1
Buckhurst Hill

Mom arrived on August 28th to London to get ready for our walking tour through Southern Tuscany. We have talked about a hiking adventure in Europe for some time but for various reasons it had been delayed. Now after months of training she is ready to stroll the Tuscan hills.

We had a few days to play around England before we headed off on our adventure. First we did a 5 mile walk though Epping Forest and enjoyed looking through Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge (finally) and Conaunt Water pond.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge is a Grade II listed former hunting lodge, on the edge of Epping Forest, at 8 Rangers Road, Chingford, London in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, near Greater London's boundary with Essex.

In 1542, Henry VIII commissioned the building, then known as Great Standing, from which to view the deer chase at Chingford; it was completed in 1543. The building was renovated in 1589 for Queen Elizabeth I

Then the following day we headed off to Canterbury. Explored Saint Augustine’s Abby and then toured Canterbury Cathedral.

St Augustine's Abbey was a Benedictine monastery in Canterbury, Kent, England. The abbey was founded in 598 and functioned as a monastery until its dissolution in 1538 during the English Reformation. After the abbey's dissolution, it underwent dismantlement until 1848. Since 1848, part of the site has been used for educational purposes and the abbey ruins have been preserved for their historical value.

Our lunch stop - \240The Shakespeare Pub (no connection what-so-ever to Shakespeare)

Canterbury Cathedral

Founded in 597, the cathedral was completely rebuilt between 1070 and 1077. The east end was greatly enlarged at the beginning of the 12th century, and largely rebuilt in the Gothic style following a fire in 1174, with significant eastward extensions to accommodate the flow of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket, the archbishop who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170. The Norman nave and transepts survived until the late 14th century, when they were demolished to make way for the present structures. Before the English Reformation the cathedral was part of a Benedictine monastic community known as Christ Church, Canterbury, as well as being the seat of the archbishop.

Tomb of King Henery IV of England

The crypt

Even song choir practice

Our final outing before our big stroll was Portabello Road Market followed by a show at the Globe Theatre “as you like it”

Globe Theatre

Millennium Bridge

St. Paul’s

2
Al Mercato B & B

Today we made our way from London to Florence, then took a train to Siena where we will be spending the next two nights before we begin our hike of the Tuscan countryside.

Travel was uneventful and when we arrived in Siena I gave mom two choices, taxi or walk? She choose the 30 minute walk through the city walls. \240Rather too late we realized the enormity of the escalator system to get to the city centre. Launched in 2011, through a path of 283 meters and going beyond a gap of 62 meters, it connects the train station with the “Antiporto” area. This escalator has a maximum load of 6 thousand people per hour. Yikes (we did come across one section that was broken🥴)

We only had to stop once for some refreshments so that we could keep going😋 after the escalator drama.

After we settled into our accommodation, Al Mercato B&B we set off to find an early dinner. Our host recommended a restaurant on Piazza del Campo so that was our destination. We sampled the first of many pizzas and mom tried the linguini with clams.

Yum!

Dinner was then followed up with a quick video call with dad so that he could check out the Piazza.

We strolled around a little and came to the Duomo, we will investigate this more tomorrow when we are rested.

Siena Cathedral (Italian: Duomo di Siena) is a medieval church in Siena, Italy, dedicated from its earliest days as a Roman Catholic Marian church, and now dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.

The cathedral itself was originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure. It has the form of a Latin cross with a slightly projecting transept, a dome and a bell tower. The dome rises from a hexagonal base with supporting columns. The lantern atop the dome was added by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The nave is separated from the two aisles by semicircular arches. The exterior and interior are constructed of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, with addition of red marble on the façade. Black and white are the symbolic colors of Siena, etiologically linked to black and white horses of the legendary city's founders, Senius and Aschius.

Absolutely magnificent!

