Tuscany 2015

Wink and I took a MIT sponsored trip to Tuscany for a week. It was an introduction to the history, architecture, culture, food, wine, and people of Tuscany. We were quartered at the Pallazzo San Lorennzo in Colle di Val d’Elsa in central Tuscany. We flew Lufthansa from Boston to Frankfort  from Thursday night arriving in Frankfort at 5:30 AM local. Had to go through customs and get our passports stamped prior to getting to the Florence gate. Once at the gate we were bussed to a little plane about half a mile from the terminal. It was a short hop over the Alps to get to Florence Airport. Of course to make it easy for us the Italians call Florence, Firenze. We were met by a taxi/bus and transported to our hotel, got checked in, and got started on our adventure.

New Gate – Colle di Val d’Elsa

Italy is steeped in history. This town was originally settled by the Etruscans and taken over by the Romans. In many places the Etruscan walls still stand and were enhanced by the Romans. In the middle ages the towns were expanded and the Roman walls were insufficient to withstand cannons and so had to be considerably reinforced. So this is Wink in front of the ‘new’ gate dating back to around the 14th century. So anything ‘new’ is simply something that postdates the original, regardless of the time spans involved.

Accommodations - Pallazzo San Lorennzo

Our Room


The hotel was very comfortable. It had a small patio that overlooked an alley. There were a significant number of pigeons that called the tile roofs home. They would scatter when we opened the doors to the patio. The bathroom was luxurious once we figured out how to use it. It had dual sinks, toilet, bidet and whirlpool tub/shower. We stayed in this hotel the whole trip and took day trips to other locations in Tuscany. In each location, there was more than one could do and as such this trip was simply a nice introduction to Tuscany. There was a breakfast lounge, a restaurant and a bar in the hotel. We got our history lectures in a conference room. Breakfast was at 7:30 and was inclusive.

Colle di Val d’Elsa

We were among the first to arrive. Our first organized activity was a walking tour of the town in the evening. We went and got some lunch and went on a stroll and then settled down for a nap. We ended up napping longer than we intended. We were a little jet lagged and it persisted a little into the trip.

The town itself is divided into two parts; one the old fortified town at the top of the hill and the modern part along the river. We were staying in the fortified part at the top of the ridge. The roads are cobblestone and narrow. Sometimes there are sidewalks and sometimes not. There was not much parking in the old town and access was limited. It was easy to discern that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

New Gate – Porto Nova from the inside

Walking Tour

Bread Shop

Wine Shop (Yes you could get a glass to taste J)


Church Tower

Apparently during the early middle ages there were quite a few family towers that eclipsed the church tower. These were for family protection. Eventually they fell out of favor as they became targets for cannon. The church also had an edict that the tallest tower in town should be the churches.

Civic Building note crest

Medici Crest

The history of Tuscany was closely related to the fortunes of the Medici. It was an intricate web that was woven and closely connected to the birth of the Renaissance.

Alley to an exterior wall

Approach to the old gate

Medici crest

Alley to exterior wall

Original Gate into old town

Built on a hill

New Town-Colle Bassa

Walls on the hills

After the walk about town we all gathered for dinner. Had a chance to meet the M.I.T. alumnae who were all distinguished and lots of fun.

Mark and Wink