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Trip Report Bella Toscana- first, and lasting, impressions

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The many joyful surprises that are Italy-my 9 days in Florence, Cortona, Siena and Radda.

That first afternoon in Florence, to turn a corner into Piazza della Signoria with its statues and fountain and border of grand buildings - literally pulled the breath from the lungs of this jaded New Yorker. The muddy Arno, not unlike our mighty Mississippi, with the perimeter of subdued colors by day, and bejeweled by sparkling lights at night. To turn a corner and see the magestic DUOMO in Florence aglow against the sky. The exquisite shoes and handbags and jewelry and clothes. My first sight of Michelangelo's DAVID. I am sure he was breathing. It dissolved me to tears. Entering Siena's DUOMO with its beautiful marble floors and hearing the faint, haunting unaccompanied simplicity of a Gregorian chant.....

A morning cappuccino handed to you as though a small special gift, and that first creamy, sip. Mercato Centrale (Central Market) with the rows and rows of cheeses and oils and mushrooms and goodies to please every palate. The plate of warm eggplant salad, on the shaded poolside patio of a rural castle. The vineyard owner who welcomed us with champagne opened by sword, and then invited us inside for the unexpected offering of wild boar lasagne. My simple lunch of ribolitta (Tuscan bread bean and vegetable soup) and salad with rich olive oil and acidic balsamico and Tuscan chardonnay, overlooking a medieval hilltown piazza. The glorious desserts presented after a delicious dinner of hen and sauteed spinach and porchini risotto with shaved truffles. The chartreuse liquid gold of olio nuovo.

The vistas. We walk up the inclined street and arrive at the ancient stone town of Cortona with its quaint narrow streets, and look out at the beautiful roofs and hills and countryside. From the vineyard -while tasting warm grapes- we look up @ the castle, and from the castle's veranda we look out, and see the splendor that is rural Tuscany as far as the eye can see. Just when we see a vista that could not be more beautiful, another appears, every angle a perfect panorama.The profound quietude of the medieval stone town of Radda.

Every day one or another of us gazed out, took a bite, or a sip...... and our eyes filled with tears. "You don't know how long I've ached for this trip" one of our group choked out. Oh. Yes. I do.........

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