Saturday, July 23, 2016

Fun in Florence

Over the last few days we spent time exploring Florence and the surrounding countryside. Our group took a guided city center tour and visited a local olive oil production and processing operation. In our free time we wondered the narrow streets by foot or electric bike sampling the local cafes and restaurants, exploring museums, cathedrals and other notable sites, and using bargaining skills to purchase a perfect leather piece. 
We had another memorable group dinner our first evening in Florence. At one point during the
meal each of the ladies in the group received a rose compliments of Glen Davis. Here
are a few snap shots of a few of these beautiful women with Mr. Davis. 

The Ponte Vecchio, a walking bridge lined with shops.

A replica of the Statue of David in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (aka The Old Palace), which is now the 
town hall.  This is one of two replicas of the Statue of David in Florence in addition to the original.
The olive operation tour and tasting proved to be a group favorite. We were not able to see the actual processing since harvest happens in November and December and it is important to process the olives as close to harvest as possible. Although the olives are still handpicked today much like in 1585 when the first olive oil was produced, the rest of the process is now mechanized. We learned about both the modern and historical way to process the olives. 
Olive orchards like this one can be seen all over the country side.
At this point in the season the olives are still green. Harvest takes place in November and December.
Prior to mechanization, the olives were place on this large plate and then crushed, pit and all, to form a thick paste.  The workers at the time must have had some interesting conversations walking in circles all day to crush the olives.
Next, the paste was layered on filter after filter stacking them one on top of the other until the stack was quite high. Then the stack was pressed to squeeze the oil from the pits and another residue. The filters would catch the pits. In times past, the olive oil was then left to sit until any water in the oil separated leaving the final product. 
These pellets, called pomace, are what is left of the pit at the end of the processing.
The pomace can be burned as oil residue still remains.
We have taken photo after photo of this statue and that painting or that sculpture...They are so numerous in the city of Florence, it is tough to keep them all straight. We have learned how to tell the difference between a building from the Mid-Evil and Renaissance times periods by how they look at the top. We learned that Pinicchio was written in Florence and people who were executed at the jail were then hung from the outside wall to be made an example to the public. The main reason for this was people could not read so instead they had to be shown what would happen to them when they broke the law.

Construction crew you ask? No, this was the electric bike tour. We spent two and half hours seeing some sites we had not gotten to on foot. This view above the city center was one of them. We had a couple from Holland with us who didn't wear their orange vests. They may have blended a bit better with the locals.
Just a short bike ride and we were up in the hills surrounding
Florence and had a beautiful view of the countryside.
I leave you with some photos of the cathedral, The San Giovanni, the third largest in the world. It is truly stunning!