By Irene Aviles
Italy…… A country where the romance was, is and always will be.
I’ve been to Italy many times throughout my life, and I still plan to go back for more! It’s one of those places that you can visit over and over, and always experience something new. My most recent trip was unique because four families with teenagers decided to venture to Tuscany and Lake Como, where the private villas, the abundant food, and superb wines are all unique and plentiful.
We started in Rome, because it’s the easiest city to fly into from the United States. We all settled into the Jumeirah Hotel, and met up for dinner with all our kids, ages 12-16, in tow. The restaurant was called Hi-Res, as it was a roof-top dining experience, and all the adults were looking forward to it. The food was a modern mix of options which and was very good. The adults enjoyed the famed “Hugo” drinks which were a craze that summer; a refreshing mix of prosecco, elderflower, mint and lime. As the late night started to settle in, a female DJ started the American jam. It’s amazing how hard it is to hear authentic music in Europe. Our kids loved it, and it was an evening of friends, food, laughter and fun.
The next morning all 17 of us began our journey to Tuscany. For starters, the bus driver didn’t speak English, so we knew it was going to be an adventure! It was a 3-hour drive, so we explained (thru the hotel staff) that we wanted to stop for lunch somewhere along the way. He was disturbed because that was NOT the original plan. We all went back and forth calling his agency and he finally agreed to something. An hour into the trip, he stopped and said we had 20-minutes, so we decided to get our food to go. When we got back to the bus with our food he had a fit and said, “We don’t eat like this in Italy!” It seems he knew a little English when he was mad! Somehow we survived, and we learned first-hand what it means when you hear the phrase, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Very applicable, for sure. As we approached Tuscany it appeared we were lost, so thru various phone calls and interpretations with the driver, and an extra hour of driving winding roads, WE FINALLY MADE IT! I think my friends wanted to kill me for dragging them out to Castiglion Del Bosco, but once we arrived the excitement in their eyes drastically changed. It was
well worth the trip!
Our evening dinner was thoroughly enjoyed in one of our villas, which overlooked the countryside. We enjoyed fabulous food and our first taste of the Brunello wines from the property’s estate, as we listened to Andrea Bocelli. In fact, we were informed that Andrea Bocelli was playing live at an open-air theater in two days. We felt like we were in heaven!
Castiglion Del Bosco is a resort created from a small restored town, with a luxury boutique hotel and about 10 meticulously restored large villas. Surrounded by thousands of acres of magnificent hills, a private championship golf course, and vineyards everywhere.,It’s a masterpiece any luxury dweller would want to experience while in Tuscany. We also learned during our stay that they are the 5th largest producer of Brunello wines in the world! Owned by one of the Ferragamo brothers, the remodels are exquisite, and the leather features, as you can imagine, were breathtaking. Even the room safes were wrapped in embossed leather!
The next day, after relaxing and enjoying our villas and pools, all the mothers and daughters met at the cooking school at 4:00 p.m. in the Borgo (the village town). We
spent 3-hours learning to make a chicken meal, a fish, salad, appetizers, and of course, dessert. The men and boys joined us after playing golf all day, and our group of 17 had an amazing evening dinner again. Magnifico!
The vineyards and the winery alone were an experience unto themselves. The facilities were amazing and after our tour with our kids, we sat for a formal wine and cheese tasting. We were in love with ALL the wines! Everyone shipped several cases of wine back home, only to later find them at our local wine merchant. Our underage teen kids were good sports as they waited for us to go on a picnic.
After the tasting, they took our group up into the hills to a special villa overlooking the Tuscan valley from one of the highest points. It took our breath away! We later learned that this somewhat simple villa, with beautiful grounds for picnics, was actually the private home of the Ferragamo family. That made it extra special, of
course. Our teen girls enjoyed taking photos in the sunflower fields and the vineyards. Lots of selfies and groupies. The boys enjoyed sitting on the big picnic blankets, eating, making funny videos and playing games on their phones – boys will be boys anywhere! As if that wasn’t enough of a breathtaking experience, we still had the evening to appreciate after we all enjoyed swimming, golf and overall relaxing. An outdoor Chef’s barbecue dinner was planned at our other villa, which had beautiful grounds, as well with amazing sunsets, and we were lucky to enjoy a Tuscan full moon. The atmosphere, the food and the staff were amazing. It started to rain towards the end, and we all had a great laugh! What a fabulous way to end the first leg of our Italy trip!
