Exploring beautiful lake como
We took a boat trip on the beautiful lake Como in the fall of 2017. The lake is located in the Northern part of Italy in the Lombardy region.
Our trip started from the picturesque city of Como, Italy. We arrived there on an early morning bus trip from Milan. The city itself has a history dating back to Roman times. It is also the starting point for most trips on the lake due to many available ferries that provides hop-on hop-off service to many towns around the lake.
Notable sites around the lake includes the beautiful hillside town of Tavernola, celebrity houses like those of George Clooney and Madonna, the gorgeous villa and terrace used in the Star Wars movie and the lovely town of Bellagio with its charming gardens.
We took the below pictures as we explored the lake from the comfort of our boat while enjoying an Italian lunch with dessert and wine – all for under 20 Euros!
In my other blogs under Lombardy, I will have more details of the individual sites around the lake. Click on this link – Lake Como Tour to see a YouTube video clip of the trip.
Hope you enjoy the video and pics and get to visit there as well!
We spent a few days in Florence during our 2017 Italy trip. Below are some pictures we took that highlights this beautiful city. Check out my other blogs about Tuscany for details on some of these sights.
Florence historic city center at night
Hall of the Five Hundred (Palazzo Vecchio)
Italian breakfast at a Florentine cafe
Statues at Plaza del Signoria
A fresco inside the Medici residence
Florence viewed from the Duomo
The Florence Duomo
“Sabine Woman” (Academia Gallery)
Michelangelo’s “David” (Academia Gallery)
Vassari’s painting of Dante’s inferno
Our trip through Tuscan countryside.
Our trip to rural Tuscany in 2017 included a day long tour through Pisa, San Giminano and Siena. The trip was arranged through Viator and included a traditional lunch at an Agro Turismo affiliated Tuscan firm.
Our guide was informative and prepared us before each site with brief background history as we travelled through the Tuscan countryside in a comfortable bus.
San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in Siena, Tuscany. Its located in north-central Italy, so it was a natural choice for a stop in our Tuscany tour. The town is famous for its medieval tower houses. It has a gorgeous hilltop setting and encircling walls that form “an unforgettable skyline”. You can see this in detail in the accompanying video clip of our trip at the end of this blog .
The historic center of San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town is also known for saffron, the Golden Ham, and its white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the Vernaccia grape grown on the sandstone hillsides of the area.
In 1199, the city established an independent commune with churches and public buildings. However, rivalries between feuding clans resulted in competing families building tower houses of increasingly higher heights. Towards the end of the Medieval period, there were 72 tower houses, some up to 230 feet tall. Today about a dozen of these towers survived.
On 8 May 1300, San Gimignano hosted the famous poet Dante Alighieri in his role as ambassador of Tuscany. Dante wrote about these towers in his famous work – “Inferno”.
The city flourished until 1348, when the bubonic plague known as Black Death affected all of Europe. About half the townsfolk died. The town submitted to the rule of Florence. There was little subsequent development, and San Gimignano remained preserved in its medieval state until the 19th century, when it was rediscovered by tourists and artisans.
You can view our YouTube clip of this tour by clicking this video link : San Giminano and rural Tuscany .
Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence and former residence of the famous Medici family. The Medici were defacto ruler of Florence and Tuscany from 14th to 17th century. Their patronage of arts and sciences led to the Renessaince. Consider the following facts to get a better grip of the Medici and Florentine influence in modern civilization.
- Modern Italian language is adopted from Florence
- The greatest Renessaince masters from Donatello to Leonardo, Michelangelo and later Vasari were all financially supported by the Medici.
- International banking and financing practices has it’s roots in Medici bank
- Christopher Columbus expedition to the new world was funded by Seville branch of Medici bank
- Ameriggo Vespucci was a Florentine navigator who first mapped modern North America, the continent named after him
- Gallelio tutored 4 of the Medici kids and initially named Jupiter’s moons after them.
- Machiavelli, the diplomat famous for art of shrewd negotiation, was also from Florence during the Renessaince.
- The poet Dante, whose Inferno shaped the vision of hell, is from Florence. His poem was visualized by Vasari in the roof of Florence Duomo financed by the Medici
- The Medici family produced 4 Pope!
- The Piano was invented at a Medici family music workshop!
