Juli had been in Rome for about five minutes before we threw her on a train to Florence for our first day trip of her visit. The Tuscan capital would be a return trip for everyone but an overdue return for Juli who had studied here in university. The weekend was a casual, warm weather, tour of the city's best art, food, and markets. All while keeping with the "la dolce vita" vibe here in Italy. We made sure to slow our pace in the local piazzas and cafes while soaking up the sun and culture. Visits to the Boboli Gardens, Duomo, and the Uffici revealed just how much of art history started here and how many influential artists called this home. No trip to Florence (or anywhere in Italy) would be complete without an outstanding dining experience. L'osteria Di Giovanni served us one of the best meals we've had in Italy and easily the biggest. A kilo of Steak Florentina with all the fixings, duck (maybe rabbit), pasta, dessert, coffee, wine, grappa and fantastic company made three hours feel like a blur.
After Juli and Ivy spent the next couple of days in Rome touring the sites and visiting Ivy's neighborhood and campus we headed south for Caiazzo. A small town, home to the world's best pizza. No Joke! Franco Pepe opened the world-famous Pepe in Granni with the intent that all the ingredients used in his recipes would come from local products and growers. Not only is the food fresh and outstanding but the chef is one of the kindest Italians I've met, Pepe makes every effort to welcome his guests with a handshake introduction to start their experience at his restaurant. During our introduction, we asked the chef if he would recommend a pizza to us that night and he offered to do better and personally choose all our pizzas for the evening. He didn't disappoint. The pizzas were off the charts. At some point, we realized we had to resist the urge to keep taste every pizza and asked the servers to stop bringing them. I thought the guy was going to cry when we told him we had had our fill. The buzz of delicious food had taken over and luckily we stopped before someone would have to carry us to our room above the restaurant. Somehow we woke from our food comas the next morning and drove out to the coast for a wine tasting lunch at a local winery. Villa Matilde served fantastic seasonal local dishes paired with the perfect wine to enhance every bite. This quick overnight road trip turned into yet another culinary experience for the books. Thanks for the memories ladies!!!