Ahh, this is my ultimate favorite part of our vacation: Tuscany!
We were based in Florence in a really nice hotel (Hotel Londra), where they had an awesome breakfast buffet. The breakfast bar had all the usual goods: coffee, tea, juices, breads, different kids of cheeses and salami, super creamy scrambled eggs (and you know how much I love scrambled eggs), crispy prosciutto, sausages, granola, yogurt, tons of fruit, homemade plum cake (almost like a coffee cake without the crumble on top), and best of all – a GIANT TUB OF NUTELLA. Nutella was everywhere in Italy, which made me deliriously happy. Anyway, in addition to the great hotel, Florence was just… dreamy. There were a lot of pretty pasticcerias (pastry stores) and little restaurants just like in the North End. Aside from the food, the views also really caught my breath. I did little dramatic gasps every time I saw something beautiful, which was often, so it got old after a while and I stuck with “wow” :)
The Duomo in Florence, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, was my favorite out of all the cathedrals we visited. It was gothic style, but in pink and green! The colors were truly magnificent:
this picture does not do justice to the beautiful marble
But as impressed as I was with the Duomo, I was more enthralled by the statues. I loved seeing all of them, especially the ones I recognize from Greek and Roman mythology ones (I was obsessed with Greek/Roman myth in high school).
There was David, of course, so youthful looking (and frankly, a little metro)
Hercules (with the fire-breathing Cacus, who he killed) – a symbol of physical strength
Zeus, so manly and powerful-looking
Menelaus holding the body of Patroclus (if you watched Troy, you know who they are)
Perseus holding the head of Medusa
and Hercules again with the centaur (and me) – I really like Hercules
Then my mom and I went to Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge with shops built along it.
my mom had the camera so we mostly had pictures of me hehe
look at how many people there were at the bridge
all the jewelry and the glint of gold was maddening! (my dad decided to skip this section of Florence – I wonder why…)
I thought the food in Florence, and Tuscany in general, was the best too. Really simple but decadent, like pasta with mushrooms and truffle butter, and bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella:
I fell in love love truffle butter and brought home several jars of it. Perfect with pasta, or melted on top of steaks. mmm-mmm
I also discovered my new favorite sandwich: spicy salami with pecorino cheese on really good bread (sorry no pictures, I was too busy enjoying it).
After my parents left, I went on a day tour of Tuscany. It was a reaallllly fun experience. Even though I was by myself (I went on a group tour), I loved all the places we visited. The first stop was San Gimignano, which is a beautiful medieval town and is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The view of the Tuscan countryside is surreal
The town was very rustic/medieval. Our tour bus brought the first wave of tourists for the day
I love the small family-run meat and cheese shops
and the charming chocolate stores made the chocoholic in me very, very happy!
Then we went to Siena, another gorgeous town. Remember the story of Remus and Romulus, who were raised by wolves? According to legend, Siena was founded by the son of Remus, Senius. Siena was really interesting; the town is divided into wards, and each ward is represented by an animal. Wards have distinct identities and there are rivalries between the wards! The rivalries flourish during the annual Palio, or horse race.
The Palio involves racing around the Piazza del Campo. They say the horses are so fast, and the turns are so sharp, that riders are often thrown off – so they put mattresses to pad some building corners!
Siena also had an awesome Duomo:
the facade had saints AND gargoyles
Our last stop was Chianti. And yes, the wine was INCREDIBLE. First, we went to Castellina, a rural and very charming town with only about a thousand people.
For an insta-vacation, stare at this photograph for 2 minutes and imagine yourself living in Tuscany…
… living in Tuscany and eating at little cafes like this…
… drinking fabulous wine…
… eating all kinds of delicious salami…
… doing lots of food shopping…
… and just lots of eating in general (eating really good food)…
Back to reality. After Castellina, we went to a winery (of course) in Chianti:
The smell of grapes was mesmerizing! This is where the wine is aged in French oak barrels
I just have to say that I am now a Chianti convert. We tasted 5 different wines plus grappa and everything tasted… wow. Everything was MARVELOUS. Those Italians know good wine.
Life is good. Ciao, Italia!
And that’s it! (Whew this was a long post!) I had the best time of my life in Italy and I cannot wait to come back again some day. What has been your favorite vacation so far?