Tuscany 2004

We spent a couple weeks in Venice and the Tuscan region of Italy in May 2004. Venice was very interesting, but a couple days there was plenty for us. Florence was a different matter; particularly, for Pam. What a wonderful place, although I did get my fill of paintings and the Ufizi museum way before Pam did! Our time in Florence was enhanced by having spent time learning some of the history of the Medici family and Florence itself as the center of the Renaissance era. 

Our time in Venice & Florence was followed by a week long hiking and cooking tour in the Chianti region of the Tuscan countryside operated by Backroads. Besides the country lane hiking to small villages for lunch, the cooking classes (and consuming the finished product), we stayed in two very interesting places.

The first was Badia a Coltibuono located about 70km south of Florence at Gaiole in Chianti. Today it is a good winery, restaurant and B&B for lack of a better word. It was originally built as the Abbey Coltis Bono by Benedictine monks in the 11th century. They apparently planted the first vines in this area of Chianti and made some very good wine. Our rooms were originally the monks' cells and there are stories that the ghosts of the monks still walk the hall and visit the library. Something definitely was going on!

The second was Villa Vignamaggio at Greve in Chianti. The main part of the villa was built in the 14th. Stories have it that Mona Lisa Gherardini, subject of DiVinci's Mona Lisa painting was born here. Although her family did own the villa, there is some question whether they sold it before she was born. Further, although Leonardo did paint her portrait, there remains some dispute whether she was the subject for the famous painting. Regardless, it makes for an interesting tale. The villa's more recent claim to fame is as the setting for the 1992 movie "Much Ado About Nothing" starring Denzel Washington.

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