Fun in Florence (Part 2)
One day in Florence, we ascended into the upper reaches of the rotunda of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as simply the Duomo. The interior is painted with an incredibly detailed panorama inspired by Dante’s Inferno, complete with varying levels descending into the underworld. The very top of the dome is surrounded by glass, creating a flood of natural light flowing into the cathedral. This represents God looking down onto the world and its inhabitants. The amount of detail, the sheer amount of work involved to complete it, is awe inspiring. At the very top, you are allowed to go out onto the terrace which surrounds the dome. I highly recommend it as this provides a 360-degree view of surrounding Florence.
On our final full day in Florence, we set up a private wine excursion for Tuscany. It did not disappoint. We traveled south out of Florence into the Chianti region and toured three wineries. The views of Tuscany are just like you imagine. Vast rolling hills of green vineyards and olive groves, usually topped with an ancient Tuscan villa or castle. Our first winery is located inside a castle that was a dignitary’s residence long ago. We descend into the cellar which is filled with all manner of wine barrels. Our host explains that many of the barrels contain Chianti Classico, the recipe for which was created about 600 years ago. And it has remained the same ever since. Winemakers are required to get a special license from the Italian government certifying that their wine was made with this recipe before they can call it Classico and sell it to the public. We move to the cellar wine-tasting room and sample wines and local cheeses. It is about 9:30 in the morning. Day-drinking has commenced.
We tour two more wineries, having lunch at the last one. Tuscan food is largely rustic. Beans, potatoes, eggplant, artichokes, and the cheaper cuts of pork and beef are often found in the typical Tuscan home. This was a poor, rural region and the locals found ways to make incredible food on a tight budget. Vegetables rule the dinner table and animal proteins were largely reserved for more special occasions due to their high cost. Many of the Tuscan chefs honor that tradition still today and most of the meals we had were served with classic local vegetables.
There is a sadness in our room as we finish packing the next morning and head to the train station. Florence does not want to let you go. “Why are you leaving? Can you not see this might be the most beautiful place on Earth?” Oh yes, we see. And we will most certainly be back.