Italy: Day Nine, Ten, & Eleven ~ The End

This is it! This is the final post of our 10-day trip to Italy this summer that Curtis and I took to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Since we both took our big cameras, we had hundreds of photos to share between us. I am so grateful to our friends and family that took the time to look and comment on our images. Susan gave us some great advice and suggested that we make a book out of trip and I think I will do that! Thanks, Susan!

Day 9 was spent touring a vineyard at lunchtime and staying drunk (ha!) at the resort the rest of the day. Day 10 was spent traveling back to Rome by train. Day 11 was spent on airplanes coming home.

Day Nine

Podere Concori

The main reason I wanted to visit Tuscany was to see a winery and get a tour. Our incredible concierge, Antonia, at the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort and Spa recommended a local winery, Podere Concori. Antonia said that it’s a small winery and that we would meet the owner, Gabriele de Prato, and his wife, Michaela. We had breakfast at the hotel then arrived at the winery just before noon.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/7.1 | 1/320 | ISO 100

The Vineyard

Alina, one of the vineyard tour guides, met our taxi and welcomed us to the winery. The vineyard is lush and green. She explained the entire process of how their wine is made. Gabriele inherited the vineyard from his father and continues a centuries old tradition of bio-dynamic farming. From his website:

There is no room for chemical products. Preparations with bewitching names are used: Horn manure (a cow’s horn is filled with manure and placed underground until it is mature) and horn silica, as well as all the available plants. Valerian, chamomile, stinging nettles, fennel, dandelion plants. In the cellar, no selected starter yeasts are used, no filtering nor fining while racking and bottling are carried out to the moon’s rhythm. In the end, every vintage is a world unto itself – an ultimate expression of the terroir and its farmer. Soil fertilization is carried out with cow manure, preferably from the farm, green manure is used (leguminous plants and wheat-like grasses are planted and later ploughed back into the soil to increase its fertility), manual operations substitute machines. The rest is a constant dialogue with nature using ones senses: to walk, touch, see, smell, listen and taste; this is the meaning of biodynamic farming for me.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/7.1 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Tending the Vineyard

One of the farm hands putters by on his tractor. He had such a friendly smile!

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/7.1 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Exploring the Vineyard

We walked down into the vineyard as Alina explained the process of growing the grapes. They produce only five varieties and use no chemicals or preservatives whatsoever.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/7.1 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Curtis got a lovely shot with beautiful lines of the vineyard.

Nikon D700 | 40mm | f/22 | 1/800 | ISO 3200

Row After Row

Row after row of lush grape vines invite visitors to come explore. Flowers bloom all along the rows. Alina explained that they do not kill off the weeds and let nature remain harmonious.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/7.1 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Vines

The grape vines are laden with ripening fruit. At the beginning of the season, they shape the vines to grow around the stakes then let them grow as they wish.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/5.6 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Vigna Giorgio

This row of grapes is dedicated to Gabriele’s son, Giorgio (whom they affectionately call JoJo). Alina asked about Curtis’s sunglasses which were an anniversary gift from me to him. They are the Enchroma glasses which allow Curtis to see color. When Alina shared that JoJo is also color blind, Curtis offered to let him try his sunglasses, but JoJo was off on a school field trip. Curtis then offered to leave the glasses overnight and Gabriele would bring them back to the resort the following morning when he came to collect payment for the wine we would order later. The entire exchange felt like it was arranged by God.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 85mm | f/5 | 1/250 | ISO 100

The Grapes

Aren’t the grapes beautiful? If I’m remembering correctly, these were to be used to create the Melograno blend.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 85mm | f/4.5 | 1/320 | ISO 400

Curtis also got a nice shot of the grapes peeking out into the sun. Alina said they were just a few weeks away from harvest.

Nikon D700 | 112mm | f/22 | 1/800 | ISO 3200

Meeting the Pet Donkey

We walked back over to the main building and we noticed a donkey in a pen. Alina said this was their pet donkey and he was very friendly, so Curtis went over to meet him.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/7.1 | 1/320 | ISO 100

I didn’t feel quite so adventurous so I hung back but Curtis got this great close up of the donkey.

Nikon D700 | 120mm | f/22 | 1/800 | ISO 2000

Curtis took a few extra moments to get some other really nice images, like this one of some barrels at the edge of the vineyard.

Nikon D700 | 105mm | f/22 | 1/800 | ISO 3200

And he got this nicely composed shot of a barrel on its side.

Nikon D700 | 92mm | f/9 | 1/800 | ISO 3200

Casks

This is the aging room where the wine is stored in casks on their sides. The room was dark and cool.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/1.4 | 1/250 | ISO 1600

I love this shot Curtis got with the light gently cascading over the casks.

