Ciao! It has been awhile! Bit by bit I have been chipping away at this post and finally I am able to share with you what was an amazing seven nights and six days in Italy.
This was my second visit to the country of eternal romanticism and certainly not my last. I fell in love with it even more than I had the first time just over twelve years ago (was it that long already?!?). Starting off in Pisa, we rented a car and drove a few hours north to the picturesque coastal town of Camogli on the Italian Riviera. Having already visited Portofino and Santa Margarita Ligure I had longed to return to this area and was so happy to do so. Camogli was a fairly quiet spot and had the perfect tourist to local ratio. I would definitely return here again, if only to stay at the amazing boutique hotel I chose from the Mr. & Mrs. Smith website, Villa Rosmarino. Outstanding service from the owner Fulvio and his excellent staff. I am always so inspired when meeting people like Fulvio. This very accomplished man spoke Italian, French, Spanish and English flawlessly and had the best recommendations on where to eat, drink and be merry not only in Italy but in New York, London, Paris, and Los Angeles too. Classy guy. Him and his partner Mario purchased Rosmarino in 2000 before putting five years of restoration into it. It was a shame to only have two nights here but I know we will be back. There really is something magical about this corner of the world.
Villa Rosmarino: Via Figari, 38 - 16032 - Camogli +39 0185 771580
Request the Terrace room and you will not be disappointed. (Did you see the view from the shower?!?). Great breakfast, great hosts, great pool, great location, etc. etc.
La Cucina di Nonna Nina San Rocco di Camogli +39 0185 773835
Beautiful setting and very traditional, "Nonna Nina" style Ligurian Italian cooking.
Trattoria Do Spadin Via San Nicolo 55, 16032 Camogli +39 0185 770624
A short boat ride away from the Camogli harbour, this cliff side restaurant offers superb ocean views and is ideal for sunset dining. Excellent quality local dishes. The pasta with fresh anchovies was outstanding and so was the freshly caught fish served with traditional accompanyments. An amazing meal with a beautiful view and great service, I definitely recommend this restaurant.
O Magazin 34 Calata Marconi, Portofino +39 0185 269178.
Stopped here for lunch while in Portofino. Great recommendation from Francesca at Villa Rosmarino. Beautiful setting with delicious genovese pasta and fish dishes. Fresh pappardelle with house made pesto and tomato sauce? Yes please….
San Fruttuoso is a great spot for swimming and beaching Med style if not too busy with tourists. Even so, despite this I personally couldn't resist the clear blue waters, and I'm so glad I didn't! If you've never swam in the Mediterranean Sea don't give up your chance if you get one, trust me! From San Fruttuoso you can take another ferry company to Portofino. From Portofino you can walk back to Santa Margherita (45 min along the coastal road) then take the bus or train back to Villa Rosmarino where a cold glass of white wine and local olives will be waiting for you. Not bad, not bad...
Hike or have lunch in Cinque Terre.
Twelve years ago, and probably still to this day, Cinque Terre is one of the most memorable and stunning hikes I have ever done in my life. In one day you can traverse five picturesque coastal towns apart of the Cinque Terre National Park (also a UNESCO World Heritage site). If hiking is not your thing, take a boat from Portofino to Vernazza, the only town accessible by boat and dine at the enchanting Belforte (42 Via Guidoni, Cinque Terre; +39 0187 812222) which has approximately ten seats on a terrace that literally hangs over a cliff. Hello perfect. :)
Tuscany: Chiusi and Florence
After two delightful days on the coast we headed back towards Pisa, descending to the south of Tuscany to Chiusi. Although I had been to Tuscany before, there is always more to see and experience. This time around, while travelling with G, we decided to try and keep the doing to a minimal in order to just enjoy the beautiful grounds of our hotel and surrounding towns. It was a perfect three days in the country before heading to Florence for our last night in Italy, an amazing country with incredible people that I long to return to over and over again. Grazie, grazie mille!!! È stato incredible!!! Ciao, ciao! Ciao bella Italia! :)
Poggio Piglia frazione Macciano Chiusi Provincia Siena 53043 +39 0578 274286
Another great pick from Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Poggio Piglia was the perfect mix of upscale hotel and country inn to greet us after a four hour drive from the coast. Paulo, the front desk Manager was a wonderful host and pleasure to talk to. The property has it's own vineyards and olive groves, an infinity pool, and stellar restaurant. Another bonus was the variety of running paths (advised by Paulo) to choose from if you are an explorer type like me and need another excuse for the daily wine and bread habit which inevitably becomes second nature after a few days. Just don't try to fight it, okay? It's not worth it, trust me. You won't regret it.
Hotel Alessandra Borgo SS. Apostoli, 17 - 50123 Florence +39 0552 83438
With only one evening to spend in Florence, we didn't feel the need for a fancy hotel, just something clean with a good location for visiting the city. Hotel Alessandra fit the bill and our experience there was above and beyond my expectations. Mario, the front desk agent was very helpful with everything, even saving us from not being able to return our rental car on time*. The hotel manager, Andrea also upgraded us to a two bedroom suite with a balcony overlooking the River Arno. Great spot for exploring Florence on a reasonable budget, great service too.
*Note to non-Europeans: Always remember that most rental car offices (in France and Italy at least) close at the most ridiculous times, including the infamous two hour lunch break from 12pm - 2pm, and then again at 5 or 6pm on weekends so make sure you get that vehicle back there before they close or you might be missing your flight as we almost did one time in France.
Poggio Piglia Restaurant frazione Macciano Chiusi Provincia Siena 53043 +39 0578 274286
Great service by our server Mario and outstanding food from the chef Salvatore. Beautiful setting and incredible flavours. Superb.
La Solita Zuppa Via porsenna, 21 53043 - Chiusi (SI) tel: +39 0578 21006
Traditional Tuscan restaurant in the heart of Chiusi. The owner is a hoot.
La Grotta, Via di San Biagio, 15, 53045 Montepulciano, Siena +39 0578 757479
La Grotta was outstanding. For sure the best overall meal we had in Italy. The outdoor garden terrace is stunning and the whole experience felt like we were apart of A Midsummer's Night Dream production. Reservations required. Highly recommend.
Note di Vino, Borgo dei Greci, 4/6r | Piazza Santa Croce, 50122 Florence +39 0552 18750
Great wine bar recommendation from my Calgarian turned Florentine friend Allan with a view of the Piazza San Croce. Order a bottle of wine and sample the Percorino while you take it all in. You're in Firenze after all..
Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco 43 Borgo San Iacopo, 50125 Florence +39 0552 15706
There were a few places that we had tried to get into for dinner in Florence on the Saturday night that we were there but unfortunately they were all either closed for holidays or fully booked. Our friend at Hotel Alessandra arranged a reservation for us here, and although a tad too touristy the food and atmosphere was pretty good. Try their pasta with fresh shaved truffles for only twenty euros.
If eating, drinking, taking leisurely walks through the countryside and lounging by the infinity pool isn't enough for you than you might want to check out the neighbouring Medieval towns. On the first day we ventured into Montepulciano which was a lovely place to visit as it is car-free and offers stunning views of the surrounding land. We also made it over to Cortona on our second day which was equally as pleasing. Most of all I just love walking around and thinking about how old everything is and how many generations of people have come and gone since those walls were built. How different things must have been back then. It's all so fascinating to me and I always feel so grateful to even be there. Travel is such a gift, isn't it?