I know, I know. I was a very bad blogger this summer. The worst. I don't even have a really good excuse. It's true it was a very, very busy summer - filled with camp, SAT prep, college visits, mini-vacations, home projects (to be shared soon), driving lessons and hanging out at the pool. But the real truth is that I was just busy enjoying the summer with my family and I got a bit side-tracked. :-)
But I'm back! And I wanted to share some highlights from our family vacation to Italy. The husband and I went many years ago right after I graduated from college, but we had never taken the girls before. Italy is a gorgeous country and there is much to see, but since this was the girls' first time, we planned to hit the biggies: Rome, Florence, and Venice.
We had done some research and were under the impression that Rome can be pretty dead in August. Soooo not true ~ the place was packed! Yes, some smaller shops were closed, but generally everything was bustling and super CROWDED. We avoided some of the long lines and chaos by buying museum tickets online and making reservations ahead of time - something I really recommend doing if you can. Luckily, the weather was amazing for August - low 80's and sunny skies - a real plus in a city that requires a lot of walking. We also took some time to do a little shopping (mostly window)...
...and eat some delicious pizza!
I must say that a major highlight of our trip was our incredible hotel. We stayed at The Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria. It's situated high in the hills above the city with the most breath-taking views of Rome.
The hotel is a museum in itself, as it is filled with beautiful original works of art. This stunning painting was in the girls' room!
After a few days in Rome, we headed off to Florence. We took a fast, high-speed train and everyone slept through the trip, but I enjoyed the pretty scenery passing by my window.
I absolutely adore Florence. It is such a beautiful, romantic city with so much art, culture and history. We made sure to fit in as many museums as possible. Our favorites were the Uffizi Gallery (where you can see gorgeous Botticelli paintings like The Birth of Venus and The Spring and admire the museum's stunning architecture)...
...and the Accademia Gallery (most famous for Michelangelo's David). Pretty impressive.
Florence has some amazing restaurants and we had many delicious meals. The pastas were partuclarly to die for - handmade with the freshest ingredients!
Oh, and the Gelato! One can not forget the gelato. We ate way more than I care to admit, but I think our absolute favorite was found at Gelateria Santa Trinita.
It was beyond incredible. Some gelato shops serve it "con panna" - with cream! Heavenly! Florence is also Italian candyland - I have never seen so many gorgeous candies, marzipan, and chocolates in one place...
In fact, the sweets were so spectacular that I am going to devote an entire post just to them!
We also managed to do some really fantastic shopping in Florence. Sadly, some of the smaller boutiques were closed for the holiday, but there were still plenty of shopping opportunities. I really enjoyed the department store, La Rinascente. Their home section was fabulous and I found lots of Rice products, cool party supplies, more candy, and a great selection of Missoni linens. I passed on most of the street market items - although if you are in need of a leather jacket or belt, you've come to the right place. I did succumb to a vendor selling reproduction Florentine trays - I usually only purchase the vintage ones, but these were too pretty to pass up.
But I think the part I loved the best about Florence was just strolling the pretty streets and taking in all the architecture and history.
Again, our hotel in Florence did not disappoint. We stayed at the Hotel Santa Maria Novella and it was incredible! A great location, stunningly appointed rooms with canopy beds and huge widows that opened onto the piazza below, a yummy breakfast, and a lovely, dedicated staff. I was particularly enamoured with the billowing silk drapes...
Truly, it couldn't have been better and I can't recommend it enough. Thank you, Tripadvisor, for that one!
Well, the last stop on our Italy tour was Venice, but since this post is already very long (I guess I am making up for lost time) and the fact that Venice was so beautiful that it deserves a post of it's own, I will save it for tomorrow.
I hope that everyone had a wonderful summer!