Posts filed under italy

Tuscany Day Trip | Bonassola on the Italian Riviera

When I was 19, I was introduced to the Cinque Terre. After traveling to Italy several times before, something felt unique and untouched about this place. It was charming with tiny streets, dramatic beaches smashed on the Mediterranean, and the pesto… oh, baby. It was lush. Tyler and I would sit on the rocks in Vernazza with picnics at sunset and jump off the rocks of Manorola and feel like this was as good as cheap thrills can get.

Since that first time, I have to say (as many other would agree), it’s not really the same. It’s been blown up by tourism in a way that is both like winning the lottery for some locals and devastates a place of its natural charm. We visited Vernazza this summer and, literally, waddled along the main road trying to walk with so many other tourists alongside us. (To be fair, it was July and it was the day a cruise ship docked.) 

A few weeks later, we were at dinner with our friends, Grant, Georgette & Nico in Florence. I asked them where they went for a day out to the beach. Without skipping a beat, Georgette & Nico (who are married) said: "Bonassola!”

They explained that it was just beyond the top town of the Cinque Terre, just beyond Levanto. They said you could drive, you could rent chairs on the beach, that it was stuffed with Italians and, of course, pesto-covered focaccia. We were sold.

A few days later, we loaded up the kids for the 2+ hour drive there. We got takeaway cappuccinos (“a porta via”) and pastries from the best little spot, Laquale, near where we stay.

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We packed up the kids and a million other things (floaties, clean clothes,  water bottles, snacks, sun cream, laptop for Tyler, and, seemingly, every other random other thing we have ever owned.) As we started our mountainous decent from Levanto to Bonassola, we realised how special this place was. It’s a little bay where Italians come to spend August. You can tell that the people there are families that have come back to the same little apartments and beach clubs for years. There are friendships there that are so obvious and so charming. Yet, we still felt the perfect balance of being unnoticed outsiders and friendly experiences. 

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You can rent a beach chair for the day for about €15 per chair. I rented chairs for 6 of us, but it was honestly, a bit of a waste of money. I think for the 7 of us, I could have only rented 3, as for the most part, we were coming and going to the water. 

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We grabbed pizzas from a tiny local spot that had a giant line snaking out of, which obviously meant I wanted to try it, too. We had a sandy little lunch eating pizzas and peaches from the local market what spills right out from the beach front. I met men from Burkino Faso selling gorgeous blankets and grabbed one as a souvenir from the day.

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The water was clear and pretty- as you would expect the Italian Riviera to be. A dead jellyfish floated up and some kids pulled it ashore and played with it for hours. When Viola told me she had been playing with a jellyfish, I definitely didn’t believe her, but our au pair, Camino, laughed and said it was true. I wandered down to see it in person and found about ten kids squatting around it, playing with its tentacles. 

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As the sun started to set and the beach chairs started to gradually become empty, we packed up and wandered into town to find a place for dinner. The tables of the cafes were all filled with families and friends sipping aperitivos, eating pizzas and watching as their kids ran around the fountains by them.

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And as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans. So we sat down and ordered as our kids ran free. They climbed up on the steps, the climbed down, they made friends with the family playing by them and ended up eating the kids crackers, at their mom’s kind offering. It was nearly dream-like.

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I kinda love to keep places like this a secret, because it makes me nervous to think that one day, Bonassola will be just like the Cinque Terre. Overexposed and haggard, but I kinda think that maybe if we spread out a bit, took a chance on other places and tried something that wasn’t just listed in every single tour book//blog, maybe we’d just disperse the chaos a bit better than we currently are doing. Well, that’s my hope at least. Maybe there is actually enough of great spaces for all of us to enjoy, if we don’t feel the pressure to fight for a space in the well-known ones. Because let me tell you, this was not settling for a consolation prize. This day trip to Bonassola was the jewel in the crown of our time staying in Florence.

And if you go, look for me. I’ll be the one on a beach chair- buried under kid’s floaties and empty boxes of pizzas- with a very content look on my face.


Find more of my favourite easy day trips from Tuscany or browse my Italy travel guide to help plan your trip.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My Florence | Breakfast at Villa Cora

As our schedule seems to typically fall, we are often traveling over my birthday. Because of an early August birthday, I’ve been able to celebrate birthdays in some pretty lush places. Being the good man that he is, Tyler knows that the thing I love to do most when ushering in a new year of life is to find the prettiest breakfast possible to celebrate. It just feels like the biggest treat to me. 

