Italy..the rest of our trip

Hello Hello, I hope everyone is holding up ok from the holiday rush that is in front of them. I don’t know about you but I feel like 2018 was a blur. It went by so fast! I am happy to say that I have finally gotten around to writing about the last 8 days of our 10 day 40th birthday celebration trip to Italy. It took a full day of relaxing at our shore house to get me here but I am ready to share the rest of our trip with you. Let me start by saying that if you are thinking about planning a trip to Italy, do it! It is the trip of a lifetime. In the meantime, have fun reading about our vacation and have fun experiencing Italy through my eyes.

For the first few days of our trip check my previous blog post here. That will get you caught up until we arrived in Tuscany.

On Day 2 when we finally arrived in Volterra after day-tripping through the western coastline of Italy it was dark out. We really had no idea what the landscape looked like, we just knew that it was a very windy drive to get there. When we woke up the next morning we were pleasantly surprised by what we walked outside to.  Let me start by saying the Italian landscape is just beautiful.  The hillsides are littered with fields of sheep, olive groves, beautiful villas and vineyards.  The landscape is truly what you seeing in paintings and magazines.  It is beautiful and peaceful.  The weather while we were there was unseasonably warm for late October so our 70 degree sunny days just added to the beauty.  

The vineyards outside our rooms
The vineyards and a huge rosemary bush

Since we arrived in Volterra the night before we decided to start our day 3 with a wine tasting at the Agriturismo where we were staying. Claudia, who is the owner’s daughter and who had been out main contact for booking our trip informed us of a 10am wine tasting so we decided to take advantage since we were there. Marcampo makes great wine. In the wine tasting Claudia went through the process of making the wine and explained the different blends that make up the different wines. It is truly a labor of love. They are very passionate about it and it shows. Their wine is excellent and they will ship it to America. I had 4 cases shipped home with the intent to gift the bottles for Christmas. Guess what, I kept every single bottle for us because the wine is that good!

The setting for our wine tasting
Kate in front of the wine barrel with their Logo

After our wine tasting we headed over to the city of Volterra to shop and see the sites.  We wandered through the streets and took in the architecture and history.  There is some great shopping in Volterra too.  One of my favorite purchases in Italy was there.  The Unusual Shoe by SP.  They are all 100% handmade leather shoes and they are probably the most comfortable pair of shoes I own.  I was photographed in them with Kevin and when I posted the picture to Facebook I swear the shoes were all anyone commented on.  Click here to check out my shoes

a selfie of my favorite shoes

Fun Fact about Volterra:  Volterra is an important location in Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight series. In the books, Volterra is home to the Volturi, a coven of rich, regal, powerful ancient vampires, who essentially act as the rulers of the world’s vampire population. (However, the relevant scenes from the movie were shot in Montepulciano.). While we were in Volterra there was a famous television series called Medici being filmed in the city center.  The local people were not enthused about it because it was the Medici Family who conquered Florence in 1530 and gained rule of Tuscany and essentially Volterra.  

Our 4th day in Italy was a Monday and had us in Pisa and Lucca.  Our stop in Pisa was quick.  We grabbed some great biscotti at a little shop on the way to the tower and a cappuccino, took some pictures with the Tower and headed off to tour Lucca. 

Pat holding up the tower
Kate Pushing over the tower

If you are a planner you would have already known that historically the shops in Lucca were not opened on Mondays…. well, us not being planners found that fun fact out as we were reading our guidebook on our car ride there … Ooops.  Thankfully things have changed a bit and most shops now open in the late afternoon.  So our trip to Lucca started with a light lunch and a couple bottles of our favorite Vermentino, a tour of the Torture Museum (which was beyond disturbing) and gelato!  At that point the city started coming to life and we got to start shopping!  Some of our best shopping in Italy was in Lucca.  We found one shop that I loved that carried these great handbags that were made out of washable paper.  The brand is called UASHMAMA.  

