I still could not get over the fact that we were waking up each morning in ITALY. It still felt like a dream for me. I was excited because today, we were going to a winery in Tuscany. I jumped out of bed and went out on the balcony. The view of the mountains and all the little villages there, was just so beautiful. I could tell it was going to be a beautiful warm day and that brought a big smile to my face.
We had time to kill before we had to meet our tour bus that was taking us to the winery, so we got dressed and decided to go explore. Of course, the first thing that caught my eye was a church, so we went in. They were just finishing up Sunday mass, receiving communion, and my heart was so happy listening to the beautiful organs playing. That sound is something I could never grow old of. When hubby finally pulled me away from my trance, we decided to head over to the Mercato Centrale. It is known to be the biggest and most famous market in Florence. This indoor market is two levels and is filled with all the food you could ever imagine. On the ground floor you can find butchers, fish shops, fruits/veggies and small shops selling things like olive oil, cheeses and more. On the second level, which has even more food shops, you can find places to eat and tables to sit down at. It almost looks like a ginormous food court. The smell of pastas, meats, cheeses, gelato, sandwiches; filled the air. It was jam packed, so we never got to eat there (something I do regret) but it was still so amazing to see.
Right outside was the outdoor market. Where you can find leathers, purses, scarves, hats, jewelry, pottery, souvenirs and all sorts of things. That was where I made my first ever purchase, a leather bracelet that says Italia on it. There was something so fun and exciting paying with Euros. As we kept walking, we continued to find more beautiful buildings and statues. And then, there it was. Santa Maria del Fiore. I shutter still thinking about the beauty. It was one of the biggest, most beautiful churches I have ever seen. It went on for miles it felt like. And so did the line to get in. Santa Maria is the third largest church in the world. Trying to get the perfect picture was almost impossible. No picture could even come close to capturing the pure beauty and size. We stood in front of it just amazed, for what felt like hours. But as always, our stomachs started to rumble and it was time for lunch.
While we were in front of a restaurant reading the menu, I heard what sounded like music and people chanting. I turned around and down one of the side streets from the corner of my eye, I saw people on stilts, dancing. Hubby and I looked at each other and ran to the street because we of course wanted to see what it was! We still really do not know what it was for, but seeing these women on stilts dancing was incredible. But back to what we were doing...lunch. We ended up at this cute little bistro. It was beautiful out so we sat outside and enjoyed people watching! By the time we looked at our phones, we realized we had to get going and head to the meeting place to catch the bus for our wine tour.
Why they make pick ups for these things in the most random, hard to get to places, beats me. You can definitely say hubby and I worked off lunch trying to get there! Random streets, twist and turns, weird directions, up a ramp, down the ramp, look for brick-oye. Needless to say, we got there and got there on time. We checked in and got comfy in our seats on the bus. We were surprised at how comfy and spacious the bus was. Most importantly, we were thrilled it had air conditioning. We both aren't much of tour guide people. We like to do things on our own. But we both really wanted to see some wineries, and this was our best bet!
The bus finally finished loading and we were ready for our trip through the country side. The wide open land and green grass and mountains were breathtaking, at least from what I could tell. I didn't know buses could go that fast! I guess only in Europe! The 45 minute drive ended up going pretty fast and before I knew it we were standing in front of the first winery we were touring. The tour was short, as the winery was not that big, but the views were gorgeous. We grabbed some pictures then headed to the tasting room. It was set up with a bunch of tables for groups of people to sit at. Each table was filled with breads, wine, water and olive oils. Hubby and I are not good at being chatty and joining a crowd of people, so we picked an empty table and sat down. Before I knew it, the table was filled with a group of people that we had no idea were going to become a great group of friends. And some friends we actually had a lot in common with.
There were a group of women from the UK, a couple from Atlanta (near where we lived) and a couple who were pharmacists (my husband is a pharmacist). The conversations were hilarious when we all started talking and realizing we had a lot in common. I think maybe the glasses of wine may have helped as well ;) For us not being all that chatty, we ended up being the last table to get back on the bus, because well, we were chatting. Ironic?
As we drove to the next winery, Casa Emma, I became aware of how much more chatty the bus was. Everyone now knew each other and had some alcohol in them. We pulled into the next winery and got off the bus. There was a gentleman waiting for us to give us the tour. Again, the tour of this winery was short- as it was not very big. But the best part was sitting back at another table with our new friends; laughing, drinking, eating. As if we all knew each other for years. I didn't want it to end. There is something about finding a group of people you enjoy being around, that makes you feel at home. But, it was time to get back on the bus and have it bring us back to the meeting point. The ride was definitely louder this time, at least for a good 20 minutes, and as it started to get dark out, it became very quiet. Too much wine perhaps? By the time we were 45 minutes into the ride, we still weren't back. Italy rush hour is no joke. Everyone started to become antsy because we all had to pee. We finally made it to our stop and everyone piled off. Running in every which way to get to a bathroom. Me and the UK ladies ran together to get to the train station to pee. But by the time I had gotten there, the bathrooms were already closed for the night. Next thing to do? Run across the street to the McDonald's bathroom. Plus side, their bathroom was free!
After we finally found relief, we went back to the center of everything, found some dinner and did a little more exploring. It was already 10PM and we were exhausted. So we decided to head back to the hotel and get some sleep. The day had turned out perfect. As I sat there in bed I couldn't help but notice how much my face hurt from laughing, how badly my feet hurt from exploring and my head hurt from the little bit of wine I did try! And all I could think to myself as I drifted off to sleep was, "I wouldn't have it any other way."