Second treat of the day......we are stocking up for our walk in a couple of days 😋. \240 (They look much bigger than they are) REALLY

Piazza del Campo

Hiding from the thunder storm that came through

Our street, now off to bed to rest up for sightseeing around Siena tomorrow

3
Piazza del Campo

This morning started off with a nice run around Siena. Caught the morning sunrise over the city

Piazza del Campo: All roads in Siena lead to the iconic Piazza del Campo, a vast central square shaped like a large concave clamshell.  The square’s name Il Campo (the field) comes from the centuries it was an open field outside of the original Etruscan city center called Castelvecchio.  In 1169 the city of Siena bought the land from the nearby Church of San Paolo then started hosting Medieval festivals and markets in the field.  Over the next 130 years commerce boomed, and Siena expanded over three hilltops creating the need for a new civic center with Il Campo as the obvious choice.  Thanks to careful planning by the city’s Council of Nine government, the wondrous new central Piazza del Campo opened to the public in 1310

At a whopping 500 feet wide with ten entrances from all directions, Piazza del Campo was a huge public space for Medieval times and is still impressive today.  The massive square was considered neutral ground between the three hills of Siena and a space independent of both the ecclesiastical (church) and imperial power.  The local government was even okay with large public gatherings in Piazza del Campo which was a freedom that other Medieval rulers would never have allowed.  This shared trust was significant as early day Siena had as many 59 neighborhoods called contrade (now 17) and needed a common bond.  Run as an oligarchy, much of the city council’s power came by gaining devotion from the citizens through the promise of prosperity.

Torre del Mangia: Built onto the side of Palazzo Pubblico from 1325 to 1348, the most dominant feature of Siena’s skyline is the iconic brick Tower of the Eater (Torre del Mangia).  When the tower was completed, it was the tallest structure in all of Italy at 289 feet (330 feet if you included the lightning rod).  The impressive Torre del Mangia is still the 3rd tallest Medieval tower in Italy after the Torrazzo Cremona Cathedral’s Bell Tower (367 ft) and Bologna Asinelli’s Tower (318 ft).  The curious nickname Tower of the Eater comes from the first bell ringer (Giovanni di Balduccio) who was said to be lazy, have a big appetite, and therefore was an eater-of-the-profits.

Had to revisit the Duomo again and explore other areas of the church. The Western facing front of the Duomo wasn’t always meant to be the main entrance to the church.  In 1339, at the height of Siena’s economic power, they started to expand the structure into the New Cathedral (Duomo Nuovo) which would have been the largest Christian church in the world.  The New Cathedral had to be abandoned after two-thirds of the city’s population died in the Plague of 1348

Then there was time for some shopping

Not so good pizza today😕

Oh but the drinks are amazing. \240(Aperol Spritzer). Very popular in Tuscany - of course that’s why I had to try it😋

This afternoon I decided to climb the tower in Piazza del Campo. These photos below show a great overview of the walled city of Siena. I will spare you the video I took of all the 400 steps it took to get to the top.

After dinner we strolled around the Piazza once more before we head out tomorrow for our walk through Tuscany.

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Fattoria Pieve a Salti

Day 1 - Monte Oliveto to Pieve a Salti (Buonconvento) 11 km - actually 7 miles

Today begins the start of our adventure though Southern Tuscany. We were both itching to travel on from Siena. We were picked up by taxi from Al Mercato B&B at 10am and driven to Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore to the start of our trek!

The Abbey was founded in 1313 by Sienese Bernardo Tolomei who retired in this isolated place, property of his family, after he converted to Benedictine order. Some years later he began the construction of the Abbey. The structure as you see it today has been completed during the following centuries.

The real attraction of the Abbey are definitely the frescoes of the great cloister. There are 35 frescoes which cover the entire surface of the four sides of the cloister and depict the life of St. Benedict. First artist who started this enormous work was Luca Signorelli in 1497-1498 and then Antonio Bazzi, called Sodoma, who continued the paintings after 1505. The incredibly vivid colours and many details of the paintings give a fascinating view of the life and of the landscape of the time. These frescoes are justly considered masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.

