It seems like forever ago I was sitting with Charity, thinking of what we would do for our 45th birthdays. Being 2 weeks apart, almost to the day, we are basically besties who are like sisters...both silly, sometimes dorky, fun, outgoing (Charity a little more than I, but we balance each other out since I tend to be a little more reserved!) and we are often mistaken for each other. Actually...it's more like... All. The. Time. Seriously. So much so, that we call each other "Twinee". So, what to do the year we were both to turn 45? Something monumental, something fun because that's what we do and this was to be no exception. So when the idea came up to travel to Sicily, Alex's hometown and the place where our Poggio Leano Wine Club Suites are; well of course, it was PERFECT! We would invite our closest friends to join us on this trip!
Long story short, we both have a lot of friends. And I mean A LOT. So, when we decided to do this trip, of course Charity, being the natural organizer of events that she is, knew exactly what to do. We put the idea out there and almost immediately had an overwhelming response. She set up a meeting and we weren't really sure how many would actually show up, so when 14 of our friends showed up to that meeting-of course we were thrilled! A few words between us, the laptops came out and one- by-one, cheers erupted as we made our plane tickets together that day! That was it, that's how this large group of friends planned their trip to Sicily! To say we were excited was an understatement!
A few months down the road, and the day to leave on our trip had finally arrived...we were all packed, suitcases in tow and headed to LAX on the Grapevine Shuttle bus with what worked out to only be 7 of us...two were already traveling in Europe and would meet us in Catania and the remaining group, minus two that had to cancel, would meet us in a few days in Sicily. 14 women headed to Italy to spend 10 days touring Piazza Armerina, Taormina and Rome. It was no doubt going to be epic!
And epic it was...we arrived into Rome after a pleasant 12 hour flight and got stuck in customs for almost two hours, which was not so pleasant. The lines to show your passport were outrageous to say in the least. By the time we actually got to the check in counter for our flight to Catania, we missed it by 3 minutes. THREE MINUTES. It was unbelievable. One of our girls actually made it on the flight and the rest of us? Well...the majority were forced to re-buy our tickets and one of us actually found a nice ticketing agent that just put her on the next flight out without the extra charge. Over $1000 in new planes tickets collectively, and we were on the next plane to Sicily!
Once we arrived in Catania, we were greeted by one of Alex's dear friends, Ettore. Ettore owns a tour and transportation business and was at the airport to greet us and ensure we were all good to head to Piazza. He turned out to be one the best tour guides ever for our Sicilian leg of the trip. After our rental car fiasco to get 11 women and a lot of luggage into a van and station wagon, we were off to Piazza! Every part of the trip had so far been an adventure and the remainder of the trip would prove to be the same.
When we arrived to Piazza, we dropped our luggage at the beautiful Poggio Leano Suites which are 5-Star for sure, and headed to a cute little restaurant just below called Amici Mei where we ate, drank and merrily celebrated my birthday eve. What a great way to start off the trip, surrounded by the coolest bunch of women who are fun, loving and silly all the same! And, thanks to my Twinee, I had the one of the best birthdays EVER! (She even decorated the airplane's luggage compartment above me while I was sleeping on the way to Rome. She thinks of everything, I swear!)
The days to follow would be filled with tours, exploring, shopping and of course-eating and drinking! A girls DREAM for sure! We started each day with coffee and paninis and then visited cathedrals, the Outlets, we saw the world's largest mosaics, Roman ruins, we did wine and olive oil tastings, had lunches and dinners with Alex's family, toured a mid-evil castle, an art hotel, visited Taormina and a Greek amphitheater, rode a gondola to the beach and enjoyed a beautiful meal with insanely gorgeous views. Everywhere we went, we were like little ducks in row of American women...anytime we shopped, nearly half of us made a purchase if one did! Those little shops and mercato vendors that got hit by our group for sure loved it!
Once we had thoroughly made sure Piazza would remember us (we even left a signed shirt to hang on the bar ceiling we frequented for our nightly "popcorn shots", which you MUST try!) it was time to make our way to Catania to fly back to Rome for the remaining two days of our trip. The energy of this group of women was amazing...I think the most sleep we got on any given night was maybe 4.5 hours, but the buzz of us all together kept us happily going and ready to conquer anything! That's what laughter and fun will do for ya'. Better than coffee!
Our last two days were spent in Rome, wandering the streets and being escorted by a great limo bus service that knew all the amazing places to go. We visited the Vatican, compliments of our dear friend Loreto who worked as the Pope's videographer for many years. Thanks to him, we didn't have to wait in the line that surely would've taken 2 hours or more to get through. We went to the Coliseum, the gardens near the Coliseum and the surrounding massive Roman ruins that were once a bustling city. We toured a Roman Villa that was discovered when excavators where digging to build a building, far beneath the surface and it was like going back in time. We ate at fantastic restaurants, met some beautiful people and enjoyed some the prettiest historical scenery you could ever imagine. It was perfect weather too.
Talk about feeling fortunate! To be able to go half way across the world with a few of your best friends and experience some of the most beautiful places, along with the laughter, fun and female bonding that occurred; it was simply perfect and a trip to remember for a lifetime. I will forever be grateful to these girls for an unforgettable experience, and to Alex for providing the backdrop, friends, family and home for us to be able to do this. Until next time!