After our layover in Como, we headed towards the land of the Alps, Switzerland! Our drive from Como took us to the little village of Tinizong, tucked in Eastern Switzerland, near Park Ela, the largest National Park in Switzerland, and only 30 minutes from the glamor of St Moritz. We’ve had some pretty amazing drives on our journey; the vineyards & villages of France, Tuscany, Como, but the drive through Switzerland takes the gold. Breathtaking views of the Alps at every twist & turn, green pastures and mountain villages. We were kind of mesmerized by the entire car ride that we didn’t even snap a photo. Rick and I just sat there, windows down, kids napping, soaking in this stunning scenery. We were told by our host the drive from Como was one we’d remember, it lived up to its billing. It’ll definitely stick with us forever.
Tinizong - Our house in Switzerland
After about a 3 hour ride, we arrived in Tinizong. After our 100+ degree days in Italy, the weather was drastically cooler, temps didn’t even make it to 60 our first couple of days. It was a welcome relief for us, and we enjoyed every bit of it. Our first adventure in this green mountain paradise was hiking The Albula Trail. A UNESCO Heritage site, the trail follows the Albula Pass train line, one of the first railroads ever built in the mountains, an engineering marvel of track build right in the heart of the Alps. We drove to a small town called Preda in Park Ela, parked our car and started the trek. Our end point was a town called Burgun, about 7 km from Preda. The trek was listed as kid friendly and in this case, the information was right.
Our trek started at an elevation of 1900m and the entire journey to Burgun was downhill, ending at about 1500m. I don't even know how to describe the beauty of this region. Everything is so green and picture perfect. The powerful mountains surround you from each side of the valley and at times looking at them can seriously cause a shortness of breath. What made this trek so enjoyable was every 20-25 minutes you’d spot a Swiss train racing along the Pass through this majestic scenery. I have never seen Leo or Mila more excited to see a train. They were running, jumping, and screaming each time they saw one - super happy and full of joy, cherishing the simple and non tangible things - that is seriously our parenting goal. It totally kept them engaged throughout the entire hike, they could not wait to see the next train go by. Rick & I actually enjoyed the thrill too of seeing the next train, hey train spotting is for big kids too!
We passed unbelievable waterfalls and streams, perfectly manicured green valleys, amazing bridges connecting these crazy mountains, I am still in a state of shock by the beauty of this country. Once again, Leo did a superb job while hiking and finished it like a pro, never complaining or whining of being tired. We finished our 7 km hike in 3 hours, taking several stops to admire this unreal scenery and once for a quick lunch. Once we reached the village of Preda, we purchased two train tickets (kids are free) back to our starting point. Leo and Mila sat by the window and you could see the spark in their eyes, they were about to go on the train journey through one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. There are no words or pictures to explain what we experienced today. My head is a mixture of so many positive emotions that I really do not know how to begin to describe it. I feel like my body could explode out of the joy, happiness and gratefulness. For the first time in a very long time, I could feel my eyes tearing up because of what I saw. The Swiss Alps will forever have my heart and I am seriously contemplating living here long term.
The next morning we woke up to cold weather - 48 degrees and grey skies. We looked at the forecast and they predicted heavy rain by 2pm so we decided to take advantage of the earlier hours and do another hike. We chose to finish the Albula Trail, starting at our end point yesterday, Burgun, and finishing in a town called Filisur. We planned on doing the exact same thing as the day before - hike one way and then take the train back through the Swiss Alps. This hike was much longer about 13 km but we were determined to do it. Once we arrived in Burgun and got out of the car, burrrr we were freezing! The weather showed 47 degrees, cold wind a little mist, and right smack in the middle of the clouds! We were already there so going back was not an option. We bundled up, put Mila in the Poco and headed towards the path. The first part of the hike was mostly uphill, not very difficult but the weather started to affect us. First of all, we were very cold, secondly, the clouds were hanging very low preventing us from seeing any kind of views. It felt as we were inside of the clouds, trying to find a way out. Leo started to complain about his legs being tired and I did not blame him - just yesterday we hiked for 4 miles and he is only 4 years old.
