What do nearly three-dozen single travelers from the U.S., Canada, Ireland, and Australia do when they land in Italy? They embrace La Dolce Vita.
For those of you that haven’t traveled to Italy, La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) is a way of living where appreciating the moment is paramount. Ready for a taste of La Dolce Vita, we opened our hearts to the Italian way of living the good life, full of pleasure and indulgences.
Starting in Rome, we met our new friends on the rooftop terrace of Hotel Savoy, which overlooked the Eternal City that would be our playground the following day. Together along the famous Via Veneto, we strolled to a local trattoria, San Marco, for an amazing array of indulgences such as rich risottos, tantalizing bruschettas, savory pastas, and the freshest pizzas. There was no better way to start our Italian adventure than with food, wine, and great new friends.
After a good night’s sleep, a couple delicate Italian pastries, and a strong espresso or cappuccino, we set off on a highlight tour of Rome, including the Coliseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Castel Sant’Angelo, and St. Peter’s Basilica. However, it wasn’t long before we hit the road for the hills of Tuscany and our home Villa Casagrande in quaint Figline Valdarno for the next five amazing days.
In Tuscany, the busy streets of Rome were replaced by olive groves, vineyards, and cypress lined fields. We toured Chianti with a private wine tasting and lunch at breathtaking Vignamaggio. We also spent a day exploring the windy streets of Tuscany’s version of Manhattan, San Gimignano, with its beautiful towers atop a hill overlooking the valley peppered with vineyards below. Many of our group took the challenge to climb its tower as well as the Torre Mangia in Siena above its famous Piazza del Campo later that same day.
Although the smaller Tuscan towns were beautiful and full of charm, we fell in love with Florence. There is something alluring about Firenze. Whether you are awed by the immense size of the Duomo or the ornate decoration of Santa Croce, you will appreciate the beauty of Florence. It is a miraculous city that was the cradle of the Italian Renaissance. To witness one of its world-renowned works, we visited the Academia, which houses Michelangelo’s David. We were mesmerized as it is an unfathomable work of art. Its size and details were quite shocking for us all.
On our free day, some went back into Florence by train for shopping and a visit to another museum, the Uffizi, which houses Botticelli’s works such as Primavera. Others decided to explore two different cities, both Arezzo and Cortona, the place of the book Under the Tuscan Sun.
As Tuscany is known for its cuisine, we weren’t going to leave without learning how to make some of its classic dishes, which would remain some of our best souvenirs of the trip. At Villa Casagrande, we had the unique opportunity of a private cooking class with Dona Poala, a true Tuscan chef. In a kitchen adorned with basil, garlic cloves, a selection of olive oils and vinegars, Dona Poala taught us all how to make a ribollita, a typical Tuscan soup, as well as roasted sweet and sour pork, and raisin and almond biscotti. During the class, everyone was able to cut, stir, baste, and sample the delights along with some of the Villa’s produced wines. As a reward for our hardwork, we were invited to a family-style feast. Buon appetito never felt so right!
The following day, it was back to Rome with full suitcases of precious gifts from Florence, Siena, and San Gimignano, including gorgeous leather bags and shoes, artistic ceramics, pure olive oils, and Chianti and Vernaccia wines.
Although our Tuscan Countryside and Rome adventure was eight days, the trip will last a lifetime. La Dolce Vita was instilled in us all.
For those of you that haven’t traveled to Italy or have traveled to Italy, but not with STI, you must put it on your bucket list. How about La Dolce Vita in 2015? Click here to find out more.