In a villa sipping vino

I’ve been so busy traveling around that I haven’t had time to update until now. In the last week I’ve been immersed in the Italian countryside. Sienna was a great city. Like all of Italy, it has great coffee. I’m definitely going to miss the coffee when I leave Italy. The espressos are my favorite but some of the more elaborate coffees are good too.

Italian cafes are delightful
Italian cafes are delightful

The city was getting ready for its famous horse racing festival, which is held twice a year. During the race horses run around the city down to the city center. Everyone in Sienna was very festive while we were there, two days before the event. The different supporters were singing their songs and parading around the city, wearing the colors of their horse.

Sienna was a party
Sienna was a party

The food in Sienna was excellent. We had the best cheese platter of the trip with many different types of cheeses. The local wild boar on the menu was great both as a stew and as a steak. The lasagna was entirely made from scratch and tasted fresh and flavorful.

Cheese platter in Sienna
Cheese platter in Sienna

Sienna, like many of the towns around here has huge churches all over the place. Italy seems to be a pretty religious country, both historically and currently. The detail and construction of the churches here are immense. Building a church like this in the present day would cost billions of dollars if you could even find enough craftsmen to do all the stone/metal/wood work.

Churches all over
Churches all over

The night after Sienna was spent back at the villa with the family. I was messing around with some night photography and caught a shooting star on camera. It’s not the best shot of the group but it’s obligatorily included due to the shooting star.

Villa Serena under the night sky
Villa Serena under the night sky

The next day we spent in Assisi. Assisi is a nice town. Like many of the towns in the area there are shops, restaurants, cafes, gelato stores, and beautiful things to see. The people of Italy were very friendly and Assisi was no exception. Assisi seems to have more ornate churches per such a small area than anywhere else. Most famous is the church where Saint Francis of Assisi’s tomb is. There were no photographs of the church or tomb allowed and I respected it. If you want to see either just head over to Google. The church is gorgeous and the tomb is hard to grasp. Italy has so much history all over and it’s just amazing to see the tomb of such a historical figure from almost a thousand years ago.

Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

After we got out of the church we strolled around the town. There was a pretty sweet car parked outside of the church and I grabbed a picture.

Whippin like Gatsby
Whippin like Gatsby

We grabbed lunch and looked out for some desert in the town. I was tempted by massive meringues, which are the size of your head but settled on a smaller size, which tasted great. I love the sweets and dessert stores that they have all over the place. The quality of the treats is great.

Pick a treat, any treat
Pick a treat, any treat

Like many of the towns, Assisi is picture perfect. The towns really shoot themselves. It would be hard to mess up taking great pictures of these places.

Assisi is gorgeous
Assisi is gorgeous

Here’s a shot of most of the crew minus one aunt and uncle set. It was a little hard to get all 13 people in one place at the same time throughout the trip but when we were all together it was a great time. We kept each other laughing and lifted spirits when the frustrations of travel crept in. I’ll definitely miss everyone when it’s just my lady and I traveling around.

Most of the fam
Most of the fam

After Assisi some of us went off to Castiglione del Lago. It’s a great little town with a castle, which was fun to explore. There are great views of the lake and mountains throughout the town. There’s even a place that sells homemade local craft beers, which was a nice surprise for an Italian town where you normally order beer not by brand but by asking for a “beer”.

Top of the fort at Castiglione del Lago
Top of the fort at Castiglione del Lago

The delicious food that we were eating in the towns and countryside made its way into the villa’s dishes. On some nights people would cook for dinner. The night after Castiglione del Lago was finished off with a penne with vodka sauce. We had an assortment of classic Italian appetizers.

Inspired by local product
Inspired by local product

The next day we went on a wine tour of two wineries in Tuscany. It was nice to see the fields up close and watch the wine process from start to finish. The vineyards were beautiful.

Vineyards in Tuscany
Vineyards in Tuscany

Both wineries had a bunch of wine at various stages of the process.

A whole bunch of wine
A whole bunch of wine

The first winery had some dried meats, cheeses and breads to pair with the wines. I had my USA jersey on at this winery and met a young kid with a Belgium jersey on. He was giving me dirty looks but eventually we got to talking about the game. Him and his family were great people. We wished each other luck for the game. Unfortunately the luck would be on the side of the Belgians and the US would be knocked out of the World Cup later that night.

Wine tasting
Wine tasting

The second winery came with a full lunch tasting menu. This winery had some great food. It was all prepared on site by the cooking school that’s at the winery. Everything was made with fresh ingredients that were either from the winery or in the local area.

Menu for wine pairing
Menu for wine pairing

We got back to the villa and hung out with everyone. We caught the sunset, which was as gorgeous as any of the nights at the villa.

