Tourists in Tuscany

Hello All!

I am currently on a train, heading from Naples to Rome, where I will board my flight allll the way to Amman, Jordan. I haven’t spent the last few weeks writing as much, because I’ve finally had company! I already told you all about my nefarious weekend in Rome with Sarah, but shortly after she left, my step-mom, Joni, arrived.

Now, I don’t know if you guys know this, but we’re the kind of family that spends 13 hours at Disneyland and rides all the rides in one day. Since Joni was only going to be around for five days each in Roma and Napoli, we went full out.

Which I will tell you all about, in great detail!

But today I’m going to start with our trip to Tuscany. Now, Joni had never been to Italy before, so I wanted to make sure we had the best time possible. I booked us a one day trip through Tuscany using viator, which started at 07:30am and ended at around 9pm back in Rome.

This was the first large tour group I’d been in since coming to Europe, and about 70 of us climbed into a bus, where we received headphone sets and walkmans. We were basically just missing the fanny packs. Our tour guide was an Italian woman with a British accent, which sounded probably as weird as you’re thinking.

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Note the headphones and lanyards

Our bus stopped for a coffee break about an hour into the drive, at a location clearly designed for us tourists. They had free samples of about….oh, 50 types of chocolate, as well as olive oil, limoncello, wine, champagne, and more. I mean I think they thought we would try only one or two, but come on, it’s me. I tried every single one. (Free!)

Breakfast accomplished, we climbed back into the bus and finished our drive through the Tuscan countryside.

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On the steps of the church

Arriving at the city of Montepulciano at around 0930, we walked through the ancient village, with a guide telling us all about its history. Like how people rolls barrels full of nails up the mountain for…fun? It was absolutely beautiful, and I wish we were able to spend more time there.

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From the top of Montepulciano

Alas! Our time there ended, and we were whisked away to an ancient monastery, where we took several scenic photos and thought ravenously about lunch, which was forthcoming.

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Scenic.

I have to say, one of the best things about being on a tour like this is the ease of it. You know how people go on cruises because all the entertainment is there, in front of you, and you hardly have to think of anything? The tour was like this. They took us from place to place, fed us amazing Tuscan food and wine, and taught us all about the history of the area. So relaxing, but also so much fun. (Especially the wine!)

To that end, we ate this crazy lunch, with approximately 1000 different kinds of cheese and wine tastings from all around the Tuscan region. And we had this…dessert wine? With a biscotti? I mean I was thinking something like moscato when I dipped my biscotti in it and took a bite…but it was more like Crown Royal. Or jet fuel. Just awful.

Afterwards, we headed to the city of Piensa, a picturesque little town famous for cheese. (according to me). We walked around the whole city, got some souvenirs, and then boarded the bus back home for another drive through the winding Tuscan countryside. There’s something just absolutely peaceful about the golden rolling hills, and it reminded me a lot of home. *tear*

Ah, well, one day I’ll go back!

Anyway, the day ended late and we were all tuckered out after the trip, so we returned to our super luxurious hotel (did I mention that? They upgraded our room for free!) and crashed out for the night.

Don’t worry though, I’ve got plenty more stories about the days ahead.

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-Carissa

Tuscany: Romancing my Dog

Hello All!

Today I am sitting here in my very own farmhouse, deep within the rolling hills of Tuscany. It’s as nice as it sounds. The weather up here is gorgeous and the house is 500 years old (as told to me by the incredibly nice owners staying next door). I’m here for a total of four nights, and I have to admit, when I first got here, I was…sad. Because this place is beautiful, and romantic, and so very clearly a honeymoon-esque place to be.

And I’m here alone. Ah well, such is life.

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At least I have my dog?

I’ve cheered myself right up by finally having no plans at all. There’s not even wifi here, and my phone signal is straight out of 2006. This means I’ve spent a lot of time staring into the middle distance with the sun on my face and the goats baaing behind me.

Did I mention this was a working farm? The people who own it have everything- goats, pigs, rabbits, horses, sheep, chickens- even their own vineyard! They own the entire mountain we’re sitting on, as well as the one next to it. Of course, this means we’re approximately 20 minutes from any sort of store. Obviously I didn’t think this through, because I realized very quickly I had no food and no means of retrieving any (most people drive themselves here). However, the first night I was here, they cooked me a fantastic meal (of all homegrown foods) and even gave me a bottle of their own homemade wine. Ah-mazing.

The next morning, they even took me down to the village supermarket so I could get groceries for the next few days. Pro tip here guys: don’t ever attempt to use the self-checkout in a foreign country. Everything is different. When I first started scanning my items, the woman manning the self-checkouts pointed to the sign above me, saying “10 items maximum,” which I very obviously missed. (I had like 25). Then, when I went to ring in some bananas, she literally shouted “stop!” ran over, and showed me that you have to pre-price all your produce before getting to the checkout stand. Of course I had like…10 items of produce, which I shamefully went back and priced out while leaving my basket hogging an entire checkout stand.

Then she had to come over to verify my age for my wine.

Then I accidentally took an item out of the bagging area and she had to unlock the register so I could continue.

At this point she just gave up and scanned all my groceries for me.

She left me to pay and I thanked her profusely while I finished up.

Then I couldn’t figure out how to get out. I was locked in the grocery store.

Finally, I walked up to her, as shamefully as you could possibly imagine, said “scusi,” and then gestured helplessly at the locked doors.

I think she probably wanted to fall off her chair in laughter, but she was very graceful, scanned her badge at a kiosk (you’re supposed to scan your receipt) and let me out.

My embarrassment was palpable.

Next time I’ll just starve.

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My farmhouse in the upper left

-Carissa “what’s Italian?” Rawson