Everyone in my family was exhausted after spending a few weeks in Europe. I know it sounds stupid saying that we were tired from vacationing, but it is tiring being away from the comforts of home and the predictability of every day life. The inability to communicate, a big car on small windy roads and even things as simple as not knowing if the waiter will seat us or if we should seat ourselves when we have a large party at a French cafe, begin to wear you down. You become more susceptible to falling asleep at the lunch table and closing your eyes and plugging your ears when your family members ask you to speak your extremely limited French.

We had all appreciated French cuisine (especially my mother. She has had so much cantaloupe and prochuto that I’m surprised that it isn’t coming out of her ears)  but I think we were all burnt out on playing dinner roulette and ending up with liver or stinky cheese.

 We were all super happy when we crossed over the border into Italy. Well, we weren’t initially happy. Josh had finally researched the French toll road system minuets before we were in Italy and everything looked different and was in Italian. Our drive to Italy was long and extremely eventful. The story of that day requires a blog post all its own and will probably have to wait to be told. 

We were able to stop in Pisa on our way into Italy
The obligatory photo
#photofail #hilarious
These beautiful buildings are in the same plaza as the leaning tower but nobody ever talks about them

The menu guessing game in Italy was close to non existent. Not only were the endless pasta choices comforting but the names were familiar and easy to pronounce. If all else fails just tell the waiter lasagna. The lasagna in Italy was the best lasagna I have ever had, as I expected. The first Lasagna I had was at a small cafe in Cortona which is in Tuscany. The restaurant had been suggested to us by a kind pottery maker (who spoke flawless English).The pasta they served had been made by her cousin who lived in the next village. 

Pasta ❤
Is there lasagna under all that cheese?
It’s a happy surprise when your coffee comes out in ice cream form
a traditional anti-pasta

Cortona is an adorable village. It was made famous by Frances Mayes, an American woman who wrote the book and inspired the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. While Cortona is a touristy destination it was the least toristy destination that we visited in Italy. Through all of our destinations it remains one of my mother’s favorites. 

The beautiful countryside
We found the last surviving sunflower field in Europe
…….Kind of surviving
keep an eye out for sunflower pictures on instagram @annaspencephotography
Also keep an eye out for photos from this amazing photo session. Just kidding! This was AFTER a photo session. We thought that their pedestrian crossing sign was worth replicating.
You can see this plaza pictured with a fountain in the movie
So much character
Sometimes when shopping you feel like you’re in a museum
Joshy shopping

Our rental house in Tuscany was a little country villa with a beautiful view of the valley. From our front door you could see a castle sitting on the opposite hill/mountain. We had to once again survive a few days in a hot arid climate without any AC. This vacation has helped me understand the usefulness of thick window shutters and a city-wide afternoon break during the hottest part of the day. When I say city wide afternoon break I don’t mean a half of an hour. All shops are closed between two and four in every French and Italian town that we’ve been in.

See that thing behind my mother’s head, yup, that’s a castle
The castle
We found figs right outside of town. Josh wasn’t very discreet while picking said figs
Anna being caught in the act of eating the figs
Me being caught in the act of taking a picture of her being caught in the act
I guess she wasn’t a fan
Neither was Josh. We call this his fig face

Another fun thing about our rental was that to get to it you had to drive down the most bumpy gravel road that I’ve ever been down in my life, and we had to do it in the big van that I mentioned earlier. Something that really was great was the fact that there were four black cats who lived near the house. Anna and I tried to commandeer them as we promised on our home page, but they were terribly antisocial, much to our dismay. They must not have always been that anti social because they had obviously stayed in the house at one time or another, evident from the strong smell of cat urine. The kind village strays helped fill the wounds that those stand-off-ish cats caused.

Anna was trying to entice them with her watch
a stray
A different stray
We found a basket of wild boars. They must have been saving them from swimming pools (see “Is There a Pig in the Pool”)

All in all, Tuscany was a success. Stay tuned for our next adventure in the Eternal City!  ~ Emily

Fun Fact: Legend says that Cortona was founded by one of the descendants of Noah (like Noah from the Bible). Even if that isn’t true, it’s a really old city.

Can’t get enough of Europe? Don’t miss my mom’s European giveaway. Go to her blog – SUBSCRIBE and comment on any blog about our European adventure and you will be entered to win the book, “The Most Beautiful Villages of France.”

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