Amalfi Coast and Agerola, Italy.

20 Jul 2019 – Saturday. 

Flo and I weren’t able to book a seat for the 10.30am shuttle bus down to Amalfi and the other timing of 8am was too early for us. So I decided to be all gung-ho about it, suggesting we take the hike down to the fiord, and catch the bus from there.

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What started off as a pleasant walk down flights and flights of uneven concrete steps, turned into a tiring, hot one that had our legs shaking with each step down that we managed.

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So many times I felt like giving up, but I certainly wasn’t going to go back up. Down it was. We had many sit-downs and drink-ups, trying to pace ourselves and finding the best method to walk down the stairs.

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Who would have thunk that walking down could be just as tiring as walking up!? We learnt it the hard way. After two hours of stairs and swearing never to be so foolish again, we finally reached the fiord that Flo’s big boss has recommended us to see.

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It was worth the climb down, kind of. No, not really.

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The beautiful waters filling the fiord below was a glorious shade of emerald green. It was breathtaking to say the least, but the two-hour painful journey down was not something I’d do again to see it.

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There were small boats all coming in with day-trippers fancying a dip into the water. There were also visitors who’d parked their motorbikes/scooters and cars on the side of the narrow roads to leg it down.

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Little did we know that the hike down was only half the battle. Flo and I sat patiently at the bus stop waiting for the public bus to arrive. When it finally did, the driver refused to let us board, saying that we didn’t have a paid-for ticket. He said there was another bus behind and to get on that one. We didn’t realise he meant a shuttle bus that we’d have to pay multiple times more for. So we waited for the next public bus and told the driver I was pregnant and to please let us board. He refused as well. Finally, the third bus arrived and we said once again I was pregnant. He refused. We argued that we’d waited for 3 buses now and I couldn’t take it anymore so to please let us board. He asked us where we were heading to and we said Amalfi. Then he shooed us in.

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So in a way, our babies saved us from being stranded on a random road in the middle of almost nowhere. I wrote all this down on my phone, hoping to share the story with them one day…

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Anyway, Flo and I managed a free ride on the bus to Amalfi Coast, which was bustling with people!

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It had a pretty town centre that was filled with touristy eateries and souvenir shops, so much so that it was difficult for us to find a place to sit with our ‘picnic’ lunch. In the end, we settled on some stairs that was partly shaded and away from the crowd.

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The town centre wasn’t very small so after a bit of a wander, we headed to the beach side where the other mass of people were, cooling off in the water.

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It’s crazy how so many people could enjoy the beach when it was packed. It was a black sand beach which didn’t appeal to me, and people laid shoulder to shoulder getting red from the scorching sun. I spent the late part of my teens at the beach, letting the sun brown me over a series of consecutive days at a go. I later learnt how much sun damage there must be on my skin and there’s no reversing it. So perhaps my dose of sun from youth is enough to last me the rest of my life which is why I no longer see the allure of sandy beaches and sunbathing.

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That being said, I am not one of those Asians who walk around slathered in sunscreen carrying an umbrella and wearing sleeves in order to hide from the sun. I’m happy being sun kissed without baring my body to the sun’s rays especially when it’s at its peak.

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Hubs on the other hand, still likes a dip every once in a while so he got himself into the Amalfi waters and went for a short swim while I sat on the rocks like a seal.

Then it was gelato time.

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We returned to our B&B (with a paid bus ticket each, no less) after and gathered all our dirty laundry before driving to Agerola, the town just up from where we were. We found out that it was a dry cleaner’s and not a laundromat, so we scrapped the thought.

Dinner was in Picchio Rosso, a family-run restaurant that I read only good things about online. As usual, Flo and I were early for dinner (most Italians only have dinner around 8, 9pm) and the place was empty. I started questioning my suggestion to dine there.

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Still, service was hospitable and we could see Big Papa who I believe helmed the kitchen, coming out to the dining area every once in a while to check on things.

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I ordered some grilled vegetables, because I felt I needed the ruffage.

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As well as this Squid, Mussels and Cannellini Bean Stew. It was incredibly homey in its rustic presentation and soulful in flavour. I could feel the love that went into making this dish.

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Flo had a Pizza with Prociutto, Cheese, and Onions. He declared it way better than the one he had in Napoli and promptly went on to polish it off. It had a lovely crisp bottom that held the sauce and ingredients on top well.

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Impressed with dinner, Flo couldn’t resist some dessert. Dessert of choice was Delizia al Limone, an Amalfi speciality. It didn’t look like much but digging into it, we were pleasantly surprised by the lightness of the delizia. It was not too sweet and the tartness of the lemon was extremely pleasing to the palate. The sponge within was soft and fluffy, and the cream, airy.

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Having not had his sweet-tooth fully satisfied, Flo and I walked to the town-centre after our meal, where had had another cup of gelato.

