Monday, October 14, 2013

Beautiful Tuscany

This past weekend I decided to stay in Florence to go explore, and exploring I did.

Once the final bell rang and the weekend began I kicked it off with a tour of the Teatro Della Pergola, one of Florence’s oldest theaters. It was pretty cool!

Thursday night, some girlfriends and I decided it was about time we had some Mexican food. We checked out Tijuana, local Mexican restaurant, and grabbed some chips and salsa and margaritas. Good company definitely made the experience; the Mexican food is just not the same over here. After, we decided to check out The Lion’s Fountain Pub—it was karaoke night. We met some friendly guys from Switzerland and were able to dance the night away with some friends from school.

“3-in-1 Tuscan Tour” made up most of my day on Friday. About 40 students from Gonzaga boarded a bus on Friday morning and headed off to Monteriggioni, Siena, and San Gimignano for a day-trip lead by one of the professors from the university.

Monteriggioni was the first stop we made. It is a medieval walled town that was built by the Sienese in 1214 as a front line in their wars against Florence. Monteriggioni was quite quant and beautiful. We stopped to walk around the town and grab a quick café.

Next stop: Siena! Siena is also a medieval city, located in the north of Italy some 70 km south of Florence. It was first established as a Roman colony by Augustus, and quickly became one of the major cities of Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries. Today, Siena is one of the nation’s most visited tourist attractions and famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval landscape and the Palio—a horse race held twice a year where the Seventeen Contrade compete. If you have the time, it’s worth the google search. 

(Flags from some of the Contrade--neighborhoods of Siena)

We visited the Duomo, Siena’s magnificent lack and white Italian Romanesque cathedral including Libreria Piccolomini, Baptistery, and an attached Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Where the old façade of the Duomo still stands there is a small staircase that you can climb to be able to see some of the most amazing views of Siena. Of course, we just had to do it!

(This photo is not photoshop-ed, people)

San Gimignano was the last of the three towns that we visited in Tuscany. It is a classic Tuscan hill down that overlooks the scenic valley of Elsa. San Gimignano is known for its medieval architecture, which boasts a beautiful skyline made up of 14 of the original 72 tower that date back to the 14th century. Courtney and I grabbed a quick gelato and explored the town. We saw a puppet show, a wishing well, and stumbled across Torre Grossa. Torre Grossa is the tallest tower in the city at 200 feet. Once again, we had to climb up it. The views of the valley of Elsa and the rest of the town were unreal. We were also able to catch it at sunset, which only made me fall even more in love with Italy and all its history and natural beauty.

Once we arrived back in Florence Maddie, Jenn, Mary, Courtney and I all went to check out Dante’s. Dante’s is a restaurant located across the Arno River and is pretty popular amongst the students who come to study abroad in Florence. Why? Free wine. If you are a student, Dante’s will provide you with lots of wine…free of charge! Fair to say, we had a wonderful night!

Courtney and I designated Saturday to be tourists in Florence. In the morning we toured Santa Croce Basilica, which is now the burial place for some of Italy’s well-known names. Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and many others are buried and paid tribute to here. It is definitely worth the visit if you are ever in Florence. We also visited our favorite bus tour company, which we discovered in London, once again. We were taken around the outside of the city, up to the Piazza Michelangelo, and even up to Fiesole. Although it was an excellent way to become better oriented with the city, I’m not sure I would recommend it while visiting Florence. Florence must be discovered on foot, where buses just cannot manage to go. We had a blast nonetheless!

I spent most of Sunday studying, but I was able to get out Sunday night to head to church at the Duomo. The Archbishop actually led the mass, so that was a rad way to end the weekend!

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