North America, Europe · 12 Days · 19 Moments · October 2017

Heather and Natasha’s Italy trip

26 October 2017

25 October 2017

Our second day in Florence was filled with more exploring, more shopping (we definitely 100% needed those awesome leather boots and fancy leather jackets), more art viewing, and trying some local flare in food. The city smells a little of rusty old horses and Porta toilets, but has a lot of charm. There’s little markets selling delicious pastries and wine by the bottle you can drink in the street. We continued to try to avoid the most crowded areas, but that was hard to do. We ate too much, walked many miles, and had too much wine. It was fantastic.
The graffiti in Florence I found particularly interesting. It ranged from artful to clever, to damn right old! We found L’importuno di Michelangelo in the Palazzo Vecchio. Originally thought to be a quick etching by the famous artist himself. But there’s a few stories of why or who it may be carved into the ancient walls....we also witnessed amazing street art, and tasteful plays on famous paintings splayed about the city.
Bums! The most artful cheeky bums of course.

24 October 2017

Florence! We finally got rid of the car (I forgot to mention, we accidentally ended up driving INSIDE walled Lucca. You can’t always trust google maps..) so we were ready to be car free for a few days. Florence was overwhelming in some aspects, but perfectly navigational and easily explored, as long is you don’t do ALL the museums. We got gelato, for 20€. It wasn’t really worth that..but it was decent. We also ate our first dinner at Antico Fattore to enjoy some Florentine influenced wine and food. There was plenty of shopping, avoiding aggressive street merchants, avoiding the huge tourist groups, trying not to punch annoying people in the face, waiting in lines, and appreciating the renaissance art and sculptures. David was amazing. But we decided his hands are disproportionate to the rest of him. By a lot. We also took a lot of bum pictures.

23 October 2017

Beautiful Tuscany. We drove a little over an hour to visit two walled cities. Volterra with rich medieval influences and a bell tower with expansive views and the remains of the Etruscan Acropolis. It was a delightful little city and we explored everything we could. The wine bar we found had bras hanging everywhere. I made sure it wasn’t a requirement to hand over our bras before we got any wine...we tasted amazing wines though, despite the odd atmosphere. We then drove to San Gimignano. Another 13th Century walled city lined with medieval houses and towers. We enjoyed a cappuccino and snacks with more exploring before heading back to our little farmhouse. We were a bit under adventurous with our wine tasting aggressiveness. We thought we’d be able to just drive to vineyards like in California. But where we were we couldn’t really find any. But don’t worry, we still had PLENTY of wine during our stay in Tuscany. The views and atmosphere is something we both loved. We’ll go back someday

22 October 2017

After leaving La Spezia and heading toward Tuscany, we decided to stop at Portovenere on recommendations of our Airbnb host, and the fab Rick Stevens (big fan, his books are pretty spectacular for traveling). Right on the water and a bit windy, there were shops, restaurants and old stone churches and castles to explore. Although not very big, we were able to spend a few hours here. We walked, ate, (fried fish was literally the entire fish slapped on a grill and served straight up). I didn’t think I liked crispy fish skin, but turns out I kinda do. Then back in our little muskrat car and onto beautiful Tuscany. We were welcomed to an old farmhouse by an enthusiastic Italian man, who spoke no English whatsoever. We communicated with had gestures. They gave us fresh eggs, wine, and later invited us to join them for dinner. No one but the daughter spoke English. Our first real Italian experience! We ate, drank more wine than we planned, and slept like the dead later. It was amazing!

21 October 2017

Cinque Terre was everything we hoped it would be. Deciding to take the train from La Spezia, conveniently located near our Airbnb, we decided to head first to Monterosso al Mare and hike between the 5 towns as much as we could. From there we hike up, and up, and up and over and around and down, down, and down again to Vernazza, where we stopped to enjoy a seafood lunch and some wine. Vernazza to Corniglia was our favorite. The views were amazing, and by then the crowds had thinned out. We had a great time strolling through vineyards, olive groves, and stopping for some of the best fresh squeezed orange juice right on top of the towering cliffs. Hours passed but it didn’t even seem it. Each town had it’s own little quirks and appealing qualities that made each lovingly unique. We explored, people watched, took pictures, enjoyed cappuccinos and wine, and continued on our quest to reach all five towns. Despite the crowds, this was one of our favorite days. Almost 11 miles of walking!