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I had some orange tea thing that seems to be sold everywhere in Italy. I thought it was sparkling but it wasn’t gassy and was very sweet. We chilled there for a while since there was a music festival going on, but neither of us could get into the music. So we decided to make for our B&B.

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Of course, we couldn’t leave without stopping by the candy shop that was selling ‘pick and mix’ dummies just a few steps from where we’d park the car. A sweet ending to a bit of a rough start always makes everything better!

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Napoli, Pompeii, Furore, Italy.

19 Jul 2019 – Friday. 

Flo and I left Rome for a quick stop in Naples, where we then planned to visit Pompeii, before arriving at our next ‘home’ for a few days, Furore, nearby to the Amalfi Coast.

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Naples was quite different from all the other cities in Italy we had visited, with a haphazardness about it along with a touch of chaos. That being said, it definitely had character and a charm of its own.

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We went in search for some Napoli Pizza, and the place I had targeted, meant walking through a narrow, ‘hipster’ street filled with music, and people, and food. It was a hive of activity.

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This was the ‘queue’ we joined for pizza. There was a man in the centre of the storm, with a clipboard and paper, writing down the names of customers waiting in line as well as how many people they were with. His mobile phone would light up every so often with a text, and he’d yell out names of those whose table was ready for them. They’d then make their way to the restaurant and the remaining people would crowd closer to Mr. Popular, tip-toeing over to see how much closer they were to being called in.

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Sorbillo Pizza, it was called. There’s another one at the start of the string of buildings, but this one touted itself to be the authentic one.

We were seated promptly after a wait of nearly an hour.

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The entire menu comprised of only pizzas, so it takes a while to peruse it all and decide on which one you want.

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Flo went simple on his Marinara. We both found it a little too soggy at the bottom, and the pillowy crust that bordered the sauce, a bit much. In fact, many diners there ate mostly the sauced part of the pizza, forgoing the plain carbs.

It was decent, nothing mind-blowing and I would say, nothing worth queuing up so long for. Perhaps it simply wasn’t our kind of pizza, or we didn’t appreciate the floppiness of it.

Anyway, from Naples we went to Pompeii where we heard thunder in the distance. The weather forecast had told us absolutely no chance of rain, but the thunder tried to sway us as we stood in line, wondering whether to purchase our tickets or not.

We decided to trust the forecast and off we went.

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We didn’t realise just how sprawling Pompeii is. It covers 170 acres and you can pretty much walk all of it and probably spend days there seeing new things. We didn’t have that much time and I didn’t have that much leg energy.

The grey clouds loomed over providing us with shade and a cool breeze, for which we were grateful for especially walking around without any shade aside from our hats.

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Walking the grounds of Pompeii was cool, albeit sad at the same time. It was as though everything had frozen in time.

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Many spaces and buildings were well-preserved, giving us insight into the way they used to live. They were pretty rich, them people in Pompeii! Gorgeous mosaic floors, homes that went deep in and were compartmentalised into rooms and kitchens, some even with a second floor, buildings that looked like bakeries…

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There were parts where the garden might have been, even paintings on walls!

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Temples.

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And their very own amphitheatre that was a real highlight for us.

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It was amazing how good it looked still from both the outside and the inside.

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We didn’t see as many bodies frozen in death as we thought we would. Of the ones we did see, I chose not to take or share photos of them because I believe they still ought to be respected. There was one particular one that had her hands to both side of her face, mouth in an ‘O’ shape that screamed of absolute fear. That was really got my heart torn into shreds.

As mentioned, we didn’t get to look around as much of Pompeii as we could have. It did get a little repetitive after a while. I suggest you get a map or download it at the beginning and figure out which parts you’d like to see, because it can take a while getting from one end to the other. Initially, Flo and I thought we would walk to the end and turn back to the start, but there are actually exits both sides. In the end, we left at the other side, having had enough of the long walk that stretched pretty far.

Our day trip to Pompeii ended and we were off to Furore where I next B&B was. Outside our room, we had a lovely view of the sea and the changing colours of the sky. Some days, while we were there, you couldn’t tell where the water ended and the sky began.

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We decided to not make too much of a fuss over dinner, walking the few hundred metres up to the nearest restaurant that our B&B host had recommended.

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We paid for the view more than the food really. The place was a touch pretentious and service was spotty. Flo had a calzone, which he wasn’t very impressed by.

I went for Sauteed Seafood which on the menu, said comprised of mussels, clams and prawns.

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When it arrived, there were no prawns and when I queried, the server insisted that the menu did not say there were any prawns. I was very sure though. He checked and I was right. So the kitchen cooked two measly prawns, put it on a plate, and served it to me.

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So… No tip for them!

We did get a nice view of the sea though and we took our time to finish dinner. Still, we were too early to see the sunset, and probably on the wrong side of the mountain too.

