Hi Mum, I’m in Tuscany

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Not long after settling down in London and beginning to feel like normal members of society again, we stopped all that for a completely idyllic fortnight in Tuscany. Alex was turning the big 3-0 and his folks plus some friends from Melbourne and London came to Tuscany to live with us in a villa, laze around the pool, go wine-tasting and to fabulous markets and generally have a gorgeous and relaxing time. What good friends, to put up with such a lot.

We stayed in a villa in a tiny place outside San Casciano, in Tuscany. This was about a 35 minute drive or so south of Florence, so of course we had a few day trips there.

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Florence was – is always – a glorious place, even when filled with tourists as far as the eye can see. We found some fantastic gelato (and some truly dire stuff, allegedly kiwifruit flavoured but it went into the rubbish after a few tastes) and an incredible cafe. I, the least enthusiastic coffee drinker to come out of Melbourne, fell in love with the stuff and eagerly joined Alex and the others in standing up at the bar for a quick espresso (though I haven’t yet joined Bjarne and his love of slamming down several doppio in a single sitting standing.)

We climbed the Duomo and admired the hideous depths of imagination to which people who believe in hell can descend.

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We spent a lot of time in the garden of the villa and by the pool, playing Scrabble and cards, reading books, and trying not to get hit by the shot which occasionally cascaded over us (as the shooting season opened while we were there).

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On the advice of our hosts, we visited a local winery called Villa Cigliano, on the outskirts of San Casciano. We weren’t anticipating much – a tour of the winery, and a light lunch while tasting some wines. We found a wonderfully welcoming owner, an outstanding and fascinating villa that had been in the family for over 500 years, a wonderful spread of food and some downright delicious wine and oil.

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Their family tree, covering many centuries:
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We’d recommend a visit in a heartbeat – it was a terrific day out.

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The other recommended place for a visit has to be the village of Greve in Chianti, where the Saturday markets brought Alex’s favourite thing in the world – the porchetta van. Whole roasted pigs stuffed with thyme, garlic and rosemary, with thick slices served up in a panino. Completely delicious.

Greve is also home to the most wondrous place for pork fanatics – Macelleria Falorni.

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This is the place for pork products. They practically literally hit you in the head when you walk in.

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Alex and I stocked up on cheese, pancetta, salumi and more from this place. Their products are just amazing.

Finally, we couldn’t forget the reason for being in Italy in the first place – Alex’s birthday. We went out for a meal to a small town called Panzano, where a butcher opened a restaurant. It was a great night out and after everyone was done we all – everyone who had eaten that night – stood around on the streets of the village and drank grappa with our host. Good fun.

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Ain’t nothing more romantic than posing in front of a meat locker.

So anyway – big thanks to Eileen and Bjarne for making the trip possible. It was a wonderful trip (and one that we may be replicating this year…)

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Hi Mum, we’re… still travelling

Oh, our poor neglected travel blog! We used to be so close!

After a really fun weekend in Budapest I’ve felt compelled to revive this old thing, and use it to keep records of all the travelling we’re doing now that Alex and I are firmly into the European travelling scene. Look out for posts on the following:

– Italy
– the Cotswolds
– Stockholm
– Madrid
– skiing in Tignes, France
– Belgium
– Budapest

and more to come…