Let's face it - we were a bit crazy for trying to hike two days in the row with two little kids. After a mile or so, the temps got even cooler. We picked up a faster pace to keep warm but it started to feel like trekking a highway to hell! I was getting mad at ourselves, who in a healthy mind does something like that and drags two little children along - only us, seriously, we did not pass anyone. We are not quitters and there was only one thing left to do. . .finish!!! So we pushed through. For most of the hike, I carried Mila on my back ( who slept for half of it) while Rick was taking care of Leo, helping him and carrying him on his shoulders. Without a view, there was nothing to keep you distracted and motivated, no spectacular scenery just walking in the clouds. It was really a mental game. Nevertheless, we finished it! After very long and tiring 7 miles we reached the train station in Filisur. Our legs were exhausted, hands frozen, and feet were tired. The only thing that felt alive was our spirit and determination that got us through this crazy day. As soon as we got on the train, it started to pour. I guess, after all, Mother Nature was rooting for us to finish! Once we got home, we made delicious Swiss hot coco and cuddled up on the couch under a warm blanket. Another day, another Herman Family accomplishment!
The next day, after 12 hours of heavy rains, the clouds started to part towards mid afternoon. As they did, we got a true glimpse of Switzerland, snow capped mountains in August! It was such a cool sight to see as the sun gleam off of white stuff at 14,000 feet! The valley rains turned the mountains into a Winter wonderland! While not nearly enough to ski, it was awesome to see in the middle of August. Something the locals tell us only happens about once every 10 years.
Later, we visited the local tourist office to gather more information about the region and activities for the families. A super nice Swiss lady explained to us everything very throughly, gave us a few maps and lots of recommendations. We decide to take the kids to a near by playground. It was only 10 minutes away from our apartment and once we got there we were in shock! This beautiful and very interactive playground was sitting on the side of the mountain overlooking the Alps on the other side! Are you serious! You are telling me that these Swiss kids get to play in the middle of these gorgeous partially snowcap mountains!? Unreal! Without any hesitations Leo and Mila ran straight to the slides, swings, and other activities. Rick and I sat on the bench and truly enjoyed this heavenly paradise - since we were closer to the sky it really felt like heaven! At one point , as we were zip lining with the kids, a young man came up to us and started a conversation. He was from Lucerne and was visiting his family. They were all sitting at a picnic table and having a barbecue ( 4 adults and 4 kids). He politely asked if we would like to join then at the table and of course, we could not say no :-) I'm sure you are getting tired of me writing about the generosity of all the people we meet, but how could I not mention it. Yet again, strangers inviting us and offering us food and drinks ( either they are friendly or we start to look very homeless haha).
We stayed there for several hours, talking, eating, drinking and laughing, while all of the kids kept running around and playing together. We learned more about Switzerland, the culture, food, work ethic and of course, we had to mention the amazing Roger Federer (they simply love him). It's interesting because I mentioned to one of the ladies - Anna, to be exact about the cleanliness of Switzerland and she agreed that they call it a perfect wood shop. Later on, we set up a fire and enjoyed toasted marshmallows. We shared plenty of laughs over a few drinks. It was a lovely evening and another fantastic encounter with the locals - with everything that is going on right now around the world, it's good to know that there are genuine and nice people...
I always have been a huge fan of beach and the ocean, but there is something about the mountains that makes you wanna fly. I think mountains make you realize how tiny you are, you become more humble and modest. It's funny, because they say that getting married ties you down, having children ties you down, but here I am, 3 days into my time in Switzerland, in the middle of the Swiss Alps, married with two children and I have never felt more free or alive as I do now. I said that mountains make you modest but I start to become greedy because I want all of them. I want to hike every possible trek there is and I have a feeling that it still would not be enough to calm my forever hungry adventures soul.
