Tag Archives: Florence

Ponte Vecchio & Galileo Museum

Of course no visit to Florence would be complete without walking across the Ponte Vecchio – the Old Bridge – across the Arno River.

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There have been shops here since the 13th century including butchers, fishmongers and tanners. You can imagine the pong! A happy solution: King Ferdinand 1 decreed in 1593 that only goldsmiths and jewellers’ shops would be allowed on the bridge.

During World War II it was the only bridge not destroyed by the fleeing Germans. Instead they blocked access by demolishing the medieval buildings on each side. A tragedy!

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Very close to the Ponte Vecchio is the Galileo Museum. There is some material of Galileo’s there, but it houses a lot of 16th & 17th instruments used in many other disciplines beside astronomy.

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The ornate fashioning of some of these instruments in brass and wood is a joy to behold. The Italian way of doing things didn’t include ‘plain’…

History really is on every cobblestone and corner in this beautiful country. Ciao for now!

More Wonderful Florence

Please enjoy some of the amazing pieces of art to be found in the huge Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It  has been open to the public since 1765 so really is one of the first modern museums.

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This is mostly the legacy of the famous Medici family who regularly collected and commissioned works of art. The last Medici heiress was very specific in her will that all these treasures must remain in Florence – clever woman!

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We could just imagine artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo gathering here to create their masterpieces and relax.

We really enjoyed our Tuscan cooking class with Walkabout Florence. It really could have been a disastrous day: cool and wet, but our guide Mollie (yes, an English art historian immigrant!) led about 30 of us through the back streets of Florence and explained all sorts of interesting social and culinary history. This also required drinking coffee and eating the most exquisite tarts. The seasonal delicacy was a sweet bread dough covered in small black grapes that are only ripe just now…. Yuuuummmy.

After collecting food from the fresh market for our class, we travelled out to a beautiful farmhouse in the hills behind Florence to start cooking. Our lovely chef demonstrated all the techniques e.g. making fresh pasta by hand (Ian made the best tagliatelle in the class!) along with a meat sauce.

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Onto the pizza dough and toppings and the best ever bruschetta – we are sure the secret is the quality of the olive oil, all pressed and bottled on the premises.

Next was the Tuscan roast pork and potatoes … And just to top it all off, Tiramisù.

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In one way, we were surprised to cook dishes which we already associated with Italy but in fact it was a superb lesson in cooking techniques and creating the correct flavours. We enjoyed sharing our meal and excellent regional wines with our fellow students – a great bunch of people and a wonderful way to spend 10 hours!



We woke up very early on the morning that we were leaving Rome, so decided to wander around the local streets. There seemed to be a busy buzz on one corner… And we had stumbled on the amazing Mercato Trionfale, the largest fresh market in Rome busy stocking up for the day’s trade.

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We were definitely a curiousity – tourists up early! Many stall holders gave us tastes…warm breads, pickles, cheeses, ham off the bone, gorgeous berries and pears. And the seafood section was pretty astounding – check out the eels and swordfish!

Sadly our booked transfer to the train station was a no-show, so we did a last minute dash up several flights of steps to find a taxi rank. Naturally he was a ‘pronto’ driver so we just caught our train to Firenze (Florence) and sat back to soak in the scenery at varying degrees of warp speed! Ian still feels a little uncomfortable travelling at 300kms per hour on the ground…

We are in Florence for 4 days – beautiful, old and stylish. Our beautiful apartment in via Rosina is an ideal location, walking distance to all the major places we want to visit and 10 mins from the train station. Laura, the owner, enjoys making tourists welcome and gave us many helpful ideas and maps.

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Off we went on a HUGE day out exploring a little of Tuscany with Albatravel. It is chocolate-box pretty, especially with a tinge of early autumn colour on the trees. First stop was Monteriggioni…..

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In Siena we walked down very steep beautiful medieval streets past an array of beautiful palaces, the cathedral and hundreds of shops to the Piazza del Campo. This is the location for the crazy bareback Palio horse race – you’ve probably seen it on TV – let’s just say the rivalries are deep and emotions run high! We wandered off and found a local spot where we had the special of the day – mackerel and vegetables, along with a (of course) vino bianco and a basket of bread and olive oil. Message to self – do not rely on memory! Write down the name and location of good places to eat – especially when they don’t do cards, Facebook etc because they don’t need to!

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San Gimignano is a tiny medieval town (and a world heritage site) with interesting buildings and shops. The old city is surrounded by huge walls built in the 13th century, although the Etruscans settled there in the 3rd century. The antiquity is  quite overwhelming, and then we remember that Australia was settled 40,000 years ago and that puts it all in perspective!

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We ended at the Tenuta Torciano Vineyard, privately owned since 1720. The peppered olive oil was deluxe, also enjoyed a luscious balsamic vinegar and then there were the wines. Well, some were yummy, and some just OK, and wow, do they have drinking rules!  Just don’t think that drinking un-chilled white wine in our West Australian climate is going to catch on any time soon.

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We think the photo above shows us in our perfect natural environment, and hope that these other photos capture the beauty of the vineyards, olive groves, castles and farmhouses we have seen. More to come soon on our visit to the Uffizi Gallery and our Tuscan cooking class!