We spent an afternoon walking around Pisa taking in the sights but apart from the main piazza there is little else to attract.
Florence on the other hand took a 3 day visit and even though the temps were in the 30s we enjoyed the many piazzas, galleries & museums.
The main duomo was so impressive I had to shoot it in pano from 3 different angles.
Deb’s shot from a lookout over the city
We arrived in Cortona, a small hilltop village, during a very heavy storm and when we parked could not see out the window.
However, after a few hours the clouds parted and we wandered into the village’s main square. The shops were open but there was no-one around. Then we heard trumpets blaring & the banging of drums so we walked over to the next piazza to find this annual medieval festival just starting.
There were hundreds of people that came to attend the Archidado Joust, a festival originating in the late 1300s, where the 5 ‘quarters’ of the village are represented by teams and compete in an archery competition (crossbow) for the ‘golden arrow’.
The local aristocracy are suitably impressed with their corporate box.
The start of competition is heralded
One by one the teams have their go.
They even let the womenfolk play.
After the event the winning team parades through the main street.
The next day we had booked a one day cooking class and we met Alessandra at 9:30am in the same square where the festival had been. We got to know each other over coffee and then it was off to the various markets and shops to buy all the necessities for the days activities.
Once settled in at her home she quickly organised us both in helping with the prep. Once most items were underway it was time for a snack of bruschetta, cheese & apple with fresh chili and wine. By this time Alessandra & I had discovered we both loved photography and so the rest of the day was interspersed with cooking, showing photos and of course….more wine.
By 9:00pm neither Deb or I could drink or eat anymore and Alessandra dropped us home to end what has definitely been a highlight for us thus far.
On the last day we walked a kilometer up from the town to the fortress at the top where there was a great photo exhibition of many Piazzas around Tuscany. The views from this fort built in 1536 were amazing as was the walk back down passing many ancient churches and a convent.
Pienza was another hilltop village further south again with great scenery, sculptures and delicious trattorias.
Our last major stop in Tuscany was Pitigliano, another fortified hilltop town whose buildings are in excellent condition. In the 1500s this town had a thriving Jewish community who famously co-existed with the Christian population for many decades. For a variety of reasons both political & economical the community declined until the synagogue was finally closed in 1960.
Attached to the synagogue is a museum and walkthrough of the archaeological buildings that were attached throughout the ages such as a Mikvah, kosher butcher & a bakery.
Alessandra told us about this spa town, Saturnia, which we visited for a restful 2 days, bathing in the hot sulphur springs.
We are now off to visit a couple of small villages in the Lazio region before setting camp in Rome for what I’m sure will be an action-packed, waist-expanding few days.
Just to let you know you can click on any of the pictures for a full-screen slideshow of all images in the post.