Sunday, June 21, 2009

Florence and Tuscany, Italy

Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and as such, half of the city were tourists. Most of these tourists were from the U.S. I have never seen so many American tourists outside of the U.S.! I guess they all head to Italy since some of them perceive the French as being unwelcoming.

While it was nice to be surrounded by Medieval and Renaissance buildings, at times it was overwhelming to be swarmed with tourists. Highlights include Pont Vecchio, the only Renaissance-style bridge remaining; the Duomo, the green, pink and white marbled structure with frescoes; Palazzo Vecchio, with its replica of Michaelangelo’s David and tall tower and the Uffizi Gallery, with its vast collection of art throughout the centuries.

I also visited the Tuscan hill towns of Siena and San Gimignano and understand why so many Americans are in Italy. Italian food and the Tuscan landscape are promoted and idealized in the U.S. The hills and vineyards of the region were indeed stunning. Add city walls, churches, Medieval buildings and you’ve got a fairytale setting!

One food that I discovered and now love is focaccia. This crunchy bread, sprinkled with salt
and topped with olive oil, is simply the best! Just like I had to have my daily baguette and pain au chocolat in France, I have to have a focaccia and gelato everyday in Italy.

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