Getting to Palazzo Vecchio is a few minutes walk from Florence city center, the historical district . It’s located by the Plaza del Signoria, the historic plaza adorned with sculptures, nice restaurants and shops buzzing with tourists. Cars are not allowed in the city center but it’s very walkable and served by bus and taxi from all over Florence.
Before heading into Palazzo Vecchio, visitors can marvel at the collection of statues at Loggia dei Lanzi. The statues are mostly copies of great masterpieces but the craftsmanship is amazing. Also next to Palazzo Vecchio is the world famous Uffizi Gallery which can take up a few hours to tour. We had dinner at one of the restaurants in Plaza Signoria. Here is a video clip of us exploring Plaza del Signoria.
Exploring Palazzo Vecchio
The entrance to Palazzo Vecchio has 2 imposing statutes including a copy of Michelangelo’s David. Inside the Palazzo, a beautiful courtyard leads to the museums. The first museum is the former residence of the mother of Cozimo de Medici. This connects through a great hall to the main palace rooms and eventually to the grand hall called Salone dei Cinqueciento. Here, magnificent paintings adorn the roof and the walls with work by Vasari and earlier work by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci (now lost). This connects to the private rooms of the Medici family decorated with grand paintings mostly by Vasari and Boticelli.
Click this Video Tour of Palazzo Vecchio to explore more.
Exploring the Florence Duomo
One of the key attractions in Florence is it’s historic Cathedral and the surrounding museums. The Dome (or “Duomo” in Italian) of the cathedral was the largest in the world until modern era. The cathedral itself is 3rd largest and 3rd tallest, and climbing it all the way to the top is an amazing experience.
In this video link I captured our
Climbing the Duomo in Florence .
Halfway to the top of the Dome is a section where visitors are able to walk around a semi circle. Here we can marvel at the roof painting by Vasari in mid-1600s depicting a vision of hell from Dante’s Inferno.
An evening stroll through the historic district is another great way to appreciate the grand and magnificent features of the Duomo, maybe after a dinner and dessert by the Plaza del Signoria nearby!
Pisa is a town in Tuscany region of Italy, famous for it’s leaning tower. Galileo, the famous scientist, was born here.
We arrived in Pisa as part of a day long guided tour through Tuscany. The historic site of Pisa is a UNESCO world heritage site and is relatively small enough to be explored in 2-3 hours. Just keep in mind, if you climb the leaning tower, it may take a while to get up and come down.
The leaning tower is truly a work of historic marvel. Be prepared to take the famous leaning tower shot! You can see an example in the pics below.
Couple of items of caution to remember. If possible, keep your valuable belonging in the tour bus or locker as the area is known for pickpockets. Also, being a small town, there are not many international chains. The only McDonald’s there was overcrowded and struggle to handle the volume of tourists. Your best bet would be to try an Italian restaurant near the heritage site.
The main historic site and adjoining shops are quiet safe for exploring and filled with friendly locals.
Below is a clip of our Pisa Tour. Hope you enjoy!
Our introduction to Florence – the center of Tuscany
Our first trip to Florence was part of an Italy Tour in Fall of 2017. Florence is the birthplace of Renessaince, home to some of the best museums in Italy and the largest city in Tuscany.
We arrived to Florence from Venice via Bologna in train. The trip took about 2.5 hours. We booked the tickets months before online back in our home in Atlanta, GA, USA. Train reservations are fairly easy via the train italia website.
Below is a clip of our train passing Bologna.
Passing Bologna on the way to Florence
We stayed at a Air BnB rental in Florence. The city center was a 15 min walk and the train station was a 20 min walk. We could also opt for a taxi or bus.
Our first stop next morning was Galleria dell’Academia which houses one of the most famous sculpture – Michelangelo’s David. The lines at the entrance goes around the block, so it was good we did our reservation online a week before. Below is a picture of Glenda on the reservation line as some street musicians entertain us by the sidewalk.
Here are some pictures from the museum including the sculptures – David and ‘Sabine Woman’ .
The museum’s gift shop was pretty good. And just 10 minutes walk from the Academia Gallery takes us to the historic city center. More on that in the next blog! Below is the highlight video of our visit to this world famous museum. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel or add the Tuscany Playlist in your favorites to view all the videos from tbis region.
Academia Gallery in Florence