After spending two amazing days in beautiful Florence, we said goodbye to Tuscany and headed to the Piedmonte region of Italy. The heat continued in Northern Italy, another day eclipsing 100+ degrees. We decided to take a taxi back to our car and it was the smartest decision ever. As much as we enjoyed Florence, we were glad we were not staying in the city during this unreal heat wave. Our new house was located in a little village near the city of Gavi. We were staying on the second floor of a super cozy and very Italian house. The house belonged to a wonderful woman - Seniora Maria, who stole our hearts. This sweet Italian grandma was over 70 years old, still drove her little Fiat, worked all day in her garden and cooked heavenly food. Each evening we sat on our patio and were hypnotized by the smells of her cooking coming from the downstairs kitchen. When we arrived at her house, she greeted us with fresh eggs, homemade jams (raspberry and strawberry), fresh tomatoes, sage, basil and rosemary, all from her garden. I took several pictures showing all of the goodies, but I really wish the picture could smell...I have never smelled more aromatic basil or tomatoes. She also stocked our fridge with cold water and milk. Can you think of a warmer welcome...I don't think so. I already planned several dishes that will pair perfectly with those organic souvenirs.
GAVI - location of our house
The Piedmonte region is a bit lesser known than is southern counterpart, Tuscany, but it carries the same love for food, wine, and architecture. It also has many hiking trails that follow the rolling hills of the region. Its northern points are the city of Turin and the Italian Alps, while to the south are the vineyards and farms that make this region a foodie heaven. We really decide to go into the week unplanned, just enjoying the local cuisine. We all slept amazingly and woke up rested and refreshed. Seniora Maria served us delicious coffee and eggs from her chickens. We visited the local market to stock our house with local produce. At the market, I saw beautifully looking plums and as soon as we got home, I baked a delicious plum cake. Leo said it was his early birthday cake haha. Seniora Maria doesn't stop surprising us. Since the heat continues, hey its August in Italy, so its to be expected, she set up a little pool and hammock for the kids. She also allows them to play in a little wooden house. Leo claims that he build it himself and keeps inviting us to his little casa :-) We shared the plum cake with our host and in return, she brought us homemade gelato!!! At the market we also bought fresh veal chops and marinated the meat with all of the fresh herbs from Seniora Maria garden and threw them on the grill. We served baked zucchini, carrots, potatoes and onions as a side. Paired with a fantastic local white wine from Gavi, what can I say, it was the most delicious meal ever, a true Italian feast! Mila and Leo loved it too. You hear about it, you read about it, but once you are in Italy, get ready to eat eat eat! As a dessert, Seniora Maria gave us a bottle of homemade limoncello and there is nothing more to say, we were in real food heaven!
The next few days were extremely hot, temps were showing 105 degrees! Our current house doesn't have AC or fans so it can get very hot, even at night. One morning, Rick got up early and went on a solo 14km hike to Mount Tibbio while I did some magic in the kitchen, baking two delicious pizza and banana bread. We also watched a few movies ( that pretty much never happens), caught up on FaceTime with family and friends, took long naps with the kids, in other words, we have been embracing the Italian culture to its fullest - as they say, Dolce far niente (sweetness of doing nothing). Seniora Maria keeps surprising us with homemade pesto, tomato sauce, fresh zucchini, plum jam and of course morning coffee.
With the temps soaring and no end in sight for the heat wave, we really needed to cool off and decided to take a drive due south to the Italian Riviera (about 100km from our house). We did some research the night before and chose Spiaggia del Malpasso Beach. Once we reached the coast, we were amazed by the beautiful color of the water - turquoise at its best. The beach was not that big and it was very crowded, after all, it was a Saturday in the middle of the summer so that was expected. We sat our blanket down and immediately we all ran to the water. Diving into baby blue sea felt amazing and very refreshing. The beach was very rocky which always makes a perfect activity for our kids. Leo and Mila constantly climbed all of the rocks, swam in the water and enjoyed this little paradise on the Italian Riviera. Mila could not resist herself and as a norm, consumed a decent amount of beach rocks. I still find it surprising that she keeps eating them if they were the most delicious candy :)
Spiaggia del Malpasso
Our last day at Grandma Maria’s house was rather chill. In the morning, we played basketball with Mila and Leo. Later on, Rick and I played a game of horse. Funny story, when Rick and I met in Pittsburgh back in the summer of 2005, our second date was a little 1:1 basketball match. Rick was so into it, that at one point, while trying to post on me, he almost broke my nose, seriously!! Right then I should have known that a relationship with this man won't be boring. So going to our little game in Italy, I won't say who won but one thing is sure - Mama still has her sick crossover that breaks ankles!
