After leaving Milan, we boarded a high-speed train to meet Dan’s parents, Dan Sr. and Suzi, for an 8-night adventure through Tuscany and Rome. Sadly O’Hare, notorious for delayed flights, struck again and they were stuck at the airport for five hours before they had begun their voyage across the Atlantic. By the time we picked them up at Firenze, they were exhausted, but excited to have finally made it to their vacation. They managed to stay awake long enough to go out for dinner where we sampled bistecca (the Florentine speciality of steak grilled on a plank of cedar–yum!) and had our first round of pasta and tiramisu; both becoming daily staples for the duration of our trip!
Florence is known for being the epicenter of the Tuscan region and is a wonderful old town with amazing restaurants, cafés, and of course, LEATHER shopping! Spare suitcase having arrived, we were anxious to hit the streets! Or at least Suzi and I were…Our first day, the four of us visited the original leather school of Florence, located within a monastery that was created towards the end of WWII in order to train people for jobs. Today, it’s still in operation and has a lovely store where you can see some of the finest leather craftmanship. Dan and Suzi both left with new leather jackets and Suzi and I now have matching clutch purses in two different colors! Later in the day, Daniel and I found our own coats to add to the family collection. Overall, we had a blast and the prices and quality were amazing compared to what you can find at home! This is a place I may need to revisit with some of my girlfriends…
Afterwards, we wandered the streets and stumbled upon a celebration in one of the squares. Unbeknownst to us, May 1st is the Italian Labor Day and the streets were crowded with traditional bands performing in a local competition. There was lots of music, street vendors, and costumes and we enjoyed just taking it all in!
That weekend, we took a grand tour of the Tuscan region and saw Siena, had lunch and a wine tasting at a beautiful vineyard, enjoyed San Gimignano, and took funny pictures with the leaning tower of Pisa. We couldn’t believe how much it really was leaning!!
Tuesday found us with the same amazing tour company (Walkabout Florence) participating in an all-day cooking class. We learned how to make our own handmade pasta, can now expertly make a perfect bolognese sauce, and have mastered our favorite dessert, tiramisu. Who wants to come over for dinner?! This was definitely one of the most fun days and by the time the day concluded, we had eaten so much that we actually skipped dinner–a shocker when you’re in Italy!
All along, the food was incredible. By the time we got to Rome, you would think that we would need a break, but with personal dinner recommendations from our host, we continued our eating adventures. We managed to squeeze in most of the major sites in between food stops and enjoyed seeing all of the rich history of Rome. We toured the Colosseum, saw the Pantheon, and visited the Vatican (although we missed going into the Sistine Chapel thanks to a couple pairs of shorts–oops!).
Definitely not our favorite city (it’s big, dirty, and very crowded!), but we still had a great time with Dan and Suzi and were sad to see them off to Chicago! Never short of a good story, it turns out that the day before we were all scheduled to fly out of FCO, a fire wiped out an entire terminal! Needless to say, it was CHAOS the next morning when we all tried to get on our flights. Thankfully, the Chicago-bound flight was only slightly delayed and Dan and Suzi made it home in good time. Although not as fortunate, after about 18 hours, Dan and I arrived in Athens a bit worse for the wear and also bagless (they checked them against our will!). It seems European airlines share the same customer service issues as their American counterparts…
So while definitely not the travel hiccup we were hoping for (bags still missing 4 days in…), we are making the best of it (thanks Chase Sapphire!) and are committed to enjoying our last few days abroad; albeit with fewer personal belongings. Our return trip to Chicago is (very) quickly approaching, but we are taking in a bit of sun in the Greek islands before we do….I know, tough life… even if you are living out garbage bags.