September 21, 2014 – L.T.E. in the Amery Free Press
In early 2014 Amery Free Press wrote a piece on Tuscany Tours and Wineries run by John and Gayle McKay of rural Amery. My wife and I participated in the inaugural tour to Tuscany in early September 2014; we highly recommend this tour. John and Gayle McKay were wonderful guides and customized the tour to our desires.
We experienced many facets of Italy: the History of Rome, the Beauty of Florence and the Romance of Venice and so much more. Our tour in Rome included the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon.
In Carrara we had an exciting ride up the marble mountains where ancient Romans quarried white Carrara marble (the source of the marble Michelangelo used to sculpt David) and watched the modern day process of quarrying the marble.
We spent an afternoon exploring the preserved medieval city of Lucca surrounded by 50 ft. walls. In Pisa we toured the Basilica and Baptistry and climbed to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa where we were rewarded with glorious views.
Cinque Terre is a national park with strenuous hiking trails and beautiful vistas of the picturesque villages, terraced vineyards and the sea. Three days in local villas gave us a taste of the Italian life as we “picked eggs” for our breakfast, hung our laundry outside the Italian way and enjoyed a multi-course meal prepared for us by local couple in their home.
Angelo’s Boat Tour included views from the coastline, a seafood feast for lunch and a swimming under waterfalls into the Mediterranean. After a day of hiking the mountain trails between the villages and exploring the villages we were treated to another multi-course dinner prepared by Dina. Next stop, Tirrenia on the Italian Riviera for beach time.
On our way to Florence we visited Vinci, the birthplace of Leonardo Da Vinci, and the museum which contains models of many of his inventions and then wine tasting and lunch at Villa Daniella, the former hunting lodge of the Medici family from Florence. Other stops included the hill city of San Gimignano with its many medieval towers and Volterra, a medieval walled city rich in Etruscan history, where we visited an alabaster workshop.
The beauty of Florence is amazing with the Ponte Vecchio, Duomo, Piazza Signora and the Accademia with Michelangelo’s sculpture of David, Uffizi Art Museum, Mercato Centrale, San Lorenzo market, Santa Maria Novella Perfumery, Pitti Palace/Boboli Gardens. We got to experience Italian driving first hand as we rode electric bicycles up the hills overlooking Florence and the Arno River.
The romance of Venice was enhanced by our accommodations on the Grand Canal. We were serenaded on an evening Gondola ride followed by dinner on a quiet canal near St. Mark’s square.
We enjoyed strolling the streets, riding on the canals to explore Rialto market, St. Mark’s and Doges Palace, Murano Island glassblowers and Burano Island lace making. We ended our Italian tour with an 8 piece stringed instrument concert of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” in Venice.
Congratulations to John and Gayle McKay on your new business and thank you for a memorable trip.
Alan and Elise Walker