After visiting the Abbey we were off. The weather was clear and sunny with a nice breeze to keep it comfortable.

Gorgeous Cacti

The first village we came to was Chiusure, there were two restaurants we could have stopped at but not being that hungry we carried on.

Not sure what I’m doing here but mom was quick with the camera to capture the moment.

We will be working on our selfies throughout this trip, definitely needs improvement 😋

Chiusure from across the valley we just walked

Came across some ruins, not that old but interesting. Had some snacks and cooled off in the shade for a short break

Selfies getting slightly better....

Last couple of miles to go, a very steep decent but unfortunately when you go down in Tuscany you alway have to climb back up. This was the case and the final climb was tough. As I was navigating via the written directions it stated that we check in to Pieve a Salti (restaurant) and then continue on for another 1.5k to our accommodation. Fortunately our room was at the first stop. WooHoo......

The reward was a dip in the pool and then dinner.

Just a little refreshment🤫

Our route for Day 1

REALLY 😉

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Hotel Vecchia Oliviera Sas

Day 2 Pieve a Salti (Buonconvento) to Montalcino (17 km - actually 11.45 miles)

Today we got an earlier start since we headed out directly from our accommodation. Breakfast at 8 am, hit the trail by 8:45. The day started cool but the sun was already making its presence known.

The Tuscan landscape did not disappoint

Great big Oak which was a directional indicator in our written directions (turn left at the big Oak🙂) hard to miss this one.

Some rose hips with Montalcino in the background (our final destination) yes that is a big hill

Below is our rest / lunch spot. We found some shade. We had received packed lunches today and enjoyed the sandwiches and cake provided.

Getting closer to wine country

Getting the fields ready to plant in the Spring

Montalcino is a hill town and comune in the province of Siena, Tuscany, central Italy. It is known for its Brunello di Montalcino wine. It is located in the territory northwest of Mount Amiata, at the end of the val d'Orcia,on the administrative border with the province of Grosseto.

So the key word here is hill top. At the end of a long hike you have a massive climb up to the village. It was hard but we managed with rest stops along the way.

Gate through the city wall......made it up that massive hill. \240 Yikes!

The main square of Montalcino is Piazza del Popolo. The main building of the square is the municipal palace, also called the Palace of Priors (late 13th century early 14th century). The palace is adorned with the heraldic coats of arms of the many powers that have ruled the city over the centuries. A tower is built into the palace.

This is what that hill did to my mom😳

It’s never as bad as it looks....(REALLY🤭)

Actually about an hour later we were shopping in the town center and had an lovely dinner with lots of wine 🍷

(I was considering trying the tartare, until Michelle reminded me of the beautiful white cows we saw earlier)

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Abbey of Sant'Antimo

Day 3 Montalcino to Sant’ Antimo (11 km - actually 8 miles)

Today began very sunny, our route took us through the vineyards around Montalcino onto the plateau land above the Villa a Tolli

This is one of the many gates that lead out of the city of Montalcino. We will be returning here later after our day hike.

We finally came across an abandoned house with a huge fig tree, they were ripe😋 so we fueled up on a few.

Then as we were coming out of the woods a cat ran up and started hanging with us. After about 1/2 mile we started to worry he would not go home, \240but soon enough a car came up and stopped for the cat. I promptly pick him up and handed him over to the driver. Apparently he does this often.......

No lost kitties today

Villa a Tolli is an ancient Hamlet of Etruscan origin, with an high historical value, architectural and landscape situated in the heart of Brunello. Dating from 1200, it's on the Roman road leading the north of Tuscany to the Abbey of Sant'Antimo and Montalcino.

Cistercian Abbey of Sant’ Antimo in its valley setting.

