Portofino, Italy

Well Portofino is probably the most photographed fishing village on the Italian Riviera! Whatever you have in mind, relaxing is in store since there is not much to actually DO here! Be prepared to just stroll around the boutiques, the harbor and walk up to Castello Brown maybe and of course, don’t forget people watch!

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The yachts that grace this picturesque harbor are luxurious to say the least but it is also full of small fishing boats.  Don’t forget this was always a fishing village!

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It is worth the short hike up to Chiesa di San Giorgio and Castello Brown.  The views from both spots will not disappoint you!

Chiesa di San Giorgio has had a commanding presence over Portofino and the Ligurian Sea since it was constructed in 1154 or perhaps even earlier.  This Romanesque church was sadly bombed during WWII and then reconstructed in 1950.

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Chiesa di San Giorgio
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Chiesa di San Giorgio

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Castello Brown was well suited as a defensive site and was used as such since the 15th century. There are 2 methods to ascent to the Castle. You can walk up the steep staircase or take the winding path up.  We walked up the stairs and down the path which opens up the best panoramic views of this town.

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Castello Brown

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Don’t miss a chance to walk around this picture perfect town!  The brightly colored buildings just beckon you in. Sit and sip in the Piazzetta or at a seaside bar in the U-shaped harbor or grab some gelato, always a favorite.

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Don’t miss the Chiesa di San Martino in town with its beautiful bronze doors is just up the hill off the Piazza.  Note the mosaic on the landing made from rocks gathered on the shore.

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Chiese di San Martino stained glass-1

Portofino is a very convenient day trip from Genoa, Milan, the Cinque Terre or the towns just above it of Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo.  We made Santa Margherita Ligure our home base to travel the Riviera heading to The Cinque Terre, Portofino and exploring the wonderful town of Santa Margherita Ligure.

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See Santa Margherita in the distance

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If you are looking for luxury; look no further in Portofino than the Belmond Hotel Splendido.  This is a luxury hotel built in the 1920’s and sits on a hill overlooking the sea and its lovely gardens.

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Vicenza

Do you love architecture? Then you will love Vicenza a UNESCO World Heritage Site! This city is a successful blend of old and new and the city of Palladio!

Palladio
Andrea Palladio

Vicenza is a very old city dating back to pre-Roman times before it was absorbed into the Roman empire in 157 BC. However, it is the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio who lived and worked in this city that it is associated with. Located in the Veneto region of Northeast Italy it was basically known as mainland Venice being situated between Venice and Verona and 120 miles east of Milan. Situated at the base of Monte Berico it straddles the Bacchiglione River. It’s known for the elegant buildings designed by the 16th-century architect Andrea Palladio who lived and worked here.

Lovely old neighborhoods along the river bank

Many of Palladio’s buildings still survive today including the Palladian Basilica and the Palazzo Chiericati, a Renaissance palace dating back to 1550, now home to an art gallery. His Palladian window was a source of inspiration for architects an designers around the world.

Basillica Palladiana
Basilica Palladiana

Basilica Palladiana, the most symbolic building of Vicenza is a very impressive building and one of the architectural highlights of the city. Constructed in the 15th century it is renowned for its loggia consisting of a series of ornate arches that run along both sides creating perfect symmetry and is opened in the warmer months where you can sit and enjoy an aperitivo or just take in the Piazza. It is one of the first examples of a Renaissance building to feature the Palladian window design.

In the center of Vicenza, the Piazza dei Signori is a historic landmark city square surrounded by Palladio’s masterpieces along with the Palazzo del Monte di Pieta, Chiesa di San Vincenzo, Loggia del Capitanio, Torre Bissara and the Lion of St. Mark and Christ the Redeemer columns. The leaning clock tower the Torre Bissara is from an old building previously on that site.

