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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
Both wineries had a bunch of wine at various stages of the process.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were many masterpieces throughout the museum such as this one by Leonardo da Vinci.
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.
The ceilings of the place were maybe my favorite part of the Uffizi.
Some of the artwork is just stunning. There are some huge paintings in the museum.
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.
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.
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.
We got back to the villa and went for a stroll around. The fields of wheat and sunflower are beautiful to walk past.
On the final day before we left we went to another small town of Citta Della Pieve. It was scenic and beautiful.
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.
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.