Florence (Firenze) in Italy became a flourishing town by the 11th century due to the wool trade. The building of the Basilica dates from that period. The city strategically situated on the Arno river developed into a Renaissance city and centre of European civilisation. It was not without fierce struggles for conquest of the city, but by the 19th century had developed into the treasure that we know today in regard to architecture, art, culture and trade. The whole of Tuscany is important for agriculture, industry, trade and tourism. There are too many treasures in Florence to see within a week, but I will mention some of my favourites that are a MUST to experience. The whole group of buildings around the cathedral (Duomo) to start with. Make sure you look at the magnificent ceiling of the Baptistry. In the old palace, there are many famous statues. Look at the facial expressions on the one called the “Rape of the Sabrina Women” In the Uffizi gallery, you cannot miss seeing the painting ” Birth of Venus” by Botticelli or the masterpiece by Michelangelo “The Holy Family”. In Santa Croce church is the large ornate tomb of this artist created by Vasari. Of course in the Academy, you must see the original Statue of David and make sure you visit the Medici Chapel and the Ponte Vecchil bridge over the Arno. Your brain will be exhausted from taking in all these magnificent sights but the experience will remain with you for a lifetime.
Venice could be regarded as the first canal estate in the world. The nucleus of the city began in the Rialto zone where canals were dredged out of the swamp and the earth obtained was then used to raise and reinforce the area for buildings. The Grand Canal (the main highway) of Venice and the numerous side canals all around 5 metres deep, connect to the sea. They form a network for transport and trade. Most of the palaces line the Grand Canal. My first experience of Venice was arriving there by train to find the streets slightly flooded by rain and the high tide.. I booked into a hotel near the station where the manager was still swishing water out of the foyer with a broom. Luckily, my room was high and dry on the floor above. After waiting for an hour for the water to subside further, I went for a walk to St Marks square to see the Ducal Palace and St Marks cathedral. The square was still about 30 cm ( one foot) underwater and there were planks to walk upon to access these tourist sites. The water was gone next day and I spent another four balmy sunny days in late October 1976 exploring this fascinating city including the parts not normally visited by tourists.. Like Florence, there are too many treasures to describe here, but other than the sites around the square, Rialto bridge and Grand Canal, I recommend the following to view by foot or gondola : – Palazzo Foscari (a Gothic palace by gondola), church of Santa Maria della Salute ( the walk there is worthwhile), the Academy Gallery for many famous paintings, the church of St Maria Gloriosa del Frari to see the painting “Assumption” by Titian, Rio San Barnaba for the most interesting architecture to take in as you stroll along the canal and over cute little bridges, Campo San Polo or some of the other town squares. It is essential to have a good map showing what you can access by foot or gondola.
Assisi , Umbria and Tuscany – a place of natural beauty, meditation and earthquakes
Assisi is situated on the ridge of a range (Mt. Subasio) in the centre of northern Italy in Umbria and close to Tuscany. For centuries it was the place of pilgrimage, meditation and a link to God, as it is the birthplace of St Francis of Assisi in 1182 and where he died on October 4th, 1226.
Within the last decade earthquakes have done much damage to the town, including the abbey and also to the infrastructure of the surrounding region. Lack of funds during the economic crisis in Italy have meant that it is taking a long time to repair buildings, roads and services. Recent earthquakes in 2012 have not helped the situation in this very scenic part of Italy where tourists love to visit.
I visited many places in Italy in 2015 such as Lake Come, Trieste, Milano, Sperlonga, Napoli, Sorrento, Isle Capri, Amalfi Coast etc. The adventures of my travels can be read in the updated “Travel in a Changing World book 2.