Piazza
Piazza dei Signori with Loggia dei Capitanio (on left)
Torre Bissara
Torre Bissara
Lion
The Lion of St. Mark’s with the Christmas lights still strung
Chiesa di San Vincenzo

The Cathedral of Vicenza- Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunziata, a Gothic style facade Roman Catholic church by Palladio in the 15th century built on the foundation of three earlier churches.  The bell tower dates from the 12th century and has 5 bells. The beautiful dome is a signature of Palladio.

Cathedral of Vicenza

 

Gate
The portico surrounding the city is 700 meters long and has 150 arches for the 150 Hail Mary’s it is said.
Vicenza
Vicenza

Palladio built more than 20 buildings at the eastern end of Corso Andrea Palladio one of the main streets in the historic old town center.  Like many main streets it is lined with palaces and other structures he designed. There are many fine shops and restaurants in this retail area. Of course, we stopped to enjoy my favorite an Aperol Spritz!  Which is your favorite Aperol or Campari!  I even discovered a new option called a Hugo Spritz made with St. Germaine!  Love IT!!!

 

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  1. THE QUINTESSENTIAL APERITIF

    Start by adding ice into the glass then pour in the Prosecco, the Aperol and add a splash of soda, top with a slice of orange. This serving avoids the Aperol settling at the bottom.

    Preparation Time: 5 min

    • step 1FILL A WINE GLASS WITH ICE
    • step 2COMBINE PROSECCO DOC FOLLOWED BY APEROL IN EQUAL PARTS
    • step 3ADD A DASH OF SODA
    • step 4GARNISH WITH AN ORANGE SLICE

Recipe Courtesy: Aperol

The city was redeveloped after its devastation during WW2 with industry becoming the major economic drive of business.
Vicenza
Always take a minute and look back you never know what you’ll see! Chiesa di San Lorenzo

Nearby, also by Palladio, the Teatro Olimpico replicates a classic outdoor theater, indoors. Considered one of his most magnificent buildings. The interior is constructed entirely of stone, stucco and wood. The stage has stone statues on its facade, archways and plaster work.

On the outskirts of town, one of the most influential of Palladio’s buildings on a hill overlooking the city is the Villa La Rotonda with its 4 identical facades. This was historic as architecture was now being adapted to residential living. It’s amazing design and symmetry make it unique. Each side has a portico resembling the Pantheon in Rome which Palladio was inspired by.  If you are a fan of architecture I highly suggest you check this out on the internet as I could not get there as it was not in walking distance to the walled central historic district.

Ponte San Michel
Ponte San Michele
Did you miss the last few blogs on Verona?  Here is a link: Romeo, Romeo, where fore art thou – in Verona?  Feel free to sign up so you don’t miss a story.
I try to educate my readers just a little on the history of the locales I visit so you are not just seeing pretty pictures but truly experiencing a city thru my eyes.  You can search for the city of your choice on the home page or by topic.  There are stories on gardening, landscaping theory and of course, my favorite Italy! Enjoy and feel free to share!

Churches of Verona

Duomo Di Verona is the city’s cathedral and can easily be reached from the Ponte Pietra. It was constructed on the remains of two earlier churches that were destroyed in the earthquake of 1117. An absolutely beautiful church in the historic medieval center. The Basilica has striped brick and stone walls not unlike other churches I have seen throughout Italy.

Duomo
Verona’s Cathedral

Basilica di Santa Anastasia is the most important religious monument in the Gothic style in Verona. Funded by the Scaligeri family it was built around 1290.

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Basilica di Santa Anastasia
Verona’s majestic Basilica Di San Zeno dates from the 12th century in Piazza San Zeno. The Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore is a striking landmark especially when viewed from the across the river. This Romanesque church’s bronze doors have 48 carved panel Bible Scenes and beautiful frescoes inside from the 12th – 15th centuries.
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Basilica di San Zeno from Ponte Scaligero
Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli, is an ancient Roman Catholic church built in the early 12th century on a pre-exiting Roman cemetery. Located right near the Porta dei Borsari mentioned in the previous blog on the Corso Cavour. A striking Veronese Romanesque bell tower stands apart from the church.
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Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli

 

Did you miss the last 2 blogs on Verona? Romeo, Romeo and Verona’s Bridges? Link to them to read more about this lovely city.

