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Our week in an Italian villa seems like it happened  forever ago, and while I am behind on blogging and blog reading and have a TON of travel coming up (Sonoma, Baltimore, Hilton Head, New Orleans) I still want to get some of these planned Italy posts up. Looking at amazing food, wine, and scenery doesn’t really go out of style, does it?

Living the villa life meant that we had not one, but two kitchens to use for making meals, something I always love to do when traveling. On our first full day in Italy, we went to the market to stock up on essentials for the week, including mineral water, wine, chocolate and sunscreen. All you really need. . .

We also took advantage of the incredibly fresh and affordable produce, meat, and bakery sections, pulling together bread, apricots, figs, tomatoes, and various types of meat and cheese for a lunch feast. This is the best way in the world to eat, in my book.

lunch at the villa  

That day, meat and cheese and veggies and pool time and naps led to a wander to nearby Lake Trasimeno, which was absolutely beautiful. My only regret of the trip was that we didn’t get to take a boat out on the lake. We did get to the lake in time for Aperol hour, complete with free, deliciously salty potato chips. I love the simplicity of cocktail snacks in Europe!

Aprol Spritz Lake Trasimeno

Our plan that day was to have dinner with some family members, but when there wasn’t room for us, we instead found the most romantic, authentic, delicious, delightful restaurant in the town next to our villa.

Osteria La Pergola was so charming and the perfect spot for a long date night dinner. None of the patrons left the entire time we were there. 

osteria la pergola

A team of two women were handling the cooking, serving, wine pouring, everything! We did our best with Italian words here and there, and there was a lot of pointing and laughing (in a good way) as we communicated across language barriers, all in the name of amazing food.

ravioli

Local bubbly, “Ca de Sass” Colli del Trasimeno, was celebratory and the perfect pairing for my pesto and cheese ravioli and then the molten chocolate cake that we just had to have.

sparkling wine Italy

Say yes to the cake and the espresso and bubbly. . . that’s my motto!

We eventually grudgingly pulled ourselves up to pay and leave, and our gracious hosts gave free limoncello and warm handshakes. It was one of those special evenings that usually only happens by accident.

limoncello

Our walk out of dinner and into the town square was pure magic.

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The next day was a travel day, and after homemade pastries at the villa, we headed to Avignonesi for wine tasting. You can read all about it here.

After that we had plans to meet a group in the stunning city of Montepulciano, which could be a post all in itself. This one, will focus just on the lunch we had, where our group of 16 took over a small cafe in the piazza. Wrangling that many people was chaotic, and I didn’t even get the name.

I did however settle in with a cold local beer. The heat in Italy made their lighter beer selections perfect especially in the afternoon when you just wanted something truly refreshing.

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The menus were huge and offered all sorts of pizzas, sandwiches, and other items, but we decided to go with various plates of cold food to share. Mountains of bruschetta, marinated vegetables, beans, olives, and more kicked off our meal.

dining in Montpulciano

bruschetta

And then we dove in once again to the local meats and cheeses. This was one of the best lunches ever. If you get to Montepulciano, this cafe was on the right, just in from the piazza, with a more formal sister restaurant across the narrow street.

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This just covers a few of our meals in Italy, and as time allows, I would love to share more. In the meantime I will be dreaming of Tuscan sun, wineries overlooking sunflower fields, and endless plates of Italian treats.

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Tags: Food, Italy, Travel, travel blog, Tuscany, wine

It went by in less than a blink of the eye. On our way to Italy last month, we spent just two days in Ireland. . . just as we started to settle in it was time to head to the airport again!

Aer Lingus

Ireland

While we were grateful for even a little bit of time in Ireland, we knew time was ticking and planned on cramming in as much as possible without entirely exhausting ourselves. Spoiler: It mostly involved eating and drinking!

Irish breakfast  

An Irish breakfast at home after the post-flight nap is a must. Buckets of tea and lashing rain make it all the better.   

Irish summer can be beautiful, but for the most part, it can be pretty miserable, especially in the West. We got the miserable bits.

