Five years ago, newly engaged, with a newly incorporated business and a shiny new Italian passport in hand, we packed up six suitcases and boarded a one-way flight to Spain. Through a combination of adventurous spirit and complete naivete, we landed in Valencia, a city we’d visited once before, for less than a week. Three and a half years later (clearly haven forgotten how hard the first year in a new country was), we moved again, to our now home in Lucca, Italy.
The Second Wave & A New Lockdown
It’s officially December and 2020 is almost over. After nearly six months of relative normalcy, Italy returned to various states of lockdown a month ago. The strict quarantine measures of March and April precluded extremely low COVID numbers throughout the course of the summer, allowing us to travel across four different regions, meeting with partners and visiting hotels in preparation for our Italian Origins small group trip next fall. In September, we flew to the Greek Isles and spent a week hiking and swimming all over the tiny island of Symi and discovering the thickly layered history of Rhodes. It was an amazing trip and we’re thankful that Italy, and Europe’s, serious response to the pandemic in those early months allowed us the opportunity to travel a bit this year.
But here we are again. A second wave has swept over Europe and Italy has once again responded with significant measures. We started as a Zona Gialla (yellow zone) in early November - the lowest in severity of Italy’s three-tier zone system - but became a Zona Arancia (orange zone) within a week, and then a Zona Rossa (red zone) just a few days later.
Lively and bustling streets criss-cross Parma’s Romanesque architecture and pastel-hued buildings. Its status as a university city is to thank for this, but we’re not here for class. No, we’re here for the food.
Because of its location in the center of the fertile Po Valley, in north central Italy, the Emilia Romagna region has been the country’s foodie capital for centuries. Parma in particular, became the epicenter of this gastronomical powerhouse due to its production of world class and world famous eats. Most notably, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma ham. Along with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from nearby Modena, these products can only be made in this specific part of Italy, and therefore the world. And although you can find cheap imitations from other places, they are definitely not the same. Trust us.
The beauty here is mesmerizing. One person after another sits and stares across the water’s surface. No phones, no distractions. Just gazing at the forested cliffs and colorful towns on the other side. It’s nice; peaceful even. This view is the kind that pulls you in, forces you to stop, makes you breathe a little deeper, and offers a little break from the current state of the world.
We’ve made the 4 hour drive north from Lucca, passing through the Apennine Mountains and the Emilia Romagna region, before arriving at the incredible Lake Como in Lombardy. We’re here to find the perfect hotel for the final stop on next year’s Italian Origins small group trip. Our three days here are jam-packed with meetings and hotel tours, and we constantly have to remind each other that we’re here for work - A not-so-easy task with views like these.
Skipping down the narrow, olive tree-lined road toward Greve, we can hardly contain this euphoric feeling. The sun is about to set over the endless rolling hills of Chianti and the golden hour light glows against the rows of vineyards that extend as far as the eye can see in either direction. These hills baked today, as the temperature rose to nearly 100 degrees fahrenheit, preparing the grapes for their inevitable September harvest. After a day of driving all around the region, meeting with hotels and agriturismos, the setting sun brings a welcomed respite.
Mark Twain once described Florence as a “city of dreams.” We’re standing on the rooftop terrace of Antica Torre di via Tornabuoni 1, a medieval tower and boutique hotel dating back to the year 1200, and are completely on board with his assessment. Layers of red terracotta tiled roofs give way to ancient palaces, marble porticos, and the incredible Duomo of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. We’re completely aware that many people dream of seeing this view once in a lifetime and are filled with equal parts gratitude and awe at the beauty of the Tuscan capital. It’s these moments that remind us why we started Cohica - to share a slice of this magic with travelers - and over the next 48 hours, we’re on the hunt for the perfect Florentine hotel, rooftop restaurant and city guide for the first night of our Italian Origins small group trip.
It’s a hot sunny day in late July and we’re jumping in our trusty Fiat 500L for a short drive up the coast to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Cinque Terre. This will be one of five stops on our Italian Origins small-group journey, so we’re on our way to meet with hotel and activity partners in person. Over the years, we’ve gleaned two bits of wisdom - 1) reliable contacts that we know and trust are gold, and 2) the best way to ensure every travel detail is amazing is to experience it first-hand. We cross the green hills surrounding Lucca and head north, past Carrara and its mountains of glistening white marble, and into the terraced hillsides of Cinque Terre National Park.
The hills and mountains surrounding the valley have suddenly turned a brighter and deeper shade of green. The sky has also shifted, from muted greys with subtle blue hues, to a spectacular baby blue scattered with pillows of bright white clouds. The green fields are now strewn with the reds and yellows of wildflowers that have shot up from the fertile ground below. Spring came with a force in Lucca, our home of just six months, and after two months in quarantine we’re reminded of the multitude of reasons we chose to settle down in this little city in the northwest corner of Tuscany.
For many of us, coffee is more than just a drink. It's the life blood that wakes us up, gives us the energy to get dressed in the morning, and make it to work each day. Without it, our mornings (and afternoons) would be a lot slower, our minds a lot foggier, and our ideas, probably, a lot duller. Let's face it, coffee is the best drug of all. It's legal, does magical things, and is fully maintainable on a daily, or even twice daily (3x?) level.
So if you're a coffee aficionado like we are and you'd like to experience the way the rest of the world consumes this incredible drink, then read on. See how local cultures, climate, and economies impact the world's best brews and get inspired to get out there and experience it for yourself!
At the beginning of each year, we sit down together and start planning our travels for the next 12 months. It's become somewhat of a ritual for us - discussing our trips from the previous year, dreaming up vacations for the year to come, and deciding how exactly we'll make these adventures happen.
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