Italy #2: Fast cars and Florence

The Tuscan countryside, Italy

Bolognese in Bologna, ItalyThe morning after the wedding we got on the Autostrada and headed to Bologna. Three hours south of the Lakes, our decision to visit the city was pretty much based on it being the place where bolognese was invented. We only had one night there and arrived quite late after a sluggish start post-wedding. We made the most of it by taking a walk around the city centre in the evening, and visited a restaurant that the hotel had recommended to sample the famous local meat sauce. The Bolognese (as in the people from Bologna...!) are obviously very proud of their creation and it didn’t disappoint.

Bologna, Italy
Bologna, Italy

The next morning we retraced our steps north a few kilometres to Maranello. The small unassuming town is home to Ferrari, somewhere I've been keen to visit since I was young. The factory where the cars are built is located here, along with the Fiorano race track where the cars are tested.  On arriving to visit the muesum, we also found lots of companies offering to hire you their Ferraris for a drive around town. Who was I to say no (when in Rome and all that), so within a few minutes of parking the Picasso I was driving a Ferrari California and heading towards the nearest fast road. Becky opted not to ride as passenger (not sure why?!) but the ‘co-pilot’ who worked for the hire company seemed more than happy to let me floor the accelerator when I had the chance. Unfortunately the roads around Maranello were pretty busy, with lorries everywhere, but the 4.3 litre V8 car was a joy to drive.

Ferrari California, Maranello, Italy
What a poser
The museum in Maranello was great too, with road and F1 cars dating back to the when the company was founded.  The highlight was the brand new La Ferrari, hidden away in a darkened room at the end of the museum.  I think it was just a shell of the car (no innards) but it was stunning none less.

La Ferrari at the Ferrari Museum, Maranello, Italy
La Ferrari
Following a tour around the Ferrari factory and the test track (no photos allowed by the secretive Italians), we set off for our next destination, Florence.  After navigating some very narrow and possibly pedestrian only streets (the signs were in Italian!), we arrived at our hotel that overlooked the River Arno.  Florence is the capital of the Tuscan region and home to 370,000 people.  The city is impossibly beautiful and stacked full of historic sights.

Florence and the River Arno, Italy
Statue of Perseus, Florence, Italy
We had three days in Florence and spent a couple of them just wandering through the city exploring.  The first day took us through Piazza della Signoria, home to Michelangelo's David - actually a replica as the real one is in a nearby museum.  More than 500 years old, David is pretty much recognisable the world over, and has leant his 'features' to a whole manner of tacky merchandise, including fridge magnets, key rings and a rather tasteful pair of shorts.

Just next to David in the Piazza is a statue of Perseus, in a rather gruesome pose having just lopped the head off of Medusa.  With hair made of snakes, the statue is surrounded by others that Medusa has turned to stone.

We opted to keep walking rather than head to the museum, a decision we later regretted when the skies opened and we got caught in the most almighty storm. The unseasonable weather was affecting the whole country it seemed. This gave us the excuse we needed for lunch and, when the rain kept pouring, we sought shelter in the cathedral.

Florence Cathedral
Florence Cathedral
Florence, Italy
The next day we took the car and headed out into the Tuscan countryside.  The area really is beautiful, with rolling hills, vineyards, places making and selling olive oil, fields full of sunflowers and cypress trees at every turn.  It's an idyllic place and fantastic for aimless driving taking in the scenery.

Vineyards in Tuscany, Italy
Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Our route took us in a rough circle down to the mediaeval town of San Gimignano, then onwards west through the hills to Pisa.  Famous of course for it's leaning tower, I was immediately surprised at both how short it is (no match for the Burj Khalifa), and how it is actually kind of banana shaped.  Apparently after the tower started to lean during construction, architects started to build straight up to try and counterbalance the lean.  This has resulted in a rather odd shaped building, but impressive nonetheless.

Sunflowers and cypress trees in Tuscany, Italy

Becky cooking Tuscan food in Florence, Italy
Becky cooking up a storm
On our last day in Florence we tried our hand at a bit of Italian cooking.  Under the watchful eye of some experts chefs, we were part of a group of 16 budding Carluccios cooking their dinner for the evening.  On the menu was eggplant caprese as a starter, gnocchi with turkey for secondo, followed by tiramisu for dessert.

It was interesting to see how typical Tuscan dishes are put together - only the freshest ingredients ever make their way to the dinner table.  The other secret we found was the vast quantities of olive oil liberally applied to every dish.

The great thing was we got to sit down and tuck into it all while someone else cleared up the mess we'd made in the kitchen.  It all tasted fantastic when washed down with a couple bottles of red - we didn't go hungry that night.

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy
Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

Location: Florence, Italy
Tuscany 6748835703667467800

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