Tuscany House Party

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

Each page represents each place you visit. A memory. A picture. A lesson learned. From those pages your eyes become opened, the story starts to make sense, and you learn more not only about other cultures, different people, and the world, but also about yourself, your beliefs and opinions. You in fact, get to create your own story, your own novel with each next chapter being the next adventure. But you can’t jump ahead, you can’t plan your life, for you don’t know what will happen – who you’ll meet or what path you’ll take which will lead you in another direction. The chapters essentially keep building on top of each other.

My parents taught me when I was young to be open to trying new things, be accepting of other cultures, and to visit new places. Travel, they believed, was essential to opening my mind to new ideas and new experiences. And I’ve been extremely fortunate and grateful to have traveled the world, with still a huge bucket list, which I may add, is extremely long. I always am up for a new adventure – within reason, no bungee jumping please 😉 But over the years places like Antarctica, Argentina, Brunei, Hong Kong, and Latvia have been checked from the list. My favorite being Switzerland – there’s something about the Alps where you can journey into the mountains. #neverstopexploring

But the best part of travel is by far the people you meet and the experiences you have. I have made sooo many friends from all over the world during these adventures. Friends that I still keep in touch with and some who we’re already planning our next trip. From these experiences, you gain memories, and from each of these memories, they form a part of who you are, the future choices you make, and who you become.

This trip, a journey to Tuscany, was one where I got to travel with friends and family: my mom and dad – coolest parents ever; Khalil and Cheryl – known me since I was little and really fun to hang out with; Robin and Barbara – not only best friends but have pretty much adopted me into their family back in California; Joely and Mark – who are also absolutely amazing; Peter and Maria – we share tech, sports, and a love for food in common, oh and a love for mountains and yoga too 🙂

Our home was Le Pratola – a villa in Gaiole in Chianti. We arrived and it’s a villa atop of a vineyard – you have to drive up a long dirt road to get to it. The villa itself is gorgeous: during the day you can enjoy the pool overlooking the Tuscan hills, as well as walk around the lush grounds; we’ve also taken advantage of the pool table, ping pong and more. We’ve run on the gravel roads, which is hard! Essentially it’s 2 weeks of vaca which includes chillaxing, exploring towns in the surrounding area, eating gelato and cooking family-style dinners at the villa, and overall having a good time. It’s been so much fun…

villa

Day 1: Off to Italy

Day 2: Gaiole in Chianti

Mark, Joely and I made it to the car rental place in Florence, and waited (well, Mark waited in line while Joely and I were sitting on the red seats to the side) behind 3 people. It was 10:35 AM. I was engulfed in my “Rock and Ice” magazine reading climbing stories. At around 11:10 AM they got to the front of the line and it looked like we were on our way. We rolled our luggage into the garage and made it to another office, and waited again. At 11:25 AM we were finally in our car and drove to Gaiole in Chianti where my parents, Khalil and Cheryl, and Robin and Barbara were already. “Wow, this looks like the Road to Hana!” Joely said. “Except with no cliffs, and no water.”  “Joely, the road to Hana feels like you’re in a rainforest,” I said. “So you mean,” Mark said, “this is nothing like the Road to Hana.”  LOL.

We arrived in Gaiole and had lunch in town with my folks, Robin & Barbara, and Khalil & Cheryl. We drove to the villa afterwards and my dad gave us a tour, then changed into our swim suits and took advantage of the pool. A-maz-ing. It was so good to just relax and read a book. Currently reading The Circle (thanks Indy! – wish you and Lisa were here, but still super jealous of your Paris trip!)

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“Wanna go for a run?” Robin asked. Robin, Barbara and I then did a 5k down the road and into another dirt/gravel road. I should have brought my trail running shoes. I found out later: beware of the wild boar. But so far I haven’t seen any. Apparently Tuscany is known for its boar.