Abbazia di Sant'Antimo, is a former Benedictine monastery in the comune of Montalcino, Tuscany, central Italy. It is approximately 10 km from Montalcino about 9 km from the Via Francigena, the pilgrim route to Rome. After many years of disuse, the abbey was reoccupied in 1992 by a small community of Premonstratensian Canons Regular. Since January 2016, the occupants are a community of monks of the Olivetan Benedictine order.

After a quick lunch we promptly made our way to the bus stop for a ride back to Montalcino. There was no way we were walking back up that hill we did yesterday😏

Mom found a nice seat to wait for the bus

Very very happy not to be walking

Our 1st reward, Day 3 completed

After we cleaned up, yup you guessed it we went for a walk around town. Found some markets and then found a dinner place that served food before 7pm.

The first walls of the town were built in the 13th century. The fortress, built in 1361 atop the highest point of the town, was designed with a pentagonal layout. Though the town itself was eventually conquered, the fortress itself never submitted, an admirable feat, considering the size of the Sienese and Florentine forces that besieged Montalcino at varying intervals.

No idea what this look is all about 🙃

Moms Riserva Brunello Wine - reward #2

(Someone has to do the research)

This is the view from our room below

Yikes!

Here is a little bit of history about Montalcino

The hill upon which Montalcino sits has probably been settled since Etruscan times. Its first mention in historical documents in 814 AD suggests there was a church here in the 9th century, most likely built by monks associated with the nearby Abbey of Sant'Antimo. The population grew suddenly in the middle of the tenth century, when people fleeing the nearby town of Roselle took up residence in the town.

The town takes its name from a variety of oak tree that once covered the terrain. The very high site of the town offers stunning views over the Asso, Ombrone and Arbia valleys of Tuscany, dotted with silvery olive orchards, vineyards, fields and villages. The lower slopes of the Montalcino hill itself are dominated by highly productive vines and olive orchards.

During medieval times the city was known for its tanneries and for the shoes and other leather goods that were made from the high-quality leathers that were produced there. As time went by, many medieval hill towns, including Montalcino, went into serious economic decline.

In the case of Montalcino, gradual economic decline has recently been reversed by economic growth due to the increasing popularity of the town's famous wine Brunello di Montalcino, made from the sangiovese grosso grapes grown within the comune. The number of producers of the wine has grown from only 11 in the 1960s to more than 200 today, producing some 330,000 cases of the Brunello wine annually. Brunello was the first wine to be awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status. In addition to Brunello di Montalcino, which must be aged five years prior to release, 6 years for the Riserva, Rosso di Montalcino (DOC), made from sangiovese grosso grapes and aged one year, and a variety of Super Tuscan wines are also produced within the comune, as well as the Moscadello sweet white wines for which it was most famous until the development of the Brunello series.

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La Locanda del Loggiato

Day 4 - Montalcino to Bagno Vignoni (19 km - actually 13.54 miles)

This morning we awoke to a magnificent sunrise with a complete undercast sky under the village of Montalcino. We had a nice breakfast and then we were off on our longest walking day of the entire trip.

Exiting Montalcino through the Porta

So mom really wanted to sample the local grapes....but alas there are always fences in the way. She finally found a careless farmer without any fences😋

Very sweet and tasty grapes that makes Italy’s most famous wine, a few might have been selectively sampled🤫

Our one and only ford crossing, it is so dry that most of the streams are dried up, this stream was still barely holding on to some of its water. The farmer who owns this land kindly placed these walking stones for on the foot walkers, and his payment was a wheel of cheese.

Mom found the vine-covered bench (she was trying to hide from the rest of the walk and me I think?) so nice and cool in there

Ripa d’Orcia

I finally found a fountain, last time I was in Umbria they were everywhere, \240Tuscany- not so much

Found a terraced stream coming from a volcanic aquifer that gave off a slightly sulphurous smell as we were getting closer to Bagno Vignoni

The ancient village of Bagno Vignoni is located in the heart of Tuscany, in the Val d'Orcia Natural Park. Thanks to the Via Francigena (which was the main route followed by pilgrims in antiquity who went to Rome), these thermal waters were found and have been used since Roman times. At the heart of the village is the "Square of sources", namely a rectangular tank, of sixteenth-century origin, which contains the original source of water that comes from the subterranean aquifer of volcanic origins. Since the Etruscans and Romans - as evidenced by the numerous archaeological finds - the spa of Bagno Vignoni was attended by eminent personalities such as Pope Pius II, Saint Catherine of Siena, Lorenzo the Magnificent and many other artists who had elected the village as their main holiday resort.

