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Home Again, Home Again

It pains me to say it….but we’re home again. We woke up at 6:30am Saturday morning, drove from Cortona to Pisa, got on a plane, flew to New York City, then got on a plane to Seattle, landing at 9:45pm Saturday. That sounds like a long, but not terrible day, right? Wrongo. We traveled for almost 27 hours, door to door. And the few hours of sleep we got on the plane are almost uncountable as acutal rest….since its a plane and there was turbulance. Killer.

Other than getting home, the only other bonus was watching the Ducks DESTROY in their first game of ht eseason. Praise Heaven above that the planes had TVs in each seat so that I could watch the game. It. Was. AWESOME. I giggled and shook with excitement while watching. Not much makes me happier than the Oregon Ducks. Mariota? Welcome to the team. ❤



Maybe I’ll keep up with this blog, I have enjoyed it…..thoughts? Worth reading?


Last Several Days

After our fabulous day in Assisi and the relaxing day at sea, we spent Wednesday in Siena. While it took a while to actually *get* to Siena (driving and navigating in Italy is a sport in and of itself…lines on the road really are just a sugguestion) we parked and had a great time! We first went into the duomo, which was originally intended to be built as the biggest and greatet in all of Italy (maybe even Europe) but then they realized they didnt have the foundations and the groundspace to do it, and gave up halfway. The actual duomo is stunning, and there are half walls of where they wanted to expand. While we were feeling a little bit over-cathedraled by this point in the trip, this duomo was one for the books. There was art everywhere, by everyone! Michelangelo, Bernini, Pastorini, Francesco, Donatello, Martini, Memmi, and more. It was so amazing, I cant even describe it. You could spend all day in there and still not see all there is to see. Very awe inspiring. We had Rick Steves book with us, so it made the duomo even more cool, because it gave such rich history of the place, making it even cooler than before! After the duomo, we went and had another amazing lunch, more spaghetti and pizza for Aaron and I! Then we went to the crypts of the duomo and then to the baptistry, The art within these places is killer!! Then we went to the Piazza del Campo, which is the main square in Siena, and where they hold Il Palio, the huge horse race every year on August 16th, in accordance with the Assumption of Mary. The race is only 1 minute long, but almost 60,000 people flood to the Piazza to cheer on the raqcers. Of the 17 Contrade’s (neighborhoods) in Siena, there are 10 racing each year, and so only 1/17th of the group gets excited at the conculsion of the race! Ever seen James Bond Quantum of Solace? The very beginning, where Bond pops up in the middle of the street during a horse race? Thats Il Palio! We sat in the square (seriously, people lay on the cement like its a beach) and just enjoyed our time.

The next two days, we spent at sea, just enjoying our last days of sun and fun in the villa. We soaked up as much Italy as possible! We also made several more hikes up to Cortona, eating so much delicious food and drinking farrrrr too much wine and prosecco. On Friday, our last official day, my mom, dad, and I went up to the very top of the hill, near the Under The Tuscan Sun house, and we went into St Margherita church, where you could go into all the parts of it (most are roped off so I cant sit in the fun chairs or anything) so  I was SUPER stoked to be able to finally do that! Yes, I am crazy. Then we went up to the monestary, which was like a 15 minute drive down a 1 lane road in semi rain and kind of creepy, but sooo worth it! It was a gorgeous monestary, built into the hills in the 13th century. St Francis (Assisi, remember him?) stayed there 3 times, and declared his last will there as well. We could walk into wher ehe stayed, which they have preserved well, and the original cloths that they used to cover the windows were still in the windows. I kept to their complete silence request as much as possible. In my defense, mom talked first. 🙂 It was so peaceful and moving. Really a highlight of the trip.

Finally, we spent our last night eating the best meal I have ever eaten (fondue with truffles, various pastas,steak with grapes and bacon, and tiramissu) and drinking the wine we had left over. It was a great end to a great vacation!

