Florence/Nice Tour with Recreating Eden
September 16th – 26th, 2007

 

September 16, Sunday, Day 1
I arrived into Florence from a pre trip to Vienna, then a quick cab ride as we were at the Grande Hotel Baglioni. Just a couple of minutes walk from the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery and shops along the famous Ponte Vecchio, the 4 Star Grand Hotel Baglioni is perfectly situated in the heart of Florence. The Grand Hotel Baglioni boasts a rich history; it was the residence of the Carrega Bertolini noble family and is the oldest Hotel in town. In 1902, Prince Carrega di Lucedio moved to Rome, and convinced the Baglioni family to turn the imposing and historic building into a hotel. Officially opened in 1903, on the feast of Saint Claire, the Grand Hotel Baglioni was inaugurated and opened its doors to princes and travelers alike. Built and laid out in the traditional Tuscan architectural and decorative style, the Grand Hotel Baglioni also embraces everything today’s traveler has come to expect. This hotel is just right around the corner from what I think is the best market in town and is much cheaper than the Ponte Vecchio area which is really just for the tourists…

September 17, Monday, Day 2
After a delicious breakfast, we left the hotel and walked over to Boboli Gardens… Boboli is an incredible place… Designed for the Medici family after they bought the Palazzo Pitti in 1549, the gardens are an excellent example of stylized Renaissance gardening and were first opened to the public in 1766. The more formal parts of the garden consist of box hedges clipped into symmetrical patterns that lead to wilder groves of ilex and cypress trees, planted to create a contrast between artifice and nature. The Boboli Gardens were not to become famous until they became the property of the Medici family, who called in Niccolò Pericoli, known as Tribolo, to design them. This artist had already given ample proof of his talent with his designs for the gardens of the Medici Villas of Castello and Petraia. Tribolo created a masterpiece of "landscape architecture" in the Boboli Gardens between 1550 and 1558, the year of his death. This place is massive, both in size and in scope of gardens and the size of the Palazzo is outstanding. It’s in a world-famous location, adjoining the Pitti Palace on the Arno River’s south bank; it’s an outdoor museum that contains several masterpieces of sculpture and architecture; its design influenced many other notable European gardens, including Versailles; and its view of Florence from Forte di Belvedere at the top of Boboli Hill is perhaps the finest urban vista in all of Italy. At the top is the rose garden and a building housing a beautiful collection of pottery and china.

We continued on with our first day with a visit to Enoteca Ponte Vecchio to enjoy an Italian Fantasy: Wines From the Alps to Sicily Tasting. We tasted five wines, cheese, meat, and chocolates.

The Enoteca Ponte Vecchio is located in the heart of historic Florence. In addition to a large variety of the finest and most famous Italian labels, special interest is paid to small vintners rarely exported outside of Italy. Always seeking out the best foodstuffs in Italy, the Enoteca Ponte Vecchio also offers a wide selection of high quality extra-virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars, spices, honeys, spiced vegetable & fruit spreads, wild mushrooms, cheeses [especially the Pecorino varieties from Pienza], Tuscan dried meats and salami, Prosciutto and venison sausages.

September 18 Tuesday, Day 3 Day of Leisure
Side streets are full of little shops with some great gifts. The leather prices are very good, especially in the market (I know I had a few people wanting one of the bags I picked up at the market), belts, wallets, scarves, shirts, pottery. You name it and you will find it.

September 19 Wednesday, Day 4
We met our guide and boarded our coach after breakfast for our full day in Lucca. Our first visit today will be to the Villa Torrigiani. The Villa Torrigiani and the park date back the beginning of the 16th century; the owners then were the powerful Buonvisi family. During the first half of the 17th Century Villa Torrigiani was purchased by Marquis Nicolao Santini, the ambassador of the Republic of Lucca to the court of Louis 14th (the sun King), who wanted to transform it into a sumptuous dwelling, with a garden of flowering parterres and grand basins, into which the facade would reflect. The garden was to be built according to the plans done by Le Notre for the royal home of Versailles. Theater of Flora with grottoes and water works which still function and which are visible in the Grotto of the Winds. There is an exceptional example of a round grotto with stone mosaics and the niches surrounding with remarkable statues of the winds, fountains serving as basins, and above them a dome from which rain pours down. Today we have splendid examples of Liliodendron, Tulipifera, Taxodium Disdreum, Olsmanthus Fragrans, Atlas Cedar and many varieties of magnolias and Camellia. ‘The garden was designed in accordance with strict Tuscan canons of symmetry and geometry, which also call for continuity with the surrounding countryside.’

Our next visit was the Palazzo Pfanner Palazzo Pfanner, built in 1667, has all the characteristics of a late 16th century building. There is a beautiful wide staircase that leads to the great elegant loggia overlooking the 18th century formal Italian style garden. At the centre of the garden there is a fountain pond surrounded by baroque statues of the gods and goddesses of ancient Roman mythology, flower-beds, and big terracotta vases with lemon trees, according to the Tuscan tradition.

Lucca was a product of power and war. The walled city is three miles around with the depth of the wall anywhere from 30-90 feet wide and 40 feet high. It was built to protect Lucca from Florence The wealthy lived inside the walls and there are about 300 villas. The Bertoli Olive oil family lived here as well at Puccini. The workers lived outside the walls. Lucca got rich because of the silk trade. Napoleons sister, Alesa who built Villa Realia, built the parks and gardens in Lucca.

September 20 Thursday, Day 5 Day of Leisure
Another wonderful day to explore and being in the center of it all could not be better. Everything is so close to the hotel and Florence is very easy to get around, especially with a good map!
 

 


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