It was time to say goodbye to our sweet grandma Maria and head off to Lake Como for one night. On the way there, we decided to stop by Lake Orta and take the short boat trip to San Guilio Island. Once we got to the lake, we were amazed by it's beauty and calmness. We walked around the very picturesque town Orto San Giulio. It’s very charming, full of old historic buildings, churches, restaurants and of course, gelato shops. Right across from the village there is San Giulio Island, which takes a name from a Saint who lived there in the 4th century. Leo and Mila were very excited to get on the boat and kept looking for the fishes : ) This island is very small - only 275 meter long and 140 meter wide, and really, in just 45 minutes you can easily see the whole place. We strolled down beautiful historic alleys, admiring the spectacular architecture and fantastic views. What makes the place unique is its quest for calmness, tranquility and silence. Everything was wet from the rain and it added a bit of mystique to the whole scenery. After returning to the mainland, we took a short uphill walk around Orto San Guilio and for the last time, enjoyed the breathtaking views of Lake Orta and its surroundings.
We booked one night in Veleso, a tiny village tucked at the very top of Lake Como. The drive to our apartment led us through very narrow and windy roads. I think our kids are getting used to it because no one complained about motion sickness. What was making us ill, were the crazy and very frivolous Italian drivers! Each time we were approaching a car coming from the opposite side, I kept closing my eyes and praying that we would not get crushed. Even Rick was getting annoyed by it. Nevertheless, we made it safe to this magical place!
Our host was waiting for us by the church, another wonderful lady who’s hospitality was perfect. Our little two bedroom flat was located on the second floor with balcony, overlooking the mountains and the one and only, Lake Como! The weather was very nice, 75 degrees, sunny with a little breeze. Since it was close to 6 pm, we all were hungry and decided to walk to a nearby restaurant - Trattoria Bella Vista Di Longoni. We had to wait a bit, since this place did not open until 7:30 pm but it was totally worth it. The food was out of this world! We ordered spicy salmon with polenta and gnocchi with pancetta and creamy sauce - a true food heaven. Kids loved it as well and we all left with full and happy bellies. As we were walking back to our apartment, it started to not only rain, but a hail storm! Pea size hail began to fall so we sprinted back to our flat (it was only 1 block) and went straight to our balcony to see the spectacular scenery. Here is the thing, within one hour it felt like we experienced all four seasons - sunny and blue skies, heavy clouds and rain with thunder and lightening, crazy hail storm, strong winds and finally, calmness and serenity. It almost felt as if an Apocalypse was coming! After this wild act presented by mother nature, we witnessed a very spooky picture - it was quite dark, the clouds transformed into cotton candy, in the very far background you could see the lights coming from Milan, the lake was very still and the mountains a bit scary. To add to this image, right in front our our apartment there was a lit up church tower that rings a bell every our hour, making this whole scenery very mysterious and spooky. We were there for only 3 hours but within that short period of time, we experienced some pretty unreal weather.