St. Francis of Assisi

Well, well, well. Where did we leave off? We’ve lost 2 of our numbers (curse you Philly schools for starting in August), and we’re all moved into house #2 and loving it, beautiful views and lot cooler, so now its 80s every day rather than 90s, which is a welcome break. Honestly, I would take 116 in Phoenix than 90+humidity almost any day! You can’t beat the sights we’re seeing though, killer. Yesterday, we drove over to Assisi, which Rick Steve’s (our go to tour man—if you’re going anywhere, take his books, they’ll save your trip/life) says is one of the top 5 places to see in all of Europe.  To get there, we drove through Perugia, where, despite my best efforts, my father would NOT stop and allow me to find the Amanda Knox house. Assisi is where St. Francis of Assisi (yes, his full title) and St. Claire are from. He was searching for a purpose, and found is calling in healing the Catholic Church. He gave up everything and devoted his life to the church, and when he died, they built a beautiful (and ginormous) basilica around his tomb. It is free to visit and well worth the trip. It’s a stunning place, set up high on a hill, with St Francis basilica at the bottom of the town, with awe-inspiring views. St. Claire did something similar to Francis, and got her own basilica as well, with her tomb, relics, and locks of her hair on display. We had to hike up the hill after seeing Francis’ basilica, but it was well worth it. On an awesome, funny, personal note (as if this entire blog wasn’t personal), Aaron’s dad, Steve, asked us to pick up a few rosaries for him and the family when we were in Rome. We ended up deciding not to go to Rome, but picked up rosaries for them inside St. Francis’ basilica. When I mentioned this in a note to Steve, he told me that the church he was baptized in was named, you guessed it: St. Francis of Assisi. I LOVE that! God works in mysterious and awesome ways, my friends! Today, Tuesday, we have spent most of the day just relaxing. We had another day at sea (at least, the kids minus Erin did) and spent the morning watching a movie, then Mike, Aaron, and I hiked ourselves up to the main town in Cortona (only a 10 minute walk, but uphill the whole way!) to have lunch and wander around. Little did I know when I woke up this morning that I would end my morning with a new purse. Happy camper Sam for SURE. Then we spent the rest of the day swimming and reading. Man, I am SO not down to go back to work next week, this is just too fun! How about family and friends just join us here, so we don’t feel too lonely when we decide to stay?

Love you all!!


We went to Cinque Terre yesterday. It was HEAVENLY! Sam had been there 3 years ago, and it was just as awesome this time! Cinque Terre means 5 lands, and there are 5 cities you can visit along the Italian coast (Northern). They are literally built INTO the coast, and it is so fun! We had such a blast traveling from city to city, visiting 4 of the lands (one is 300 and some steps up to it and its 90 degrees out with high humidity…no thank you!) and just enjoying each others company. Sam’s favorite are Vernazza and Manarola. Last October, Vernazza had a devestating mudslide, with 13 feet of standing mud, and they have recovered to recreate their city. We, of course, purchased some things there, in order to put money back into the city we loved to help them in our own small way. Between two of the cities, there is a walkway called, appropriately, Via Del Amore (lovers walk). Along the entire pathway, which is about a 20 minute walk, there are millions of padlocks locked on. Italian legend says that when you lock a lock onto something along the path with your love, then throw away the key, your love with last as long as the ock does. Knowing this from prior experience, Sam bought a lock. Together, we picked a spot, locked our lock, and threw the keys into the ocean. Hopefully, sometime in the far future, we can go back and visit that spot, and see our lock. 🙂 Cheesy yes, but also cute. Sam purchased a lock and key charm to put on a necklace as our reminder of our trip and the love we share.

Today, we moved to a new house! While we loved our other villa, this one is fabulous as well! It has beautiful views and a fabulous pool! We are a 5 minute walk from the backside of downtown Cortona (you could probably find the house on google maps, its the only one with the pool). We are so excited to be here, Aaron is already looking for tickets to a soccer (sorry, football) game in Siena tomorrow night!!!

