S: Italy November 2010
FC: Italy Meadows & McWilliams Style! November 2010
1: This book documents our vacation to Italy in November of 2010 with our close friends, Kristin and Justin McWilliams. This was Mac's first trip to Europe and where he caught the "travel bug." Italy was everything we could have possibly imagined and more. Spending our time there with Kristin and Justin made it even more special and fun since they recently moved from Houston to Denver. This is truly a trip that will not be forgotten!
2: We started out the trip stopping by the magical city of Civita di Bagnoregio. The city sits on top of a huge plateau and you have to hike up this footbridge to get there. | We stopped and had the best bruchetta I have ever tasted in my life! The house wine was served in plastic cups and it was just what we needed after the long trip. SO good!
3: The streets are so narrow and no cars are allowed into the city at all. All the little patios were lined with potted flowers. Walking through this town was like stepping back in time! | As delirious as we were, Bex and I were in heaven! The charm of this tiny town was truly magical and I will never forget it.
4: Our hotel for the first four nights was in the small town of Loro Ciuffena, named after the flowing river in the background. The river ran straight through the town and was beautiful. We slept with hotel our windows open and woke up to the sound of the roaring river each morning. The hotel was called La Ferriera Residence and was set up more like a small apartment.
5: We made Loro Ciufenna our home base and took day trips from here in the car we rented. | Here we are before one of our many trips around Tuscany.
6: We drove to Montepulciano, a quaint town known for wonderful wine and it's beautiful scenery. The town was basically empty when we showed up so we walked around and peeked into a few churches. The picture to the right is overlooking a soccer field.
7: We walked around and felt like no one even lived here....until we saw this man. He is shaking olives out of the tree with what looks like an electric rake. The olives fall on those nets that are laid down under the tree. | We could only assume that man lived in this cute little house with the most amazing patio and picture perfect view overlooking the hills of Tuscany.
8: The scenery was truly that out of a movie. (Think, Under the Tuscan Sun.) This is also the part of Tuscany that produces the Brunello di Montalcino wine. Justin got this EXPENSIVE wine stuck in his head the whole trip and had a hard time letting it go!
9: Montepulciano has an old medieval fortress in the town center which now serves as a historical site and of course, a wine shop. Here were are enjoying a glass of wine inside the fort walls. A group of American students were there who shot this photo.
10: From Montepulciano, we drove to Siena to spend the afternoon and evening. This photo is taken in the main city square, the Piazza del Campo, which is the notorious site for their biannual horse race, The Palio. The square has a large fountain, dozens of cafes, and is an awesome place for people watching. I can only assume the people in the background were also posing for a photo.
11: Siena is known for it's gelatto, so I clearly had no intention of missing out. The pistachio was divine! We also had some incredible pizza. I ordered a stuffed pizza with olives and sausage- YUM! And of course, we couldn't miss a photo opp with this man made of gold.
12: Sitting in the square with a carafe (or two) of wine was a perfect way to spend the afternoon after a day of site seeing. | There was a lot of action on the square...locals, kids, pigeons, dogs, town drunks...lots to see!
13: As the day came to an end, we continued to sit and watch. This was one of our favorite evenings of the trip...great conversation and lots of laughs.
14: We found a fun Irish pub off the square where we met a local girl who taught us "Chin Chin!" That's Italian for "Cheers" and proved to be very fun to say throughout the rest of the trip! | Mac and Justin went to the balcony for some "guy time."
15: Before we finally found our car, we managed to get in a couple more photos. With some random motorcycles. In dark empty alley ways. At least we had to-go beers!
16: Taylor Swift was all over the radio in Italy...so I jammed out on the way back to Loro Ciuffena. Then we had some patio time, which we probably didn't need. Our patio was incredible though, overlooking the waterfall and river.
17: The next morning, we took another road trip. This time we drove through Perugia, famously known at that time for imprisoning Amanda Knox for the murder, and found our way to Assisi. Assisi is a small city deeply routed in the Catholic religion.
18: We parked at the base of the town and walked up the hill to the town center to check out the first of many cathedrals. | In the background is the Assisi Cathedral dedicated to San Rufino.
19: The view from Assisi is spectacular. One lady we met told us "Assisi is magic." She was right. | The cathedral to the left is dedicated to St. Francis and includes a monastery and bell tower. The picture above was taken inside and you can barely see a monk I captured walking down the hall.
