Le Cinque Terre

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

Le Cinque Terre had been recommended as a must-see by several of our friends. We spent a long day on the train from Florence, riding on a ferry and then hiking. The five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.(Wikipedia) The towns are surrounded by very steep 600 year old terraced vineyards, which produce the region’s famous Sciachetra’ wine. Fishing boats were stored in the streets above the beaches, as well as on the beach and in the small marinas. Steep climbs in four of the five towns took us to high vistas. We followed a walking trail, Via dell’Amore walkway from Manarola to Riomaggiore, along cliffs over the Mediterranean Sea.

We visited on October 24, 2011, the day before torrential rains caused floods and mudslides, killing nine people and damaging the villages.

Florence – Jean-Michel Folon's Rose Garden

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

The very clear skies following the rain of the previous day resulted in excellent conditions for photographing Florence from above.Today was the day, so we took the steep steps up to the garden which was soon to close before dusk. Steve had first discovered the Rose Garden with Sculptures by Jean-Michel Folon, on his first climb up to the lookout at Piazzale Michelangiolo on a day when the air above Florence was too hazy and smoky for photography. The Folon exhibition was entitled, “Je me souviens”, which means “I remember”, in French.

We reached the top of our climb, at Piazalle Michelangelo, before the sun set behind the distant hills. The low rays of sunlight reflected off of Brunelleschi’s Dome, the Campanile by Giotto, the bell tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and the basilica of Santa Croce, and formed golden ripples on the surface of the Arno River. We also had an excellent view of the hill town of Fiesole, perched just above Florence, where we visited the previous week. It was certainly worth the climb.

Florence – Fiesole Area Archeologica

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

Yesterday we enjoyed a visit to the Tuscan town of Fiesole — in the hills overlooking the city of Florence. The highlight of our visit was the Area Archeologica — see the comprehensive website (in Italian) here. Many thanks to Les and Joanne for briefing us on Fiesole — absent their guidance we might not have discovered this tasty treat! There were almost no tourists, so we had the site to ourselves.

Over the past 100 years or so, excavations by archaeologists have revealed a twenty-five hundred year old Etruscan temple and a two thousand year old Roman temple, Roman ampitheater and Roman baths. These are all structures built of enormous stones. The site is set up for easy viewing. We walked the pathways between and around the ruins. Vistas of the Tuscan hills and olive groves filled the distances. Excellent educational materials explained what we were seeing.

The Archaeological Museum is filled with items recovered during the excavations. Everything is carefully displayed, with extensive explanations, in Italian, and sometimes in English. The building is set deep into the excavation itself, where parts of the ruins are displayed underground.

The delightful town of Fiesole is a fine place for strolling, viewing Florence, dining, having coffee, and resting our feet. We enjoyed a delicious thin-crispy-crust pizza on the piazza before catching our bus back to Florence. A low-cost way to visit Fiesole is the #7 bus from the Piazzo San Marco near the University of Florence, about 25 minutes to reach Fiesole. Use Google Maps to view the bus schedule – much easier than using the bus website.

Because it was very hazy over Florence we did not attempt any photos of the Duomo from Fiesole. Here is one example of that iconic image taken by another Smugmug photographer.

Fiesole is a must-see when you visit Florence. Our next dispatch will have a bit more detail on the Musei di Fiesoli — a truly remarkable archaeological museum.

Lastly, more background at Fiesole.com, and for a gallery of Tuscany HDR images by pro photographer Scott Keeler, see here.

Florence – Palazzo Vecchio

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

At the heart of the city, in the Piazza della Signoria is the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence. At the entrance is a copy of Michelangelo’s David statue. To the side is Bartolomeo Ammanati’s Fountain of Neptune. Just across a lane way is the Loggia die Lanzi, filled with famous sculptures, including Benvenuto Cellini’s statue of Perseus with the Head of Medusa. Inside the Palazzo Vecchio is a treasury of frescoes, gilded ceilings and significant sculptures.

Florence – Piazza Annigoni Market

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

Our local indoor and outdoor market in the Piazza Annigoni was a treasury of Italian delicacies. It was open every day from morning until mid-afternoon. We tried tastes of Italian dried meats, cheeses, pesto, breads, fruits and vegetables, fresh pasta, spices, olives, fish, anchovies and more. Picnic on our apartment dining table always brought surprises. I forgot to mention the pastries, which we also sampled, but conservatively.

Florence – Around the Town

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

With the continuing fine weather, we set out on the mission to photograph Florence, which is no small feat. Steve discovered the Piazella Michelangiolo, a view point above Florence, and across the River Arno from the Duomo. This is where the best photographers gather just before sunset for views of Florence encircled by sunset-rosy hills.

Sculling boats and tenders were launched from a tunnel beneath the Uffizzi Gallery on the River Arno, where the loggias are reflected in the placid waters.The famous Ponte Vecchio provided its own golden river reflections.

Florence – Il Duomo

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

The Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Campanile and the Baptistery dominate the sights to see in Florence. This historic center of Florence has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The buildings rise above the hoards of tourists, and are being constantly cleaned behind banks of scaffolding. Pink, white and green marble form the decorative, carved facades and sides. As you can see, Dorothy photographed this Renaissance treasure from all angles.

The Cathedral’s museum contained Michangelo’s sculpture “La Pieta'”.

Tuscany – Lucca

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

On our first visit to Lucca, the Sunday antiques market was in full swing, and we were amazed by the collection of antiquities for sale. You can climb to the top of the Torre Guinigi, where a grove of oak trees are growing. Arcaded facades and campaniles grace the numerous churches in the city.

Lucca hosts the annual Lucca Comics and Games festival, and on our second visit, we were surrounded by costumed enthusiasts, dragons, sword fighters and pavilions filled with booty. The Passeggiata delle Mura, the walk and bike way on top of the city wall, invited us to rent bicycles for a tour of the autumn leaves.

Tuscany – Colle di Val d'Elsa Crystal Factory

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

Colle di Val D’Elsa is a small ancient town where La Citta’ del Cristallo (The City of Crystal) is located. Steve had called ahead to arrange a tour of the glass factory, and when we arrived, the glass makers really put on a show for us. We learned all of the steps for hand making leaded crystal wine glasses. The choreographed split-second teamwork of the craftsmen was impressive, and we were allowed to stand close for a good look.