In the beginning of June, Tom and I went on our very first kid-free vacation to beautiful Italy with Tom’s mother, brother, sister, and sister’s fiancé. To say the least, it was incredible; however, extremely difficult to leave the girls (at first!). As young parents, it’s so easy to become completely focused on the roles of mom and dad. While we’ve been making sure we have a date night once a week, we haven’t been away as a couple for more than a night since before Vivienne was born. After a dramatic drop off (at least for me) I was able to let go and truly enjoy our trip to Italy.
We’re super lucky my parents were able and willing to watch our 2 young children (2 1/2 & 1 years old) for 10 days as we gallivanted through the Roman cities and Tuscan hills and sailed through the Mediterranean sea. It was an amazing trip to say the least. We had never left the kids for more than an overnight stay before, but they both did great and we were truly able to relax and enjoy our trip and not worry about the kids at all!
Since we were there for 10 days we split the trip up into 3 areas. The first part was to explore Rome, then Tuscany, Florence, and ended on the Amalfi Coast.
Rome was one amazing museum after the next and one beautiful church or place of worship after another. One of the things that truly stuck with me was realizing how truly influential the Roman times had on Italy today. You obviously read and studied in school about Rome and how advanced they were in their time, but actually seeing the Roman Forum and Colosseum and relearning past history lessons and actually seeing where major events took place was pretty grounding. Italy, specifically Rome, has SO much history and seeing that was pretty incredible. We of course visited the Vatican City as well which was pretty special to see especially being Catholic. We even were able to get a blessing from the pope and hear him speak and not many other people can say that! Other sights in Rome that we saw included: Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona (this is the plaza basically right outside our hotel), the Crypt, and the Spanish Steps.
One of my favorite memories was when our driver drove us off the beaten path into the Roman Hills.
We went to a small restaurant and ate until we couldn’t eat anymore… I mean some of the best food I EVER ate and it just kept coming. Plate after plate filled with more food after the next. After this we stopped at another town that was know for their ‘Fragile Cello’ which is Strawberry Cello. I’m a big Limoncello fan, but this might have converted me to Strawberry Cello. Maybe it was the atmosphere and the views, but it was delicious!
We stayed in Rome for 3 days and I wouldn’t have wanted to stay longer. We had the perfect amount of time to explore the city and after an awesome stay at the hotel Portoghesi, we were off to Siena.
SIENA: The Tuscan Hills
We stayed at hotel Palazzo Fani Mignanelli. It was a very quaint mom and pop type of hotel. It was very charming and you definitely got the Italian feel, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you were going to Siena if you are looking for more of a luxury type of hotel. The positive was that it’s in a GREAT location. Siena itself is a quite and small town that has a big square right in the center called the ‘Piazza del Campo’ where all the action took place which was right outside our hotel. Another cool thing about Siena is that it is divided into 17 districts and each have a “uniform”. They apparently compete in all different sports, but one thing Siena is known for is a big horse race that takes place twice a year. It is called Palio di Siena. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colors that represent ten of the seventeen city districts of Siena. I would compare it to an NFL type of scene. The town of Siena also has a beautiful Duomo that reminded me of MacKenzie – Childs patterns and colors with the black and white stripes.
The second day of Siena we of course had our driver take us around the Tuscan Hills for some wine tasting and exploring of the beautiful terrain. One of the cities we landed in was Montalcino – amazing town on a hill, where they make the delicious Tuscan wine called Brunello. We went to two vineyards there. The second one was the amazing Conti Costanti and it was the best wine I had during the entire trip! Click here for the website. My husband and I shipped a couple bottles home to the states. The third day we went to Chianti Classico region where we went to the ‘Villa de Corti’ and had lunch and a wine tour. This is the villa and wine of the Corsini family, and the place was amazing with breath taking views.
Below are a bunch of photos of our time in Siena.
