Saturday, March 9, 2013

Back From The Dead

I'm not even sure that I want to accept how long it's been since I've written. I mean, we all know that time passes quickly but six months?!? Geez, I just feel older by the day.

Ok, so the last update you guys got was me talking about entering the final phase of my stage in Lucca. Holy cow folks, what a remarkable way to end my summer. The best part? My parents and Allison joined me in Lucca for my last day of work at Caffe Delle Mura and they got to meet everyone I'd been talking and writing about. They also had dinner at the restaurant and Chef Maurizio treated them so well, sending out fabulous creations that were some of the best dishes they'd had yet during their Italy trip. To have part of my family there with me was so beyond special, I can't even really put it into words.

On my last day of work, I knew that Allison was on her way to Lucca and I kept waiting and waiting to hear from her! I was getting so anxious so I stepped outside for a bit and, next thing you know, I look up and she's standing in the kitchen looking at me. I about fell over, I was so excited! I took her on a tour of the restaurant and then up to the roof which is so awesome:
Obviously, I had to get back to work but I was just thrilled anticipating her and my parents coming back for dinner that night. I look at these photos from the evening and just break into an ear to ear smile. I'll cherish them and I'm so thrilled Allison put her photography passion to work on my behalf:
My dear friends, Cristina and Valentina, are one of the sole reasons that I found confidence and strength during some of the hard times alone in Lucca. I love these women and cherish the hearts they have and the love they showed me last summer:
I am a better woman because of them.

As I mentioned, Chef Maurizio sent out some gorgeous dishes and my parents and Allison feasted over several hours. I got to bring them into the kitchen afterward to meet the crew which was so fun. Learning from a man like Chef Maurizio will forever be one of the greatest experiences of my life:
Yep, it was me and the boys in the kitchen all summer:
Let me tell you how hilarious some of our nights together were. I seriously crack up even thinking about it, hahaha. This pretty much encompasses my nightly lessons from Chef:
Um, he speaks fast in Italian so my language practice got hugely refined from being in the kitchen with him. Just imagine what my first night was like... I miss my Caffe Delle Mura family every single day:
As we walked away for the last time that night, I just stared at the restaurant and really realized how beautiful it is:
Gosh, what memories I'll take from being there. It really makes me teary-eyed just thinking about it. 

Since my last day at work was a Friday,  I got to have a free weekend in Lucca with my family which was so fun! We started the next day off right with an espresso or two at a cute cafe near Mom and Dad's hotel:
For pretty much the whole weekend, we ate and drank our way through Lucca. Everyone loved the city! It's pretty hard not to. How beautiful are Allison's photos:
One of my favorite parts of the weekend was introducing everyone to Elizabeta, one of the kindest and most wonderful women I have ever known:
She and her husband own a cafe that I frequented during my time in Lucca and they became sweet friends of mine. I LOVED introducing everyone. I think we had about ten espressos sitting there, no joke:
We walked around all day and stopped at the open-air markets, snacked on things and took in the beauty of Lucca:
The next day, Allison surprised all of us by booking the most awesome private winery tour that I'll never, ever forget. She'd researched and found an incredible company called Tuscan Drivers that couldn't have been more awesome. It's a company that provides you a private driver for excursions around Tuscany and holy crap, was it awesome. Just check out where we spent our morning:
Are you kidding me?!?!

Time to taste:
After the first winery, we were off to a second for lunch and...hear me when I say this...I have never had a more delicious meal in my life. This is saying a whole heck of a lot considering all the months I spent in Italy and I mean it 300%. Yes, this is where we ate:
Salumi and cheese, tordelli (a native Tuscan meat-filled pasta dish), lasagna and vanilla gelato with olive oil and black pepper:

Stop it right this minute. I'm not kidding. Best meal of my life.

Our driver, Andrea, made the day seamless and spectacular:
It was a wonderful gift from Allison that provides memories I'll treasure forever.

I don't think there's any other way I could've relished in my last weekend in Lucca. I feel like the most blessed person in the world for what I experienced in my time there and to then cap it all off, I got to have an absolutely fabulous "vacation" before exams. Mom, Dad and Allison stayed for the next couple of days to do their own thing while I headed back to Colorno but we'd soon meet up for my graduation, another priceless memory.

I have more blog posts to come re-capping the rest of Italy before jumping into the next chapter of move to Colorado. For now, I'm thoroughly enjoying reminiscing as I look back through Allison's photos and remember just how exceptional these experiences were. Just wait until you get to see Cinque Terre... All in due time.