Monthly Archives: May 2011

Montefioralle and Cantine Aperte 2011

What a glorious Sunday we had! :)

Yesterday, before meeting up with our friends, one of whom was playing all day with his jazz band at a winery (see previous post), Stefano and I stopped at Montefioralle, a 12th century fortified hilltop village not too far from Greve in Chianti (=less than an hour’s drive from where we live in Florence).

Pretty little village, for sure, but Stefano and I kept looking for a central piazza (square)…to no avail. “There just has to be one,” I insisted. We walked around the village twice, just to make sure we hadn’t missed it…But no, we came up empty handed. How very odd. Hmmm. Anyway, my first two photos are shots of central-square-less Montefioralle… :)

Next stop: Villa Cafaggio, with its 45 hectares of vineyards, see photos below. This is where our friend was playing, incidentally (see my next-to-last photo). Anyway, according to the Villa’s website, Villa Cafaggio or Cafaggiolo belonged to Benedictine monks in the 15th century. One of its most enjoyable features, IMO, was its position–on top of a small hill, surrounded by hills, vineyards, cypress trees and farmhouses. An absolutely lovely area, as you can see, sort of, from my photos…

We toured the villa’s wine cellars, of course, which were quite modern. No traditional “pressing the grapes with your feet” in this establishment! But, hey, modern techniques have their advantages…HYGIENE, for one! 😉

After enjoying a guided tour of the villa’s cellars and taking some photos of the view of and from its vineyards, we sat down on the villa’s terrace for the official wine tasting, which is always accompanied by an explanation (which type of grapes are used in which wine and so on)…This experience was enhanced by live jazz music in the background. :)

We were each given a plate with slices of ham, salami, Pecorino (=sheep) cheese and finocchiona, which is salami flavored with fennel seeds. Quick aside: as I was attempting (in vain) to find a translation for finocchiona, I came upon a tale that I thought I’d share with you:

Finocchiona supposedly owes its origins to a thief at a fair near the town of Prato, who stole a fresh salami and hid it in a stand of wild fennel. When he returned for it he discovered it had absorbed the aromas of its hiding place and had become fit for the Gods.

Cute!

Well, I don’t care much for the taste of salame or finocchiona, which I handed over to Stefano (who was more than happy to, ehm, oblige…), but I did very much enjoy the Pecorino cheese, and the wine was verrrry nice, too, especially the 2007 riserva, i.e. the 2007 vintage…

We were given generous “sips” (see last photo, that’s my glass of wine, btw) of four different types of wine. Since I don’t usually drink anything but water, by the fourth taste I was quite, er, happy, shall we say…So I must say, it’s a good thing there was some FOOD and water on the table, too! 😉

Just as we were finishing our “tasting” and were thinking of moving on, a blog reader who lives in Florence and who has become a friend of mine walked out onto the terrace together with her partner. What a splenddddid surprise! So we stayed on a bit longer, waiting for them to have their tasting and visit the cellars. We sat and chatted and listened to some more music…Then, before leaving, we bought some riserva wine to share with my parents when they arrive here in July…

Well, as it happened, we had a petit Tuscan adventure. After Villa Cafaggio, we’d originally intended to go check out the Castello da Verrazzano, another well-known winery in the area. So Stefano entered the castle’s address into his GPS system, and off we went. My blog reader and her partner followed us in their car…

At one point the GPS decided to go bonkers (intoxicated by all those vineyards, perhaps???)…All of a sudden, you see, we took a turn and found ourselves trundling down a tiny, very dusty and very bumpy country lane that seemed to lead nowhere. On and on we went. Nobody in sight…not even a dog. Just a few lizards…And typical Tuscan vineyards and hills and dust all around us…The views were very pretty, mind you…but…

We soon realized that the GPS had made a mistake, but there was no way we could turn around and retrace our “steps”…So on and on we went. I began stifling a chuckle, then I couldn’t stand it anymore and burst into peals of laughter. Within seconds, even though he was a bit concerned about his car getting scratched and bruised by brambles and stones, Stefano joined in. So we howled and howled and howled. And what made it even funnier was the fact that my blog reader and her partner were still faithfully following us…probably wondering if we’d lost our minds…Bumpety haha bump, hahaha! :)

We finally managed to get back onto an asphalted road and head off in the right direction, which (for your information…) meant retracing our steps entirely and passing by the Villa Cafaggio…again. Ehm. By then it was mid afternoon, so the four of us stopped at the first winery we saw, which happened to be the Castello di Uzzano. After all that bumping around and all that laughing, we needed a rest AND something else to eat…And, why not?, we also tried some of their riserva wine…

Anyway, if you are in Italy on the last Sunday in May, don’t miss Cantine Aperte. It’s a GREAT experience, especially if your GPS misbehaves hehe…and a very tasteful one, too! :) Oh, and I should note that many, perhaps most, of these wine-tasting events are free. Yes, free.

