Last week I flew to Italy for the first time ever. I’d heard nothing but great things about the country, yet still didn’t really know what to expect. Every single person that I’d spoken to gushed about how great the food is out there and recommended places to visit, yet where I was to visit wouldn’t really be under my control. I was travelling with two close friends of mine- sisters- and their family, so the itinerary would be down to them, which I kind of liked. I’m pretty chilled when it comes to making plans, so if it were down to me we’d have probably spent two days just deciding where to visit (and I was there for a three day trip, so that definitely would have been no good).
I was flying to Pisa and would be meeting the others at the villa- they’d been there for four days already, so had already had the chance to explore. I hopped in a cab at the airport and attempted to direct the driver, who I have to say was super friendly and very helpful. I don’t speak a word of Italian (other than ciao) so my communication skills probably weren’t great, but we finally got the route into the map and were on our way. A 36 minute journey ahead to Palaia. Typically I turned straight to my phone to catch up on messages, emails and Instagram- a whole 2 hours on the plane, what must I have missed?! I looked up 15 minutes later to see that the taxi price was already at 50 euros. Oh wow.
We took a few wrong turns and got lost in the hills but a lot of map-studying, frantic messages (me to my friend), a panicked Italian phone call (the taxi driver to god-knows who) and 90 euros later, we eventually found Villa Larino. It was heavenly.
Situated at the very end of a winding country road, Villa Larino was everything I could have dreamed of and more. With breath-taking views, extensive gardens, an outdoor gym area and pool, it was absolutely beautiful and suddenly the traumatic taxi ride didn’t seem quite so bad.
Day 1 started off with some much needed chill time around our gorgeous pool. The poolside views were absolutely stunning, as we were overlooking the Tuscan countryside. Time to relax and switch off. It was hot, very hot so we spent most of the afternoon in and out of the pool before heading to a city called Lucca for dinner.
Lucca was exactly what I would have imagined an Italian city to look like. It oozed with Italian culture- think street cafes, ice cream parlours and the smell of pizza. We arrived around dusk, so the lighting was incredible and settled in one of the city squares for my first meal out in Italy! Without even realising, we’d chosen to sit at one of the more exclusive restaurants (they’re all very much one next to another so it’s one of those take-your-pick kind of situations). We sat down without even studying the menu and before we knew it were being brought complimentary Italian G&T’s with canapes. I could get used to this. The menu was more limited than other ones in the square and was actually a little confusing (pasta only served as a starter?!) but we decided to stay- after complimentary food how could we change now! I opted for the gnocchi dish, which was brought as a starter, so quickly added the tagliatelle too. It was delicious.
After ice cream and a carousal ride (yes, we’re big kids), we headed back home for an early night, ready for Day 2.
Day 2. I slept until 11am. Eeek. It must have been needed! Today we were going to explore Cinque Terre, which looked absolutely beautiful and is by the sea, so I was excited. Cinque Terre is made up of a number of small Italian villages along the Italian Riviera coastline, each village with colourful houses and winding streets. After a slice of pizza at the station, we hopped on the train that connects all of the villages and headed straight for the furthest village- the only one with a beach- Monterosso. Typically it started to rain as soon as we got off of the train. It was the hottest day in England on record, yet Italy had decided it wanted showers! The village was also extremely packed, so we didn’t hang around for long. However, I have to say it was insanely beautiful and I’m definitely glad that we visited!
Next stop, Riomaggiore. We had planned to stop at one of the other villages along the way but managed to hop on a direct train to Riomaggiore, so there it was! Time for lunch. I went for pizza- again- with the others choosing either pasta or seafood dishes. If you’re a fan of seafood the fishing village of Riomaggiore is for sure the place to eat it. Delicious! Before heading home we wondered down to the harbour, which was so so pretty, as you can see from the pictures below…
Cinque Terre, a definite one to visit when in Italy! We spent the evening at the villa playing cards and watching movies.
Day 3 began with a very hot and sweaty poolside workout. At 31 degrees we were tanning and training. It felt good to get such a sweat on. We would be spending today chilling around the villa- sunbathing, eating and playing in the pool. It would be the longest blood moon in centuries tonight, so we decided to book a lakeside table at Amalia Laghi for the occasion. Honestly, it was breathtaking. We watched the sun set across the lake, reflecting shades of orange and red across the water and enjoyed an unlimited pasta buffet while sipping cocktails. The blood mood made it’s debut and was still in full force by the time we got back to the villa. The peaceful Tuscan hills were the perfect place to view it- minimal light and absolute silence. It was serene.
I had the most incredible time in Italy and will definitely be visiting again. The company definitely made the trip so a huge thank you to the Sheikh’s for having me join- you stars! If you’re a fan of wonderful views, good food, culture and hot weather then Italy is definitely for you. I plan to spend more time there next time and to visit more of the bigger cities, so any recommendations are welcome! I’m back in London for now, but my next trip will be Cyprus (one of my faves) next month so keep posted for my recommendations on where to drink, eat and play in Paphos!