Wow, what an amazing 10 days we’ve had! We got home from Italy yesterday afternoon, and while it was hard to leave, it feels so good to be home.
I still have so much to process, and I plan to write a post recapping what I wore, what I packed, what worked well, what didn’t, and all that. Please let me know if you have any questions specific to those topics. But today, I want to share my recap of the third and final leg of our Italy Family Adventure, which was three days spent in Florence!
We arrived at Hotel Lungarno around lunchtime on Wednesday, after an easy 2-hour drive from Perugia. Our driver stopped along the way at Piazzale Michelangelo, which is a square dedicated to the famous sculptor. In addition to bronze copies of some of his marble works, including David, the square also offers an amazing view of the city of Florence from above.
This quick stop was a great way to kick off the last leg of our trip. Not only were we able to get some really cool photos, it gave us a bird’s-eye view of what we were about to see over the next few days.
Our rooms at Hotel Lungarno were another suite style situation, but in this case, we had two rooms (a triple and a double) and two bathrooms. The triple had a lovely terrace overlooking the Arno river, which I enjoyed almost every morning with an espresso from the machine in the room.
While we waited for our rooms to be ready, we had lunch in the Picteau Bistrot & Bar in our hotel, which offers a beautiful view of the Arno river and Ponte Vecchio — the medieval bridge that crosses the river.
After checking in and getting settled in that first day, we went out to explore the city and get the lay of the land, so to speak. I could soon see why everyone says they like to shop in Florence. There are more stores per square mile than I’ve seen in a single city in my entire life!
It was incredibly crowded that afternoon, and the streets seem to be narrower than the ones in Rome, if that’s possible. It makes for some pretty precarious situations, since we share those narrow streets with all types of bikes and automobiles, but somehow it seems to work. We kept saying we’re amazed there aren’t more casualties.
I was happiest when I got off the main drag and onto a less crowded street. Like Rome and Perugia, Florence has many charming side streets and alleyways to explore, such as this one.
We ate dinner at Parione that first night in Florence, and it was wonderful — the food, the service, the ambiance, everything! Our server was quite the character, as well, which always makes a dinner more fun.
I spent a while the next morning on our terrace, sipping espresso (yay for the in-room espresso makers in Italy!) and working on my Perugia recap before heading down to breakfast at the hotel.
All three of our hotel stays included a breakfast buffet, and the one at Hotel Lungarno was the best of the three. It was incredibly extensive, and everything was beyond delicious. I just wish I had a bigger appetite in the mornings.
They even have a whole gluten-free section, for those who need it.
After that, we met our tour guide, Costanza, for a 4-hour walking tour of the city. We started on the historic Ponte Vecchio, which she explained is the only bridge crossing the Arno that wasn’t destroyed by the Germans in WWII. It has quite a storied history, but these days it’s home to many of the jewelry shops that Florence is known for.
This tour was much less structured than others we’ve taken, and Costanza tailored it to what we wanted to see. Sometimes we would be looking at a historic church or museum, and she would ask if we wanted to go in or not, and we would decide on the fly.
When I asked where to go to get authentic Florentine jewelry that doesn’t have a huge markup, she took us to NERDI — an artisan workshop on one of the backstreets of Florence. She was able to interpret for us as they showed us how they make their exquisite gold jewelry by hand using ancient techniques. (And yes, I did go back later that day make a purchase!)
I also mentioned along the way that my mom got a small mosaic when she visited Italy a few years ago, and I was hoping to find a similar piece of artwork like that. Costanza then took a detour and walked us over to a small shop called Scarpelli Mosaici, where they create mosaics with semi-precious stones that they collect in the Florentine hills. It’s exactly what I was hoping for, and I went back the next day and purchased a small piece for our home. This picture shows a bit of the process.
We all were happy when Costanza asked if we wanted to take a coffee break. It was so nice to get a break from all the walking, plus we got to have a yummy Italian treat as well.
That tour also included entrance to the Accademia, where of course we saw Michelangelo’s famous David sculpture, but we were also very interested in the old musical instruments that were in one of the side rooms. We spent quite a while in there, actually, but of course David was the star of the show.
David is one of those things you have to experience in person to truly appreciate. I didn’t expect to be so impressed by him because I’ve seen the sculpture so often in pictures, and even in replicas around the city of Florence, but to see the details in person is truly mesmerizing.
I spent a while just looking at his facial expression and contemplating what the young shepherd boy might have been thinking as he faced down the giant Goliath. How one can create that out of stone simply boggles the mind.
The Accademia also displays some of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures, which show how he worked. It was all incredibly fascinating!
After that walking tour, we all felt like we knew the city better and were able to enjoy it more when we had free time… which we had quite a bit of in Florence, and I’m so glad about that. We were all getting tired of touring, and Florence is such a nice walking city. Everyone was able to do their own thing, and I felt safe letting the kids go out and about on their own when they wanted to, which is what David and Caroline did at that point.