And if that isn’t incentive enough…well, Tuscany is one of the most beautiful places on Earth!, especially at this time of year…April-May… :)

A few “Blood” studies and Open Cellars 2011…

Glancing through a list of recent “Blood” studies, I came upon a few interesting ones, which I don’t have time to read super carefully right now (after all, it’s THE WEEKEND! :) )…but I thought I would go ahead anyway and post the links, for those of you who might be interested in giving them a go…

The first is titled “Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) and smoldering multiple myeloma (SMM): novel biological insights and development of early treatment strategies.” Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time know how STRONGLY I feel about the issue of doing chemo or any conventional EARLY treatments, especially in the absence of CRAB symptoms…But anyway, that’s not the point…

The point is to give you the link to this study, which I’ll do immediately: http://goo.gl/P42lR If you’d like to read the whole shebang (yes, available for free…ahhh, I just love that!!!), just click on “Full Text PDF” on the right…Incidentally, the type may look small, as it did on my computer, but you can enlarge it by pressing “+”…

I was surprised to find three “alternative” clinical studies listed in Table 3 (page 8 of 10). Wow, I wasn’t expecting that from a group of conventional doctors…Hmmm, an indication of the, er, changing times, perhaps? Nice! 😉 Here are the three alternative studies: 1. the curcumin vs placebo Australian trial (26 MGUS folks), 2. the green tea extract trial (17 MGUS and SMM folks) and 3. the Omega-3 fatty acid trial (48 MGUS, SMM and CLL folks). There is also a monoclonal antibody trial that looks interesting…But I know zip about it, except for what I have read about those thingies in various studies here and there…

The May 5 2011 edition of “Blood” published two “Consensus recommendations,” which were written by the International Myeloma Workshop folks. The first concerns risk stratification in multiple myeloma: http://goo.gl/U4gXW Again, click on Full Text PDF if you want to read the entire text. There are some interesting items here, especially for those of us who are interested in risk factors, which, in addition to the chromosome deletions (13 and so on), are also: high B2M, low albumin and high LDH (incredibly, LDH is not always tested…it should be, as should vitamin D levels…incidentally, I have had mine tested ever since I changed hematologists here in Italy, and mine has always been in the normal range, phew…). If your LDH has never been tested, please ask your doctor…

The same issue of “Blood” has another report that recommends the uniform reporting of clinical trials: http://goo.gl/muVHg Again, the full text is available online…

Okay, now I’m going back to my fab weekend…Tomorrow Stefano and I are driving to a vineyard near Greve in Chianti, south of Florence, where a friend of ours is playing jazz all day with his band, as part of “Cantine Aperte 2011,” which means “Open Wine Cellars 2011.” This is THE MOST important annual Italian wine event during which many wine producers open their usually-closed cellars to the public. It’s great, since you’re able to visit the vineyards and the cellars (inside castles, too)…And you can taste some great Chianti wine (and some typical local food, pecorino cheese and so on, if you’re lucky!), listen to concerts etc. Anyway, it’s usually lots and lots of fun, and the weather looks good…So we’re really looking forward to it. I’m taking my camera… :)

Fighting cancer with turmeric?

On Monday I read a Toronto Sun article written by Dr. Richard Béliveau (no need to introduce him, I hope! :) ): http://goo.gl/2umwt Nothing new…except for what he says towards the end. I had to stop, rub my eyes and then read these two paragraphs again:

Studies done recently by a group of Japanese researchers have also shown that the metabolising of curcumin could be influenced by the abundance of bacterial flora found in the colon […]. The researchers were also able to determin that Escherichia coli, an abundant layer of bacteria in the colon, possesses an enzyme capable of transforming curcumin into tetrahydrocurcumin, a more stable version of the original polyphenol.