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We did get treated to the changing colours of the sky though, and that was good enough for us.

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Roma, Italy.

18 Jul 2019 – Thursday. 

After breakfast, Flo and I got ready and made a return to Rome where we made a beeline for The Pantheon.

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It stood proud and tall, looming high over the hoards of people who had reached before we did. This Roman temple was dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome, and considering how it was built all the way back around 120AD, it is still amazingly well-preserved.

The monolithic dome at the centre of the building pulls light in, making the spacious cavity below glow. Symbolically, it connects heaven to earth, gods above to temple below. Until today, it is apparently the largest unsupported dome in the world.

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The floor on which thousands and thousands of people trod on every day, is still the same, original marble from Ancient Roman times.

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The preservation of this astounding feat of architecture was due to the fact that it was converted into a church in the year 609, and as a result , was saved from destruction during the Middle Ages.

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You’d think that Rome may be more hype than anything but truly, you cannot visit Italy without visiting Rome because history it encrusted in every corner of the city. It is amazing how well preserved some of their archeological and historical sites are, and it is almost unbelievable that they were build thousands of years ago.

After getting lost in the Pantheon, Flo and I finally found each other and I followed him into a random shop that sold fresh-baked Roman Pizza. These are sold by weight so basically, you tell the guy at the counter roughly how big of a slice you’d like, and he’ll cut it, weigh it, and pack it for you.

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As soon as we left the shop and rounded the corner, my eyes were blown away at the sight of Trevi Fountain. It was totally unexpected because usually, Flo would point out a distance away where the next point of attraction was. This time, he hadn’t.

I’ve seen the Trevi Fountain in films and photographs, never realising quite how big and elaborate it really is.

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I think that for me – the experience of first laying eyes on this beaut and being utterly gobsmacked at the whiteness of the marble, detail in each sculpture, height of the fountain… made this my favourite site in Rome.

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Yes, even with the trawls of tourists flanking all sides of the fountain, and the heat of the sun beating down upon us, this Baroque fountain managed to steal my heart! And in case you’re wondering, I did throw a coin in over my shoulder. Twice. I made a wish… A wish that our babies would continue to grow strong and healthy. It didn’t come true…

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After the Trevi, Flo and I took a bus to the garden a little away from the city. It was more like a park and had a small lake where you could hire a boat for half and hour just to peddle your love around.

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Here, we had our lunch on a park bench. Flo had his Marinara Roman Pizza which features a thin, crisp crust. They cut it into two and you can just put the fillings together and eat it like a sandwich.

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Of course, marinara is the most basic of toppings and you can always choose ones with more variety of ingredients on top. It was simple yet tasty. And not too heavy to have as a snack either.

As in most places in Italy, we had access to clean water from a fountain where Flo washed his peach. He loves peaches and the ones in Italy this summer were exceptional. I went for the cherries instead.

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It took us a while to get back to the city but since we’d given ourselves ample time, we arrived at the entrance to the Sistine Chapel bang on time. We’d bought our tickets online for 2pm so we were able to enter directly without having the brave the heat and the queue.

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It was quite a tiring walk around all the corridors and rooms, one leading to another, each displaying their magnificent works of art.

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Up above there were elaborate paintings, and on the floor, mosaic pieces that looked alive.

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The ultimate corridor, the longest one, that led us towards the Sistine Chapel.

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No photographic evidence of being in the chapel because we’re not supposed to take any. Even if I did, I wouldn’t post it up. Lol. With Flo’s help, I managed to spot the famous ‘Creation of Adam‘ by Michelangelo.

I was knackered after our few hours walking the grounds of the Vatican museums and the Sistine chapel. So Flo and I made our way back to our B&B for a bit of cooling off and rest, before we walked out to Flavio Al Velavevodetto – a restaurant close by said to offer amazing pastas.

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I had Ricotta Ravioli with Marinara.

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Four large parcels filled with creamy ricotta, balanced with sweet, tart marinara and a sprinkling of nutty parmesan. So good!

Flo zeroed in on the Rigatoni alla Carbonara since Rome=Carbonara.

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Very moreish although I think the more common spaghetti clings on better to the sauce. These were a touch dry because the holes in the rigatoni weren’t quite so filled.

For dessert, Flo decided to have the Semifreddo.

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He loved it! I only tried a little because I wasn’t sure if raw eggs were involved in making it.

We went back to Rome city after dinner, reaching it when the sun had set. We once again returned to Trevi which was lit up and had barricades to keep visitors from entering the steps leading down to it. By night, it was still marvellous, but I still preferred the natural light of the day shining upon it.

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From the Trevi, we made our way to the Spanish Steps which was filled with people. Of course, we had to join them, planting our bums on the now-cool slab of stairs.