Here is a little bit about them:  UASHMAMA washable paper looks and feels like leather but washes with ease. Our bags are soft yet resilient, where the manufacturing process is similar to leather the paper is stretched and tanned making it durable to withstand washing and daily use.  

Kevin and I in Lucca, I’m wearing my favorite shoes

Our 5th day was a visit to Siena.  When I think of Siena I think of Truffle overload, if that is even possible. We found a great lunch spot when we arrived and I ordered a Truffle ravioli that was AMAZING!  It was so good that the owners even sold me a jar of the Truffle creme they used to make the sauce.  

Not far from home while in Siena
The truffle sauce, I bought a full jar

Siena is like a college town but is beautiful too!  The University of Siena is within the city walls so there were tons of college students walking around with their backpacks having lunch and hanging out.  We were there on what seemed like a graduation day so there were a lot of people walking around in caps and gowns celebrating with family and friends. 

We toured the sites and took in the architecture. If you are a design, decor or architecture lover you could just spend hours sitting in different places just staring at everything. It is truly special. After walking around for hours and taking pictures of everything we loved we then had dinner at a place called Tartufo… which means Truffle in English.  Every dish had fresh shaved truffles on it.  The food was amazing and a bit of an art but oh man…the result was truffle overload for all of us!  I just don’t think I will seek out a Truffle for a long time after that meal even though it was delicious.  

Kate and I outside the Duomo
Kate and Kevin having a laugh
The truffles they shaved on every course

Day 6 we booked a cooking class in Florence.  Again.. we tried to plan and just weren’t thinking right.  Florence was not the best place for us to schedule that cooking class since it was about 1.5 hours away and is a pretty big city.  Again, if you were a planner you probably would have known that Florence is the capital of Tuscany.  Well, us non-planners had no idea and envisioned another small walled city like the previous 3 we had visited.  Imagine our shock when we arrived and it looked like mini-Rome.. lol.  Not to mention that we didn’t leave Volterra until around 10am, arrived close to noon and booked a 3 hour cooking class at 2.  Next time we are in Italy we will revisit Florence.  

We booked our cooking class with Giglio Cooking School.   We give this cooking experience 5 stars. Martella was so sweet and she took her time to explain the process of making pasta and how the different flours work together to create different pastas.  We made artichoke ravioli, cacio peppe and tiramisu. Making the pasta and sauces from scratch was so fun and our meal turned out fantastic!  It is truly amazing how having a few quality ingredients can make the best meal!  After our cooking class we returned to Volterra because we had an early morning the next  day with our trip to Cinque Terre. 

Martella teaching Kevin and Pat how to make the creme for our Tiramisu
Our artichoke Ravioli
Our homemade Spaghetti and Cheese for the Cacio Peppe
Sitting down to our meal

Cinque Terre… I would say was my favorite stop on the trip! The landscape is truly spectacular.  Cinque Terre is 5 small fishing towns built into the coastal mountainside, literally.  The vineyards and olive groves are built on cliffs that have been carved out to create the landscape.  The buildings are all different pastel colors built on top of each other. The pesto, brushetta and focaccia are the best we ate EVER! I would definitely go back there and stay for a night or two.

We had two tour guides the entire trip, Google Maps and Rick Steves.  Kate’s mom had given her two Rick Steves books and up until that day they had been pretty reliable on telling us what to expect in each city.  We planned to hike from town to town in attempt to work off the tons of cheese, pasta and wine we consumed over the prior 6 days.  Before we started our hike we ate the BEST lunch ever in Manarola at Nessun Dorma

First this restaurant is perched up on the clidside over looking the Manarola Fishing town and your view is the ocean and the pastel houses. It is breathtaking.  The Pesto at this restaurant is maybe the best in the world.  I still have dreams about sitting cliff side, drinking our glasses of wine and eating our Brushetta.  It was THAT good and if we ever go back to Cinque Terre that restaurant will be my first stop!  If we hadn’t planned to hike all the way through Cinque Terre I am confident we would have stayed there for a few more drinks. 