Here are a few of my favorite photos from the vineyards:
During our time in Siena we also stopped in Florence. We unfortunately got to Florence on the later side so did not make it to the museums as most were closing and we wanted to shop and go out to dinner for my mother-in-laws 60th birthday! Therefore, when I go back, I definitely want to spend a little more time in Florence; however, the time we did spend in the beautiful city was awesome!
Florence is known for their leather goods because the big designer brands get their leather from there so all of the leather products being sold at the Florence shops are from designer brands’ manufacturers. Theoretically, you are buying top designer brand leather goods without the brand name and the cost. It was definitely a site to see. I wish I could say I went crazy on the shopping, but by the time we got there I was tired and just wanted to relax. After a couple walk ins of stores and seeing the absolutely beautiful leather products, my husband, brother-in-law and our driver snuck off and went to a local bar. We hung out for about 30mins with our drinks in hand on these steps right outside of the bar. We just were watching the locals rush home for rush hour and absorb the culture. After we finished our drink, we met my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and soon to be brother-in-law at Acqua Al Due. It was a delicious restaurant known for their blueberry sauce and delicious food. Every bite was outstanding, but the best bite of the night was off my husband’s plate (of course 😉 ). He got the black truffle ravioli and my God, I don’t know if it was the wine or drinking before hand, but it was one of the best bites of the trip!
We all had such a blast in Florence and I might have had a little “to much fun” that night! 🍷 🍷 🍷 The next day we were off to Amalfi and the 5 hour car ride was not so much fun hung over… 😂 but it was all well worth the day and night of memories!
The Amalfi Coast:
My last and favorite stop, the Amalfi coast!
The trip was planned perfectly. The beginning was lots of exploring and museums, then wine tasting, and then relaxation on the coast. It goes without saying, Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I mean the pictures alone are breath taking so just being there in person was almost indescribable. We stayed in Sorrento at hotel Antiche Mura. Sorrento was beautiful but it was more touristy and populated and by the time we got there, we were ready to be away from crowds and just relax. We drove down to Positano and Amalfi one of the days, and it is a beautiful but scary ride! The narrow roads are carved into the cliffs with constant twists and turns. When we got to Amalfi & Positano, we realized the ride was well worth-it. When my husband and I go back, we will stay in one of those towns. They are just so beautiful and you’re nestled right in-between the mountains and ocean.
The highlight for me of the whole trip was the boat ride to Capri. We got our own boat and ‘skipper’ and explored the island of Capri from a boat all day. We loved it so much we did it TWICE. There is something about swimming in the Mediterranean and being on a boat for a whole day exploring all the beautiful caves, eating at local beach restaurants right off the water, and absorbing the culture. It just was magical. The whole scene was something out of a dream. My favorite thing of the whole trip was swimming in the blue grotto. They don’t allow you to swim in the caves anymore and if you want to go in, you need to take a row boat with a tour guide for $15 euros per person. BUT our guide new that by 5pm all the tours were over in the grotto. You wait outside your actual boat for all the tour boats to go home and then we were free to jump in and swim and tour ourselves. It was a site to be seen. Pictures don’t do it justice. I HIGHLY recommend and think it’s a must if you ever make your way to Capri.
Other great activities included a cooking class in Sorrento – La Cucina del Custo by chef Carmen, eating up in the hills at local restaurants, and drinking lots and lots of the local Sorrento cocktail – Limoncello!
As you can see, this trip was something out of a dream and my husband and I are already planning on when we will be back! Also being Italian myself (maiden name Salandra), there was something very special being back in the country where my family came from. We were very grateful and fortunate for this trip and for all of the memories. We truly had an incredible time. Until we visit again, I will be dreaming of swimming in the Mediterranean, eating the freshest of fresh food, and vacationing on the Amalfi Coast.
Ciao Italia! Until next time… ❤️
Also don’t forget to check out my latest blog post – Italy Part 1 – Packing, Planning, and Traveling to Europe!