Also travel to Asiago near the Swiss Alps.  Looking for more Italy?  There are blogs on many different areas.  Here are links: Amalfi Coast; Puglia, including Lecce, Matera, Alberobello, Borgo Egnazia; Florence; Venice (stay tuned for some new Venice ones also); Tuscany including: Siena, San Gimignano, Montepulciano, Lucca, Pienza, Pisa, Arezzo. Montalcino, Montefioralle, Greve and Montechiello.  Whew!  That’s a lot of trips to Italy in the last few years!

Can’t wait to return!!!!

Romeo, Romeo, where fore art thou – in Verona?

You know how the story goes…. those unforgettable words spoken by Juliet from that famous balcony supposedly in Verona- not really! Very touristy spot! I skipped Casa di Giulietta. There were however two real feuding families in Verona called the Capuleti’s and the Montecchi’s.  Juliet never lived in the 1300’s Gothic style house so popular with tourists in Verona.  Instead to show their love the tradition of putting a padlock on the wall was to show that couples were locked together. Well we know how that ancient story by  Shakespeare ended.  Okay enough about them!

Juliet's balcony
Juliet’s Balcony by my friend Kris Beal

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In Northern Italy’s Veneto region, at the base of the alps, Verona was actually the setting for 3 of Shakespeare’s plays. It is one of the 7 Provincial Capitals of the Veneto region and the 2nd largest city in the region as well as the third largest in Northeast Italy where it winds around the Adige River. It was an ideal stop before heading over the Alps. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its urban structures and architecture.

Verona
Basilica di San Zeno from Ponte Scaligero

 

First thing upon arriving we made our way to the river and Castelvecchio. This 14th century fortified castle houses artifacts from the Middle Ages.  There are seven towers and even a draw bridge. It was an important military stronghold of the Scaligeri family. Today it houses a museum.

Verona’s Centro Storico, its medieval center was centered around the Piazza dell Erbe the oldest piazza in the city originally the town’s forum during Roman times. Today there are vendors selling a variety of goods, souvenirs, fruits and vegetables surrounded by restaurants, palazzos, and shops.

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Piazza delle Erbe and Torre dei Lamberti
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Saturday markets

 

Standing tall in the Piazza is the Torre dei Lamberti with its octagonal bell tower and bronze doors depicting Biblical stories and old bells from the 15th century.  Originally constructed in 1172 it is the tallest medieval tower in Verona and offers panoramic views of the city. Today the Piazza is the home to markets but back in the 15th century it was home to the vegetable market and the fountain that still stands at its center – Fontana Madonna.

