2019 Italy and Spain
Day 6. Saturday, June 15, 2019, Tuscany

We had booked a Tuscany day tour and so we leave our hotel early this morning to meet our tour group at the train station. The tour, conducted by Walkabout Florence, starts around 8:30 AM when our guide, Olivia, leads us to the other side of the train station where we board a big bus driven by our driver, Marco. The air-conditioned bus is so new, big, and very comfortable.

Oliva, points out special places in the city before our bus hits the highway heading to our first stop, Siena, a famous Tuscan village. Traffic is light on this Saturday and our bus is able to pull in a parking lot in Siena after approximately an hour.

Interesting street lapms
Lee enjoying Siena
Arriving in Siena
Statutes are everywhere in Siena
Incredible church ceiling
Striking black and white stone columns inside Siena Duomo
Coffee break near Siena Town Square
Siena Duomo. These European churches are so immense
Incredibly intricate details 
Olivia then hands us over to another guide who specializes in Siena tourism and promptly leads us to the town square stopping occasionally to explain various buildings, statutes, and curious street lamps.

The town square, anchored by an old stone tower, is a huge round paved surface which slopes towards near the center. Restaurants, shops and the town hall ring around this circle up top and because of the slope, you can see the center of the circle from every place you sit in the square. There is an event in the evening when the new Archbishop of Siena is officially takes the rein and a stage and chairs are being set up to commemorate the event.

We then walk to the Duomo of Siena, a gothic building sitting on the highest point of the city. Inside the Duomo, we are struck with the striking black-and-white stripe columns that support the church interior. Besides the impressive altar and the stained windows, the most stunning feature of this church is the inlaid marble floor which took workers and dozens of artists two hundred years to complete.

Outside the Duomo, we find quaint streets
Tower next to Siena Town Hall
Everything looks so and healthy
Sienna Town Square. Chairs being set up for an important event
We leave Siena near lunch hour and the bus winds its way to an organic farm where Poggio Allora wine is made. Inside the farm house, long tables with silverware and glasses have been set up waiting for us. We take our seat and the hostess begins explaining the farm’s history and its operation and then begin serving us a lunch of cured hams, bruschetta, salad, and pasta, paired with of course, the house wine; and the lunch is quite delicious.
Lunch at the Poggio Allora Tuscan farm house
The Poggio Allora Vineyard
View from the farm house
including the cattle
I'm happy here
and its olive orchard
Poggio Allora wine cellar
From the farm, the bus winds its way through beautiful Tuscan countryside where miles of olive trees glittering in the sun, and rows after rows of grapevines running up and down the beautiful Italian hills.

Our next stop is at a village called San Gimignano, perhaps the best preserved medieval town in Tuscany. We wander around in the village walking up and down its stone paths, admiring the square, Duomo, tower, cafés, and shops. We also try the gelato from the award-winning Gelateria di Piazza.

Then we leave for Pisa.

One could lose his balance immediately after stepping inside the Tower because of its steep floor. Climbing 292 steps to the top is not easy because the stairs are very narrow for two-way traffic and the steps also slope but we make it to the top and the view here is amazing. We can see the different neighborhoods, the rows after rows of red roof buildings, and the Duomo spreading out below us revealing its enormous size.

We climb down after about 15 minutes on the top floor to meet our tour group and begin the drive back to Florence where we arrive at about 8:15 PM.

​​It’s certainly a long but successful day.

Wedding goers gathering at Town Hall
Poggio Allora wine is showcased during lunch
Tuscan region is beautiful
The Baptistery, The Duomo, and The Leaning Tower
San Gimignano is like a painting

A restaurant in San Gimignano
Town's main street
Busy town square
Lee enjoying a gelato from the supposedly the best gelato shop in Italy
It's pretty everywhere you look
Quaint but very charming
The Duomo
Restaurant by the main street
It’s around 6:30 PM when we pull into the parking lot in Pisa, a settlement on the bank of the Arno River, the same river that flows through Florence.

​There are three remarkable buildings tourists from around the world come to see: The Baptistery, The Duomo, and The Leaning Tower.

​The buildings are separated by expansive lawns, they all have white marble claddings and are adorned with ornamental columns. Large red-tile domes with different design provide the tops for the Baptistery and the Duomo.

​Of course, the biggest attraction in this complex and the City of Pisa is the Leaning Tower. Eight stories of a what resembles a white wedding cake gracefully leans away from the vertical that for some reasons, please an observer’s eyes. People strike the familiar poses for the cameras using the Tower as the background. I stand there for a while just to admire the scenes around me then it’s our time to climb the Tower.

Entrance to Pisa. Excitement rises
The tower leans more than shown on this picture
Here is a better view
Stop pushing it
Leaning Tower. Up close
Italian craftsmen don't settle for simple design
We want to thank our guide, Olivia, for the tour of Tuscany
Counterweights inside Leaning Tower
Bell level is the highest level
Can't believe we reach the top level
The Duomo viewed from top of the Leaning Tower
Lee enjoying the view

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