Italy Tours – Visit Florence, Mugello and Tuscany
We have been in Mugello now for 10 days. Mugello is an area of Tuscany, a very well-known region of Italy. The regional capital of Tuscany is Florence. The Mugello tourist magazine says Mugello is “In the heart of Tuscany.”
We have started our Italy tours. We are outside the city area of Vicchio. Other important city areas nearby in Mugello are Borgo San Lorenzo and Dicomano, both of which we have visited either to shop at the street or super markets, buy art supplies, or go to the doctor.
The flowers on the trees and shrubs are all starting to bloom, and there is a mild wind. Half the time it has been sunny and warm, and one day it rained all day. JB seems to be allergic to one or more of the plants and has been taking antihistamines.
The doctor visit was to get something to calm down an eye irritation that seemed to be related to the allergies. Today, he is still sniffling, but the eye problem has mostly disappeared.
We set aside today to make our first visit to Florence. In Italian it is called “Firenze”. On the list of things to do are: walk by the central cathedral, il Duomo (The Dome), the short name for La Cathedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (The Cathedral of Saint Maria of the Flowers); visit JB’s college Florence gelato hangout, a famous place called Vivoli; check out the Ponte Vecchio where high-end gold is sold, and walk in the Boboli and Bardini gardens.
Our B&B Le Due Volpi (The Two Foxes) host, Heidi, suggested we take the train, because it is cheaper, easier and more relaxing that driving during Italy tours. You can park for free at the train station in Vicchio, and it takes just under an hour to get to Florence. You start your Italy tours in Florence at the Stazione di Santa Maria Novella (Saint Maria Train Station). I guess everything is about Santa Maria around here.
Early in this Italy tours trip, we discovered that though Carol had charged the battery for her Canon camera, it was still sitting in the charger back at Le Due Volpi. Luckily this time JB had his camera with him, and also Carol had brought Muffin, her iPad, so we could check maps if we needed. So we were all set for photos of our Italy tours.
Walking from the train station, we detoured through the Florence street market. This is sort of like the clothing (not food) markets in other cities, but more upscale and tourist oriented, lots of leather and handbags. Check out this belt display.
After arriving, first we walked to il Duomo. The first stone of the church was set in 1296 by Cardinal Valeriana, the first papal representative ever sent to Florence. It took 140 years to finish it. We did not go inside at this point, because we just wanted also to check out a few things in the city and come back again in a week or two.
It was amazing how many tourists there are in Florence. There are a few reasons for this. Tomorrow, April 25, is a national holiday, the anniversary of the 1945 fall of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic. It is the official day of the success of the Liberation Resistance formed by pro-Allied supports ousting of the German Nazis and Italian Fascists. Lots of children are out and around on school field trips. In addition, many tourists come during this period because it is so much cooler than the hot summer months.
Next we were off to search for the famous Il Gelateria Vivoli (Vivoli’s Gelato and Restaurant), a highlight of many Italy tours. Gelato is made with more milk than ice cream, so it has a little less fat, 3-8% in gelato versus up to 16% for ice cream. It is also whipped differently so there is not as much air in it as ice cream. Finally, gelato is served a little warmer, and not frozen like ice cream, so it is softer and smoother, and the flavors stand out more because of the lower fat content.
JB was in college for six months in Florence, and went to Vivoli many times in 1970. It has been family-owned in Florence since the 1930’s. We both can say that the chocolate and coffee gelati were as good as ever!
Next stop was Il Ponte Vecchio (The Old Bridge), an arched stone structure over the Arno River, just south of Il Duomo and Vivoli. It was first mentioned in history in 996, destroyed in a flood in 1117, and rebuilt. Then again the same thing happened in 1333-1345. Again, in 1944 it was destroyed by the Nazis, rebuilt, and damaged by floods again in 1966. But it still stands today as a center of expensive shops, mostly gold jewelry.
Unfortunately, we are trying to keep our baggage light, so we skipped buying any gold today.
Down the street and around the corner, we went lunch at a street side restaurant, Pizzeria Le Delizie (House of Delicious Pizzas). Instead of having pizzas, we had our first calzones of our stay in Italy. A calzone is like pizza, but it is folded closed and then baked. It is commonly made with prosciutto (dried, uncooked ham), mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. JB had them add mushrooms in his.
Everyone should try a calzone during Italy tours.
With a couple beers, this made for a delicious, filling and enjoyable lunch, though it was a little expensive because the restaurant was near downtown. We are sure there are more calzones and pizzas to follow!
Finally today in Florence, we walked to the Boboli and Bardini Gardens. The history of Il Giardino Bardini (The Bardini Garden) dates back to the late 16th century, when the Mozzi family built a palace along the Arno, and created the garden south of the palace. In 1913, Stefano Bardini, an antique dealer, purchased the property, and made some drastic changes, essentially destroying the existing garden.
It was not until 2000 that the Fondazione Parchi Monumentali Bardini Peyron acquired the Bardini garden and started a program to restore it. It was opened to the public in 2005.
Il Giardino Boboli (The Boboli Garden) is part of the Pitti palace grounds. It was built in 1458 as the residence of Luca Pitti, a Florentine.
The Medicis, one of the ruling families of Tuscany, bought the palace in 1549 and used it as their main residence. The garden was started in 1550 by Cosmo I, for his wife, and expansion and construction continued for many years.
Italy tours always include some basic sights. You can see in the pictures that there are beautiful views of the Cathedral, Il Duomo, beautiful flower gardens and hedges, water features, and a fantastic wisteria arbor in Il Giardino Bardini that was just starting to bloom.
Full of garden beauty and probably some pollen, we took a quick taxi ride back to the train station. This saved us a lengthy walk, and was worth the € 8 cost, because we were able to make the 2:55 train back to Vicchio.
On the way home from the train, we stopped at a car parts store, Auto Tecnica, for a new set of windshield wipers, where the counter guy could not have been more helpful, switching out our three squeaky wipers for us on our Citroen Berlingo for a mere € 27 ($ 35), less than half of what we would have paid in France, while putting up with JB’s “still-remembering-it” Italian.
Finally one last visit to COOP in our Italy tours, our new favorite local supermarket for some wine and dinner supplies, and we were home at Le Due Volpi by 5:00. Heidi reported that Louie and Rosie had been very good dogs and had had a nice noon snack and walk around the property to do their thing. We were greeted with the normal welcoming barks. What a fantastic day!
Our Italy tours have been a success!
Italy Tours – Visit Florence, Mugello and Tuscany