Finally Roma!

Finishing off our final tasty breakfast in Firenze, we sauntered sadly to the train station. Firenze is such a beautiful city, with so much history, art, and romance. It will forever have a place in my heart.

Our train ride to Rome was only 1.5 hours and we decided to walk in the sweltering heat to our new B&B. About 35 minutes later, and clothes soaked in sweat we were here!

Rome already is breathtaking. Along our walk we saw gorgeous buildings, which makes me so excited for what’s to come.

Once we were cleaned up and ready, we headed out to find our bearings in our new setting. We’re staying in a hip little part of Rome on the south side of the river called Trastevere, which literally means behind the river. It’s a medieval neighborhood that has strong working class roots, but is filled with traditional trattorias, artisan shops, and beautiful plazas.

We ventured across the river, admiring Tiber Island from the bridge. It’s the world’s smallest inhabited island, and was apparently home to an ancient temple of Asclepius, the god of healing.

As we crossed over the bridge, we walked through the cobble stoned streets and admired the beauty of the town. Everywhere you look there’s something historically old that takes your breath away. I don’t think I could ever get bored of it!

We stopped for dinner at a little local place called Cul de Sac, and sat outside to enjoy the lively street. We began our dinner with pâté, a sampler actually. We had the hare and truffle, sweet and sour boar, and partridge and juniper. They were all so good, but the hare was the winner in my books.

For our mains, I had a black rice and mussels dish, and Daniel had the Roman ravioli. We washed it all down with a local, tasty red.

As we were finishing up our wine, there was an impressive street performer who stopped by.

We walked through Camp de’ Fiori to check out the busy square, watch the street acts, and check out the place.

Then, we walked back over to our side of town to see what was happening. We stopped to get a peek at the Basilica, before walking down by the river to check out a night market.

Along the Tiber River were shops, artists, bars, carnival type games, and numerous other tents to check out. It’s part of a summer festival called Lungo Il Tevere that happens every year in Rome. We enjoyed strolling along the river checking out a few of the things it showcased.

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Foodies in Firenze

Update on the negroni:

After our dinner last night, we walked over to Atrium Bar. They are reviewed to make the best negroni in Florence. For those who don’t know, the negroni cocktail originated in Florence. Legend says that Count Camillo Negroni asked his bartender friend to strengthen his favourite drink, the Americano, which had equal parts red vermouth, Campari, and soda water. His friend replaced the soda water with gin, and thus the negroni was created!

Atrium Bar is a stunning, high end venue with gorgeous velvet couches, a high stocked bar, and servers in suits. We sat down and were instantly greeted with sweet flavored nuts, a man playing the piano, and of course our negroni. I would have to say it was definitely the best negroni I’ve ever had!

Longing for a Florence sleep in, we took it upon ourselves to be alarm free this morning, and a glorious sleep we had! Waking up much past the breakfast hour, we headed straight to the central market to check out the lower level where all the locals buy their groceries. It’s open everyday until 2pm, and literally has everything you could imagine: fruit and veggies, cheese and meats, pasta, fish, olive oil, wine, and much more.

After wandering in awe of all the delicious looking foods, and feeling quite hungry ourselves, we ordered an insane charcuterie board with two glasses of red.

Strolling the streets around the market, we couldn’t help but see and smell all the amazing leather goods. They have everything: purses, shoes, belts, jackets. And they are just gorgeous in their quality. We decided to do a little shopping and I bought Daniel a beautiful leather belt, and he bought me some pretty great leather sandals.

Wandering to the main hub of Florence, we wanted to use our museum ticket purchased yesterday to get in a few more attractions. Our first stop was the Museo della Misericordia, which is dedicated to the worlds oldest voluntary associations. They have been active since 1244 and continuously and anonymously offer charitable help to the poor. The museum showcases their work, the ways in which they would help the less fortunate, and the many gifts and donations to the museum itself. The museum is quite small (but has A/C!), and we were given a free, private tour. The older man described all the details and artefacts in each room.

Leaving the museum, we wandered over to the baptistery to see if there was a line, and luckily we managed to see inside. The ceiling decor, marble columns, and tiled floors were beautiful pieces of work.

We completed our afternoon with a tasty gelato before refreshing prior to dinner.