Lovely natural spring pool in the center of town (Not for swimming)

Our B&B below

Today was a very hard day, we made it and then had a lovely dinner in an enchanting town. This is a challenging walk and mom is doing fantastic even with the sore feet. Two more walking days to go!

At times I think she is going to disown me for making her do this..........

Heehaw (Mom) To explain this comment, as I traveled on this Tuscany trek, I have encountered donkeys making their comments. I have begun to agree verbally as I approach the difficult climbs approaching the hill top towns)

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Relais Il Chiostro di Pienza

The penultimate Day 5 of our southern Tuscany walk. Bagno Vignoni to Pienza (14 km - actually 9.83 miles)

What a lovely town Bagno Vignoni was, amazing geology and so Italian in every regard. We started out a little late due to our B&B serving breakfast slightly later. Today is shorter than yesterday though there are two tough climbs. One at the beginning and one (of course) at the end. Those hill top towns seem to always have a hill at the end of the day.

First town we pasted through was San Quirico d’ Orcia.

San Quirico d'Orcia is a comune (municipality) of about 2,500 inhabitants in the Province of Siena in the Italian region Tuscany. It is named in honor of Saint Quiricus.

Above is a historic well

Collegiate church of San Quirico

Once a rural pieve (pleban church) from the 8th century, with a baptismal font, it was rebuilt into the current structure in the 12th century.

After heading out of San Quirico d’ Orcia we took a quick break in the shade under some olive trees. Mom is finally letting me sit on the chair I brought for her😋

The Tuscan landscape laid out before us heading to Pienza.

Our destination below (Pienza)

Stone water cistern

The pieve of Saints Vito and Modesto in Corsignano (known more simply as Corsignano's pieve) is a Catholic place of worship located in the eponymous town near Pienza, in province of Siena and diocese of Montepulciano-Chiusi-Pienza.

The church is a Romanesque building mostly dating back to the 12th century, with three aisles divided by quadrangle pillars. The arches on the right side appear a later stage. The end is now devoid of absids. Older is the cylindrical bell tower, of Ravenna influence, referring to the 11th century.

In the simple baptismal source, the future pontiffs Pius II and Pius III were baptized.

Arch (Corso Rossellini) entrance into the old town of Pienza

PECORINO DI PIENZA

This unique sheep’s milk cheese gets its name from the ancient city of Pienza, located just a few miles from Montepulciano.

Pecorino di Pienza is considered the best pecorino produced in the Crete Senesi, a specific area within the province of Siena. Sheep were probably being raised in Tuscany since before the Etruscans and Pliny the Elder documented their presence during the Roman Age. Pecorino di Pienza, a favorite of Lorenzo il Magnifico, is a cooked-milk cheese made with whole, raw milk from sheep of the sarda breed (or possibly appenninica or sopravvissana). The sheep are raised out in the open and graze exclusively on the local flora. The aromas of rare plants that grow in the clay soil of the Crete Senesi (wormwood, meadow salsify, juniper, broom, burnet …) can be sensed in the sheep’s milk. The milk enters immediately into the cheese-making process.

Relais II Chiostro di Pienza - our accommodation for the evening. I think mom is happy.

History of Chiostro

The history of the Hotel is very related to the history of Pienza, in fact the ancient building has played an important role in the development of this famous and beautiful Tuscan city.

