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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.


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.



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.


Italy-Day 3-Cinque Terre

Today we had to wake up super early because we had an early train to catch to go to Cinque Terre. Our train left Roma Termini at 6:50 am. It was sad to leave our hotel in Rome so soon because we really liked it, but we were excited to see what the Cinque Terre was like. The Cinque Terre is made up of villages on the coast. The towns are built into hillsides so it’s very rugged and steep. The five villages are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. The Cinque Terre is an unique experience because there is a train line that runs between the 5 towns, there are hiking trails between each town, and there are boats you can also use to town hop. So it’s very common for people to try to experience each village. Most of the villages do not have cars either so that is cool. I really wanted to stay in Manarola because from pictures it seemed the most beautiful to me, but most of the hotels were booked. We ended up staying in Monterosso, which was probably the best situation because out of all of the towns it is the most flat, so we didn’t have to trudge our luggage up too many crazy stairs.

I had purchased our train tickets online previously so they were fairly cheap; I think they were about $40 for the two of us. The train went from Rome to La Spezia, the biggest town just South of the Cinque Terre. Once it got to La Spezia we would have to switch to the train that went to the five towns of the Cinque Terre. We picked up sandwiches and coffee from a shop inside Roma Termini and got on our train. It was very nice. I wish the U.S. had a train system like Italy. We both had windows seats because we sat across from each other with a table in between us. It was really cool to see the country side. As we got closer to La Spezia the train got way more crowded. Switching to the train to Monterosso was pretty easy, it’s crazy how easy and convenient the trains are here.

Once we arrived in Monterosso it was very crowded. Right when you get out of the train station you are on the boardwalk for the beach. There were people every where, it was crazy. I think we were both surprised at how crowded it was and we both questioned if this was going to the nice quaint place we had hoped for.  It was only around noon when we got there so after walking from the train, which was about 10 minutes, we found a restaurant for lunch. We ate at Ristorante il Moretto. We had a nice salad to start and then we both had pasta. I had spaghetti; first spaghetti in Italy! It was very good. Don had pasta with seafood I believe and he really enjoyed it also. We sat near an older man who went to UIUC and knew exactly where Champaign-Urbana was so that was funny. He started talking to us because I was wearing a Cubs shirt. I also saw my first cat here!

Sleepy cat in the restaurant.

After eating we went looking for our hotel, it was just a short walk from the restaurant and we were able to check in. The room and bathroom are very small but it is nice enough. We are staying at Hotel Souvenir. The outside patio is very nice here.

Once we got settled in we decided we should explore Monterosso a bit. So we walked around and then went down by the water. We felt the water and it was pretty cold, but also the beach was all pebbles so it was hard to walk on. We decided to get some ice cream and cappuccino. The place we got ice cream at was called Nuovo Eden, we chose it because it had a really nice outdoor seating area. It was pretty good. While we were here we decided that we should check out Manarola tonight.

We took the train to Manarola which is the second village in the Cinque Terre. It was also the place I wanted to stay for our time here. It was absolutely beautiful. So picturesque and quiet. We did figure out that by late afternoon all the day trippers and tour groups had left the villages so it was much less crowded.

I had done a lot of research on Manarola so I had a restaurant in mind called, Trattoria dal Billy. It was a hike to get up to it, Manarola is a lot more steep than Monterosso, but it was definitely worth it! We got seated outside on one of the balconies with a nice view of the sunset. We decided to try anchovies here because that is one of the foods of the Cinque Terre. I was pretty hesitant because they came as full little fish on a plate with olive oil and lemon seasoning. It was intimidating but I did it and they were good! Especially good on bread. I ordered the pasta with pesto because the Cinque Terre is known as the birthplace of pesto. It was delicious! Don had calamari and shrimp. We basically ended up sharing everything and it was delicious. We both loved this place and we also had our first wine in Italy here!

After dinner we walked around more. I found another cat on a rooftop behind the church. Don tried to take a picture of it and had his flash on and it totally disturbed a couple making out on the other side of the rooftop. We couldn’t stop laughing!

We walked down by the water and found another one of the restaurants that I wanted to try, so we definitely have to come back to Manarola! It was so amazing. Here’s some night time pictures we took.

We had fun taking pictures on the way back to the train also. There was a long tunnel with some weird art and writings.