While there may have been many fine hotel beds and bathtubs that made me swoon, what really seems to stand out to me in thinking back on great hotels is the breakfast. There’s just nothing more indulgent than waking up in a pretty room and wandering down to a pretty table and pretty, homemade food and hot delicious coffee. Its in those moment that I feel my brain get the warm fuzzies of complete travel bliss. 

For my 34th birthday (34!!!), we headed to Villa Cora below Piazzale Michaelangelo in Florence. We passed it a few nights earlier driving with a friend: it glowed on the hillside with pretty lighting and had an ambiance that made me wish I had a slinky ballgown to go dance on the terrace in. When I asked her what it was, she replied that it was called Villa Cora and was a gorgeous hotel. Call it fate, call it destiny.... but I knew then and there that was the place we needed to try this year.

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And I can’t say that it disappointed in anyway. The service was incredible, the setting was Florentine posh in all the best ways, the food was a mix between the Italian finest and made-to-order requests. (I mean, goodness, they serve their fruit on columns of ice.) The terrace to eat on overlooks the fountain and gardens and it just feels.... decadent.

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We for a couple of hours- no kids, no problem- enjoying every bite and sipping coffee and fresh cold press juices and any other item we had a whim to try. The staff was so sweet and didn’t rush us one bit.

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Afterwards, we were invited to explore the villa and gardens, enjoy a takeaway coffee and felt like we were actual hotel guests. 

We wandered down into the garden and sat on a white couch and Tyler obliged me by spending the next hour doing one of my other most beloved activities: financial planning. Ha! How fun of a date am I? But seriously, I love having time to chat through big picture ideas and after a a nice, relaxed morning- it was the perfect time to go through it.

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Would I recommend going to Villa Cora for breakfast in Florence? Yes! It’s €35 per person and a great option for a celebration or girly morning out. I’d recommend calling before you go to get a table reserved on the terrace, as that really is the best seat in the house and seating is quite limited.


VILLA CORA | Viale Machiavelli, 18, 50125 Firenze FI | +39 055 228790


Find more of my favourite places in Florence in my travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on September 25, 2018 and filed under florence, italy, marriage, my florence.

Tuscany Day Trip | Collodi + Pinnochio Park

Today, we were leaving for Lucca when a friend mentioned that we should stop by Collodi and show the kids the town that is famous for it’s connection to the famous Italian story, Pinocchio. (Apparently, the author’s pen name was “Carlo Collodi,’ which he chose as a tie to his mother’s native village.) 

After a great day biking around Lucca and eating small mountains of gelato, we hit the road for Collodi. When we pulled up on a late August afternoon, it felt as if this town had been long-forgotten, but with several shops overflowing with Pinocchio toys and a giant statue of him welcoming us into town, we parked and wandered around to see what awaited us.

We soon stumbled upon the Pinocchio Park, which seemed like the best option. After all, we had already paid for parking, got the kids out of their car seats and strapped them in. As we stood in the empty ticket area with faded murals on the walls around us, we forked over €44 for the 5 of us to enter with the feeling that we were overpaying for what we were about to experience. 

We walked in and looked around. None of the rides were currently running, as there was a puppet show in progress. One single employee ducked behind an old stage and performed (in Italian) the story of Pinocchio for the small crowd sitting out in the audience. 

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We cringed and continued on taking note that we had just paid a chunk of change to to enter a park that is completely in a timewarp. The park consists of, literally, three tiny, vintage rides- each kid can ride each one twice, a small playground, a little trail to follow with a zipline, a few dusty caravans to walk through, a little craft hut and a snack bar. There are some bronze sculptures dotted around and a giant shark/whale feature. 

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BUT- we spent two and half hours there and our kids loved it. It was simple fun. They rode a little Venetian-themed boat carousel of gondolas. They tinkered inside the music garden on little coloured pipes. They coloured hats in the craft shed with a kind worker who assembled and decorated little accessories to complete their efforts. Edie, meanwhile, happily got filthy playing the dirt during their fun.

