Renaissance Florence

Florence

The nice thing about going on holiday together with my parents-in-law was that hubby and I could have our twosome day out especially to a busy city like Florence which would have been miserable to our little girl who has no interest yet in history.

A very busy city which was a far departure from the tranquil countryside that we’ve gotten so used to, we opted to take it easy as the sweltering heat of 40°C was not that pleasant for a very thorough sightseeing. Our exploration of the city started with an unplanned side trip to a market where I found an accessible toilet. We lingered a bit at the market as I was fascinated by the many things that can be found there. It was a pretty interesting exploration as the Italian just like the Spanish and Philippine markets also sell stuffs which can be very offensive to the Dutch sensibility – cow’s stomach lining (oftentimes used for dishes like callos), tongue (lengua stofado), intestine (“dinuguan” or bloody Mary), etc. There were also nice stuffs like those huge Italian cheeses, sausages, wines, pasta, dried mushrooms, and much more.

Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance has always fascinated me since high school when I had my world history subject. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever thought that one day I would be here. I would have loved to go inside the Duomo, visit the museums and really take my time to explore the city but the sweltering heat was just too much. Florence would be perfect for a pure city trip another time.

On the drive to Florence, I already told the hubby that I wanted to eat the famous “bistecca ala Florentina” which is a T-bone steak and is known to be the best in the country. Good choice but it was a huge piece of about half a kilo which he and I eventually shared. The resto where we had lunch was just in front of the Piazza de la Signorina so there was a bit of “highway robbery” for unsuspecting tourists like us.

At the very start, hubby was served a huge glass of about half a liter beer and looking at the other diners, I cannot help but wonder why every one was getting huge servings of drinks. Even children were getting big colas of half liters. Later it turned out that the beer cost almost €10, cappuccino at €5.80, etc….Well, a simple lunch for 2 can easily cost €100 if one is not conscious of the prices and why the servings are on the big/max side. Anyway, dessert was perfect – chocolate cake with layers of dark chocolates in between that melt in the mouth.

By the time that we were done with lunch, the sky has already darkened and there was the threatening downpour. We decided to just have a bit of a walk towards the Arno river which is a special feature of Florence. I’ve been charmed by the postcards and pictures I’ve seen of Florence with its enchanting bridges. Too bad that we could not linger a bit longer as we had to be back for the pizza party at Diacceroni at 5pm. It must be so enchanting to see Florence at sunset and at night time when the city basked in the evening lights. Another time, another season…then I’ll also explore the Duomo, the museums, the Medici villas and gardens.

Time to head back to the garage where we parked the car. Car parking was quite pricey at €5 an hour. It was valet parking so we have to leave the key with the garage owner. Again, something new and uncommon for us.

I loved the drive back to Pelagaccio. Who won’t be charmed by the beckoning sunflower fields?

Dried mushrooms — just soak it in cold water for 20 minutes and then it is a perfect meat replacement for pasta dishes

Dried sausages or “salamis”

Italian cheeses

Italian wines and spirits

Beef tripes used for stew dishes like “callos”

Leather bags everywhere

Busy open market scene

One of the many stalls for Italian souvenirs

Italian artworks

Medici Chapel

The Duomo behind me

The Duomo

The Mr. and me with the Duomo and Baptistry of St. John behind

A stall selling postcards and other souvenirs outside the Duomo

The Duomo which showcases intricate Gothic style was begun in 1296 and completed structurally in 1436. Amazing to see how it has stood the test of time to this day.

Horse-drawn carriages at the Piazza del Duomo

Piazza della Signorina and Palazzo Vecchio

Piazza della Signorina and Palazzo Vecchio

A replica of Michaelangelo’s David

Every tourist wants to touch this beast but I did not feel like queuing for it.

bruschetta al pomodoro — after having this in Florence, it became our staple at Pelagaccio.
Easy to make: For the bread, just slice leftover bread to about 2 cm. of thickness, sprinkle it generously with extra virgin olive oil then fry in a flat-bellied pan until brown and crispy. For the toppings, chop the tomatoes coarsely then season it with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and finely chopped parsley.

