Italy in 2011 was perfectly suited to our tastes. Good food, mushroom hunting, festivals, art, theatre, and cute Italian men were all in abundance.
For more photos from the summer of 2011, click HERE. To see more recent photos from our 2012 trip to Tuscany, click HERE.
Click HERE for photos of 2010's summer in San Francisco and HERE for our trip to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.
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We stayed in a wonderful mountain cottage with spectacular views, owls, shooting stars, and sunsets.
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Our first day trip was to seaside Vareggio, but the main treat of the day was the polenta and porcini festival that evening.
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Nick needs more practice with the camera. He keeps getting other people in the frame by mistake.
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We returned to Puccini's lakeside home the second week to see a production of Madama Butterfly.
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In Lucca, we climbed the tree-topped Torre Guinigi and tasted our first lardo at lunchtime. Better were the panfortini bites.
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The view from Torre Guinigi and, later, the Devil's Bridge
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This medieval bridge was okayed by the devil in exchange for the first soul to cross it. The locals sent a dog.
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Barga is supposedly the "most Scottish" town in Italy.
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I think we saw some caves that day.
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Our tour guide spoke perfect English and made the comment above after turning off the lights at the top of a steep tunnel.
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With food, you win some and lose some. The unexpected samples of porchetta and stuffed zucchini flowers were sublime. The evening of never-ending fish courses at Da Nara, near our cottage, was more difficult. We had to leave before the main course, mainly because we were so full.
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Our guide to "Secret Florence" told us to look out for the "Angel of Sodomy" by the main entrance. So called because of the arm gesture, I feel.
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Booking tickets to see the truly awesome David allowed us to skip the long queue and enjoy the work of a genius for as long as we liked.
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On the Ponte Vecchio
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For other images of Bocca della Verita shenanigans, click HERE.
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The plaster museum in Coreglia Antelminelli was a good insight into the lives of the emigrant artists who travelled the world selling their statues.
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The local medieval festival was a trip highlight. There were different food courses served at different locations throughout the town. We marvelled at a little girl who happily ate her friend's lardo. The main course was grilled meats and dessert was probably the tastiest.
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A quick in and out of Pisa still allowed us to see the famous sights.
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The main town of Montecatini Terme was a bit of a pensioners' tourist trap, but we enjoyed the old spa and Montecatini Alto, reached by funicular.
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That's Busoni's house, above, and a replica of a wild boar sculpture we saw in Florence where coins inserted into mouth are de rigueur.
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As our guidebook recommends, we stayed overnight in San Gimignano to see the town at its best. The Osteria del Carcere was a wonderful find and its deceptively simple terrines, porcini crostini, plate of meats and cheeses, dessert platter, and delicious wines were excellent.
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We got a 39 Euro parking ticket in Volterra, but the Etruscan art and New Moon film locations made it all worthwhile.
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Our entry into the visitors' book at our cottage and an evening in Torre del Lago, where we saw the opera.
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Juliet's balcony was impressive, if the nearby graffiti is overlooked. We particularly enjoyed eating at Osteria Casa Vino and visiting the Cartier-Bresson exhibition.
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Our trip to Italy drew to a close, but with the knowledge that we would soon be back in Venice in October.

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