Day four in Lucca: wine tour and massage!

As I sat down to write this I received a text from my son Colin asking me if I was looking at real estate. I figured he must have been reading my blog about interrogating Stephano our driver about real estate in Lucca. Apparently, he had not been reading it, he just knew his mother and her love of Italy, homes, and 

 This is the view from our backyard. If you look in the center of the photo you will see a big estate at the top of the hill. That is a winery! 

This is the view from our backyard. If you look in the center of the photo you will see a big estate at the top of the hill. That is a winery! 

 We took a long walk down our very windy mountain road down to the Vineyard. 

We took a long walk down our very windy mountain road down to the Vineyard. 

 This home is the former home of the Duchess of Lucca. She and the Duke had three large estates, this one was hers and is feminine in decor and style.

This home is the former home of the Duchess of Lucca. She and the Duke had three large estates, this one was hers and is feminine in decor and style.

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 Details of this gorgeous flower wreath.

Details of this gorgeous flower wreath.

 Since I know some of Kari's family is following this blog.... I thought you might get a kick out of this. While our lovely tour guide was telling us all about the vineyard, I looked over to find a certain someone sneaking peaks into the beautiful garden building. I have been joking about Lucy and Ethel go to Italy. Here is Lucy taking a little peekaboo in the part we were not allowed in. 

Since I know some of Kari's family is following this blog.... I thought you might get a kick out of this. While our lovely tour guide was telling us all about the vineyard, I looked over to find a certain someone sneaking peaks into the beautiful garden building. I have been joking about Lucy and Ethel go to Italy. Here is Lucy taking a little peekaboo in the part we were not allowed in. 

 And then I watched Lucy saunter over and check out the door!! It was locked but I learned she's been trying to get in here for two years!!! (BiG LAUGH)

And then I watched Lucy saunter over and check out the door!! It was locked but I learned she's been trying to get in here for two years!!! (BiG LAUGH)

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 The general consensus of everyone in the group was that wine by Mother Teresa was very good and we all bought some to bring back to our villa. I also purchased Olive Oil and honey from the vineyard to bring home to Vermont.

The general consensus of everyone in the group was that wine by Mother Teresa was very good and we all bought some to bring back to our villa. I also purchased Olive Oil and honey from the vineyard to bring home to Vermont.

My day ended with an AMAZING massage back here at the Villa. A great day!!

 

An evening in Pietrasanta

On Sunday evening our group divided into two groups depending on their interest. Some went into Lucca to see opera singers perform Puccini arias and some of us went to Pietrasanta. I love the opera and would have been happy to have attended but I didn't want to miss my chance to visit another Tuscan village.  I sat in the front seat with the driver on this gorgeous drive and interrogated him about real estate prices in Lucca...because well of course, I want to live here. :) I keep hearing from other people on instagram that they have American friends here in Lucca and I have heard there is another Vermonter here. How funny is that....that I am up in an old estate in the mountains and I've heard there is a Vermonter down in the valley?! Wouldn't it be funny if they heard there was some Vermonty "traveling stitcher" doing yoga up in the mountains?! :) 

Pietrasanta was an amazing experience. It's a small, very manageable town with lovely things to walk around and look at. There are many charming outdoor dining opportunities and very few tourists. In fact, there was not one other person besides my friends that I recognized as being American tourists. 

 In the early evening the restaurants begin to set up in the street, locals are walking their dogs and shop girls are waiting for diners to visit their stores.

In the early evening the restaurants begin to set up in the street, locals are walking their dogs and shop girls are waiting for diners to visit their stores.

Savonn our yogi extraordinaire and leader of our trip lead the way.  When we arrived she helped us get our bearings and we located the restaurant we would meet at later in the evening. This way we could all explore. We started together and then broke off into our own journeys.

Our first spot we visited was the square which had it's annual sculpture event in front of the sculpture museum. The museum is located in an old Catholic Church and really quite amazing. The wear and tear and well aged structure is absolutely breathtaking with a classic old Italian patina, in the church is more modern paintings and sculpture. The juxtaposition is sublime.

 Apparently there is a yoga theme all over Tuscany! Loved this happy dancing sculpture!

Apparently there is a yoga theme all over Tuscany! Loved this happy dancing sculpture!

 Sitting atop the marble steps leading into the sculpture museum church is this beauty.

