We had an incredible trip to Italy and have returned to sickness and jet lag, but nothing that can hold down my renewed spirit! Here’s a photo synopsis. I included lots of food pics, as promised.

J and I traveled with my father the entire trip. He speaks fluent Italian and knows his way around, which was very helpful as my Italian is only conversational. He picked us up at the Milan airport in his rented white Alfa Romeo, which we drove an hour north to Stesa, a romantic little town on the shores of Lago Maggiore with cobblestone streets and a famous hotel where Hemmingway used to drink martinis. We had a long, delicious dinner the first night, then woke up and took a ferry to Isola Madre, one of the three Borromean Islands.

Porcini risotto the night of our arrival in Lago Maggiore

Porcini risotto the night of our arrival in Lago Maggiore

Steak pounded flat and cooked with sizzling hot parmesan cheese and topped with arugula

Steak pounded flat and cooked with sizzling hot parmesan cheese and topped with arugula

Jen looks out at Lago Maggiore from the ferry

Jen looks out at Lago Maggiore from the ferry

Dad and J on Isola Madre

Dad and J on Isola Madre

After Stresa we drove to Masserano, the little medieval town where my grandmother and grandfather grew up. My father, who lives in Connecticut, is fixing up an old family house there. It’s nowhere near done but it’s coming along and will be beautiful in a few years. We spent five days in a bed and breakfast up the street from the house. Every morning we drank espresso and had pastries, then walked along the little street to my father’s house (I wasn’t ready to sleep in the creepy house but he’s used to it). I visited with my good friend Cate and her husband. My dad took J and I to a vendemmia, or grape harvest, where they pick grapes in the vineyard to make into wine. We went hiking in the Alps. My father made a lot of delicious Italian meals in his little kitchen and we drank a lot of good wine, and he even had a dinner party for the people who help him keep the house when he’s not there. We went shopping in Biela, a fancy little city famous for its clothing and shoes, and J bought a nice pair of hiking shoes and a pair of Italian leather boots. The week flew by but was long enough that we got a taste of life in the town.

Masserano, where my ancestors are from, and I've spend a few vacations and holidays

Masserano, where my ancestors are from, and I’ve spend a few vacations and holidays

The street leading to a tiny piazza and my family house

The street leading to a tiny piazza and my family house

The house my nonna grew up in, which my dad is now fixing up

The house my nonna grew up in, which my dad is now fixing up

Jen with our old friend Alessandro, getting read to cook bistecca fiorentina, or Florentine steak, for a dinner party

Jen with my old friend Alessandro, getting read to cook bistecca fiorentina, or Florentine steak, for a dinner party

My friend and her husband made us several delicious dinners in their new home, and a girl I knew in high school joined the party

My friend Cate (2nd from left) and her husband made us several delicious dinners in their new home, and a girl I knew in high school joined the party

J eating indescribable balls of vegetables and flour, dipped in melted fontina

J eating indescribably delicious balls of vegetables and flour, dipped in melted fontina, a typical Piemonte appetizer

Hiking in Oasi Zegna, an area of the Alps coined by the Zegna clan

Hiking in Oasi Zegna, an area of the Alps coined by the Zegna clan

My father summiting a mountain with too much fog to see the view

My father summiting a mountain with too much fog to see the view

At the end of the hike, we ate polenta covered in melted tuma cheese in an Alpine restaurant

At the end of the hike, we ate polenta covered in melted tuma cheese in an Alpine restaurant

Alpine restaurant where we ate after our hike

Alpine restaurant where we ate after our hike

Cate and I at the top of another hill overlooking her hometown

Cate and I at the top of another hill overlooking her hometown

Pumpkin souffle with potatoes and cream sauce

Pumpkin souffle with potatoes and cream sauce

Gelato cookie sandwich - mmmmmm

Gelato cookie sandwich – mmmmmm

After Piemonte, we piled into the Alfa Romeo and headed south for Tuscany. On the way, we stopped in Monterosso, the first town in the Cinque Terre, to have a beer and see the clear blue water.

Like California but better!

Like California but better!

Dad and Jen take a break from discussing Barolo wine to have a local beer

Dad and J take a break from discussing Barolo wine to have a local beer

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We arrived in Regello, a small town outside of Florence, on our two-year anniversary. We met my older sister and her husband and their baby, Gabriel, at an agriturismo, which is a farm villa where you stay in a hotel on a farm where they raise animals for the restaurant and make wine.

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A luxurious evening in the Tuscan countryside

A luxurious evening in the Tuscan countryside

Dinner at the agriturismo, where we had rabbit and pork from the farm. I don't often eat meat, but I like farm-to-table food!

Dinner at the agriturismo, where we had rabbit and pork from the farm. I don’t often eat meat, but I like farm-to-table food!

My dad visits the pigs, who enjoyed eating the leftover grapes from winemaking

My dad visits the pigs, who enjoyed eating the leftover grapes from winemaking

High-tech machine that crushes grapes to make Chianti

High-tech machine that crushes grapes to make Chianti

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Salad with local fresh goat cheese drizzled with local honey

Ravioli stuffed with meat and covered in local cheese and truffle sauce

Ravioli stuffed with meat and covered in local cheese and truffle sauce

GET READY FOR THE SURPRISE!

My family went for a hike on our last full day in Tuscany. When the rest of my family was ready to take the baby back to the hotel, J insisted that she and I keep walking. We hiked up some windy roads and into an olive grove…

J hiking up a country road

J hiking up a country road

Olive grove on the left of the cypress

Olive grove on the left of the cypress

After eating a picnic lunch in the grove, J pulled out a little wooden box and said she had gotten me a gift. She told me I had to stand up. I thought she’d bought me a piece of jewelry from the trip, but when she started crying, I was confused and excited. The box was full of dry arborio rice from the rice fields we’d passed in Piemonte. She pulled out a ring and told me that she felt like an olive grove in Tuscany was the perfect place to ask me to marry her. I cried too and we hugged and of course I said yes!

It turned out she had been waiting for our Italy trip to propose, and had asked my father permission to marry me that morning. We’d talked about getting married, especially since we’re TTC, but I wasn’t expecting the proposal on our trip or even until we were pregnant again. Needless to say I’m so, so ecstatically happy!

A selfie we took in the olive grove after the proposal

A selfie we took in the olive grove after the proposal

The final day was full of bliss and excitement. We ordered prosecco at the agriturismo with dinner to celebrate. We also went to Florence for an afternoon, but my heart is definitely in the countryside.

In front of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence

In front of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence

The ring is a placeholder and we’ll be designing the real ring together. I guess this is about to turn into a TTC and wedding blog!

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