Robinson O'Brien-Bours is spending his last semester as an undergraduate in Florence, once the home of Amerigo Vespucci, Boticelli, Raphael, Dante, Medicis, Machievelli, et al. I envy him for his youth, his good mind, and this experience. I was in Florence a couple of times in my youth, saw the noble David, drank red wine on the Ponte Vecchio in the middle of the night, looked at beauty, and tried to heed my father's advice, (I paraphrase) "Take heed of the girls in Italy, for our language does not have the words to deny if they demand." Robinson blogs at Life, Liberty, and the Times. You might want to have a look. He wrote me a good note, and long. I'll just lift a paragraph from it:
I attend class Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. My final class of the week is on Wednesday night; Wine and Culture- The Wines of Italy. It is a fascinating class where we move beyond the mere drinking of wine to learning about it. We are learning how to taste, smell, view, and feel wine as we drink it, to determine excellent from average. We learn of the different grape appellations and specialties of the various Italian wine regions. It really is a fantastic art. The week before last I went to a vineyard in the Tuscan countryside, about a 40 minute bus rid from Florence. The owner of the vineyard, a nobleman whose family has owned the property for two centuries now, gave our small group a tour of his property, and walked us through how he produces his wine. When someone asked which wine was his favorite, his response was, tellingly, "That is like asking me which of my children is my favorite. I love them all." This trip also had a particular treat to it as the property is home to a villa that Machiavelli's family owned for some time and where the famed theorist spent a part of his exile. "This is special to me I had my wedding here," said the owner, married to a former model from New York, referencing the villa's courtyard. "It's declared a national heritage site so the government comes by occasionally to make sure we're taking care of it."
Here is a photo he sent of the Duomo from atop the Gioto Bell Tower.