Tribeton Galway When it rained we sought shelter in favorite watering holes like Tribeton, which has a veritable bible of gin and some of the best cocktails I have ever had. It’s also just a really cool space with very friendly and creative staff.

cocktails in Galway

Bite Club Galway

Galway’s dining scene is booming, and I always try to visit a new or new-to-me spot. This time it was the delightfully playful Biteclub, which had a whimsical cocktail menu with options like little slushies, along with an extensive food menu.

cocktails in Galway

I tend to crave vegetables while traveling, and this giant plate of veggies and falafel totally hit the spot.

dining in Galway

Gin is still all-the-rage in Galway, so I made sure to have plenty of beautiful gin cocktails and even visited their newest bar, Tigh Nora, which is dedicated to gin. The number of gin options made in Ireland is growing, and it was fun to try a different one with each cocktail.

gin cocktails

Tigh Nora Galway 

Of course we also made time for old favorites, classic Irish pubs like Taafe’s, with views of street performers, stellar people watching, and pints.

Taafes

And let’s face it, no trip to the pub is complete without some garlic cheese chips after! No trip to Ireland is complete for me without a visit to Supermacs.   

Supermacs

In spite of the cold, gray, windy, and often rainy weather, we still also spent plenty of time outside, taking in the beauty of all of the lush gardens, buoyed by the rain and truly stunning.

roses in Ireland  

Rain or shine, there’s a wild beauty to the beaches in the West of Ireland, and even while shivering, I somehow managed to fit in an ice cream cone.

Spiddal

 Galway

Two days or two weeks, it never seems like there’s enough time when we land in Ireland, but I will always take whatever we can get, and always miss it terribly when we leave.

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Tags: cocktails, Food, Galway, Ireland, Travel

Wine tasting in Tuscany. . . a beautiful phrase that conjures  up images of rolling hills dotted with smiling sunflowers and juicy grapes. . .a dreamy thought really. . .

Last month wine tasting in Tuscany became a reality as we stayed at a villa in Umbria, which was just over the Tuscan border. Hot, dry summer days with little to do but explore beautiful pockets of Italy left us time for visiting wineries like Avignonesi, located near Montepulciano. 

 Tuscany sunflowers

Even after a week in Tuscany, I couldn’t get over the sunflowers. Each and every time I saw one or a million, I was enchanted.

sunflowers in Tuscany

After only about 20 minutes of driving from our villa, we drove up the dusty road to Avignonesi, where we were greeted by sun-baked architecture, a warm welcome, and flights of wine.

Avignonsi Winery

Avignonesi

Options of covered patio seating and indoor tasting meant keeping cool out of the Tuscan sun, which gets hot! We opted to share the two tasting flights so that we could try more of the beautiful wines made at Avignonesi.

wine tasting

Our wine tasting was at our leisure, with the wines brought to the table two at a time. Our tasting included the following:

Il Marzocco Chardonnay Toscana IGT
Grandi Annate Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT

Grifi Sangiovese – Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana IGT
50&50 Toscana IGT

You’ll notice the focus in the region is mainly reds, including Sangiovese and Merlot. We did start with Chardonnay, and I learned that Tuscan Chardonnay, and this one in particular, is delicious. Notes of honey, lemon, wildflowers make it very different than the California Chardonnays I am used to drinking. The Chardonnay was a welcome, chilled respite from the heat, while the reds were big, structured, juicy, some tannic. These wines were beautiful, but for me, would definitely pair well with fall or winter, big bowls of stew or chili, and a fireplace.

 

wine tasting in Tuscan 

We finished with a Vin Santo di Montepulciano; it was rich and syrupy but not-too-sweet. A sip or two is all you need to pair with crunchy biscotti to finish off a meal.

vin santo

We enjoyed the ambiance of Avignonesi so much that we didn’t want to leave, so we got a glass of Prosecco to share and toured the beautiful grounds. The Prosecco was perfectly refreshing and in a more brut style, which I prefer. I am not a fan of sweet Prosecco!

Tuscany  winery in Tuscany  wine barrels

The whole of the property was wide open to us, and we peeked into the drying room and barrique room before stepping back out into the sunlight to soak up more of Tuscany.

What an incredible way to spend a few hours in Italy!

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Tags: Italy, Travel, Tuscany, wine, wine tasting, winery

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