The Italian Tour

I do not know what made me think I’d be blogging every day during the Gardens of Tuscany Tour. ?This was a content-dense experience not because we were so overladen with gardens, but we were in such rich territory every day was an adventure. By the time I hit hotels at night, all I wanted was sleep.??

It started the very first day in Florence. Our hotel was a block from the Arno River so an early evening walk was seeing Florence at its most ravishing: ?the Ponte Vecchio was in the distance and the light on the buildings reflecting back on to the water was transporting.??That is, until dinner. ?Our hotel had a really lovely garden restaurant on the roof. So as we were introducing ourselves to each other, the city gently moved into twilight.?The air was soft and warm, swallows swooped and dived all around and, as the sunset faded, the lights on the Duomo came up slowly wrapping us in the sheer magic of being in this city.

And our people: ?what a great lot, I liked them all immediately which is not usual for a normally solitary person. We were twelve plus Linda Thorne who organized it and me. ? A mixed lot in ages and where they came from (Vancouver, Kitchener, Ottawa and Toronto). ?We nattered on eating what turned out to be a really good dinner. ?Italian lamb is fantastic.?

The next day we set off for Villa La Pietra a glorious 15th century Tuscan mansion with framed views of Florence from every level. ?We had Nick as our guide and he was just great explaining about how just about everything about was a re-creation of what people thought of as the Italian style of that period. This was actually a 19th century giardino inglese?done for Arthur Acton and later restored (in a manner of speaking) by his son Harold Acton who left it to New York University (which means we had a security guard following us around).?The most delicious part of an interesting garden was the teatro verde which had put on a production most recently with Dame Judi Dench leaping out from the boxwood wings. ?The only off putting thing to me was banks and banks of particularly simpering pink version of lavatera. ?Gobs of it everywhere.???

Next up was the Boboli Gardens. This is a place I’ve visited once before. Didn’t like then, don’t like now. It is one of those hugely pretentious public gardens designed to impress. ?And it was 35C on the stone steps that go up forever. ?We drooped and spent as much time nipping about from shade to shade. ?The leavening part was going back to the hotel for lunch on the roof of the hotel a bit of a kip and then a long walk all over the place on my own. ?I stuck to the old city keeping in the shade and it was far away from the tourist-laden areas around the Duomo.??