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Interestingly, you’re not allowed to eat on them in order to preserve their pristine condition. More recently, I heard that you’re no longer allowed to sit on them either. Bummer! Ah well, Flo and I did anyway, before that rule was enforced. It was another cool evening so watching people mill around, gather together, take selfies and wefies etc occupied us for a good long while before we decided to head for bed.

That night before we closed our eyes, I whined a little to Flo about how my belly had grown so much in the couple of weeks away from Singapore. He laughed and extended his, taking a photo and saying not to worry, his was still wayyyy bigger. Stellar husband! 

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I look back on this picture now and wish I had embraced my baby bump as soon as it ‘popped’, rather than dread it growing bigger and bigger. Yes, I grew to love it, but I should have loved it right from the start. Sometimes, I wonder if my babies felt my disdain at my body changing, causing them to want to return to heaven because they felt unwanted. The truth is my dears, we love you all very much. You three were wanted – very much so. And we think of you every day. It’s bittersweet looking at this photo, but it is a memory that I cherish of my three dumplings all snugly together with me. 

Siena and Roma, Italy.

17 Jul 2019 – Wednesday.

We left Chianti to move further South in the morning, but not before making a stop in Siena. We entered the town from a very quiet side and were pleased as pie at the silent streets that made me feel as though we were in our own little world.

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There were statues and carvings for this wolf around the city. Florian shared with me that it’s based on a story of a she-wolf that raised two abandoned young twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, who later rose up to build the city of Rome.

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As we wandered further into the town centre, the number of people also increased. As did the heat.

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The piazza was spectacularly huge and a sight to behold. Funnily enough, we also noticed that where the sun was shining, hardly anyone stood, and the area that had shade – and it wasn’t a bit patch of space, was packed with people. You might be able to notice this in the picture below where you can see lots of tiny people under the shadow of the clock tower.

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Took me a while, but when in Italy… Pinocchio!

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We stopped by this Panini place for some lunch. Here, they have ready-made ones, and inside, you can pick and choose what you want to fill your choice of bread.

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Then, you can go upstairs to their small balcony to lunch and watch the events going on below.

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There were a few other shops that had balcony-access, but the balconies weren’t linked. When we went up, the benches were filled and we waited quite a bit for the occupants to be done before we finally got the entire space to ourselves.

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This is the passageway leading out to the balcony. It’s perfectly high enough for someone like me (154cm or 5foot 2), but for anyone taller, it calls for a bit of bending.

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We both thoroughly enjoyed traipsing around Siena. It’s a gorgeous town with so much charm! Unfortunately, we were on a bit of a tight schedule, with the intent to drive to Rome after lunch, so we couldn’t loiter around as long as we could have. Definitely another place we’d love to visit and spend more time in though!

We reached Rome in the late afternoon, checked into our B&B, bought our 2-day transport passes at the train station a short walk away, and trained our way into the city of Rome. Our first stop was, the Colosseum!

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We skipped going in but the outside itself was magnificent! It was HUGE! Way bigger than I’d ever expected.

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It was quite surreal seeing the real deal in front of my very eyes when I had spent my entire life only seeing it in pictures. I was awe struck and could see why Flo was so excited for me to finally lay my eyes on the Colosseum.

From there, we walked further in, past a statue of Julius Caesare,

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And past more ruins from an age gone by.

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We stopped by the Parliament for a picture. I loved the building itself. It was beautiful with its columns and sculptures. It’s difficult to imagine actually working inside this building.

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Dinner was at another place a friend of mine had recommended – Roscioli. This restaurant is highly popular and I booked a table more than a month in advance. I don’t think you have to book as early as I did, but I suggest at least a couple of weeks before your planned meal because they do fill up fast.

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One of the few places serving fresh, warm bread of various kinds. Also, note that quite a lot of places charge for bread and for table service. A lot of them don’t inform you beforehand, or let’s say none of them actually inform you, so you can ask them before eating the bread, or be like Flo and I and eagerly dig in, only to have to pay for it later with regret at not finishing the bread basket before they took it away.

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Hubby’s choice was the Cacio e Pepe – Roscioli’s is said to be where Massimo Bottura favours this dish.

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I went for the Salmon.

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Bursting tomatoes full of sweet juice, some briny capers, a beautiful crispy skin, and very lean wild salmon. Unlike farmed salmon, this was a lot like fatty and oily, so it was slightly drier than I’d have liked. I understand though that I couldn’t have eaten it medium to medium rare anyway, which is how I usually enjoy my fresh salmon since babies were inside.

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Flo’s Cacio e Pepe was rich in flavour. Creamy pecorino cheese with ample black pepper coated every strand of noodle. Nice for a while, cloying at the end for those not used to very creamy foods.

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They gave complimentary sweets at the end. These were spiced biscotti with a side of chocolate sauce. We weren’t too crazy about these.

