Private Tea with Mussolini's Florence and San Gimignano
Tea with Mussolini Private Florence Tour
Described as "Glorious to the eye and the spirit," Zeffirelli's world-famous movie "Tea with Mussolini" is a splendid reflection of yesteryear Florence and San Gimignano, weaving together the textures of Italy, its art and culture, with the complexities of the British Tea society.
After meeting your Livorno excursion driver at the pier, you will set off on the 90-minute drive to Florence. Upon arrival in Florence, you will drive by the English Cemetery. Philosophers, artists and writers are buried here. In the movie, a procession winds its way up through the Victorian statuary towards the tomb of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
You will then continue into town where you will meet your professionally trained local guide, and begin your guided tour of the center from the Ospedale degli Innocenti, Europe's oldest foundling hospital. Opened in 1445, it is still going strong as a convent orphanage, though times have changed a bit. The Lazy Susan, where Luca Innocenti, the protagonist of the movie, is placed after his mother dies, has since been blocked up. Filippo Brunelleschi designed the colonnaded portico (built 1419-26) when he was still an active goldsmith. It was his first great achievement as an architect and helped define the new Renaissance style he was developing.
Next on your Livorno excursion, walk to the Florence Duomo, dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore and typical of Italian Gothic architecture. Brunelleschi, who actually built it using remarkable technical knowledge to achieve the uniquely beautiful results we see today, designed the dome.
From here, visit the Piazza della Signoria, which has been the political heart of the city from the Middle Ages to the present day. Close to the Piazza della Signoria you will visit the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge, which crosses the Arno at its widest point. It dates back to Roman times and has often been re-built. After the flooding of 1333 it was re-constructed with a double row of shops.
The Uffizi Gallery, where the ladies in the movie used to take their afternoon tea, is one of the world's great museums, and the single best introduction to Renaissance painting, with works by Giotto, Masaccio, Paolo Uccello, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, Michelangelo, Raphael Sanzio, Titian, Caravaggio, and the list goes on. Free time will then be taken for a light lunch on your own, before traveling on to San Gimignano.
San Gimignano is by far the most popular Tuscan hill town. At the top of Via San Giovanni is the center of town, formed by two interlocking triangular piazze: Piazza della Cisterna, centered around a 1237 well, and Piazza del Duomo, flanked by the city's main church and civic palace. The tall Medieval towers, guarding both spaces, have made San Gimignano, "city of the beautiful towers," the poster child for Italian hill towns everywhere. No one can agree how many stone skyscrapers remain in this "Medieval Manhattan" - so many have been chopped down it's difficult to determine whether they're still officially towers or merely tall skinny houses - but the official tower count the tourist office gives is 14. There were at one time somewhere between 70 and 76 of the structures spiking the sky above this little village. The spires started rising in the 1200s during the village's good times. Several successive waves of the plague, the last one in 1631, caused the economy (based on textiles and hosting passing pilgrims) to crumble, and San Gimignano became a provincial backwater before being regenerated by tourism in the last 100 years.
Here you will meet your professionally trained local guide and visit the famous Collegiata Church, which appears in the movie. Against the threat of bombs going off in the outskirts of San Gimignano, Georgie and Arabella anxiously protect the precious St. Fina frescoes using piles of sandbags. You will have free time to wander, enjoy a coffee or gelato before the 90-minute drive back to Livorno.