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Ciao Italy

Oct 26, 2018 | Lifestyle | 0 comments

Hi Everyone! So I decided to write about our trip to Italy. If you follow me on social media you probably saw the pictures and stories of our travels. I’ll share some of them within this post. We just returned a few weeks ago from our two-week vacation in Florence, Italy. And let me tell you it is an absolute dream there. I highly suggest everyone try and make it there at least once in your life. The people, food, architecture, and of course the River Arno are all just beyond beautiful.

We’ve been going to Florence every September for quite a few years now, and we absolutely love it! Except for the last two years, we were unable to go due to life getting in the way. So that made our trip this year and returning to the Lungarno, all the more special. We got back home just in time for peak foliage, which was really lucky for us. This year the foliage was stunning with brilliant colors rolling over the mountains. What a sight to come home to. But, I digress. Back to our Italy vacation.

First, traveling from Vermont to Italy is no easy journey. Actually, traveling anywhere from Vermont is always difficult, because our airport is so small. We start off by driving an hour from our home in Stowe to the Burlington airport. We then have a short one hour flight to Philadelphia. Then we have the long hall of the eight-hour flight to Rome, Italy. Finally, once we arrive in Rome we have a car service drive us to Florence and our ultimate destination, Hotel Lungarno! Wow, after all of that, a shower and a meal are in order.

Hotel Lungarno in Italy

Glass of wine & sunglasses on a table

Bicycles

Inside Hotel Lungarno

We always stay at Hotel Lungarno. It’s a beautiful boutique hotel located directly on the River Arno. Each year when we arrive we find the same familiar faces welcoming us back. The staff is so special that it feels like coming home. The hotel is owned by the Ferragamo family. The attention to detail and making you feel comfortable is incredible. When we arrive at the hotel Champagne, caviar, chocolates, along with fresh flowers are waiting for us in our room. So nice! Since it is a smaller hotel you don’t get lost in the crowd. Everyone who works there knows your name. They remember the small things that you like, which make staying there one of the best parts of our vacation. They even remember the funny things that have happened on past trips. Like the one time, we were stuck at a restaurant during a cab strike and had no way to get back to the hotel. In between the time we arrived at the restaurant and the time we were finished eating our meal, the strike happened! The hotel had to send a small truck to pick us up and we were squeezed into the tiny front seat with me sitting on Vince’s lap and half my body out the window. We laughed so hard we cried all the way back to the hotel! The staff still remembers that ride till this day! Throughout our stay, we’ll come back to the room to find a great Tuscan wine or fresh flowers with a note waiting for us. I always save the notes!

Mrs. Stafford (Vince) sitting with a glass of wine by the water in Italy

Mrs. Stafford standing on balcony over River Arno in Italy Mrs. Stafford in a robe & high heels on a balcony over River Arno in Italy

So, unlike most people, we like to stay in one place through our whole vacation. Believe me, I am not a light traveler. I always overpack! So packing up every few days and traveling to a different area is just not for us. I know some people might think that is strange since we are close to so many historically beautiful cities. Our daughters are always telling us we should go to new places in Italy instead of staying in one spot. But we like what we like, and we like what we know.

Italian Shop Mrs. Stafford shopping for shoes in Italy Italian boutique

We love Florence for the people, the food, the sites, and oh let’s not forget the shopping!! Since we stay at Hotel Lungarno we get a 10% discount at Ferragamo, which is always appreciated. Traveling to Europe is a great experience but one of my favorite parts is seeing the street style of the women there. We saw some beautiful fashion trends in major fashion houses like Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo, along with small boutiques. This year animal prints were being featured in everything including bags, shoes, coats, dresses, gloves, and hats. Basically, anything you can wear or carry! Also, it wasn’t just the typical animal print. They came in all different kinds of colors such as yellow, pink, lavender, green, blue, just stunning! Of course, I could not pass up on the animal prints so I bought a bag in haircalf and a pink coat that I wore in many of my photos, which checked that box. I love shopping in Florence because you see things that you don’t get to see in the States. Even in the large fashion houses, the choices are different so I always come home with something very unique. This year I was looking for a green bag, and I ended up finding two. One from D&G and the other one from Ferragamo in beautiful luxe materials of suede and leather. Of course, I got both of them!

Mr. Stafford with his friends

Italian food Italian Wine Italian pizza

Enough about shopping, on to the food. Most of the restaurants we go to are family owned, inexpensive, and amazing. How do they make pasta that light and delicious? Osteria del Pavone is one of our all-time favorite restaurants. It is owned by the family that runs Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, which we equally love. The Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco has been in Florence for 35 years. When we are being seated we walk through the kitchen to get to our table, it definitely gives me Goodfellow vibes. They do have another entrance but that’s my favorite way to go! Our must-haves on the menu are the Fritto Misto, which one night they made special for us upon request. Also, the steak tartare is so fresh and tasty, plus it’s made at the table by the chef himself. My all-time favorite is Pappardelle pasta in boar sauce, I die!!! We love everyone at this restaurant. Above is a photo of Vince with all the guys just having too much fun!