When we lived in Florida, we subscribed to National Geographic Traveler. I remember one specific issue from June/July 2015 and the article titled “Lake Como: A Love Story”. It was a history of a married couple, where the wife was battling a lunge cancer. Since each day could have been her last, her husband asked her where she would like to go and her answer was Lake Como. I remember reading it and getting a little teary - it was such a beautifully written article that right then and there I knew that one day, I will be coming to Como and witnessing everything with my own eyes. And here I am, sitting on a small balcony of our lovely apartment, looking at the lake in the company of my own husband and children - a dream come true, a total bliss and tranquility. If I could only freeze this moment…
Our stay in Santa Maria a Monte came to an end and was time to say goodbye to our amazing hosts. I must admit that it was a pretty hard parting ways - in a matter of one week we developed a strong relationship and hope to continue it in the future. We took a selfie, exchange phone numbers, gave kisses, packed our belongings and headed to Florence. On the way, we decided to stop for lunch at our favorite restaurant: Pepenero! We arrived at noon, right at the opening and were immediately greeted by Lorenzo, the owner. He recognized us and immediately set a table. Leo and Mila were so happy to be back there. They wanted to go straight to the back of the restaurant and play, but Lorenzo made it clear - you eat first and then you play, a perfect Italian plan! Once again, the menu included several dishes and this time we ordered risotto de mare, pasta with pesto, veal, and fish with mushrooms. As soon as Leo and Mila finished their pasta, Lorenzo called Teresa ( the chef of the kitchen) so she could take the kids to the back of the restaurant. I’d like to call her Mother Teresa because besides being super sweet, this woman has the biggest and warmest heart ever. She would not allow us to even check on Leo and Mila. Each time we got up and tried to peek on them, she would say in her heavy Italian accent "good, bambinos good" and believe me, I did not even argue, I simply sat down and continued this amazing lunch. We finished our feast with two desserts, tiramisu and crocante, and of course espresso. After consuming all of this deliciousness, I really felt like an Italian seniora! My belly was full and my heart very happy - in other words, a perfect state of mind.
On the way to Florence, while Rick was driving, we took a nap. The kids and I were in a real food coma. If you ever have been to Florence you know that this beautiful city is not very car friendly. There are driving restrictions zones where only the locals can enter by car. We were fully aware of that law however, our GPS was not. We entered the red zone, parked our car in an overnight parking lot and we are 100% sure we will be getting a fine but hey, life ain't perfect. We will deal with it once we receive the ticket and hopefully, it won't ruin our travel budget. After leaving our car, we had to walk 3km to our AirBnB rental and it felt like never ending pilgrimage. Let me just add the temps reached 105 degrees!!! Florence was in a heat wave with temps over 100 for 7 straight days. As we walked towards our apartment, with two small backpacks ( we left our suitcases in the car), stroller, bag with food, and two children, our brains got fried, literally, two fried eggs! The sweat was running down my ankles, back, chest, ass, everywhere. It felt like walking through the Sahara and pushing a caravan, hoping to find an oasis...and we did! Once we found our apartment all the sweat and feeling uncomfortable was gone. Our sweet flat was located in the heart of the city, right in front of Piazza Pettiti and 1 block from the famous Porto Vecchio bridge and only 5 minutes to Duomo. Our host waited for us inside. First, he showed us the place and then, over an espresso of course, he told us a bit about the history of this unique flat. The apartment is over 1000 years old. Up until February, the apartment was occupied by a member of the US State Dept. Once they left, the owners decided to list it on AirBnb and this place is booked all the way through September. I really don't know how we got so lucky and were able to book it for one night at the fraction of the regular cost - miracles happen and this is one of them for sure. This place is huge, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, walk in closets, kitchen, living and dining room. Leo and Mila kept chasing each other since they had space for it. It was 5 o'clock and the temps were still in the 100s. We decided to relax for a bit, eat dinner and walk to Ponte Vecchio to see the sunset. Florence is stunning and of course, very touristy and busy. We witnessed a breath taking sunset setting over the river. As they say, some pictures are worth thousand words and this view was definitely in that category. On the way to our little casa we stopped and got delicious gelato. Salute to another unforgettable day on our world tour. Now I know what a Russian poet, Anna Achmatova, meant by saying " Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life". This is my third time in Italy and for sure, I will be returning here at least 33 times more…
The next morning, I set my alarm for 5 am and decided to explore the city in the early part of the day. By 5:30am, I was out the door on the streets of beautiful Florence. It was quite dark since the sun rise was at 6:10 am. The best part of this little solo excursion were the empty streets! I felt like I had the whole city all to myself. It was so strange to walk across the Pont Vecchio bridge alone, no people, no tourists, and no noise, just the sound of my footsteps strolling down the charming streets of Firenze. The river was so calm and still that all the buildings surrounding it were reflecting on the water, looking like a beautiful mirror. I walked very fast because I wanted to see as much as possible before the city awakens. It was a little after 6 am and I decided to grab a cup of coffee. I found a little cozy cafe and asked the waiter for a cup of coffee with milk, to go. He looked at me with a pain in his eyes, as if I just broke his heart and with a heavy Italian accent he said: “Seniora, it’s Italy, please sit down. I guess he was trying to tell me to enjoy this moment like the Italians do. “Dolce far ninete” - the sweetness of doing nothing. So I did, for 30 seconds, I took two sips of my little espresso, left him a little tip since he would not let me pay, shout Ciao to my barista and headed towards Duomo and other historic places spread out through this magical city. The night before I mapped out all of the places that I wanted to see, I even listed them in a numerical manner so I would not have to walk aimlessly.
