I have longed for many years to visit the famed ‘Toscana’ region of Italy. This week, I am here! And feeling fulfilled.
After pulling into the River Arno, leading to Pisa, dodging overhanging fishing nets and trudging though sludgy water, we decided not to take up a mooring in one of the ‘marinas’ and instead made our way outside and anchored off the beach for the night, before heading a little further north to Viareggio. This town was recommended by a fellow sailor we met in Flores. Here we tied to a town wall at the entrance to a canal. A new mooring experience for the Orchid crew, climbing UP off the boat to the dock among many local fishermen. The boys quickly made friends with some of them, gaining new fishing tips and tackle, though, fish for dinner it wasn’t to be.
It was fun to be somewhere so public for a bit. Lots of interest in our Australian ensign, and Indi (il gattino). This was our secure base from which to explore Pisa and Florence.
Sitting on the grass, in front of Torre Pendente Pisa, I was awestruck. To think, I was actually here! I just wanted to sit. And completely absorb the experience. Take in every detail to my memory. Australia is a really long way from this, and a text book even further. I don’t think the boys really understood the enormity of where we were and the significance of the structure before them, but we talked about its details and history, and Alexander requested we climb the stairs, which we did. The walk up was both exhilarating and eerie. Even from inside you experience the lean as you climb the circular staircase which lines the inside of the outer wall. At the top, the slope is even more significant -not for the height conscious.
Effects of a Mistrale south of us, had us surging back and forth along the wall for the next couple of days. Orchid remained in good shape, though the crew were a little spooked and weary, and a total 4 lines snapped. Still, experience, and marina fees saved again.
A little over an hour on the train, through the Tuscan countryside, and we arrived in Florence, for an overnight treat.
First thing to do, oriented ourselves in this beautiful city, we boarded the hop on hop off sightseeing bus. Parts of the city reminded me of Paris, and according to the announcements, this was for good reason. Florence enjoyed being capital of Italy for a period and much of her city design was modelled on Paris.
I didn’t really know what else to expect of Florence, it just gets spoken of as ‘a city you must visit’. I was curious to learn that many a famous name springs from here. Galileo and DaVinci to name the two most astounding for me. We visited the DaVinci museum where all 4 of us were impressed and inspired by his mind and his works. A renowned artist (the famous Mona Lisa to name one), he later turned his talented mind to physics and mechanics, developing drawings for many great innovations and inventions known to the modern world. Alexander was most impressed with a version of clockwork mechanics. Nicholas with his interest in the reflections of light in the human eye (displayed with an enclosed octagonal mirror design). I was drawn to the precision of his description of the human form in the drawing of the Vitruvian Man and amazed at the number of mechanical engineering designs which blossomed from one or two concepts. Conception of a car, armoured tank and even a bicycle (though this is rumoured) it was fascinating.
An overwhelming Duomo (principal Christian church building of a bishop’s diocese / cathedral, particular to Italy) dominates the city. We found our way past here several times each day. It was beautiful from every viewpoint.
A 5m statue of Michaelangelo’s ‘David’ was not necessarily appreciated by the boys, but another amazing historical sight for us to visit. We took a short bus ride 8km from the city, travelling through olive groves, to gain a view over the whole city. It’s such a different perspective from up high, looking down.
A treat, a night in a hotel . And a gorgeous one booked in surprise by my wonderful husband. Former building of the British Embassy, the fresco on the ceiling was stunning, and the room grand.
And let’s not forget the wine bar right across the street, tastes of Tuscany, on tap! Bellissima!