This is particularly interesting considering that secondary studies showed that the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous activity of tetrahydrocurcumin is even higher than that of curcumin itself. In other words, far from reducing its cancer-fighting potential, the transformation of curcumin by some intestinal bacteria could instead increase its power and therefore play a major role in the multiple health benefits associated with the regular consumption of turmeric.

Whatwhatwhaaat? WHATWHATWHAAAAAAAT???!!!!! Tetrahydrocurcumin is a more stable and perhaps EVEN BETTER cancer-fighter than curcumin????????? Why, that’s the complete opposite of what I’ve read up to now. My world has been turned upside down…What an incredibly exciting concept! More research needed, clearly…but not today. I’m too distracted…today…

A bitter cumin study…Treating chemo side effects with plant extracts…And, finally, 20 reasons to add turmeric to our diet…

Busy days…But this morning I did find time to read a few Science Daily articles that I hope you will find interesting, too.

  1. This article (http://goo.gl/EdGgc) tells us about bitter cumin, a spice that is used extensively in traditional medicine to treat a range of diseases from vitiligo to hyperglycemia. It is considered to be antiparasitic and antimicrobial and science has backed up claims of its use to reduce fever or as a painkiller. A recent study has shown that it is chock-full of antioxidants. Sound familiar? Yeah…thought so… 😉 The full text is available online, by the way (http://goo.gl/U8rI9). I took a super quick look at it and found this: The seeds have a hot sharp taste; acrid, astringent to the bowls, antihelmintic; cure ulcers, used in skin diseases, leucoderma and fevers. It’s like a déjà vu…
  2. Another interesting new study (http://goo.gl/f5q7x) deals with a common side effect of conventional cancer treatments, that is, the impairment of the immune system, which can result in life-threatening secondary infections and so on (see the article for more information/details). In this study, Indian researchers tested extracts from several plants used in traditional or folk medicine against microbials found in the mouths of oral cancer patients. Of the 40 patients involved in the study, 35 had compromised immune systems with severely reduced neutrophil counts. Eight of the plants tested were able to significantly affect the growth of organisms collected by oral swab, and pure cultures of bacteria and fungi grown in the lab. This included wild asparagus, desert date, false daisy, curry tree, caster oil plant and fenugreek. Well, well…Ah, FYI, I see that the full text is available online (http://goo.gl/3S3t2). I don’t have time to read it right now, though…
  3. Thanks to a Facebook friend/blog reader, I read a list (http://goo.gl/2Kcde) detailing some of the benefits of turmeric. The list gives only 20 good reasons to add turmeric to our diet (I could find many more than that!), plus it’s a bit dated (i.e., 2007)…lots has happened since 2007, of course…but it’s still quite a decent summary. Ah, there’s a slight (!) mistake in item no. 17: it should be “curcumin,” not “turmeric”! (Let’s not forget that the Indian spice turmeric contains only a small percentage, only between 8 and 9%, of its active ingredient, i.e., curcumin…)

Certaldo

Yesterday Stefano and I had dinner with a couple of friends who live near Casole d’Elsa, which, hmmm, let’s see (what follows is for those who know their way around Tuscany or like to use Google Maps…), is about an hour and 15 minute drive south (slightly west) of Florence OR about a half hour drive south from San Gimignano OR about a 45 minute drive west from Siena. :)

Since we weren’t meeting our friends in Casole d’Elsa until 5 PM, Ste and I decided to drive first to the town of Certaldo, which was not too far from our meeting point. This is the hometown of Giovanni Boccaccio, the famous 14th century Italian author and poet…He wrote the “Decameron,” a title you might recognize even if you aren’t Italian…

Certaldo, like many other Tuscan hilltop towns, is divided into two parts: 1. the medieval walled town perched on top of a hill (= Certaldo Alta, which literally means “high” Certaldo) and 2. the modern and, er, much less attractive town (= Certaldo Bassa, or “low” Certaldo) located at the bottom of the (same) hill. What we did was park in the modern part of Certaldo and reach the hilltop part by cablecar. Now that was fun!

I wanted to mention that the old part of Certaldo was quite heavily damaged in World War II bombings…And one of the hardest hit buildings was Boccaccio’s family home, which, however, was entirely rebuilt in 1947. This rather austere-lbut-not-remarkable-looking terracotta brick building (in fact, we walked right by it without giving it a second glance, at first) is located in the middle of Via Boccaccio, the town’s main drag, named after him, of course…

The 360° views from the Boccaccio family home’s brick tower are magnificent (see photo no. 2, a view over the rooftops of Certaldo Alta). Stefano and I climbed up to the top terrace and were blown away by: 1. the views…goes without saying, and 2. the horrendous, overwhelming heat.

