Here’s one quick clue:

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Did ya get it? Espresso……the land of espresso….un caffe’ per favore….???
That’s right folks, I have been away for a bit in the Mother Country – Italia!
I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Tuscany to experience and write about Agro-turismo a thriving vacation business where Tuscan farms offer accommodations to tourists and visitors who want to experience a bit of the country instead of the more common hotels, or even bed and breakfasts. I will write more about our experiences there in a later post. But for now I will leave you with a quick overview of our trip – for when you are in Italy, being such a small country, it is recommended that you visit several regions. We flew into the beautiful and ancient city of Venezia, Venice, and spent one night there.

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Venezia- gondolas-duomo-venetian masks

Highlights of course were Piazza di San Marco, the Gondoliers, and the amazing and thriving shops all over the city dedicated to the celebration of Carnivale – full of elaborate masks and costumes. We even had a drink at Harry’s Bar, for the fun of it!

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Venice really is an enchanting and romantic city -made up of tiny canals where most people travel by foot or boat (no cars) full of tiny shops, cobblestone streets and the most amazing architecture.

The next day we headed to Tuscany and specifically to Torraccia di Chiusi right outside of the beautiful and medieval village of San Gimignano.

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The Torraccia di Chiusi is an amazing place. The accommodations are exceptionally beautiful and the views from the villa are stunning. All you foodies out there should go, just to experience Chef Bruno’s cooking. He is an absolute genius in the kitchen and of course prepares traditional Tuscan cuisine using fresh and seasonal ingredients that they produce right there on their farms. He also enjoys preparing Etruscan and Medieval cuisines if you are so inclined. He was a joy to spend time with each evening at dinner, hearing his food stories and about life in the Tuscan countryside.

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San Gimignano- entrance to san gimignano – us with chef bruno – tuscan hills – view from our room

There is an ancient pilgrimage trail, called the Via Francigena that you can walk from the Torraccia di Chiusi to San Gimignano in about an hour. I will talk more about our adventure on the Via Francigena in a later post, but let’s just say that it didn’t take us an hour. But San Gimignano was worth it – such a quaint and beautiful place.

From the Torraccia di Chiusi we made several day trips. Our first was to Firenze, or Florence.

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Firenze – duomo – motorini – duomo

It was a pretty cold and gray day when we went, which didn’t make it so enjoyable. Although our good friends Erin and Chris from The Olive Notes spent a year living in Firenze and so they had given us an extensive itinerary of things to do while in Florence – mostly involving food of course, and seeing some of the major sites. We weren’t able to do it all, but I will discuss the highlights in an upcoming post.

The next day we headed to the medieval city of Siena which is famous for the Pallio a horse race that is done on the campo, the center of town, that is a scene of not only sportsmanship, but also huge political rivalries. The Pallio really defines Sienese life in so many ways.

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Siena – duomo – lions head detail – the campo

When we visited Siena it was a nice a quiet day. The city is very charming and was probably my favorite. It was easy to navigate and the architecture there was so unique. I really enjoyed traveling the ancient streets and stairs.

After five idyllic days in Tuscany we had to head south to Rome, for some family time. Roberto doesn’t make it home very often, and so we had to make sure to go to Rome where his family lives.

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Roma – forum – colosseum – pantheon

What can you say about Bella Roma? It is an incredible place. Going from the more medieval towns of Tuscany to a truly ancient place, like Rome was an amazing chance. In Rome you have the ancient alongside the most modern. From the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Forum to Via del Corso where Prada and Dolce Gabbana live.

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Roma – trevi- bronze angel- piazza di spagna

The enormity of the buildings were breathtaking, and photos will never do justice to these ancient and modern buildings, fountains, and structures – everywhere you turn is a work of art, or some kind of major human accomplishment…and the FOOD. The food throughout the areas of Italy we traveled were all amazing, but in Rome, it is just abundant – markets, green grocers, cheese and meat shops. It is unending. Oh and did I mention the gelato and coffee? Those are whole posts to themselves.

Our final four days were spent in Ostia, Rome’s seaport.

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Ostia – ostia antiqua – port of rome – il mare

Ostia Antica is nearby and again, everywhere you look are ruins. Ostia is reminiscent of Saint Augustine, on a much smaller scale. But it was nice to end our visit with a place that reminded us of home, and where we were surrounded by family.

I will be working on some follow posts to feature all the places we went. So stay tuned! This small tour of Italy is not yet over. I am still getting settled back into real life, and I am starting to make my way around the blogosphere!

NOTE: Thank you for all your concern about Roberto’s family, the earthquake was in the Abruzzo region of Italy, so all of the family is OK. I have a friend in that area, and she is alright too. Thanks again for all your concern. You guys are all so sweet. If you are looking for ways to help, please check out Michelle’s post at Bleeding Espresso and Sara’s post at Ms. Adventures in Italy . Thanks you ladies for getting that info out. Our prayers go out to the people of Abruzzo and their families.