Prior to dinner, we scoped out a little brew pub which only serves craft beers. Surprisingly, it has been hard to find craft beers anywhere we’ve been. This place even does flights, so we order two flights to try their entire list, except one.

Our dinner reservation for tonight was at a restaurant called Brandolino. We ordered a bottle of Chianti wine, the mushroom fettuccine, and the florence renowned meal, the Florentine Bistecca. It was incredible: so tender, so tasty, and just perfectly seasoned goodness. To end with, our server brought us a complimentary glass of dessert wine. It was the perfect way to end our Firenze trip!

The Beauty of Firenze

Awaking bright eyed and bushy tailed, we quickly walked down to the Galleria dell’Accademia in hopes of seeing the real David. As we turned the corner, a steady line was already being formed. We hopped in and waited just a little over an hour before entering the gallery.

As we walked in, we were completely surrounded by beautiful pieces of art work and statues galore.

Of course, the most anticipated feature was that of David. I can’t even describe the massiveness of the statue and the immense amount of detail that it contains. It’s something else.

We continued further throughout the gallery and I was quite in awe of the sculptures in general. The amount of time and patience to create these beautiful pieces of artwork is impressive. I also learned that through the Middle Ages, art was dedicated solely to representing God.

Once through the majority of the gallery, we continued further to explore the music museum. It has beautiful pieces of instruments dating back to the 1600s.

When our tour was complete, we headed to our local breakfast spot for another tasty morning treat.

We spent the next few hours walking around Florence and seeing all the major sites. We went to the cathedral and duomo and were blown away by the grandeur of the plaza. It’s massive and absolutely stunning. The pictures don’t even do it justice.

Venturing on, we headed to the Ponte Vecchio for a view of the Arno River, passing the Uffizi Gallery on the way. The line was way too crazy to wait.

We crossed the river to the less touristy side and explored the beautiful streets. We also stopped for a little gelato snack!

By 2:30pm we were quite hungry so headed back over to find a place for lunch. We had scoped out a few but all were closed by the time we arrived. Instead, we stopped at a place purely by its name: Da Pinocchio.

To start with, we had the bruschetta.

Next, we shared the scampi linguini and the seafood risotto.

It was recommended to us to check out the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, which was back in the Duomo square. It’s a museum dedicated to describing the steps and process that went on to actually build the Duomo and Cathedral. It also contains several statues by Donatello and Michelangelo, and bronze gilded baptistery panels. It was quite education and we enjoyed our time there.

Deciding on what to do or where to go next, as we were walking around the Duomo plaza, we noticed there was a very short line up for the Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto). We stood in line for no more than 20 minutes before being able to ascend the 414 steps and get our nice leg workout! When we arrived at the top in record speed and real sweaty, we were surrounded by gorgeous views of Florence and especially the Duomo itself.

Shortly after, we headed back to our B&B to get ready and cleaned up for our dinner tonight. Plus we needed to break open our brunello that we bought yesterday!

We ventured back to the market for dinner. Tonight we tried out the pizza. We ordered the margherita and the magnifico, with a glass of red and a beer.

After dinner, we decided to check out a local negroni bar. I’ll report on that tomorrow!

Touring the Brunello Vineyards

We awoke this morning bright and early, and started our day off with a tasty breakfast to fill our bellies.

Last night, we booked a wine tour with a local company called Di Gusti. We met our guide, Gilberto, at 9am in a little plaza close to our B&B and were off to the town of Montalcino.

On route, Gilberto educated us about all the wines in the area, specifically the Sangiovese grape. We learned that depending on how long it sits with the skin on, determines the type of wine it can make. For example, one day is a white, three days a rosé, and one week a red. He also informed us about the differences between the DOCG, DOC, and IGT labeled wines. The first indicates that the wine producers followed the strictest regulations and had the wine tested by a committee to ensure the geographical authenticity of the wine. The DOC label still indicates strict guidelines, but they tend to be a bit more relaxed than the DOCG. Finally, the IGT label was created to indicate that a wine producer couldn’t follow all of the guidelines but still makes great wine. Gilberto gave us an example of an IGT wine where it’s comes from the Sangiovese grape, but in order to be a Sangiovese wine it has to be made of 80% Sangiovese grapes. A wine producer could instead use 50% Sangiovese grapes and 50% something else and still make an amazing blend, but then would be limited to the IGT label. This allows for many great wine producers to be creative in the blends they can make.

