|Ceiling of the Boscolo Astoria Breakfast Room|
The hotel's location was very convenient for shopping. It was only a short walk to both the San Lorenzo Market and the Mercato Centrale. With a full day ahead of us, we started at the Mercato Centrale to buy olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then we browsed the many stalls of the San Lorenzo Market for leather goods and scarves.
|San Lorenzo Market, Florence|
We had an 11:15 booking at the Accademia for our visit with Michelangelo's David. The tour guide, booked online through viator.com, did an excellent job of guiding us through the gallery displays. When we entered the alcove where the renowned sculpture resides, David did not disappoint. Though his proportions are distorted, originally designed to be viewed on high and at a distance, he remains a symbol of Renaissance perfection.
We then made the difficult decision to forfeit our afternoon reservation at the Uffizi, where I 'd been looking forward to seeing The Birth of Venus and other Botticelli masterpieces, in favour of joining the rest of our group on the optional excursion into Tuscany (89 euros).
We departed by motorcoach to Pisa, and entered the Field of Miracles where the Baptistery, Cathedral and Leaning Tower awaited us. Our tour guide "Bob" was a natural comedian.
|Entrance to the Field of Miracles, Pisa|
|Giovanni Pisano's Pulpit, Pisa Cathedral|
While showing us around the Cathedral, Bob pointed out the ceiling lamp that Galileo used for his experiments with pendulums. Galileo also conducted experiments on falling objects from the top of Pisa's famous tower.
|Lamp of Galileo, Cathedral of Pisa|
|Leaning Tower of Pisa|
We then headed into the countryside to Fattoria Il Poggio, where we would tour the working farm and have an authentic Tuscan dinner with the farm's own wine and olive oil.
|Fattoria il Poggio|
We saw an olive press, and learned about the process for making olive oil.
In the vineyard, new grapes were beginning to appear on the vines.
|Vineyard in Tuscany|
|Young Grapes on the Vine|
We were seated at long tables in the farm's cantina for dinner. First, platters of bruschetta, sundried tomatoes and prosciutto appeared, along with olives, bread and olive oil, plus generous quantities of red and white wine.
This was followed by a bean soup, pasta, chicken, ribs and roasted potatoes, salad and limoncello. The food was delicious and plentiful, and we were entertained by a singer performing Italian classics like O Sole Mio.
The party carried on with more music and dancing, and we learned a new toast from our Asian friends: "Yam sing". But eventually the fun had to end, and we boarded the bus for our return to Florence.
|Tower of the Palazzo Vecchio|
Back at the Boscolo Astoria, a group of us gathered on the hotel rooftop. Unfortunately the terrace was not yet open due to the cool weather, but it offered a spectacular view of the Duomo and the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, both illuminated against the black night sky. We looked out over the beautiful city below us and discussed the Renaissance treasures we had seen during our brief time in Florence. While I was sorry to have missed the Uffizi, I was glad that I hadn't missed the fun in Tuscany.
And in the morning we would be boarding our last train for our journey to the Eternal City, Rome.
Next: Grand Tour Rome