Sitting atop the marble steps leading into the sculpture museum church is this beauty.

 Lisa takes in this magnificent site...and sight.

Lisa takes in this magnificent site...and sight.

 A modern marble sculpture of a mother nursing her baby surrounded by antique paintings of Madonna and her baby really captures you.

A modern marble sculpture of a mother nursing her baby surrounded by antique paintings of Madonna and her baby really captures you.

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 My dinner companions minus one after an amazing Italian dinner at Pinocchios.

My dinner companions minus one after an amazing Italian dinner at Pinocchios.

Smart things

Some of the smartest things I have done have been just rushed gut decisions. When my friend Kari asked me if I wanted to attend a yoga retreat she was going to and helping teach in Lucca, Italy  I just said "yes!!" without too much thought.  I love Italy and about 14 years ago I owned a yoga studio, it seemed like the perfect time to jump back in. My decision was simple....of course I wanted to go. I didn't put much thought into it over the last couple of months other than to contemplate the fact that I was completely out of shape. That was really my only thought. I didn't image where we would be or what our days would be like. I didn't think about what we would do or what Lucca would look like and I didn't think about the people that would be here. I'm a mom, I thought about leaving my family and preparing my business for my family to run while I was gone. 

I flew here overnight and didn't sleep on the plane so I was exhausted when I arrived. Which made the arrival that much more fun....numbness changed into pure bliss rather quickly.

 Our neighbors home we view from our pooled terrace.

Our neighbors home we view from our pooled terrace.

We were driven up gorgeous steep and curvy roads that wove through beautiful stately homes in the mountains, up and and up higher and higher until we reached our destination. Our retreat is being held in a gorgeous mountain top villa that dates back to the 1500s. 

 My bedroom is the one window above the trellis.

My bedroom is the one window above the trellis.

The estate has several guest houses with a patio and pool and gorgeous view. This is our entrance from the street. There are 10 students, 2 teachers, and an amazing staff of helpers and cooks. I hear that the masseuse is amazing but I won't meet her until Tuesday. We each have our own perfectly appointed bedroom. Some have private baths, some have shared baths. We have a large outside dining table by the pool and a lovely common room and yoga studio. There is also a steam room and laundry facilities available for use. Our vegetarian meals are made for us and are magnificent. 

 Kari and Lisa on our first evening

Kari and Lisa on our first evening

 Kari getting reacquainted with her old friend Oliver

Kari getting reacquainted with her old friend Oliver

Our first evening we had a yoga class before dinner.  It was restorative yoga and a wonderful way for all of the weary travelers to stretch out those muscles which had been jammed into airline seats and carrying heavy baggage.

Our dinner last night was a homemade vegetarian lasagna, Italian bread, salad, several vegetable side dishes and a gorgeous mixed cheese platter with dried fruit and walnuts for dessert. There is a glorious bowl of a variety of ripe wonderful seasonal fruits and tea and coffee fixings available to us at all times. There is a knife and cutting board near the fruit bowl. This easy and clever idea encourages us to dig into the fabulous fruit. The apricots are out of this world!

I slept like a rock last night in my lovely simple Italian bedroom. When my alarm went off at 7 am this morning I wondered, where it was I had to be. Wasn't I happily surprised when I remembered....yoga class in Tuscany!

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This morning's weather was outstanding. Warm and sunny. This is a view from our dining table. After another fabulous yoga class this morning we sat down to a homemade breakfast and fresh pressed juice. Kari brought us up to speed on our exciting schedule for the week and encouraged us all to sign up for massages. (I have learned to always take Kari's advice! That's what got me here!)

The morning was spent by all relaxing and having fun by the pool. I brought special Italian inspired paquets for the group and taught everyone who was interested how to needlepoint this morning under the Tuscan sun. It was great fun!! Two other students brought their gorgeous glass beads they make in Portland, Oregon and all had a lot of fun making necklaces. Many of us swam in this fantastic pool and some went off to play golf in Tuscany! 

This evening we all got to choose activities from Opera in Lucca to a road trip to another village. More on that tomorrow.  

Buona Notte!