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So to satisfy his sweet tooth, we stopped by his namesake (kind of) for some gelato.

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And walked around a bit more. To Piazza Navona.

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As dusk arrived, we spotted Castel Sant’Angelo, once commissioned by Roman Emperior Hadrian to be a mausoleum for him and his family, later used as a fortress and castle for popes, and now, a museum.

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Perfect reflection…

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From Castel Sant’Angelo, we walked over to the Sistine Chapel.

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It was around 10pm as we sat here in the quiet, admiring the chapel in front of us, enjoying the cool of the marble beneath our bums. It was a lovely evening and both of us wanted to soak in the peacefulness of it all. In that moment, everything felt perfect.

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Cinque Terre, Italy.

16 Jul 2019 – Tuesday.

We set off bright and early-ish to find a parking space for the car in La Spezia, before getting train tickets to Cinque Terre. Our plan was to go to Manarola, walk the trail to Corniglia, walk further on to Vernazza, train to Vernazza, skip Monterosso al Mare, and take the ferry back down to Riomaggiore for dinner, and train back to La Spezia.

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Please note that the trains often run late, sometimes up to 20min behind schedule so waiting is the name of the game when getting these trains from one town to another. Furthermore, we only found out that the walking trail from Manarola to Corniglia was closed, and the one from Corniglia to Vernazza looked too daunting and tiring for me to walk at the time… which left Flo and I with little choice other than the trains.

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As we pulled into the first stop, Riomaggiore (which we would return to at the end of the day), we caught glimpses of the gorgeous blue waters. It was breathtaking and more than I’d expected.

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Alighting at Manarola, we had to walk a few minutes from the station before reaching the town. It was quite hilly and bustling with tourists. Before I go on, I wouldn’t recommend visiting Cinque Terre if you’re going with anyone elderly or pregnant. It was tiring walking the steep inclines especially in the hot weather and it’s not easy trying to avoid any of the uphills unless you choose not to see anything.

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So yes, pregnant and walking up and down the streets of Cinque Terre was what I did. We took breaks often and probably didn’t explore the towns quite as much as we could have.

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The clear blue waters were a sight to behold and Cinque Terre does hold true to its reputation of being an idyllic string of towns along the coast.

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We walked all the way up, following one of the random pavements in Manarola, and managed to find a little spot on a step in front of some homes to have lunch. There was a fountain beside where we could wash our fruit and tomatoes, as well as refill our water bottle. While I managed to scoot into the shade, there was hardly any room for Flo who had to sweat it out.

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A simple lunch before we ooh-ed and aah-ed around the town.

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This was the spot that rounded towards the first walking trail. We reached it only to see that there were barricades suggesting its closure. From where we stood, we could see that some of the barriers along the side of the trail had been destroyed so perhaps safety being compromised meant that the trail had to be closed off.

So, we trained our way to Corniglia, which, as we had come to accept, was trawling with most tourists – obviously we added to the crowd as well. Corniglia, compared to Manarola, is a lot smaller, with tighter walking streets and again, lots of steep uphills and downs.

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We found a place for us to rest our feet and quench our thirst.

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And also had a pretty view of the sea.

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We didn’t stay too long before making off to Vernazza. Actually, I have to admit that out of the four towns we visited, I really liked Corniglia. It got quieter the further up we went and the cobbled streets and old brick buildings really spoke to me. The only thing is it’s quite an ass to get to.

We were blessed to have been able to get onto the bus that brought us into town, but it was packed and hot inside. Still, it would have been a really tiresome walk up the many flights of stairs. We found that out when we decided to leg it back down to the station instead of fighting to board the small bus. Walking down, it seemed like we would never reach the bottom. I saw a lady who looked more pregnant that I, walking up. How she could have done it, I will never know. I certainly couldn’t have. It was tiring just seeing everyone on their way up all sweaty and red-faced, hoping against hope that the next flight of stairs would be their last.

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I remember that the train to get us to Vernazza was delayed multiple times and as I sat in the heat, tired, I felt the first flutters of Baby C. I remember telling Flo and quickly, he tried to feel it, and took a photo of us to capture that moment.

Vernazza was also nice in its own way. It was more roomy that Corniglia and by this time, the intensity of the sun had reduced substantially making for slightly cooler weather.

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There was a large bay where many were cooling off in, as well as small boats for rent for a day trip out.

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It was nice to finally sit down, albeit on hard rock, and people-watch.

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It was also here that I had to pee. Usually we’d pop into a bistro or somewhere random for cool drinks and use their toilets, but this time, Flo wanted to get tickets for the boat to Riomaggiore so I went to a restaurant and asked to use their toilet. The guy said ‘No. Public toilets are by the station’ which was quite a walk way. I told him I was pregnant and really needed to go but he blew me off anyway. I went to the next place that wasn’t yet opened and again bore the same treatment. I felt quite downcast and sorry for myself because well, I figure it was because I’m Asian that I was being treated that way.  Yes I’m sensitive like that.

