Even though I loved all the cities we visited in Northern Italy, my favorite was our 1 night stay at this Tuscan Italian vineyard in the Chianti Region, near Siena: Dievole. It was unfathomably picturesque and, even more of a draw for us at least, kid-friendly with a playground, family pool, and a good number guests under 10 who were slightly less than wine enthusiasts.
The pools and the outdoor courtyards where the meals were served were perched among the Chianti region’s crescent hills, overlooking verdant views of the property’s breathtaking vineyards. We spent the afternoon taking a tour of the winemaking facility, including their massive French oak barrels, sampling the extra virgin olive oils made from olives at the vineyard, and then walking amongst the grape-laden vines…in the clouds.
Even though I couldn’t partake in much of the wine-tastings, aside from a few sips here and there, I got great pleasure watching my husband sip from a bottle of opened Dievole wine on our walks thru the vineyards, while Judah sampled the different varieties of grapes from the vines.
We packed up our Dievole bottles of wine purchased for future special occasions and made the drive to our last stop on the trip: Florence.
Here’s a list of what not to miss on a trip to Florence:
1. Il Duomo – Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore: Florence’s most popular site (a cathedral) the Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore.
2. Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio: (We stayed in an AirBNB on this beautiful piazza) It is Florence’s most famous square in the heart of the historic center and a free open-air sculpture exhibit including a copy of Michelangelo’s David.
3. The Baptistery: one of Florence’s oldest buildings made of green and white marble and has three sets of amazing bronze doors.
4. Campanile – Bell TowerL great views of the Cathedral (no elevator, so be prepared to walk!)
5. Ponte Vecchio: Florence’s famous, first, and last remaining medieval bridge across river Arno built in 1345
6. Galleria degli Uffizi: world’s most important collection of Renaissance art (buy tickets ahead)
7. Galleria dell’ Academia: home of Michelangelo’s David and the Medici’s family musicial instruments, including a Stradivarius (buy tickets ahead; we also liked the gift shop here)
8. Boboli Garden and Pitti Palace: cross Ponte Vecchio to a huge walled-off park on a hillside with beautiful gardens and fountains. The Pitti Palace, Florence’s largest palazzo, was once the seat of the Medici family. Eight different galleries feature art, costumes, jewelry, and the apartments. (We didn’t have time to make it here!)
We went back and forth on which city to take a boat tour of and left it for Florence–to get a unique vantage of the Ponte Vecchio (Florence’s famous bridge). We had no idea that Florence only permits a few boats on the Arno river–and this tiny row boat (barchetto) is one of them. The boat is manned at sunset and directed by an Florentine boat-handler standing at the back with a single, wooden oar.
On the morning of our boat tour and for a slower-paced day, I also made a list of all the famous Florentine piazzas and we spent the morning walking to each one, comparing the views, and absorbing the street music.
My sweetie with the David…
And I would be leaving out the most important highlights of our trip without the following photos of–the food!
On one of the long car drives in between cities, my husband and I started making lists of our best memories and meals, including the best breakfasts we’ve had together (one of which was at Dievole), favorite destinations, best hotel experiences, etc.
Aside from the boat tour on the Arno, we also did a 3 hour bike tour of Florence at sunset–which thankfully ended with a stop at a local gelato shop that I had to continually remind Judah of for most of the ride. Everyone asked me how I fared on the trip being 7 months pregnant with all the walking, biking, and travel activities, but really all the exercise (sometimes 5 straight + hours of walking a day) felt wonderful–and my body seemed to welcome the change of pace other than sitting at my desk for 8 + hours a day.
Biking is hands down our favorite activity to do when we travel–but Florence was a little tricky with a toddler in a childseat because you are literally riding in the middle of the streets of Florence (which was amazing on one hand), but then dodging out of the way for the occasional car or bus as they would go by (except for the buses and a few cars, there is no traffic allowed in the city). On future trips to Florence, we may just stick to the carousels.
We tried to push our dinners as late as possible every night to savor the night views on the water and sit outside listening to the musicians playing on the steps of the ancient, open-air pavillions.
Addio per l'Italia, grazie per i ricordi!