Christmas in Italy

Having decided awhile back that we would rather spend our “vacation” time away from the US, we then had to decide where to go.  A place that felt like Christmas but had a very different culture.  It also should allow us to use our Hilton Vacation Club points so the stay would only cost us airfare, food, and a car.  So, Tuscany it was.  This post will not have a lot of words, just enough to whet your appetite to visit, as I’m sure many of you have already done so.  We had a wonderful time, despite the harrowing trip to catch a plane at Dulles after our flight from Charlottesville was significantly delayed.  But, that is another story.  We arrived safely at Borgo Alle Vigne, went to share a wonderful pizza with wine, and had a wonderful time the following week.  So, here is the blog, in pictures, captions, and a few words.

town near condo
View from Borgo Alle Vigne, our home for a week
fresh bread tuscan
Our villa, fresh bread delivered

Borgo Alle Vigne is located southeast of Pisa, and north of San Gimignano.  Perfect for exploring all of Tuscany.



The bread was prepared that morning.  It was hot even.  I bought enough for the week.





RJ and BT wine tasting
Wine tasting at Cassanova Della Spineta





Wine tasting before going to Siena. Making new friends!  Great wine, good Pecorino, meats, olive oil and bread.  What more could you want on Christmas Eve?  How about a trip to one of the most beautiful Duomo’s in Italy!




The following scenes are from Siena, a city we didn’t spend much time in the last visit to Italy due to the crowds.  Christmas was a perfect time to visit, fewer crowds which allowed for a leisurely exploration of the Duomo and museum.

siena cathedral exterior3
Siena Duomo

The cathedral (Duomo in Italian) has to be one of the most beautiful in the world.  While we tried to capture the beauty, especially inside.  The views cannot do it justice.

siena tower
seina cathedral museum
Stained glass with the 12









christmas lights
Christmas street lights

Walking the streets, looking in the windows, buying provisions for a Christmas dinner in the condo. Relaxing, having cappuccino and treats before dinner, buying each other gifts to share on Christmas morning.

Window enticements!








RJ at dinner on Xmas Eve
Osteria Da Divo
RJ with truffle dinner on Xmas Eve
Antica Osteria Da Divo








“Only a few steps from the Cathedral (Duomo) and Piazza del Campo is the “Antica Osteria Da Divo” a charming restaurant where you can enjoy refined gastronomic delights of the Tuscan cuisine. The particularly unique location in ancient Etruscan rooms cut out of the ‘tuff’, the soft volcanic rock on which Siena is built.”  But I will always remember the truffles!  Here is the recipe for the risotto that I’m enjoying above.  You can see the truffles on top!

Risotto “Carnaroli” with black truffles

Note: This is directly from Pino di Cicco, Chef at Da Divo

“So in the pan put a spoon of butter and a small spoon of chopped white onion, browned it and then put the riso, mix it for about 1 minute and then put some white dry wine put some salt and pepper and cook it with vegetable stock. In a separate pan put some olive oil and garlic chop the artichoke and sautè it. When they are cooked after 10 minutes put on the risotto. At the end put mint , a spoon of butter and a spoon of pecorino cheese….wait 1 minut and then the risotto is ready!!  Add truffle at table side.”

But then, where did we park the car?

Christmas Day

Christmas Day was beautiful, enjoyed a relaxing morning, then onto the Bagna di Pisa for a relaxing day of pools and massage.

Bagna di Pisa
Bagna di Pisa

This was followed by dinner cooked by Chef Russello at Borgo Alle Vigne.

rj cooking on Xmas2.JPG
Chef Russello






San Gimignano

volterra towers
Towers of San Gimignano


San Gim afar
View of San Gimingnano








Walking the streets, gelato to quell the appetite, buying leather gifts.  Where did we park the car?  Which gate did we enter?

Santa Boar!


leather shop.JPG
Leather shopping



You can never get “boared” in San Gimignano.







