Tavarnelle val di pesa

Italy has always meant a lot to us as we are both mostly Italian. Growing up, it meant unbelievable food, close family, and always listening to your Mother. We were curios to see how our experience in Italy would compare to the Italian ideals we had grown up with. Our first stop was a small Tuscan town called Tavarnelle Val di Pesa where we stayed in a villa at the top of a hill with porches overlooking vineyards in all directions. It was extremely hot, and the country was in the midst of a severe drought, but huge windows on both sides let the dry air flow right through the house. There was even a little pool that we had to ourselves, which was a necessity in the 105-degree heat.
We stayed for 10 days, day-tripping to medieval villages, including San Gimignano, Lucca, Siena and Florence. Some days we would spend hours just driving through the vineyards and taking pictures. We will always be tourists in Italy, but culturally, it felt familiar in a subtle way, we had a lot in common with this place and these people.



After Tuscany we decided to pop over to Croatia before heading back to Italy to drop the car. We left Croatia after a couple of weeks exploring the coastline and took a 7-hour ferry from Dubrovnik to Italy. The ferry lands you in Bari, and industrial town that you really don’t want to spend much time in. Luckily, Sarah had arranged an Airbnb apartment in Lecce an hour drive south in the region of Puglia, deep in the “heel of the boot.” The city of Lecce, like many others in Italy, is based around a historical old town, but is well positioned for day-trips to plenty of beaches and other cities. Our apartment was huge and well priced, so we stayed for a full week. We’d usually spend most of the day at the beach on the East coast, where the water was as warm as a kiddy pool, return to the apartment in the early afternoon, and then head out to explore the old town and surrounding area.


If you’ve heard of Italy you’ve probably heard of Positano and the Amalfi Coast, but not the less popular, less touristy neighbor Montepertuso. Once again, Sarah found us the most epic apartment we could possibly have stayed in. Three floors, three balconies, and three of the most unbelievable views we’ve seen in a while. Geographically, Montepertuso is pretty much straight up the hill from Positano, which looks so far down it feels like you’re flying. The road zigzags quite a bit because the slope is so steep, but we found out that there is a way to walk from the house all the way down to Positano…1500 stairs through gardens, along cliffs, and through people’s property. It was originally the only way to get to the small town, but relatively recently a road was added, making it much more accessible. It wasn’t until we made the trek down to explore Positano that we realized how incredibly different Montepertuso actually is. Packed with people and teeming with tourist traps, it was tough to find a genuine sandwich for lunch. Positano was not the dreamy Italian village that we had imagined, but luckily Montepertuso was, so after spending some time dodging the crowds we turned around and hiked back up to our amazing apartment. For the rest of our time, we went hiking, day-tripped to Pompeii and Ravello, and even saw a local football (soccer) game on the field in town. At night we’d go out for homemade pasta at Il Ritrovo, one of the most delicious restaurants we’ve experienced since we left home.



After we left the beautiful (and somewhat chaotic) Amalfi Coast, we headed to our final stop in Italy, Rome. Our first order of business was saying goodbye to our trusty Citroen C3. It was sad and slightly scary letting the car go as we hadn’t done much (or any) traveling without our own mode of transportation, but at the same time it was relieving to get rid of something and move on to the next chapter of the trip. Once we were back on foot, we dropped our luggage at our new Airbnb apartment and set out to explore. We were excited to be back in a city with familiar shops and plenty of things to keep us entertained for days. Unfortunately, because it was high season in Rome during our time there and we hadn’t planned a thing as usual, we ended up having to move apartments 4 times during our 17 days there.
Our first place was cheap and comfortable but far outside of the city. Luckily we had only booked the place for 3 nights as we felt we weren’t experiencing the real Rome staying in the suburbs 40 minutes away from the city center. Despite the distance, we made the trek into the city every day to visit many of the must see tourist destinations. In the first couple of days alone we conquered the overly crowded Vatican Museum, got soaked in the rain and walked almost half of the city. By the time our 3 nights in the boonies were up, we were itching to get closer to the action.
Our second apartment was exactly that. Located in the Jewish Ghetto, surrounded by cobble stone streets, delicious Italian restaurants and locals on every corner we were finally in Italian heaven. Not to the mention the apartment was immaculate and our non-English speaking neighbors were a delight to pass by every day as they enjoyed each other’s company on the bench outside for hours on end. We were finally in the perfect location for exploring the rest of the city. We instantly became hooked on the Campo De Fiori market a couple blocks away from our place where we found local fruits, vegetables, sandwiches and amazing iced coffee (which we hadn’t had since the USA). From here we visited many other tourist destinations. We stood in awe by the enormity of the Colosseum and the ceiling of the Pantheon, we stopped by (but didn’t climb) the Spanish Steps, we slurped gelato by the Trevi Fountain and wandered through every cathedral we could find. By the time we had braved enough crowds visiting everything we had read about, it was time to move to apartment number 3.
Trastevere, which is just across the river from the Jewish Ghetto is similar in terms of its appearance but has a much younger vibe. Our apartment was more modest, and a little bit of a walk from the areas we’d come to like, but it was great to become familiar with another area of Rome. There was a great garden that was associated with the university nearby, as well as a bar stocked with an international selection of beer. Right when we started to run out of things to do, our friend Giovanna came from Venice to visit us. Having studied Italian history, she’s quite the tour guide…exactly what we needed. Even the places that we had already seen came to life as Giovanna told us the what, when, and why’s of each piece. She brought a new energy to the place that we thought we were beginning to tire of. It was the perfect ending to our amazing experience in Italy.


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