Day 10 in Italy (4th day with the tour group):
We take a vaporetto to the north end of Venice where we catch our tour bus to Florence....Maybe it was to accommodate the older members of the tour, but within 2 hours of our bus ride, we make a stop at an Autogrill. The Autogrill is pretty cool. It's essentially a roadside diner (with a large espresso bar and minimart) that straddles over the highway. Go out the wrong exit and you're on the wrong side of the highway.
For being a diner along the highway, the food is really good. On the top-floor restaurant area, we had some pasta, risotto, and a Parmeggiano-Reggiano and proscuitto plate. It was definitely a better roadside dining experience than in the US, although it set us back about $27 US Dollars...Then on the lower floor espresso bar, Brooke ordered a hot chocolate. This is what she received, hot chocolate pudding with a spoon....When we arrived in Florence, we dropped off our luggage and headed straight out by ourselves to the Church of Santa Maria Novella. We went to see Masaccio's "Holy Trinity". In the late afternoon, we met back up with the tour group for a "Renaissance Walk". The walk took us past the Florence Duomo, Piazza San Lorenzo, Piazza della Repubblica, Orsanmichele Church, and the Piazza della Signoria. From the walk, we got a nice overview of the city and the sights, but we didn't actually go inside any of them until the next couple of days. Along the walk, we also learned about Renaissance life, including the power and influence of the Medici family.
San Lorenzo Basilica....Florence Duomo, baptistery, and campanile....Orsanmichele Church....Brooke at Piazza della Signoria....Again, walking past the Florence Duomo....We finished our night with a group dinner at Ristorante Giglio Rosso. This was one of the best meals we had in Italy. Brooke's favorite dish was the ribollita, a hearty Tuscan soup.