Paul, Becca, and I came back to the hotel and sat in the lounge and ordered the Tuscan meat & cheese board with Prosecco. (Becca had a Shirley Temple, and they brought her gluten free bread.) I mean, just look at this. I would eat this every day of the week.
Paul and I went out shopping after resting for a bit in our rooms, and that’s when I wandered into Max Mara and purchased the gold dress in the photo at the top of this post. That was a fun experience! The sales associate was incredibly attentive, and she kept bringing me dresses to try… along with a cold bottle of cold water, which was very much needed at that point.
Dinner that night was at Buca Mario, and it was every bit as good as Parione the night before, just a different vibe. We all agreed that those were our two favorite restaurants from the entire trip. I wore the gold dress, and I also broke out my new Loewe bag for the first time.
On the way back to our hotel afterwards, Paul took some pictures of my look. For the first time of the entire trip, I felt like I was dressed perfectly for dinner out in Italy.
Thursday was another walking tour with our lovely guide, Costanza. This tour focused on the Medici family, and we explored the Medici Chapels and Palazzo Vecchio. Both were beyond stunning, with so much art and sculpture and architecture to behold.
That tour also included a coffee stop at GiLLi, the oldest cafe in the city of Florence, and a detour over to the utterly charming Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Now, THAT is a hidden gem, if I’ve ever seen one!
When Costanza asked us if we wanted to see the oldest pharmacy in the world, I thought she was talking about an Italian farmacia, but it’s actually a perfumery and herbalist shop. Not only that, it was established in a frescoed chapel in 1221 by Dominican monks, so it’s yet another stunning example of Florentine art and architecture.
Becca and I both purchased a few souvenirs here, as well. Seriously, do not miss this, if you’re ever in Florence!
We spent that afternoon exploring more of Florence, and then that night, we had an appointment for a family photo shoot. Now THAT was quite the event. We had no idea what to expect, but it was a service offered by our travel agency, and I thought it would be a great place to get a new family photo, so we booked it.
I assumed the photographer would take us to a remote location to get photos away from the crowds, but instead, she walked us through the congested streets of Florence, taking photos at all the major tourist destinations. My kids were equal parts mortified by the spectacle we were making of ourselves and annoyed with me for putting them through it, and I don’t think they’ve forgiven me yet, haha!
As for me, I spent the entire hour trying not to break out into hysterical laughter at their commentary, while also keeping conversation going with the photographer in between stops. The poor woman was probably about ready to strangle us all by the end of it. I just hope and pray she got some decent pictures, although I’m sure she did. Hopefully I’ll get to see them soon!
After that, we had dinner reservations at Ciro & Sons because Becca was craving ravioli, and we googled where to find it gluten-free. While every restaurant we visited offered gluten-free pasta, it was often limited to one or two kinds, but Ciro & Sons offers every single thing on their menu in a gluten-free option.
They also use separate ovens to reduce the possibility of cross-contamination, which is crucial for those with Celiac Disease. Everything was delicious, and we were all happy with what we ordered. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs gluten-free food options in Florence.
As we walked back across the bridge to our side of the Arno, Becca and I stopped to take some pictures. It would be our last night out and about in Florence because we had plans to visit a winery in the Chianti countryside the following evening.
my dress (size M)
Our only scheduled plans for our last day in Florence were the winery tour and tasting that evening, so we all took the opportunity to check off our last-minute bucket list items for the trip.
Even though I knew we would be having plenty of wine that night, I hadn’t yet had a chance to visit one of Florence’s famous wine windows, so I drug Paul along with me to Osteria Belle Donne — the prettiest wine window I’d seen in our wanderings.
If you aren’t familiar, the wine windows were developed in the 1500s so wealthy families could sell wine from their agricultural collections to consumers from their homes in the city. Then during the bubonic plague of the early 1600s, the wine windows provided a safe way for them to sell their wine with minimal contact.
The wine windows became popular again during Covid, for obvious reasons, and they’ve become something of an Instagram photo opp phenomenon, so you know I couldn’t resist that!
My husband, bless his heart, patiently followed me over and took photos. He was rewarded with a glass of Prosecco, which he happily accepted.
He declared early on during our trip that we should adopt the Italian tradition of an afternoon Prosecco here at home, and I can’t say I disagree.
Okay, for some reason this post is waaaay longer than the others! To wrap it up, David decided to spend his last evening in Florence, so it was just the girls who accompanied Paul and me on our winery tour and tasting on our final night in Italy.
A driver picked us up at the hotel and drove us out into the Chianti countryside, which was every bit as lovely as I had anticipated.
We visited at Casa Emma for the Wine Tasting with Tagliere, which was phenomenal. I’m so glad we added on the Tagliere option, as none of us had eaten lunch, and we definitely needed some food to soak up that wine! Plus, it was just yummy. It also allowed us to taste their olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
After that, we had dinner reservations at a small trattoria in the country before returning to our hotel, and that marked the end of our time in Florence.
We were up bright and early the next morning to get to the airport for our return flight home. It was not the smoothest travel day, but we made it home safe and sound with our sanity mostly still in tact, and I guess that’s about all you can hope for!
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