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Traveling the world with children can be stressful to some and exhilarating to others. I fall in the latter category.  My husband and children often tell me that I’m very easy going.  Six flights in eleven days and an airport strike had little effect on my blood pressure.  In three months Italy will be home so Gregg and I wanted to bring all three kids to share in our life changing decision.

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Our two adult teenagers, Connie and Nick, last visited Italy in 2009.  They were more than thrilled to join Spencer, Gregg and I for Spring Break in Tuscany.  Despite one rough landing, our three flights were uneventful and without delays.  We met Gregg in Bagni di Lucca and started planning our weeklong adventures.

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Each day started off with a cappuccino at Il Monaco, my favorite local pasticceria.  For those who know me well, this is a mandatory morning routine as I constantly crave Italian coffee. Now Connie and Nick understand my obsession.

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On our first full day Gregg and I took the kids on a long hike.  A trek up to neighboring villages provides spectacular views of our new home.

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This is one of the many reasons we chose to live in this northern Tuscan region.

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On our second day we made the hour drive to Pisa.  Connie and Nick joined me for the 297 step climb to the top of the Leaning Tower while Gregg and Spencer waited below.  Each ticket costs eighteen euro and also includes entrance into the Cathedral.  Ticket offices are located all around the perimeter of the Campo dei Miracoli.

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The journey up the spiral staircase is worth the effort.  There are plenty of steps at the top to sit, catch your breath, and take in the spectacular bird’s eye view.

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Lucca Quad provided us with our biggest adventure to date.  We booked a three hour quad ride through the mountains, streams and forests of Tuscany.  I worried how Connie and Nick would handle the four wheelers, but our guide gave us a quick tutorial and off we went into the wilderness.

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There were many tight turns and bumpy terrain and we loved every second.  Even Spencer, who rode with Gregg, exclaimed that this was the best thing we have ever done in Italy.  Our guide would stop every so often for short breaks and photo ops. Lucca Quad offers several tour options.

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We picked the Prato Fiorito ride which ended up some 1200 meters above sea level.  Prices vary per tour and each driver must be 18 years of age.  As we traveled from San Cassiano di Controne up towards Monte Prato Fiorito I realized my cheeks were throbbing from smiling so hard for so long.

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Towards the end of our ride we stopped for a short hike and took in the views.  Even our teenagers were impressed.

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Our three hour quad tour felt too short.  Don’t pass up this opportunity if you would love to drive and hike through a secluded part of Tuscany.

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A quick 30 minute drive from our village is the walled city of Lucca.  We had hoped to visit the local Farmer’s Market, but arrived a little too late in the day.  We ended up just walking around town and on the famous wall that circles the city.

 

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Many villages throughout Tuscany rest high above sea level.  The picturesque town of Montefegatesi is one of my favorites.

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Our friend invited us for lunch one afternoon so we made the twisty journey up the mountain.  Sitting at the top you’ll find a statue honoring Dante Alighieri.  After being banished from Florence Dante wrote part of his 14th century epic poem, “Divine Comedy” near Montefegatesi.

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Montefegatesi feels like a village that time forgot.  Aside from the modern tv antennas and power lines, one can easily imagine walking through these narrow streets a thousand years ago.

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We took a break from the warmer temperatures towards the end of our vacation and headed into the Grotta del Vento.

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Located in Garfagnana, the caves boast thousands of years of weathering.  Tours of one, two, or three hours take you deep into the heart of the Grotta del Vinto.  We opted for the one hour tour.

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Gregg and Spencer gave us a few laughs while trying to exit the caves.

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We chose the perfect week for our Italian vacation with sunny skies almost everyday.  Hiking through this area of Tuscany will never get old.

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We worked up some hearty appetites spending our days hiking and touring.

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A few weeks before our visit Gregg had joined friends at Al Laghetto.  This rustic restaurant offers no menu, just suggestions of the days specials. We dined on bruschetta, cured meats, lasagna and various grilled meats.  I apologize for the lack of food photos, but my stomach dictated my actions.

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I did however, get plenty of photos of “La Bomba”. This show stopping presentation combines music, sparklers, coffee and liquor.  Everyone, except Spencer, enjoyed this warm liquid dessert through long straws.

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We enjoyed a lovely evening with our kids and good friends.

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Our oldest, Connie, only had one demand this Spring Break.  She wanted a pizza with French fries. She first discovered this strange combination during our second trip to Italy in 2009.  Luckily our friends took us to Nando’s and Connie’s culinary dream came true.

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Since I prefer my French fries on the side, I ordered Nando’s four cheese pizza.  Luckily his restaurant is a short walk from our home.  Gregg has already told me this is our first stop when we return to Bagni di Lucca.

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On the day of our departure Air Traffic Controllers staged a strike.  I confess this came as welcome news.  We were given two extra days with Gregg in Italy.

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We celebrated our prolonged vacation with gelato.

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Since we had worn the kids out for 9 straight days we spent our last two relaxing.

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Being able to share this Spring Break all together in Italy surpassed all of my expectations.  Connie and Nick have a renewed and deep appreciation for Italy and the gift of travel.

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