20: There are lots of small tourist shops around the town that sell religious keepsakes. We also stumbled upon the most amazing bakery. We bought bags of pastries. The cannolis and almond cookies were snacked on for days. To the left is a "salted meat" shop, one of my favorite things in Italy. And of course, I ordered a caprese salad. It was so delicious, I had a snap a photo.
21: Here we are for our late afternoon wine break. We sat outside until it was too chilly and then finished up inside. The inside of this particular cafe was very ordinary at first glance. Then we noticed a piece of plexi-glass covering part of the floor which showed some original ancient Roman architecture still in tact underneath our table and below the building.
22: We had some fun on the way out with this random little swing set we stumbled upon. Hey, we were on vacation.
23: We ended our evening back in Loro Ciuffena at this incredible hole on the wall restaurant for a late dinner. This was the way Justin and I ended our night, every night. Justin ordered a Grappa and I ordered a Lemoncello. Grappa tastes like gasoline, although Justin stood his ground that it was great. Lemoncello is like a Lemondrop shot on steroids.
24: After dinner, we stopped off at Enzo's. Enzo is an Italian man who lived in England for 20 years, therefore speaking English very well. We talked to him a lot. | He owns a little shop that can be described as a convenient store where people drink or play videa games and the local teenagers hang out there each night. His store sits right in the center of town.
25: To get back to our hotel from Enzo's and the town center, we had to cross the river and hike back for about 10 minutes. Bex and I took a pitstop here. | In November, it is fall in Italy just like in the United States. The leaves that cover the ground are HUGE!
26: The next morning, we headed off to Florence. Rick Steves, Justin's most trusted travel guru, directed us to a free parking lot overlooking the city. Once we actually made it to Florence, which was an adventure right there, Rick was dead on and we spent an incredible day packing in all the sites his book suggested. We hit up the Uffizi Museum and the Piazza del Duomo which has the Florence Cathedral, Basilica of Santa Maria, and the Baptistry of St. John. We also stopped by the Accademia, home to Michelangelo's The David, which is SO impressive. Even Mac thought it was cool.
27: Mac and I with the Ponte Vecchio in the background. The Ponte Vecchio is a famous bridge across the Arno River, which runs through Florence. It was the only bridge that the Germans did not bomb during WWII. The bridge has been lined with shops since the 13th century. Ferdinand I declared that only jewelers and goldsmiths could have stores here in 1593, and it remains the same today.
28: We climbed to the top of Giotto's Tower, which is part of the main cathedral. It was 414 steps and I hated every minute. Not only was I scared and claustrophobic, the hike up was exhausting and I was sweating in the brisk 60 degree fall morning. My smile is the picture to the right it totally fake.
29: However, the view from the top was breathtaking from every direction. Florence is beautiful and the city has this incredible energy about it. Dana, Mac's aunt, told us we had to make the climb. Even though I complained the whole way up and down, she was right.
30: Here we stand outside the Duomo. From here we headed to the Uffizi and then to see Michelangelo's The David, which is truly worth seeing. No picture does it justice, plus you aren't allowed to take his picture. | Bex and I over the river Arno with the Ponte Vecchio in the background. This was taken right before we had a war with the boys over where the car was parked.
31: There is a neat tradition in Florence where young couples put locks along the Ponte Vecchio. They lock it up and throw the key in the river as a symbol of their love for each other. We didn't leave a lock but I thought the tradition was special enough for a couple pictures.
32: Mac and I with our painting. Justin with Rick in the background. | Saw these huge game fish in the window. Mac had to get a pic! | Another Irish pub on the Piazza del Duomo. I enjoyed a snake bite. | Cold beer for a change was nice.
33: We stopped for our afternoon wine tasting in this neat little wine shop we stumbled upon. The shop was very small with only a few tables. | They brought us little brushettas with various toppings. We were surprised to find out the most delicious one was topped with finely minced pork fat. So gross, yet so good.
34: After spending the entire day in Florence, we headed back to Loro Ciuffena and said our final goodbyes to Enzo.This is when I laid it out on the table and told Enzo I loved him. Tear.
35: Do you see anyone random in these photos? If you are wondering who that is, so are we.
36: We left out hotel in Loro Ciuffena to spend one night at a Tuscan vineyard, called Il Pezatino, before heading to Rome. We we recommended to stay there from some of our Baylor friends. The drive was beautiful and we stopped in the small town of Poppi to see the Poppi Castle.
