Crazy Bus Ride To A Winery and Pool Fun

Today we left on the bus around 9 again to head to a winery for a tour and tasting. We had a new bus driver today named Riccardo and we got a little lost on the way to the winery, although I don’t think it was entirely his fault. The route was really confusing and the GPS didn’t seem to be working correctly. We had to stop a couple of times and ask random people for directions and no one really seemed to know anything. Finally Don saved the day by using his awesome navigation skills and some google translate to tell the driver in Italian what we were doing wrong.

The drive was crazy though. We were on a tiny road on a mountain pretty much the entire time in a giant bus. There was barely any room for the bus and often you could not see far ahead of you to see if another car was coming. At times we would be inches away from the wall of the mountain and one time we even had a car coming at us head on. I have to admit I don’t even remember how we got out of that, I think the car backed up. I was not feeling so great with a bit of car sickness and it was really scary so I didn’t look outside a lot.

 

We finally made it to the winery after about 2 hours and they were shocked to see all of us because apparently we did not finalize our reservation. The winery was called Montefioralle. We had some time since they were not expecting us so we took a few pictures. Everything around the winery was beautiful,but what did you expect it’s Italy.

Once things settled down we got a brief tour and then we were seated for some snacks and tastings. We were able to taste five wines and they were all great. We also had meats, breads, and bruschetta. I normally do not like bruschetta because I don’t really like raw tomatoes but as usual everything in Italy taste better and I even ate the tomatoes! We really enjoyed our time here and a lot of people purchased a lot of wine to be shipped back home.

On the bus ride home many people slept, I was one of them. Once we got back we went to Castelfiorentino to buy train tickets for Saturday. We also went to a grocery store. Once we got back we all had fun at the pool and cannonballs were done.

After the pool we went to dinner where we were greeted with little dolls.

Dinner tonight was very good. It started out with an appetizer of asparagus and mozzarella on bread. Then there was a truffle pasta, which I didn’t even know if I liked truffles, but this was soooo good. It was probably one of my favorite pastas of the trip. I wish I could have some right now! The rest of the meal was veal with potatoes and salad. We also had a little birthday celebration for Greg during dessert. After dinner we went to bed pretty early.

 

Florence & An Amazing Dinner

Today we got on the bus again around 9 to head to Florence.

The bus ride was more fun and interesting today because it started out with Greg finding out there was a microphone in the front of the bus.

“How did I not know this was here? Welcome to your hell.”

On the way to Florence Don and I were trying to help Greg finalize the menu for our dinner tonight in Montecatini Alto. We were helping him translate emails from the restaurant owner because google translate was not doing the best job. When the menu was finalized google translated two of the dishes to “Sweet Ass” and “Poodle Wallet”.  So needless to say there were a lot of jokes pertaining to this.

Once we got to Florence the bus stopped at Piazzale Michelangelo so we could take some photos. The Piazzale Michelangelo has panoramic views of Florence; it also has a replica of Michelangelo’s David. The views were pretty amazing.

After everyone got their photos we got back on the bus and the bus dropped us off near the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It was very beautiful.

We took a lot of pictures of the church and then decided it was time to find some lunch before meeting for our walking tour. On our search for food we found the house of the poet Dante Alighieri. Don thought this was very cool because he likes his works. We also found there was a museum for Dante. Before checking out the museum we found a really cute little restaurant that was ran by two sisters, called Antica Bottega Wine Tasting. It was probably one of my favorite meals we had at a restaurant in Italy and it was so simple. Don had the lasagna and I had a prosciutto and mozzarella panini. It was so good!!!  I want to go back! We also each had glasses of the Dante wine, because apparently we were hanging out in his hood. The panini was so good. We had a good time here chatting with the sisters a bit, they told us they had been to Chicago and really liked it. After lunch we made our way to Museo Casa di Dante.

The Dante Museum was pretty cool, really informative. It was 4 Euros each and it only took about 40 minutes for us to go through it. We probably could have spent a little more time here but we had to meet our tour guide at 2 pm.

Our walking tour guide was named Laura and she was very good. One highlight of the tour was seeing the Mercato del Porcellino, which is basically a market. Don was excited to see it because it is in the game Assassin’s Creed.

We also saw all of the statues at the Piazza della Signoria. I enjoyed watching an old man feed pigeons here. The pigeons knew him! He must have come there every day to feed them because they were climbing all over him.

By the end of the tour we were all really tired but we got a boost of energy with some gelato. Then we all got back on the bus and made our way to Montecatini Alto for dinner.

Montecatini Alto is a really cool town because it is up on a mountain and you take a rail car up to the town.

The views at the top were really amazing.

We had some time before dinner to walk around a bit and explore the town. It seemed pretty small but beautiful. We took a lot of pictures of the city below us.

I also found a cat here…

We had dinner reservations at Casa Gala. It was a super cute place and it was probably one of the best meals we have ever had.

Since we had a big group the restaurant just picked out a menu for us. We were able to try all of their appetizers I think, and they were all delicious. We had an awesome meat and cheese board and something with eggplant that was good too. There were delicious sardine bruschetta and fried pasta for appetizers also.  I wish I could find a copy of their menu. We thought the best dish here was the carbonara. It was the first place we had ever had carbonara and it was awesome!! It’s a pasta dish with egg, cheese, and crispy bacon pieces. The dishes kept coming out and everything was amazing. There was a gnocchi but it had bleu cheese in it and also a pork tenderloin that was good. Our dessert was cheesecake. I wish I had taken more pictures but I was enjoying this meal too much. It was a perfect night.

After dinner we walked down a bit to the bus because the rail car was no longer running. It was a very pretty walk with all of the city lights below us.

Volterra and Cooking Class!

