But first. Yes, the wood stove was indeed the only heat source for the villa (surprisingly, this feature was not mentioned in the “amenities” portion of the rental listing.) Fireplaces are charming in early fall or late spring, but I was duly concerned with its ability to keep me warm in mid-winter. By morning the fire had faded, the villa was chilly and I was just a little grumpy about being on a Survivor: Tuscany in Winter holiday. All of my First World Whines disappeared, though, when I turned Clayton Theodore into the garden and saw the Apennines in the morning light.
The drive to Florence didn’t disappoint, either. The children were impressed enough to remove their iDevice ear buds and comment on the beauty of Tuscany.
Rather serendipitously we discovered a 400-part PBS series, “Medicis, Godfathers of the Renaissance” on Netflix, and for the last month caught bits and pieces of the series as an introduction to Florence, so we were excited to see the city in person. The Duomo makes for ease of navigation, and after successfully maneuvering the Zona Traffico Limitato (the famous “limited traffic zones,” entry through which results in hefty fines) to park the car, we followed the tourist trails to the cathedral.
St. John’s Baptistry was closed for restoration, but most tourists only come for Ghiberti’s Bronze Doors.
On our second morning the doors were completely free of tourists, save for a teenage street urchin sending Instragram-ed photos to his friends. “Here I am by something important in Florence.”
Firenze’s Duomo. As stunningly beautiful as in 2004, when Tony and I blazed through Florence in six hours on our Tuscany holiday to give ourselves a brief change of scenery from walled cities and long lunches in sunny piazzas. We all climbed the 453 steps to the top of the Duomo and the spectacular vistas. The climb is not recommended for the meek, or those who are uncomfortable getting close to fellow travelers making their descent from the top.
At the base of the Duomo there is the opportunity to pause and admire The Last Judgment frescoes.
In the background, left, is Santa Maria Novella; the towered structure on the right is Palazzo Vecchio.
Back down on earth we strolled over to Piazza del Repubblica for a dose of art appreciation and people watching.
A sculpture portico. That’s how much art there is in Florence.
The two days were a Renaissance feast for the senses. Especially on our second day, walking, very slowly and thoughtfully, through a chocolate festival in Piazza Santa Maria Novella on the way to the parking garage. But more on the food later.
We spent two days in the city, returning each night to the villa. The children found bliss in the pleasant temperatures outside; Clayton Theodore paced the fence line of the garden in a staredown with the chickens and roosters in the next yard; Tony built a Boy Scout strong fire and opened the wine; and I played in the kitchen (with a gas cooktop! Oh, how I miss my gas cooktop!), whipping up a fresh pasta for dinner. But more on the food later.
Our goal was not to check off every “must-do.” It never is. One of the two fixed agenda items was a morning at Galleria Uffizi, the one and only art museum on this holiday. The Uffizi was so void of tourists that, sitting in the Giotto gallery, we could almost feel the birth of the Renaissance ourselves. Botticelli’s Allegory of Spring and Birth of Venus could be viewed up close, too. The rest of our visit to Florence was given to exploring as we saw fit, with periodic gelato pauses as the second, and most important, must-do.
Every silver lining must come from a cloud, no? While we achieved heat in our Italian villa, it appears that we overlooked a scheduled maintenance on the boiler in our Viennese house and will likely be returning to a frosty home, unless I can reach the heating person this week to schedule an appointment for our return on Saturday. No chance of that at all. I’m not complaining, really, but we are reaching, or perhaps have reached, the point with the owner of our house where the idea of moving warrants merit. But more on that later, too.