Alisa's Dream Tour of Italy with Family and Friends!
What better way to celebrate a 60th birthday than wine, food, art and culture in bellisimo Italy. The weather was perfect for these nine ladies from Canada - +27 C and sunny skies as we made our way from a farm stay near Naples to the gondolas of Venice! Every country lodging seemed to come up with a birthday cake (Italian Style) for Alisa!
A few days with Anna at La Vecchia Quercia (the old oak tree) gave us a base in this lovely Italian Villa to roam the countryside. A day at the Di Meo Winery had us pair his wine with delicious meats, cheeses and pasta from Campania - followed by another birthday cake of course.
Our dining room was a former Prince's hunting lodge from the 18th Century! Then back to Anna's kitchen to learn how to make pasta! The weather cooperated so we were able to take a dip in the pool before dining on the outside patio.
An hour drive away in the other direction found us in Bufalo Mozzarella country where we toured the facility, munching on warm, fresh mozzarella cheese. A delightful lunch with Rosa-Maria, in her 18th century farm house followed. Paestum, the best preserved Greek Temples was worth a walk through with gelato waiting at the end of the visit. Casa di Baal, a family run winery, olive oil farm added information on olive oil production from their 20 000 trees. This family uses the old fashioned olive press as well as the new modern method. Only the experts can taste the difference! We sat under the cherry trees next to the olive grove with the nono (grand daddy) and the wine makers to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Back to Anna's for another swim after a busy day!
An exciting drive along the curvy Amalfi Coast to Ravello was in sharp contrast to the straight grid roads in Saskatchewan! Visiting this hilltop village, home to Wagner's Concerts was worth it particularly the descent down to Pompeii for a visit with our guide Nicola and then to the Hotel Transatlantico in Santa Lucia, Naples. After a morning visit to this dark and mysterious city with its own hidden treasures like San Severo (the veiled statue of Christ carved from marble) we hopped on the train for Florence! These girls were great packers - small carry on luggage made travel easier on the trains and boats not to mention the cobble stone streets of ancient Italy!
The Pensione Bencista welcomed us as they have welcomed VM Travel's guests since 2003. We overlooked the Duomo of Florence from the terraces of this former convent from the 16th Century.
From this location we were able to take the local bus no. 7 into the heart of Florence to scout around the leather and food markets. The illustrious David, carved from one piece of flawed marble by the master Michaelangelo was an afternoon delight! Leo of Maronibus escorted us into the hills of Chianti to Radda where Lele instructed us on the secrets to Tuscan cooking! What a beautiful location on a hilltop, but the table set in the garden for us to enjoy the meal we had prepared. All paired with Chianti wine, of course!
Cinque Terre was a one day backpack excursion for us. We did stay in the hilltop La Cabana in Monterosso which enabled some of us to hike the UNESCO path from this village to Vernazza - a grueling 2 hour hike up 500 steps right off the bat. Cool beer in our hands in Vernazza made the effort worth it. The ferry boat meant we were able to enjoy these 5 villages from the sea!
Soon we were on the train again to Venice where we stayed in the Locanda Fiorita with prosecco on tap! A delightful stay in the middle of this city of water allowed us to wonder on our own and get lost, of course! However, one destination was on everyones' radar. One of the clothing stores had a summer blow out sale of 10 Euro per outfit! Needless to say those tiny carryon suitcases when home bulging at the seams! As were we - all the great food, wine and cake!
Thanks Alisa for arranging this trip of a lifetime for your family and friends! You were a fun, easy group to travel with and it was a delight for me to be your guide! Grazie mille!