This past May and the beginning of June I was lucky enough to vacation to Italy with my favorite little girl (well now teenager!) Hannah. It has been four years since I first started babysitting and vacationing with Hannah. I have been able to see her as a 9 year old with her razor scooter to a 13 year old who just got braces. This adorable girl means so much to me and I can’t say enough about her. I have been so fortunate to have traveled with the Cassel family to Italy two years ago, Cancun last summer and then to Italy again this summer. This year, we also traveled with Hannah’s aunt Abigail and her family. The group of 8 of us were in Italy for two weeks and were able to travel to several towns while there. I picked some of my favorite photos from the trip although I could have easily shared my entire camera’s memory card of photos!
We spent our first week of our time in Italy in Florence. We stayed at Olive Tree Suites in a beautiful villa home. For the week we were there, we rented a big van to get all of us around and we quickly found out that the roads weren’t quite like they are in the United States. The road up to our villa was full of twists and turns and all kinds of crazy drop offs! The home had a pool, backyard terrace and the most incredible view. While in Florence, we divided our days between traveling to other nearby towns and occasionally just staying at our home and swimming and relaxing with the breathtaking view.
One night in Florence, we had a local woman come to the house and prepare us a true Italian meal. Titziana made the most incredible meal and complimented it with all kinds of delicious beverages as well. We each had our own antipasto plate (pictured below). Prior to this trip, I had never heard of eating fried sage but let me tell you.. IT WAS AMAZING. Titzi (as she referred to herself) also made pesto pasta with zucchini … her secret was to cut out the middle part of the zucchini to keep it from getting mushy. The empty plate that is pictured was of the steak course that we had… but it looked too delicious when it arrived and as you can see, I forgot to photograph it prior to indulging. We also had several other courses like a cucumber salad, homemade bread and a rich chocolate cake covered in fresh strawberry sauce that were all incredible. In addition to all of this food, we also had plenty of vino and ended our meal with an espresso like true Italians do!
While in Florence, we saw the Statue of David and visited a local crazy busy market.
After having Titzi’s amazing dinner prepared for us at our house, we were able to visit her own home two days later and have her teach us her ways. She showed us around her farm and introduced us to all of her animals. Titzi also taught us how to make homemade pizza and pasta. It was such an experience and an amazing opportunity to meet Titzi and see how proud she was of her home and her way of life. At one point in the day, we were discussing the loss of her olive tree profits due to drought and her response was, “Of all the problems in the world, this is not one of them”. It was such a simple yet meaningful statement that will forever stay with me.
While in Italy, we spent a day in the city of Lucca. We rented bicycles and spent the afternoon riding them around the city wall. Everyone else had normal adult bikes with gears but I was lucky enough to get the Chick bike pictured below. Cute right?! Haha! After burning some calories riding around, we parked the bikes and had a wonderful lunch in the square. Hannah ordered their famous bread soup. It was exactly what you think it was… tomato soup filled with lots of bread… it was like a tomato soup bread bowl only WAY better. During this day trip we also discovered our favorite dessert that Italy has to offer.. Espresso with Gelato. Since getting back to the United States, I don’t think there has been a day that I haven’t craved it.
As if it’s not obvious by the photos below this… we saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
After spending a week in the Florence area, we traveled to Cinque Terre. We stayed in the village of Corniglia in a quaint apartment. We were just a couple steps from the main town square and loved the cozy feeling that the entire area had to offer. From the train station that we arrived at, the only way up to the town was 365 stairs! Needless to say, we got our exercise while staying there. Most of the days in Cinque Terre, we traveled to one of the villages for a wine tasting and dinner. Our first day in Cinque Terre, we stayed in the village of Corniglia and walked down to the rocky beach to swim. We also spent a day in the village of Monterosso by the beach. I loved exploring each of the villages and seeing the differences between them. Althoguh Corniglia was the smallest and most difficult to get to, I think we all felt like it was our personal favorite and our home in the cities. We loved the pizzeria for our evening dinners and getting our cafe in the morning at the coffee shop near our apartment.
Our beach essentials!
Although I didn’t photograph many true Italians while there, I couldn’t help but photograph this woman on the bench.