When I returned to Flo still not having had the chance to relieve myself, he angrily brought my back to the first restaurant and asked the guy if I could use the toilet. Immediately, he pointed to the toilet inside and there, I could finally pee.

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Anyway, around 6pm, we were first in line to board the ferry.

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As much as I thought we could have saved the money and just taken the train back to Riomaggiore, I think it was a good choice for Flo and I to take the ferry because the views of Cinque Terre was amazing from the sea.

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Like this.

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Please ignore my dry skin below. Blame it on hormones because I did moisturise daily.

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A short 20min later, we arrived at Riomaggiore.

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Similar to the other towns in Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore is very built up with buildings nestled closely together.

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We found a random restaurant to have dinner…

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I had stuffed mussels, which is supposed to be a regional dish.

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These were stuffed individually with a mix of breadcrumbs, spinach, parmesan and egg. Unfortunately, they weren’t my thing because they were texturally quite soft and monotonous, and taste-wise, they were quite one-dimensional. Perhaps there are better renditions out there, and as much as I enjoy my ‘cozen’, stuffed ones? Meh..

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Flo had the Trofie with Pesto. Now this, was good. Yeah I’m one of those people who orders my food and when all the food comes, I eye everyone else’s. Usually my husband’s. I liked the bite of the trofie. The dish sounds so simple, just pasta with fresh pesto, but it was very tasty.

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After dinner, it was the train back to La Spezia, where we were treated to a spectacular display of the moon on our drive back to our hotel. Turns out, that was the night there was a partial eclipse of the moon and when we arrived back and the skies had turned black, we bore witness to that. Some things you can’t take pictures of (because of a lousy phone camera), but you hold in your chest of memories forever.

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Firenze, Italy.

15 Jul 2019 – Monday.

Florence, aside from Rome, is possibly one of the most bustling cities in Italy. It’s not ideal then, the drive right into the city and spend hours fighting for a parking space. As such, my dear husband did some research and found a park and ride carpark where we could leave the car a little way our from Florence, and catch the public bus right into the heart of the city.

We had scanned the weather forecast the night before and found that the storm we’d shrug off had moved over to all our surrounding areas, less threatening but hell-bent on bringing rain all around. So we decided that we’d spend the day in Florence where we’d at least be able to hide under buildings in case it started to pour, leaving Cinque Terre for the day after.

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First stop: Mercato Centrale!!

As you may be able to see, I’m a big fan of Italy’s markets. Or markets anywhere around the world. I enjoy looking around to see what unique items they sell and to feel the hive of activity buzzing around the market. This one in Florence leans onto the touristy side with quite a few stalls selling truffle everything, others selling varieties of dried pasta including the naughty penis ones, although there were also fresh meat stalls and fresh spice stalls as well.

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There was a fresh pasta stall that I believe is one of the most popular on the ground floor, with a long queue of people patiently awaiting their turn at choosing their fresh pasta and having it cooked with a sauce of their choice.

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We also chanced upon the big stall selling porchetta sandwiches but we gave it a miss and instead, went upstairs to the food hall instead.

I wasn’t feeling like much and in the end, settled on a seafood salad largely made up of pulpo ie octopus. It wasn’t the most lovingly made and it was already prepared to be plopped on my tray after ordering. I’d wanted to go for grilled seafood kebab but it included swordfish which I couldn’t eat so I passed on that.

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Flo decided to dive into the Meatball Trapizzino which was essentially a very handy, easy-to-consume-while-you-walk pizza. The pocket was made of pizza bread and you could stuff it with your choice of filling.

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Don’t be fooled. It doesn’t look very big but it was quite filling. Served hot and toasty, I think Flo made the better choice.

Back out, it had started to rain which was a bummer.

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Thankfully, we were armed with an umbrella under which we huddled while walking around Florence. The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore was as lovely as its name suggests.

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With the wet weather, it was also nice to walk around some of the quieter alleys without being slowed down by hoards of visitors. Florence to me, was quite interesting in that some streets looked more for everyday folk and then you turn a corner and you’re right where all the upmarket branded shops are.

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Flo and I made a mid-afternoon stop at Procacci. It is known to have once supplied the royals with everything truffle related. The second we stepped inside, the whole vibe of the place made me shrink back. It felt wholly pretentious with its small area filled with customers sipping on wines and champagne, downing one truffle delicacy after another, looking as those there was a string holding their noses up. (Side note: This is merely my opinion from our short visit there and I don’t believe everyone who goes to Procacci are like that… Or are they?)

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I felt uncomfortable in there, because service as well had a hint of snot. Buuuuut… Flo and I still shared a small soft bun spread with some truffle something. It was about the length of one finger and the width of two, lasted a couple of bites and cost all of 2 Euros.

