|FLOREWNCE:So many lookers in such a good-looking city! Dressed up in the latest winter or summer fashion by their own world-class designers, Florentines and their city never fail to impress. |
Florentines are born into a world of extraordinary timeless beauty, so it is hardly surprising that they cultivate their appearance, and do it so effortlessly. Florence means one thing: style, both past and present.
At times it seems nothing much has changed since the days of the Medici but of course much has changed. Florence’s short-lived stint as capital of Italy in 1865 was like a shot of adrenaline. The city bulldozed, constructed, rearranged avenues, wiped out whole quarters and tore down the medieval walls. And so the scene was set for the modern regional capital of Tuscany. Horns honk and brakes squeal as Florentines dart in and out of lanes in search of a break in the traffic. The jewel of Renaissance Italy remains essentially what it was – a busy business centre. Even before the Renaissance was over, the wily Florentines had to concede that their town was on the wane, increasingly ignored on the European stage. But they never forgot their proud heritage and it was rediscovered in earnest by the rest of Europe from the late 18th century.
The fortunate few get their first glimpse of Florence from the south. The road from rival Siena leads you to the heights backing the south bank of the Arno. Suddenly, through the trees, the glories of Florence burst into view – Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower), Brunelleschi’s dome, the Basilica di Santa Croce. Only the hardest of hearts can remain unaffected.
The memory of the Medici, who for centuries commanded the city’s fortunes and were, as generous patrons, instrumental in unleashing the Renaissance, lives on. To this day the family crest of six balls adorns many public buildings. The city’s artists and sculptors, supported by the Medici and other powerful families, regaled the city with their finest creations. Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, Giotto, the Lippis, Masaccio, Botticelli, Pontormo and a host of others left their mark, and formidable galleries such as the Uffizi, Pitti and Accademia today house many of their works.
CHIANTI:Quite simply the most magnificent scenery in Italy. Endless rolling hills covered with vines, slopes festooned with silvery olive groves, cypress trees like sentinels. Dozens of castles and monasteries, as well as charming picture-postcard villages, compete for the visitor's attention. As does the good life of long lazy lunches under an arbor, wine tastings and aimless hikes in the countryside. The perfect counterpoint to a city-stay, two nights or more in the splendid lodgings available in the Chianti rejuvenate not only mind and body but also the soul! This is the Tuscany of your dreams...