I returned from my work trip to Mexico City late Thursday night. I had just one night at home and one morning to pack for Italy. We left to drive from Malone to the Montreal airport early Friday afternoon. We had a direct flight from Montreal to Rome which was nice. It was quite bumpy in the middle though and Stella got scared.
When we landed in Rome Matthew and Franklin were there to greet us. We got our rental car - a brand new Mercedes wagon. I drove out of the airport and it turned out to be pretty straightforward to get onto the highway without any real complication from proximity to Rome city center, so that was a relief.
We drove the 3.5 hours from Rome to our villa near Florence. We stopped for lunch at a small town cafe. Stella and I both got papardelle bolongese which was tasty and Matt and Frankie got similar but with chingiale (wild boar). A couple of espressi to stave off jet lag and we were on our way.
We managed to get very close to the villa but were off by one driveway. The owner waved us to proceed to the adjacent property. We waited there for our host to open the gate and get us settled into the villa. The place was gorgeous and very picture book perfect. A very tidy pool overlooked the hills of Tuscany lined with tidy rows of grape vines.
The other two cars arrived shortly thereafter and we rested before our first evening dinner. We hired a chef - Barbara - to cook a meal for us in the villa kitchen. There was a tuscan bread salad and pasta carbonara. Everything was delicious.
Sunday we stayed at the villa, swam in the pool, got over jet lag, and ate leftovers for lunch.
We had dinner at La Gramola in our little village of Tavarnelle Val de Pasa which was very tasty. The vibe on the back patio atrium was lovely.
Monday Stella and I went to Volterra with Matthew and Frankie. We checked out 2 museums and had a lovely pranzo al fresco. That ravioli I had there was really lovely. The driving was really super twisty and fast and narrow. Just switchback after switchback.
Tuesday we had early morning reservations for the Ufizzi gallery in Florence, so we were on the road by 6:15 to get to a tram station then take the tram into the city center. We then walked to the Ufizzi and Kate waited on line to exchange our reservation for actual tickets. She then learned that our entry time was not in fact 8:00 but actually 9:30 so we could have slept another 90 minutes. But we took the opportunity to hit a nearby caffe and I checked off one of my trip goals: get a canolo that has just been filled and a cafe latte.
We did the Ufizzi then went to a restaurant we knew from our last visit 25 years ago: Coco Lezzone. The service was fast and some things were tasty but Stella got sick from her food.
Afterward Frankie insisted on getting gelato at the most popular and crowded gelateria - Vivoli. So we went there and got some creamy deliciousness. We walked our way back to the tram and home for a nap. Florence was extremely crowded everywhere and even though driving in the city is highly restricted, it is still permitted for residents and deliveries and the narrow streets are frequented by fast-driving trucks, cars, and motorcycles.
I was pretty tired and ended up napping in the afternoon then having trouble falling asleep promptly at night so I slept late and they late me sleep in while the group departed for their walking tour of Siena. Stella and I stayed at the villa and relaxed. Allie arrived in Siena by train and met up with the group there.
When the group got back to the villa we had our second chef dinner with many courses but the white beans in tomato sauce was the star. There was also a huge pyramid of profiterols which were very tasty.
Thursday we had a relaxed morning in the villa and then drove up around the Apenine Mountains to Arezzo. We had a delicious lunch (penne a la gricia). Stella and I got some amazing gelato - 2 big cones for 5 euro - and then toured the Fortrezza Medicea. Everyone had leftovers for dinner back at the villa.
Friday morning we went into the local town for coffee, pastries, and visiting the local shops. We did some swimming in the villa and went to A Puteca in town for pizza for dinner just Stella and I so we could eat earlier in the evening. The family went separately back to La Gramola.
Saturday morning we did the 3.5 hour drive back to the Rome airport. We were glad to have taken the full insurance coverage since Matt bumped into a post backing out of our carport and put a sizeable dent into the front left quarter panel. We had to have the rental car back by 11AM but our flight wasn't until 5PM so it was a long day putzing around the Rome airport.