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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

Summer 2017 has been a whirlwind of travel and work. . . it has really flown by! In addition to our trip to Italy (more on that soon) I have also started blogging for Sonesta Hotels, a company I have been fortunate to work with in several capacities over the years.  As part of that, I will be visiting many of their US hotels and sharing my experience on the hotel, the destination, food, and other fun topics so that travelers can get a sense of why to visit.

Check out my first blog posts:

Patio Dining and Live Music at Royal Sonesta Boston

Bottling Custom Wine Gifts for Sonesta ES Suites in Massachusetts

A Poolside Event at Sonesta Philadelphia

It had been ages and ages since I visited Philadelphia, and I was so pleasantly surprised by everything.

I arrived to Philadelphia by Amtrak to the beautiful 30th Street Station. I love grand train stations, and this one was just lovely. I had big plans for the day but otherwise wouldn’t have minded spending some time in the station, marveling at its high ceilings and beautiful detail.

Philadelphia 30th Street Station

I hopped in a taxi from the station, and in less than 10 minutes, I was at the Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square. The hotel is is  stunner, recently re-imagined, and offering a stylish red, gray, and black color scheme with plenty of artsy touches throughout. This is an art hotel in a city that is devoted to the arts, so it is a great spot to rest your head while still being immersed in that art scene.

Philadelphia hotels

Throughout the hotel you can find original art that changes on a regular basis and gives this city hotel a gallery vibe.

Sonesta Philly

They even have their own Warhol Room, a meeting space complete with original artwork by Andy Warhol. The hotel’s proximity to just about everything, including the train station and airport make it perfect for meetings.

Warhol Campbell's Soup

One of the big things I noticed was that, despite being in the heart of Philadelphia, the hotel was so quiet! It had a really calm, cool feel to it, and my comfy room was really an oasis after a busy, hot day of walking around town.

Sonesta Philadelphia 

Philadelphia hotels

Like its Boston and Gwinnett counterparts, Sonesta Philadelphia brings the art theme right down to the food and beverage, featuring its own ArtBar in the hotel.

ArtBar Philly

 

art cocktails Cocktails are liquid art named after famous works-of-art. I had the “Whistler’s Mother” which was a perfect, refreshing choice for a summer day.

gin cocktail

One of the reasons I chose the dates I did was so that I could visit the pool on the 8th floor rooftop of the Sonesta Philly, and just in time for their Insta-meet, which brought together Instagrammers from all over the city for beautiful views, cocktails, and a signature Sonesta #FoodisArt spread. I ate so much!

Sonesta Philly pool

shrimp cocktail

As part of my travels to Sonesta’s hotels, getting to know the destination is also a top priority. Rittenhouse Square is simply beautiful and bustling with people, stunning architecture, and food. . . so much food! I need to go back just to eat my way around the area.

Tria Taproom has everything, including cocktails, on draft. . .

IMG_4486

Wandering around Rittenhouse made me hungry, and it was really hard to decide where to eat.

For lunch on my visit to Philly I chose The Dandelion, a completely charming little pub with fantastic food. I ate every bite of a summery tomato salad with green goddess dressing and topped it all off with a banoffee trifle, because who could pass that up?

shrimp salad

 

   banoffee trifle

Full and happy, I set off to see the city, including some of the adorable sculptures in Rittenhouse Square.Rittenhouse Square

 

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is within walking distance to the Sonesta, and it is a must-visit. First, I ran up the Rocky steps (and almost died, holy hot and humid day) and then found refuge in the massive, cool museum where I spent hours taking in masterpieces.

Rocky stairs

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Wild exhibit by Michael Nichols goes through September 17, and it took my breath away. Photos of animals, many in the Serengeti, made me miss Africa and want to travel back again. Nichols captured the beauty, the ferocity, the vulnerability of the animals in such amazing ways that I definitely teared up a bit.

Wild by Michael Nichols

    Wild photography exhibit

The museum also features art from many of the greats, including Monet.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

I was delighted to see part of one of the rooms devoted to works of Degas. Ballet was one of my first loves, and I was over-the-moon to see these pieces.

degas

The entrance fee to the Philadelphia Museum of Art includes entry to the Rodin Gallery, a short walk away, so I headed there next.

Rodin Gallery

Rodin Gallery         

Sculpture is just mesmerizing, and I sat there wondering just how these pieces were created to be so life-like and fluid. Truly amazing.

I was only in Philadelphia for 24 hours, but I was able to see and do so much, thanks to the location of my hotel. There’s still so much of the city that I want to see, and I would gladly make Sonesta Philadelphia my Philly home again.

 

My stay at the Sonesta was complimentary. All opinions are my own.

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Tags: art, Food, hotels, Philadelphia, Philly, Restaurants, Travel, travel blog, travel blogging

We’ve just returned from a wedding at a villa in Umbria, and the desire to return is real! We spent a week lounging in the sun, drinking wine and eating delicious local food, swimming, playing with nieces and nephews, and making new friends.

My husband’s family is scattered all over, so this destination wedding was a way to bring us all together in an absolutely stunning part of Italy.

Villa Baroncino is in Umbria, just minutes from the border of Tuscany, down a long driveway and  atop a hill, minutes from the local town, but secluded from any sort of noise or traffic.

Italian Villa

Due to flights from Ireland and the two hour drive from Rome, we arrived at almost midnight. The next morning I couldn’t wait to open my eyes to explore the villa.

The drive up the gated driveway got me every time. It was just so beautiful and grand.

Villa in Italy

Views of nearby Lake Trasimeno greeted us every morning. The lake is great spot for swimming, kayaking, running, or having an aperitivo. More on that later!

Lake Trasimeno

Villa Baroncino sleeps 50 people, which makes it perfect for a wedding. Large families can all stay in the same spot, and its privacy and distance from any roads meant the kids in the family could run free.

We were in Villa #7, a studio-type room which included a small kitchen. The main villa building also has a kitchen that is stocked with all of the dishes, glasses, etc. you could need.

travel to Italy

The view to the right as we exited our room was of the pool and the eternally blue, cloudless sky.

villa in Italy

Our room was beautiful and comfortable. It came with air conditioning, but due to the stone structure, ceiling fan, and window covers, it was always naturally cool. There were times when I was a little cold in the mornings, despite it being hot and sunny outside.

Italian Wedding Villas. The bedroom of Suite villa 7.

Photo via Villa Baroncino

Villa Baroncino

Two saltwater pools kept us busy all day and into the night, and plenty of lounge chairs made it easy to find a spot to soak up the sunshine. . . and there was so much of it! The weather in Italy was truly perfect when we were there.

Villa pool

Umbria

The villa grounds were like something out of a movie. Grape vines, beautiful flowers, and plenty of green everywhere added to the feeling that we were far away from the rest of the world. It was a place to truly connect with nature while also being surrounded by rustic luxury.

vineyard   

Staying in the villa meant that we could cook our own meals, and two fire pit barbeques were perfect for grilling for our big group. I know a ton of planning went into all of us getting to the villa to enjoy the week and a beautiful wedding reception on the property, and I would say we all found it well worth it.

I can’t wait to share our day trips in Tuscany, the wineries we visited, and the food we ate along the way. Stay tuned!

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Tags: Italy, Travel, travel blog, Umbria, villa

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