37: Poppi is a small town with this medieval castle. When we stopped to check it out the castle was deserted so we took a self-guided tour. It was kind of creepy and very dark inside. | Life imitating art.
38: We finally made it to the vineyard after a long drive through the mountains of Tuscany. The vineyard was located outside the town of Rufina. | Here we are getting our first glass of wine from their small shop.
39: We watched the sun set while hiking up the hill through the grape orchard. The vineyard owners live in the white house in the background and we stayed in their guest house. They produce both wine and olive oil on the first floor of their home and we got a private tour to see how it all worked. | Alessandra, the owner, described their life on the vineyard as hard work but very rewarding and simple.
40: This is Pepe, the vineyard dog. He came along with us as we hiked up through the grapevines and olive trees. Since he spoke Italian, he didn't respond to commands very well but was very friendly.
41: During the summer months the grapevines are very green with leaves and produce the grapes. Each row was labeled accordingly... Chianti, Merlot, etc. | Vineyard blooper.
42: Allesandra and her friend made us the most wonderful four course meal for dinner. The mushroom pasta was to die for. The boys loved all the pork. Of course, the wine was amazing, too! | The vineyard is very small and this is part of their little store. Notice the bottles in the center shelf...they are very old with handwritten labels on the actual bottle.
43: After one night at the vineyard we were ready to check out Rome, the last leg of our trip. We booked an apartment through VRBO for our time there. Driving through Rome traffic and parking was quite the ordeal but we made it. The owner met us there and was nicest lady ever!
44: The first day we took a half day guided tour of Vatican City. We saw St. Peter's Basilica and square, the Apostolic Palace, and the Sistine Chapel. The tour ended at night so we were able to see all the city all light up.
45: Here is the famous Trevi Fountain that we visited that first night. It was slightly raining so we quickly made out wishes and headed for cover. | At the time of our trip, we had just learned that Meg and Austin were pregnant. My wish was that they had a healthy baby. It came true with our nephew Tyler!
46: Wine stop before dinner. This is the bar that Justin and I debated where it was located. He was certain I was leading us in the wrong direction. | Here we are toasting with Lemoncello to my victory of proving him wrong.
47: This is the rooftop patio of our apartment. It was so nice sitting out there and enjoying the wine we were given by our hostess. | The patio overlooked both the Collosseum and St. Peter's Basilica of Vatican City. Priceless location!
48: Rome has these streets stands with the most delicious fresh produce. Roasted chestnuts stands were everywhere. Bex and I continued to buy and eat them, although we went back and forth thinking they were delicious and disgusting.
49: The next morning we quickly saw some other sites before meeting Bruno again. Standing on the steps of the Capitoline Hill, one of seven hills in Rome. This is essentially the capital building today and holds a huge museum. | Mac and Justin viewing the guarded Tomb of the Unknown Solider and it's eternal flame established after WWI.
50: Finally, Mac's favorite part of the entire trip. Standing in the Collosseum is truly surreal when you stop to think about all the history that has taken place with in this arena.
51: Bruno, our guide, created a story for us where we each represented famous characters from Roman history. It was a really fun way for us to understand what went on and feel like part of the tour.
52: More pics with Bruno! | Bruno also had a great story about taking Will Smith on a guide here where he reenacted a scene from the movie, The Gladiator.
53: Following the Collosseum guide, Bruno took us through the Palatine, old Roman Forum, and the Circus Maximus. | The pictures show remnants of temples dedicated to ancient Roman gods. It was essentially the marketplace and political headquarters of ancient Rome.
54: This is the same photo taken by Bruno with and without a camera flash. In the background you can see an old temple of Remus and Romulus, who are constant figures throughout Rome. The bottom picture shows the moon in the background.
55: Rome by night. The picture below was taken from the roof of the Capitoline Hill building, where Bruno ended our tour. Great views of the entire city. From here, we headed to the Spanish Steps.
56: For our last meal, we choose a random place and walked in. It proved to be a delicious last meal of bruschetta, pizza, pasta.... | tiramisu, lemoncello and grappa. And of course, a never-ending pitcher of house Chianti. (Seriously, the pitchers seem to never end!)
57: Our trip to Italy will be so hard to top! We hope to take another trip soon with the McWilliams and can't wait to visit Italy again! Ciao!!