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We also bought a bottle of Truffle Butter home for Zen… which was really the reason why we went to Procacci in the first place. We wanted to get him something food related because we know he’s a foodie (all our friends are actually), and we wanted to get something that had thought put into it and wasn’t just bought off a random shelf in a random place.

Flo was also very sure that we go in search for the Statue of the Boar with the Golden Snout. He said I had to rub it in order to get good luck. Rub-a-dub-dub I did.

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Next place to tick off was to see the Statue of David in Palazzo Vecchio. I know I know, this was just the replica but it was still magnificent to look at.

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We continued on past Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge famous for its shops that are built into the sides of it. I was too tired at this point to walk to the bridge, so we settled on appreciating it from afar.

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Then onwards we went to Piazzale Michelangelo. I wasn’t really up for walking all the way up to the viewing point but I know hubs wanted to go up and I didn’t want to rain on his parade. So we took it nice and slow, a step at a time…

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With the rain really putting a damper on my mood…

But we finally reached the top. The view was wonderful in spite of the fog that had settled lightly over Florence so it wasn’t as clear as it could have been. Still, a nice reward for the leg work done.

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We weren’t up too long before it started to rain harder, signalling that it was time we made our way down.

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Back to the city centre, just outside Uffizi Gallery I believe, Flo and I hopped around the different zodiac signs on the pavement. They looked really cool.

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We walked through the Courtyard of the Galleria dell’Accademia before weaving through the market hawking leather goods. We’d arrived back at Centrale Mercato, and decided to have a sit in front of the now-closed, sleeping building, with our umbrella once again shielding us from the rain.

Our dinner location, Trattoria Za’ Za’, was mere minutes away, and upon realising that it was already opened, decided to not wait for our reservation time of 7pm, and arrived there at 6.30pm instead where they promptly received us.

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This place was recommended by a friend of mine. I had hopes it would be quite filled with locals but there were a lot of tourists dining there.

Flo and I shared a Bruschetta Florentine Style which comprised of sliced Florentine Bread with Tomato, Basil and Olive Oil. Simple and good.

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With the rain carrying on outside, I wanted something hot and quickly dove in for the Mixed Vegetables Tuscan Soup, apparently a recipe from Grandmama.

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Another rich, hearty, soul warmer.

Flo had a perfectly done Beef Entrecôte with Balsamic Vinegar and Rosemary Potatoes. Lovely and rare in the middle. I couldn’t resist a taste and it was really delicious. Too bad there weren’t a lot of parts of it cooked enough so I couldn’t steal a few more pieces of Flo.

It was quite a packed day in Florence and even then, we didn’t get to go further out of it to visit Boboli Gardens or even further to the Vasari Corridor. I suppose we will simply have to leave them for our next visit to Italy.

When we arrived back at the Park and Ride carpark, we were treated to the remnants of a beautiful, fiery red sunset. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight? Hopefully! Because we were praying for good weather for Cinque Terre.

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From Lignano to Chianti, Italy

13 Jul 2019 – Sat.

First thing in the morning, we had a quick breakfast and bid Gianna a heartfelt goodbye. We left the beautiful town of Modena and headed back North to Lignano where we were to meet with family.

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With all the bad traffic due to the beginning of summer holidays, Florian and I arrived quite a lot later than anticipated. We were being treated to a day on the boat with Lawrence and Monica.

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And surprise, surprise! We went on board Lawrence’s new yacht and while exploring the rooms, found Naima hiding in one of them!! Best surprise ever!

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Naima managed to take a day off work to fly down from Munich for Lawrence’s birthday and with us as a bonus. Flo and I were over the moon to see her, and after we had our hugs and kisses, and question and answer session, we were all just happy to be in each other’s company on a beautiful day in Italy.

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Inside the yacht.

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The new yacht hadn’t got all its licences for sailing so we took the smaller boat Lawrence and Monica have to set off for lunch.

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We set off to Marano Lagunare, a small, non-touristy town for some seafood.

Can’t say no to fresh prawns and scallops!

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These sardines were yum!!

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Can’t go wrong with seafood pasta when near the sea.

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A fresh off the boat catch, grilled seabass which was so clean tasting.

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Just after we had sung “Happy Birthday” to Lawrence,

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and dessert had been set down,

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We were warned of a freak storm brewing and heading towards Lignano.

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We had to pretty much make a crazy dash back to the docked boat in order to avoid the impending rain.

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And rush away we did. The black clouds kept threatening to catch up with us, following closely as Lawrence expertly handled the boat, steering it over now-bumpy waves to return back to the marina.

