Italy

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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

Well that was quite the year. . .

Personally and professionally, 2017 was a pretty good year for us, and we traveled quite a bit. I started blogging for Sonesta Hotels, which means I get to travel to many of their hotels to gather content and experience everything for myself.

More than ever, this year, I sought the beach and wide open spaces to get away a lot of the time. The political situation in the US made that true even last winter, when we went on many day trips to World’s End in Hingham and to Chatham on Cape Cod.

Aquinnah

Our first overnight trip of the year, however, was to Martha’s Vineyard in February, and if you love beach walks and coziness, I would recommend visiting in winter for a quiet getaway.

March brought the opportunity for my husband to go to an event in San Francisco, one that that fell a week before with an event I had for work there, so I went and explored San Francisco, including a whole day in Golden Gate Park,  before we headed to Mendocino and Sonoma for a blissful, warm, wine getaway.

Golden Gate Park

Heritage House Resort Little River California

The Mendocino Coast is pure magic.

A few weeks later, we experienced our beloved Luquillo, Puerto Rico again for a break from wintry weather

Great food and beach time was what it was all about. Puerto Rico is incredible, and I definitely consider Luquillo to be one of my favorite places in the world.

poke bowl

Luquillo Beach

We were heartbroken to see the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico and the the severely poor response to it from the US government; they desperately need help still, months later. We likely won’t get to Puerto Rico this year but have been sending aid from Boston with the help of local groups.

April brought us up to Camden, Maine for a weekend with friends at the beautiful, waterfront 16 Bay View. Camden is a beautiful town and one of my New England favorites. The hotel is outstanding, and I definitely recommend checking it out.

Drappier Champagne

In June I celebrated 8 years of blogging and boat season, two exciting things in the life of a seafaring travel blogger!

I also celebrated the launch of patio season and kicked off blogging at Royal Sonesta Boston’s ArtBar patio, a must-visit in Boston.

Boston skyline

Summer travel was incredibly busy, as we traveled to Ireland and then Italy for my sister-in-law’s wedding weekend.

Aer Lingus

villa in Italy

We spent a week in glorious sunshine at a villa in Umbria, swimming, eating, and wine tasting in nearby Tuscany.

I also visited Philadelphia to stay at Sonesta Philly and to discover the amazing food and art that Philadelphia has to offer. I will definitely be back!

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September brought me back to California for a friends trip to Sonoma County, only one of my favorite places in the world. The devastating wildfires happened shortly after our visit, and I still have so much to blog about to share my love for this part of the world with everyone.

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Immediately after coming back from Sonoma, I went to Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Baltimore, where I got to spend some time exploring Baltimore and enjoying this grand waterfront hotel.

Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Baltimore A fall staycation to Sonesta ES Suites Andover allowed us to check out the extended stay side of Sonesta, and we loved it. We also loved dining in Andover, hiking its trails, and catching up with friends nearby.

In November I ate my way through Sonesta Gwinnett Place Atlanta and discovered the southern charm of downtown Duluth Georgia when I visited for the launch of Sonesta’s dual-brand hotel. . . you can now have two different hotel experiences under one roof!

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In November we also finally got to New Orleans where we stayed at the magnificent Royal Sonesta New Orleans and kicked off the holiday season with their Lighting of the Balconies.

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Royal Sonesta New Orleans is simply incredible, and the holiday spirit and decor made it even more magical.

The food at all of the hotel’s restaurants is also absolutely incredible. I have so many more blog posts to share!

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I got to take plenty of trips to New Jersey over the course of the year to see my family, as well as my annual visit to Cape Cod with friends and a trip into New York City for a work event. It was a full year of many JetBlue flights, and I am looking forward to more adventures in 2018!

Happy travels to all of you!

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Tags: Baltimore, California, Ireland, Italy, Martha's Vineyard, New England, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Travel, travel blog

You can find other posts on our recent trip to Tuscany/Umbria below:

Eating Our Way Through Italy: Part 1

Villa Life: A Week in Umbria

Wine Tasting in Tuscany: Avignonesi Winery

When you think Italy, of course food and wine are top of mind, and we did plenty of eating during our trip.

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It was gloriously hot and sunny every single day, and we opted to eat almost every meal outside. When visiting Cortona after a spectacular wine tasting at Baracchi Winery (more to come on that), we were ravenous and tired and happy to find Baracchi’s Cortona restaurant, Bottega Baracchi, was serving a cold lunch and pizza even late in the afternoon when many places close. We shared cheese and meat plates and more wine from Baracchi on their charming patio, but I of course had to take a peek inside and was glad I did.

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While the patio of Bottega Baracchi is beautiful and overlooks bustling Cortona, the interior of the restaurant is spectacular! It just keeps going, and there’s wine and food and art everywhere. I loved the displays of fresh veggies and this rack of rosé. I’ll take it all, please!

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No meal in Italy is really complete without gelato, and we stopped for a dish or cone every chance we got. A scoop of hazelnut and a scoop of chocolate for me!

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Vecchio Molino in the town we were staying in, Tuoro Sul Trasimeno, was a favorite for a late dinner al fresco, complete with fried zucchini blossom heaven.

I’m well aware of the amount of oil that goes into these, which is part of what makes them so delicious.

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Truffles were a regional staple where we were staying, and these raviolis in cream sauce were covered in fragrant truffle. It was amazing.

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And then of course there was the wedding! The whole reason we all gathered for a week in Italy was for my husband’s sister’s wedding, and we ate all night long.

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Course after course of incredible food came out all night and included indulgences like this Umbrian bread salad topped with lobster and prosciutto and cheese crepes with black truffle.

These were just the appetizers. There was a pasta with shrimp and a gnocchi in a rich montalcino wine sauce, followed by a fliet of beef, and the most decadent, cream topped, Nutella filled wedding cake.

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And then after some dancing, there was pizza!

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Our last night in Italy turned into a massive party at the villa, with all of the guests who weren’t staying there over to swim, and everyone brought food or wine to the table for a delicious meal. We had a professional chef in the group, which was amazing, and with his grilling and other cooking, along with everyone else’s culinary talents, we feasted on salads, grilled burgers and spicy sausage, salads, pasta, and so much more. It was the perfect way to end the trip.

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Tags: cheese, Cortona, gelato, Italy, Travel, travel blog, Tuscany, wine, wine tasting, winery

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