The mountains surprised me.
I don’t know what I had expected when hearing “the hills of Tuscany” over and over again, but somehow I was still surprised by them. The landscape was, simply put, exquisite.
The villa we rented for our week in Italy was in the cutest little town, with a population of around 1,500. We joked at the car rental station outside of the airport that people must do weird things with their cars here because they were all so dirty, but the reality is that many of the roads are simply dirt roads. Our little villa was on one, the last house on a stretch of dirt road. It looked off into the (again, surprising!) mountains, over a small vineyard (used for the owner’s use only).
Even on the cloudy days it was breathtaking.
We ventured out most days, visiting various villages/towns/cities and, of course, spending one full day enjoying three wine tours.
Pisa was as expected: touristy, some cool buildings, a good place to spend a few hours. Alex loved seeing The Leaning Tower of Pisa. “MOM! It actually leans!”
The same day we visited Pisa, we went on to Lucca, which was maybe (possibly? How to decide?!) my favorite place of the whole trip. A walled-in city, it has the quintessential narrow streets, dark alleys, tiny turn after tiny turn. More touristy than I was expecting, it somehow wasn’t an annoyance. We walked along the wall because that’s a thing that you can do (!), and generally enjoyed our short time there, including an unbelievably good dinner.
The wine tours were my favorite day of the whole week in Italy, maybe of the whole trip. I only wished I could have spent it with Alex, but we were lucky enough to be able to leave him behind with an uncle who wasn’t interested in wine.
We went to three different vineyards, learning all about the process of making wine, organic production, fermentation, the awesome barrels and all that good stuff. It was really interesting, and each vineyard that we visited somehow was even better than the last (and it wasn’t just because we tasted wine at each place!). The first vineyard offered us our initial experience of learning all about wine making, and came with an adorably attractive Italian guide.
The second vineyard had breathtaking views over the landscape of Tuscany, served us a delicious lunch, and is renowned for a sweet wine. The sweet wine that is so famous, winning many awards year after year, we were lucky enough to witness a rare part of: the air drying of the grapes.
After two vineyards, we were all pretty tired. It was getting late, entering the early evening hours, and we had been out of the house since nine in the morning. We asked our wonderful tour guide to keep the last tour short, but once we got to the vineyard and were greeted by the owners we were too in love to leave quickly. This third vineyard could not have been a more perfect way to end the day.
The property of this vineyard was beyond comprehension. It was too beautiful. The buildings, the land, the view.
The owners were some of the most fun people I could have imagined enjoying some time with. An Italian man and his French wife have created some delicious wines, and were the most gracious hosts. This really was the icing on top of the cake for this day.
Our last three days were also pretty great (Cinque Terre, Pool + Pizza Day, and Florence), but they’ll have to wait. Can’t overload the system with too much Cool Italy Stuff.