Well, that master plan did not work out and I was running around Florence like a crazy tourist trying to snap pictures of everything that looked like an important attraction (pretty much every piazza had a significant building or statue). I truly enjoyed my very private tour of Firenze and was in awe very time I saw a new alley being completely empty, peaceful and quite - a true bliss. The temperature was only 80 so I beat the heat! As mid morning arrived, the city started to become more alive. Street workers very present, locals who worked in the city were moving on their vespas and bikes, & more cafes were opening. As I walked through cobblestone alleys I constantly heard “Bongiorno seniora” “Ciao” “Good morning”, it was a really special moment that will stay with me forever. I saved the best for last. My final stop was climbing the steps to Piazza Michelangelo see the whole panoramic view of Florence. When I saw it from the very top I was close to tears. It was magical, beautiful, spectacular, fantastic, wonderful, not enough words to describe it. I stood there on the very top and just stared with big open eyes full of happiness and joy. I wanted to scream - Florence, I love you!
So the statue on the picture below is David. He is simply standing there all day and night, naked and exposed, looking at the spectacular panorama of Firenze - not a bad spot right?! One lucky guy!
I heard the church bells ringing and realized it was 7:30 am, which meant, time to return to the apartment. I walked back along the river, with sun beaming on my face and could not stop smiling. I was so thankful for the last 2 hours. Seeing the city of Florence , a place that usually is very busy and crowded, but this morning it was so quite, calm and relaxing, it really felt like a dream. Once I returned to our flat, right at the door I was greeted by Leo with a big smile and a warm hug. I could not wait to sit down with Rick, Leo and Mila, tell them about my morning adventure and share delicious pastries that I bought on my way back…
After a wonderful evening shared with our Italian hosts, we decided it was time to learn some Italian. We were driving to a charming city of San Gimignano and downloaded a podcast to learn Italian, only 20 minutes per lesson. It was an introductory lesson, where we learned how to properly greet people. Everything is going smooth until we got completely lost. Somewhere between "ciao" and " bongiorno" we lost track of our path and came to a dead end street… What can I say, learning Italian while driving in Italy got us lost in translation… we finished the podcast and got back on the right road, which led us to this magical view...
This town on the hilltop is San Gimingnano. Beautiful, stunning, and simple breathtaking - those are only few words that can describe this place. Finding a parking spot was a bit challenging but once we got one, we started walking towards this spectacular town. It was very crowded but this time, it did not bother us. We were all taken by the beauty and charm of San Gimingnano. As we walked through narrow cobblestone alleys, we passed beautiful ceramic shops, art galleries, restaurants, and gelaterias. This city was old but definitely not dead. As we came to the main piazza it felt like a one big international lunch party. On every corner there were people endeavoring in delicious Italian meals - pizza, pastas, salads, meats, gelato and of course, espressos. We decided to join the party and ordered pizza from a local street stand. We found a shaded spot in the corner of the piazza and started our little feast. The pizza was gone in no time and there was only one more thing to be done - find gelato! We spotted a little hole in the wall and headed straight there. We sat on the steps of a some historic building and enjoyed refreshing and yummy Italian gelato, it was simply amazing.
