• Boboli Gardens - Tuscan Countryside - Florence, Italy

  • Piazzele Michelangelo - Sunset Through the Storm - Florence, Italy-2

  • cropped-Ponte-Vecchio-at-Night-Florence-Italy.jpg

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If you haven’t heard, the heat in Florence has been unbearable. As I write this, we are on our 12th day of over 100 degree temps! This is not normal, but it is very uncomfortable. Remember that most apartments do not have air conditioning and it is very expensive to run. That being said, I have been looking for ways to keep cool, and a friend told me about this pool, just outside of Florence.
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The facility is a hotel called Villa Le Rondini and they allow public entrance for 17 euro weekdays and 20 euro weekends. You can get there by taking bus 25 from San Marco to the Bolognese 21 stop. Then it is just a 10 minute walk to get to the hotel office and pool.
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The facility has showers and changing rooms, and a small snack bar with reasonably priced things for snacks and lunches. We took our lunch but bought drinks there. The view of Florence is amazing and the property is lovely with olive trees and lots of flowers. There are plenty of chairs and tables, and shade and sun, so even though we went on a Saturday there was plenty of room.
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The facility is opened from 10-7 every day and reservations are not required. You can see more at their link here. Maybe I will see you there!

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I’m not quite sure when I will be able to get back to the Napa Valley, but one thing I am certain of is that when I do; I will stay at Christopher’s Inn. Christopher’s Inn is located in Calistoga, CA on the main highway, 1010 Foothill Blvd. It is the perfect place to be for visiting this area. Calistoga is a 2 minute walk, so once you’ve had enough time on the road, you can walk into the small town for shopping, spas, bars, and restaurants. The tree lined streets are lovely and some of the tasting rooms wonderful.
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The hotel feels like an oasis at the end of the day. When you enter the property it feels quiet and secluded, but is actually in the middle of everything. The room that we had was small, but had a fireplace (we didn’t get to use it) and a small terrace, which we did use. It was perfect for a few days stay.
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Every morning a nice breakfast was served in the main lobby area where you could eat inside or outside by the fountain. Christopher’s Inn is moderately priced for the area, and I can’t imagine staying anywhere else the next time I visit. Check out more details at their booking site here.
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After the wedding, my sister-in-law and I decided to take a trip to wine country! It was the perfect way to wrap up the trip! We drove from Oakland up to Calistoga, CA where we were staying and it took about 2 hours. Of course it was a wonderful and easy drive through the vineyards and all the small towns in the Napa Valley like St. Helena, Napa, Yountsville, and more.
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We loved staying in Calistoga. This small quaint town is famous for their spas which we managed to take advantage of. There are many options to choose from and all types of services. We were in total relax mode. It was nice to stay close to this little town where there are many tasting rooms, restaurants and bars within walking distance.
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We visited many wineries, trying not to repeat ones that we have been to in the past. We both have been together before and on other trips, so we have covered many of the most famous ones. Surprisingly, the tastings cost between 15-25 dollars now! I remember many years ago when most were free, and then the last time I went, there was a fee for some ($5,8,10) but nothing like now! Some of the tastings had 3 wines, and some had 6 or more. V. Sattui still has the best deal in my mind and is a place that I always go to since it’s my favorite. Apparently many others like it as well!
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In the mornings before we were ready for wine tasting, we did our spa services, and also visited the Old Faithful Geyser! This geyser is small, but goes off every 25-35 minutes. It is amazing. They have built a nice little park around it where you can picnic, and there is a petting farm full of different types of goats, which you can feed. I discovered that I am allergic to these animals since after feeding them I had watery swollen eyes for the rest of the day.
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We had some really wonderful wines and I even brought home a few bottles to do my one wine tasting using Pinot Noir and Cabernet with some of the Chianti’s, Sangiovese, and Morellino di Scansano. Not only was I surprised by the cost of the tastings, I was horrified by the cost of a bottle of wine! I definitely had a “You’re not in Kansas anymore”, moment when comparing California wine prices to Italian wine prices. Thankfully, even though I do enjoy some of the California wines, my palate prefers the Italian wines. Think of all the money I am saving on wine by living in Italy!
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Update! Here is a list of the wineries and wines that we visited and tasted. I liked all of them! Some more than others, but there was no ‘Spitting in the bucket” involved!

Tank
2013 Slow Tango – Chardonnay
2013 Las Californias – Tempranillo blend
2011 Where I Come From – Merlot blend
2012 The Heavy – Cabernet

Romeo
2013 Sauvignon Blanc
2012 Chardonnay

Envy
2013 Sauvignon Blanc
2014 Envy Rose
2012 Bee Bee’s Blend – Cabernet blend
2012 Envy Cabernet
2012 Fortuna Cabernet
2013 Petite Sirah

V. Sattui
2014 Sauvignon Blanc
2013 Chardonnay
2013 Dry Riesling
2012 Pinot Noir
2012 Entanglement
2012 Zinfindel
2012 Old Vines Zinfindel
2011 Cabernet
2011 Cabernet (Preston)
Madeira

Farmstead
Long Meadow
2014 Sauvignon Blanc
2013 Merlot
2011 Cabernet
Farmstead
2014 Chardonnay
2013 Pinot Noir
2011 Cabernet

Up Valley Vintners
Kenefick Ranch
2013 Pickett Road White
2013 Sauvignon Blanc
2011 Merlot
Tofanelli
2014 Semillon
2014 Rose
2012 Zinfandel
Hindsight
2013 Chardonnay
2012 20/20 Blend (Cabernet/Malbec)
Barlow
2010 Barrouge Cabernet

Merryvale
2013 Chardonnay
2012 Pinot Noir
2010 Cabernet
2012 Cabernet
2012 Malbec

Whitehall
2014 Sauvignon Blanc
2013 Chardonnay
2013 Pinot Noir
2013 Merlot
2012 Cabernet
2012 Leonardini Cabernet
2012 Belmuscato

Folie a Deux
Chardonnay
Merlot
Zinfandel
Cabernet
Napa Cellars
Sauvignon Blanc
Pinot Noir
Zinfandel
Cabernet