Day at Forte Dei Marmi by Mark Nunneley

On Tuesday we drove the hour drive to the Mediterranean Sea for a day at the beach   We ended up at Forte dei Marmi that has wide sandy beaches and have the Alpi Apuance mountains as a dramatic backdrop.   The town remains the East Hampton of Italy with lots of amazing restaurants and designer shops in abundance.

La dolce vita ("the sweet life") by Mark Nunneley

La dolce vita translates loosely as sitting back and smelling the roses...maybe with a glass of wine(for most) in hand and admiring the view especially at sunset.  Photo taken from Florence's Piazzale Michelangelo.

San Quirico D' Orcia by Mark Nunneley

Yesterday afternoon I decided to drive to the the area of Tuscany south of Sienna known as Val d'  Orcia.   This area is known for several photographic areas the most famous of which is the Belvedere Farmhouse.   I arrived at the little town around 7:00, got a quick bite to eat and then went out to locate the farmhouse.    I spend a few hours, took a few sunset photos and then got up at 4:45am this morning to be ready for my sunrise shot.   I was hoping there would be a lot of fog in the valley but unfortunately there wasn't any.

Siena's Duomo by Mark Nunneley

The multiSiena's cathedral is beyond question one of the finest Gothic churches in Italy and we thought it was substantially more beautiful than the famous Duomo in Florence.  In fact it may have been more spectacular than St. Peters at the Vatican.   The multicolored marbles and painted decoration were amazing.  The Duomo was completed in and of the 13th century.  The interior with its black and white striping throughout and finely coffered and gilded dome, is simply striking.

Also in Duomo is "La Madonna del Voto", as the painting is known, is an object of immense popular devotion for the people of Siena who have clung firmly to their special relations with Virgin Mary one the centuriens, even calling their city Sens fetus civets Virginis (Siena, the ancient city of the Virgin).

Another spectacular part of the Duomo were all the colorful flags

Siena...the climb by Mark Nunneley

On Saturday we went to Siena which was about an hour south of the Villa.  Siena is perhaps Italy's best preserved medieval city.  It is a joy to walk the streets of Sienna,,,hills nitwithstanding.  First order of the day was to climb the 400 steps to the top of the Torre del Magnia which rewards you with unparalleled views of Siena's rooftops and countryside beyond.   While we all started the stek up, Gracie and Maddie left us behind with only Mark, Kati and Brittney making it all the way to the top.

Next up was lunch and we found one of the best places to eat of our entire trip.   It was hot out so originally we just looked for a restaurant with AC but the food was outstanding as well.   We had AC, good food, ice for our drinks and our yummy lemon soda.

Interesting Friday by Mark Nunneley

Kati and I got up relatively early this morning and drove the roughly one-hour drive to San Gimignano.  Its tall walls and narrow streets are typical of Tuscan hill towns, but its the medieval "skyscrapers" that set it apart.   We knew we didn't have a lot of town so decided to do a quick look-see knowing we we definitely return.

The girls decided we should go to the waterpark in the afternoon since it was so hot.   We drove to a Florence area waterpark and it was so fun.    

Thursday by Mark Nunneley

The girls were exhausted so we let them sleep all morning.   In the afternoon we laid out at our pool but wow was it hot.    The temperature was close to 90 and Italy doesn't have the amount of air conditioning that we do.   Our bedrooms have air conditioning (at least what Italy calls air conditioning) but not the other parts of the Villa.     Later in the afternoon we decided to drive and eat dinner and we ended up at Radda in Chianti.    Really cute Tuscan town.




Florence by Mark Nunneley was our Florence Museum Day.   We started the day at Galleria dell Accademia.   Great Museum but THE most important item here is Michelangelo's David.  The girls got a little tired.

Next up, The Duomo whose cupola dominates the Florence skyline

Lastly we attached the Uffizi Museum.   Italian Renaissance art doesn't get much better than this


Cinque Terre by Mark Nunneley

Yesterday we made the 2 hour drive from the Villa to Cinque Terre which is essentially 5 individual villages on the NW coast of Italy.  "Charming" and "breathtaking" are adjectives that get a workout when traveling to Italy but it's rare that both apply to a single location.  This is such a place.


Morning shot in Manarola

For my evening shot at Riomaggiore I really needed to climb out on some rocks to set up my Tripod.   Unfortunately the tide was rather high and the rocks were wet.   Anyway, I went for it along with my heavy camera backpack and tripod.  The rocks were marble and very slick.   About 1/3 of the way I lost my footing and took a tumble loosing my tripod in the water.   I went for the tripod and successfully recovered it.   This was my hand where I fell.

wow this hurt

So not wanting to give up I found this 16 year old Boy from Milan.  He stays in Cinque Terre in the summer staying with his grandmother.   He took me out on his boat in the harbor so I could get my shot.

Riomaggiore at Sunset

Olive Oil Tasting in Lucca by Mark Nunneley

On way back from Cinque Terre (pics later) we stopped by Lucca which is one of the top Olive Oil regions in Tuscany.   Decided to do an olive oil tasting.  Taste so different from olive oil in states


Into Florence by Mark Nunneley

After a morning of shopping at the Italian Outlet Mall we decided to drive into Florence and scope out the major sights.   Nice way to spend Fathers Day.

Leather Leather everything everywhere

1st Day at the Villa by Mark Nunneley

Villa Lucia where we are staying is in Chianti which is the heart of Italy's most famous wine region.  Undulating hills blanketed with vineyards, groves of silver-green olive trees, and enchanting towns perched on hilltops are the essence.  

Early morning in Chianti

Silver-green olive trees everywhere

Cypress-lined roads all over Chianti

Villa Licia in early morning


Chianti is blanketed with vineyards like this one 

Off to Florence by Mark Nunneley

This was our hard travel day.    We had a car pick us up from our Hotel in Positano at 5:30am this morning.    We drove to Naples and caught an 8:00 train to Florence.   We arrived right at 11:00 and ran to the car rental company.   We had exactly an hour before the rental car closed so I left the girls at the train station and ran to car rental.   When I arrived the line was long so I called the girls and told them to taxi over to where I was along with all the luggage.   After about an hour we can our Diesel, nine-passenger van complete with wifi and navigation.    

First stop ...lets grab some lunch and the closest spot was the St Regis Florence so we went for it.

The next task was to get used to diving in Italy with a stick shift.  The roads where very narrow and people drove really crazy.   Stop one was to find a Grocery store so we could buy food for the Villa.   We found a really great modern American-Like grocery store and got everything we needed.  We got our groceries and headed to our Villa which was about 30 minutes south of Florence.  After a few mishaps and wrong turns we made it to the Villa.   WOW!

Our Kitchen ...we cooked our first meal

The girls took their first ride on a zip line behind the Villa