Friday, November 18, 2016

Tuscan Road Trip Part One

We now have a car and are no longer limited to foot power, pedal power or public transport. Since reading the Inferno by Dan Brown I wanted to have another look at Florence so we decided on a short trip to Tuscany to see Florence and the Chianti area and also to return via Cinque Terre.  The last time we were in Cinque Terre, it was really hot and one member of our family, who shall remain nameless, wasn't very keen on 40C heat so we only had a cursory view before heading into Switzerland.
Sunset on Lago Garda
Driving from Strasbourg to our first overnight stop of Lago Garda we went through 4 countries and drove around 650km. Hard to imagine that many countries in one day when you live in Australia!
Our stop in Lake Garda was unplanned. It is such a lovely spot and as the sunk sank over the lake we had the opportunity to take some lovely photos. We had our first Italian meal of the holiday before strolling around the town of Riva del Garda. Of course we had to have a gelato before retiring to our cheap and cheerful accommodation. The next morning we drove further around the lake and came across some lovely little fishing villages.
Fishing boats on Lago Garda
Artefacts of olive oil pressing
Onward to Florence! We had decided to stay outside of Florence at Villa Torre Rossa on an olive orchard which produces organic olive oil. Arriving here we were stunned by the amazing view from our apartment over Florence and the peace and calm of the property.
Villa Torre Rossa

 While staying in Florence might have meant we were closer to the action, staying out in the countryside was much more relaxing.
Our accommodation was an easy drive into Florence and we were able to park the car and walk quite easily into the main part of Florence. I had thought by October that the hordes of tourists would have disappeared and we would have a better chance of seeing all the sights. How wrong I was! Tourist attractions like the Duomo, Uffizi, Academia, Ponte Vecchio were heaving with tour groups following their leaders like good little sheep. It was such a relief to get to the quieter streets around Santa Croce and the other side of the Arno. 

Duomo From Piazzale Michelangelo
Duomo amid the crowds

We did, however, find our way to the Central Mercato. What a fabulous place to buy fresh produce and a real gathering place for the locals. If I lived in Florence I would definitely be visiting here every day.
Lovely fresh produce

Upstairs above the market is an amazing food hall where you can sample all types of Italian cuisine freshly prepared for you. It was also the place where we met Kevin's English cousins Sue and Pete. Have to come to Florence to bump into family! 

Mercado food hall

Sue, Pete and Kevin at Ponte Vecchio
What's lunch without cannoli for dessert
Ponte Vecchio from Piazzale Michelangelo

Staying outside of Florence also gave us the opportunity to travel into the surrounding Chianti countryside and visit some of the charming towns and vineyards dotting the hillsides. So much history and such lovely vistas.

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