Jul 22, 2013

Ciao Italia ti vogliamo bene! Love letter to Italy.

(Hello Italy, we love you!)

It has been a while since we returned from our #ItalyAdventure. (We know annoying hashtag thingy. It's a piece of info for our twitter followers). All social media stuff aside, we miss Italy! We were only there for just over two weeks but our hearts were captured. While we were excited to be going on the trip, and we had high expectations of enjoying all we did, we were not prepared to fall in love.

Where did you go that was so amazing you ask? While we did cover a fair amount of ground in that time, is was not about any particular place. It had more to do with an overall sense of adventure and being near, around and inside some amazing places, meeting wonderful people, and enjoying delicious food and wine almost everywhere. Even though we were there at the end of winter, and it was quite wintery, the weather cooperated enough that there was only one thing on our list that we didn't get to do (besides use the pool at our villa in Tusany). We did not to climb the Duomo's 463 steps to the top of the Dome for the magnificent views of Florence. We had booked things with people and companies based on Tripadvisor, and as such had no real firsthand knowledge of what we would be getting into.

Paying up front for a Villa through a faceless Internet site and communicating via e-mail was a little unsettling. Pre-booking hotels and rental cars and then hearing about transportation strikes was also not very reassuring.  Traveling to Rome with Easter looming and the pending Popening was scary.  But then, the big day came and as we boarded that KLM flight to Amsterdam most of the trepidation was gone, and just the pure excitement of our #ItalyAdventure set in. The flight staff can attest based on our best Marx Brothers routine as we seated ourselves 3 or four times. Even after 10 hours on a plane, we really enjoyed our time at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. Having a nice French wine at the lovely Bubbles bar. We made a new friend in the barman.
A French wine in Amsterdam on rout to Italy? yeah! One of the group even had a massage in a special sensory capsule for €2. Such an easy airport to navigate and a nice place to hang out.  Now wonder it ranks in the top five in the world.

As we landed in Rome on our Alitalia flight some trepidation came back as now we were in Italy with no real local language skills, and not really sure how well it would go. No worries. Out with bags in 15 minutes and right out the door was our ride.  No customs, that was all done and dusted in Amsterdam with incredible ease. We had made arrangements with RomeCabs and could not have been happier with the service. We felt like we made another new friend in our tour guide and driver, Sergio, who took us on a overview tour of Rome and helped us get our bearings, before dropping us at the Hotel Alpi. Brilliant!
The Hotel Alpi was another stroke of luck that we chose based on a friend's recent stay. Located on the east side of Rome it allowed for easy access to Termini Station and was a good spot to circumnavigate the city multiple times on foot.  It was also a very nice place to stay and the breakfasts with delicious coffee were just what we needed. We spent time having a glass of wine by the Pantheon, we sat on and climbed the Spanish steps, threw coins into the Trevi Fountain, and walked through the Colosseum and all over the Roman Forum. We spent an afternoon at the Vatican with Dark Rome Tours the Monday prior to Papa Francis' big bash, and saw first hand the preparations. We had a mid west American girl as our tour guide, who had left the US on a one way ticket to become a tour guide at the Vatican. Mission accomplished and she was fantastic.

We slept fast, and after five amazing days in Rome it was time to head off to Venice. Easyjet was who we chose to take care of us, and they were by far the most cost effective way to get from Rome to Venice. The water taxi from the Venice airport to the dock near the Eurostars Residenza Cannaregio, cost us more. Although we arrived in the rain we had two beautiful days in Venice.

Great meals, the Grand Canal, being serenaded with music on a gondola and just like in Rome we walked all over. After our time in Venice we picked up a rent a car at the Venice airport and proceeded to drive to Verona where we had an overnight stay at the Hotel Giulietta e Romeo. This hotel was perfectly located just 50 meters from the Arena and the surrounding square with restaurants and vendors. We were also only a 100 meters in the other direction from Piazza delle Erbe with its vibrant night life and the wonderful Ristorante Maffei.

We visited Juliet and had the obligatory rub, looked up to the famous balcony and left locks on the fence (can't stuff the note in the wall anymore). We also enjoyed a couple of the famous 'Sprtiz" wine drinks the area is also know for. Verona, what a wonderful place.
From Verona we drove to Lucca and then went due north for about 30 minutes to the Villa we had rented through Rent Villas, in Coreglia Antelminelli, a beautiful small hilltop town. From our base here we spent a week touring around northern Toscana. There was the cooking class with the wonderful family at Authentic Tuscany with the wonderful food, and the visit to Fattoria di Montecchio with their lovely wines and olive oils.There was the Adventure of finding our way to Fattoria Corzano E Paterno and enjoying an afternoon touring the facilities and drinking wine and olive oil and eating some amazing sheep cheese's.
We visited two other wonderful Agritourism wineries while in Tuscany, Fattoria Di Fubbiano and Tenuta del Buonamico. Tasting and touring Adventures we will always remember. We were well taken care of by wonderful people proud of what they were doing, and they enthusiastically shared with us the best they had to offer. Amazing!
We ate and spent time wandering Lucca, Pisa and Cinque Terre. Cinque Terra is where we discovered the wonderful things photo editing can do for the area. Not as colorful as we and you have been led to believe, but no less enchanting. We did however make one mistake of not spending more time exploring Coreglia Antelminelli and the adjacent town of Barga.  The day we did was great. Coffees all round with four desserts to accompany them, a slice of pizza and change for six euros. Then there was the wonderful family run L'Arcile Ristorante that has been in operation since 1916. It would have been nice to have a couple more meals there and we would have enjoyed getting to know the family.

The last couple days we were off to Florence and the Hilton Florence Metropole. We saw the real David and a couple others. We wandered around and saw the Duomo and the Cathedral. We saw all the famous tombs at the Basilica of Santa Croce.
We ate and drank well, and even had a famous Florentine T-bone steak. They sell'em by the kilogram! We even drank an extra bottle of wine (would not fit in suitcases) with dinner at the Hilton with no corkage fee (classy touch).
We left Florence at the crack of way before dawn on the day they shifted to daylight savings, so really an hour before that ungodly hour. Alitalia had trouble counting bags and so we arrived in Amsterdam too late to board our flight. KLM (new review) took care of the situation and ten of the twelve hours to get back to California was spent in luxury wondering if the last fortnight on our #ItalyAdventure was, or was not, perhaps just a beautiful dream. In just two short weeks, we had fallen in love with Italy.

To the people of Italy who were so kind, so patient and so giving, thank you! Vi vogliamo bene!

Finché ci incontreremo di nuovo,


Kiwi & Koala

We did throw coins in the Trevi Fountain, and traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome.

Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean we'll miss you, until we meet again.


  1. You visited so many great places! Italy has a lot to offer, that's for sure!

  2. We enjoyed our holiday in Italy more than can be expressed. The people the food the wine and the places were magical.


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