Saturday, September 15, 2018

Florence- my favorite city!!

Aerial view of Florence

Glad to be back for my fourth visit to a favorite city!!

Lovely hill town with amazing architecture

Ponte Vecchio

After great flood in 60's, dams were build along the Arno River

Spectacular synagogue in Florence

Another view of the synangogue

David by Michelangelo at Galleria dell'Accademia
Florence is the capital city of Tuscany. It is the most populous city in Tuscany. Florence was a centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of that era. It is considered the birthplace of the  Renaissance and has been called "the Athens of the Middle Ages." A turbulent political history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medici  family and numerous religious and republican revolutions. From 1865 to 1871 the city was the capital of the recently established Kingdom of Italy.

The city attracts millions of tourists each year, and the historic center of Florence  was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. The city is noted for its culture, Renaissance art and architecture  and monuments. The city also contains numerous museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace, and still exerts an influence in the fields of art, culture and politics. Due to Florence's artistic and architectural heritage, it has been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I agree!!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Montecatini Terme- a gem in Tuscany

Montecatini alto connected by a Funicular

Our hotel- Montecatini Palace

Fountain in town

Main streets are filled with tourists

Main squares has live music playing

Shopping area is popular at night

Montecatini Terme is an Italian municipality in the province of Pistoia, Tuscany. The town is located at the eastern end of Piana di Lucca and is a draw for for tourism, as well as industrial and commercial industries related to the spa, which in turn has increased the interest in hotel accommodation in the region.

Montecatini Castello, corresponding to the modern Montecatini Alto, grew in the Middle Ages on a hill commanding a marshy area. A spa already existed in the village, being mentioned in 1340 document. In 1315 it was the seat of the Battle of Montecatini. In 1339 the area was conquered by the the Republic of Florence. Cosimo de' Medici built a bridge to cross the marshes, but also had the castle dismantled.

The current spa town grew after the land reclamation program of Duke Leopold II  in the late 18th is charming and filled with many beautiful hotels with spa accommodations. We stayed in the Montecatini Palace which was lovely, The spa was amazing and I treated myself to two services!! The town is a tourist town with trendy restaurants and lots of shopping. the main streets are jumping in the evenings- live music in some squares.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Monte San Savino

Charming Tuscan hill town

Street scene in Monte San Savino

Nestled in the hill

Monte San Savino is a small hill town in the province of Arezzo, Tuscany. Monte San Savino was one of the first urban settlements in Tuscany. It originated around 1100, but a further century had to pass before Monte San Savino could be considered a center of a certain social, political and cultural importance of Tuscany in those times. But it is no longer now.

There once was a thriving Jewish community for over 2 centuries. This small town was also the birthplace of Salamone Florentino, the first Jewish poet to have place in Italian literature in the 15th century.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Chianti- Greve and Castellina in Chianti

Cobblestone streets in Greve in Chianti

Main street in Greve in Chianti

Another view of the main square

Castellina in Chianti

Castellina in Chianti

Beautiful views around Chianit

Big sky and great landscapes
The vineyards of Chianti are visible even before you cross the local government line of Greve in Chianti but, it isn’t until you actually walk into the triangular shaped square, with its stone pavement, and inhale the small town atmosphere that you can really truly say you are having a Chianti experience. Looking at the tranquil atmosphere of this fairly busy little town, one would never guess that the town of Greve, and the headquarters of the local commune, had been caught in the crossfire of Florence and Siena for hundreds of years.

this area is the best example of Tuscan regional identity, rich in natural resources and agricultural productivity.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Siena- a must see!!

Piazza del Campo
Piazzo del Campo

City Hall at Piazza del Campo- refuge in the sttorm

City Hall in Siena

Refuge during a hail storm in August!!

Synagogue in Siena

Siena- charming hill town
Siena is a city in Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the province of Siena. The historic center of Siena has been declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.  It is one of the nation's most visited tourist attractions. Siena is famous for its cuisine, art and its medieval cityscape.

The Jewish community dates back to the 13th century. It is very small now but they maintain a synagogue.

Visiting on a hot August day, we were surprised to be caught in a hail storm with hail stones the size of dimes!! Luckily we took shelter in the arches of the city hall for the 40 minutes it poured and rained hail stones at us.

Monday, September 3, 2018


Ancient walls of the city of Ferarra

Town Hall built in15th century
Imposing buildings but by the Este family
The town's synagogue established in 1485

tombstones in Jewish cemetery
The National Museum of Italian Hebraism and the Shoah (MEIS)

Ferrara is a city in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, not Tuscany but included on our tour. It’s known for the buildings erected by its Renaissance rulers, the Este family. These include the moated Este Castle, with its lavish private chambers. The family also built the Diamanti Palace, which is clad in diamond-shaped marble blocks and home to the National Picture Gallery. The Romanesque Ferrara Cathedral has a 3-tiered facade and a marble bell tower.

The Jewish community of Ferrara is the only one in Emilia Romagna with a continuous presence from the Middle Ages to the present day. It played an important role when Ferrara enjoyed its greatest splendor in the 15th and 16th century, with the duke Ercole I d'Este. The situation of the Jews deteriorated in 1598, when the Este dynasty moved to Modena and the city came under papal control. The Jewish settlement, located in three streets forming a triangle near the cathedral, became a ghetto  in 1627. Apart from a few years under  Napoleon and during the 1848 revolution, the ghetto lasted until Italian unification in 1859.

The National Museum of Italian Hebraism and the Shoah (MEIS) opened and we got to visit it. Amazing information so well presented 1000 years of Jewish history in Italy.

San Gimignano- Town of Fine Towers


San Gimignano is the epitome of a Tuscan hill town. About 25 miles from both Florence and Siena, it's the region's glamour girl: Visually striking and perfectly preserved, it gets all the fawning attention from passing tour buses. But despite its tourist-trap feel, it's still worth slotting into your Italian itinerary — especially if you can sidestep the hordes who descend during the day.
San Gimignano is beloved because of its skyline of medieval towers. Though a unique sight today, pointy skylines were the norm in Tuscany in the Middle Ages, when feuding noble families ran the hill towns (think Montagues and Capulets). Each family had its own private army that would periodically battle things out from the protection of its respective family towers. While some were built as a refuge against attackers, others were empty, chimney-like structures built only to boost noble egos.

In the 14th century, San Gimignano, like other hill towns, fell under Florence's control. The Florentines usually asserted their power over the local nobles by ordering them to lop off their towers. But for whatever reason, some of San Gimignano's original skyline was allowed to remain intact. Today, 14 of its original 72 towers still stand.