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!
Our italy trip was booked on the heels of a whim–after a late night conversation to venture outside of our comfort zone of Paris and try somewhere new (for me, having had a personal love affair with Paris since my first trip at 17–memorialized by a Mona Lisa print I bought at the Louvre on that trip, hauled back, and have hung in every house I’ve lived in since–I would have been satisfied never traveling anywhere else). So we set out to hit the highlights of Northern Italy: Bologna, Portofino, Cinque Terra, Dievoli Vineyard in Tuscany, and Florence.
Paris being a very low-key, slow-paced holiday for us–one where we always come back renewed and refreshed–Italy, as it turned out, was just the opposite.
Feeling certain pressures to take advantage of what may be a final hurrah before baby no. 2 arrives, and that driving desire ‘not to miss anything’, we tried to pack as much as possible into our 11 day Northern Italy tour. We also used Airbnb for the first time instead of hotels for most of the trip–and especially enjoyed the larger accomodations (particularly travelling with a 2.5 yr old), added kitchens, and cost savings (in most cases, they were about half of what the hotels in the area were).
Here’s the lose itinerary we followed in a two-part post:
Bologna Highlights Route 1 (~24 min walking in order of proximity; don’t miss the gelato!)
- 1. Two Towers (The Asinelli Tower/The Garisenda Tower): The two towers the traditional symbol of Bologna, stand at the strategic point where the old Aemilian way entered the town.
- 2. Basilica Santuario Santo Stefano: Locally known as Sette Chiese (“Seven Churches”)
- 3. Archiginnasio of Bologna: One of the most important buildings in the city of Bologna; once the main building of the University of Bologna, it currently houses the Archiginnasio Municipal Library.
- 4. Fountain of Neptune: Situated on the Piazza della Signoria (Signoria square), in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
- 5. Piazza Maggiore: began as the “platea communis”, the place where people gathered and the market was held.
Route 2: Great for kids
- Giardini Margherita: small beautiful lake filled goldfish and turtles. The park sells ice cream, balloons and cotton candy
- La Sorbetteria Castiglione - An award-winning source of gelato in Bologna, English menu provided
Also check out the food markets, which Bologna is known for (the birth place of Bolognese sauce):
We picked up a car at the Bologna airport and made the drive to Portofino. Driving in Italy was a little stressful at first–there were toll roads and the GPS was spotty, but we picked up a TIMM/SIM card in Bologna so used the iPhone directions as a secondary navigation system. Also, Portofino, along with Cinque Terra, isn’t designed for driving (literally, you cannot drive in the towns and have to park on the perimeters and walk)–but worth the effort. The Bump is 7.5 months in this picture–I felt fantastic with all the walking we did; I think my body appreciated breaking up my usually sedentary daily routine of sitting at a desk:
Portofino was our second favorite of the five stops we made in Italy. The food was unbelievable there (although the most pricey of all the towns we visited), the views spectacular, and the energy contagiously calming and peaceful.
In both Portofino and in between the five towns of Cinque Terra, the neighboring villages are connected by gorgeous walking pathways built into the mountains. The “one” road that drives through the town is narrow (barely fitting 2 cars) with no sidewalks (although lots of people do walk on the roads); and the walking paths among the hills go on for miles and miles. This photo was taken while we were walking home from dinner back to our hotel–which was also built into the moutain–along the connecting, well-lit moutain paths. Just as I was taking it, the moon began to rise over the moutain to make an unexpected appearance.
This was the view we enjoyed at our nightly dinners:
And, of course, our main activity during our 11 day trip to Italy, which I happily partook in while pregnant: Pasta!!
III. Cinque Terra
Our next stop was Cinque Terra or the Five Lands,” which comprises five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. We stayed in a wonderful Airbnb apartment in Vernazza that even included toys for Judah, and, on one day, took the train to the next town to explore. My husband had been to Cinque Terra before, and I loved hearing about his prior trips and sharing his excitement for the 5 cities.
Cinque Terra has such a distinctive look and feel, walking along the textured colorful streets provided endless entertainment. Vernazza, the town we stayed in, also had a wonderful playground for children in the main square and nightly shows for kids along the beach.
The views along the moutain paths were breathtaking.
Happy Labor Day! Next up, Part II of our trip to the Dievoli Vineyard and Florence…
Hello dears! It’s lovely to be back on the blog after a short break–we’re nearing the end of a summer that has been gorgeous outside nearly every day, slugging through the last trimester of pregnancy (almost there!), finishing up work deadlines and projects, selecting paints/wallpapers/and wood (we’re finishing off a dividing wall in our house in reclaimed wood), and packing (very lightly) for our trip to Northern Italy, for which my main goal is to become even more well-acquianted with pasta, pizza, and–the best–Italian desserts. Expect many pictures of pasta and gelato to come.
I also have lots of nearly finished and upcoming projects that I’m excited to share on the blog as fall begins, including the baby nursery–decorated in peach, gold, and white; watercolor bird framed art; a craft project I’m working on for Judah’s school (tbd); our Northern Italy itinerary; final photos of our home in final form (paint selections, wallpaper, and decor included); Judah’s 3rd birthday–with a PUMPKIN theme; and, of course, newborn pics of our baby girl!
