Apologies for the radio silence. No wi Fi in San Gimignano and then quite limited access in Florence has kept this journal a little quiet (ie non existent). We have also been rather busy with our holiday! :-)
Our last day in Siena was as quiet as the first copley, with more wandering around and a bit of perusing the shops. We took the bus to San Gimignano and happily were able to get into our bandB room there by about 11am; and fabulous it was too. Overlooking the main thoroughfare with very tall ceilings of solid painted timber, great artwork and a lovely feel to it. we settled in then went for a walk around the town, up to the fort and relaxed on a bench seat looking our over the Tuscan countryside, had dinner near the B&B and watched some of the European Cup football. Day 2 in SG was more of the same; another good day. Day 3 I went for a walk to Certaldo which is about 13kms away. Left quite early, mostly cloudy weather, but by the time I arrived it had got fairly hot again. mum had a further look around San Gimignano that morning and I got public transport back to SG ( considered walking but not for too long!). The land around SG is lovely, lots of olive trees, vineyards, wild poppies, rolling hills etc. very pretty and SG has views of the landscape everywhere. SG is part of an old pilgrimage route and therefore has some good history as a result. It's feature is the towers which are the architectural highlight 14 of them (originally 72), each neighbourhood had its flags up on show and added to the flavour. Seems the time of year for competing neighbourhoods as we have struck this in Siena (Il Palio coming up in July), San Gimignano, Florence and Pisa. Really loll to be more in the country and be in a place with a much slower pace of life. Saying that, we took the bus the next day to Florence.
We have a fabulous B&B with views of the Duomo out our window. Again we were able to go straight into our room so we had a bit of a relax before visiting the Baptistry in front of the Duomo and which had the most incredible gold mosaic ceilings along with of course the ore-requisite ornate marble inlay floor. We left visiting the Duomo for another day as there was a substantial queue. We turned toward Piazza della Signoria which features a fabulous array of statues including a replica of David. Over Ponte Vecchio (full of shops selling gold jewellery) to Piazza Pitti and then back to BandB. It was warm and clear weather so a great afternoon for an explore.
Day 2 in Florence was a very lazy one for me; Mum went out for some shopping therapy and then we joined up for another peruse of Florence during which I managed to buy 3 small and original watercolours. A quietish afternoon before we headed out to Dad's cousin Gillian and her Husband Ettore's house for dinner. Bought a nice bottle of wine from a great restaurant which you can also buy wine to go from. Went do to their wine cellar t view the options and were incredibly well looked after. Bought a red wine of which the vintner only makes that one, and 7,000 bottles in total a year. Very cool purchasing experience. Anyway on to Gillian's and Ettore's (who speaks as much English as we do Italian). It was of course a lovely evening. They live in an apartment (and very beautiful it is too) quite central in Florence so we could walk there. I had met them on two previous occasions so great to see them again and of course wonderful for Mum to meet them both.
Next day we took off for Pisa by train. Headed a bit away from the main tourist route once arrived and enjoyed some of the back alleys and areas. The Piazza of Miracles does deserve its title as does the leaning tower ( i.e. it is definitely leaning). Apparently work over the last few years has straightened it up by a good 40+ centimetres and therefore it will be OK for another 300 years or so. The other buildings around it are also beautiful so definitely worth the trip. We had a great lunch and Then headed back to Florence.
The next day I decided to head to Lucca for a look around, never having been there before. it was great. Another walled city (as is San Gimignano) but you could walk on the top of Lucca's city walls which are uninterrupted and are 4km long. I walked these first and then made a foray into the town. Saw that there was a Puccini and Mozart concert on that night so texted Mum and arranged for her to meet me in Lucca early evening. There are some fabulous churches in Lucca, although quite plain inside, they have a tremendous feel to them, aided by the fact it was around 30 degrees so lovely and cool inside. I climbed the bell tower of one which gave great views of all the terracotta rooftops. Also a good medieval heart to Lucca so some good alleyways to journey through. Met mum at the station and we both thoroughly enjoyed the concert (two sopranos, one of whom was excellent, and a very good pianist). It was held in the church which Puccini was baptised in (he was born in Lucca and they hold these concerts every night of the year). A short wander around Lucca for Mum to see the sights and then a train bak to Florence. Today (Saturday) we walked on a very hot morning up to Piazzale Michelangelo to see the fabulous views of Florence and the of course walked back to BandB. Met up with MUm's neighbours, Tim and Karen, at their apartment (they had just arrived this morning). Had a great catch up with them and a dinners just around the corner from their apartment followed by a walk into back toward our accommodation. So lovely to see them.
Tomorrow we travel to Venice. A looking forward to it. While I have enjoyed Florence, it has never been my favourite travel destination so happy to be moving on.