06/7/13
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Tuscan Countryside

Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up early at 8 am on June 7, 2013.  We had the free breakfast on the balcony.

We took a taxi to the Florencetown office.  We were all going on the Tuscany by Vespa Tour.  It was a beautiful sunny day for a ride through the countryside.

The group consisted of 10 people and one monkey.  Two vans drove our group to the campgrounds.  At the grounds, we chose our helmets.  No monkey sized helmets for Dave, but it was alright since he’d be travelling in style in my fake Tokidoki bag.

The guides were Vito and Jean Luc.  The scooters weren’t the classic Vespas you would expect since it is a Vespa tour, but PIAGGIO Zips.  Ivan was disappointed since he saw a cool blue Vespa he wanted to ride.  Unfortunately, it was for a private tour.

Everybody who wanted to drive had to learn how to drive a scooter or show the guides they could drive on.  Ivan has ridden scooters all over the world like Thailand, Croatia and the Philippines – so he passed with flying colors.

Ivan driving a scooter

I tried to learn once in Bali and I revved too fast and crashed.  Ivan thinks I’m too short to ride a scooter.  So, I just let Ivan drive which he loves doing especially going fast.  I love riding behind him while holding onto him tightly.

A few people have never ridden scooters and sometimes the guide told the person they wouldn’t be able to ride today.  He thought a few people needed more practice.  Ivan thinks that if you’re thinking of going on a Vespa tour when you’re driving, you should know how to ride one since it is expensive.  You might as well just book a tour where they drive you around in a van.

Our first stop was at a vineyard where one of the guides talked about Chianti wine and Sangiovese grapes.

Our guide talking about Chianti wine

The group got back on the scooter.  I took photos of the scenery while Ivan was driving.

Lovely Tuscan countryside

It was quite green and gorgeous all around us.

Vineyards and Mountains in the distance

We drove up even more and got a beautiful view and had a chance to stop for photos.

Ivan & me in red with a vineyard behind us

The group drove around more and stopped at Villa Le Corti – Principe Corsini.  It’s a 17th century villa.  The wine tour was first.  Ivan and I have gone on a lot of wine tours, so we usually zone out.  I just took some photos.

Fattoria Delle Corti wine barrels

Outside, there’s a lovely garden with lots of bushes and flowers.

Lovely garden at Villa le Corti

Lil Dave ran around the garden and climbed up a tree.  Ivan was looking forward to lunch.

The group went to the restaurant for lunch.  Lil Dave munched on his banana and peanut butter sandwich.  Ivan and I started off with bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Lil Dave put a slice of banana on a bread with balsamic vinegar which was oddly good.

We were given two of the wines that are made at the winery.  The two wines were Le Corti Chianti Classico and Don Tommaso Chianti Classico.  Ivan really liked the Le Corti while I liked the Don Tommaso better since it was spicy and more complex.  We only got a free half glass of each wine.

A tasty bruschetta came out next.  Our table was filled with wine lovers and weren’t sure if we got free refills since some of the glasses on our tables were empty or getting really low.  Ivan asked if we could get a refill, but you have to pay for more wine.   For how much they charge for this tour (€120 per drive or €210 for 1 driver + 1 passenger), they should really give you unlimited wine.

Red wine and Pasta

Then, we got a spaghetti with tomato sauce which was followed by a creamy pasta.  I liked the second pasta probably since it was creamy.  The food was very tasty.

Dark clouds started appearing in the sky.  It looked like rain would be coming soon.  Our last stop was at a gelateria called I Pini.  Everybody in the group had to pay for their own gelato if they wanted to eat some.  Again, they should include this in the tour especially since the small gelato is only €1.  Ivan and I were stuffed, so we shared a limone (lemon) and pistachio.  Lil Dave got a banana gelato with extra banana.

The Tuscan Vespa Tour was a great tour.  I recommend that you go on this tour to ride on a scooter for a lovely day in the beautiful Tuscan countryside.  The group was taken back to the campgrounds where we had to wait for the vans.  Our driver took us back to a square.  It started raining shortly after we were dropped off.

Ivan, Lil Dave and I took shelter in Coronas Café.  Ivan and I each had an espresso while Lil Dave had a banana Italian soda.

It stopped raining, so we started walking more since we wanted to get back to the b&b.  It started raining harder so we popped into a bookstore.  The books were in Italian, but the store had souvenirs and cute products.

We were off again to Ponte Vecchio which is a cool Medieval bridge.  It started raining again and we stopped into a bread shop.  After, we walked back to Artevita B&B.

That night, we went to a local place nearby where the servers only speak Italian.  It was very popular and the wait was too long.  So, we walked down the street to another restaurant which I can’t remember the name of.  Ivan and I shared mussels, grilled vegetables and pizza with anchovies, basil, bufala mozzarella and chopped tomato.  Lil Dave got a banana pizza.  This restaurant must be known for their pizzas since every table had at least one pizza on it.  The meal was delicious.