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Piazza delle Erbe and the Statue of Fontana Madonna
Piazza dei Signoria, another city square has a statue of Dante Alighieri, Renaissance Palazzos as well as magnificent churches. It is lovely to just hang out in the these Piazza’s, visit with friends and of course drink an aperitivo! Of course, this is Grappa country! The longer it ages the smoother it gets.  Who knew!
The Verona Arena is a 1st century Roman amphitheater and very well preserved and Verona’s most famous monument.  It is the third largest Roman amphitheater after the Colosseum and the Arena of Capua. It is always amazing to me to walk the ancient streets in these cities where the Romans once walked and gladiators fought.  Today the Arena is used for opera concerts. If you are lucky enough to find yourself there in summer plan to attend the Opera festival.  The Arena is located in the largest square in the historic center in Piazza Bra. Another lovely spot to sit and enjoy the cafes, the company and the atmosphere.  Just take it all in and don’t be in a hurry! Savor this opportunity.
Arena
Verona Arena
Enter the city through the Porta Borsari- the ancient Roman gate that once marked the southern entrance into the city and was the main gate.  Verona successfully marries the old and the new.  You are at once transported back to Roman times while shopping at new high end boutiques.
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The Roman Arena constructed in the 1st century of pink marble was the 8th largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire and actually predates the Coliseum in Rome.
Castel San Pietro, begun way back in 1851, sits high above the city. This was an Austrian military installation and was used to control the city during the Austrian occupation.
Teatro Romano is Verona’s most ancient structure built at the end of the 1st century B.C. It sits right below Castel San Pietro across the Ponte Pietra. Today it is used for events like the Shakespeare Festival.
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Castel San Pietro and Teatro Romano
Chiesa Di San Giorgio sits along the river and can be seen from the Castel San Pietro. The views from up there were amazing in every direction! There was quite a gathering waiting for sunset!
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Verona’s Cathedral (Duomo) and Chiesa di San Giorgio in Braida
If you have time, try to visit the Palazzo Giardino Giusti (Palace and Garden) widely considered one of the finest examples of an Italian garden.  This garden, a masterpiece of Renaissance landscaping planted in 1580 combines manicured and natural cypresses and a parterre. Sadly, I did not have time to get over there.  As a garden designer I would have loved to see this but there’re only so many hours in a day, right!
This is not a small city but I found it very walkable.  I wish I had more time to explore, but more next time.  Always a reason to return! Did you miss the other blogs on Verona?
Thank you again to my friend Kris Beal who happened to be in Verona about the same time as I was and she did manage to capture Juliet’s balcony when I couldn’t get there.  Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/krismbeal
Did you miss the last few blogs on Venice?  Here is a link! Carnevale; The Magic of Venice and Venice –  an Elegant Old City

 

 

Venice – an elegant old city

Venice lies in a shallow lagoon in the Adriatic Sea surrounded by a string of islands and is an old, elegant city. It is the capital of the Veneto Region of Northeastern Italy. Venice was an important and wealthy city in the Roman Empire.  As the Empire began to collapse however, people began to flee to these islands for shelter around 400 A.D. Venice began to be settled permanently around 450 A.D.

Saint Mark's
Saint Mark’s Basilica
St. Marks
Saint Mark’s Basilica

Venice came to be seen as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There is a great history here of art and architecture. From the Grand Canal’s many Palazzo’s to the Doge’s Palace (Duke) and Saint Mark’s Basilica there is always something to remind you of the deep history here. This city has a deep history in political and social institutions as well.

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The Grand Canal
Venice
Doge’s Palace

The traditions here run deep and are still celebrated throughout the year like Carnevale!

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Riva degli Schiavoni

Venice was a major maritime power and financial power during the Renaissance and was involved in the Crusades from the beginning. The city was a very important center for commerce and art from the 13th thru the 17th century. By the end of the 15th century Venice was the second largest city after Paris in Europe and most likely the richest!

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

Let’s explore some of this city’s landmark buildings and sites. First the Rialto Fish and Farmer’s Market.  In the morning your senses are assailed by every variety of fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits.  The colors are incredible and you probably don’t have a basket big enough since I guarantee your eyes are bigger than your stomach or basket 🙂

Of course, around every corner is another magnificent church!

Santa Maria della Salute
Santa Maria della Salute

Want more Italy?  I have blogs on many areas in Italy so have fun exploring! Did you miss Carnevale di Venezia  or The Magic of Venice? I was also in Venice last June.  Here is a link to those blogs also: Venice

Enjoy and feel free to share.  If you love travel and gardens sign up for the blog so you don’t miss any.

