Tuscany & Umbria – 2015

This summer’s vacation took me to the rolling green hills of Tuscany and Umbria in the heart of Italy. I was joined on this trip by my good friend Pam Schultz who traveled to Ecuador with me two years ago.

The first few days of the trip were overcast with a few sprinkles, but then the sun came out. Though we traveled in late May and early June it actually was a bit warm a few days.

I’ve traveled to Italy in the past, but those trips focused on the major cities of Venice, Florence and Rome. This trip was a totally different experience. Other than a day trip to Florence we were off the beaten tourist path enjoying medieval cities and hills and valleys covered in wheat, olive groves and vineyards. The colors were incredible and my photos can’t really do the scenery justice.

We had four 3-night stays with day trips from each location. Three of our hotels were in or next to ancient walled towns. One hotel was a villa in the Tuscan countryside. You couldn’t ask for better hotel locations. Walking through these little towns was wonderful. Everywhere you turned there were amazing little shops. The town of Pienza is known for pecorino cheese and walking through the streets just made you hungry. Our final night was at an agroturismo (farmhouse hotel) just outside of Rome.

The residents of these walled cities had little, if any, yards so their front doors and windowsills became their gardens. Herbs, flowers and succulents were everywhere. You would swear each resident was in a contest for garden of the week.

The food…what can I say…awesome! Most meals on the trip were included and the lunches and dinners came with never-ending wine! We certainly were never hungry, though that didn’t stop me from having a gelato or two or ten. Our free evenings included pasta at an outdoor cafe on the piazza in Lucca and pizza cooked in a wood fired oven in Pienza. Did I mention the wine…and beer? Pizza is paired with beer in Italy!

We had cooking lessons on two occasions. One was hands-on with a very classy lady where we prepared pasta sauce, a chicken, ham and cheese dish and tiramisu made with pineapple (light and refreshing). The other started out in the countryside learning how a local family hunts for truffles. We then learned about their pecorino cheese-making followed by a demonstration from their sweet old Italian mother showing us how real pasta was made. As we watched, we had wine, salami, cheese and crustinis with truffles and olive oil on top. This was followed by a meal of salad, the pasta, Italian sausages and ice cream for desert. Did I mention we had wine as well?

One afternoon we visited a winery owned and run by a woman. After visiting her wine cellars and learning about the winery’s operations we had a wine tasting with “light lunch.” That turned into 5+ glasses of different wines and delicious finger foods.

There were too many other adventures and discoveries to describe.

For those looking for beautiful countryside, food, wine and medieval cities I would definitely recommend a trip to Tuscany and Umbria. I hope you enjoy my photos of the highlights of this trip.

Dates: May 21 – Jun 4, 2015
Tour Operator: Overseas Adventure Travel

 

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