Aaron is incredibly fortunate to have three best friends (Ben, Mike D. and Mike R.) whom he has known since they were 12. They went to high school together, Ben and Aaron then went on to college together, and to this day the four of them get together once a year for "Guys' Weekend," even though none of them live in the same city (Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Atlanta). What's even better is that all four of the wives get along well, too. The eight of us have done several trips together over the years, and in 2010 for Mike R. & Tracy's 15th wedding anniversary, we went to Tuscany. Sadly, Mike D.'s wife Amy couldn't go due to impending back surgery, but we also had three other couples with us, for a total of 13 travelers. We rented a villa and a second house outside of Lucca.
Here's where I must give a plug. When we were there, James was the villa's owner and he told us about the history of the area, gave us great suggestions for restaurants and sight-seeing, arranged for an on-site cooking class for us and a pizza party using the built in outdoor pizza oven at the villa! (You'll see these adventures in later posts.) James is now coordinating rentals in other parts of Tuscany as well. I highly recommend going to his site http://www.dowhatyouloveinitaly.com/ if you are thinking of a trip to Tuscany.
There is no way I could do our whole trip to Italy in one blog post, so here's #1, which is our first couple days. First, Aaron and I flew from Columbus to Washington, DC (Dulles) and had a six hour layover before flying to Rome. Aaron is a huge airplane geek so he specifically booked our flights so that he could fly on a 777, and during the layover he went to the Air & Space Museum.
I, however, got a pedicure and some ghetto fabulous flip flops because my other shoes were already giving me blisters. You can't fully appreciate the bling on these from the picture, but trust me, they were stylin'. (They were also all I could find in the airport.)
We arrived in Rome on Saturday morning and met up with another couple, Tim & Kim, and got on a train to Lucca by way of Florence. The rest of the gang had rented cars and one of those cars plus a taxi got us to our destination, Villa Aquilea (it was only a slightly frightening trip).
Here are some exterior shots of the villa as well as views from it:
This place was just stunning. And yes, it had a pool.
The first night we dined al fresco, but later in the week we ate at the dining room table, which easily fit all 13 of us and could have extended even more.
On Sunday we hiked farther up the mountain to Castellaccio, the ruins of a church which also served as the site of a battle during WWII.
Bottom left is our whole gang, bottom middle shows the four lifelong friends:
Mike D, Mike R, Ben and Aaron.
That evening we walked to a local, non-touristy pizzeria:
Clockwise from top left: The pizzas took a while but were well worth the wait. Aaron digs in. Aaron goes behind the counter with the staff. A group of young locals were there at the same time so we took their picture. Then they took ours. And finally, a picture of both groups together. The poor staff!
Aaron and me on the hike
Our post-hike snack near the pool.
This is one of my favorite pictures ever.
Stay tuned for more posts about this trip, which will include Lucca, Florence, Cinque Terre and Rome!