More later, we love you all tons, and are surprised and eternally grateful that we have you all as family, friends, and readers. 🙂

Today’s update comes as the second part of this post, mostly because I have time and I don’t want to harass people with posts! J Today we went to Montepulciano (which, hilariously enough, is where they ACTUALLY filmed the scenes from Twilight that were set in Volterra). It was really fun. We got caught in a HUGE rainstorm, probably the biggest one I had ever been in, and hung out in a café, making friends with an Australian family and enjoying the thunder and power surges until the storm passed. It literally flooded the streets. I took pictures, but I don’t think they do it justice. It was just way cool. They are ending their giant festival right now, so it was cool to be able to be a part of that, and taste (and purchase) some delicious wine made in the town. The festival (Bravio delle Botti) culminates with each of the 13 contrades (essentially, the original major families in the town) send 2 athletes to roll a giant barrel all around the endlessly hilly city, for a cloth that has a saint on it. Apparently, it’s a huge deal, because everyone was decked out in their Contrade’s flags, shirts, and scarves. It was so strange….honestly, we kept joking that it was like Hunger Games, because there were 2 from each part of town, and they had a giant presentation of the contrades, including a parade, and then they went into a church, had mass, and prepared for the race. Cameras surround the entire square and there are screens everywhere, and every TV has the coverage on. It happens at 7:00pm tonight (Sunday). I don’t think we will go back for it though, because there are up to 30,000 people expected to view this race (tiny town, tons of people, not a lot of parking…no thanks!) Now we are just back home enjoying the first bit of cool weather we have had…its probably in the mid to high 60’s, so its not actually that cool, just more like home.

Aarons Update

A lot of what I have to say about Italy is simply…WOW. First I do have some crummy news that started the trip off a little bad, my phone was lost in the process between the airport and the Villa we are staying at, but was found this afternoon in Sams backpack while I getting her magazine to read by the pool. After flying into Italy we headed to Pisa because the Villa we are originally staying in was not ready for us to arrive at till 4om local time(about 7am pt). We walked a little more than a mile to where the leaning tower of Pisa is located (the field of miracles). From where we enter the Baptistry was first then the Duomo was next to and behind that rose the Tower. And to think about the building of the tower and the period of 344 years it took to complete the tower was astonishing. My favorite city to this point has been Volterra (yes, for you Twitards that’s the one), which we visited on Monday. This city is a hill city, strategically built its outer wall protects the city and the tall buildings do not even let you know about the height that of this city. While it was smaller city the most amazing feature was the roman amphitheater built in 10 B.C. The 3 story wall that was used by the actors was torn so that the bricks could be used for a bath house in the 1400;s, after the use of the bath house was no longer need this area became the city dump. In the 1950’s it was rediscovered and dugout to be persevered. On Tuesday we went to Florence. This is my second fondest memory, the “Pay to Play” toll road (my first driving experience). There is no speed limit unless there is a dangerous area that needs a little control, where in the right lane you drive as fast you are confortable with and in the left you take it that next notch when you pass the other slow cars, however if you are not going fast enough you will have cars on your bumper like white on rice. We saw the 20 story Duomo while the other half was seeing the Uffizi. It size was “awwwww” striking to stand inside of and the ever so subtle slant to the floor that may have gone unnoticed if I wasn’t an architecture major was impressive as well as the gorgeous exterior. We then went to an outdoor vendor market while waiting for the other to finish up the Uffizi, were EB says I have made the purchase of the trip by anyone in a fedora. Then we went to the Acidemia to see the statue of David. Once again it awe striking in the size, the detail and the fact that Michelangelo carved that some 500 years ago with a chisel and hammer. Then the ride back on toll road was awesome and we finally are getting the hang of navigating Italy. Wednesday we had what we are calling these “Days at Sea” as in sleep in, relax and the plan is to do nothing. Thurday was a little go see something that was different and we saw Montecatini Terme which had a funicular that near the top had a 38.5 degree grade that led us to the top of a city where we had lunch then headed back. Friday we went and saw Cinque Terra, which means 5 towns. These towns are right along the Mediterranean Sea and can be walk in a total of 7 miles. However the trails that separate them are steep, and can be dangerous. So we rode trains between 3 o the 5 towns, skipping one and between the fourth and fifth town, we decided to walk, because it’s the Lovers Walk, and along the way, there are millions of padlocks along the pathway. Sam and I locked one on, because its said that when you lock one on and throw the key in the ocean, your love will last forever. Saturday, we moved from one beautiful villa to a more beautiful villa. The town we are in now is Cortona and it is another one of those hilltop cities. With the little exploring we have done, this has become my favorite villa. The only thing left to talk about is the FOOD, and wow is it better than imaginable. On the Monday night we ate in a local place that the antipasti (appetizer) was a meal in itself. The best tomatoes are right here. My favorite meal so far has been shrimp pasta, Viareggio style. It was whole shrimps (heads included) with a thinner spaghetti noodle, and a broth-like sauce. It was easily the best meal that anyone had ordered that night. My problems with lactose intolerance has not affected me to the extent that it does at home. Italy impresses all around! ~ Aaron

