful paintings in every room
Frances took her turn posing with the guide book.  We found this nice lunch area in the Palazzo Pitti. Service was slow but we were ready for a rest after touring the palace or gardens.
There was a display of fashions through the ages at the Pitti Palace.

The Giardino di Boboli is a large park on a fairly steep hill.

So quite a lot of energetic walking is necessary to explore them properly.

The day we were there it was drizzly, so we used that as and excuse not to visit every nook and cranny.

Here is a view of the Duomo from the Boboli gardens; from a terrace right behind the Pitti Palace.

In the mausoleum of the Capelle Medicee; this is one side of a tomb sculpted by Michelangelo.

The female figure is

"Evening" with a male "Dawn" on the other side of the tomb.

I was in awe how the sculptor made hard marble look like soft flesh.

 

I just loved this statue of the "Fisher Boy" in the Bargello Museum.

I added the detail photo from the other side. (See right)

You can see he is gently holding and admiring the fish!

Just in case you wanted to know what our common ancestors looked like!
 

On another day we make a very enjoyable train trip to the hill town of Lucca. 

From the train station we walked through the interesting streets of the old town.

Mike and I had purchased the train tickets the evening before (this time from the machine); but it would only give out 6 tickets at a time so we had both a six and a three ticket (as there were nine of us at this point with Bryan having returned home for eye surgery).

 

After lunch we split up with an agreement to meet at the train station to catch a specific train back so we could use our tickets together.

 

 

We made our way to the Lucca ampitheater where, on a hot day, we were happy to relax and eat some "gelato".

There was a wall all around the city with a walking path on the top and I wanted to walk it.

First problem was to find an access point.

That took about half an hour as we got lost along the way.

So when we saw some taxis near a ramp off the wall we came down and rode back to the train station.

He had a hard life. (From the Medici Palace.)
Madonna and Child by Lippi is also from the Medici Palace.
Full moon on the Ponte Vecchio.

Frances had noted that an annual procession took place on Michael's birthday. Anthony describes it well

"The evening found us back in the city to witness the “Fiesta Della Rificolona”, a procession of lanterns traditional on the eve of Mary's birthday. A brass band played (Village People hits, oddly!) 

(Continued below)

and children (of all ages!) were wide-eyed about their lanterns – the best of which were home-made and self-decorated. It felt more like a ‘happening' than a structured event: the ‘family' dimension of the celebration was not lost on any of us."
The Blue Sun Hat!
The Birthday Boy at the Aurora Restaurant in Fiesole.

We took a one day bus tour visiting the hill town of San Gimignano and Sienna. This trip was much enjoyed as it was a pretty day and the towns visited of great interest.  The tour also included a lunch with wine tasting led by a high spirited woman who had the audience laughing. (But our bus driver had advised us not to buy the wine as it was in his view overpriced)

Sienna Cathedral was magnificent with tall black and white columns and decorated marble floors here is a section showing the "Massacre of the Innocents".

Barbara and Michael.

The cooking school in the Florence Central Market.

The central market was magnificent and well planned with many foodstuffs we do not see, or at least not in the same way. One evening we all had dinner in a market restaurant and I think most of us at one time or another toured the stalls and ate a meal or sandwich.

David with his sling is in the Accademia Gallery.
 The Man of Sorrows.
Light through the stained glass windows on church columns at Santa Maria Novella.

Our splendid final meal, family style with wine courtesy of Mike. 

Mike had mentioned that this was all part of his 80th year celebration.

The red wine was Chianti Classico (complete with the cock on the label proving that it was the real thing as we had been told by the instructor at our wine tasting.)

It was a happy occasion .

Are we laughing yet Anthony?

I guess so!
Yes.
Michael must have found it very hard with all the wine drinking going on but he resisted all temptations and bravely stuck with the carbonated water, in this case Pellegrino.

But for the rest of us; wine it was.

(Except after dinner when it became our custom to have a little scotch whisky in the upstairs patio/garden area.)

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