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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wednesday, 6 August 2008: Tuscan glories

Flying in from Paris, my destination was Prato where I attended the conference. Prato cathedral may be a poor sister to the other glories I saw, but it houses exquisite Lippi frescoes in which Salome dressed in diaphanous garments presents John the Baptist's head to her wicked mother.
A drive through the luxuriant Tuscan countryside. I did want to stop at Bramasole and take tea with Frances Mayes but there was so much to do and to see. Next time, Frances!

Florence's dark and winding streets are filled with little craft shops packed with treasures. I visited Il Botterga d' Arte on the Borgo Ognissanti to buy another little carved angel to go with the two bought by Richard (in 1999) and myself (in 2004) on previous trips. The shop's interior just looked the same as it did then.

While street artists chalked an admirable depiction of Botticelli's Birth of Venus outside the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, I gazed in awe at the real thing inside the Gallery together with the Botticelli's Allegory of Spring, Lippi's Madonna and Child, Giotto's Madonna Enthroned and Michelangelo's Holy Family.

In Siena a marble dog spouted water into the famous fountain in Il Campo.

It's appropriate that my visit to Tuscany included a visit to the piazza in the little town of Fiesole, perched on the top of a hill overlooking the roofs of Florence. This is where Florence's history began. Fiesole was an Etruscan city and some of its inhabitants ventured down into the valley to give life to a village "destined to flourish" (the meaning of Florence) long before the Romans arrived to start a settlement. I enjoyed a glass of Chianti in Fiesole as I watched the rays of a late summer sun bathe Brunelleschi's Duomo in its soft light.

While the rest of Europe built cathedrals in sombre grey stone, the Florentines (and the Sienese) built extravagant creations of pink, green and white marble to the glory of God! The flamboyant cathedral of Sante Maria Del Fiore was begun in 1296 and finished 1461. The famous Duomo only took Brunelleschi 32 years, a relatively short time. On both my visits to Florence (in 2004), I was startled by the frivolous beauty of the Cathedral as I turned the corner of the dark winding medieval streets and came suddenly upon the Piazza de Duoma.

Siena's glorious Duomo is smaller but as impressive. It is like an iced wedding cake adorned with carved animal faces and sugarstick pillars.

The view down the Arno - the Santa Trinita Bridge, Florence.

The Ponte Vecchio, Florence, is a huddle of jewellery shops selling exquisite cameos, coral bracelets and necklaces, opal rings and fine goldwork.

A highlight was a morning visit to the well-preserved medieval town of San Gimignano. 15 of the original 70 towers survive. Do you remember this little town which featured in Zeffrelli's movie, "Tea with Mussolini"?

A street cafe in Siena's Il Campo which is also the scene of Siena's contrade (neighbourhoods) twice-yearly race, Il Palio.

And the brilliant wares of Tuscany - rich brocades, gilt frames, carved angels, painted Montecalcino ceramics, rich tapestries and delicious food and wine.

Florentine pigeons atop a lion in airy arcade of the Loggia of the Signoria.



willow said...

Bellisimo is right!!! This little tour was thrilling, Eleanor! Your pictures are professional need to make a travel guide! I enjoyed this very much.

Make sure you see Frances next time. ;)

Dee Dee said...

Tuscan glories indeed. What a fantastic journey. Thank you for showing us all the sights of the Tuscan countryside. Lovely photos...

Tracy said...

Another equisitely beautiful post, Eleanor...How wonderful you were able to witness all the beauty...and how thankful I am you shared this with us. I've so much been enjoying seeing and hearing of your holiday adventures. :o) Happy Day ((HUGS))

KarenHarveyCox said...

Oh, what a wonderful post, filled with beautiful photographs and lovely descriptions of places that you visited during your trip.

Tuscany, one of my dreams. Ever since I read Frances Mayes, Bella Tuscany, I have longed to visit. Her beautiful coffee table book IN TUSCANY sits on my coffee table and beckons me to paint the Tuscany landscapes. Well, of course Under The Tuscan Sun is one of my favorite movies.

I loved the magnificent artwork you showed on the sidewalks. Your trip sounds magnificent.


Rhondi said...

Hi Eleanor
Thanks for sharing your photos with us. Italy is such a beautiful country isn't it? And the food... mm!
Hugs, Rhondi

pammiejo said...

Thanks for bringing back the memories of our grand trip to Italia about 2 years ago. You certainly did have a great trip!

Barbara Martin said...

Amazing photos of Tuscany and Italy, Eleanor! It brought back memories for me, enough that now I would like to book a trip.

Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting.

Mary said...

I've been able to relive my visit to Tuscany through your great pics Eleanor. It is probably the most memorable of my trips. I planned it to include all these same places but did actually stay in Cortona for two days and visited Bramasole - well looked down on it from the hillside, fabulous house and gardens. Now of course Frances lives part of the year right here in N. Carolina just about 20 mins. from me!!!

I plan to post of some past places that have remained in my heart because I loved them so. Naturally Italy is at the top of the list - I long to return.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

So beautiful! Some of these photos remind me of the 1955 Katharine Hepburn movie, Summertime. Have you seen it?

What a wonderful trip you had!

Ms.Daisy said...

Eleanor, thank you for your encouraging comments on my movie review idea! Yes, I did see "Tea With Mussolini" and I enjoyed it very much...though it was a while ago that I saw it.
I love the photo tour of your trip and I'm glad that you are getting settled in again. I have made three short trips in three months and it can be very tiring!
Be well and happy!

Betty said...

Through your eyes I've enjoyed many things and sights that I will never see....thank you.

Frances Mayes grew up near where we live....we enjoy her fame....a home town girl makes big time.....Betty

Kathleen Grace said...

Hi Eleanor, just catching up. What amazing sights you are seeing! Thank you for sharing them with us:>)

fairmaiden said...

Your travels to Paris and Tuscany are enchanting. Thank you for sharing so many pics with us. The closest I've ever gotten to either is in the movies. 'Under A Tuscan Sun' that one! I do wish I was not so afraid to fly, there is just nothing so beautiful here in the States as those winding cafe lined streets, the bridges over water, and majestic Cathedrals and ancient buildings. I think my favorite pic was the one of the artists chalk drawings. I used to dream of being a poor artist roaming the streets of inspiring European cities.