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.

 

Making our way to Tuscany!

Today we woke up around 8 and had breakfast at our hotel.  We met Greg and Erin at 10:20 outside their hotel and we made our way to the train station. We were on a mission to make it to our villa in Tuscany. We took the 11:07 train from Monterosso to Pisa. Then from there we had to find the airport shuttle to pick up our rental car. It was tricky finding the airport shuttle because we thought it was a bus outside the train station, when really it was a train. If you’re looking for the airport shuttle in the Pisa train station just keep following the signs for “airport” and you buy your ticket right outside the train/shuttle. It’s very easy once you find it. Once we found the train it was super fast and we were able to get the rental van and make our way to Montaione to pick up the keys to the villa. The drive was pretty easy and the country was so beautiful! We also got stuck in the middle of a weird old/fancy car race. It was awkward because people were on the side of the road waiting for the cars and here we were just some Americans in a van. It was cool though!

Cool cars in a parade thing
Our van.

It took about an hour to get to Montaione so by now we were running a bit late because another group was already almost to the villa; it was after 2 pm. Montaione was a weird small town, very quiet. It had a fantastic view of the country side by where we parked though. It was also very chilly here compared to the Cinque Terre; it almost felt like fall. It took a bit to find the hotel where the woman was waiting to give us the keys.

We followed the woman to the villa and she drove like a maniac! She was literally leaving us in her dust. We were driving so fast to keep up with her and the roads were gravel and curvy. We were expecting to see Julie and Alyssa’s group at our villa but we saw them on our way there waiting outside a different villa that they thought was ours. We had no idea where we were going so we called them and told them to wait there until we knew.

She drove crazy!

When we got to the villa it was about a 5 minute drive from where we saw the other group. Greg had me and Don go on a mission to go get the other group. I was pumped to drive in Italy! We found the other group and had them follow us to the real villa.

Our villa is called Villa Le Cascine and it looks awesome!! I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything around us was. The house is huge and amazing. The pool is also awesome. Once we got settled in there was another group who was in need of help so Don, the navigator, and Julie the driver went to go find the next group. They also were able to stop by a grocery store. I stayed behind. My throat was really starting to hurt which was really concerning because I had just had strep the week before coming to Italy and I had just finished my antibiotics. I’m so worried I’m getting sick again! It’s a pretty extreme pain but I don’t want to be a downer and I’m in Italy. Luckily for me, Dave (Mel’s husband), had little bottles of Jack Daniels and he shared some with me and after 2 my throat felt great! So I hung out by the pool to drink some whisky and get to know everyone while Don rescued lost people and got groceries. Let’s just say, I felt pretty much 100% better by the time he got back.

We made our own dinner tonight, but for the remainder of our stay here we will have chefs coming to cook. The villa had a little gift of pasta and sauce so we made that and also had some bread and wine of course! It was getting dark and we were still waiting on Jim and Doreen to arrive at the villa. They had been driving for awhile and Don had been in contact with Doreen to try to figure out where they were. They got to a point where they were lost and Don knew where they were so it was rescue mission #3 time! I drove, Don navigated, and Alyssa came with us to bring Jim and Doreen to the villa. It was kind of scary driving because it was pitch black, but the mission was successful.

Here’s some pictures of the place.

Our room. None of he windows had screens, pretty cool!
Awesome pool!
Common area
Kitchen
Kitchen

Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Here’s a bonus video of Greg driving.

Last Day In The Cinque Terre

Well today I woke up and felt pretty rough. We got up and got out to eat breakfast around 9. We decided to try a restaurant instead of our hotel. It was pretty good and it was called Fast Bar. It was basically a diner.

Fast Bar-Great for breakfast!

You could get your pretty standard breakfast here so I had bacon, eggs and toast. Then I couldn’t decide if I wanted soda or a coffee so I got both a coke and a cappuccino. It was a good combo because I quickly started to feel better.

It started raining after breakfast but it quickly stopped. We wanted to take a boat tour or do the water taxi but since the water was rough they had canceled all of the boats. We decided to take the train to the first town, Riomaggiore, because we had not been there yet. Riomaggiore was very beautiful. It was also very quiet, probably because the rain had kept many tour groups away. We walked around the town and took pictures. We also had a snack here of fried anchovies, fish, and octopus. Riomaggiore was very nice; every town has it’s own charm it’s hard to pick my favorite!

I really wanted to go back to Manarola and today was our last day so we decided to go.  There was a restaurant in Manarola that I had read about called Nessun Dorma that I really wanted to try so we went there for lunch. The restaurant is high up along the water on the North side of Manarola, so the views of the town were amazing. I had a really good strawberry daiquiri and Don had a pina colada. For my meal I had a sandwich and Don had a salad. I am not sure if the dinner menu is larger or larger portions but I would say if not then this place is better for a light lunch. Everything was very good and I would definitely go back.

Amazing view of Manarola from Nessun Dorma

After lunch I was so tired it was crazy. I felt like I was just going to fall asleep standing up. All I wanted to do was sleep. We were trying to figure out what to do and Greg had texted us about a wine walk in Manarola so we decided to try it out. It was kind of hard to find where the wine walk started and we were also confused because we though it was a guided tour. But if you follow the main street into the town it will curve around and just before you get to the church you will see a wine bar and if you look up you will see a path above you that you can take stairs to. The wine walk is basically a little trail that goes along the top of the town. There is an area you can climb stairs to get a panoramic view which includes a view of Corniglia. If you have Rick Steve’s book on the Cinque Terre he gives details about this trail and how to get there. We were lucky enough to find it without the book and I also got  a second wind on the hike. The views were amazing. At one point on the hike we were above the restaurant where we ate for lunch. We rested there for a bit looking down at the restaurant and we saw a marriage proposal happen! It was exciting to see everyone react to it.

On the wine walk
The crazy, scary stairs on the way up to the panoramic view.

After the walk we decided to have a glass of wine at the wine bar near the entrance of the walk. It was a cool place, very chill and relaxed. The owner even brought us some bread and cheese. I wish I could remember the name of this place but you will see it if you’re in Manarola headed towards the church.

After the wine we headed back to the train for our final night in Monterosso. We decided to have dinner with Greg and Erin. We ate at a pizza place that was recommended by the guy at Greg’s hotel. I believe it was called Ristorante Pizzeria Da Ely. We were able to sit outside and we each had our own personal pizza. It was delicious!! I really enjoyed this place. After dinner we went to find some gelato and then we went back to hotel so we could pack and get ready to go to the villa in Tuscany!

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