Honeymoon in Italy (Part IV)

continued from Part III

Well it may have taken us a few months but we are finally getting around to writing our final honeymoon post! One of my New Years Resolutions for 2016 is to post at least twice a month so hopefully things will be more consistent on the site. P.S. This one is lengthy so grab a glass of wine before you start!

In our last honeymoon post, Matt showed you a few of our whirlwind and jam packed days in Tuscany which culminated in an incredible (and surprise!) cooking class. Our next adventure took us to Florence, or Firenze as it is known in its Italian name. I was so excited to visit Florence as I had heard many great things from Matt about the city. His sister studied in Florence during college and Matt visited her so he already had a good feel for the city and some ideas on what to see. We have so much to cover in this post so let’s get started, shall we?

Florence

We arrived in Florence a bit later in the day, about 11:00 AM, after driving around for what felt like forever trying to find a parking spot. We had a couple hours to kill before our tour of the famous Uffizi Gallery so we wandered the city and grabbed some lunch.

church

The magnificent Florence Duomo

We were both so jazzed to tour the Uffizi Gallery and see some of the most historic works of art ever created. We saw artwork by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Botticelli – just to name a few. We took hundreds of photos but you truly have to see it for yourself, if you ever have the chance.

gallery

Inside the Uffizi

We managed to close the museum down. That’s right. They were literally pushing us out the doors as we were trying to get a glimpse of all the paintings at the end. I should also mention that this is the point in the story where Matt managed to set off the alarm in the Gallery! He was pointing to a picture to show me something and reached a little too closely and…BEEP BEEP BEEP! The alarm stopped ringing as soon as he moved his hand away (which was immediately) but I was doubled over with laughter at his surprised face!

storm

A storm approaching across the Arno River

We were starving afterward and also needed a break from walking so we did what we do best and headed out for an aperitivo. We ended up at a swanky bar on top of an even swankier hotel in what must have been Florence’s swankiest district. All the Italians here were dressed to the nines and we must have stuck out like sore thumbs! I didn’t mind though (okay maybe I minded a little bit 🙂 ) as we ordered our drinks and snagged a table. Bonus: Our drinks came with complimentary munchies – score! After our snack we wandered around the city for a bit longer. I was hunting for the perfect leather handbag to take home with me but I just couldn’t find anything that made me swoon. I think I’ll need to do some research prior to going next time. We did have a serendipitous run-in with a woman that Matt knows through one of his colleagues at work. Apparently she owns a boutique clothing store in Florence so we sought her out and had a wonderful time chatting with her. Here’s her website, if you’re interested. She also owns a restaurant and insisted that she make us reservations for that night. Absolutely, we said!

translate

Thank goodness for Google Translate…

Aside from the Uffizi Gallery, dinner was easily the highlight of our day in Florence. Actually, I’ll be honest, it was a tie between the Gallery and dinner. The food was SO. GOOD. Definitely the best meal either of us had the entire two weeks in Italy – and we had some incredible food so that’s saying something! It was the most perfect way to end our day in Florence before we made the drive back to our house in the countryside.

pre dinner

Florence at night

Our final day in Tuscany was spent wine tasting. We visited two vineyards, had lunch and explored the countryside.

vineyard

national park

View of the Val d’Orcia

We spent much of our day in the historic Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany. This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to many famous Italian wines – a few of which we had the chance to taste! Our first stop was the Barone Ricasoli located in Chianti, Tuscany. The first thing you notice when you pull in is the massive castle at the top of the hill.

castle

I laughed to myself that Matt and I didn’t know anything about said castle before arriving – we were simply there for the wine! Apparently the castle is quite famous and can be toured. We declined the tour and politely asked where to taste the wine 🙂 This tasting was probably my favorite of all that we experienced in Italy. The staff were incredible and the wine was just amazing. We bought a bottle of the Brolio Chianti to take back to the States. They had a restaurant on site as well so after our tasting we made our way there for a late lunch. The food did not disappoint and of course we had to enjoy more of their wine while we dined!

lunch

This photo was taken right before the wild boars came tearing through the garden.

boars

Apparently they are a big problem in Italy because they destroy the vines. Ironically, I ate the wild boar ragu for lunch here…I didn’t know I would get to see my lunch alive.

Our next stop was a vineyard famous for their Brunello wines. By the way, an authentic Brunello wine is hard to come by! You may know it by its more common grape name – sangiovese – but when planted in the Montalcino territory it is considered a Brunello. There are many other strict rules in order for a wine to have the distinction of being called a Brunello but the major one is that it must be grown in the Montalcino territory. We visited the Poggio Antico vineyard, which was more elegant and refined than the Brolio vineyard we had just come from.

tree lined

That driveway!