In the afternoon we planned on going to a nearby winery that we researched the night before. It was called Fattatoria di Fangnano. We did not make a reservation but decided to go anyway and check it out. When we knocked on the door and Laura, who is the owner of the winery, opened. She was in a middle of a private wine tasting appointment and asked us if we had a reservation. We did not and started to walk towards our car. She turned us around and said to wait 10-15 minutes so we did. Once she called us back, we walked into a lovely wine room where she had a table all set for us! She served us several plates of different dishes ( meats, cheeses, and other appetizers) and of course her own wine. First of all, we did not have appointment. We showed up at their doors with two little kids and she took us in as we were very important clients! Somebody please pinch me because I feel like I have been dreaming for a very long time! Once she finished her private tour, she came to us and told us her story. Her family is originally from Sicily. In 1963 her grandfather traveled to Tuscany and he loved it there so much, that he started a new family venture. He purchased a plot of land, rich in vineyards, olive trees, and forests overlooking the medieval town of San Gimignano. She was going to be a lawyer but once her grandfather past away (she was only 23), she left her law studies, moved to Tuscany and the rest is history. That winery is truly amazing, but it's Laura who makes it feel like a special and magical place. We talked, ate, sipped some delicious wine and created another unforgettable encounter. During our little wine party, another couple came in for a wine tasting. They were from Australia. Here we found out that the guy was a famous football player from Melbourne who recently retired. Him and his girlfriend were taking several month off and traveling. We shared some good stories and laughs with them. Leo and Mila were very good the whole time and also enjoyed their short visit to the winery. We left feeling full, happy and grateful. We knew that Italy is a wonderful country but did not expect to meet so many amazing and unique people.
That evening our host was going to attend to his horses and asked Leo if he wanted to help. They are very passionate about the region of Tuscany, their land and of course, their animals. Leo had such a blast and was super happy that he could assist and be useful. As we headed down to see Leo feeding the horses, our host asked us if we wanted to ride and with huge enthusiasm we said yes. First, he explain to us about the connection between horses and human and how important it is for the horse to trust you. Rick was first in line, he has only ridden a horse twice in his life - once as a child and another, during our vacation in Costa Rica. As soon as Rick did few round walks on the horse, he said himself how relaxing it was. Of course Mila wanted to be the center of attention, so she rode together with Rick for a while. I finished the whole horse adventure and loved every second of it (Leo did not want to ride this time). It is truly amazing how comfortable our hosts have made us feel in their home. And frankly, our hosts have been amazing at every stop we’ve had. We may not have our own house but in the last week I have never felt more loved and secured. As they say, home is where your heart is and for now, it will be in a little town of Santa Maria a Monte...
The next day we decided to drive to the coast of Liguria and do a little hike along the world famous Cinque Terre. It was about 150km drive from our current house but we committed to it. We got there around 1pm and the sun was baking and temps were in the mid 90s. We chose a pretty intense hike from Pigulia to Portovenere. The hike was listed as 2 hours one way. It hugged the coastline and the views were spectacular - beautiful blue water, rocky cliffs and burning sun - we were sweating as if there was no tomorrow. The hike was pretty difficult, very narrow paths with little margin for error as the cliff to the sea was easily a 100M drop off. Definitely not kid friendly. It was not only challenging for Leo, but also for us. We were crazy for doing it during such a hot day - one first sign should have been a lack of people on the trail - who in their healthy mind was going to do it in 90 degree weather - someone as nuts as us, haha! Fortunately, we passed two people who suggested we turn around since we still had been an hour into the hike and they said we still had a good 2 hours left. My heart was telling me to continue till the end but my gut said TURN AROUND AND GO BACK HOME! So we did turn around and without a doubt it was a smart decision. We made it safe back to the car, all covered in smelly sweat and dirt. We decided to drive through the commune Portovernere and could not believe the amount of people we saw. After all, it was the Italian Riviera so what could we expect - enjoy beach chair and boardwalks!? We headed back to Santa Maria a Monte getting a test of Cinque Terre, its beauty and its crowds. Tomorrow we’re off to Florence!
Until the next time!