Yesterday, you see, was a particularly bright, sunny but also very hot day…the hottest day so far this year, I think. Taking photographs on top of that tower, under the midday sun, was therefore not pleasant at all…I began thinking that even my eyes were sweating. 😉 But the view was worth it…I just wouldn’t make that climb on midday in July or August…

We also visited the Palazzo Pretorio or Palazzo Vicariale, a beautiful palace that used to be the residence of the governors of Florence and is located in the highest part of Certaldo. Unfortunately, its strikingly picturesque façade, decorated with a variety of ceramic coats of arms, is being restored right now, so I don’t have any photos of it. 

Luckily, another lovely feature of this palace was fully visible: its inner courtyard (photo 3), also decorated with coats of arms and whatnot…AND the views over the surrounding countryside are equally lovely (photo 4, taken through a stained glass window)…

Almost the most enjoyable part about visiting the two towns of Certaldo and Casole d’Elsa yesterday was the complete lack of tourists. The much more famous town of San Gimignano is absolutely gorgeous, no question about that!, and I love to go there…However, at this time of year (well, at ANY time of year!) it is jam-packed with tourists, which is great for the economy but…well…you know!!!

My point is: other, not-so-famous Tuscan hilltop towns may not be as stunning as San Gimignano, but part of their charm and appeal is that they are not as crowded, and the other thing is that you will most likely eat well for a reasonable amount of money (= we had a very nice lunch in Certaldo, in fact…).

Furthermore, in these lesser known towns, you can still come upon groups of town residents sitting right outside their homes or outside the local cafés, gossiping and chatting with friends and neighbors…or working on various projects (watering their plants, knitting, watching their children/grandchildren play and so on…). You can see a bit of that in the first photo, which is a downhill view of Via Boccaccio. On the left, there are four elderly Certaldini sitting outside a café. These men were there when we arrived…and they were there when we left. Still talking and gesturing animately, the way Italians do… :)

By the way, if you look closely at that photo, you will see one side of the Church of Saints Iacopo and Filippo, where Boccaccio is buried (there was a wedding going on at the time, so we didn’t get a chance to visit the inside)…If you look more in the background, the second tower down the street on the right is the one we climbed…

The town of Casole d’Elsa (my photos of Casole begin with the narrow, plant-filled street view, i.e., photo no. 5) is where we finally met up with our friends in the late afternoon. It wasn’t as pretty as Certaldo, for sure, but it was very lively and colorful, and we enjoyed our visit.

The town was bustling with preparations for an upcoming “palio,” which, like the more famous palio held in Siena, is mainly a horse race (of medieval origin). It was fun to walk down the streets of rival contrade, or town wards, and take photos of the differently colored contrade flags waving in the wind…Photo 6 shows two flags from the contrada “Pievalle,” in addition to two Italian flags (celebrating the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification).

Another interesting feature of Casole d’Elsa: its buildings were decorated here and there with ceramic tiles painted by, I suppose, the inhabitants…And some of them were quite good, as you can see (last two photos)…

Just as we were about to leave Casole, clouds appeared out of nowhere, and a sudden downpour gave us an incentive to make a beeline for the car and drive off toward our friends’ house…

AND it also gave us an excuse to stuff ourselves with a yummy, homemade dinner, mamma mia! :)

Curcumin in the news…

When I first began taking curcumin, more than five years ago–in January 2006, to be exact!–there was hardly any information to be had on the active ingredient of the Indian spice turmeric. About a year later, in March 2007, I began blogging about my very positive experience (in so many unexpected ways!) with curcumin…Again, I could not find much information on the marvelous spice extract…

But since then I have noticed a slow but steady increase in the publication of articles and studies on curcumin (oh, of course, I don’t mean to imply that my blog had anything to do with this increase…! 😉 )…

Especially in recent times…

I’m verrrrry pleased, of course. The more articles we have about curcumin (and other non-toxic extracts), the more the amazing healing properties of curcumin cannot be scoffed at and ignored. It’s about time…!

Here are just a few examples of the recent stuff I’ve read.

