Italy 2000

On June 10 Peter and Sue traveled to Florence joining Robert, Mary Ellen, and Janet, who had arrived a week earlier. Robert rented an apartment on a wine and olive oil producing estate called Fattoria di Bagnolo near Tavarnuzze and Impruneta, about 15 km south of the city.

In the picture we are walking on the estate after a rainstorm. All pictures on this page can be clicked for a BIG view.

We visited the town of Vinci -- made famous by Leonardo -- and saw his sponsor's castle which now houses a museum of his inventions. Nearby is a ceramics factory and showroom that produced these singing angel sculptures. We priced some to have them shipped home, but thought better of the idea!

Since driving in Florence is both scary and prohibited for non-residents, we mostly rode the bus into the City. The bus runs every twenty minutes from Tavarnuzze to the center of Florence.  Here are Robert and Sue on ATAF #37. Do they look like non-paying scofflaws? (From Sue: What Peter does not mention here, is that he is the one that jammed the bus's ticket validating machines causing palpable stress by many of the Italian riders). 

Here is the Uffizzi on the Arno river. It was once offices for the powerful Medici family, and is arguably Europe's most popular art gallery. An athletic club accesses the river underneath and its elite members row daily in favorable conditions.

Back at Bagnolo, the estate's manager Marco gave us a tour of the cellar where wine is aged. The floor is new, but the walls were built in the 1500s.

The next morning we visited the nearby Florence American Cemetery. This immaculately maintained piece of the USA honors Allied dead in WW2, and has an eerie beauty.  We were told that our government spends $3,000,000 per year to maintain this beautiful cemetery.

We also visited the nearby Certosa del Galluzzo, started in 1341 and still in operation as a Cistercian monastery. We took a tour given by one of its monks. Those are monk's "cells" on the top of the hill and each has separate rooms for sleep and prayer, and a private garden.

On a subsequent trip to the city, we were treated to this view from the Piazza Michelangelo. Most of the popular sites in the city are visible, including the Ponte Vecchio, tower of the Palazzo Signoria, domes of the Battistero and Duomo, and Santa Croce church.

The next day we drove to Poggio a Caiano to visit this Medici Villa, started in 1480. Designed as a country retreat for the Medici family and their cronies, its interior walls are covered with frescoes depicting family members as heroic Roman soldiers. Medici guards would have quickly evicted the riff-raff seen here.  The frieze below the pediment is a copy of the original which is housed in the Villa.  The copy was made by Richard Ginori, the famous, very expensive, Italian china manufacturer.

Back at our more humble, but still luxurious, villa we took our afternoon swim. Our usual routine was a morning trip, lunch, siesta, pool time, and an enormous dinner.

Here is a sunset view of the main entrance to the Fattoria where wine and olive oil are sold. The restoration and maintenance of this property, together with management of the farm and its oil and wine production, are the work of Marco. He also took time to make sure our stay there was perfect.

On our most ambitious day, we drove a 250 km circuit on country roads, visiting various sites southwest of Siena.

This is the Ponte della Pia which I spotted off off the side of the road, and pulled over for a picture. It was an old bridge in Amerigo Vespucci's time, and it still can carry Peter's weight (even after all that gnocchi)! It marks the start of a trail in the woods that is a favorite of Mountain Bikers.

A little further down the road is the Abbey of San Galgano, now a ruin. It is claimed that the abbey lost its roof (in 1548 or 1786, depending on who you ask) because a corrupt abbot sold its roof leading. We met a woman who was a flower girl in a wedding held on the grassy floor inside.

We finally reached the beautiful town of Massa Maritima crowned by this ruined tower. From the tower one can see a huge swath of Tuscany, part of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and Elba beyond.

On Tuesday mornings Florence hosts an enormous market in Le Cascine park. Clothing, food, flowers, and house wares are on sale from stalls attached to cargo vans, lined up in a mile long canyon.  Peter's big purchase was an espresso machines so he can drink as much espresso at home as he drank there!

To work off some heavy meals of pasta and bistecca (beef steak) Robert and Peter hiked to Tavarnuzze and back to Bagnolo through the town of Montebuoni. Here is a road that we had passed earlier in our rented Fiat "Weekend" station wagon with an inch to spare on either side. You can see where other vehicles didn't make it through unscathed!

With renewed appetites we visited the restored castle town of Castello di Montefioralle near Greve in Chianti. This view shows the octagonal inside road with the houses that form the castle walls on the left, and the castle walls on the right. Amerigo Vespucci was born in one of these houses. The town has a new restaurant with excellent food and an unbelievable view on a summer evening.

Most visitors see only the section of Boboli Gardens from the Pitti Palace to the top of the hill. This is part of the quiet section toward the Roman Gate which is just as worthy of a visit. There is a second entrance to the gardens at the Roman Gate.

Back at the pool, we joined Marco's family for his son's birthday celebration with rapidly melting ice-cream.

After 3 weeks and 3000 km Robert returned the trusty Fiat to the Florence airport early in the morning.


Twenty out of 200+ pictures are on this page. See them all on my proof sheets.
Some previous travelogues are Italy 99 and Europe 98.
Questions and comments are welcome. Email