Flo, Naima and I alighted the boat and quickly proceeded to the bigger yacht to take shelter just as the clouds unleashed heavy droplets of rain. Lawrence and Monica went to park the boat and it wasn’t for about an hour before they managed to make their way through the torrential storm, back to us. Even with their rainproof jackets, they were still soaked on arrival but we were glad to have them back. We managed to spend a further hour with them catching up, talking about the babies etc before Flo, Naima and I had to brave the rain to return to our car.

It was a wonderful day that we spent with Lawrence and Monica – both of whom I’ve heard much about but never met until that day. Lawrence was every bit as wonderful as Flo made him out to be. He is so much like a father to Flo, and I could see how much he loves Flo as well, like a son. It was too bad that the freak storm cut our time short, but hopefully we’ll see each other again soon!

Flo and I drove Naima to the Venice airport where she had to catch her flight back to Munich. The bad weather and traffic meant that we were driving against a tight time frame but we managed to get her there just in time… Only to find out shortly after that her flight had was going to be delayed… and then delayed again due to the storm. Thankfully, she did arrive in Munich safely that night, albeit very late that night.

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After dropping Naima off, Flo and I had a few hours drive to get to Chianti. By this time, we had the black clouds hanging over us, pouring buckets of water over the car. I was quite concerned about the visibility and even told Flo that if he wasn’t confident, we could just stop by the side and wait for the rain to subside, if ever. He soldiered through and at one point, we were pelted by hail. That was quite scary.

Finally, after we’d passed the area of Modena, we saw the end of the clouds give way to clear sky. It was the most peculiar thing. Almost as though the clouds had formed a thick blanket and we had finally raced towards the end of it.

14 Jul 2019 – Sun.

We woke up in our next hotel in Chianti to blue clear skies and the tweeting of happy birds whizzing nearby.

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Breakfast was a lavish spread of savoury/salty foods… most of which I couldn’t consume at the time.

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And sweets.

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It’s strange how in Italy, many are used to having sweet foods for breakfast – cakes especially. I stuck usually to the hard boiled eggs and yoghurt, and fresh fruits if offered. Of course, I’d also have a little taste of cake because they are so difficult to resist, but I realise I’m not so much a fan of Italian cakes with their sweetness level being a bit too much for me.

We took our time after breakfast before taking a drive out.

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We stopped every so often to take in the beauty of Chianti.

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There were vineyards that littered the valleys and mountains, and the greens all around made for such a pleasing drive.

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We finally made a proper stop at San Gimignano where we had lunch against a wall. Haha.

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I really liked the rustic town with all its brick buildings.

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Even though it was very very filled with tourists. We didn’t expect it to be so crowded but it was.

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It’s so difficult for me to imagine that people live within this town especially because it looked like something out of a film. The architecture of the buildings were lovely, at least in my eyes, and I spied a well in the middle of the town too.

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As usual, me being me, I wasn’t supposed to take this picture without giving a donation. I took it anyone only for hubs to nudge me and go “you’re supposed to pay to take it“. Oops! Anyway, it was a clay version of the entire town and it was built to be like a fortress. Where we wandered around was only a small part of it, but it was magnificent.

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We went next to Monteriggioni where we wanted to visit the castle. They had a medieval festival going on there so entry fee was about 12 euros per person and there were people decked in medieval attire going in. I wasn’t too excited about the idea of paying 24 euros altogether to go in, and well, I comforted myself with the thought that I’ve seen other castles before so we decided to give it a miss.

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Still managed a photo of it from afar though so there you go!

Dinner, we went to Castellina in Chianti – the town centre closest to where we were staying.

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It’s a quaint town filled with lots of eateries and considering it is rather on the small side, it was nice to feel the lively ambience of the place with locals and tourists alike filling the al fresco areas and digging into their aperitivos or dinner.

Flo and I walked around and settled on Antico Trattoria.

We had a sharing platter of antipasti.

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There were some hits and misses. This wasn’t particularly outstanding and both of us didn’t appreciate the livery spread on top of the baguette to the left of this plate. The frittata was ok and puff pastry one next to it.

Being in Chianti, you can’t leave without having a truffle dish so we got trufflin’ with a Mushroom Tortelloni in Truffle Sauce. This was mainly Flo’s, and it was creamy, rich and perfumed with the truffles.

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I decided that I really wanted to try authentic minestrone so I went for it.

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Unlike the minestrone soup often found here, the Italian version was filled with lots of vegetables – carrots, kale, beans, tomatoes… all crowding a rich, tomato broth. No pasta whatsoever.

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It was a hearty soup to warm the soul and I really enjoyed it more than I thought I would when it arrived at the table. I don’t think I could ever go back to the minestrone soup offered at Soup Spoon here.

Always room for gelato here in Italy.

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So Flo went for his favourite stracciatella and peach… if I remember correctly.

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The gelato at this shop near the start into the town centre was really good! I was quite impressed by the creaminess of the gelato and how it wasn’t overly sweet either. Good stuff!

A little sunset to see us off into the night.

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