Thursday, October 30, 2014

Italy Part 9 (Castello del Trebbio)

Italy Day Six:

Our fifth day in Italy involved sleeping in with the windows open and cool crisp morning air. Day six, however, involved NO sleeping in and while the windows were still open, the lovely morning of the day before was replaced by vampire mosquitoes!

They ate me alive!!! A dozen or so beautiful bites all over my neck and arms. - I will refrain from posting the gruesome photos. You're welcome.

I was thinking that there may be some mosquitoes in Venice (with all the water) but I wasn't even thinking it would be an issue in Florence. Then again, there is a huge river right next to it. I blame my ignorance on the gelato-induced fog I was in.

Moving on.

The first stop on our day was a farewell view of Florence. Our bus took us to the top of a hill where we could see the whole city and the beautiful cathedral - breathtaking, right? Also, where there is a barre, railing, or ledge, one must strike a ballet pose. We only got to spend 15 minutes at the top and then it was back on the bus!

We drove through the country to the Castello del Trebbio. Once home to the infamous Pazzi family, the castle is now a thriving winery and popular tourist destination.

Long story short: the Medici family was the most powerful family in Italy and lived in Florence. The Pazzi family attempted to assassinate two Medici brothers in 1478 (during Mass, no less) but failed to kill one of them. The Medici family executed nearly every member of the Pazzi family, seized all the Pazzi properties and possessions and banned the existence of the Pazzi coat of arms. The one below is the only one that remains because the Medici respected the artist who created it - Donatello.

Our tour started in the courtyard and then through the main castle. Photos weren't allowed inside the castle rooms, because the family that owns the estate actually lives in the castle. This beautiful chandelier is from the dining room.

Then it was down into the wine cellars. The wine barrels were the biggest I have ever seen and there was so much wine! Can you see me in the third photo? I wasn't kidding about the size of those barrels!

We kept going down through stone hallways, the dungeons and the deepest parts of the castle. Perfect for torturing your tour guide making wine. 

After our tour, the winery provided lunch that included olive pate (it was good!), fresh bruschetta, a green salad, pasta salad and wine, of course.

We enjoyed walking around outside and soaking up the sunshine on the beautiful hilltop over looking the Tuscan countryside and Houston even managed to get a photo with our awesome bus driver, Christiano.

Then, with our bellies full, we boarded our bus to make our way to Venice. - That is next!!!

*** All images copyright Polka Dotted Blue Jay and ***

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Italy Part 8 (Florence Part 2)

Italy Day Five:

We got to sleep in!!!

It was so wonderful to sleep in for the first time on vacation and the weather was beautiful. I was really excited to spend a whole day in one location and to avoid getting on a tour bus for 24 hours. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the tour bus and chartered transportation, it was just hard to sit so long on the crowded bus and to not be able to use the bathroom!

We took a walking tour through Florence and I swear we walked 10 miles. We stared at the cathedral we saw the night before and it was just as beautiful in the day as it was in the night. The bell tower and dome were so tall, I had to tilt my head all the way back to see the tops! -- see the people on the top of the dome in the second photo??? It is a nearly 450 step climb to the top of the dome. Needless to say, I  am not a huge fan of heights and I didn't make the climb.

Then we walked back to the Palazzo della Signoria and learned about the Medici family that ruled Florence and where the statue of David was originally placed - a replica now stands outside the town hall (Palazzo Vecchio). Side note: I am not posting a ton of photos from this location because I don't want anyone to be offended by the large quantity of nude statues and fountains in the background.

Our tour walked down to the riverfront and a great view of the Ponte Vecchio - a medieval bridge over the Arno River.

Houston and I opted to walk through another church, the Basilica di Santa Croce to see the tombs of several incredible people: Michelangelo, Dante and Galileo, to name a few.

The photo below shows two of the many (MANY) floor tombs. Being buried in the floor of a cathedral, I was intrigued. 

We ate a delicious lunch at a restaurant with outdoor seating. A fun lunch with pasta, sunshine and wine? Sign me up for some more of that! It was an awesome lunch.

And then Houston snagged his Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt from Florence!

After lunch, Houston, Ruby and I went for another long walk, starting with more gelato, of course. 

Houston and I wanted to walk through the cathedral and the baptistery (the Baptistery of Saint John) since we only had the opportunity to see the exteriors in our tour. The baptistery is across from the cathedral (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore). Both of them have breathtaking ceilings. Truly, they are incredible and the photos do not do them justice.

The baptistery is covered from floor to ceiling with beautiful paintings and gold leaf. 

Then we did some shopping! I got some more gelato (because, why not?) and we walked back to the Ponte Vecchio (a bridge covered with beautiful shops) and looked at all the amazing jewelry and leather vendors.

We met the most amazing store owner in a leather store and had fun talking with him for over half an hour, walked through a street market and wandered through the side streets and alleys of Florence before heading back to the hotel.

Then we picked up Gary and headed off to dinner - my second favorite meal of the trip, second only to the Rome Pizza -- delicious cheese tortellini and pinot grigio. I was pretty exhausted at dinner, and a little lot of wine and so.much.walking means that I practically was sleep walking back to the hotel.

City:  Florence
Date:  9/28/14 - 9/30/14
Hotel:  Best Western Hotel Rivoli Florence
Weather:  Pretty warm, but perfect for being outside (and a great excuse for more gelato!)
Restaurants (Lunch and Dinner):  Sabatini (D), Francesco Vini (L), Ristoranti Alla Griglia (D)
The Good:  We had so much free-time in Florence and it was wonderful. Our hotel room also had a bathroom counter!!! -- It is the little things that matter to me.
The Bad:  My feet were swollen when I changed for dinner and I couldn't get my sneakers back on - thank goodness for flats!
Wish I had:  closed the hotel window - I will explain in the next post.  

*** All images copyright Polka Dotted Blue Jay and ***

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Little More (Little) Apartment

Not a whole lot has changed in my apartment since this post other than the relocation of the bookshelf, which is still an unorganized mess. Originally the book shelf was by the window - I say THE window because my apartment has only ONE (sigh), but with the addition of my Gram's sewing table to the room, the bookshelf had to move.

Now the bookshelf is next to my bed where I actually like it much better. I bought these great boxes from Ikea on clearance and they help hide all sorts of knick-knacks and loose objects. Someday I will get around to styling the shelves, but right now it is pretty low on my priority list. (Scrapbooks for days).

And then, of course is my favorite Lowe's lamp and my mint earring dish (a find in the Michael's dollar section) on my nightstand. 

Houston used his awesome handy-man skills and hung up my wall sconces on either side of the window and then the black dresser mirror above my desk. Otherwise, everything else is pretty much the same. I still have one HUGE wall that I have absolutely no idea what to do with, so I am just going to leave it as is.

Here is my little epiphany: I actually LIKE living with less stuff. I did a serious apartment purge when I moved and I am still constantly looking to see what else I can get rid of. It is so nice to have less stuff just hanging around (especially when the space is smaller) and I really have everything I need. So instead of filling up my chateau with trinkets, I am going to work on updating my wardrobe! -- I went shopping last weekend and actually bought a couple things and I didn't cry in the process. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

If you're ever in the Riverside area and want to stop by for a visit, let me know!

This post is not sponsored, but it does contain affiliate links which result in an affiliate commission. All thoughts and opinions are honest and my own, as I only recommend items I personally love.