"...At the beginning of the 1300's, with the spreading of the Minor Order of the Franciscans, a convent of these monks also arrived in Pienza. The Monastery of St. Francis was certainly the most important religious and cultural institution in old Corsignano, at least until the radical transformation of the city, which occurred from 1459, by Pope Pius II (Enea Silvio Piccolomini), who was born here in 1405. On his first visit to Corsignano as Pope, Piccolomini celebrated a solemn mass at St. Francis, it evidently being the most important church of the hamlet.

The only precise information that we have about the life of the Monastery, comes from the 1500's and are details by the caretaker-priest Domenico Gabrielli who tells about the violence with which the undisciplined soldiers treated the convent and the church during the Sienese War.

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MeublΓ© Il Riccio

Day 6 - Pienza to Montepulciano (14 km -actually 9.82 miles)

The final day of our Southern Tuscany walk. Today was a little tougher then yesterday, with three climbs - to Monticchiello, the ridge afterwards and then up to Montepulciano.

Fueling up with a magnificent view

We began by leaving the city walls of Pienza with a little flair.

Mom needs any help to get through the day......😉

We decided to cut off some of the road so we found this footbridge and made our way through the field beyond and then hit the road again, saving a few steps

The first town we came to (first climb of the day) was little Monticchiello. A great cafe stop for some lemon soda and the use of an actual bathroom.

Blackberries were impeding our forward progress on the day. They were so sweet, we could not help but stop to eat some.

Olives, not quite ready for picking and are never tasty

So as were were approaching our final destination mom started wining about not having many grapes.........so as a good daughter I stole some at the last opportunity we had🤫

Our final approach to Montepulciano with the extravagant temple of San Biago coming into view. On this stretch we found some figs and plums - its been a great fruit day

The Temple of San Biagio, a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance architecture standing just outside the town of Montepulciano, was built between 1518 and 1548 on the designs of Antonio da Sangallo the Elder who used the model of the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato, with its Greek cross plan by Brunelleschi.The church and its adjoining rectory were built in travertine blocks taken from the nearby caves of Sant’Albino in the place where an ancient Paleo-Christian church dedicated to the Virgin and later St. Blaise once stood.

We FINISHED!!!! Amazing to complete this wonderful journey with my mom

I’m so proud of her!

(An amazing journey of a lifetime with an amazing daughter. Thank you💕)

Montepulciano is a medieval and Renaissance hill town and comune in the Italian province of Siena in southern Tuscany. It sits high on a 605-metre (1,985 ft) limestone ridge, 13 kilometres (8 mi) east of Pienza. Montepulciano is a major producer of food and drink. Renowned for its pork, cheese, "pici" pasta, lentils, and honey, it is known worldwide for its wine. Connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile, which should not be confused with varietal wine merely made from the Montepulciano grape, among Italy's best.

Our B&B Meuble iI Riccio

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Santa Maria dell'Anima

Today was a travel day from Montepulciano to Rome. Mom saying goodbye to our last accomendation iI Riccio

We took a taxi to the train station and traveled to Rome before arriving at our Air B&B, which was located next to Piazza Navona. Our host Vincenzo is amazing, he welcomed us warmly into his home which is beautifully decorated and showed us to our rooms. We rested for a few hours, enjoying the time to relax. I have not really let mom relax up to this point with all of our walking. It was a welcome respite from all of our travels.

I took a quick stroll around the Piazza before resting.

We then headed out for dinner to a place Vincenzo recommended. Is was warm and the waiter was very funny and the food was great.

Ostera da Masteo Ciccia

We then strolled around enjoying a few of Rome’s sites.

Piazza Navona is a beautiful square in Rome, Italy and it’s famous for its architecture, restaurants, and fountains. The three fountains in the square are the Fontana die Quattro Fiumi, the Fontana del Moro, and the Fontana del Nettuno. The current location of Piazza Navona is actually on top of an old stadium, which dates back to the first century A.D. During this period Romans came to the the Stadium of Domitian. The “agones” or games is what the people of Rome came to see.