19 October 2017

Cantina Follie!!!! Which either translates to folklore cellar, or crazy winery. Either way, we hit the jackpot. Exploring Tremezzina resulted in us finding this gem. Although mostly just a wine bar, it had some of the best cheeses and meat selections we have had yet. Even better than some of the full meals we have had! Delightful. We had wine flights, both with white and red, then enjoyed a nice local red wine. It was dark and cellar like with wine barrels and a medieval feel. Loved it!! Our waiter was so cute, and tossed back a few sips of wine in between helping the customers. My kind of job!
We arrived to our little hotel by the bay on Lake Como in Tremezzina. Hotel La Darsena, which was run by a family. The owner knew right where Vermont was! His son is a professional wake border and apparently loves Burton. Amazing. We had dinner there the first night as well. Our first “real” served sit down 4 course meal with wine. We loved it. The ferry luckily stopped right near the hotel, so we were able to hop on quickly. We did see (from afar) George Clooney’s famed Como estate. Unfortunately we had too much to do, so we had to decline his dinner invite. First stop was Bellagio, we walked around for several hours and enjoyed the views, stairs, more stairs, oh look..more stairs, shops, gardens, and again, stairs. We then went on to Varenna, where we hiked up an old goat path to Castello di Vizio where the views were incredible! Also creepy. Hiking down in boat shoes and slippers was so fun. A very late Lunch and wine was enjoyed by the water where we then headed back to our hotel.

18 October 2017

Today we had more fun zipping around northern Italy in our little muskrat. Still, pretty sure NO one follows speed limit signs. It’s just a free for all survival of the fastest! We left our mountainous abode to try and find breakfast. Ended up at a super market where we bought bread, fruit, jam, juice and cookies. Then we proceeded (in true fat American style) to eat these items in our car parked in a parking garage. It was amazing. Not our car! Don’t care how many crumbs are crushed in the seats, or about that forgotten cookie somewhere near the passenger side door. Then it was a few hours southwest to Sirmione. A lovely little walled city with no cars. It was beautiful and we enjoyed lunch on the water. It was a bit touristy for our taste, and the shopping was a little trendy. But we enjoyed walking around and looking at the architecture. Wine was a plus on the dockside after we explored. Cheap, good wine. Nothing better! We tried the olives. We both agreed we still don’t like olives

17 October 2017

We arrived at our Airbnb after some riveting driving on mountainous switchback roads. Some of these Italians are ass hole/bold drivers! Luckily our little Toyota kept up with the hustle. It’s been fun to drive a zippy little standard again. And Natasha didn’t get carsick! God help us if she did...!! Our place was supposed to have a restaurant, but we were told it would be closed for the night. Exhausted and beat from our day, we were disappointed to hear this. However, our host, Alexander graciously offered to cook for us. We said yes please! After being welcomed to an amazing view and house with beer and warm smiles, we felt a dinner prepared by them would be great! And it sure was. Venison with sweet potatoes, au jus, rice, and amazing local wine. Lagrien 2015, which is from the grapes grown in northern Italy in the Alto Adige region. We loved it. The views, the wine, the food...already Italy is such a treat.
Today we hiked around Dolomite National Park. A lovely 3ish mile loop where we certainly felt the altitude. It was the perfect distance for our jet lagged and sore selves. We took our time, enjoyed the views, and had a wonderful time. We then hopped in our little muskrat (what we decided our Toyota aygo would be named) and made our way through the Dolomites. We stopped at a cute sleepy little town after going the wrong way to enjoy an amazing (and cheap!) cappuccino. My ankle certainly feels all the clutch pressing I had to do today. It was a thrill! I haven’t driven on roads like this since Austria. Switchbacks and narrow roads galore. It’s amazing to me how much traffic can flow on some of the tight turns and narrow bridges.
Seriously good wine for 2.5 euros. Also, had a wonderful night in a very comfortable bed. We went to bed at 8pm and woke up at 6 am. Guess we needed it! Woke up to a cat in the room that came through the open door. Natasha: “Heather, I think there is a cat in the room.” Heather: “Nooo there’s definitely not. You’re dreaming. Go back to bed!” Natasha: “Ok you’re right. I just swore I felt a cat walking over the bottom of the bed and jumping to the floor.” No sooner did she say that then a heard a meow. We turned on the light and sure enough, we had a cute little black cat visitor that had come through the open balcony door. He cuddled with us and purred loudly for about an hour, in which he then disappeared at quickly as he had arrived. Breakfast was toast, jam, amazing local cheese, very strong coffee, and some eggs. They don’t eat eggs for breakfast much here, so that was a special treat from our host!

16 October 2017

Feltre. Our first night in Italy. Too tired and jet lagged to go find a restaurant, but we made some strong coffee and had snacks, meat, wine and cheese. Had a nice little walk to see the cute town and explore the views. Funniest moment of the day, we told our host we didn’t want milk for our coffee (shoot! I mean yes we do!!) and we had to take a bath/shower. Basically a bathtub with a shower head bolted to the wall only a bit higher than the tub itself. So you wouldn’t freeze, you had to fill the tub with water then use the shower head. It was an experience. Also, bidets are no joke. I don’t think I like them. Stay tuned for that opinion later.
We made a friend! We named in Tux. Short for tuxedo!
Our little ride for the majority of the trip. It’s a standard. I’m digging it.

15 October 2017

Can we count this as the first meal of the trip? We did get wine....Iberia airlines stepping up to the plate! This wine was free btw...we had our credit cards out and ready, but apparently it’s crap wine and they give it away. We’ll take it!
All the snacks! Travel essentials.