There are so many incredible regions of Italy to choose from when planning a trip; you could really easily spend a year there and not spend enough time seeing and tasting all that this beautiful country has to offer. While my first choice would be somewhere by the sea (Sicily is still one of my dream trips!) on our last visit to Italy, we traveled for a wedding, and our destination was set for us!

With our home base a villa in Umbria, just on the border of Tuscany, we discovered there were countless day trips we could take: Perugia, Siena, Assisi, Montepulciano, and so many more.

Montepulciano

Montepulciano was one of our day trips, and this spectacular medieval city atop a giant hill, surrounded by wine, is well worth a visit, especially during sunflower season in Tuscany. Fields of gold were everywhere! Be prepared to drive and walk some steep streets and alleyways in order to get some of the best views, but be sure to take in the architecture on your way.

We were traveling with a group, which isn’t easy in a town like Montepulciano, but we found some great food nonetheless.

Montepulciano

You won’t want to miss the wine cellars of Montepulciano and surrounding areas. I was absolutely fascinated by Contucci.

According to the Contucci website, it’s likely that the Contucci family was living in Montepulciano by the year 1,000. . .

Visiting the cellar is quite the experience. You just keep going down, down, down many flights of stairs to find gigantic wine barrels. An added bonus: on an extremely hot Tuscan day, the cellar is delightfully cold and a break from the baking sun!

Contucci Winery

We merely got a taste of Montepulciano and would absolutely love to visit again to cover the history, food, wine, and amazing views for longer.

As I mentioned above, the reason for our visit was a wedding, and the location of the ceremony was Cortona, inside its beautiful Cortona Cathedral. Cortona and its surroundings were definite favorites on this trip; I still have one last winery post to write, so stay tuned!

Cortona Cathedral

Our final day trip during our week in Italy was to Arezzo. Again, it was a group trip, and finding parking for multiple cars was a bit of a challenge. We actually almost gave up and returned to our villa!

Arezzo, Italy

Once we found parking, we didn’t have a ton of time to explore, but we did get to see some great views and cute shops. Truffles are king in the region, and I enjoyed some truffle potato chips while wanting to buy everything in sight. The intoxicating smell of truffles filled the air!

Arezzo, Italy

As one does on a hot day in Tuscany, we stopped at a cute patio for refreshments; mine was a cold glass of local white wine with a great view of the surrounding square.

Arezzo, Italy

There are definitely lots of moments in Italy where sitting outside enjoying local wine is just all you need.

Arezzo, Italy

Arezzo, Italy

Arezzo offered beautiful architecture, and while we planned to visit its famous cathedral, our parking issues made us miss opening hours! Perhaps this post is a guide on how NOT to travel?

Instead we enjoyed the great outdoors and explored where the film Life is Beautiful was made.

Arezzo, Italy

Even reading about the movie made me cry!

Life is Beautiful Arezzo

Have you seen it? I think I have watched it at least three or four times, and it is heart wrenching every single time. I actually did not know that Arezzo was the setting of the movie, but it made me love this town even more.

Arezzo, Italy

After some shopping and taking in Arezzo’s scenery, we needed to get back to the villa for our final night’s dinner and one last sunset in Umbria.

Arezzo, Italy

And that sunset over the vineyards did not disappoint!

sunset in Umbria

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Tags: Arezzo, Italy, Montepulciano, Travel, travel blog, Tuscany, Umbria, wine, wine cellar

In case you missed it, I visited the Austin, Texas area a few weeks ago to #StaySonesta at Sonesta Bee Cave Austin. and I ate lots of tacos and BBQ.

Austin was a vast and really cool city that we only scratched the surface of, and we would definitely love to go back, especially because it was 70 degrees in January! 

Love from Austin

Austin has an extensive food truck scene that they are famous for, and we loved this little area in Barton Springs. That section of town felt super cute and artsy; it made me feel like I was in California, and had parking been easier to find, I would have loved to explore a bit more.

Austin food trucks

While I was visiting to blog for Sonesta Hotels, my husband had a conference at UT Austin, and I got to visit their absolutely beautiful campus.

UT Austin

I loved that there were flowers in January, and the view of the Texas State Capitol from the main building was really neat. It was fun to wander campus. . . though I definitely felt very old!