Vineyard in Tuscany

Mrs. Stafford

Vineyard in Tuscany

A dinner table set inside a winery adorned with wine barrels

Mr. & Mrs. Stafford pose in a Vineyard in Tuscany Mr. & Mrs. Stafford smiling in a Vineyard in Tuscany

We took a day trip to Tuscany, about a two-hour drive from our hotel. We went to a small little town called Monteggiori. Monteggiori is a charming village in the Camaiore area that was first mentioned existing in the year 1224. To arrive into the town you must walk, there is no access for cars. It’s medieval fortress still stands and the village itself is like going back in time. The winding roads are just beautiful to walk through. The peacefulness of the village is wonderful, there are a few small shops and one restaurant. In exploring we kept coming upon stray cats everywhere. Certainly more cats than residents! This village is all about the stunning views and walking the same steps that people walked almost 800 years ago.

After leaving Monteggiori our driver took us to a beautiful vineyard lined with hundreds of cypress trees. Here we got to capture some great photos. The landscape was stunning and again the quiet and beauty of the area was wonderful. Rose bushes were lined throughout the vineyard making it even more pretty and romantic.

We went on to Chianti and the vineyard called Famiglia Mazzarrini for lunch and wine tastings. Our wines included both white and red and were paired with a traditional Tuscan menu. Handmade egg pasta from eggs collected in their hen house, truffles (one of my favorites), vegetables from their organic garden, and simple desserts. It was a great way to spend an afternoon. After all that we had the beautiful two-hour scenic drive back to Florence. When we got back to our room we sat on our balcony and enjoyed a Super Tuscan wine and watched the world go by.

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Mrs. Stafford in Florence

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Mrs. Stafford in Florence wearing a leopard print jacket

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Mrs. Stafford in Florence

So with all that pasta, pizza, and wine, I ended up only gaining about two pounds. Why is that you may ask? Well, it’s because we walked everywhere. We would wake up, eat breakfast, and hit the streets running. Florence is such an easy city to walk. We would be out for hours just enjoying the sites and the wonderful weather. So along with my high heels, it’s a major must to pack some good walking shoes. The Ponte Vecchio, which is one of the big tourist sites, is right next to our hotel. Our balcony has a wonderful view of it. Most days it is wall to wall of people. The shops consist of jewelry stores with the most incredible custom jewelry that you’ve ever seen. As you go further down there are art dealers, restaurants, and a huge open market that sells everything and anything you can think of.

One morning we woke up at 5 AM to get ready to go to the bridge. We wanted to take some photos and not have to deal with so many tourists. Remember how I said the streets were filled with tourists see photos below for the comparison.

Mrs. Stafford in a leopard print jacket roaming the streets of Florence
Streets of Florence at 7 AM
Busy streets of Florence
Streets of Florence during the day

We have never seen it like that before! It was just us and a few coffee shops that were beginning to open up. The streets were empty and peacefully quiet! It was worth waking up so early up for. This year Vince had the task of taking all photos for the blog. This was new for Vince. He has never been a great photographer, and it had actually become an ongoing joke within our family. Most of the pictures he would take have his thumb covering half the lens, or they would just come out blurry. I’ve got to say he proved us all wrong on this trip because his photos turned out so well. We got some great shots! Vince is thinking about a whole other career now! It also added another fun thing for us to do on this vacation. We got a lot of laughs doing it. Vince had no qualms about telling people to move out of the way. He actually went up to one group of tourists and told them they had to move because they had been in that spot long enough. Oh, that man of mine!

Mrs. Stafford in a white robe sipping coffee & reading on a hotel bed Mrs. Stafford reading

One of our best days was when it rained all day. We slept late and read a bit in the morning. Then we got dressed and went to the lounge to graze on some tomatoes and burrata, great cheese, and of course wine. It was a perfect day for relaxing and just enjoying time together.

Vince and I love to just chill and spend time together on our vacations. It’s just great for us to get away together to unplug. No phones, computers, dogs, kids, it’s just the two of us. We loved coming back to our room in the afternoon after seeing the city, or evenings after dinner, and sitting on our balcony. We would people watch and just enjoy the beauty of the area. It gives us time to recharge, sleep in, read a book, and just enjoy each other’s company. It’s so important to unplug and get away from some the of stresses of life.

We also met so many people from all over. It’s so easy to start up a conversation in a restaurant or at the hotel lounge. The best group of people we met and chatted with were, believed or not, from Vermont! They had actually lived in Philadelphia before they moved to Vermont. Kind of unreal! The world seems to be getting smaller and smaller. We had a great conversation so we traded emails and now we have some new friends.

So packing up and leaving was tough. The trip home is always a killer. We wake at 3:30 AM to be on the road to Rome by 4:30 AM. Do the entire trip back to Philly and then the killer, a five-hour layover before our flight back to Vermont. It is the worst. We then fly to Vermont, drive to Stowe. When we finally get home, we get right into our bed, after saying hello to our Buddy, for a long, well-needed sleep.

Next year we’ll get to do it all over again. Maybe with less luggage next time (HA!). So, for now, Ciao Florence!

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