I can’t believe it’s our last day in Italy. The past two weeks have gone by so quickly,I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface in writing about everything we’ve been doing. Partly because we’ve been so busy, but also because the internet service is a bit irregular, and uploading photos and charging my iPad takes forever. Some of the posts will have to wait until we get back, but here are a few of the things we’ve done since arriving in Italy:
– We spent a day with a great driver and guide, Gilberto, who picked us up at 9:00 one morning and spent the next 8 hours showing us areas in Florence, Greve, Panzano, Castello Monterinaldi – a beautiful winery for a tasting and tour, Montefioralle, and then a final stop in Radda. Not only did we see much of Chianti, but Gilberto also shared history about the area and great local information. The day was arranged for us by Riccardo at Suiteretreats.com.
– I also asked Riccardo if he could suggest a cooking class for Chris, Matt and me to learn a little bit about the regional cooking. He did and it was amazing. Our class with Eleorna was held at Villa Monteoriolo, her family home and olive grove on a hilltop in Chianti outside of Florence. We cooked a traditional Tuscan meal, toured the property and had dinner in the Villa. That special experience deserves it’s own post or two.
– One day we drove to Siena and spent several hours wandering through the beautiful old city. We all agreed it’s one of our favorite places. It was a bit rainy, but nothing could spoil the charm of the historic buildings, piazza, churches and shops.
– The next day we drove to Deruta in Umbria. I had read about Deruta as one of the places that has continuously made painted ceramics and pottery since Etruscan times. That fact together with a recent visit to the Getty Museum in LA and seeing original pottery from Deruta, made me determined to do a little pottery shopping. I wasn’t disappointed. Not only were there over 300 pottery shops in the area, Deruta is also a beautiful village built on a hill. It is about 30 minutes from Assisi, which we also visited the same day. Assisi was crowded but also peaceful and calm. It’s another place I’ll write more about in the future.
– Altogether we visited Florence 4 times. It was a short train ride from Figline and something we could do at the last minute if nothing else was planned. We visited historic sites, museums, night lights, had leisurely lunches, shopped in the markets, and sometimes just sat and did some people watching. Florence is fantastic.
– One night we used the wood oven here at Villa il Castellaccio to make pizza. I was the pizza maker and Chris was the baker. We all agreed it was the best pizza we ever made. Another rainy day I baked shortbread cookies (easy since it only takes 4 ingredients, which we had on hand) and I perfected my Cappaccino making skills with nightly Cappaccino – a relaxing end to each day.
– Other villages we visited included Dudda, Castellina in Chianti, Impruenta and Greve a few more times. Figline is our go to village for grocery shopping and Lucolena is just up the hill. And then there’s Pont-agli-Stolli that we drive through – between old buildings on a narrow windy road – on the way to Figline. They have what we call the “boys club”. Everyday around 4:00 a group of older gentlemen sit in lawn chairs on a patio, smoking, drinking beer and watching the cars go by. I’d love to know what they’re taking about.
– Dining out is very leisurely no matter what the meal. Turning over tables doesn’t seem to exist and you’re never rushed. I think you could stay for the entire evening and never be pressed to leave. We found you have to ask for the check, otherwise you may be sitting at your table forever.
– Our grocery store is Lidl and it seems like we stop there every other day for something. I think I’m a regular now. The cashier no longer asks for my documents (passport) when I pay by credit card, and I’m greeted with Ciao! Donna Rae. The only other people who have used my middle name are my dad (when I was in trouble), in the south (Where I think they love to use middle names).
– We’ve been doing a lot of driving around the countryside, and yes Italian drivers can be a bit crazy. They drive fast, take chances when passing, motorcycles drive by their own rules, tailgating is a sport (following close at any speed) and as in the rest of Europe, stay out of the left lane on the freeway unless you’re passing. At roundabouts just go for it, otherwise you’ll sit there forever. And, at all times carry a GPS and set it to where you’re staying as home. Our trusty Garmin has not failed us yet. And if you’re driving in Italy rent a small car – streets are narrow and parking places are tiny. Make sure it’s a diesel – GREAT fuel mileage.
Tomorrow we head to Chamonix for two days in the Alps. In the mean time we’re spending the last day packing, relaxing, going out for a late lunch in Greve and making our last cappuccino.