Italy stole my heart, and in a very aggressive manner. I went for the last two weeks of May, and pretty much everyday for a couple weeks after my return, I teared up a bit thinking about how much I wanted to go back. The experience was especially unique because I went with Luca, my boyfriend who is Italian and showed me around from a local’s perspective. We spent the two weeks touring the North and Tuscany, so I’ll definitely need at least another trip to see Southern Italy!
While there were many wonderful experiences, here are the five things that enjoyed the most from my trip (in no particular order).
Taking a Vespa ride in the Tuscan hills
I’ll admit I was a bit worried at first because I thought Luca’s driving was a bit rough and wasn’t ready to let him drive me around on a Vespa, but I am so glad that he convinced me to do it! We were staying in an agriturismo outside of Volterra, and went to San Gimignano to pick up the Vespa one morning. That day, we went around the hills, San Gimignano, and Volterra on the Vespa instead of the car we were using to get around. We were not ready to give it back when the time came! If you or someone you are travelling with are comfortable driving a Vespa, I would highly recommend renting one in the countryside to explore some smaller towns.
Focaccia in Santa Margherita Ligure
One day, we went to Liguria and hiked from Santa Margherita Ligure to San Fruttuoso. Liguria is home to the famous Cinque Terre and, to some, the best focaccia in Italy. Although I am not a huge fan of hiking, the focaccia I ate along the way provided much needed fuel and indulgence. This is precisely when my will to continue my gluten-free diet in Italy dwindled. At the end of the hike, there was a beautiful (but cold), small beach that could only be reached by taking a ferry or hiking. After a very quick dip in the water, we all took a well-earned nap on the beach. Then, we took the ferry to Camogli and saw more of the picturesque coastline.
Boating in Portovenere
On our last day in Italy, we drove from Pisa to Portovenere, another town in Liguria, to enjoy some time on the Mediterranean. We spontaneously decided to rent a boat and take it out for a few hours. The water was so clear and the views were spectacular! Also, driving the boat was really fun and it was nice that there weren’t many restrictions on what we could do/ where we could go. If you’re looking for a relaxing day in the summer, consider renting a boat just for you and your travel companions.
Wine tasting with Stefano
We did a couple of wine tastings, but the wine tasting at Accademia del Buon Gusto with Stefano touched our hearts! Stefano was so genuine – you could really tell he loved entertaining people and sharing his deep knowledge of wine with all. We went through at least 15 wines, a couple of oils, chocolates, digestifs, and grappa – and this tasting was free! He also shared several fun and thoughtful stories and tapestry artwork. My favorite part about this wine tasting was how unabashedly cluttered the space was. It felt like I had walked into a sommelier’s unboxing of new wines and just casually started chatting about wine. There was no need for a pretense of a wildly popular spot, Stefano’s passion shone through speaking with him. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos – but considering how engaging Stefano was and how tipsy I was, it’s safe to say my mind was elsewhere. You can see photos at the link above!
Bike rides from Retorbido to Salice Terme
Retorbido is Luca’s small hometown, so you probably have not heard of it, but bike rides in the countryside can be done most places in Italy. Though, honestly, I don’t love riding bikes. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ridden a bike since childhood. But, the calm beauty of some of the small towns I went to made me never want to stop riding. It was just so relaxing, and living in New York has made me crave serenity. It’s even better when half-way through the ride you stop for gelato 😀
Thanks for reading! More posts to come soon.