Heart of Italy
Leisurely Escorted Tour to
Delores Deen and Bob Banta of Eustis, FL in the Chianti Hills
"What a memorable trip that was! We reminisce daily of the places we visited and masterpieces we viewed. It was truly the trip of a lifetime for us."
©2012 Photo by Michael Reed
Tuscany, Umbria and Rome
Leisurely Escorted Tour to
A Creative World Travel "No Rush" Escorted Tour
No early morning wake-up calls.
No all-day bus rides.
Structured and guided,
but with free time to enjoy as you please.
No early morning wake-up calls.
THE HILLS OF CHIANTI
OVERNIGHT IN FLORENCE
The Chianti region stretches over a large rural area from Florence to Siena, bordered by the rivers Arno, Elsa, Ombrone and Arbia. On its hills, set amidst very precious vineyards and historical villages, the famous Chianti wine is produced.
Enjoy awesome views and landscapes on a drive through the hills of Chianti, through woods and pine forests, vineyards and olive groves on the Via Chiantigiana, The Chianti Road.
You'll enjoy a 360-degree panorama of the land of the famous Gallo Nero (Black Rooster) wine, the Chianti Classico.
Less well known, but equally sought after is the Chianti Classico DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) extra virgin olive oil.
The Florence American Cemetery and Memorial is one of fourteen permanent American World War II military cemetery memorials erected on foreign soil by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
There are 4,402 servicemen and women interred in the 70-acre cemetery. Most died in the fighting which occurred after the capture of Rome in June 1944. Included among them are casualties of the heavy fighting in the Apennines shortly before the war's end.
DAY 6 / FRIDAY / NOVEMBER 07
GUIDED TOUR OF RENAISSANCE FLORENCE
OVERNIGHT IN FLORENCE
The cultural and historical impact of Florence is overwhelming. Close up, however, it is one of Italy's most atmospheric and pleasant cities and retains a strong resemblance to the small late-medieval center that contributed so much to the cultural and political development of Europe.
In the hot summer season, Florence can be one of Italy's most clogged tourist traps, with up to 2,000 tourist buses arriving daily. Early November is a perfect time to visit.
Bernini Palace Hotel
The Hotel Bernini Palace is found just behind the Palazzo Vecchio in an historical building that dates from the 15th century. Between 1865 and 1870 it was used as the Parliament of the young Kingdom of Italy, when Florence was the capital.
Florence is the town where the Italian Renaissance was born and therefore for centuries has been considered by people from all over the world to be a place that cultured people must visit.
“A man who has never been to Italy is always conscious of an inferiority.”
--- Dr. Samuel Johnson, 1776
It's believed that Florence was founded as a colony of the Etruscan city of Fiesole in about 200 BC, but development only really got underway in around 59 BC, when Julius Caesar set up an army camp on the banks of the Arno River.
The city recovered from the rigors of the Dark Ages through the influence of the Germanic Holy Roman emperors, and came into its own in the 12th century.
Though Florence was racked by plague, political turbulence and factionalism, its commerce thrived, providing the economic backbone to the cultural flowering known as the Renaissance.
The influence of the Medici family on the city is inestimable, due to its banking interests, artistic patronage and taste, papal influence and political power.
Lorenzo de Medici (or "Lorenzo The Magnificent," as he was called by the people of Florence) was a statesman, ruler, and patron of the arts. "The Magnificent" was a common title of respect in Italy at the time, but it was Lorenzo who raised it to special status.
Born January 1, 1449, Lorenzo ruled Florence with his younger brother, Giuliano, from 1469 to 1478. After his brother's assassination in 1478, he was sole ruler until his death in 1492.
Perhaps Lorenzo's greatest contribution to history was his patronage of the arts. He contributed more than anyone to the flowering of Florentine genius in the late 15th century, supporting such giants as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Lorenzo treated the artists under his protection with respect and warm-hearted familiarity.
Like a jewel-case surrounded by the landscape of the green hills of Tuscany, Florence proudly shows its invaluable art treasures to the world.
At 10 am, we begin a walking tour of the heart of Florence. Fortunately, everything is conveniently located within easy walking distance of our hotel.
Sights included on our guided tour of Florence are (1) the Duomo (Cathedral) with its immense cupola by famed architect Filippo Brunelleschi , (2) Giotto’s tower, and (3) the Baptistery, with its beautiful mosaics and bronze doors, one of which is called the Gates of Paradise,by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
The Duomo of Florence is the fourth largest cathedral in the world, after St. Peter's in Rome, St. Paul's in London and the Duomo in Milan.
Il Palazzo Vecchio
©Photo by Michael Reed ~ Creative World Travel
The tour continues to Piazza della Signoria , the historic center of Florence. Il Palazzo Vecchio (The Old Palace) is the main complex in Piazza della Signoria .
The Palazzo Vecchio, constructed in 1299, was the home of the Florentine guilds. Then, as well as today, it functioned as the seat of municipal government and the heart of Florentine culture. It was here that the city's 5,000 guild members, who had the power of the vote, gathered to discuss and determine city issues.