Along on drive to the first winery, we saw beautiful fields of sunflowers, vineyard after vineyard, and rolling hills that went on for miles.

On first visit was at a family run vineyard called Poggio Rubino. This is a 7 hectare vineyard that has been passed down the family since the 1800s. To ensure the soil of the ground is healthy to grow great grapes, they plant a rose, and if the rose grows then they know grapes will too. The vineyard is surrounded by a tallish caged fence, which protects the grapes from the many pests, particularly deer and wild boar!

We had a tour of the grounds, the beautiful view, and of course the cellars where the magic happens. They informed us that the wine spends only 30 days max in the silver tanks.

We then returned to the main room to begin our tasting. To start with, we had their rosé which is 50% Sangiovese grapes and 50% Pinot noir. It was sparkly, fresh, and an easy drinking summer wine.

Next, they brought us two different olive oils to try. The pure one cost €35 a bottle and the blend €25. One olive tree makes about one bottle of olive oil. We also tried two different types of balsamic. One was 15 years aged and cost €70 a bottle and the second was 30 years aged and cost €90 a bottle. For any balsamic lover, you would have been in heaven. These were both absolutely delicious, especially the 30 year aged, as it was less sweet. At this point, they also prepared us a small snack.

Our next wine was called the Rosso, which is a 2 year aged young grape.

After that, we had two types of Brunello, these are 5 year aged grapes. They were similar in style except for the one on the right came from volcanic soil which greatly impacted the minerally taste of the wine (and to me, made it that much more delicious!).

Finally, we had the piece de resistance: the riserva. This Brunello has to be aged for at least 6 years. This baby sells for a whopping €125, and you could taste the difference.

Our tasting ended with a glass of grappa which is made from the grape skin.

After leaving the winery, we made a short stop in the town of Montalcino, which sits 500m above sea level and was an old fortress for the town of Siena.

Continuing on our journey, we headed to our second vineyard, Tornsei. The house has been in the family since 1863 and again has been passed down through the generations. It’s currently being run by a 91 year old grandma, the son who is the winemaker, and his wife and two daughters. We were lucky enough to meet the winemaker himself and his daughter! We received a tour of the cellars and learned about how their wine making process has evolved through the years.

When we returned to the stunning panoramic terrace, they had a beautiful homemade lunch made for us. During lunch, we also tasted their Rosso and Brunello.

We loaded back into the van and began our trip back to Florence. Now, I forgot to mention. We had booked this tour because they specifically stated that they don’t take more than 8 people in their van. However, today it was only Daniel and I. We essentially had our own private tour of these beautiful Brunello vineyards!

On route home, the amazing Gilberto stopped at the Piazzale Michelangelo to allow us to see a gorgeous view of Florence, which included part of the old city wall that was built in 1334. The square also has the “fake David.”

Returning back to our B&B for a quick pit stop, it then began to hail!

We waited for an hour to so for the storm to pass, and ventured to our favourite little market for dinner. We were fairly filled by all our wine and food today, but still managed to have a beautiful cheesey appetizer, a massive arancini, and a little dessert.

You Want a Pisa Me?

Feeling a little sad this morning, as we boarded the train and said goodbye to our favourite little town, Riomaggiore. On route to or next destination, we planned for a few hour stop over in Pisa.

Getting off the train, we realized how nice it was to be by the water as the good old hot weather was right back at us. We dropped our bags off in storage for the day, and headed into town to explore all that Pisa had to show us.

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen cars so that was an interesting feeling right away. We crossed the Arno River and immediately were in one of Pisa’s many piazzas, Piazza Girabaldi.

Continuing along the pedestrian only streets, we strolled around to the old city walls.

This street led us straight to The Field of Miracles, which includes several beautiful historical buildings, and of course, the Leaning Tower is Pisa.

The tower itself was surprisingly smaller than I had imagined, but it’s definitely leaning! Apparently in the early 2000s it underwent extensive restoration as it was on the brinks of a potential collapse.

