Rounding the drive out with a stop in Pienza, home of the famous Pecorino cheese, we finally made it to Montepulciano, home of more delicious Tuscan wines, with our cameras clicking non stop along the way. Finally returning back to Siena as the golden sunset engulfed the surrounding countryside.
As always the time to bid Siena goodbye came too quickly, but with our Tuscan adventure continuing we made our way to the cultural delights of Florence and the world of the Medici family.
Growing up with a mother whose love for Florence was ingrained in us from birth, for me it was wonderful to be able to experience the place that held such a special place in her heart.
Of all the incredible art on offer in Italy, I would have to say David was one of the most phenomenal things to see. The way you come around the corner in the Accademia Gallery to get your first glimpse of the incredible statue from afar, before he draws you in close up to truly take in the sheer size of him, and the phenomenal detailing. It was amazing.
With a visit to the Uffizi Gallery, a stroll across the Old Bridge, Churches, Monuments, and the best Gelato possibly in the entire world all on the agenda, it wasn’t hard to fill our time in Florence. And before we knew it our fleeting visit was over, with a train taking us onwards to the charm of the five villages of Cinque Terre.
Staying in the village of Riomaggiore, the charm and quaintness of the area was an absolute delight. Almost immediately my nose led me to a tiny store from which a local woman sold fresh home made pasta and the most delicious sauce, which she would cook up while you waited so you could literally start eating it as you walked out of the shop, truly my form of heaven. Fortunately we were staying just outside of the peak summer season, which meant it wasn’t quite as busy as it usually is. However unfortunately, some recent extreme weather, coupled with ongoing rain, meant the walking tracks connecting the villages were closed, putting a stop to our hopes of getting some hiking in. Luckily most of the villages are pretty hilly so there was still plenty of opportunity to burn off some of the pizza and pasta calories.
Our first night we experienced the fast changing wrath of the elements as we watched a storm approach, hit hard, and blow through, before leaving us with the most sublimely colourful sunset.
The sun, especially as it set, created the most exquisite light in the villages, sparking to life the various bright colours of the buildings. It really felt like a touch of magic had found its way to us as the sun set in the evening.
With the walking tracks closed we decided to get around the other villages by boat. And if we couldn’t walk, sailing surely was the most idyllic way to see this part of the Italian Riviera.
Taking the ferry it also gave us the opportunity to visit Portovenere, a village further along the coast which had been recommended by a lot of our friends. If the trip around the coastline wasn’t beautiful enough, the village itself was simply wonderful. With delightful restaurants and cafes lining the waterfront, the back streets and alleys were full of adorable little shops, and friendly locals selling all kinds of local produce, including the most heavenly pesto.
After a day of sailing it was back to the station and a train bound for Venice, our final stop in Bella Italia.
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from Venice but for some reason it wasn’t at the top of my ‘Italian destination excitement list’. Perhaps I had unconsciously lowered my expectations, just incase our so far phenomenal Italian adventure ended with a bit of a fizzer. Whatever the case, I’m glad I left the train station expecting to be underwhelmed, because it meant the feeling of seeing Venice for the first time packed an even bigger punch – I was instantly in love.
Arriving in the late afternoon, our first taste of the amazingness of this floating city was under the glow of more of the most exquisite sun light. The way the sun’s rays bounced off of different parts of buildings as it slowly set, coupled with a sense of being lost in some kind of Labyrinth as we tried to navigate our way around the canals by foot, gave the strangest most unreal feeling.
I imagine the timing of our stay probably enhanced our visit, again missing the bulk of the summer travelers Venice felt relatively quiet and empty to us, and with the weather cooling off considerably, we didn’t have to battle the extreme heat and smells that come with the summer days.
The next day we decided to see Venice the way that’s best, from the water, and grabbing a boat headed towards the other end of town. Watching life exist around waterways is quite a fascinating thing. The activity on the water and the hustle and bustle that goes on by boat was crazy, with all sorts of services from rubbish collectors to posties operating on the canals.
With Mike’s birthday to celebrate, the sights of Piazza San Marco to explore,trinkets made from Ventian glass to hunt down, well played Vivaldi to listen to, Venetian carnival masks to choose between, wine and food to drink and eat, as well as increasingly beautiful sunsets to take in, before we knew it our time in Bella Italia had sadly come to an end.
Two weeks of exploring suddenly felt like they were over in a heart beat, and all I wanted more than anything was to be able to go back and do it all again. Italy had well and truly stolen my heart, all possible expectations had been blown out of the water, and I was devastated to have to say goodbye. Italy was and is everything I had always dreamed it’d be, and already I’ve started dreaming of finding my way back there again.