Under the Tuscan Sun (Italy Part 2)

In case you missed last week’s post, I talked about the first half of my trip to Italy here: Roman Holiday (Italy Part 1).

To say that I’m still battling an Italian hangover would be the understatement of the century. A Fiat drives by, and images of narrow, cobblestone roads flash across my mind. Or I’m sitting at my desk at half-past twelve, and memories of early afternoon aperitifs and people-watching from a piazza café bring a smile to my face. Maybe it’s borderline obsessive, but it’s an obsession you can’t possibly understand until you’ve experienced Italy for yourself.

After five amazing days in Rome, we packed up, said arrivederci to the beautiful city, and hopped on a high-speed train to Florence. The ride took a little less than two hours and was full of spectacular countryside scenery. I absolutely love train travel! At least for me, it’s the perfect setting to sit down and write. My next book takes place on a train, so you can only imagine how giddy I was to be able to write part of the story on this trip!

And I'd say that Audrey was pretty productive, too (thanks Syd for this photo!).

When we arrived in Florence, we picked up our rental car. Actually, I think I’m being too conservative with the word car. Do you remember the mockery that was Jon and Kate Plus 8? And that gargantuan bus they traveled in? That was us and the van we rented. Minus the multiples. And the awkward husband bashing. And the unflattering soccer mom haircut.

We needed something big enough to fit all eight of us, but we weren’t expecting a semi. Now, if you’ve been to Italy, you’re probably laughing and shaking your head at me because who the hell rents something this big over there (cue the laughing, Robin)? Especially if you visit the little towns, the streets are SUPER narrow. There were so many times we’d be driving through a town, and the road would grow so narrow, we figured that it had to be a walkway. Most of them were, in fact, roads, but this one I’m not so sure about. We barely passed through this tunnel with probably no more than six inches of space on each side. I almost died.

Nevertheless, I have to applaud my hubby and his stellar Italian driving skills. And I hope he’s reading this because he will never hear me say those words about his driving here in the U.S.

The Tuscan villa we called home for the next five days was located in a town called Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, about thirty minutes outside of Florence. There is no doubt, I AM IN LOVE WITH TUSCANY. It’s everything you would imagine when you think of the area—the rolling hills, the mile-long vineyards, the cottony-pink sunsets. It’s absolutely stunning.

And how could I not fall in love with it when I woke up to this view every morning?

The owners of the villa and our hosts, Lucia and Roberto, were so welcoming and hospitable, and their villa is beyond beautiful. Check out their website here: I Glicini. They named their property after the Glicina flower which just happened to bloom at the entrance the first day we arrived.

That night, we celebrated my birthday at this amazing restaurant not too far away called Osteria Il Poggio. It’s another year older, and had I been back home, I probably would have spent it with a cheap bottle of Merlot while looking up alternatives to Botox and binge watching the Fuller House revamp. But how many times can I say that I spent my birthday in Tuscany?

We ate like kings and queens that night. Just look at this spread!

And since we’re on the subject of food, let’s cut to the good stuff. Yes, I was the annoying American who took pictures of all her food. Every meal we had was phenomenal. Other than the restaurant we went to for my birthday, we didn’t eat at any fancy places. Most were simple restaurants with simple menus but were just so GOOD.

I stuffed my face with pastas and meat dishes…

Proscuitto and cheese…

And this butcher shop. I don’t even know if that’s what you call it. We were in awe of it. It smelled like death inside but all the prosciutto and salami and every cut of pork you could ever want was in it.

Of course there was gelato…

And lots and lots of wine.

How I miss the joy and freedom of buying a bottle of wine from a sidewalk street vendor and walking around the city with a glass full of Chardonnay and a nice buzz.

Over the next few days, we walked around Florence…

And Siena…

The architecture is spectacular and rich with history.  

And the sights. Oh the sights…

I just couldn't resist.

But my favorite place that we visited was the small-walled medieval town of San Gimignano. I could have easily spent a few days here, just cozied up in a little apartment overlooking Via San Giovanni. There were so many cute little shops, including a store that sold all types of olive and truffle oils, and one that offered an array of hand-painted ceramics.  

Needless to say, each one of us fell into a deep depression when we had to leave Tuscany. It was a sad, sad day, having to say goodbye to our villa and the beautiful views. We did have a scare on the train ride back to Rome and was probably the only disappointing part of the trip. When we boarded the train at the station in Florence and were getting situated, I discovered an unattended luggage shoved in between the seats. Here in the U.S., any time you see an unattended bag ANYWHERE, you’re supposed to report it. Of course, we were freaking out, especially since the U.S. government issued warnings about Americans traveling to Europe. But here’s the kicker. When we reported it, the train steward didn’t do anything. Granted, my husband shouldn’t have touched it and should have left it where it was, but David was more concerned about getting the luggage off the train. They actually told him to put it back on the train. SERIOUSLY?! We were flabbergasted. And even before we could decide if we wanted to get off the train, it was already pulling away from the station. No other passengers seemed to be bothered by the situation which completely irritated us. Anyway, long story short, the train steward finally realized why we were so worried and investigated it. The luggage actually belonged to a passenger on the train but was sitting on the opposite end of the car. Why she put it where she did, I have no clue. The train steward reprimanded her while I was cursing her in my head. I didn’t want to think bad thoughts, but you can only imagine what was going through my mind in those ten minutes. Although I love Italy and everything about that country, that incident made me appreciate our country and how our government strives to keep our citizens safe. If this incident occurred in the U.S., the entire train would have been cleared. Everyone would have been asked to get off the train. No hesitation.

Aside from that little incident, everything about Italy was perfect—the people, the food, the sights, the architecture. And to think I haven’t even seen it all. There’s still Venice…Milan…the Amalfi Coast. I wait for the day.

I leave you now with a few “bookish” photos. I made it my mission to find some of my favorite books in Italian, and I didn’t come back empty handed. And aren’t these bookstores so cute?

Until next time, Italy. Ciao for now.