The Magic of Venice

This city is abundant with art and architecture.  Millions of people arrive daily to take in it’s atmosphere and wander its narrow streets. Hopefully, there will soon be a ban on those mega cruise ships that are destroying the lagoon!
Venice at night
The Grand Canal from The Rialto Bridge
Surprisingly, although there are no cars and everything is delivered via boat, there are surprisingly few accidents. How they navigate around is crazy!
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Venice
Venice
The Grand Canal at The Rialto Bridge
The gondoliers are a special bunch.  Did you know they must know the city’s history? They don’t just serenade you! Whether via gondola or vaporetto (water taxi) be sure to explore the city from the water.  You will see it from a completely different perspective than just walking around.
Gondola
Gondola rides
The city’s history is fascinating and the Grand Canal is lined with more than 170 13th – 18th centuries old Palazzos.  These buildings appear to sit on the water but their construction goes way back when they were constructed on pilings set into layers of sand and clay. (See my blog on Venice from 2017)
Pier
The smaller side waterways are called Rio’s and are crossed by over 400 small bridges. Over time the canals were deepened and widened to accommodate traffic.
Rio
There are only a few ‘Canals’ in the city: The Grand Canal- a giant “S” curve that winds its way through the center of the city; the Cannaragio Canal and Guidecca Canal.  The Grand Canal has four bridges that cross it: The Rialto Bridge; The Ponte degli Scalzi; the Ponte dell’ Accademia and the Ponte della Costituzione. Who can believe the Rialto bridge has stood for 400 years.
Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge
Venice
Ponte degli Scalzi
Accademia Bridge
Ponte dell’ Accademia
Venice is an amazing city in every way. Every piazza features another magnificent church. These are works of amazing art and extraordinary masterpieces of architecture.  We will explore these in another blog. Stay tuned!
Did you miss my recent trip to Asiago? As always, if you are traveling to Italy I am glad to recommend experienced Travel Agents who can make you trip memorable and tailored to your needs and desires. Of course, if you are traveling with a larger party and would like a photographer to document your adventures so you can just enjoy your trip, I’m your girl!

Carnevale di Venezia

Carnevale Di Venezia is probably one of the most famous carnivals in the world! Beautiful costumes and Venetian masks create a magical atmosphere.

The Venice Carnival is an annual festival like Mardi Gras held each year in Venice, Italy and is famous for the elaborate masks and costumes. The Carnival ends with the celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter, the day before Ash Wednesday.  This year it runs from Saturday, January 27th thru Tuesday, February 13th, 2018.

This tradition started way back in 1162 to celebrate a victory of the Venice Republic. It became an official celebration during the Renaissance.  After a long drought the Carnival was reborn in 1979.

Carnival
Carnevale masks

 

Masks were always an important part of the Venetian festival.  They vary greatly in design and can be made from porcelain, glass, leather, gesso and gold leaf.  Many are hand painted and employ feathers and jewels!

Venice at night
The Grand Canal from The Rialto Bridge

 

Did you miss the blog on Asiago located high in the mountains above Venice and Vicenza? Here is a link: Asiago

Val d’Orcia – Montichiello

The entrance to this village is through the Porta Sant’Agata (know as the ‘city gate’) and offers absolutely stunning views across the valley to Pienza from its perch high on a hill overlooking a magnificent valley. This extraordinarily beautiful region of Tuscany, the Val d’Orcia, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.

Pienza blog-3Montichiello is a perfectly restored village set among the 15th century landscape with its dotted cypress trees and farms and in the shadow of Pienza and Montepulciano.  It is a small village and easy to explore.

Montechiello

The Church of Santi Leonardo and Christoforo, is Roman-Gothic in style and dates back to the 13th century and can be found in the center of Monticchiello and is the principal historic monument containing ancient frescoes.

Montechiello
Pieve dei Santi Leonardo e Cristoforo

 

The remaining towers were originally fortifications to defend the village. As with many towns throughout the Val D’Orcia one can imagine these towns have changed very little over the years.

As you wander around you can’t help but notice the pride these towns’ people take in their homes. Lovely flowers overhang the balconies and surrounding the doorways.    Just like in Siena the laundry hanging overhead tells the story of the residents within and invites you to explore further.

 

Montechiello

Montechiello

Montechiello

The view from the Porta Sant’Agata looking over the Val d’Orcia toward Pienza.