View from the villa
View from the villa

We had another dish that was cooked up at the villa, which was a tremendous shrimp, mussel, and clam pasta. It was excellent. I didn’t expect the clams to be anything special but they were incredibly flavorful. The mussels were nice and fresh and the shrimp were good as well. I just loved eating at the villa because the food was inspired by the local product and it was hard to differentiate the dishes from what we were eating out in the towns. The night was spent cheering on the US soccer team, even thought they couldn’t get through to the next round.

Cooked at the villa
Cooked at the villa

We woke up early the next day to catch a train to Florence. Florence is gorgeous. It’s a great city and has some great shops. All of the big Italian brands are present as well as many Italian leather stores.

Florence is gorgeous
Florence is gorgeous

We went to the Uffizi Museum to see some amazing artwork. The Uffizi has many great pieces of art. I especially loved all of the painted ceilings. I thought they were excellent.

Ceilings at the Uffizi Gallery
Ceilings at the Uffizi Gallery

There were many masterpieces throughout the museum such as this one by Leonardo da Vinci.

Leonardo da Vinci at the Uffizi
Leonardo da Vinci at the Uffizi

The statues at the museum are some of the best in the world. I wish I was able to appreciate them more but statues to me are a little repetitive and don’t evoke too much emotion. It’s a little annoying because a tremendous amount of work and skill went into the piece and I just can’t proportionally admire it.

Statues at the Uffizi
Statues at the Uffizi

The ceilings of the place were maybe my favorite part of the Uffizi.

I love these ceilings
I love these ceilings

Some of the artwork is just stunning. There are some huge paintings in the museum.

This painting was enormous
This painting was enormous

After we got back from Florence we stopped at a local restaurant, which had delicious homemade food. The gnocchi was excellent and I grabbed a cuttlefish dish which seemed to appear on several of the menus in the area. The cuttlefish was pretty excellent and I would get it again.

The next day we ventured off to Cortona.

Cortona was a nice little town
Cortona was a nice little town

It was a small town in the country that had very excellent food. I went for quail eggs with truffles and a duck dish, both of which were excellent. We spent the day strolling around and taking in the views.

Taking in the sights
Taking in the sights

The vistas from Cortona were great like many of the hillside towns in Italy. The contrast in colors from up top is excellent. A lot of times the views that you see are like a painting.

The views are tremendous
The views are tremendous

We got back to the villa and went for a stroll around. The fields of wheat and sunflower are beautiful to walk past.

Sunflower fields in Umbria
Sunflower fields in Umbria

On the final day before we left we went to another small town of Citta Della Pieve. It was scenic and beautiful.

Picturesque town
Picturesque town

As with all of the other places we went to the food was incredible. I got a liver pate, which was the best dish that I had on the whole trip.

Liver pate was the best dish
Liver pate was the best dish

After strolling around Citta Della Pieve we went to Castiglione del Lago again for one final dinner before heading back to the villa. We said our goodbyes to the family who all had to be up early for flights back home and ventured off to bed for the night.

For the next two and a half weeks it will be my lady and I traveling around France, Spain, and Switzerland. I’m sad to say goodbye to everyone and to Italy but very excited for what the rest of the trip has in store.

Ciao!

4 thoughts on “In a villa sipping vino”

  1. Joe, great update! I could almost taste the food and as always appreciate the art photos – keep the photos of the oil paintings coming. Things are good at home too – lobsters are $5.99 a pound at Shop Rite and there are big fluke feeding in the wash. Striped Bass have slowed last few days in the surf but they should turn back on any day. Last week was very good both for raking crabs and for catching bass.

  2. Hey Brother! Wow, looks awesome! Great pictures, some look like they are not even real 🙂 The Villa really reminds me of my house in Magnolia…super views and setting! I am so jealous of all the local cuisine you are enjoying…why can’t America be like that…we need to push more locally sourced products in our restaurants! Try to grab me a few equestrian photos with your camera…you may see some in France…aot of high end saddles are made in France, ie Hermes, Devoucoux, Butet are a few, would love for you to bring me one back as a souvenir but they are in the thousands 🙂 You may also see in France, actual horse meat on the menus in local restaurants or butcher shops , sold usually as cheval or chevaline. Don’t worry, I won’t be mad if you try some, I know you are on vacation and trying different cuisine. I am really proud of you for following your travelling dreams…I hope to one day make it over to visit Europe and when I do I hope you can be my travel guide! I love you and miss you so much!!! XOXO!

  3. Hi Joe,
    Grandmas are over to see your pictures and update. They loved to hear about your travels and reminisced about the places which they visited. We are sending hugs and kisses to you and Megan. Enjoy the rest of your trip. We miss you. Love you

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