Fontona dei Quattro Fiumi 

The main attraction in Piazza Navona is the Fontana die Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers).  The fountain was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Pope Innocent X. The base of the fountain is travertine rock which supports the four river Gods.  Above the Gods is an ancient Egyptian obelisk with a dove and Pamphili(The Popes summer palace) crescent at the top.

The four river Gods represent the papal authority throughout the world.  The Nile (Africa), the Danube (Europe), the Ganges (Asia), and the Rio del la Plata (America).

The we continued on with our stroll to see Castel Sant Angelo

Piazza San Pietro

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Mercato Trionfale

Today I have planned a private Roman food tour in an older part of Rome (behind the Vatican). But first I went for a run, headed to see the Colosseum. Unfortunately the entire area was massively under construction, but did see the sun come up and lighting up the magnificent structure.

Then we headed over towards the Vatican Museum to a large market called Mercato Trionfale. We met Francesca who I had arranged our tour with and began to stroll around.

Trying various meats

and cheeses

We sampled various foods. Traditional bakeries, chocolate, gelato and some weird pizza creation. All in all we were not overly impressed but is was a nice day out exploring a different area of Rome.

After we rested up we headed out to visit the Pantheon (which was closed) and then the Trevi Fountain.....we were not the only ones who had this idea.

After 12 days of training selfies have not really improved 🙃

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Riserva Naturale Regionale Monterano

Today is our last full day in Italy. I had arranged a truffle hunting tour with Matteo. I found him through Air B&B and what a find! We travelled to Bracciano by train from Rome (after a quick 30 minute walk- a little rushed-mom can sure move when required😉) which took about about 50 minutes. We were met at the station by Matteo and then quickly met the other members on the tour. There were six of us in total. A couple from Russia and an American couple from Wisconsin. We loaded up in two cars to drove to Reserva Naturale Regionale Monterano. When we unloaded we met the two truffle hunting dogs (Wendy a cocker spaniel and Uzi a lagotto romagnolo)

A Lagotto Romagnolo is a breed of dog that comes from the Romagna sub-region of Italy. The name derives from Romagnol can lagòt, meaning "water dog”

We all headed out into the forest and just followed the dogs until they started to dig. Then Matteo would run up to them before they could eat the truffle they had just found.

They were successful and found approximately 150 grams (6-7) truffles of various sizes.

As a reward the dogs received hotdog treats whenever they found one.

Matteo explained in late summer the truffles smell stronger and are more concentrated which means they are worth more due to the challenges of finding them this time of year.

After we were finished in the woods we loaded up and traveled to Matteo’s house for a feast in which the truffles we found were used to create all types of dishes.

Below are some Porcini mushrooms he found yesterday.

What an INCREDIBLE experience. Seriously, words cannot due Matteo justice!
A third-generation truffle hunter, Matteo has not only the expertise but a deep-rooted love and passion for truffle foraging. He was so knowledgeable, hospitable and personable and being out there in nature with just him and his adorable dogs Uzi and Wendy(who I fell in love with almost immediately) It was such an amazing experience - so much fun!

Everything about the day was carefully and thoughtfully planned out - including the delicious (and massive) dinner he prepared for us after. I have to say – this was a very unique and memorable experience.

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Rome

Today is our last morning in Rome. I woke up early to have a final run around the city, to catch the sunrise and to avoid the hoards of people.

Spanish Steps

Santa Maria del Popolo

Fontona dei Quattro Fiumi 

After packing up we strolled around to \240few more sites including the Pantheon.

The Pantheon is a former Roman temple, now a church, in Rome, Italy, on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD). It was completed by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated about 126 AD. Its date of construction is uncertain, because Hadrian chose not to inscribe the new temple but rather to retain the inscription of Agrippa's older temple, which had burned down.

The building is cylindrical with a porticoof large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43 metres (142 ft).

We are now flying back to the UK and have survived Italy and our walk across Tuscany. What a great trip!