  1. A Medical News Today article reports on a new University of Michigan study on head and neck cancer and curcumin. In a nutshell, the researchers were able to cut the dose of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin by four by using a new curcumin compound, FLLL32, which also reduced chemoresistance: http://goo.gl/EVvj2 (Oh, there is a slight mistake in the article: the Indian spice is “turmeric,” not “curcumin.”) Amazing, eh?
  2. A Fox News article on natural and safe anti-inflammatory “medicines” mentions curcumin (see the “Hippocrates” paragraph): http://goo.gl/o1tue
  3. Curcumin keeps cancer cells at bay (Live in the Now): http://goo.gl/WjZZp
  4. Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory (article written by Dr. Mercola published in Foodconsumer): http://goo.gl/gzSpT Not so sure about that egg yolk concoction, though…or about the boiling bit. Hmmm…
  5. The New York Times tells us that worms live longer on curcumin: http://goo.gl/SYIcX  :)

And here is a recent Fox News (yeah, I know, I know…) video about curcumin: http://goo.gl/eElHh

I’ll stop here…So much to read, so little time!

“Chronic use of acetaminophen tied to blood cancers”…

Scary headline, eh? Yeah.

But then you read the article, and it’s not such a big deal…that is, unless you are and have been a chronic user of  Tylenol…Even in that case, however, your risk of developing blood cancer is only about 1% a year, compared to healthy folks: http://goo.gl/msUsD In spite of the “exaggerated” headline, though, it’s an interesting article…

Lucky week…green tea/tai chi & bone health…and a dog singing the blues…

My UK blog reader and his family left Florence this morning and are probably back in London by now…Boy, the house seems so empty without them! We really had a glorious time and hope to meet up again soon.

I wanted to tell you about a few of the almost unbelievable strokes of luck that my blog reader (= a professional photographer) had while he was here. For example:

  1. Yesterday we were in San Miniato, a small hilltop town between Florence and Pisa. My friend stopped to take a few photos in one of the town squares, Piazza della Repubblica (= this photo shows part of the colorful façade of a 17th century religious seminary located in Piazza della Repubblica, which you can reach by walking down a flight of stone steps under the enclosed bridge…), while the rest of us walked ahead…down a hill toward what turned out to be a very nice ice cream parlor. :) Within a few minutes he caught up to us and, with a HUGE grin on his face, he told us that, while he was in Piazza della Repubblica taking photos, he had started thinking, “Oooh, wouldn’t it be nice if a nun walked out of the seminary just now?” And, within a few seconds, a nun came out…No kidding…
  2. Very early this morning he drove up to the Piazzale Michelangelo to take a few last-minute photos of Florence. Well, lo and behold, he spotted and photographed a hot air balloon flying right over the city. I mean, HELLO???, a hot air ballooooooon over Florence? Why, I have never EVER seen one here…and so early in the morning, too!!! Unbelievable…unbelievable…
  3. Just before they set off for the airport, my friend and I went for a quick walk in my neighborhood. As we were going up a hill, he stopped and pointed above our heads. I looked up just in time to see a rather big red squirrel running across an electric wire. Now, I have lived in this neighborhood for more than ten years, and this is only the second time (!!!) I’ve seen a red squirrel here…(For the record: Stefano has never seen one…not in our neighborhood, I mean, or elsewhere in Italy, for that matter!)…

There are a few other similar “lucky” episodes, but I can’t recall them right now…Anyway, clearly this was my blog reader’s lucky week! Ours, too…

I haven’t had any time to do research today (ehm, I am desperately trying to catch up with my e-mails in my snippets of free time…), but I did manage to read an interesting Science Daily article on the healthful effects of tai chi & green tea on our BONES. You will be surprised, I think: http://goo.gl/gF5z1 Good stuff! Oh, speaking of which, a quick word of caution: please don’t forget that you should not drink green tea or take any supplements containing EGCG if you are taking Velcade. Or rather, you should avoid green tea/EGCG on your “Velcade day.” At a patient seminar, Dr. Brian Durie told me that it’s okay for green tea aficionados to have a cuppa on their “off-of-Velcade” days.

I also watched a funny video that made me laugh and that I hope you will enjoy, too. It shows a dog singing the blues…: http://goo.gl/gKB8V :)

Val D’Orcia…

This was one of the loveliest weekends that Stefano and I have ever had…Everything was perfect, simply purrrfect.

We’d both forgotten how stunning the Val d’Orcia is…the area around Pienza and Montepulciano…magnifica!