UT Austin

Since my husband was there for work, we also met up with a group of his co-workers outside of Austin for a Texas Stars hockey game. I’m not much of a sports fan, but it was fun to see the excitement for the local team!

Texas hockey

We luckily made time to stop and explore Hope Outdoor Gallery, the graffiti park in Austin. Word on the street is that it is being demolished, so to see the graffiti and the artists in action (on a most gorgeous day)

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Austin and surrounding areas definitely had its fair share of art in all sorts of places. The world-renowned Forever Bicycles sculpture on the Austin waterfront was absolutely mesmerizing. It definitely made me a bit dizzy!

Austin, Texas

The waterfront itself was a lovely, natural work of art that we enjoyed immensely. That’s the thing about when we travel; we don’t need to do too much to really get a feel for a city or enjoy ourselves to the fullest. I love a nice long walk in a beautiful area.

Austin, Texas Austin, Texas

And speaking of beautiful, Bee Cave was just lovely. The Bee Cave Sculpture Park, which I wrote about for the Sonesta blog is a must-visit. It offered a variety of unique and enchanting sculptures set in a sprawling natural area, tucked in amongst busy roads and shopping. It was the perfect place to unwind.

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Sonesta Bee Cave Austin is a short drive from Lake Travis, which I can only imagine is a ton of fun for swimmers, boaters, and sun worshippers when it’s just a bit warmer out. I would love to stay at the Sonesta in Bee Cave and spend my days swimming and kayaking and enjoying some of the festivities around Lake Travis!

Lake Travis

For more of my recent travel posts, along with cocktail recipes and more, definitely visit the Sonesta blog from time-to-time. It’s the perfect spot for travel lovers!

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Our recent visit to the Austin, Texas area to stay at Sonesta Bee Cave Austin was a whirlwind of beautiful scenery, music, and of course food!

Tacos and BBQ were the theme of the trip, and we got some great recommendations. We could have stayed for weeks to eat! Feast your eyes on just some of the deliciousness we enjoyed in this beautiful part of Texas.

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The Brushfire at Torchy’s Tacos: Jerk Chicken, Grilled Jalapeno, Mango, Sour Cream, Cilantro, and Diablo Sauce – I loved Torchy’s because they let me buy a huge crock of the tear-inducing Diablo sauce. I love spicy food!

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Beef Nachos at Maudie’s Tex Mex – I loved the pickled veggies on these giant chips, which were really well-topped!

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Lunch at Schmidt Family Barbecue in Bee Cave – Pulled pork, brisket, jalapeno mac and cheese, beans, cole slaw, and all the pickles I could eat made for the perfect lunch. This was some incredible food in a fun atmosphere with picnic tables and lunch trays.

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Tinga Chicken Rellenos at Blue Corn Harvest: Anaheim peppers stuffed with tinga chicken and jack cheese on top of green chile sauce and ranchero cream sauce, black beans, veggie rice and a drizzle of sour cream and cotija cheese.

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Deliciousness in the form of avocado toast at Forthright Cafe, which felt like THE place to get brunch. I can’t drink these days, but I was practically drooling over their on-tap beer selection.

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Pulled pork, beans, slaw at Lambert’s in Austin – This was a bit of an upscale BBQ experience, and it was delicious. I loved the expansive space, which features great live music, local beers, and cocktails too!

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One of my favorite Austin finds was Alta’s Cafe. It was right on the water, and it was the perfect place for a cold tea and lots of warm sunshine. It was pure bliss.

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A mocktail margarita and all the chips and dips were a delicious break after lots of walking around Austin. 70 degrees in January is perfect for me!

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Mi Madre’s was one of our absolute favorite finds. Their patio was ideal for a sunny Sunday morning brunch with loads of guac and breakfast tacos that filled me up for the day.

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And the service was fantastic! The owner came out to chat with us and share that he has worked with the same local, quality suppliers for decades. You could taste it!

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Austin is such an incredible food city, and while we just got a taste of it, we are definitely looking forward to exploring more!

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Tags: Austin, BBQ, Bee Cave, tacos, Texas, Travel, travel blog, travel blogging

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