I knew it would be the trip of a lifetime when Dad emailed to invite the whole family to join him and my stepmom for a Tuscan vacation. It has been my dangling carrot during this busy and hectic year. We left for Italy having done very little planning, but as my dear friend said to me, “All you need is a passport, a camera, and your favorite wine drinking outfit.” Done.
We arrived late afternoon in the Florence airport, and rented a car to drive to the villa in a remote part of the Chianti region. And when I say remote, I mean in the middle of nowhere. Gravel road remote (Italians call them “white roads”). By the time we got within 15 minutes of the villa it was dark, the roads were windy and confusing… and I’ll admit it was tense in the car. But after a few wrong turns and perhaps a near head-on collision, we made it.
When we woke the next morning, this was our view. Yes, it would be a trip of a lifetime, even if we saw nothing else.
The villa, called Villa Bracciano, was the most amazing place I’ve ever stayed. It was built over 500 years ago by a prominent wine producing family. It was full of old-world charm but still had all the modern conveniences. I became obsessed with the windows and little details of the building.
It was a wonderful backdrop to take photos of my two favorite subjects as well. <3
Our whole family was there, including my older and younger brothers and their families. On our first full day Greg and I took a walk through the olive groves located on the property. Axel, my younger brother’s oldest boy, joined us. This kid is, as his mother has said, “a perfect example of what happens when 2 ‘type A’ people reproduce.” He is stubborn (which can only mean that he truly is a Bjork boy), but oh my what a heart this kid has. His energy and strong will undoubtedly will take him far.
On the evening of our first day Dad had a special treat for us. The care-takers of the villa, Donatella and Luciano (for reals – those names just SCREAM Italy), made us an authentic Italian meal.
It will go down in history as one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
But to be honest, having our entire family together was even better than the food.
Donatella was the perfect hostess.
Our first big outing was to Siena. I fell in love. What an AMAZING walled city. I really could have spent several days just walking through the streets, and hope some day that I’ll get a chance to go back. Of course our first stop was a gelato shop. The boys showed us how it’s done.
Since the day we knew we were going to Tuscany, all Greg wanted was some cured meat shaved right off the bone. He was like a kid in a candy shop here.
And of course what’s a trip to Italy without pizza? I’ll tell you what… painful. I’m gluten intolerant and watching everyone else eat pizza, bread, and pasta was sooooo hard. But there were plenty of other yummy non-gluten choices so I really can’t complain.
The streets if Siena. Some of the most beautiful architecture I’ve seen.
Even the details were incredible. Door knockers and horse-ties. I’m sure they all have a history to tell.
Soph and her cousin Abel. He is pure joy. Few things rattle this guy, and for the most part he walks through life with a smile on his face. Everyone could learn something from him.
The girls were of legal age to drink in Italy. It was strange to see them sharing a glass of wine with the “adults”… but they both were responsible about it. And to be honest, I don’t think they liked it much, just the idea of it.
Grandpa and Abel. <3
On one of the days the whole group ventured into Greve. Such a lovely town! Of course, another wonderful meal with some of my favorite people.
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I just love the buildings in Italy. I’d love to live in one of these apartments with the veranda overlooking the square.
We stopped in another meat and cheese shop. I wish I could make this blog post capable of scratch and sniff, because the smells were unreal. If you weren’t hungry going in, you’d be hungry leaving. This region is known for it’s wild boar, or cinghiale. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but it’s delicious.
Wine tasting. First one ever for Liv and Soph. Truth: Sophie spit most of hers out.
The family. The reason this trip was so amazing. It’s so rare anymore that we can get a family photo with everyone in it, and I’m so glad we did! My older brother and his wife and son live in Washington state, and my younger brother and his wife and three boys have lived in Scotland for the past couple of years. So being all together is the biggest treat.
These boys. They have my heart. I just met the little one, Aden, for the first time this trip. Those cheeks and eyes… I simply can’t get enough of him. He seemed to like it when I took photos of him, because he’d come over and give me kisses when I did. Every time I wanted to cry. All three have such distinct personalities and are wonderful in their own ways. I don’t just “love” them. My heart explodes with love for them. It pains me that they all live so far away!! But, maybe some day they’ll all be back in the USA. A girl can dream.
Florence. A stunning city brimming with history and art.
Viewing Florence with three small ones was pretty fun. I have to say I’m proud of Greg, who isn’t really a “kid” kind of guy but became fast friends with Abel.
Each way I turned was a breathtaking view… or a leather shop… Happy to say I supported their economy and am the proud owner of a GORGEOUS leather jacket. I had to, right??
The Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. Hands down one of the most impressive pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen. You can see it from every part of the city. Even the pigeons looked regal sitting on it.
Though the Duomo was impressive, I still found myself more fond of the homes and stores in the smaller towns. They just seemed to harken back to a more simple time.
How many seniors can say they had some of their senior portraits taken in Tuscany? My beautiful girl in a beautiful place.
My girls. I’m so glad they were able to have this experience together.
And the whole reason we’re here. There are no words big enough to describe my love for these two people. I will always be a daddy’s girl, and he married one of the most amazing women I’ve met. I used to think Dad was the smartest person on the planet. When he married Laura I realized he is the smartest MAN. She’s the smartest person (sorry Dad, true). And the most loving. I’m blessed to have them both in my life.
The girls are fans, too.
No caption needed. Photo says it all.
I saw some pretty incredible things this week. Big, beautiful buildings and breathtaking views. But truly this was my favorite spot of all. This is where we would convene each evening to have dinner together, no matter where our adventures took us. We laughed and cried, we told stories about the past and dreamed about our future. Memories were made right here at this table.
Thanks Dad & Laura for the best week ever.