The series will be five parts, corresponding to the five cities in which we stayed--Pistoia (Tuscany), Santa Margherita (the Italian Riviera), Stresa (Italian lakes region), Bolzano, and Venezia. Today I begin with Pistoia ...
Day 0: Departure Day (Sept. 18)
After a year of planning, departure day finally arrived. Twenty-six of us departed Augusta and met up with the rest of our group in Atlanta (2 from Florida, 1 from NYC, 1 from Atlanta, and 1 from Maryland) for our evening flight to Europe. Our flight itinerary included a connecting flight in Amsterdam, which then landed us in Florence, Italy late in the afternoon of the 19th.
Day 1: Florence-Pistoia (Sept. 19)
In baggage claim we were reunited with Jane Stortiglione (our Tour Director) who had accompanied on our last trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast. It was great to see her again. We were introduced to our bus driver, Rocco, who loaded our luggage and drove us to Pistoia (named Italy's Capital of Culture in 2017). After unpacking and exploring the hotel and its grounds, we reconvened that evening for a Welcome Dinner at the hotel restaurant where we took our first official group photo in Italy!
Welcome Dinner in Pistoia
2018 Girls' Trip to Italy
Jane (Tour Director), Laura, Maria, Mollie
Day 2: Pistoia-Florence-Pistoia (Sept. 20)
A busy day awaited us since we were headed to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance! On the way we stopped at Piazzale Michelangelo for an overlook with breathtaking views of the iconic skyline that is Florence. From there we went to Piazza Santa Croce where we visited the Misuri Leather Guild, after which we had several hours of free time in which some toured the Church of Santa Croce, some had a leisurely lunch, most shopped, and everyone tasted their first gelato.
The afternoon was all about art! We visited Piazza della Signoria to see Cellini's statue of Perseus, a copy of Michelangelo's David, and the courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio. Afterwards, it was on to Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo), Brunelleschi's dome, Ghibertti's baptistery doors, and Giotto's bell tower. The highlight of the day was a visit to the Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michelangelo's David.
We returned to Pistoia in the late afternoon and that evening dined al fresco at the hotel.
Our hotel in Pistoia, Villa Cappugi.
Up bright and early for a full-day tour to Florence.
Boarding the Girls' Trip to Italy bus. Florence here we come!
View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
Gelato ... so many flavors, so little time!
Church of Santa Croce, Florence
Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo are all buried here.
There is also Dante's tomb, but it is empty.
He is buried in Ravenna since he was exiled from Florence.
Piazza della Signoria
(original location of Michelangelo's David)
Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo)
closeup of Brunelleschi's dome
Galleria dell' Accademia
Michelangelo's David and the captives (or prisoners)
which are Michelangelo's unfinished sculptures.
We had studied Michelangelo's David before leaving home,
so it was powerful seeing it in person.
Day 3: Pistoia-Siena-Chianti Classico-Pistoia
This morning we drove into the heart of Tuscany, stopping first in Siena where we met our local tour guide who began our tour at the Church of San Domenico which contains a relic of St. Catherine of Siena (more specifically, her head). Afterwards, we walked through a maze of narrow streets, alleys, and contrade (neighborhoods), stopping to take photos of the Cathedral before continuing to the Piazza del Campo where the famous Palio (bareback horse race) takes place twice a year. Amazingly, we were introduced to Rosanna Bonelli (nickname: Rompicollo) who, in 1957, became the first (and only) woman to race as a jockey in the Palio. We all LOVED Siena.
For lunch we drove through the Chianti region and stopped at the Palagetto Vineyard for a tour, wine tasting, and a lovely lunch seated at tables nestled between rows of wine barrels.
The afternoon we explored San Gimignano, a walled medieval town in which 14 of its original 72 towers are still standing. The city is also where the famous Franco Zeffirelli movie, Tea with Mussolini, was filmed.
In the evening, some attended a cooking class hosted by Celebrity Chef Fabiano, some relaxed at the hotel, and some explored downtown Pistoia.
Siena's contrade (neighborhoods) and the Piazza del Campo
It was an honor to meet Rosanna Bonelli who, in 1957, became
the first (and only) woman to race as a jockey in Siena's Palio.
Palagetto Vineyard, San Gimignano
Thalia, Brenda, Cathy, and Joan
Let the wine tasting begin!
Mary Brooke, Jennifer, Teresa, Lou
Enjoying a sunny day at Palagetto Vineyard.
(lower left is the Hotel Cisterna featured in Franco Zeffirelli's
movie, Tea with Mussolini)
Dinner on the piazza in downtown Pistoia.
Cooking class with celebrity chef, Fabiano.
Stay tuned for Days 4-5 where we go to the Italian Riviera!