Bistecca a la Florentina

Chef’s salad consisting of tomatoes, mozarella, ham and olives. Pretty bland actually. I prefer the caprese salad.

The cappuccino that can almost break the bank at Eur 5.80

Melts in the mount chocolate cake

Intricate interior of a building at the Piazza

Terrace restaurants in Florence

Arno river running through Florence

Me with Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) behind. This bridge was built in 1345 and was Florence’s first bridge across the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from medieval days.

Love locks

`The Mr. and Arno River

Me and the Arno River

Curious of what are housed on the covered Ponte Vecchio, it is lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry.

The Mr. and me at Ponte Vecchio

Florence

Roadside scenery on the way back to our agriturismo – sunflower fields and quaint Italian farm houses

In the footsteps of French Kings and Leonardo da Vinci

The chateau from across the Loire River


You may after sometime have an overdose of my castle madness but this is just the second castle in my Loire Valley adventure. At some point, the hubby told me that if he never ever see a castle in his life again, he can live with that. He has seen enough…. Not me!

Hubby and me at the chateau's ground


at the chateau


From the chateau with view of the Loire River

My royal fascination continues. From Chenonceau Castle, we drove to Amboise which was about 15 kilometers away. The 15th century Royale Chateau of Amboise belonged to Louise d’Amboise who was convicted of plotting agains Louis XI and condemned to be executed in 1431. He was pardoned by the king but his chateau was confiscated. The chateau became a favorite of French Kings from Charles VIII, Louis XII, Francis I to Henry II. It would, however, figured infamously in the Tumult of Amboise, the failed attempt by the Huguenots in 1560 to gain power of France by abducting the young king, Francis II and arresting Francis, Duke of Guise and his brother, the Cardinal of Lorraine. This event would lead to the Wars of Religion that divided France from 1562 to 1598.

The Huguenots led by La Renaudie attempted to storm the chateau. When he was caught, he was drawn and quartered and his flesh displayed at the gates of the town. In the presence of the King and Queen, La Renaudie’s followers (between 1,200 and 1,500) were also killed and their corpses hung on iron hooks on the facade of the chateau and from nearby trees. Others were drowned in the Loire or exposed to the fury of the townspeople of Amboise.

Castles are not that all glitter and glamor, huh!

What is then the connection of this chateau to Leonardo da Vinci?

King Francis I who was known as “The Builder” was raised at Amboise and during the first few years of his reign, the chateau reached the pinnacle of its glory. Leonardo da Vinci as his guest came to the chateau in December 1515 and lived and worked in the nearby Clos Luce which is connected to the chateau by an underground passage. Leonardo is buried in the Chapel of Saint Hubert on the castle’s ground.

Resting place of Leonardo da Vinci


The chateau is built on a promontory overlooking the Loire River. On the other side, we got to peer down at the lovely town of Amboise. Too bad that we didn’t have sufficient time to linger and explore the old town which is reputed to be loveliest town in the Loire. That’s what castle madness and greed did to me on this holiday — I wanted to see as many castles as possible that I set aside the chance to savor every moment and absorb the beauty that was around me. Next time, I’ll devote a longer time here, explore the town and have dinner in one of the fancy restaurants…someday.

View of the town of Amboise from the chateau


Picture-taking was not allowed inside the chateau so I don’t have indoor shots. It was nice to explore the chateau’s garden. I was so impressed by the centuries-old cedars of Lebanon with the huge scented pine cones. Those cones would have made fantastic home decorations for my mom-in-law.

Huge cones from the centuries-old cedar of Lebanon trees on the castle ground

Hubby with the chateau and the centuries-old cedar of Lebanon

Me and the cedar of Lebanon with the chateau in the background

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