Today on the agenda was a morning trip to Volterra or an all day pool day. At first I really just wanted an all day pool day but then I decided if I went to town I could go to a pharmacy and pick up some much needed allergy meds because mine are running out.  These cough drops were the best cough drops I’ve ever had. They actually work!!!

So we took two cars and headed to Volterra. It was about an hour drive and then we had to walk up some stairs to the city. I’m glad I decided to visit Volterra because it was a cool town and uncrowded.

We kind of all went our separate ways to explore the city. We ended up at this super cute wine shop called VolaTerra, mostly because I needed to use a bathroom. We were the only ones in there so the store owner asked if we wanted to do a tasting and we decided, sure why not?! We each tried a few wines and they were all good. We had some breads and olive oils also. The shop was very cute, I’m so glad we stopped by.

After some wine we started to look for the viewpoint that overlooked the country side.  It was beautiful as always.

After that we got some sandwiches from  a little deli and they were delicious and super cheap! Look at this giant sandwich!

Next we met up with everyone and made our way back to the villa.

When we got back we did a little swimming and then the chefs came to set up for our cooking class.  We learned how to  make pasta, bruschetta, meatballs, and tiramisu. It was a lot of fun and easier than I thought it would be. We broke into groups to cook and our group made the meatballs and bruschetta, while another made the tiramisu. We all got a chance to make pasta and that was really cool.

Here are the finished products! Everything was so good, it even ended with a tiramisu tasting because that group broke into two more groups and each made their own tiramisu. I had never had a tiramisu that I liked before and these were both great!!

Exploring Siena and San Gimignano

I woke up today around 5:30 am because I could hear the cowbells outside. I got up and opened the window to look out and watched the cows for a bit. Then I laid back down and started to fall asleep again.  I heard a weird sound, like something was fluttering around the room. I looked up and saw a bird flying around the room; it had came in the window because there are no screens. It flew around a few times, all confused, and then it made its way back outside. It startled us and now we were up and getting ready for the day.

Greg had arranged all of the Tuscany day tours; he had even hired a bus driver to get us to our destinations. It was very cool. The bus picked us up at 9 am and we rode about an hour to Siena. When we got to Siena we met up with our tour guide and started on a walking tour.  The first thing she told us about was really interesting. It was about how Siena is made up of 17 different districts that are represented by different animals or symbols. Twice a year representatives from each district participate in a horseback race called the Palio di Siena. In the park where we started the tour she told us about the districts and then gave some of us marbles that had the colors of the district they represented. Then we put the marbles into this stone structure and watched the marbles race to the bottom. I had a marble that represented the She-Wolf district. It was entertaining but my marble did not win the race.

I found a She-Wolf on the tour! My district!

The tour was very informative and the city of Siena was beautiful.

We had some free time to explore and have lunch so we decided to eat lunch with Alyssa and Kevin. We ate in the Piazza del Campo at Ristorante Alla Speranza. It had a very cool look on the inside of the restaurant because it looked like catacombs. We ate outside though. I had pizza called Diavola which was basically like a spicy pepperoni and it was delicious. Don had pasta. After eating we took some pictures around the piazza. Then we had a few more minutes on the tour and we walked back to the bus.

Once we got back to the bus we were on our way to San Gimignano. The town of San Gimignano was also very beautiful. It had many medieval towers and Don told me that a lot of these towers were in the game Assassin’s Creed. So he thought seeing this place was very cool. It was very crowded and the streets were lined with shops. Everyone seemed to be going on their own way so we split off from the group. My throat was starting to hurt again, it’s so weird. I don’t know if I’m getting sick or if it’s allergies, but we decided to get some gelato and that helped. We found a little museum that had a replica of the town.

We also watched some artists who were working on some drawings.

Seeing all of the towers was very cool, although I don’t think we made it to all of them. It was like the whole town was a castle.

On our walk back to the bus we saw an overlook and of course the views were spectacular because it’s Italy.

Both Siena and San Gimignano were very cool and I would definitely recommend checking them out if you’re in the area. I think I liked Siena a bit more because it wasn’t as crowded, but the buildings and towers in San Gimignano were awesome. It’s too hard to pick which was better, just know that if it’s in Italy it’s probably awesome.

When we got back to the villa we tried to go for a swim but it was getting a little chilly so we got ready for dinner instead.  On the menu for tonight the chefs made an appetizer that was fresh spinach with ricotta topped with tomatoes.  The next dishes were a bolognase, zucchini, pork tenderoloin with mashed potatoes and then cake for dessert. We were stuffed and it was very good.

We ate outside and it was getting cold so we decided to go inside. We played some cards for a bit and then a sing along broke out and that was fun.

 

Pool Day In Tuscany

Today I woke up to a bell sound outside so I looked out the window to see cows walking along the fence. It was pretty cool. I couldn’t sleep so I went outside and took a little walk. I saw a bunch of cows walking around and some calves. The scenery here is unbelievably beautiful.

Cows outside our bedroom window.

 

We had a nice breakfast that included: breakfast casserole, bread, jam, fruit, and lots of coffee. At around 9:30 am I started doing some laundry and the directions said the laundry could take up to 2 hours in the dryer. I didn’t believe that could be possible so I got ready for the pool. Don went to Florence to help Jim and Doreen return their car. Others went to the grocery store but I stayed behind for laundry and pool time. It took forever, but I was having a great day at the pool!

The water was cold but it was ok to swim, especially after some drinks. I spent the whole afternoon in the pool and then got ready for dinner.

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We did a little decorating for Greg’s birthday BBQ. The chefs made pork ribs, steak, chicken, and sausage. It was so good. There was also salad, dessert, and local wines and beers. It was an awesome dinner. It was nice to hang out with everyone. We also enjoyed a great sunset.