Day nine was a whirlwind of activity. We began early with a walking tour of Florence, which traversed a path between two major churches in town, Santa Maria de Novella, and ended at the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore. We walked a brisk path down narrow side streets and near a couple of shopping districts, ending in a broad courtyard in front of the Basilica.
The fresco shown below was discovered by accident, thanks to a pause followed by an upward gaze. It is perilous to take focus from the street in front of you in Italian cities while walking.
The scope of detail at Santa Maria del Fiore is deep and impressive. All of the “paintings” on the church are actually tile mosaics.
In an adjacent alcove to the square stood a battalion of statues, all seemingly presided over by a full size replica of Michelangelo’s David.
Much like what we saw in Rome, Florence has its share of, unconventional artistry displayed on its walls.
I was photobombed after scoring a cheap tie from this little bodega.
San Gimingano was a trek out into rural Tuscany. It had its origins as an outpost of pre-medieval Florence, which was noted for its vertical expansion. It has many towering structures, which allowed for extra security for this village set high on a hill in Tuscany.
We took our guide’s advice and made an immediate break for the top of the village, so we could take in its magnificent vistas. Of course, we couldn’t do so on an empty stomach, so lunch intervened.
The views from the top were breathtaking, and as you can see the photos speak for themselves.
Our guide treated all in our party to gelato from a repeat “World Champion” of Gelato. Their own sign succinctly notes the achievement, and the photo was taken specifically for a friend who is a gelato devotee.
The evening took us to the former Pazzi (Pat-see) castle out into the countryside. Along the way, we learned that the Pazzi family conspired unsuccesfully (with the then current Pope’s blessing) to overthrow the Medici family through assassination. Though partially successful, the escaping Medici family members took swift and complete revenge, stripping the Pazzi’s of the trappings of their nobility, and forever consigning the family name as a synonym for “Crazy.”
For the past 50 years, the castle has been operated as a winery by the Baj Macario family, who also live within its ancient walls. We are provided with an intimate tour of the facility by a family relative, then treated to a delightful, buffet style meal, coupled with a wine-tasting lesson.
At evening’s end, we even met the family matriarch, who greeted us as she performed grounds keeping chores. Very down to earth and warm presence.