Days 1-4 (Sam)

Wow, the last few days have been amazing, exhausting, full of food, laughter, and fun. It is blazing hot and humid, but so fabulous….we’re certainly not in Seattle anymore! Today is our “day at sea”, as our family calls it. On cruises, when two ports are too far apart, they have a day at sea to get to the next port. It’s a day of relaxation, sleeping in, swimming, and hanging out. So, today, we decided that was necessary! The day we arrived, we went straight to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the baptistery, and the duomo(for the archbishop). It was so cool! In the baptistery, they told us to be silent, and when everyone was, one of the workers made some noises, which reverberated off the walls and sounded like 50 people singing a melody! It was AMAZING! Then we went, found the villa, enjoyed the pool, and ate PIZZA! The next day, we went into Lucca, which is a walled city, and we got to ride our bikes on the walls, which was awesome. We got a great view of the city that way, since we went all the way around the city on bikes. Then we dropped down into it and ate lunch (yay spaghetti!) and then explored the city on bikes. We found a tower that has a garden on top of it and a square that was actually a circle. That night we had the worlds most amazeballs dinner. Oh. My. GOSH. The antipasti alone was to die for. It was plates and plates of delicious. Bruschetta with tomatoes, another with olive, another with fish, potato balls, bread and tomato salad, and about 5 other plates that I cant even remember! The next day, after a delicious morning cappuccino and croissant, we headed to Volterra. Yep, it’s the vampire city in Twilight. Totally rad. I didn’t get eaten, but I DID make Michael act out a scene with me, since Aaron refused to join in on my cheesiness. Typical. J  While there were no vampires, it was an awesome city. Its set high up in the hills, with STUNNING views and beautiful streets. There are ruins of an ancient ampetheater, and its just an amazing city. When we left there, we headed back for more swimming and hanging out, and a dinner of bread, olive oil, salami, grapes, prossecco, and cheese. So delish. The next day (yesterday) we headed to Florence. What a city! I had been there in 2006 for a day, and it was sweltering 10000 degrees and about as many people per square foot. This time was much cooler, way less people, and more fun! Aaron, Erin, and I split off and did our own thing for most of the day, including going to the duomo, seeing the David in real life (STUNNING) and doing some shopping. J It was a blast. Last night was pretty chill, since we were in Florence for 12 hours in the heat, so everyone kind of crashed when we got home. Aaron is writing his point of view of the last few days, and that should be posted later today! J Love you all, miss you tons! ~Sam 


We’re here!!! We have had 2 pretty amazing days, and loving every sweltering hot second we can soak up! After 20 hours of travel we toured around the city of Pisa, specifically hanging out at the Leaning Tower and the other surrounding buildings. Beautiful! Then we had our first tastes of Italian pizza for dinner, along with Prosecco and melon! Today was Lucca, riding our bikes along the walled city and roaming the streets!! It was amazing! We’re headed to dinner, will update pictures later!