And then I took off to Italy. I was returning back to one of my favorite places in the world so that I could see my boyfriend and celebrate his birthday. Then we would be attending his brother's wedding. Two full weeks away from the oppressive heat of my hometown, my three jobs, my routine. I landed in Pisa on a warm sunny day and was quickly whisked away from the airport to a roadside lunch of fresh seafood and cold white wine served on colorful tablecloths and all shared with the man I came for. I wasn't sure if I could be happier. We left and headed towards the mountains climbing up a steep hill to the house of a friend where would be staying for the night. A labyrinthine house that was an old converted mill set aside a rushing stream surrounded by olive groves and abandoned stone buildings. A magical place that instantly captured my heart.
The first week was filled with beach days, homemade calda calda and pizza at Marco's, dinners with family and friends, wood fired BBQs, homemade limoncello and grappa, vespa rides, walking around Marina di Massa and a failed attempt to visit the Malaspina Castle. There was a spectacular day when we toured the Marmo marble quarry and ate lardo, tripe and wild boar with polenta for lunch just down the mountain at Trattoria Ometto. Working off our small feast we hiked around the prismatic, quaint, neighboring town of Bedizzano.
About midway through this journey, we jumped a train north and headed to the kaleidoscopic Cinque Terre for a hot beach day in the town of Monterosso. We made fast friends with a cafe on the main drag not far from the train station between dips in the sea stopping in first for our morning espresso and then later for wine in the afternoon. Dragging ourselves out of the salty Mediterranean, we lunched on fresh anchovies and local rose while enjoying the shade of a massive fig tree overhead. This day was pure bliss. We slurped down frozen margaritas with the rest of the tourists before heading back home on the coastal express.
A few short days after that we travelled to Florence. A visit to the Uffizi Museum was in order as well as our accommodations at an unassuming tiny hotel right off of Il Duomo. I have unfortunately only experienced Florence in the heat of July when it is full to bursting with tourists and tour groups and nearly impossible to navigate. I feel ashamed that I am yet another foreigner to clog this lovely town. Though at night this place seems nearly deserted, the sun's heat a memory and the narrow cobbled streets twist romantically making getting lost easy until the inevitable stumble out into a lively square bustling with cafes and carousels. On this night a negroni and a Florentine steak were a must.
My final week in Italy included more time on the beach, a jaunt to Livorno, more fresh fish eaten seaside, a wedding in Siena and a reception at Poggio Bonelli in the hills of Tuscany. Lastly there was a return to the mill house for prosecco and a home cooked dinner on the patio and a last morning catching coffee and the train in Pisa before sadly returning home.
I returned home to a quick getaway to see my family and my first dip in the Atlantic. Soon after I became an aunt to my sister's newborn son, a role I have quite happily taken to. Mid-month I was able to celebrate with friends at a birthday party that pleasantly felt more like a reunion. That happy event segued into a proper beach weekend with a group of lady friends, some old, most new. The relaxing getaway was complete with an old school record player, a bike ride to the lighthouse, a rough day in the waves and a night under the full moon getting our tarot cards read.
Until next year summer!