Nikon D700 | 32mm | f/9 | 1/800 | ISO 3200

Tanks

Next we visited the fermenting room with the large stainless steel tanks.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/1.4 | 1/250 | ISO 800

I love seeing how Curtis and I see the same space so differently! Curtis has a great perspective here.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/4 | 1/200 | ISO 3200

Storage

We finished up our tour in the storage room where the wine is kept in bottles until its ready for distribution.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/1.4 | 1/125 | ISO 5000

Again I think Curtis’s perspective is so much better than mine. Well done, baby!

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/4 | 1/20 | ISO 3200

Tasting Room

It was now time for our wine tasting and lunch! We were expecting to be sharing this space with another tour which we heard was going to be about 20 people. Imagine our surprise when we learned that it was just the two of us! Thank you, Antonia!

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/3.5 | 1/250 | ISO 800

La Medaglia di Cangrande

All of the walls in the tasting room were lined with art and awards. This medal was awarded to Gabriele by the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, in 2016.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/3.2 | 1/250 | ISO 800

Curtis got this artistic shot of the Podere Concori wine corks.

Nikon D700 | 120mm | f/14 | 1/200 | ISO 1000

Our Table and Appetizers

Here is our sweet table for two. Michaela, Gabriele’s wife, prepared these delicious appetizers for us from scratch, using ingredients grown here at their farm and vineyard. We had bruschetta with tomatoes, bruschetta with an olive tapenade, bread, cheese, and sausage. The Bianco wine was paired with this course and it was delicious!

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/3.2 | 1/250 | ISO 200

Curtis got this shot of me just before we began eating and drinking.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/14 | 1/200 | ISO 3200

Main Course

Michaela prepared penne pasta with homemade marinara sauce for our main course. The Melograno wine was paired for this course. I have never tasted a more delicious wine! Alina explained that because it is created with no chemicals, preservatives, or added sulfites, we would not experience a hangover. Uh-oh, watch out!

Italy street photographer

iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/100 | ISO 40

Lunchtime View

Sitting at our table and looking into the tasting room, this was my view. They had additional tables beautifully set for the next tour. Art created by Gabriele and his family adorns the walls. We finished our meal with a heavier wine, the Vigna Piezza. I didn’t love it as much as the Melograno.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/3.2 | 1/250 | ISO 400

Happy and a Little Drunk

After lunch, we placed an order for six bottles of wine to be shipped home. We walked around the room and enjoyed looking at the art. Alina offered to take a photo of us on their lounging couch. Can you tell we are a little drunk already?

Italy street photographer

iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/17 | ISO 64

Exploring the Farm

We called for our taxi as the next tour arrived and explored the farm as we waited. Flowers bloomed everywhere and the landscape was so green and fresh.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 85mm | f/6.3 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Apples

The de Prato family grows everything they need to be self-sustainable. This is one of their apple trees.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 85mm | f/5 | 1/250 | ISO 100

Artistic Touches

Wine barrels are used as art with blooming flowers as accents.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 85mm | f/6.3 | 1/320 | ISO 80

More Vines

Additional grape vines grow behind the building. This is the oldest part of the property and belonged to Gabriele’s father.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 85mm | f/5 | 1/320 | ISO 80

Terraced Farm

Off in the distance, you can see another terraced farm. Because of the steep terrain, terraced farming is way to prevent water run off from ruining crops.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 85mm | f/5 | 1/320 | ISO 80

Curtis noticed a brick oven out in front of the house. He wandered over and got this shot of fresh bread that was just pulled out of the oven.

Nikon D700 | 86mm | f/20 | 1/400 | ISO 3200

Looking into the oven, Curtis saw that Michaela was busy cooking roasted vegetables for the next tour.

Nikon D700 | 52mm | f/4 | 1/400 | ISO 3200

Best Wine Ever

We got back to our hotel and inquired at the bar if they had any Melograno stocked? We were beyond happy when they said, “Yes, of course. Would you like a glass or a bottle?” Can you guess what our answer was? 😉 We spent the remainder of the day lounging. Curtis started reviewing places we had been on Facebook and Google. We made a dinner reservation at the hotel’s restaurant that evening and relaxed.

Italy street photographer

iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/35 | ISO 50

Day Ten

Low Lying Fog

We woke up late Thursday morning with no hangover (true!) and opened the door to our patio. Low lying fog covered the Serchio valley and the town of Barga. We had a leisurely breakfast then got packed up to catch our first of three trains to get back to Rome.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/6.3 | 1/320 | ISO 50

We got dropped off at the Barga train station and had a few minutes to wait until our train arrived. Curtis got this shot with his phone of the station and you can see my hat in the lower right corner.

