Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Traversing Tuscany

Florence (Part 2 of Italian Adventures)

 “Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different.” 
-Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun

Tuscany is the heart of Italy.  The subject of numerous works of art, the inspiration of various musical scores & the setting of some romantic films, traversing its wonders and tasting its treats almost sounds cliche. Despite this, people don’t seem to get tired; its cobblestone streets still attract countless of photo-hungry tourists even in winter.

Even I joined the bandwagon.  And I don’t regret it.

Its capital, Florence, served as the cradle of the Renaissance; up to now classical singers learn Italian to sing its songs.  Aside from the jaw dropping tours in Accademia (they did an awesome job in restoring David)
and Uffizi, I immensely enjoyed every room in the grandiose Pitti Palace.  In exploring its rooms, I felt almost part of the Medici family :p

From the Tuscan capital Florence, one can take a daytrip to Sienna, Pisa, and San Gimignano to see, taste, and feel the highlights of Central Italy.

I rode a tour bus to see all of these in one day.  The tour guides (from Tuscany experts) were amazing; all of them are multilingual and they shared valuable insight about the city.  

Siena is a medieval city of brick in a distinct red brown…a hue also referred too as Siena.  Here one can marvel at dozens of Gothic architecture as it boasts of the art of Duccio, Simone Martini, and the Lorenzetti brothers. 

Emperor Augustus founded Siena as a Roman colony and it flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries.  The Black Death hit the city in 1348, killing almost three quarters of the population, destroying the social fabric, and upsetting the economy.  It never recovered and much of it has barely changed.

That seems to be a blessing in disguise as up to now we can marvel at this medieval gem.

Several stepped alleys lead down to Piazza del Campo.  Like a sloping scallop shell, the Campo was first laid out in 1100s on the former site of the Roman forum.  White marble lines divide the pavement into nine sections, representing the oligarchy that ruled over Siena’s greatest republican era, the Council of Nine.

Piazza del Duomo is also a sight to behold. Besides forming an L with the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, there stands the museum complex of Santa Maria della Scalla. Its exterior is colored like a serpent and its interiors are majestic in different marble colors.

With the tour group, we managed to have a quickie with Pisa. We came in really early (around 9am) to avoid the line & the pickpockets. Like most Italy fanatics, I got to nudge its leaning tower on photo :) I wish we had more time for the cathedral tour though.

Last but not the least, there's the quaint town of San Gimignano. Even just the scent of its grass makes your skin tingle. I bought shirts and other items for my friends there since there were a lot of really nice shops in the area.  Too bad it was already dark when we got to the area; I wasn't able to take much photos.  

I'll definitely come back to Tuscany.


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