Ivan & me with our melonchellos

Ivan and I had a sweet melonchello after our dinner.

06/6/13
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Florence

Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up early on June 6, 2013.  We left the hotel at 9 am and then walked to the train station.

The train left at 9:25 am headed to Florence.  The train was 11 minutes late and arrived at 11:02 am.

We stored our luggage in the storage at the train station.

We walked around the market since we had time to spare before Ivan’s family and D showed up.  The stalls were selling leather belts, journals, Italian masks, and souvenirs.

Ivan’s family and D were on a tour that Ivan booked.  They didn’t like their tour guide since he kept making up stories and he was crazy.  I bet he was actually pretty interesting.  I’m sure it’s better than a boring monotone tour guide who makes you want to fall asleep.

Ivan checked out a few of the restaurants to find something good.  Our group ended up at Trattoria pizzeria da i matti.  It was really pretty inside.

Inside Trattoria pizzeria da i matti

Ivan and I shared a tuna and onion pizza and a spicy penne arrabiata.  The food was tasty.

Neal and D wanted to head back to the cruise ship.  We walked around the markets with Denise and Ken.

Florence & religious souvenirs

Ivan and I bought some souvenirs.

We checked out the church Santa Maria del Fiore which is free to enter.  It wasn’t that big inside.

Apse artwork

Ivan and I had gelato at Grom.  Ivan’s parents went back to their tour.

Ivan wanted to go see the David statue replica at Piazzale Michelangelo to meet up with his parents.  I was feeling hot and sick since I had a sore throat.  I stayed in a park while Ivan went to find them and take pictures.  He said he would be back in 30 minutes.

I relaxed on the grass in the park.  I saw a few kids playing and lots of people relaxing in the park.

I walked around to take pictures of a cool bridge and then headed back to the park.

I was ducking under a chain to get on the sidewalk and I hurt my ankle when my right foot went down.  I screamed loudly since it really hurt.  One guy who was passing by said Are you ok?  I said I’m fine.  I was just trying to play it off.  So, I rushed off and started taking pictures of a statue.  It actually really, really hurt bad.  I was mad at this point since it was almost an hour and there was no sign of Ivan.

I walked around to find a place to buy water.  I came across CLET’s studio.  The guy who makes the funny things on street signs.

Heart sign by CLET

I guess he lives here in Florence.  I thought Ivan was going to come back soon so I didn’t bother going into a café to grab a water.

He came back a few minutes later.  Neal told Ivan via email later that they were going to see the replica of the David statue at a different square and not the Piazzale Michelangelo.  It was a long steep way up, so that’s why it took awhile.  Plus, Ivan was waiting for them and then he ran to the other square.  Ivan told me he saw Clet’s studio too.

Later, we checked in to Artevita Bed & Breakfast which is a lovely place.  Our room had a balcony with a beautiful view.

Ivan on the balcony

We were looking forward to having breakfast on the balcony tomorrow.

That night, we took a fun Pizza & Gelato making class.

Ready to make a pizza!

The main teacher was Davide and he was friendly.

The Pizza & Gelato making class

Davide showed us how to make gelato.  Everybody didn’t get to make their own gelato since there was only one machine. It was cool learning about it though.

The other teacher Julio wasn’t very nice. He got mad at me and Ivan since we were talking during his demonstration on how to roll out the dough and put the toppings on. He was like a school teacher. We got to roll out the dough and put the tomato sauce and our toppings like salami, basil and olive oil.  We had wine while we were making our pizzas.  We were told to customize our pizzas.

Davide put my pizza in the oven.  Later, I was waiting for my pizza.  I was asking Julio if he moved any of the pizzas since mine was in a certain spot.  He said yes.  I asked him if he could ask Davide about which one was mine.  Ivan told me later that I was being way too loud and everybody heard me.  Julio didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t sure which pizza was mine. Somebody said You should have customized it.  I put 3 salamis on it, but so did somebody else.  I asked him if he could ask Davide which pizza was mine since he was keeping track, but he didn’t seem to care and didn’t ask him.  Davide was talking to somebody.  I don’t like Julio since he ignored me.  Even if you don’t like somebody, you should treat everybody the same in your cooking class.  I think Davide should be the only teacher since he’s really friendly.

Ivan’s pizza turned out better than mine.  Mine was tasty with salami on it.

Salami Pizza by Jen

Davide retrieved the gelato from the machine.

Davide taking out the chocolate gelato

Soon after, we got to try the chocolate gelato which was delicious.  Everybody got a diploma and a recipe book at the end.

Ivan is proud for getting his diploma

It was a really fun class.

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