We had reserved 7 nights in a 2 bedroom/2bath apartment (the Michaelangelo) at Villa Cafaggiolo. http://www.villacafaggiolo.it/ Niccolo welcomed us and showed us around. He also introduced us to his 3 horses and let us watch him exercise his current show horse over the jumps in the arena. Our son arrived from London on Sunday to join us for 4 nights of our week.
During our stay at the villa, we visited a local trattoria, La Bottega de Rosana, for lunch on several occasions. The food was some of the best of our trip and the prices were very reasonable. The waiters did not want us to use any English. If we used English, they'd tell us to speak in Italian! We turned it into great fun by asking them what's fork, glace, etc. in Italiano.
On Monday, the three of us hopped in the car and took the scenic drive through the Chianti region (first photo below is on road S222) on the way to Siena.
Siena http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siena was our first stop where we decided to just be tourists and eat at an outside table overlooking all the action on the main piazza, Piazza del Campo. We had pretty good pizza there and then continued sightseeing as this was a time-limited day trip by car.
After our multiple attempts to find the way OUT of Siena by car, we headed to Monteriggioni. http://www.castellitoscani.com/monteriggioni.htm We opted for this smaller village instead of the larger San Gimignano due to so many reports of SG being too perfectly restored for tourism and therefore, overrun by tourists.
Once we were back in Pontassieve, we stopped at the Coop (Co-op) grocery and bought food for dinner to have outside back at our villa. Shopping at the Coop, we found everything that we needed at really great prices. A huge container of mixed salad was only 2.80 Euros, plenty of food for three and really, really fresh. The deli had panini, pizza, breads, etc. The Coop requires cash and we bagged our own groceries like everyone else.
On Tuesday, we drove to Pontassieve and took the train to Florence for 2Euros per person each way. The trip is about 15 minutes. Since we've been to Florence on two other trips, we didn't need a map to walk around the city. It's fairly compact and easy to navigate. http://en.firenze-online.com/
We had lunch at the Guelph Restaurant that is just off of Piazza del Repubblica under the loggia opposite the piazza from the Savoy Hotel. We had eaten there before and find it much less "touristy" than the other restaurants on the square with very good food at reasonable prices for Florence. The risotto is outstanding and the tagliatelle con tartufo (truffles again) is equally impressive.
We spent the afternoon in Boboli Gardens (Pitti Palace) and the exhibit on the importance of gardening through ancient times. Many of the artifacts on display were from Pompeii. Since we had all visited Pompeii together in 2004, it was really great to see all of the garden ornaments, art and implements in this exhibit at Boboli. No photos were allowed in the exhibit. From the high points in Boboli, there are fantastic views of both Florence and the surrounding hills.
We also went back to Florence again on Thursday, so I'm grouping all the Florence photos here together even though these photos are from three different visits. On Thursday, we focused on the Bargello Museum which is full of sculptures. It is only open in the mornings, so we had time to visit the museum before our son took the train back to Pisa to catch his flight. The Bargello has a beautiful courtyard where we could photograph those sculptures. However, the Donatello and Michaelangelo works were in interior areas where photos weren't allowed. (We had all been to the Uffizi and Academia on previous visits.)
Once we were back in Pontassieve, we went to the trattoria in Rosano, but they were closed. However, a priest who was there told us to go to a local restaurant. It turned out to be Sicilian with excellent food.
Back to Wednesday, we decided to take the train to Arezzo (Life is Beautiful). http://www.arezzocitta.com/tourist%20information.htm In spite of the rain, it was a nice day trip outside the larger Florence. It was a 1 hour train ride from Pontassieve. Richard and I had driven past Arezzo on our way from Cortona to Rosano but hadn't stopped at the time. The surprise was the home of the architect/artisit Vasari which had intricately painted ceilings, artwork, sculptures and letters from Michaelangelo, a pope and a Medici. No photos were allowed in Vasari's house. The main piazza is apparently where jousting tournaments are held in late summer as part of a festival.
After a day of sightseeing, we returned to the Pontassieve train station. We stopped in a local bar and bought panini to take back to the villa for dinner.
Stay tuned for Part Three.