The view from Nessun Dorma
Brushetta- The pesto, tomatoes and cheese on this focaccia were the best EVER

On to our Hike: Unfortunately the Rick Steve’s book we were referencing about Cinque Terre was written about 10 years ago so it didn’t take into account that there was a landslide at some point between then and now and the hiking trail between Manarola and Corniglia had been closed.  If we wanted to hike our only option was to take the vineyard trails which weave up the coast line through the vineyards/cliffs in Manarola.  Literally the hike is the equivalent of climbing close to 200 flights of stairs! It was HARD you guys!!!  The hike up, although it was really hard, the sites were great and we got to see a family picking their olive trees, which is a really cool process when your house and property is built into a cliff.   I think the hike was a total of 2 hours, so by the time we got to Corniglia we were ready for some drinks and food.   We stopped at this cute little patio restaurant and then decided that even after our crazy hard hike from Manarola we were going to set out on the next trail and hike to Vernazza.  Now keep in mind that, according to our “tour guide” and almost everything we read, the trail hike between Manarola and Corniglia was rated like 2 out of 5 on the hard scale.  This next hike was rated a 3.5-4…and after we arrived in Vernazza we agreed that it was way easier than hiking from Manarola to Corniglia.  

The hike up the mountain through the vineyards
Shaking the olives off the trees
Hiking the trail
Looking down on Vernazza from the mountainside

In Vernazza it was getting late, so we decided to do some shopping and relax for the rest of the day.  Cinque Terre is a 2 hour drive from Volterra so we ate dinner back in Riomaggiore and headed home.  

Day 8 brought us to Assisi at the recommendation of a friend who is from Italy.  Originally we were going to stay 7 nights in Volterra but with the trip back to Rome being about 3 hours we decided to break the ride up a bit and stay in a city closer to Rome. Since Assisi is a 2 hour drive from Rome and a friend told us it is his favorite spot in Italy we decided to book a room and stay a night in Assisi!  And what a great recommendation it was.  From a historical staypoint being named after St Francis of Assisi and the current Pope being named after him also I was intrigued to learn more.  Assisi is beautiful.  The shopping there isn’t the best and is a bit touristy but the history is great, the food was good and the sights were even better.  We all said we would go back and stay again.  Assisi was actually the city where we had the best Pizza on our entire trip!  

a cute house is Assisi that we loved. So many were decorated like this

Day 9 and 10 brought us back to Rome.  Our hotel on the second leg in Rome was more boutiquey and was located right next to the Spanish Steps.  If you are in Rome to shop at all the High End designer shops than I highly recommend staying at Hotel Manfredi.  The staff there were so nice and helpful and the hotel has a beautiful antique elevator that is really pretty. Even though someone got stuck in it while we were there. He was not happy about it  The rooms are nice and they make a great cappuccino in the morning.  You can’t pick a better spot if you want to be on that side of the city.  However since we had the luxury of staying on both sides of the city we preferred being closer to the Roman Forum.  We thought the shopping was less commercialized and everything was less expensive.  And we prefer that just generally so that is why if we go back we would stay over there.  

The Elevator in our hotel…someone got stuck while we were there.

We definitely took in all the sites while back in Rome and even got to watch an Eagles game at a great Irish Pub!  Our last day in Rome was rainy and of course the day we planned to head over to the Colosseum. It down poured while we were there but luckily we were inside under cover so stayed pretty dry. After walking about to the Spanish steps area we went to see the Trevi Fountain and did some more shopping. Our last day we made it an early day because of the travel ahead so we had a great meal, stopped for some gelato and turned in early to try to squeeze all of our purchases into our suitcases for the flight home.  When they tell you to bring an extra suitcase.. take their advice and do it!  I ended up buying so much while I was there that I had to buy a suitcase in Rome.  Lesson learned.  

The Trevi Fountain
Watching the Eagles game, they were playing in London

Well, I hope you loved traveling Italy through my eyes!  We definitely plan to go back and travel the southern part of the country!  Hopefully sooner than later.

Thanks for reading

xoxo Melanie