–By: Leo and Schenelle
|Wine at the Pool
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” -Marcus Aurelius
Italia. From the rolling hills of Tuscany to the bustling streets of Rome, Italy, is a magnificent place to visit. We had such a great time that we intend to visit at least once every two years to fully immerse ourselves in the culture and explore the country. There are numerous ways to explore Italy, however, we’ll give a brief synopsis of our trip, things to do and possible things to avoid.
Our first day started with a flight out of Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) going directly to Rome – Fiumicino International Airport (FCO). Our flight was ten and a half hours long, but we flew business class, which I must say made a difference. We were able to stretch out and enjoy all the amenities available to us in a premium cabin. We landed at about 7:00 am local time, spent nearly an hour in customs and then proceeded to the rental car center in the airport. Before the trip, we spent a few days planning what we were going to do and what sites we wanted to see so once we arrived in Italy we hit the ground running.
We spent our first four days outside of Rome in Southern Tuscany. It was about a two-hour drive from the airport. Although our body clocks were still adjusting to the time change, having rested on the flight was helpful. Now, driving in Italy. Aggressive is an understatement, and we willfully submitted to the local’s way of doing things. We were doing 180 kmh (100+ mph) easily on the roads once we left Rome; if you can’t keep up, move out of the way!
As we drove through the countryside, one cannot express in words the beauty of Italy. We often found ourselves gazing away from the road to admire the beauty of its landscape. We wanted an authentic Italian experience, so we settled in a small town called Montepulciano. We were not disappointed. Just imagine taking a trip back to 15th century Italy, untouched. We stayed at a beautiful agriturismo in the heart of Montepulciano, Relais Ortaglia. Upon arrival, the owners greeted us. We found they were terrific cooks who prepared every meal. Each meal included vegetables, fruits, and wine, all produced on their property. It was a beautiful start to a well-deserved vacation.
Once settled in, we visited the town’s center that had a variety of shops and restaurants. Both my girlfriend and I rarely cook, so we did as we often do, which is take someone’s recommendation for a good restaurant, and then we were off. The restaurants in Tuscany are all arguably 5-star restaurants by American standards. The food was exceptional! We dined, sipped wine and talked under the Tuscan stars to the soulful tunes of Aretha Franklin (R.I.P.).
Our time in Montepulciano went by too quickly. During the four-day stay, we spent time with friends and attended a wedding at another agriturismo nearby that was just as beautiful. We tasted the best pizza I’ve ever had by an executive chef from Naples. Thin crust, farm to table ingredients, and great local wine to top it off. Wine with everything is almost the norm in Italy. We checked out the local bars in town, chatted with tourists from other countries, and enjoyed the best espresso I’ve had in a long time.
In an effort to keep this post short, I need to move along in our journey to where we spent another five days in Rome. How can I start a blog post with a quote from Marcus Aurelius and not speak about Rome? Oh, the greatness of what was once the center of the world. The city itself is still a bustling place as it was in the days of the gladiators, even more so as the last count of tourist visiting the city per year was over 9 million. If you are planning a trip to Rome during the summer months, two things to note are the heat and the crowds.
We decided to stay at Hotel Lord Byron, nestled away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. It was a welcomed retreat after coming in from the intensity of the main areas of Rome. The service at the hotel was impeccable and the food, exceptional. From the bar service to the personal concierge, enough cannot be said about this hotel. On our next visit to Rome, I’d find it hard not to return. However, there are many boutique hotels similar to Hotel Lord Byron that we would love to check out.
Lastly, we’d like to leave you with the number one rule when traveling to Rome: book your tours with a tour guide. Booking your tours helps you to avoid the summer lines, which at some sites can stretch to well over hundreds of people on a single line. We hired a guide, skipped every line, and at the same time got priceless historical information on the different sites we visited. We visited The Colosseum, The Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Catacombs, Trevi Fountain, and St. Peter’s Square. We also visited the Gardens of Bomarzo on our way to Rome from Tuscany. If you’re traveling from one city to the next, find out what attractions are along the way. It was a nice addition to the trip that we didn’t plan for. We hope you will enjoy Italy as much as we did!