Monday, May 30, 2016

Europe 2016...Florence

We decided to take a 10 day cruise to catch up on some ports in the western Mediterranean that we had not visited.  We flew into Rome, 
and transferred to the Hotel San Giorgio in Civitivecchia, Italy.  Quaint, older hotel with comfortable beds and an excellent seafood restaurant.  It was recommended on Trip Advisor.  
Hotel San Giorgio is somewhere in those buildings.

Hotel lobby

View from our room
The next day we boarded our ship, The Nautica, and off we went...first stop, Florence. We traveled with my cousin Bob and his wife Christina, and our friend Kee.  
Happy travelors!
We had all been to Florence before, so I arranged a docent led tour of two gardens through Context Travel, the BEST tour group ever...the docents are art historians, art majors, historians, architects.  They arranged for a van to pick us up at the Livorno port, and transfer us to our first stop, the Pitti Palace/Boboli Gardens. 
Pitti Palace
We did not have enough time to visit the Palace...maybe another trip!  Our docent, Valerie Niemeyer, told us how the palace became a country estate for the Medici family, and the gardens, created in the 16th,17th,18th centuries are known to be the first formal Italian garden.  The Medici family symbol of the turtle, which illustrates their motto of "hurry slowly", or "slow but steady wins the race (The Tortoise and the Hare) was prominent throughout the gardens. 
There are 4 turtles holding up the obelisk.
11 acres in size, it's like a hilly park with an amphitheater, sculptures, fountains, floral gardens, buildings, a 360 view of Florence and surrounding countryside.
Garden is shaped like a triangle.


Entry to amphitheater

Bob standing by one of the many modern sculptures.
Tea House
The garden is symmetrical in design, and branches off into rooms and walkways.

My favorite was the peony and rose garden, which was in full bloom.  How lucky for us, as they were gorgeous.  

Our next stop was the Torrigiani Garden, a private, multi generation family owned, 17 acre walled garden not too far from the Boboli.  Because it is private, an appointment must be made, which our docent Valerie had arranged ahead of time.  We were led through the garden by Vieri Torrigiani, who is restoring the garden and slowly opening it to the public.
When entering, there is a statue of Osiris, holding a tablet of garden rules!

Entrance to garden
Alley with recently discovered plantar on was covered with foliage..
The lower garden was 4 sections, representing the 4 seasons.  The buildings are family homes within the property, the original building being the one straight ahead, which is being converted to a bed and breakfast.  In this building, we saw the grandmother, who ran inside as soon as she saw us!  She'll love the B&B.

There were several of these mounting blocks around the lower garden, to assist horseback riders.  So civil.
In Italian, Torrigiani means tower, so the family built one.
Ceramic pot from the 1700s.

 There were huge trees, including this rare tricolor Beech.

Biggest Ginko I've ever seen.
Massive oak.
The original walls with bricked up entrances.

All sorts of beautiful, different flowers.
White hydrangeas.
These were a Russian flower...I didn't understand the name.
 Sculptures and statues.

A "new" building (probably 100 years old), made to look old.

A modern solar panel equipped greenhouse, used for events.
One of the previous family members, several hundred years ago, built a tomb for himself, but never used it.  We were lucky enough to enter.

Oculus with original paint.
Trump l'oeil decoration.
A secret passageway.

After the tour we were invited into Vieri's home, where we had wine and refreshments.   Here I am, trying not to embarrass myself while talking with this kind, generous nobleman.

Our last stop of the day Hosteria da Ganino, for Bistecca Florentina.  Our guide chose the restaurant, we crossed the Ponte Vecchio, and walked into the medieval area of Florence.  We ordered steak for 4, and the waitress brought out a 2 inch slab of T-bone which fed all six of us, plus enough for Valerie to take home.  Our friend Kee ordered a Tuscan dish called Black Cabbage and Lard, which was so good...the lard was cut from pork loin fat, and it was delicious.  I'm glad she was adventurous!
Our perfectly cooked bistecca!

Then back to the ship....five tired travelers.

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