This second recap is a long time coming. I feel bad that it's so late but so much has happened since our trip to Italy in October and I had tons of pictures to sift through. In case you missed the first recap, here it is. To say we had a good time and that we ate well is a complete understatement. We had the times of our lives. Ate really well and have wonderful memories. Our friends who know us in person, the next time you see us, we might be super annoying because we talk about our Italy trip all the time.
To start from where I left off before, we went on a tour of a cheese factory in San Romano in Garfagnana. It was amazing to see a family-run operation.
We had to get dressed to see it all…
And of course we got to taste three different cheeses and the pecorino was our favorite!
Next up was a place that specializes in Charcuterie and slow food in Castelnuovo in Garfagnana called Vecchmio Mulino. Andrea, the owner, of the shop, is jovial and everyone in town knows him. Everyone who walked through the doors knew him and acted as if he was family. (That's Pixie, hi Pixie!)
We ate tons of food…seriously, we didn't even eat dinner that night. This carpaccio with porcini mushrooms was amazing. Porcini mushrooms were in season and to be able to have them fresh…they were so delicate and amazing. I keep saying I need to find them here…somehow, even if they are dried.
Next, we went and had gelato…because there's always always room for gelato or ice cream! 🙂
The next day, we went to Lucca. What a gorgeous town. The main area of the town is surrounded by a city wall. It's quaint and definitely has a small town feel. Do you see Curtis?
I just had to take a picture of this door. The character of the wood and the door knockers…it just spoke to me.
We had lunch at Canuleia. We ate outside and the weather was perfect. This one of my favorite meals. The pasta dishes we had were super simple with fresh ingredients. I can still taste it…and of course we had wine too! This was a tomato risotto dish we had with pesto and fresh mozzarella.
And then, we had lattes. Of course, in Italy…espressos, lattes, etc. are very cheap like 1 Euro. It's a nice pick me up after lunch and I can't get over this table. It's actually tiles that look like worn wood. There were so many places…every where I looked…I wanted to take home wood, tiles, marble for backdrops for photos!!
Pixie found the cutest gift shop, Le sorelle, I bought a bunch of soaps and these…washable paper! I bought a couple of them and I have an orchid plant in one of them. So practical, they are made from sustainable materials and feel like leather but wash like fabric and are actually paper. I would have bought so much more if I had more room in my luggage to take them home!
And our day in Lucca was not complete without getting gelato about 4 times. 🙂 I had pistachio every. single. time.
Here's a shot of the town wall…it's interesting to hear the history of Lucca and similar towns. They were constantly trying to protect themselves from invading towns and peoples and the wall was built to keep from invasions.
Chef George made us an amazing seafood stew. He cooked it all. day. This was our last meal at Villa Daniella.
Look at those amazing prawns.
The stew had shrimp, calamari, octopus…and yes, Curtis ate octopus! He said it's better than squid. It was amazing. So rich and full of flavor.
We toasted to our last night of our stay outside of Lucca and and more adventures ahead.
Next stop was Casamonti in Sienna. This a beautiful area and what people call Chianti Country. This house is over 1000 years old, isn't it amazing? We had an amazing lunch, which a lot of it was made with Cinta Sense pigs. A breed of pigs that are native to the region, they are only found here today, and date back to the Middle Ages.
They were cute little pigs, we saw them driving in but didn't get a chance to see them up close. They are black with one white stripe and some have white front legs.
The tomato sauce in this pasta was out of this world. Mike (one of the sweepstakes winners) told the proprietor that the pasta was amazing and she said “I know”. She cracked us up. She told us about the property she owns with her husband and how it's been in his family for a generations. Their care for the pigs, their 3000 olive trees and their grape vines, they know exactly what they are doing and take very seriously what they are doing. You can see the passion and the care in her eyes and her words.
Some of the wines they make and I just fell in love with this table. 🙂
After Casamonti, we headed to Castello Banfi. A gorgeous property that has a castle!
Seriously, the air out there was pure and brisk. It was so gorgeous.
Here's a shot of the castle.
It was epic. Everyone we talked to, when we told them we were going to Castello Banfi, they just sighed and told us that we were going to love it. I only wish we got to stay there for more than one night.
Look at the beautiful vineyards.
We had a six course Chef tasting menu that included a homemade pasta with sea bass, Cinta Sense ravioli, a Veal fillet and what you see above is seven layers of chocolate with pine nuts and salt ice cream. Each course included a wine pairing and after dessert we had a shot of Grappa! Grappa! We have an inside joke with Mike and Martha about Grappa. I hope we can visit them one day in Oregon for Grappa! 🙂
The next day, we made our way to Rome. It was a beautiful 3.5 hour drive from Banfi to Rome. And just a few minutes in our hotel room and we were off to Vatican City.
If you ask Curtis and I what we were most impressed with, it would be the Vatican.
We were lucky to have a 3 hour guided tour with a very knowledgable and very nice tour guide. He took us into the map room. There were floor to ceiling paintings like this and paintings on the ceilings. Everyone walking through was just looking all over, up, down…it was amazing and pretty cool to see depictions of borders of countries from hundreds of years ago.
And into the Sistine Chapel, no pictures though, it was not allowed. Awe-inspiring is all I can muster. It was amazing.
And into St. Peter's Basilica. So rich with history and so immense. You can't even imagine or fathom the size of this place until you're there. I can't even capture even 10% of one side of the place in one shot.
I'm really glad we went to Vatican City.
It was our most favorite place to visit in Italy…and that's even hard to say since we enjoyed the entire trip.
The last day, we had all to ourselves. Mike and Martha went home that morning, we had breakfast with them. They are the sweetest and I'm glad to have their friendship. We email every so often and I wish they didn't live all the way in Oregon…so we could visit them often.
We explored Rome all day. My only goal was to get gelato that day. And tons of pictures of course. At one point, my iPhone screamed that it had no more room. No more memory left to take pictures. That means I took too many pictures.
The amazing part about Rome was we would be walking along and it pretty much looks like a modern city and then something from the past shot up out of nowhere.
The sky and the weather was perfect.
We had to go see the Colosseum in Rome since we were there. We were just in awe.
Here's a panoramic view from one angle. Just breathtaking.
And here's another example of the beauty of Rome. One side of the street is modern and over the railing at the Piazza Forum in Rome…the ruins.
We sat there for a long time just staring. I thought about if those walls could talk. What they have seen in hundreds of years…
It was just amazing and I realize how fortunate I was to have this opportunity to see all of this, to experience it and to be able to experience it all with my husband. I was and am still floored.
This is our last night in Rome. We ate wayyyy too much and then went and got gelato for dessert. Huge thanks to Michael Angelo's, to Michael, Cheryl and Sara for making us feel like apart of their family and for hosting us on our trip to Italy. In a couple of weeks, I promise to share with you a recipe I learned to make with Sara.
And a couple of things I'll leave you with that I learned and rediscovered on our trip:
- Food doesn't have to be elaborate or overwhelming to be amazing. Often simple, fresh ingredients are enough to satisfy as well as amaze you.
- We want to explore the world more. Sometimes the wifi didn't work or we weren't able to get service but that's okay. I didn't have my face on my phone 24/7. I could just look around and soak it all in.
- You should try new things, experience new things. Curtis and I both tried a lot of food that we never would have tried at home but wanted to because we were having an experience of a lifetime. I definitely want to continue to push myself to do this even if we're ‘just' at home.
Disclosure: Thanks to Michael Angelo’s who hosted me on my trip to Italy. I only work with brands that I love and always share with you my honest opinions.