April 8 - April 16:  Buon giorno from Tuscany

How do I start to talk about Tuscany? We spent 9 nights in Certaldo, a little publicized hill town 12km from San Gimignano. Rob had a connection with Giovanni Latini because his son is getting his PhD in math at Cal Tech. Latini’s ristorante and albergo is unassuming at first glance, but the food is superb. We ate there 8 out of 9 nights. They treated us like family. I even had my birthday there, and the goodies kept coming for 2 to 3 hours.

Certaldo is nicely situated. It’s a 1 hour train trip to Florence, which we visited two days. It’s a short drive to the hill towns of San Gimignano and Volterra. It’s also a short drive to Sienna, Pisa, and Lucca, all of which we visited.

Florence was packed with tourists and sights. I spent several days there 23 years ago, but it seemed like a bigger city this time. The first day we managed to go to several sites. First, the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David and Prisoners. It was awesome, of course. We also saw the Duomo, Baptistry, and Giotto’s tower, which we climbed for the great view of Florence and the Dome. We saw Michelangelo’s house, Orsanmichele, and Santa Croce Church with Galileo’s and Michelangelo’s tombs. The Bargello has wonderful sculpture by Donatello, Verrocchio, and Michelangelo. Robert liked Donatello’s David better than Michelangelo’s huge one.

The second day in Florence, which we did 5 days later, we went to the Science Museum, which was really neat. Amazing all the instruments and machines that were constructed to explain the world and convince the church. Galileo, Newton, Lavoisier, Archimedes, clocks, telescopes, barometers, microscopes, math instruments. After that it was the Uffizi, with all the great paintings including Botticelli, DaVinci, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio. We didn’t see the entire museum, but most of it. The view of the Ponte Vecchio was neat. After a lunch and, of course, gelato break, we rallied to see the Duomo Museum. It was a good choice, easy to visit. More sculptures and St. Francis’ finger!

Certaldo’s old hill town, a short distance away, is very small and quaint. The church has Boccaccio’s tomb.

San Gimignano is touristy, but for good reason. It is unique with all the towers and has a nice view when you climb the highest one. They make a white wine that’s very good...Vernaccia. We had a very nice Easter Sunday mass at St. Agostino in San Gimignano with an English speaking Augustine priest from Scotland. He said the mass in English in a small side chapel with about 40 people. It was a beautiful, sunny day. On our third trip into San Gimignano, spread out over the week, we saw a great DaVinci exhibit with 40 of his machines in replica for people to put into action. The boys really liked that.

Volterra has a great Etruscan Museum and beautiful, typical rural Tuscan countryside surrounding. The toilet at the museum with the foot rests and a hole in the ground was interesting.

Siena has lots of tourists, again, for good reason. The Duomo and Duomo Museum are awesome. Beautiful church, sculptures (Michelangelo, Bernini, Donatello, Pisano), inlaid marble floors, paintings (Duccio’s Maesta). Il Campo and the tower were neat. It was fun to imagine the horse race they have each year. St Catherine’s head and finger are on display in a church. We saw her body in Rome.

Pisa is a tourist trap, but interesting to see the architecture. Also, Cimabue’s mosaic in the apse and Pisano’s pulpit. There’s lots of history with Galileo and St. Catherine of Siena, as well.

Lucca is a neat walled city where you can walk the walls all the way around because they turned it into a park with wide paths and trees. It was quaint and quiet. I think that’s it!

Hope all is well, Pat.