Tuscany 8/09

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Delicious, diverse & devastatingly beautiful...

Montepulciano wine country in Tuscan morning light

Tuscany holds the promise of good wine, great art and unique architecture. It encompasses many of the best hill town wine areas of Chianti, along with the exclusive producers of Vino Nobile and Brunello. Two of the world's notable museums, the Uffizi and Accadamie, are within walking distance of each other in Florence. Pisa's iconic tower is just one part of a grand architectural undertaking in the 12th century dubbed the "Field of Miracles". Finally, although these humble pictures don't do it justice, there's just something special about the light here (large picture at left).

Sunday August 16th

Heading north from our hotel, we stopped in the hill town of Montepulciano. Famous for its unique Vino Nobile wines, the town has a distinct medieval sense about it. Small wine and food shops line the streets with tastings offered for free (first picture below). Perched on a hill about 30 minutes west of Montepulciano is Montalcino (second picture below), famous for what is often held to be the best Italian wine - Brunello. This town also has a medieval feel to it (third picture below) with lots of tasting rooms for visitors (fourth picture below). What little I know about Italian wines, I know about Brunellos and the quality, variety and prices here were breathtakingly good.

Pisa's "Field of Miracles"

Heading north again from Montalcino, we drove 70 miles through dozens of sunflower fields to Florence arriving just in time for our 1pm reservation at the Uffizi Museum (first picture below with Craig waiting outside while our driver picked up our tickets). The collection here is well organized in a large U shape and included so many famous pieces of art that I found myself almost numbed to it by the end. "What, another room of Da Vincis? - ho hum." This is a museum that lives up to its hype, although their overly restrictive "no photos of any type" policy bugs me. Leaving the Uffizi, we walked north through Florence (second picture below) past the imposing Duomo (third and fourth pictures below) to the Accademie museum, where we also had reservations. The story at the Accademie is much simpler - Michelangelo's David, which is a surprisingly huge statue at the center of the main floor. We toured the whole collection, which wasn't bad, but after the Uffizi and David it was difficult to conjure up much more art excitement.

Leaving Florence, we drove west about 90 minutes to Pisa passing some large marble mines cut into the mountains. I had heard mixed reviews on Pisa, but perhaps partly because of that lowered expectation, Craig and I enjoyed it immensely. Pisa seemed a bit cooler than Florence because it's close to the Mediterranean coast. Our first impressions walking into the "Field of Miracles" (large picture top of page right) were that the tower is shorter than we expected and it leans a lot more than we expected. The first picture below is a view from behind the tower and Duomo trying to catch an interesting angle on the afternoon light. Back in front on the lawn, I offered my assistance with their engineering problem (second picture below) to no avail. As the sun fell behind us, the sky seemed to find a deeper blue (third picture below with Craig and I standing in front of the tower). We finished our afternoon with pizza and beer at a little restaurant just off the main square (fourth picture below). Our three hour drive back to Rome was mostly along the picturesque Mediterranean coast highway. I enjoyed Tuscany and likely will return someday to go beyond just scratching its surface. We finished our evening in Rome with a small dinner at Piccolo Mondo near our hotel.

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