Italy 2015 Wrap Up

[So uhh…Disclaimer.  This post is long.  Like makes previous posts that I’ve had a disclaimer on look short.  It’s just shy of 20,000 words.  A professional typist typing at 80 wpm would take 4 hours just to retype this post.  I don’t blame anyone if you don’t want to read through it entirely.  You can search the area/town you might be interested in or skip down to the concluding thoughts where I give more opinions/advice based on our experience.  The day by day portion is more of a travel journal.  Also, Alyce has a talent for saying more than I do in much fewer words, so you can read her posts too.  Good luck.]


Italy…Finally.  This one had been on both of our wish lists for a while.

Me – I’ve always been fascinated with Roman history.  The Romans were an incredible society and were more advanced than any other that would show up for quite some time.  My engineering side has always been impressed by what they were able to accomplish 2000 years ago.  My law side is similarly impressed with Rome.  The Louisiana Civil Code that we use today is a direct descendant from Roman law – one of the few things I took from the Legal Traditions class we had to take at LSU.  It equally influenced just about all of the Western legal systems.

Alyce – She has a strong Italian heritage on her mom’s side.  Her Nonna (the Italian word for grandmother) cooked all sorts of delicious Italian meals, many of which I was fortunate enough to get eat too.  Pasta, Pizza, Italian meats and cheeses are many of her favorite foods.  She loves the history too, just as I enjoy the food, markets, etc. as well.

As is usually the case, Alyce had to rein me in on the planning/scope of the trip.  I wanted 3 weeks.  Alyce shut that down being as we had never even traveled with James when she was submitting her vacation request.  Also, she had only been at her new job a couple weeks when vacation requests were due.  Going right for a 3 weeker would have been a little bold.  In fact, she just submitted her vacation requests for 2016, and the same situation played out.  I wanted three weeks; she settled at two.  I’ll get the three weeker in 2017… [Editors note: Since writing this, we have changed our 2016 fall vacation to 3 weeks.  Persistence pays off.]

Two weeks sounds like a lot – and it is for US vacations – but it really isn’t that long to see a country.  You lose one night to travel, so you’re down to 13 nights before you even get started.  Plus, we had a 15 month old with us.  We don’t quite see/do as much as we used to…

Speaking of which, I planned about half of what I usually would (in terms of meals/activities/wine/etc.), and we still ended up skipping half of what we had planned.  And that is fine and somewhat expected.  No one wins if we wake up a baby and have him scream through a lunch because we wanted to go to a particular place.  That’s not enjoyable for us or the others around us.

Similarly, I probably planned our stops a little differently in the past.  I definitely would have stopped a lot more along the way during our transits.  We drove right through the heart of the Chianti wine region and didn’t stop at a single place.  As it was, we stayed at 5 different spots over the 13 days…That’s moving when travelling with a one year old.

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A Birthday Miracle

I’m not really a birthday person. I don’t really get overly excited about it, but this year James gave me the best present ever.

Today we drove from Montalcino  to Barolo.  I’ve sort of been dreading this day because it is about a 5 hour drive and James typically doesn’t do too great on long car rides.  Our “plan” was to drive 2 hours to Pisa, get out the car, walk around, and have lunch.  Then, we were going to finish the 3 hour car ride.  As we have gotten further into this trip, we always laugh when we talk about our ” plan.” The truth is, James make the plans.  If he’s not happy, there is no point in forcing some sort of schedule.  But today, everything went according to plan!

We left Montalcino around 10:30 after a good breakfast and coffee and headed out on the road.  James stayed awake for the 2 hours until Pisa, and he was really good.  Our hope was that he would stay awake for the first half of the ride and then he could sleep the second half.

Once we got to Pisa, we parked and saw the Tower.  We were amazed at all the tourists and hawkers.  Pisa is obviously a hot spot to visit.  We walked around.  Yep, the tower surely does lean.


We found a restaurant and had a quick margarita pizza for lunch.  I did another miracle diaper change in the bathroom, and we were back on the road.


James fell asleep pretty early on the ride.  Justin and I held our breadth hoping that he would stay asleep.  The car ride was very quiet.  I was afraid that if I said anything that he would wake up.  We drove through lots and lots of tunnels and more winding hills.

About 30 minutes before we got there, James woke up.  But…..he didn’t cry and fight to get out of his seat (miracle).  He drank his milk, and we made it to our destination.

In Barolo, we are staying at Le Torri.  It is more of a traditional hotel than we have been staying in.  It’s very nice.  It overlooks all of the vineyards, and it is so beautiful!


We drank some wine from Uccelliera (the vineyard that we visited) and celebrated a successful day….. and my birthday.  We got some food from the restaurant on the property and had a nice quiet evening.