As we were making fun of everyone posing and being ridiculous, we figured we might as well join in on the fun. When in Rome, right, oh still not yet.

We wandering around the area for quite some time, trying to avoid the heat and crowds, and then decided to head for lunch. We walked away for the Field of Miracles area, more into the historical centre and found a gem of a restaurant. We began with the bruschetta, which was insane with the ripe tomatoes and dripping olive oil.

Next, we had a four cheese gnocchi, which also was very cheesy and tasty.

Finally, we ended with a pizza, made right in front of us in a wood burning stove. The perfect lunch!

Continuing our travels in Pisa, we passed through the streets, the many piazzas, the monuments, a garden: there was just so much to see!

As the heat we getting to us, we stopped for a final little drink before heading back to the train station on route to Florence!

Once arriving in Florence, we got ourselves situated at our new B&B, and then ventured out to check out the food at the local market. There are over 40 different restaurants and places where you can buy insanely fresh food. It’s almost like a super high end cafeteria.

We began our dinner with a cheese and meat platter and a glass of red. Wow!

Next, we order the spaghetti alla carbonara.

Perfect way to end a day of traveling!

“Cinquegelaterre”

Our daily adventures today led us to discover and explore the rest of the towns of Cinque Terre. While doing so, we decided to incorporate our own gelato tour. Trying gelato in each town and deciding on the best gelato makers.

We began in the fullest town north, Monterosso. Bathing suit on and ready, we immediately headed down to the beach. Monterosso is known for their beaches and supposedly have the best ones out of the five towns. I would probably agree!

We wandered around Monterroso afterwards and learned about their cliff called Punta Mesco. It now contains ancient sandstone mines which were used to pave the streets of Monterosso and other cities in the area.

Monterosso definitely has a different feel to it that both Riomaggiore and Manarola. It’s much bigger, you could stroll the streets for hours, and explore all the old sites it has to offer.

Here, I ordered the lemon and reso berry gelato which was a pretty good start. Daniel doesn’t remember what he had. It must have been that tasty!

Hopping back on the train, we ventured next to Vernazza. Like Monterroso, Vernazza is a larger town with lots to see and do. We went down to the harbour, wandered into some amazing shops, and relaxed by the water. There was one shop in town that had lemon everything, soap, drinks, olive oils, etc… It was amazing.

Here, I ordered the lemon and strawberry, and Daniel had the lemon cream and pistachio. This gelato was decent, but the previous one was still better in my mind.

Continuing our journey, we arrived in the high top town of Corniglia. This place is beautiful! The narrow, cobbled stone streets brought back memories of Venice. We climbed up numerous stairs to reach a view point, but it ended up being too dark to be able to see anything decent.

We stopped at the number one ranked gelato shop in Cinque Terre, and it was insanely delicious! Here, I ordered the lemon and mango, and Daniel ordered the Cream of Portofino and basil. Portofino was Daniels favourite of the three as well, so looks like Corniglia takes it for the win!

We skipped Manarola on our way back, since we already visited it, and heading back to Riomaggiore for our final night.

By the time we arrived in town, due to a 30 minute train delay, it was almost 11:30pm. Apparently everything in Riomaggiore closes so our only option for food was a little dive bar. We ordered a couple drinks and pizza, with low expectations, but everything was surprisingly good.

I’m on a Boat!

After our pesto class, we were getting toasty so we headed back to our home base to go for a swim. It was the best decision! The water was coolish but for the first time, we felt such relief from the heat. The bay is surrounded by big rocks, and you just climb across them and hop into the water. So refreshing!

We then bought a few tasting treats to have for a dinner snack prior to our evening adventure.

Our amazing host Martha recommended that we go on a sunset boat tour, and although it was a tad pricey, I’m so glad we booked it. We definitely made it worth while by the unlimited focaccia and unlimited wine included!

The boat picked us up in the marina, loaded all of us in (there were 6 others as well), and began our tour. It drove along the water, with absolutely stunning views. It pulled into each harbour of the towns: Manarola, Corniglia (although this town is perched high up on a hill so could really only see it from afar), Vernazza, and Monterosso.

We stopped out in the water just outside Monterosso, and all jumped off of the boat into the water for an evening swim. We were completely surrounded by beauty of the cliffs, water, and sunset.