Tuscany

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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

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

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

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