Italy 2018 Pt. 3

Our last few days in Italy were spent in such beautiful cities, and the time we spent at home was even more sweet than I remembered it to be. My favorite kinds of moments are the ones that you already know, right now, are forever memories. Most afternoons at the pool at La Casa feel like that. I keep capitalizing that because it's the name of the farmhouse on this property, that's been converted, I think in partnership with the hotel. La Casa was one of the first buildings on the property to get restored, and its design is so sweet and true to Italian country homes, while still being so modern and comfortable. 

Pizza night is special, aside from the rivalry for best pizza, because the pizza oven is on premises, and the grocery store trips to stock up on toppings are always such sweet peeks into the lives of the people who actually live here. We spent more time at the pool before, and basically had a pizza feast that night. I also love that we do this because there's almost always a guarantee of pizza leftovers to hold you over. 

Volterra, all walled up and perfectly meandering, gifted us with such beautiful weather. I don't personally have an issue with motion sickness, and even I can feel the pain of others in my group who do, when we go to Volterra. The roads are winding, you climb hills and descend them again. The city is a true reward after the trek, but be prepared for winding roads, and if you're on a bike, well bless your heart, godspeed on those hills. There's a cafe right inside town where Sam and I always stop, I believe it's the Enjoi Cafe. The area is known for its alabaster and olive wood, so the shopping in Volterra is especially good, and I often buy my gifts and souvenirs here. The restaurant we love in Volterra is Del Duca and I recommend if you eat at all in Volterra, it be here. The staff is so kind, and the kitchen staff is equally amazing. Between the different visits and taste trades among the family, I've probably tried everything on the menu, and all of it is made so impeccably, and tastes incredible.

The next day we did Siena! I always love Siena but this year there was something about the breeze and the smaller crowds, I think this was my favorite day this year, and I wasn't the only one in the family who felt that way. It might have had to do with Il Palio having just ended, maybe the city was relieved. The streets had been swept, and many of the thousands of people who flood into the city every year for the races seemed to have already left. It was Siena, but it felt small and sweet and quiet. 
Another favorite restaurant we got to return to was Osteria da Divo, and I couldn't recommend it enough. It's in a historic, mostly unaltered cave, and the tables are staged on the many descending levels. There's a deeper cave at the bottom, used to store aging wines and delicious cheese wheels. The meals are cozy, but never let the unassuming nature of the restaurants and their staff ever fool you, anywhere in Italy. You're likely about to sit down to the best food you've ever tasted. 

After another home day, everyone else went home! Sam and I had one more day, which we spent in Florence. One of our favorite old haunts, a little mall off the Piazza della Republica, ended up having a rooftop terrace that we'd never been up to before! We spent time there, and then went to another garden terrace hidden down an alley in the shopping district. I'll have to find a way to track down information for it, as it seemed really informal, but if you're going, I can give you directions from Piazza della Republica. 

I feel like I still rushed through covering Italy, but now that I've laid down a lot of information about many of the favorite places we go to often, I can start covering more wineries and experiences individually. As always, I am happy to answer any questions about my own trips, or help you figure out your own. Happy travels!

Italy 2018 Pt. 2

Fonterutoli! We toured the winery and facilities of Castello di Fonterutoli, the history of which is definitely worth learning about. What I love most about wineries in Italy, wineries like this one, is that so many of them are running on property that was developed hundreds of years ago, in restored villages, monasteries, and farming communities.

The big open plaza has covered valves that are opened during harvest. The vats are brought over the openings, which connect to wine vats underground. The barrels shown at the lowest level of the caves are where the wine is aged. The natural spring and cave wall is the back wall of that lowest level; it was built that way to naturally regulate the temperature and preserve the natural springs found during building. 

After the tour and wine tasting, we had lunch at the estate's restaurant, and it was a garden dream. 

The winery tour was our outing for the day, so when we went home to La Casa we had a pool day and dinner up at the terrace. I'm currently in grad school at National University, so the last picture is just my homework selfie while everyone else had dinner. 