Today, I’m sharing photos of a little summer baking we did at Grandma and Grandpa’s house–utilizing the juicy, sweet, and oh-so-abundant peaches that my mother-in-law buys in bulk every year at her farmer’s market.
As you may know, I’ve had my eye on these unbearably cute mini-pies for quite some time. We made them in oversized cupcake tins, which cooked quicker than a normal-sized pie would and seemed to use more dough. But, we did have a few issues releasing them cleanly from the pan…Next time, I would put massive amounts of butter and/or Pam and/or olive oil spray on the cupcake pan to prevent the pies from excessive sticking–or even use oversized cupcake liners for quick removal.
The recipe we used for the peach pies is here (it was divinely delicious!), and some inspiration photos for more mini-pies is here.
Hope you are enjoying these final days of summer. While I’m on my blog-break for a few more weeks, you may want to browse a few of my favorite bloggers/blogs that I always come back to and enjoy:
oh happy day
people i want to punch in the throat
a beautiful mess
“And we must have a pie. Stress cannot exit in the presence of a pie.” David Mamet
Happy 4th! Hope you are enjoying the long weekend. I’ve already started counting down the days to my delivery date (beginning of October) and our upcoming trip to Northern Italy (August). I started working on the baby’s room this week and re-organized my craft room, which has made it so much easier to start and organize projects and keep track of all of my supplies! Here a few highlights from this week and last week:
1. Fox Baltimore
I love the change of pace in my day when I do a Fox Baltimore segment and this one was equally exciting. This segment was on Delivery Room and Newborn Necessities and included fun ideas like stainless steal toy keys (minus the germs and sharp edges), cord collection kits, and artwork made from baby sonograms. The bump is really showing now and the hubs and I had a delicious sweet and savory brunch afterward at Woodberry Kitchen, only a few blocks away.
2. Scavenger Hunt at Grandma’s
Last weekend, we did some summer swimming and then went on a scavenger hunt to find all of the fun and interesting creatures in Grandma’s backyard. The prompts were photographs that we took of the various creatures (she has an impressive collection of animals musing in the yard–and some that are even full size!), cut the photos into smaller sizes, and laminated them into cards for the hunt.
3. Nakd. Bars
I received a box of these Nakd. bars last week and have been devouring them left and right. They’re made entirely of all fruits and nuts with no sugar, dairy, wheat, gluten, or GM projects with flavors like Cashew Cookie, Cocoa Orange, Ginger Bread, Pecan Pie, Cocoa Mint, Cocoa Delight and Berry Delight to name a few. They’re the perfect marriage between sweet decadence and healthy and filling (a shangri-la for pregnancy snacking).
4. Scotch Ice Cube Trays
I’m still experimenting with my husband’s scotch ice cube trays and coming up with all the ways to incorporate them into every occasion. I used pomegranate juice for these red ice cubes and added a few blueberries to make them even more patriotic for our 4th of July celebrations. They went into a pomegranate sparkling lemonade cocktail I mixed up (with 2 parts pomegranate syrup, 4 parts sparkling lemonade, and 1 part vodka).
5. Mini-Pies: I’ve been scouring Pinterest and the design/crafting blogs for the most scrumptuous mini-pies using my favorite summer fruit–cherries. How cute are these? And these? One of these minis will most certainly be making their way to the blog via lovely things this week (next) week.
Thank you to Nakd. for sponsoring this post! Happy 4th of July weekend!
My husband’s and son’s birthdays are two of my favorite days of the year (along with Valentine’s). I have so much fun planning their birthdays that I’ve been known to start the planning months in advance just to prolong the joy it brings me. This year, he wanted a more low-key day, so the planning for this pink donut cake birthday celebration commenced only a week or so ago.
I saw this donut cake on one of the blogs I read (although when I went back to link it, I couldn’t find it! So if you saw the post, please forward), and wanted to try it. My husband also requested strawberry shortcake for his birthday dessert, so Judah and I did both.
The day ended up working out best with two dessert options, because while this cake is gorgeous, it’s difficult to cut into slices and structurally slightly worrisome. I thought for sure the cake was a goner when I went to bed and it was leaning at a 45 degree angle. But, it endured.
To make it , I used a vanilla donut recipe and progressive amounts of red food coloring for each donut. I then skewered the donuts together into a cake and poured icing on top. (I didn’t realize how fast donut icing dried and so there was no time for sprinkles.)
All of the decorations for the birthday were recycled from past events and mostly from Judah’s 1st ball-themed birthday. The only new addition was a half dozen or so brightly-colored paper airplanes that Judah and I folded the day before, which we also used as Judah’s card to his daddy. The kids had fun flying them at the party, the colors brightened up the tablescape, and it gave me a much needed break from having to do another 2 year old card (between the end of the school year, father’s day, and mother’s day, I’m running out of storage space for cards depicting my 2 year old’s hand).
By next year, I think it’s going to be time to update my Happy Birthday sign and give it a fresh look…
Lastly, I’ve been experimenting lately with (what was formerly) my husband’s scotch ice cube tray. As it turns out, I’ve yet to taste a drink that isn’t improved with scotch ice cubes, and they are also especially conducive to making your own decorative/party ice. These ice cubes had blueberries, basil, and raspberries in them, and I added a slice of lemon for extra color.
As you can tell, my husband enjoyed the festivities and all the birthday efforts.
See you next post!