Tomorrow, we visit some vineyards in Barolo


A Vineyard Visit

Today, we started out with a great breakfast provided by Castel Brunello.  It was mainly meats, cheeses, bread, fruit etc.  But it was nice to have something easily accessible.  I guess that’s the downside to staying in apartments rather than hotels.  James really enjoyed a banana yogurt, but by the end of breakfast both he and I were covered in yogurt so we had to change clothes before going out.  Just in case anyone was wondering, we currently have no dirty laundry! I’ve really been trying to stay on top of it.

So, the plan was to go to an 11:00 wine tour and tasting and then lunch at 1:00 at Il Lecchio, and we actually did it!  Usually, we start out with a loose plan and let James’s mood guide the day.  He actually let us do everything that we wanted!

We went to Uccellliera vineyard and had such a nice time.  The owner/winemaker’s wife gave us a tour and tasting.  Everything was great.  When we first pulled up, their 6 month old German Shepard puppy greeted us, and James loved her.  When we were in the cellar doing the tasting, their 4 year old daughter played with James and kept him entertained.  The wife, Paola, spoke good English and the daughter is taking English lessons.  Paola’s husband, Andrea, is the winemaker.  They were all very sweet and make great wine!

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Lunch at Il Lecchio was great.  I loved the fact that there were alot of other kids in the restaurant.  One table looked like a big family with about 5 young children.  There was a baby that looked like she was about 2 weeks old.  It was fun to watch them, and it was also good to know that James wasn’t the loudest one in the restaurant.  He has been eating great.  He’s had veal, pasta, fried zucchini, frittata, and eggplant!

After James took a nap, we headed out to see the main town of Montalcino. It is a very cute, quiet town with lots of wine tasting bars! We didn’t go in any but they all seemed really nice.  It was very windy and quite a bit colder than it had been on the trip so we didn’t stay out long.  We got back to the apartment around 7:30 and had a quiet night.




Aaaahhh Tuscany

Yesterday, we left Florence and headed to Tuscany.  We took a cab from our apartment to the car rental place.  There was an unexpected very long line at the car rental place.  Justin left James, me, and the luggage to go stand in line. It took about an hour and 15 minutes.  Uggghhhh.  We all held it together pretty well, thankfully.  One highlight of the wait (for me) was watching a middle-aged German couple inspect their car for damage before driving away with it.  I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.  The two of them probably spent 20 minutes and took over 100 pictures of every single inch of that car.  At one point, the woman took out a flash light and meticulously looked at that interior of the car. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they also used a magnifying glass. Y’all, I’m taking about a Fiat, not a suburban.  It should not have taken that long! I’ve never seen anything like it.

We have an Audi hatchback.  Justin said that it was several upgrades from the standard rental because we needed something to fit all of our luggage and a car seat (and we still barely fit).  We got the full insurance.  No inspection necessary.  We can beat the hell out of this thing.

We got all loaded up and headed out.  The plan was to stop at a couple vineyards and have lunch on the way to Saint Angelo in Colle outside of Montalcino.  Well, the plan changed. 30 minutes into the trip, James fell asleep.  And he slept, and slept.  In the meantime, I was in the backseat under a pile of luggage, nauseated as shit.  The Tuscan hills are quite winding.  So, as plans continued to change because we didn’t want to wake up James,we ended up driving into Siena to possibly have lunch.  At this point, James has been asleep for over 2 hours.  Well, people suggest that you don’t drive into any big Italian cities for good reason.  The streets are very narrow, it’s hard to find a place to park, and it’s very tricky getting around.  We got into the city and then we got out. Total Fail.

After we left Siena, James woke up.  He was pretty angry about being in the carseat, and he let us know about it.  It was an hour to Saint Angelo in Colle, and we just powered through it.  By this time it was about 3or 4 pm (I can’t be sure because I’ve already tried to block out the experience) and none of us have eaten pretty much anything all day.  To say we were frazzled when we got here is a vast understatement.  And then we looked around.

It is so amazingly beautiful and just what we needed.  We are staying at a place called Castel Brunello.  It is not exactly a hotel and its not an apartment.  It’s in between, and it is perfect.  We are overlooking vineyards and the Tuscan Hills.  The property has lots of places for James to run around.  It is quiet, and we all relaxed as soon as we got here.

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We let James run around and play while we got settled in, then we went into the small town to buy some milk.  The little store was so cute with a couple of old Italian Nonnas in it.  They just all fawn all over James.  We bought 2 bottles of wine, 1 liter of milk, and some mozzarella cheese for 16$.

This is definitely a family town.  We have seen a lot of kids and it is so nice to be away from the crazy cities.

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For dinner (yes, we actually got to go out to eat!), we ate at a place called Il Pozzo.  We had a delicious antipasto plate.  We also had some veal and pasta.  It was a good night.