Fun Surprises and Hidden Gems!
Friday, July 15th
Originally we had planned on going to Positano this weekend, but it's a long train ride, and we were worried about hauling the car seat with us. So we punted and decided to head somewhere closer. We opted for Lucca, and in hindsight, I'm so thankful we did. This medieval city has their original walls perfectly preserved and transformed into a city park. The walls house a running/biking path with restaurants and parks along the way. It encircles the entire city and has beautiful views of the mountains. We rode the train into the city and enjoyed a Rick Steves intro tour and lunch in the original Roman Amphitheatre turned shops/houses. The shopping in Lucca was perfection! So many cute spots just to window shop. We took a little nap out our perfect hotel - Hotel Ilaria - and headed out for more exploring. I decided to go up one of the original medieval towers in town. Josh isn't keen on heights so he stayed behind with Pax. I'm not going to lie it was a little scary, but 100% worth the 5 euros and view at the top. This particular tower was called Guinigi Tower (the Guinigis were a very wealthy family in Lucca that specialized in silk production) and it has the garden on top of the tower so you can see the trees from below! Families would have built these towers to show off their wealth. Wooden staircases on the outside of the towers would have allowed families to get from one floor to the next and they could easily be burned if intruders came into the city and attacked, and families could be high up safe inside. Kitchens were traditionally built on top, with the garden on top of that - talk about convenience! Highly recommend this if you aren't afraid of heights or tight spaces. After the trek up, we did a lap around the city walls and enjoyed the sun setting.
Saturday, July 16th
This morning we headed out to the monthly antique market Lucca hosts. The third weekend of the month a huge antique market comes to town - like piazzas beyond piazzas huge! I love the items I scored - although I wish I could have somehow gotten some of that furniture home... droolworthy! Lucca is such an arts-focused town. When they aren't hosting the antique market, they are hosting craft fairs, or music festivals. Lucca is the home of Puccini - the famous opera composer - so the music scene here is BIG. Like John Legend, Justin Bieber BIG! The month of July, every night there was a concert! We then spent the afternoon on the pedal cart. It was a family-sized bicycle which was just a blast! Imagine a golf cart paired with a bicycle. Paxton had a blast riding on the front and enjoying the view. Afterward we got back on the train and headed back home.
Sunday, July 17th
Today was a total chill day. After being gone all weekend and a busy schedule ahead of us, we enjoyed time together, a family movie, and just doing chores around the apartment.
Monday, July 18th
Today we headed out to Tuscany on a group tour to an agritourism farm. We were with a group from all over the world - five continents represented even - in just a group of about 15 people. It was so fun getting to talk to people from all over on our tour. We toured the farm and learned about vineyard and olive production as well as what it's like to have a truly organic farm here in Italy. We also did a delicious wine tasting where we learned all about the different kinds of wine production and the grapes that are used to make it. Tuscan farms do not use any sort of irrigation or pesticides. Everything is as natural as it can be - which means production is smaller - but goodness, is quality better! Paxton needed a little bit of a break so Josh and Paxton hung out while I joined the rest of the group for the homemade pasta making class. We learned to make ravioli from scratch - which was totally intense! We had to flex a lot of muscle but it was so worth it! Afterward, we enjoyed our delicious meal with our new friends. We headed back via train and cooled off the rest of the evening. I even got inspired to make my own homemade tomato sauce to make our homemade nachos! I was actually proud of myself!
Tuesday, July 19th
We were so in love with Roosters that we decided to go back because we didn't get a chance to try their pancakes. They loooooved seeing us back - I bet they aren't used to repeat visitors that are Americans. It was so fun and tjhey love Paxton. We ended up walking around the city which we just love - so many fun streets and the architecture never gets old.
Wednesday, July 20th
Today we headed out for the Bargello - a sculpture museum that we both fondly remembered from our time eight years ago. I led our tour, and it was such a quiet museum to view quite a few Donatellos and Michelangelo statues - including his very commission: Bacchus! There are also a few other famous Davids in this museum as well as the contest art for the Baptistry doors. Such a fun story about those you will have to check out for yourself! Pax did such a great job at the museum, we decided to go for gelato and then we got some sandwiches to go from a great little shop. Florentines pretty much live off sandwiches, pasta, pizza and gelato. So don't expect to stray far from that menu while you are visiting. This night we rode the public bus up to Piazzale Michelangelo. It was super easy and definitely recommend over walking. We grabbed a pizza at a local tennis club and restaurant that was out of this world! Such a simple thin crust and so light - Josh and I each ate our own pizza with some help from Pax and it was absolutely delicious. We sat on the stairs of San Miniato and enjoyed the sunset. A total pinch me moment - so many of those this trip. We decided to take the walk back instead of the bus as the sun was setting and we stopped for gelato. Paxton actually ate his whole gelato off his cone without knocking it off - it was one of my prouder moments. This is also a really cool side of town - so much lively activity happening at night in Florence!
Thursday, July 21st
Today we had lunch reservations at 13 Gobbi - a restaurant famous for its pasta. It did not disappoint. We've eaten a lot of pasta this trip, and this meal was next level. Absolutely a must-do while you're in the city. Make reservations! It's a cool restaurant almost like the Cracker Barrel of Florence with tons of cool artifacts all over! The Rigatoni is their famous dish but Paxton's spaghetti and my potato ravioli were also delicious!!! Then after a quick rest, Paxton and I headed to our pizza and gelato-making cooking class. We learned so much about pizza dough and homemade gelato. I also met a really nice family originally from Australia that now live in Dubai. They were both in education and had lived all over the world with their two sons. Such a fun afternoon learning and playing with our food!