Week 2: Off the beaten path

This was a very busy week for me, I visited 4 cities: Lucca, Pisa, Siena and Rome on the weekend. I have dedicated a post specifically for my weekend in Rome. Let’s begin! I started my week by visiting the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

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Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio is a beautiful palace suited for royalty, proof of that is that the royal Medici family lived there. Its architecture is breathtaking and worthy of admiration, built by Arnolfo di Cambio, the same architect who built the Duomo and Santa Croce church in Florence, the palace was built with the strength of a fortress to withstand attacks during wars and the tower clock gives it a special touch that makes it recognizable from the distance. Walking around the rooms of the palace and learning about their purpose and history made my visit memorable. Inside, the palace is decorated with beautiful frescoes and works of art by artists like Michaelangelo and Donatello. There are also works of art both in the palace and outside by Jan Fabre, who is known for his bold modern art like his work made with dead beetles for instance… Yeah, you read that right! The palace is located at Piazza Signoria which surrounds it with sculptures by different artists and displays a replica of Michaelangelo’s famous David sculpture; many leather shops, restaurants and gelaterias can be found around it making Palazzo Vecchio a place you must visit in Florence.

On May 25th I visited Lucca, the walled city.

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Chiesa di San Michele

This city is very unique in Italy because of the wall that surrounds it and that you must pass in order to enter the city. The wall was built in Roman times to protect the city from getting attacked during wars and from environmental disasters. I enjoyed visiting this city a lot, it has a very relaxed feel to it, was not crowded and you find few tourists… Definitely off the beaten path! Now, don’t you think that there is nothing to do or see in Lucca. This city was home to famous Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini and you can find a statue in his honor there. Piazza Napoleone is where the Lucca Summer Festival is held, one of the most anticipated music festivals in Italy. The churches are breathtakingly beautiful both inside and outside and just the fact that Lucca is a walled city is interesting enough to want to visit this city, and you can ride the wall with a bike. Cool! While in Lucca, I had the honor of meeting their mayor through one of my classes. He was so nice and humble and I had a great time witnessing a mock wedding ceremony with my classmates and the mayor. My time in Lucca was very relaxed and a good break from the big crowds!

Pisa

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Leaning Tower of Pisa

After Lucca I made a quick stop in Pisa. Although I was pressed for time, I didn’t want to miss out on seeing the leaning tower close and personal in all its glory. Getting to Pisa from Lucca was easier than I expected, they are very close to each other and a 20 minute bus ride got me there in a breeze. A little tip when traveling by bus or train is to always validate your ticket to avoid fines, this is serious in Italy. I was so excited to be in Pisa, at the famous leaning tower that I had seen so much before and always wished I visited, being there felt amazing! It was amusing to see everyone trying to take the iconic picture holding the tower, a little funny actually! But ultimately I joined them because let’s be honest, who would want to pass on taking a picture there!? I have to say that taking the picture holding the tower seems easier than it is, I had to try it so many times before I got a decent shot. After admiring the leaning tower of Pisa and the churches surrounding it, I walked around the city a little and then took a train back to Florence. My time there was short but very special.

On May 27th I had the pleasure of visiting Siena, Medieval City.

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This is where the Palio di Siena is held

At first I did not know what to expect from this city, all I knew was that the horse races were held there and that’s about it. Getting there I started noticing that the horse races were actually a big deal; I would see many houses and businesses displaying the flag of their contrada, I could tell they were proud. I walked around the city, had my mandatory gelato, admired the beauty of their churches, and after that had lunch. A little restaurant chosen randomly, I didn’t expect much from it and ordered lasagna, little did I know that I was in for a delicious threat! I can confidently say that was the most delicious lasagna I have ever had! It was soo cheesy and perfect. My friends also loved the different dishes from there so it seems that overall that is a very good restaurant. After my heart was content thanks to delicious food, we met up with famous tour guide and writer Dario Castagno. I thought he was just going to give us a tour around the city and take us through the history of Siena but I was so off. Dario is part of one of the paleo horse race contradas, the carterpillar contrada to be exact so he gave us very unique insight on what the races are all about. He took us to the place where they meet up, socialize, and celebrate, to their personal church and their museum! It is a place private to them, not opened for the general public so I felt very special being there. Dario started explaining what Palio di Siena means to them, it is not just a simple horse race, it is pure passion, it is a way of life! He explained how the contradas get chosen to participate in the race, how they get ready for the race, what they wear, the meaning of their symbols and much more… I could feel his passion traveling through the room as he took us through how it is like to be part of this mighty event! Getting away from the city to get special insight on the Palio di Siena made my time there unforgettable. It could not have been more perfect.

 Overall this week was amazing! I was tired from so much traveling but it was absolutely worth it. I specially enjoyed going off the beaten path in Lucca and Siena.

For more of my travel photography, check out the full album here https://www.ruthterrerophoto.com/client-albums

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