Samsung Galaxy 6| 4.2mm | f/1.7 | 1/220 | ISO 40

Goodbye Barga

We stood on the platform waiting for our train to arrive. Our trip to Tuscany had been magical and we definitely want to return in the future. Goodbye Barga!

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/6.3 | 1/320 | ISO 50

Waiting for the Train

Curtis walked over to the tracks looking to see if our train was approaching. I love how his foot is cocked, he looks like a little boy.

Italy street photographer

iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/1100 | ISO 25

Curtis also got a shot of the Barga-Gallicano sign. His eye for composition is excellent.

Samsung Galaxy 6| 4.2mm | f/1.7 | 1/2000 | ISO 40

Horse and Rider

We had to change trains in Lucca and since we had about a 30-minute layover, we left the station to explore (and get some gelato!). Looking down the front of the train station, I saw a person on horseback at the end of the building. I quickly pulled out my phone to get a shot.

Italy street photographer

iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/100 | ISO 32

Lucca Train Station

We found a place on the corner to get some gelato and we sat and people watched. This was our view of the Lucca train station.

Italy street photographer

iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/1000 | ISO 25

Curtis got a similar shot with his phone too!

Samsung Galaxy 6| 4.2mm | f/1.7 | 1/1000 | ISO 40

Florence Train Station

We made it to Florence and had time to wander a little before our next train. This is in the main lobby with the ticketing windows and the Arrivals/Departures boards.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/3.2 | 1/320 | ISO 400

Fellow Travelers

Turning back to the main entrance, I got this image of my fellow travelers. We saw such diversity in the crowd and heard many different languages spoken.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/3.2 | 1/320 | ISO 400

High Speed Train to Rome

I booked us on a high speed train from Florence to Rome. This train line is called Italo and offers free wifi and access to entertainment while on board. We were very comfortable.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.5 | 1/320 | ISO 800

Longest Tree Farm

You may remember on Day Seven that we passed a long tree farm on the way to Tuscany. I remembered where it was and got my phone ready for some video. Can you believe how long this goes on?

Longest Tree Farm

iPhone 6S+

We arrived in Rome! I’m so glad Curtis got a shot of the Rome train station, aka Roma Termini.

Samsung Galaxy 6| 4.2mm | f/1.7 | 1/640 | ISO 40

On our way to the hotel, Curtis noticed some people gathered on a street corner. They had flags and appeared to be protesting. I think our taxi driver said they had gathered to celebrate winning a sport event.

Samsung Galaxy 6| 4.2mm | f/1.7 | 1/1100 | ISO 40

Boscolo Exedra Roma

Curtis got on the phone with Marriott before we left Barga to see what other options we had for Marriott properties in Rome. We didn’t want to stay at the Grand Flora again so he got us booked into the Boscolo Exedra Roma. Wow. This hotel was completely different than anything I had ever stayed in before. It was HUGE and very, very upscale. Our room was elegant, with high ceilings, and we had impeccable service.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.2 | 1/200 | ISO 400

Upon the advice of the concierge, we had dinner that night (our last night in Italy) at a romantic Italian restaurant, Ristorante Tullio. We had wonderful service and the food was very good. What a perfect way to end our time in Italy!

Samsung Galaxy 6| 4.2mm | f/1.7 | 1/50 | ISO 200

Piazza della Repubblica at Night

I had trouble going to sleep so after Curtis was conked out, I crept out of our room and went outside to sit for a while. The Piazza della Repubblica was completely devoid of people and traffic. It was a little eerie!

Italy street photographer

iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/4 | ISO 100

Day Eleven

Piazza della Repubblica at Day

Here is the piazza in the light of day. It was early morning, we had checked out, and we were waiting on our Uber to take us to the airport. I had to wait quite a while to get a shot without cars zooming around the traffic circle.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/8 | 1/400 | ISO 100

The Exedra

Goodbye Boscolo Exedra Roma… I wish we had more time to explore this beautiful hotel and its expensive shops. There were just a few landmarks and tourist attractions that we didn’t get to see in Rome, but our trip was packed full of incredible memories.

Italy street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/5 | 1/250 | ISO 100

Last Selfie in Italy

Curtis obliged one last selfie before we left Rome. We were looking forward to going home and seeing our family.

Italy street photographer

iPhone 6S+

Twenty years of marriage is definitely something to celebrate, especially since we are more in love today than we were when we first got married. This trip to Italy was a once in a lifetime event and one for which planned and saved for a very long time. We didn’t expect to fall in love with Barga and hope to return someday. I want to acknowledge and thank my mom for making this trip possible by holding down the fort at home, taking care of all the critters and the kids, and being so supportive of me and Curtis. I hope you enjoyed our journey! Thanks for looking!!!

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