Our Trip To Tuscany, Umbria and Rome

In case you’re interested, this is a brief synopsis of our terrific trip to Italy. We left on June 14 and returned July 2. This was our third tour with OAT, Overseas Adventure Travel. Our “adventures” included hiking, white water rafting, bicycling, truffle hunting, visiting local winery and olive oil producers  and cooking. We had our “day in the life” in a farmhouse in the mountains and learned about sheep farming, cheese making, truffle hunting, cooking and of course, eating and drinking. We had 16 wonderful people on our trip and a terrific and brilliant tour guide. OAT’s aim is to get participants involved in local culture. So there are no American hotels or restaurants. We don’t stop in big chain restaurants but eat local food in Mom and Pop restaurants. Hotels are local too. The people we met were warm and welcoming.

This was our first hotel in Tuscany, La Principessa. It was close to Lucca, our first stop. This was my favorite, a beautiful villa steeped in history.

Our room was huge and decorated so nicely, a great way to start the trip.

Jane and my buddy Mike, ready for the first day.

Jane and Linda are ready too.

The first city we visited was Lucca, established 180 AD. We did a walking tour and then a bicycle ride on the ancient wall.

Here’s Linda, Jane and me getting ready for lunch in Lucca. Wine flowed like water at every lunch and dinner.

The streets are narrow in this ancient city.

Jane and Linda take a break after touring the streets. We were lucky to have fabulous weather. We had no rain, Tuscany and Umbra highs were in the low 80’s, so it was never uncomfortable. Rome, however was really hot and muggy.

While in Lucca we had the opportunity to bicycle along the ancient wall. That’s me pedaling up the hill to get to the wall. It was an easy ride, very flat and picturesque. The only problem was a detour along a narrow gravel path.We did a loop around and came back for gelato.

On the next day Jane wasn’t feeling well. I think the airplane food caught up to her. So while everyone went on a 4 wheel drive up to the Carrara Marble Quarries, we stayed back. I wasn’t unhappy. There were lots of birds around and while Jane recuperated I went out on the beautiful grounds and chased down as many birds as I could. The birds in Italy were really difficult to see. They were always high up and seemed to skulk, never coming out into the open. I learned why, they are hunted and eaten. Even small songbirds are caught and roasted.

I was lucky to see this very cool bird called the Crested Hoopoe. The photo is not great since I shot it with a short zoom from a distance. When another bird came near to the Crested Hoopoe, it’s crest fanned out and it was quite striking. There were other species for me to enjoy too.

Whenever we went to a forest or meadow I brought my binoculars. Although not a birding trip, I was always anxious to add a new species to my list.

Our next stop was Florence,  as you can see from the photo on the right. On the left is our tour guide Benjamin with a gentleman who spoke to us about life during WW2. He was a boy then and remembers how his family struggled to make it through the war. Our stay in Florence was way too short. We were able to spend a couple of hours in the Uffizi Gallery but little else.

On the way back to our hotel, Benjamin arranged an impromptu stop at a war memorial for the thousands of American soldiers who gave their lives during WW 2 in Italy. We stayed for taps, it was very touching. The next morning we set out for San Galgano. We stopped at ruins at the Abbey of San Galgano and visited the Chapel at Monteseipi to see see a famous sword.