Ivan & Louise's Visit

Our friends (Louise & Ivan) are on an extended overseas holiday and decided to come and see us in Italy while they are in Europe.
They borrowed a car from Ivan's cousin in the UK and visited friends in Holland and Germany before coming to Florence.
We spent a day here in Florence showing them some of the highlights, including an evening walk around the centre of the city, a visit to the Mercato Centrale (central market) to buy bread, fresh produce, cheese and cured meats, as well as the leather markets.
In the small market near the Ponte Vecchio, there is a statue of a wild boar ("cianghale" in Italian). It is good luck to place a coin in its mouth with the palm of your mouth facing down, allowing the coin to drop into a grate (collected for charity) and then rub it's nose.
Over the years that it has been here, the brass is highly polished and parts of the boar's nose are actually wearing away!

Louise And The Cinghiale
An Evening Of Light Entertainment!
After a few days, we decided to take advantage of the fact that they had a car to leave town and do some touring, head south into the country to get away from the Florentine heat & humidity.

Lyn found a nice place to stay near Arezzo, south of Florence, about 2hrs drive away.
We drove through the hills to the east of Florence into the valley where the Arno River begins and then followed it down to a small town called Venere where the house was situated.
We had a two bedroom apartment that formed part of a larger house complex, complete with large garden and a swimming pool.
Every day, we hit the pool in the afternoon and relaxed.
We ate most of our meals outdoors due to the apartment being quite hot. The stone construction in Italy means that the building retain a lot of the heat generated during the day - good in winter, but not so good in summer.

There was a really good little trattoria in the nearby town of Quarata where we had a couple of evening meals.
The first day we were there, we went into Arezzo and walked around.
Lyn & I had been to Arezzo several times before, but we entered from a different direction this time, so saw several new parts of the city - which we liked.
One interesting statue we found was made of bronze and depicted a life-sized brown bear, apparently quite common in the hills in the north of Italy.

The next day, we went for a drive around the hills close to where we were staying.
This is pretty sparse countryside, but there are some very nice houses and plenty of the mandatory olive groves.

We visited the small town to Giovi where we discovered a disused water-powered mill on the Arno River. The water was diverted down a race running parallel to the river and into the mill. We could not found out exactly what the mill was used for, but it looks like it is currently being renovated as apartments.
It was really nice down here and there were plenty of fish (they looked like trout) that did not seem too concerned by us walked along the edge of the river.
Old Water Race On The Right
The Old Mill Buildings
The Arno River Looking South
Old Roman Bridge At Giovi/Ponte Alla Chiassa
(Destroyed During WW2)
Close to the house we stayed in is a town called Ponte Buriano with a bridge with the same name.
It is alleged that this bridge is the one depicted in the Mona Lisa painting and this is accepted by the locals (of course), but since our visit, I have checked this on the net and it seems that this is not true.
The general consensus is that the correct bridge was in a different part of Italy and was washed away many hundreds of years ago.
The Local Sign Proclaiming the Famous bridge 
The bridge itself is still a very impressive piece of Roman engineering - they certainly knew how to build solid architecture!
The Actual Bridge
We spent two full days at this house before heading back to Florence via a different route through the hills (following the Arno river right back up into it's headwaters) because Louise & Ivan had to head back to Holland and the UK.
We stopped in a park in a small town called Dicomano for lunch (eating all of the food we had left before it went off in the heat!) and we could have been in any small town in Australia.

It was a nice few days and we appreciated being able to see some parts of the countryside that we couldn't get to by public transport.

Louise and Ivan left this morning heading back to Holland and then to Germany again - we will miss them as they taught us a new complicated card game ("Shit On Your Neighbour!") and were worthy Scrabble opponents!

Next Monday we are off to Sicily for a week, where it seems to be cooler than Florence - so much for everyone who says Sicily is like Africa! It's been 37 degrees here nearly every day.


  1. Oh and another thing.....yes, it really is bloody hot in Florence. Lyn and Guy are not exaggerating.

  2. Sorry I missed this one. Looks like you had a lot of fun with your friends! One of the best things about Italy is visiting the small towns and villages that abound. We still need to schedule a trip to Casamonti in Chianti! Cheers!