Our hotel in Norcia was the delightful Palazzo Seneca (can’t recommend it enough). Incredible staff. Treated us like family. Each night ended with Spritzes on the terrace. Alfresco breakfast: 5-stars. Had one of the top-five meals of life in their Vespasia restaurant courtesy of Chef Valentino.

While in Norcia we went rafting on the Corno River… hunted truffles with Nicola and his dogs Lulu and Tempestina… hiked in the Sibilini Mountains… and marveled at the wildflower show.

On the way to Siena, we toured an ancient olive mill… visited a Deruta pottery factory… stopped at Assisi’s San Francesco Basilica… took in the views from the pool… and caught sunset in the university town of Perugia (also home of Perugina Chocolate). We were lucky enough to have dinner at the iconic Collins’ Restaurant in the SINA Brufani hotel. If you ever want to feel like royalty, this is the place. Old-world charm and elegance, and a 5-star meal that deserves 6 stars.

The Palio horse race in Siena has been on my bucket list for decades. The race takes place right in the center square. The town is divided into districts or wards called contrada. Each contrada enters a horse in the race. We got invited to dinner with the Aquila (eagle) contrada. The setting was so spectacular it gave us goosebumps. Felt like we were dining at Hogwarts.

The Palio parade features a cast of thousands – literally. The crowd is in a frenzy by race time. I had very high hopes for this event – and it blew away all my expectations. One of the most amazing events I’ve ever attended – sporting or otherwise.

The last leg of the trip was down to Italy’s boot, including Polignano a Mare, Bari and Monopoli. The Airbnb was perfect for our group of 10. We rented a boat and spent a fun day on the Adriatic Sea swimming, sunbathing, eating, drinking and dancing to music ranging from Chaka Khan to Italian folk songs. The captain and first mate were very entertaining.