We arrived just in time to start the group tour, which was then followed up by a tasting. Matt and I have been to many vineyard tours but this one was a notch above the rest. Mostly because the winery is much older than what we’re used to in Virginia so the history is incredible. We were shown a cellar where they had bottles dating all the way back to the 80’s when the vineyard was first producing wine.

wine barrel

bottling room

The bottling room.

We bought a bottle of authentic Brunello after the tasting and are praying that we’ll be disciplined enough to not drink it for another 5 years or so!

Our final two days in Italy were spent in Rome. After our vineyard adventures we came back to our house, made dinner and began packing and getting the house back in order. We checked out the next morning, said a final goodbye to the owner, Fabrizio, and headed back to the airport to drop off our rental car and cab back to our hotel in Rome. We were a bit hurried because we had tickets to a guided tour of the Vatican that day.

waiting for tour

Our best ‘tourist face’.

I could do an entire post just about the Vatican. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did but I was truly blown away by the grandeur, the history and the reverence that surrounds the city.

globe

If this looks familiar (as it did to me) it’s designed by the same artist who designed the globe outside the United Nations building in New York.

 

Basilica

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

The tour was expensive. However, in our opinion, it was worth it. Our tour guide was excellent and without her I don’t think we would have made it through everything and have seen what we wanted to see. It would take weeks to tour the entire Vatican so if you go with a tour they make sure you get to see the major highlights. At the end of the tour (3+ hours so wear good shoes) you have the option to climb to the top of the dome of the basilica. It’s a few extra euros but completely worth it. There is quite a bit of climbing involved though so make sure you’re up for it!

view from dome

View from the top of the Basilica

view from dome 2

St Peter's square

St. Peter’s Square. It was surreal to be standing where the Pope gives Mass!

swiss guard

Swiss Guard

We were so exhausted after our day at the Vatican so we grabbed a taxi back to our hotel and settled in for the night. We had a bottle of wine that we needed to dispose of before our flight back to the States (we had five in our possession and could only come home with four) so we ordered a pizza and sat on the balcony while enjoying our wine. It was a relaxing way to end our day. We had big plans to see the rest of Rome on our next day!

traveling home

We took the metro into the city center the next morning and commenced trying to see all of Rome’s most famous sites in 8 hours. I should also note that I was in a walking boot the entire day while we were walking around. Needless to say we received many stares but I was in pretty serious pain from not wearing it the previous two weeks so I didn’t have much of a choice. Alas, that’s another post in and of itself! Let’s check out Rome, shall we?

spanish steps

View from the Spanish Steps.

roman forum

Roman Forum

Trevi fountain

Disappointed that the Trevi Fountain was under construction. We threw pennies in for good luck anyway.

Colloseum

Colosseum. We didn’t pay to go in but you could see through some of the entryways. Definitely one of the most spectacular sites we saw in Rome.

For lunch we headed over to the Roman Jewish Ghetto neighborhood, which I was fascinated to find out is what they actually call this neighborhood. I thought it to be slightly offensive until I did some research on the history of the neighborhood and understood a little better why they have preserved the name as such. The food was also a nice change of pace from all the pasta we had been eating!

lunch

jewish ghetto

The Roman Ghetto

We explored a bit longer then eventually made our way back to the metro and headed back to the hotel. We were flying home the next day and needed to pack all our things.

train station sunday

Our hotel was in a nice area but it seemed to be more of a ‘business’ district so we weren’t sure where to eat that night. We turned to the trusty Google and ended up in this tiny, hole in the wall, family owned Italian restaurant. As you can imagine, the food was incredible! The prices were unbelievably cheap – a liter of wine for 6 euro! Don’t worry, we cannot drink a liter of wine in one sitting. It was the perfect finish to our dreamy Italian honeymoon. We ended the night by grabbing a couple of bourbons from the hotel bar and smoking our cigar on the balcony, reminiscing about the past two weeks.

bourbon and cigar

The next morning we headed to the airport and begrudgingly made our way back to the States. Although we were ready for the familiar comforts of home (to-go coffee, our own bed, etc.) I think I could have stayed in Italy for a while longer. Bon apetit!

final photo

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One thought on “Honeymoon in Italy (Part IV)

  1. Pingback: Honeymoon in Italy (Part III) | Of Love and Wine

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