Dinner that night was family style – grilled steak (Mark is awesome with the grill!), pesto pasta, veggie dish, and a huge salad. And vino of course. It was delicious. Nothing like dancing to “Uptown Funk” in the kitchen 😉

grill

Day 3: Siena

I woke up at 4:00 AM. Must be the jet lag. Still. I lay awake and couldn’t fall asleep so put on some music – at that time in the morning for some reason I was in the mood for One Republic. 5:00 AM –> still couldn’t fall asleep.  6:00 AM –> this is not working. 6:05 AM –> Forget it, I’m getting up and going for a run. So I put on my running clothes, sneakers, and headed out the door with my Garmin and started jogging with very few hours of sleep. I went about a mile down the gravel to the main paved road and turned right. But the day was just beginning.

“Let’s go to Siena!” We headed out the door and drove to the touristy town (with a stop in the middle of the road due to the gorgeous view).

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Parking was difficult but eventually we found a place to park. We ate a HUGE pasta lunch near the central square (a place recommended by Rick Steves apparently). So incredibly full. We then headed to the Siena Cathedral and walked up a long twisting staircase. “I see light!” I yelled after walking up a countless number of stairs. We got to the top. It was absolutely beautiful.

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“Khalil, did you feel it shake up there,” my dad asked him when we were near the bottom. “Yeah I did!” he said. I thought, well I’m sure glad I didn’t feel that ancient building move!

“So is this where all the dead people are?” I asked. “Yep, this is the crypt,” Khalil responded. It was super cool. You would look down in the glass and see another floor beneath us. It was deep.

After touring the Cathedral for a while, we were all pretty exhausted…but umm, we are in a church so Robin actually might be praying there.  Hmm…

robintired

Gelato time! We all agreed, it was definitely time to eat some scrumptious ice cream. Yum! I had extra dark chocolate and salty caramel – two of my fav flavors. It totally hit the spot.

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joelygelato

Day 4: Pienza

We drove the winding road to Pienza where my parents had stayed in the fall. Walking into the town it was so picturesque, with little shops (not really touristy) on each side of the narrow street.

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They took us to La Bandita Townhouse where we had lunch. I had a burger (I eat meat only about 2x a year), but why not have it in Italy! My parents and the owners caught up and they also talked to everyone in the kitchen who had all recognized them – it was like a big family.

pienzalunch

After a delicious meal, someone gave us a tour of the rooms (it used to be a nunnery so it was cool to see it converted to a hotel and restaurant). The owners: John – was once the VP of international marketing at Sony Music so we got to see some of his records, and his wife Ondine Cohane is a writer of Condé Nast and she was working on an article right before we sat down for lunch.

records

We also had to get gelato…and for some espresso.

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That night we cooked in again and after dinner played Sevens. A card game Barbara and Robin introduced us to. “Who dealt this mess?!” we would joke. It was a ton of fun playing a game, drinking wine (or Sambuca in my case), and laughing all night long.

sevens

Day 5 & 6: Radda and Castellina…and San Gimignano

Yoga! Barbara led a yoga class to Cheryl, my mom and me as it rained outside. We thought it was going to be a day indoors, but eventually got to venture out and visited Radda and Castellina in Chianti.

raddagoofballs

We wandered the streets and even found a hidden passage way through Castellina.

castellina

The next day we woke up early and I went for a 3 mile run – it’s super tough running here – just more challenging. Eventually I ran into a vineyard.

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San Gimignano is a medieval town known for its towers. 72 towers used to exist and now 14 remain. I hadn’t been here for 10 years so it was great to be back.

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We had a great lunch too!

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We also had to get the “world’s best gelato.” I have to say it was pretty good. Joely got “cheese and olive,” which I thought, what?! until I tried it and it was delicious so I had to get some myself.

Robin and Barbara had to catch their flight so we said goodbye. Miss them already!!!

siena4

Joely found in her Rick Steves book the 33 steps. We walked there to see a view but it was closed for renovation.

joely33steps

We then walked to the Bell Tower and climbed 213 steps…the views were absolutely gorgeous!

steps

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The adventures will continue, for this is just one small chapter in my book. It’s been so much fun traveling with my folks, and friends who have really become family over the years. Memories are being made and the journey to explore and live life to its fullest will continue. So let’s be adventurers. Let’s be globetrotters and see new sights, taste new foods, meet new people, and open your eyes to another part of the world.

More to come from Tuscany…

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