Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Duomo and Tuscany

We woke up early to climb 463 steps to the top of the Duomo before it got too hot or crowded. This distinctive feature of Florence’s skyline is the fifth largest church in the world. The climb offers views of the Renaissance city through narrow stone windows and an interior bird's eye perspective of the cathedral. As you near the top and realize that you are actually climbing between the dome's two ancient layers, your heart pounds with cardiac exertion and heartfelt awe. The narrow staircase built into the stone dome and its spindly metal railing are precarious but thrilling, and emphasize what an immense undertaking the construction of this cathedral was. When you finally emerge into the sunlight atop the dome, you can almost feel Brunelleschi's genius emanating from the smooth red roof. So crazy to think about what famous historical people walked up the same steps and overlooked the city 600 years ago!

After the Duomo, we strolled through the central market (San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale). On the ground floor of the Central Market, vendors sell meats, fish and a variety of cheeses. The second floor is fresh fruit, vegetables as well as dried fruit, nuts, honey, homemade pasta, wine, herbs, and other produce.
The area around the central market is probably the busiest in Florence. During the day, street vendors sell anything from t-shirts to leather goods. You can also buy beautiful capes and pashminas in fabulous colors. We made a new friend with an Italian man who had a leather shop that comes to Los Angeles often. He was so friendly and excited to meet people from LA.He recommended an excellent place for lunch, La Falterona Ristorante on Via G. Zannoni.
Lapo's special Mediterranean Ravioli was magnificent!
Next it was on to our Tuscan wine tour!
Wine-tasting, scenic drives through magnificent Tuscan landscapes, and a traditional dinner in Chanti - is there a better way to spend the afternoon in Tuscany? I think not.Our first stop was Castello Il Palagio. Castello Il Palagio has been producing wines for over 200 years! We had a tour of the wine cellars and of the medieval castle, with its beautiful gothic chapel and its typical Italian style garden. We tasted four different wines here each paired with food such as cheese, salami, ham, bruschetta or bread with some typical sauces. In the end, Vinsanto, the typical dessert wine of the area, and cantuccini, the biscuits with almonds, were served. I loved their style of "tasting" they gave us a bottle of each and you help yourself!More scenic Tuscan countryside on our way to Le Cantine di Greve in Chianti.

Le Cantine di Greve in Chianti is an amazing wine museum/tasting centre. It is located underneath Greve in Chianti's old town center. It features over 1200 varieties of wine from the region and offers 140 different wines to taste. Basically you put credit onto a card and are given glasses, you then wander around the wines and when you want to try one you insert your card and press the button to dispense wine.

Most tastings for the standard wines were €0.60 for a quarter of a glass. But the Super Tuscans that are about €600 a bottle will set you back about €4 a taste. All in all a great way to try the wines - reds, whites, sparkling, and dessert wines. We thought this was one of the coolest things ever!!!! I cannot believe we don't have this fantastic idea around here!

We then stopped in Castellina in Chianti. Castellina in Chianti is a commune (municipality) of 2,800 inhabitants in the province of Siena, in the Italian region Tuscany. It is part of the Chianti Hills, between the valleys of the Arbia, Pesa and Elsa rivers. It is characterized by underground vaulted passages such as the Via delle Volte. It is an extremely charming little village with beautiful stone buildings and cute shops.

At the end of the tour was a wonderful Tuscan dinner at an award winning little restaurant in a charming old village in the hills.


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