And it’s only a 1.5 hour drive from our home! Funny how that happens…

Stefano and I had to return to Florence last night, but our British friends are still there, exploring other bits of the region located south of Siena. They are coming back to Florence this evening.

Visiting the Val d’Orcia with them was just the icing on the cake…

I really don’t have much to say about any of my photos, except to explain that I took the first two in the ancient village of Monticchiello, about halfway between Montepulciano and Pienza. 

A simply adorable little village covered in roses and other flowers…and very neat and clean. It also didn’t hurt that we had a fantassssstic lunch there! :) Very few tourists, too, which always helps…

 Photo no. 1 shows a view of the square in front of the 12th century Church of San Leonardo e Cristoforo (taken from inside the church) in Monticchiello. Photo no. 2 is just a pretty view of Monticchiello from a side street, with roses and whatnot…

 Photo no. 3 shows a typical Tuscan landscape with rolling green hills (so many different shades of green…simply magnificent…my photos don’t do justice to the beauty of this area, but that is all I have, so it will have to do…), a lone farmhouse and cypress trees…

This particular one was taken very near the ancient, and beautiful!, town of Pienza.

Photo no. 4: a view of Palazzo Massaini, near Pienza…Don’t you just love those poppies???!!!

Photo no. 5…Another view of hills and cypress trees, this time taken from the town walls of Pienza…

Well, I would like to end this picture-post by suggesting that if you’re planning a trip to Tuscany, make sure you visit the Val d’Orcia, too…

Stefano and I were so blown away that we have decided to go back and explore the entire region, especially when the sunflowers begin blooming…I can’t even imagine what it will look like (well, actually I can, since I’ve seen heaps of postcards and calendars filled with Tuscan sunflower fields…but seeing it live must be amazing…)…

 

 

Life is good. No, I take that back…

Life is GREAT!!!

 

 

First time in Florence…

Busy busy BUSY but fun fun FUN days…As I announced in my previous post, I’m spending all my free time these days with some close friends from the UK who have come to pay us a quick visit…

On Wednesday we drove up to Fiesole, a pretty hill town with splendid views of Florence. Not to be missed: Fiesole’s Roman theatre…

Yesterday was totally exhausting. Mamma mia!!! We (minus Stefano, who was at work) walked all over the centre of Florence, from Piazza San Marco to the Duomo (= the cathedral in Florence), then–cutting through tiny side streets in order to avoid the, uhm, madding crowd–down to Piazza della Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio…

After admiring the Arno River from the Ponte Vecchio, we walked to and over the next bridge, Ponte alle Grazie, to get some good shots of Florence’s most famous bridge (see above). From there we visited the church of Santa Croce. AND, of course!, Piazza Santa Croce (=the square in front of the church), which is one of my favorite places on Earth! But I have written about Santa Croce before, so I’ll try not to repeat myself. :) After a quick stop at Vivoli’s for some gelato (=ice cream), we headed back home…and collapsed!

Here are a few random photos, chosen among the ones I took yesterday. As I mentioned, the first is a shot of the Ponte Vecchio taken from the Ponte alle Grazie.

Then we have a side view of the Fountain of Neptune, located in Piazza della Signoria. If you look at it closely, you will catch a glimpse, in the distance, of the very top of the famous dome of the cathedral in Florence.

Speaking of Piazza della Signoria…When we first stepped into the square, emerging into blinding brightness from one of the dark, narrow side streets, we noticed that it was quite crowded…including quite a number of policemen and secret service-looking guys…

I asked a policeman what was going on…He told me that the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, was inside the Palazzo Vecchio (= the town hall of Florence, among other things) and was about to come out. Wow!

So we stayed in the square long enough to get a photo of President Napolitano, here shown walking and chatting with, on the left, Rosy Bindi (President of the Italian Democratic Party and Vice President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies) and, on the right, a rather worried-looking Matteo Renzi, Mayor of Florence…

Photo number 4 shows Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus, holding the severed head of Medusa…This is one of the many statues located inside the Loggia dei Lanzi, = a 14th century “arched” open building on a corner of the Piazza della Signoria.

This morning, while Stefano and I went to work, our friends headed off to the stunning Val d’Orcia region, which is more or less south of the city of Siena. Stefano and I are going to join up with them tomorrow.

It should be great fun…I just hope that this glorious, not-too-hot weather holds up and that my photos of typical Tuscan landscapes, with rolling hills and cypresses and whatnot, will turn out well!!!