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Tuscany (Italy - Part 2 of 4)

Most tourists are very familiar with the beautiful area known as Tuscany. It's known for the capital, Florence, the rolling green hills of the wine country and olive groves. Having been to Florence and the famous tourist sites in previous years, we decided to spend more time exploring the countryside and the wineries especially in the Brunello wine country. 

Florence
Known for it's renaissance art and architecture, Florence is full of beautiful museums and churches that highlight a lot of the great artists like Michelangelo and Botticelli. We were able to walk around the streets, eat lampredotto (Florentine street food tripe sandwich), and enjoy busy tourist town even in early September. I highly suggest going to Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset where you can see a beautiful view of the city as seen below. I'd recommend taking the bus since it is a pretty steep climb up.

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Ditta Artiginale

Ditta Artiginale

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Ditta Artiginale  - view from 2nd floor

Ditta Artiginale - view from 2nd floor

Our Airbnb at Casa Podere la Casina - Rigomagno

Our Airbnb at Casa Podere la Casina - Rigomagno

Piazza del Campo - Siena

Piazza del Campo - Siena

Duomo - Siena

Duomo - Siena

Montepulciano
Montepulciano was just a 30 minute drive from our Airbnb. It was a great short day trip to see the medieval and renaissance town that sits on a high hill. Most of these Italian hill cities are very walkable and allow limited car traffic. We really enjoyed going to the different cantinas where we were able to taste some delicious vino nobile. We enjoyed a casual lunch at La casa di Edel - da Baffo where you could enjoy a simple sandwich and a glass of wine. Caffè Poliziano has a very small balcony but if you're lucky enough to score a seat, I'd highly recommend paying an extra euro for espresso to enjoy the view.

Piazza Grande

Piazza Grande

View from balcony at  Caffè Poliziano

View from balcony at Caffè Poliziano

Caffe Poliziano
View from balcony at  Caffè Poliziano

View from balcony at Caffè Poliziano

Montepulciano
Piadine

Piadine

Montalcino
Known for their Brunello wines, Montalcino is another beautiful area with some delicious wines. We had the pleasure of visiting Sesta Di Sopra where we were greeted by winemaker Ettora and his wife Enrica. We go to sit down in their dining room where Ettora poured us his delicious wines with some different crackers and also some dark chocolates. He later showed us around his cellar and shared more about his process. It was such a lovely afternoon where we enjoyed a private tour and informative tasting. We also got to visit Poggio Antico a slightly more commercial vineyard (recently famous for the wine that Obama gifted to John Boehner). 

Sesta Di Sopra - Montalcino
Sesta Di Sopra - Montalcino
Sesta Di Sopra - Montalcino
Sesta Di Sopra - Montalcino
Sesta Di Sopra
Poggio Antico - Montalcino
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Poggio Antico - Montalcino
Harvest time 

Harvest time 

Poggio Antico - Montalcino
Biggest fig tree fresh for harvest

Biggest fig tree fresh for harvest

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Love x Food Cooking Class
Just outside Florence, we had such a lovely class with our instructors Luca and  Lorenzo. Passed down from their families', we learned how to make ravioli with ricotta and lemon zest, tiramisu (tuscan style), and various types of pasta. Being a handmade pasta newbie, Luca and Lorenzo were very patient and explained the fundamentals of pasta making. We all rolled our own pasta dough, folded ravioli and made spaghetti a la guittara. During our breaks, wine was plentiful and so were the fresh antipasti at the family table outside overlooking the countryside.

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La Marzocco Factory
For anybody that works in the coffee industry or is an espresso drinker, taking a tour of La Marzocco factory just outside of Florence is a must. We were so warmly welcomed by Sylvia who spent a couple hours with us talking about the history of La Marzocco and showed us every step of the process of how they create their espresso machines. She spoke so passionately and proudly about the craftsmanship that goes into every part and piece of their machines. After seeing the factory, I'm personally excited to have a La Marzocco Linea Mini machine in my house in the near future.

