Friday, September 24, 2010

Florence (Part 3)

Our second day in Florence dawned and it was... WINE TOUR DAY!

We booked a private driver for the 8 of us to see Tuscany, do some shopping and a little Chianti wine tasting. We were super excited when our driver pulled up and not only did he have an AWESOME van for us to ride around in all day, but he looked like "The Most Interesting Man in the World" Seriously. And his name was Riccardo.

On to our day!

First stop: San Gimignano - the town of towers

 This town was so cute and quint, though none of us could properly pronounce it. Poor Riccardo tried and tried to tell us, but we were just not getting it. The ladies especially had fun here, as the shopping bags we are holding can attest. Can you believe that sky?!

Then it was on to another castle-y town for lunch! This time Monteriggioni.

Austin is super excited we visited this town, because it is also part of his new Assasin's Creed II game - he wanted you to know.

View from our quaint little table...

They brought our Coke Light with lemon by default - I was Thrilled with a capital T. 

Side note, I could sadly never reside in Italy because of the ridiculous price of diet coke alone. Though, maybe the awesome espresso, wine and food in general would help to console me of that loss eventually. I think this can of soda was 5 Euro, which roughly translates to like $7. Yikes.

After lunch, we explored the town a bit

Can't you just see that History major mind working?

 We lit a candle and said a few prayers. 
Though this church was the smallest that we saw while in Italy it was one of my favorite 

We were then supposed to head to Sienna to walk around a bit more, but it just so happened that we were there on the same day as Il Palio which is a horse race that has been taking place in Sienna since 1656.

Riccardo was confident it would be a great day to walk around, but as he drove us into the town, we accidentally drove right into the parade route! Here are some photos Jess managed to snap while hanging out the window of the confused people in the parade and some of the onlookers who were not very happy with us!

So, even though I really wanted to get a scarf in honor of the winning horse that day (you know I love some team pride) we decided it would be best to exit Sienna ASAP.

Onto the wine!

Riccardo took us to his friend Andre's vineyard. It is a little family owned operation and though he spoke barely no English, he was such a sweetheart and taught us all about Chianti before doing the tasting.

The whole group with Andre

The wine was delish, as were the homemade snacks and we all left with a few bottles in tow. We headed for some more wine and more scenic views of Tuscany, but this post is getting entirely too long, so I will leave you with a few photos.

I think this is the best photo anyone got of Riccardo all day. You will just have to trust me on looking like the Dos Equis guy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Italy Trip - Florence (Part 2)

* I have obtained all the originals from my photo taking counterparts on this trip, so be prepared for lots of photos!

After all the mishaps of the first part of our day in Florence (which did not even include mention of Dan and Lisa's room situation - everywhere we went their room was made up with separate beds, ha!) we set out to change our luck!

With the Herndons in tow we did a lot of this:

The one sight that we did not need a map to find was definitely the Duomo. It was about a block from our hotel!

We headed inside, where Haley rocked the disposable cover, since she didn't have her cardigan...

Make it work!

Once we visited the Duomo, we knew we had a little bit of time before heading back tot he hotel to rest up and get ready for our fancy pants dinner. Haley and Jess remembered from their former trip a really pretty church that we then referred to as "The Jewish Church"

 Replica photo, how many years later ladies?

 The church was sadly closed for visitors, but we spotted a cute little bistro on the square, and as it had been approximately one hour since our last stop for refreshment, we decided, why not?

The ladies, and Austin, ordered prosecco...

Justin ordered the "large" beer. And, large it was.

in comparison to the small, a difference of maybe one Euro

Following our refreshments, we all headed back to the hotel to get ready for our dinner. After our, um, eventful first day in Florence we decided to reward ourselves with a really nice (read: expensive) dinner. Our concierge recommended a place and made reservations for us.

As our taxis began careening through the streets, suddenly we realized we were in for a special treat. When they finally pulled into our restaurant we were literally overlooking the entire city of Florence.

When we arrived, we all audibly gasped. Our restaurant looked like this

With a view like this...

So we took some time to take advantage of the scene

I have pretty friends

Dan also took a second to pose as David after Lisa proclaimed that Dan looked "just like" David

We headed inside for what would be a four hour dinner with fabulous food and friends, stopping every few minutes to take in our view.

We got to ordering, and we ordered almost one of every thing on the menu, and then we just passed it around. I think the chef loved us.

By the end of the meal, we had consumed a lot of food, a lot of Chianti made by the students at the university, and shared a lot of laughs. Of the main dishes there were mostly amazing successes, though we did manage to confirm Justin's fish allergy after eating the sea bass. (Have you ever seen Hitch? I am so sad I didn't get a picture. Glad you are just fine Justin!)

At the end, the boys contested that the huge piece of meat was so good, that they had to get every last bit off the bone.


After dinner we headed back to the hotel, changed into flats and hit the town. We grabbed some more refreshments, the boys bought us roses from a street vendor and all of the bars played American music. We even kept the parents out until 2 am! ;)

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