In addition to textile workers and bankers, the guild members included masons and builders, sculptors, lawyers, and solicitors.
In 1540, Cosimo I of the Medici family converted the palace into the residence of the Dukes of Florence.
Major attractions inside Il Palazzo Vecchio include Room of the Lilies, Elenora di Toledo's Rooms, the inner courtyard with the Putto Fountain, and Michelangelo's statue the Victory.
In front of Il Palazzo Vecchio stands a copy of the famous statue of David by Michelangelo, the Marzocco by Donatello and the Neptune Fountain.
Next to the Neptune Fountain is an equestrian statue of Grand Duke Cosimo I.
The entrance to the Uffizi Gallery is just off the square. In the area covered by the Loggia dei Lanzi there are numerous statues, including the bronze Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini.
The afternoon is free to explore Florence on your own.
We recommend that you continue on to visit the Franciscan Church of Santa Croce. There you can contemplate the celebrated tombs and memorials of
Michelangelo Buonarroti Niccolò Machiavelli Galileo Galilei Gioacchino Rossini Dante Alighieri
You might also want to visit the museum Galleria dell' Accademia to see the original statue of Michelangelo's David. The statue of David used to stand in front of Palazzo Vecchio , but was later moved indoors to protect it from the elements.
This afternoon, be sure to begin your personal taste test to determine the best gelato (Italian ice cream) of Tuscany, Umbria and Rome. A traditional favorite is Vivoli, a Florence landmark tucked away on Via Isole delle Stinche near Santa Croce.
Always look for gelato artigianale, authentic homemade ice cream.
DAY 7 / SATURDAY / NOVEMBER 08
OVERNIGHT IN FLORENCE
The construction of the Uffizi palace began in 1560, when the Duke Cosimo I dei Medici decided to build a special building for the offices (uffizi in Italian, hence the name) of the thirteen magistracies, that is, the administrative center of the Florentine State.
Cosimo I commissioned the building project to Giorgio Vasari, painter and architect at the Medici court, who realized one of the most famous architectural masterworks of Florentine Mannerism.
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the greatest art collections of the world. The list of artists on display is awesome: Bernini, Botticelli, Brueghel, Canaletto, Caravaggio, Cimabue, Dürer, Ghirlandaio, Giotto, Goya, Leonardo da Vinci, Filippo Lippi, Michelangelo, Rafael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Tintoretto … to name but a few of the most famous.
Our group has special reservations for admission to the Uffizi, so standing in the long lines is not required.
The afternoon is free.
Il Ponte Vecchio
Around the corner from the Uffizi is is the most famous bridge of Florence, the famed Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), lined with goldsmiths' and jewelry shops.
Built in ancient times by the Etruscans, the bridge has weathered many storms - and storming by invading legions. Because of its location over the widest part of the Arno River, the bridge has been rebuilt and restored many times throughout its long history.
The Ponte Vecchio was built in 1345 by Taddeo Gaddi and Neri di Fioravanti to replace the ancient Roman bridge that had been destroyed many times by the flooding of the Arno. It was the only bridge spared by the Germans when they retreated from Florence in 1944.
In the middle of the bridge is a bust of the famed sculptor (and goldsmith) Benvenuto Cellini by Raffaello Romanelli.
Across the Arno River is the Pitti Palace , built in the 15th century by the Florentine Pitti family. The palace and was occupied by the Medici family around 1550 after they came to power.
The building of the original palace was probably supervised by Brunelleschi. Over the centuries, the palace was expanded by the Medici and turned into a priceless private museum of paintings, sculptures and other rare collectibles.
In the back, the Pitti Palace opens up to the beautiful Boboli Gardens with fountains, sculptures and sweeping views of the city of Florence.
The San Lorenzo market is close to our hotel, located between the Medici-Riccardi Palace, the Basilica of San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapel. It is probably the busiest market in Florence. During the day, street vendors sell everything from t-shirts to leather goods.
Look for the statue of Giovanni dalle Bande Nere , father of Cosimo I, the first Medici Grand Duke. The shield with six balls on the base is the Medici emblem.
Trattoria Mario is near the San Lorenzo market and is considered one of the best choices for lunch.
The Central Market (Mercato Centrale) is housed inside a large two-story building designed in the 19th century. On the ground floor of the Central Market, vendors sell meats, fish and a variety of cheeses. If you are in the area at lunchtime, you can try one of the already prepared Tuscan take-out foods.
On the first floor of the market one can purchase fresh fruit, vegetables as well as dried fruit, nuts, honey, homemade pasta, wine, herbs, and other produce.
Florence is the place to buy that special Italian leather jacket or bag. Among the most famous shops is Cellerini , an institution in a city where it seems that just about everybody is wearing an expensive leather jacket.
The textile trade has been a mainstay of the Florentine economy since the middle ages and the city has a long history as one of one of Europe's greatest producers of luxury textiles.
By the early sixteenth century, the mass production of woolen cloth had already given way to a smaller and more luxurious commerce in silks, brocades, fine linens, embroideries, trimmings and specialty fabrics--an identity that is still proudly maintained today by Florence's fashion and interior furnishings industries.
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