 

Self confessed packing dork's best laid plans fall through

I confess to being a huge packing dork. I love photography and usually travel with a laptop and camera equipment, I also never leave home for the night without my pillow. Thus before I have started packing clothes, I have a weight and space I am already using. I am constantly trying to pack just the right amount things, I'm not into carting a lot of extra stuff around with me. I have also learned that hotel laundry can be the best traveling tip of all. Imagine carrying half the stuff, having someone wash and iron your clothes better than you do, and having clean laundry on the trip rather than carrying dirty laundry around. (Thank you Viking ships for convincing me this is the way to go.) My husband and I have also found that in many hotels it is also not as expensive as you might guess.

I type this on a flight to Italy. I will be traveling throughout Tuscany and Switzerland for three weeks and I have spent a great deal of time preparing. I have prepared coverage for my business, my home, and my family (not in that order!) . I was very thoughtful about what I brought and what my strategy would be. Don't be fooled, I am only this thoughtful about things I really am interested in. My entire life is not this organized. At all! 

I decided that I didn't want to check a bag. I have now been on two European trips when other guests have had their luggage not arrive. I knew I was going to be out in the Tuscan countryside and a lost bag might never find me. 

I purchased the correct size International carry on from my go to favorite luggage shop Tumi. I am super lucky to live a short distance away from a Tumi outlet and always get good prices on their luggage. I was assured that this size was allowed on every International airline. (forshadowing....)

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My number one strategy for not packing much is to pack in a different room than my bedroom. I packed in the guest room of Starlight Farm. By being a distance from my bedroom closest I am less tempted to throw "just in case" items into my bag.

 

My packing list was very small. I widdled and widdled it down and down and down until I got to the bare minimum. I also selected a wardrobe in 3 colors that all go together. Almost everything I packed is either white, a cream or taupe color, or blue. This way every single thing in my bag matches.

 

My minimalist packing wardrobe for 3 weeks in Europe in the summer (including hiking and a yoga retreat is as follows.)

2 dresses- one dressy/one casual

3 pairs of pants - white, funky wide leg khaki, and cream colored jeans

5 sleeveless nice blouses

2 lightweight cashmere cartigans in white and beige and 2 short sleeve sweaters

2 scarves

2 wraps- one a fabulous blue and one raspberry

underwear and 2 pairs of socks

a bathing suit

yoga/hiking attire = 2 yoga pants 4 T shirts

2 hats - one for the beach - one for hiking

pjs- one for the retreat, one for romantic getaway

a rain coat

3 pairs of shoes (This was the hardest part for me!) 1 hiking shoes, 1 Toms, 1 sneakers (I learned my lesson during a torrential downpour a few years ago in Sienna when I got caught in patten leather ballet flats. Always have a pair of crummy sneakers for crummy days.)

After rearranging my suitcase from packing in pouches to rolling every item, I was able to add one more set of PJs and a bathrobe which I think I will be glad I have at the retreat. Note to self: having packed the same suitcase with the same clothes in both styles, it was evident to me that rolling really does give you a little more room.

On the plane I wore a linen button down, jeans, sandals, and matching belt that goes with all outfits and a bigger comfy cardigan. All of these items match what's packed in the suitcase. I do not travel with any good jewelry. I worry about it too much and I don’t want to call attention to myself. I have a few pieces of costume fun stuff from the J Crew outlet thrown in my bag for color.

My compromise was to have my husband bring my favorite phython Ferragamo's in his suitcase after the retreat. You know, in case George and Amal invite us over for cocktails when we are in Lake Como. :)

Cords, chargers, etc are with me and the beloved pillow in my carryon "personal item". :) My toiletry baggy has multiple sample sizes of my favorite products. The containers can be disposed of as we go. I have had to buy toiletries on too many trips and it's not as easy as you may think. I also find I don’t want to waste time away from beautiful sights in search of saline solution.

Fast forward.... today I arrived at JFK and turns out I was on an Alitalia flight run by Delta not the Delta flight I thought I was on........Anywho... the woman at the ticket counter flat out refused to let me take my little roller bag on the plane. AFTER ALL OF THAT!!! ALL OF THAT WORK AND BUYING THE SUITCASE. Turns out the damn thing was TOO HEAVY to be allowed on. Have you ever heard of this? I have not. I have never had anyone weigh my carryon! I'm doubtful that this is a real rule as most of my co-passengers have roller bags above their heads!! 

Here's to hoping my little minimalist natural wardrobe arrives in Florence!! 

The good news is when we are in Switzerland we are changing locations every two days and traveling by the train. I will still be thrilled to have that little bag. :)