The next part of the adventure was to travel to Lake Como, which began as we all boarded a bus for the train station. It was only a 10-minute ride to a local village train stop…. not a station. We were dropped off and that was it – we were on our own for a day of train hopping! First stop, Sienna. We got off the train and decided to make arrangements with a taxi service to take all our 17+ pieces of luggage to a secure storage site so we could enjoy a few hours of shopping and lunch. It was a bit scary, but we learned a common practice. When we arrived at lunch with our online confirmations from The Fork (similar to Open Table), they didn’t have our reservations! Luckily, we were not arriving at the busiest time, so the staff was able to quickly arrange the tables to accommodate us. The food was fabulous and their famed Osso Bucco was a special treat! The Piazza del Campo in Sienna is such a special location, as it is an unusual city center built almost as an amphitheater, with the entire city almost in circles. You can feel the fortress environment from every angle. It is no doubt a well-preserved city worth visiting.
After, we proceeded back to the train and we were on our way to Florence. Once we arrived we had planned to go into the city since we had almost two hours, but instead decided to relax in the first-class lounge. Well, at least that was our plan until the door man refused all 17 people regardless of our paid first class status. He said we would ruin the business class environment with so many people including teens. Boy, did we feel discriminated against! That would never happen in the U.S. Anyway, we decided to do as the Romans do and be a local, so we found a nearby Barnes and Noble type hangout and spent our time there. A few even went to McDonalds.
Time passes quickly and we again boarded the train, this time to Milan, and then connecting to Como station. Upon arrival, our driver met us and we settled into our bus, and away we went to Bellagio (after a small stop to get a photo of the famous hands statue). The drive was 45-minutes of scenic, windy road that should not be traveled on a weak stomach. For those who could handle it, it was amazing! The hotel greeted us with a very tasty 3-course meal. It was a full day of travel and adventure, which everyone truly enjoyed.
After the preceding long travel day, we were all ready for a day of relaxation. The hotel was ideally located in walking distance to the town, with vast panoramic views of Lake Como. It was nothing short of breathtaking. The pool was in an ideal location with an amazing sun deck overlooking the lake. The jacuzzi was also in a spectacular location and it made you feel like you were hanging off the cliff! Just beauty from all directions. That evening, we braved another windy road to go to dinner at a unique farm-to-table restaurant, high up in the hills with an indescribable view. The menu was all authentic foods that were not familiar to us, but we really enjoyed the experience. My rabbit was no doubt a delicacy. Another great ending to a fabulous day.
Enjoying the lake was a much-anticipated day, and we all met at 11am for a private boat tour of the lake, and a tour of Villa Balbianello. Lunch was on a patio overlooking the lake with fabulous food and wine. The white Chardonnay wine in Italy was a cross between a chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. All the white wine drinkers absolutely loved it! We all continued the day with a lot of shopping. Some went hard until 7:30pm, while others retreated to the pool. The evening dinner was at a cool outdoor pizza cafe. We needed a break from all the food!
We definitely ate and drank too much in Italy, but, that’s what you do – right? We all discussed how we couldn’t believe the trip was almost over, as a week was not enough, so we all agreed, part two, would need to be developed since everyone wanted to come back soon.
Italy was no doubt, Bellissimo!
Private Trade Winds offers classic stand-alone estate villas, as well as restored villas and farmhouses within a luxurious 5-star resort. Resort villas include Castiglion del Bosco as well as Castello di Casole in Tuscany. When you’re ready to book your next Italy villa vacation, whether it’s in Lake Como, Tuscany, Capri or any other area of Italy, reach out to Judy Sweetland at 949.705.9994 or email email@example.com.