Our Europe Trip in Pictures: Part 1

We’re back, we’re back, we’re back!! First of all, this trip was absolutely incredible and amazing and something I’ll remember for a lifetime (for those of you who don’t know, we traveled to various parts of Italy and Greece for two weeks in October). That said, it feels so good to be back! It’s weird how that happens…while the food was absolutely divine and I wanted to take it all home with me, at the same time I was still ready to have my own, familiar food again (I’m looking at you, peanut butter…I may have gotten peanut butter confiscated from my bag not once, but twice by TSA in the airports…it never hurts to try. :)). And while we had gorgeous views in all of our Airbnbs (I mean, really, does waking up to a view of the Mediterranean or the Parthenon ever get old?), my own bed that overlooks, well, our backyard and our neighbor’s back porch light that they insist on turning on for the entire night (not that I’m bitter about this at all) never felt better! Oh, and having fast wi-fi and being able to communicate with people were also small perks of being back on U.S. soil.

So, where do I even start! First, our itinerary: We were gone a total of 14 days, visited 2 countries, and stayed in 4 cities/towns. All of our travel was either by plane, bus, or train…We saw a lot of public transportation on this trip, to say the least. :) Thankfully, it’s super easy to get around in Europe by these modes of transportation and our hours of planning ahead of time made all of these connections as hassle-free as possible. Renting a car and attempting to drive while there looked like an absolute nightmare. Eek!

Days 1–6: Exploring Pisa/Florence/Tuscany
Days 7–9: Relaxing in the Amalfi Coast in Italy (Praiano and Positano to be exact)
Days 10–11: Sightseeing around Athens, Greece
Days: 12–14: Relaxing and soaking up our last days of vacation in Santorini, Greece, one of the Greek islands

Ready for picture overload? Here’s what we saw in Italy (Greece coming soon!):

Pisa

Pisa was our home base. We really enjoyed the relative quietness of the city compared to, for instance, Florence. I was in awe of the cobbled streets, the hundreds of year old buildings, and being able to stop by a local market store right outside our apartment to pick up fresh bread, cheese, and prosciutto for our dinner that night. Now that’s the lifestyle I could get used to. Each day we traveled out each day to nearby cities to explore Florence, the countryside of Tuscany, and the coast line known as Cinque Terre.

Our home for the week. *swoon* It was just so…Italian. And I loved it.

Our daily commute to the train station. If only all commutes were this picturesque. My walking partner wasn’t too bad either. :)

Sorry, we had to. It’s obligatory.

Tuscany

I had no idea the real countryside of Tuscany actually looks like what you see in the movies! For once, the movies weren’t lying! It truly is as beautiful and serene as it appears in pictures and movies. For our first full day in Italy, we had a tour planned that took us to small medieval villages and towns in Tuscany, including a visit to a farm for lunch where we were served a pasta meal with produce and wine grown on their farm and vineyard. The meal was the first of many excellent meals we’d have on our trip (seriously, how do they cook the pasta perfectly every single time!), but the view while eating was one I won’t soon forget. Oh, and the wine (chianti) was some of the best I’ve had. The entire time, I couldn’t get over how well they do food in both Italy and Greece.

Our first stop on the tour was Siena. These buildings are legit 600+ years old. The history and architecture are just amazing.

I mean, really. Come on.

Talk about a big door!

Our next stop was lunch! As you’ll notice in future pictures, eating outside with some kind of picturesque view became commonplace on this trip. It almost felt fake it was so beautiful.

It technically wasn’t a wine tour, but there was plenty to go around. Plus, that view. *heart eye emoji*

*forever memory*
Taking in these views with this man by my side was just short of surreal. Certainly a top highlight of our trip.

Next stop: The little village of San Gimignano. Let’s just call this the cutest little Tuscany village. I felt like I was stepping back in time…minus the selfie sticks and smart phones everywhere.

This place was recommended by our tour guides. As the line and the list of awards can attest, it was the best gelato we had on our trip. Cinnamon gelato for him, saffron-orange peel-almond-honey gelato for her.

This is not just for show. This was truly how they buy their meat and cheese.