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Porto Ercole - The Tuscan Coast (Italy - Part 1 of 4)

This September, my husband and I had the pleasure of spending a month in Italy. Outside of our busy home of LA, we both prefer staying in the countryside, meeting the locals, eating local cuisine, and experiencing daily life in the area. Summer was ending, but I still wanted to find a place with some beach time. Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terra are both beautiful areas, but we wanted to find a place with fewer tourists. While looking on Airbnb, I zoomed in on the west coast of Italy in between those two areas and found an area called Maremma. Porto Ercole is a small town on the Tuscan Coast. We stayed at the Rocca Espagnole, which is a short but steep walk from the main town center. We enjoyed short hikes, relaxing at the beach, eating delicious seafood and visiting nearby towns. Our Airbnb had a small kitchen which was great for us since we both enjoy cooking. With some of our market buys, we made carbonara with fresh pasta and pancetta from the local macelleria (butcher shop) and steamed mussels. 

alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
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alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy - Rocca Espagnole
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The private grounds around the castle were limited to residents. We enjoyed the quiet gardens surrounding our Airbnb. Just a short 15 minute walk from the castle, we could rent chairs and umbrellas and lay out on these beautiful rocky beaches at Riva del Marchese. There is also a bar with espresso and some snacks available down near the beach. 

alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
alicia cho photography - Orbetello, Italy
alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
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alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
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alicia cho photography - Orbetello, Italy
alicia cho photography - Orbetello, Italy
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I would definitely recommend grabbing a drink at sunset at Hotel Il Pelicano. The grounds are beautiful and the service is excellent!

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Torre Di Capo D'Uomo

There are so many beautiful areas you can drive to around Porto Ercole. Just a 15 minute drive gets you to the trailhead where you can hike up and see some amazing views from Torre di Capo d'Uomo. Along the small path, you'll pass by two houses with olive orchards, and continuous ocean views. 

alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
Spiagge d'Acqua Dulce

Spiagge d'Acqua Dulce

Where we stayed:

Rocca Espagnole
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/13331906
Private and beautiful quiet castle that overlooks the port. It's a short walk into the town center. 

Where we ate:

Alicina Hosteria
Via San Sebastiano, 54, 58018 Porto Ercole, Monte Argentario GR, Italy
Great local seafood restaurant in the town center. We made reservations ahead of time for dinner.

Hotel Torre di Cala Piccola
58019 Porto Santo Stefano, Province of Grosseto, Italy
Food is fresh and good, but expensive. We mainly dined here for the amazing view!

Orbetello Market
via Caravaggio corner via Trento, just outside of the Porto Nuova
On Saturdays, you can buy fresh produce, fish and also meats from local butchers.

Hotel Il Pelicano
Località Sbarcatello, 58019 Porto Ercole GR, Italy
Sunset drinks at their bar that overlooks the water. Excellent service!

Where we went:

Hiking at Torre di Capo d'Uomo
A short but slightly challenging hike with great views.

Spiagge d'acqua dulce
Every beach in this area requires a pretty rocky and steep walk to reach the beach. This beach is definitely worth it! Mainly Italian tourists and locals.

Riva de la Marchese
Walkable from or Airbnb. Chairs and umbrella available for rent. Snack bar and coffee available near the beach.
 

Highway 1 Drive - End of Summer 2014

My sister and I took an impromptu road trip up the highway one coast when we decided to cancel our trip to Cabo San Lucas because of the category four hurricane that was approaching.  We've done this drive many times, but this time stopped, took a breath and really soaked in the best California has to offer.  We stopped from campsite to campsite hoping there was one open and just our luck we found one at the north end of Big Sur at the Andrew Molera Trail Camp.  Here are some photos along the way and back.

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My sister and I took an impromptu road trip up the highway one coast when we decided to cancel our trip to Cabo San Lucas because of the category four hurricane that was approaching.  We've done this drive many times, but this time stopped, took a breath and really soaked in the best California has to offer.  We stopped from campsite to campsite hoping there was one open and just our luck we found one at the north end of Big Sur at the Andrew Molera Trail Camp.  Here are some photos along the way and back.