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Sunday, Jan 20, 2019
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Ciao Italia, A 10-day tour of Tuscany and Rome

English Foxwood hedges and Italian lemon trees in the manicured gardens of La Foce. I soon found out I'd forgotten batteries for my professional camera. So all images and video were taken with my iPhone X. I was in one of the most beautiful places I'd ever seen, and all I had was a phone, but the best camera is the one you have with you. The pressure was off, it was freeing, fun, and actually convenient.
Symmetry and shadow create interesting design in the manicured gardens of La Foce in Chianciano Terme, Italy.
The vineyards of the Avignonesi winery in the Valiano village, a short distance away from the town of Montepulciano, Italy. My family has an affinity for a good bottle of wine. Naturally, we had to visit one of the region's top wineries to see how they make theirs.
The vineyards of the Avignonesi winery.
Ancient wine cellars at the Avignonesi winery in the Valiano village.
An Italian couple leaves church in their vintage Fiat in the town of Monticchiello, Italy. I asked them questions about their car, but they didn't understand me exactly, but could understand my appreciation for a cool vintage car.
Local motorcycle enthusiasts gathered with friends in Monticchiello, Italy.
The city of Siena in Tuscany, Italy with its medieval stone buildings. There is so much to a view like this, and yet all I can think of is an ideal simplicity.
Tourists gather in droves at the Piazza del Campo, in front of the Palazzo Pubblico, a gothic style town hall with a bell tower in Siena, Italy.
The most famous site in the city of Florence, Italy, is the cathedral, or duomo, as it is said in Italian. Formally called the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, it is an impressive piece of architecture. Visitors stand in lines for hours to see the cavernous inside. We did not waste time in lines. The beautiful exterior would have to do.
A view of Florence, Italy, from the Piazza Michelangelo, a large square on a hill, south of the Arno River where visitors can get a panoramic view of the city. What I love most about Europe is found in this photo. Europeans have this easy ability to enjoy good weather and simple treats, such as a good view. When I'm reminded of this back home, I try to slow down, take a breath and look for something or someone around me I'm thankful for.
The The Ponte Vecchio is a bridge in Florence, Italy which crosses the Arno River. The little houses on top are shops selling everything from leather handbags to Rolex watches.
Colorful streets are common in the neighborhoods of Rome. We rented a flat for our stay on this candy-colored street in the Monti neighborhood.
Cities like Rome don't go to sleep when the sun sets. The piazzas buzz with tourists, locals taking a walk after dinner, or picking up flowers or fruit at stands like this one.
The Arco di Costantino (Arch of Constantine) in Rome, is a triumphal arch, the largest of all the Roman arches.
Detail of a column among the ruins in Rome.
Ruins of an ancient empire, Rome, Italy.
St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City. The sights within the Vatican are without comparison. Any traveler must be prepared to deal with the throngs of tourists crowding every corner within the museums, in the Basilica, and outside in the square.
Priceless sculptures in the Vatican museum.
St. Peter's Basilica is impressive. So impressive it borders on overwhelming. I tried to figure out a way to capture in a photograph, how I felt seeing it all, how I felt being there, or even just to show others what it was like. I gave up. It was too much. I settled for this small pocket with the beautiful light piercing the sacred space within.
St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, a world in and of itself.
I felt a little sorry for these guys. The Pontifical Swiss Guard, as they are officially called, maintained their composure as tourists posed in front of them, taking photos and video, trying to get their attention.
Statue of Saint Peter in front of the basilica.
Our last day in Rome was interesting. It was a holiday Festa della Repubblica, which is the Italian National Day and Republic Day, celebrated on June 2, each year. There were patriotic displays all over the city, including parades and flybys with jets streaming the colors of the Italian flag.. A fitting way to end our trip, with a lot of Italian fanfare.
The food, oh the food. I had a list of must-eat foods in Italy. Pizza and gelato almost daily. We found the best gelato shop was outside our front door. Other dishes we loved were Cacio e Pepe, a pasta dish prepared with a lot of cheese and pepper, and risotto. It wasn't enough to eat these foods, we could certainly eat them in America, it was eating them well, enjoying them as they were meant to be enjoyed. Don't forget a beautiful bottle of wine. Brunello di Montalcino was my favorite.

This was my third time in Europe, a bit of a tradition with my mom and my sister. Together we explored, tasted, wandered, sometimes fought a little...Italy is dramatic, it was only fitting. We got lost, and in the process also found.

Italy has been my favorite so far. Each place has a soul, its own unique spirit. I really connected with Italy. The tastes, the colors, the attention to detail, and the stories of course; the history. There is so much to experience, I'm sure I'm not done with Italy yet, it's just "ciao" for now.
Twitter @MarthaARhine

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