Montechiello towards Pienza
Pienza from Montechiello

Montechiello

Did you miss Montepulciano, Pienza or Siena in the Val D’Orcia region of Tuscany?  Here are links to the those blogs.  From there you can also find Blogs not he Amalfi Coast, Venice, Florence, Lucca, Pisa and the Puglia region.  Next up is Montalcino.

I am off to Italy in January so stay tuned.  Headed back to Venice, Vicenza and Verona.

Greve in Chianti and Montefioralle

Greve in Chianti was our home base while in the Chianti region of Tuscany.  From here we travelled to Siena then to Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, San Gimignano, Arezzo and Montichiello. As I detailed in a previous blog we were delighted to stay at Villa Bordoni for our time after we left Venice and Florence. The countryside around Chianti is very fertile and a patchwork of vineyards, ancient olive groves, dark cypress trees and the miles of hay fields. You see many small and ancient villages, magnificent Renaissance palazzos and churches.

Villa Bordoni
Villa Bordoni
Greve
Vineyards

Greve in Chianti is a medieval town not far from Florence in the heart of Chianti Classico territory and has developed around a central Piazza over the last 500 years. . Piazza Matteotti, a triangular shaped square is surrounded by shops and restaurants and is home to the Saturday market.  In the center of the Piazza is a statue of Giovanni da Verranzano.  If you have ever been to NYC then you know of the Verranzano bridge.  He is credited with discovering NY harbor. At the far end is the church of Santa Croce.

Greve
Piazza Matteotti and Giovanni da Verranzano
Greve
Church of Santa Croce
Boar
Wild Boars roam the countryside in Tuscany

Sangiovese grapes are the very soul of Tuscany. In fact, their fruity, aromatic fragrance is present in almost all of Tuscany’s top wines.

– Classic: is reserved for wines produced in the region where a particular type of wine has been produced “traditionally”. For the Chianti Classico, this “traditional region” is defined by a decree from 1932.

– Riserva: may be used only for wines that have been aged at least two years longer than normal for a particular type of wine.

“Chianti Classico, produced in the provinces of Firenze and Siena is characterized from the exclusive and compulsive “Gallo Nero” label. Chianti Classico and Riserva is made with 80-100% of Sangiovese grapes, and a max 20% of Canaiolo, Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot. ……also the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione (grapes must be grown by the winery itself and minimum aging requirement: 30 months, including 3 months of bottle aging).”

Greve
The Rooster is the symbol of Chianti Classico

Since the 1970s, Tuscan wine producers have begun to experiment with foreign grape varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. By combining these with the Sangiovese grape, they have created the Super Tuscan wines (an unofficial category of Tuscan wines, not recognized within the Italian wine classification system), which are high-quality wines that are popular in international markets. Some of the most famous names are: Tignanello and Sassicaia.

Montefioralle is a tiny hamlet set on a hilltop west of Greve in Chianti paved with stone houses and narrow cobblestone streets and is supposedly the ancestral home of Amerigo Vespucci, the mapmaker, navigator and explorer who named America. This town dates back to the 11th century and is exactly how you expect a Tuscan village to look with its medieval buildings still standing.  Widely considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and still enclosed by its original defensive walls. Charming!!!! It was absolutely magical and I felt transported back in time.

Montefioralle-1

We stopped by during the day when it was very quiet and then came back in the evening for a fabulous dinner including the infamous Bistecca Fiorentina!  Let me just say we had this steak everywhere! Steak is really not the right word to describe this thick slab of beef it is like a T-bone steak from a large oxen.  It is always seared on both sides and served rare.  As all the guide books suggest- don’t ask for it well done!

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Want to read more about Villa Bordoni? or Villa Vignamaggio in Greve? Here is a link also back to the beginning of this adventure which began in Venice.  From there you can continue with me or jump to Florence, Siena, Pienza…. well you get the idea! Stay tuned still to come are Montalcino and Montechiello.

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