The next day was Pisa! I had  never been before and I was so excited! It was a sweet simple day; we walked the Square of Miracles and took our Pisa pictures. The shops and cafes on the side streets off the square were so busy, and there's a cruise port in a nearby city that offers tours into Pisa, so it likely stayed busy throughout the summer despite the heat. The cathedral and tower tours are supposed to be incredible, but I was on a mission for water when my family went into the cathedral and I honestly gave up after I saw the ticket line. I wasn't going in the tower anyway, because it leaned! And I have a heights thing, so I kept my feet happily on the ground. After we all split up and explored the area for a few hours, we met for lunch at La Taverna di Emma, which was delicious and fresh. The server was so kind and hospitable, and she actually ended up being one of the owners! After she helped us order and we ate SO MUCH of their amazing pastas, she invited us to the kitchen they have next door, and introduced us to her husband, the other owner. Emma is their daughter. I gasped and aw-ed enough for all of us, don't fret. Their hospitality was as sweet as their story, and it was a true joy being taken over to see where they preserve all their meats and make their pastas and breads. Go visit them if you can, all the info is on their TripAdvisor linked above!

We still got home from Pisa with enough time to get in the pool! My amazing bathing suit is from Rue 107, a size inclusive, ethically made clothing line I absolutely love and secretly horde. Completely unrelated, maybe, but I get asked a lot about my bathing suits, so the link I've included to their site is also my referral link. You get 20% off, and so do I! For future reference I'll add this link to my About Me section as well. 

After Pisa we went to San Gimignano. We come here every year, I'm pretty sure it's everyone's favorite, it never gets old, and it never stops surprising you. Before entering the ancient fortress walls we went into an incredible leather shop just to the right of the gates, Namsce Bazar. The man there was a character out of such a romantic book! The pictures in his shop were all of his family, of him leather working in different decades of his career. I watched him hand press his logo into the leather after adjusting the sizes of the belts we bought; I was so taken that I asked if I could record him working, you can find it on my IGTV

We always eat at the same place for lunch, Ristorante Belsoggiorno. There are no words to describe the view from their dining area and their food is incredible. Not to mention, the staff are so kind! There's such a sweet charm to seeing familiar faces in a place that's not technically familiar. 

 

Next week I'll finish up our trip, including pizza night, Volterra, Siena, and Florence. I strongly encourage you to look into the reviews of the places I'm sharing. The experiences are unique, unforgettable. There is a romanticism written into the bones of people like me, it thrills me and breaks my heart so often in Italy. It's never the same experience, even when many of the places stay the same. There are many places I didn't have the space to include, so please don't hesitate to ask me for recommendations. I'm fairly familiar with most of the Tuscan region and would be happy to learn with you about the places I'm not familiar with. Happy travels!  

Italy 2018, Pt 1

We are home at last, after ten days in some of our favorite Italian cities. I started going to Italy with my husband and his family several years ago, but the charm never wears. There are some favorite photos on my Instagram, but here I wanted to go more into what each day was like, the towns I love, and the traditions Sam and I have built. 

 

First up, we have our first two days in Tuscany. I love landing in Florence because many cities that are beautiful still aren’t beautiful to land into. Florence from the sky is charming, and it warms me every time knowing that the charm is true, that the city waiting for you is filled with so much to see.

The room pictured is the upstairs of the villa at Caselllo di Casole. Out the window you can see the newly built hotel on the hill. It was a few years ago, maybe four, but it still feels so new every time I go up (The facilities and views are unbelievable).

Pool days are probably all of our favorite thing about La Casa. The first day we usually reserve to stay home and take full advantage and adjust to the time difference, but I’m pretty sure we’d all stay home the whole trip given the chance! 

Sam and I are sitting outside of  Osteria del Caffè Casolani, the gem of Casole d’Elsa. Every night Lani cooks an incredible four course meal, and any night you come, the meal she made is the meal you eat. Lani’s family helps run the restaurant, and as you sit and watch the small town close up shop and come out to play, it becomes harder and harder to leave. You linger for gelato, you watch the local children run up and down the narrow streets. Walking back to our car from Casole d’Elsa was the first time I saw fire flies. Considering the fairy tale charm of the place, the magic of it was not lost on me.

Come back tomorrow for our next few days in Fonterutoli, Pisa, and San Gimignano!