We found the car and headed to Tenuta Torciano for our cooking class and wine tasting (and buying).

Jacapo cooking
Jacamo and his helpers!
Torciano Dinner 2
Enjoying the fruits of our labors!







Looking for a place to hike, we inquired of our hosts at BAV where we might go. They suggested Volterra.  Here is a quote from their website:

Volterra is a town of great architectural interest located 1770 feet above the sea level, between the rivers Bra and Cecina in Tuscany, Italy. The main features are two fine castles and numerous Etruscan remains. The ambiance of Volterra is extremely attractive, easily rivaling that of the more famous Tuscan destination of San Gimignano.

While 1770 feet above sea level does not seem like much, just try driving it!  Here are some views!

volterra ruins
Roman ruins



volterra hillside ruins
Ancient Ruins











Volterra sulimari


Enjoying a respite from the walking, where did we park the car?  Who cares, we’ll get there.


ocean town.JPG
Coastal Town

Alas, we must leave our lovely condo in Tuscany and travel to Rome.  Stopped by a picturesque coastal village on the way.  Crowded, can’t believe how crowded it would be in the summer.





Arrived in Rome, dumped the car at the airport, taxi to Rome Cavaleri, tired – but what a view from our room.  Yes that is the Vatican in the distance!

rome hotel1
A room with a view


The next day we toured Rome (in a day – but that was enough).  Lots, lots, lots of security.  Lots, lots, lots of crowds – maybe it was because of Holy Week.  No matter, we enjoyed the day.  Here are some sights.








city view














And then, it was our last night, so what better way than to enjoy La Pergola, the Michelin 3 star restaurant with Chef Heinz Beck.  What? A German chef at the best restaurant (according to Michelin) in Rome?  Yes, this was one of the best meals of my life.  Their website says:

 La Pergola

One of the best restaurants in Rome, if not in Italy, La Pergola is much more than just a famous menu. Its three-Michelin stars – the only Rome restaurant to be accorded such an honour – attest to the excellence of its cuisine. A wine cellar with over 60,000 bottles, a water menu with 29 choices, olive oils and vintage balsamic vinegars from the best producers in Italy, and the finest ingredients to be sourced in the Mediterranean – all attests to the pursuit of culinary excellence.

La Pergola Table
The view from our table

We chose the tasting menu along with allowing the Sommelier to choose our wines.  We were not disappointed.  Oh, this was a view from our table, but from inside.  Our menu was:

  • Medallions of lobster marinated in yuzu and lemongrass on guacamole with soya macaron
  • Smoked scallop and red beet shell
  • Tuna with Mediterranean flavors
  • Fagottelli “La Pergola” (paper thin pasta shell with the sauce inside – a flavor explosion)
  • Duck tortellini with pine needle infusion and porcini powder
  • Cod on kidney beans and iced parsley snow
  • Venison in pistachio crust

Our wines included Manincor Sauvignon Tannenberg, Villa Cordevigo Bianco, Bibi Graetz Balocchi di Testamatta, and Pellegrino Passito di Pantelleria Nes.  

I will try to find them as they were all delicious!

la-pergola desert
Mystery Box desert

To end the evening, Chef Beck offers a Grand Desert which began with a mystery box of treats for each of us.  It was in a word, magical!  Here is the mystery box.

Buon Appetito!




Alas, all good things must come to and end, the next morning we flew home.  But, since our car was at Dulles, our friend Alice brought Zeus to greet us.  Welcome home!

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Having decided to "retire", I am embarking on a new venture focused on travel, trips, history, wonderful food and wine, and fun. Hopefully you will be entertained, enlightened, and enriched with my posts from the mid-atlantic to overseas.

5 thoughts on “Christmas in Italy”

  1. Russ: So glad you were able to do this trip. Edith and I have been to all of these places—-although not during Christmas. If we could live anywhere besides Jacksonville, it would definitely be Tuscany. A truly wonderful and magical place.


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