Florence

I’m still freaking out a little about this day. We were two days into our trip at this point and I could have gone home after this being completely content. This was our cooking class day and it surpassed all expectations. Our class started with a short but thorough tour around Florence, pointing out historic landmarks and fun facts while also picking up food we’d be cooking with later that day (samples at each stop included :)). From there we hopped on a bus for a short ride outside of Florence to the villa where we’d be at for the remainder of the day. If I had a kitchen overlooking Florence with state of the art appliances and behind-the-scenes assistants who cleaned up after me, I probably would never leave. The flow of the day was seamless and our stomachs were never empty for long.

Our day long menu included: Bruschetta, homemade pizza, homemade egg pasta and ragu, pork and potatoes, and tiramisu. Oh, and it goes without saying that there was wine flowing freely throughout the day and limoncello or espresso was available to cap off the dinner. As abundant as the wine was, the olive oil was just as much (and probably more). Olive oil goes with everything…and lots of it. With olive trees everywhere (including some at the villa where our class was), Italians have more olives than they know what to do with. There’s no such thing as anything besides extra-virgin olive oil (which means the oil comes from the first press of olives rather than the second or third).

We arrived at our cooking class to this gorgeous set up!

And again, we eat outside with a view. :)

You haven’t had balsamic vinegar until you try 15 year real balsamic vinegar. It was like syrup. Yum!

 

This is Carmella. She spoke no English and I can’t come up with an English word to describe her besides being passionate and boisterous. Safe to say, she brought plenty of life to the class. :)

These two own the title as Italian pizza masters. Not only were they entertaining and funny, but also knew a lot about pizza!

*forever memory*
This smile was on my face the entire day. From rolling out pasta to tossing up pizza dough, I had the time of my life.

Cinque Terre

This area is right along the coastline and consists of 5 small towns, known for their colorful facade. We hiked from town to town and slept the entire train ride home. :) Beautiful day, challenging hike, clear blue waters, and impressive scenery.

Amalfi Coast

It only took two train rides, two bus rides, and at least 8 hours of travel time to get here from Pisa, but it was worth it. We stayed in the quiet town of Praiano, next to the bustling touristy town of Positano. Aka the town with streets that are steps. So many steps! We zigzagged our way around the town, exploring and discovering all that it had to offer. This destination was meant to be one of our relaxing segments of the trip…and it was, besides the 129 flights of stairs we walked one day. *gulp* Food highlight includes eating perfectly cooked seafood risotto that contained mussels, prawns, and octopus (most likely freshly caught as we saw an octopus caught that day by divers who had been spear fishing). Not my usual fare, but it was surprisingly delicious and one of my most memorable meals…for many reasons. :)

Our view from our Airbnb did not disappoint. We had two floors in the apartment, both with a patio overlooking the Mediterranean. This was literally what we woke up to every morning. Our bed was about 2 feet from these sliding glass doors. I’m not even going to complain that our bed was actually two twin beds pushed together. :)

*forever memory*
Our first night in Praiano, we made it to the market and back up to our apartment just in time to catch a gorgeous sunset and enjoy a simple dinner together of fresh bread, prosciutto, fresh tomatoes, and water buffalo mozzarella (one of my food favorites! It was rich, creamy and slightly nutty in flavor). If only for an evening, everything seemed alright in the world.

Steps on steps on steps.

We walked and climbed stairs a lot, but we also sat and pondered the meaning of life a lot, too. Okay, so we didn’t ponder the meaning of life, but we did have some good conversation.

For hike #2 on our trip, we followed the Path of the Gods trail from Praiano to Positano.

Near the end of our hike, we came across this “lemonade stand”…except they don’t make lemonade in Italy. Just freshly squeezed lemons. We opted for the freshly squeezed oranges and it was perfectly sweet and refreshing.

Once we made it to Positano and had found some much needed lunch, we wandered through the streets and shops in the town. We found this small hole in the wall that makes sandals for you on the spot! You choose the style and leather you want and this 3rd generation family store will make it and fit it to your foot.

That’s a wrap! Next, we’re off to Greece! Ciao!

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