Saturday, January 12, 2013
Arriving in Tuscany and Walking Tour of Florence Italy
Jan. 3, 2013 – Our group of 28 California wine professionals left San Francisco at 7:30pm on Swiss Air Flight to Florence with a 2 hour stop-over in Zurich. Though a long flight with over 12 hours of flight time, Swiss Air was quite generous in giving us two meals and plenty of Prosecco as well as a house white and red wine. Everyone was quite excited to be going on a 10 day wine tour of Tuscany.
We were met at the Florence Airport by our EF College Tour Guide, Linda, who efficiently loaded us on a bus and whisked us away to the 3-star Hotel Meridiana near downtown Florence. We stayed here 4 nights and found this hotel to have very friendly service, clean basic rooms, but no shelves or dressers for clothes. Breakfast was included and was comprised of the standard croissants, cheese, salami, bread, cereal, yogurt and chocolate.
Welcome Dinner at the Palazzo Borghese
After a 30-minute refresh break, we boarded the bus again and drove a short distance to the Palazzo Borghese, a renaissance palace complete with elaborate chandeliers and gold rococo design. EF had booked a private room for our welcome dinner, which turned out to be one of the best group meals of the trip. The first course was wonderful gnocchi pasta with pesto sauce. This was followed by a Tuscan beef, potato and vegetable stew, and we concluded the meal with tiramisu. They also provided a basic red Chianti and coffee with dessert.
Walking Tour of Florence
The next morning Linda led us on a tour of Florence. We walked the 20 minutes from the hotel to the Duomo where a local tour guide took us through the amazing church and walked us by all of the important buildings in the city, describing the history and colorful characters of this city of art. One of my favorite places, which I had not visited on my previous 2 times in the city, was Dante’s chapel – a small church commorating him and Beatrice. The tour ended with a private demonstration in a leather factory, and then we were free until 6:30 to wander around the city.
Janeen and I had a nice lunch at the Golden View Restaurant on the River Arno where we had a window seat of the famous bridge. We both ordered pizza, and though not actually a food of Tuscany, the thin crust and fresh vegetables were wonderful with a glass of house wine. Afterwards we paid the admission to tour the Palazzo Vecchio, as we had both already visited the Academie and Uffizi museums. Aftewards we went shopping, and then prepared for our first Professor Briefing at the hotel at 6:30.
That evening we had another group dinner, but this one was more informal. It was held at the La Rotunda Taverna where we were treated to a 3-course meal of homemade cheese ravioli, Tuscan beefsteak with arugula, and a chocolate torte for dessert. We had to purchase our own wine for this meal, and even though our table of 10 people ordered 6 bottles, the cost was only 6 euros per person. I definitely enjoy the prices of wine in Italy. After dinner, Janeen and I went to bed early, but many of the others stayed out until 1 or 2 in the morning – a tradition that became quite common throughout our 10-day trip.