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It wasn’t what we had expected, and I wouldn’t recommend this stop for anyone who is crunched for time in Tuscany. However, if you’re in the area for a while, I would say- go for it. Make a day in a tiny town that has lived beyond its prime- but you’ll love the sweet reminder of your own childhood as you watch your kids play there. (I mean, I didn’t have a childhood in Italy, but Tyler & I both commented on how much the experience felt like our own memories.) It’s not fancy, but it’s a sweet way to let them explore and have fun- and when they’re little, that’s kind of the goal, right?

If you’re need help finding Collodi by public transport, you can either take a train to nearby Pescia and bus in, or train to Lucca and take a bus directly from there to Collodi.


 

Find more of my Tuscany Day Trips here or check out my Travel Guide to Italy.
 



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on September 4, 2018 and filed under italy, traveling with kids.

Tuscany Day Trip | The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is something that we both saw years ago and- while we liked it- had removed from our list of “must see’s” upon returning to Tuscany in the summers.

However, with kids, it’s an easy and fun option to do out for Florence. Plus, it was just under an hour door-to-Tower for us, so it makes for a great option for spending half the day out and half the day being lazy/doing something else.

You can take a train from Florence to Pisa really easily- they run often from Florence’s main station, Santa Maria Novella and are cheap. (Maybe €6 the last time I took it?) Once you arrive to the station, you can either trek across town following the signs or hop in a local bus or taxi. But we had a car, so we opted for driving right on up, parking in a paid lot about 300 yards from the tower and cruising in.

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What’s great about the tower is that you can visit it for free! Take all the classic “holding it up with one finger” pics that your heart desires for not a single penny. However, to climb the famous tower- you’ll need to reserve a time slot and pay €18. I’ve been there probably 8 times and never climbed up... and to be honest, I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all. (Do chime in below if you have climbed up and think I’m wrong!)

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We took loads of pictures- most mainly bad and hilarious. Then wandered down a side street stuffed with tourist shops and cafes in search of something along the frozen-dairy category for a great. We got popsicles at a little cafe and scooted back to the tower to enjoy them on the curb. (Fine dining with a view, of course.)

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After about an hour all in- we decided we had enough of the Pisa experience and headed out to the car park. A million men selling random trinkets will, of course, try to intercept you. We ended up with a hot pink fan for €1 for a certain 5 year old, and hit the road.

This is a really fun, cheap and easy day trip when you’re staying in Florence. With a gaggle of little kids, having a car made it really easy on us- but if you had a small baby or older kids, a train would be a fabulously simple route to the iconic tower, too!

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Find more of my favorite day trips in Tuscany here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 22, 2018 and filed under italy, travel.

My Florence: Ditta Artigianale

Most people dream of foamy cappuccinos and strong cups of espresso served by brisk waiters in sharp suits when they imagine lingering in a cafe in Italy. Most of the stereotypical daydreams also come accompanied by a Puccini soundtrack... or, at least, they do for me.

While I spend a lot of my time in coffee shops, I had always enjoyed that Italy seemed immune to the hipster coffee scene. (In the same way that I really enjoy not being able to use my phone on a flight.) In Italy, coffee should be served standing at the bar or seated with great people watching in a cafe... and not in a modern setting with cool light fixture and bearded patrons with Apple products.

So when my friend, Grant, recommended that we go try Ditta Artigianale in Florence.... well, I wasn't so sure. Somehow the thought of a hip coffee shop in Italy seemed wrong. But Tyler loves "good coffee," and I wanted to see the Pitti Palace so we compromised and crossed the Ponte Vecchio.


DITTA ARTIGIANALE OLTRARNO

This coffee shop on Via Dello Sprone is of the three Ditta Artigianale locations in the city. This local chain has various locations around the city, but if you're looking for a place to stay for a while- this is the one you want to go to.

The coffee is great. The classic latte is perfectly made- thanks to incredible high quality milk. (Good dairy makes everything better, doesn't it?) They shop also has fresh cold-press juices that are served in kitschy mason jar glasses, but taste fantastic. 

If you're feeling hungry- you have a range of food to choose from. Whether it's something small like a pastry or cookie or something a bit more substantial like a homemade croque monsieur or salad- they've got good options that not only sound cool, but they taste great, too.

With cosy nooks for work or chatting, an upstairs for hiding out, and a patio out back for some sunshine while your kids march around like tiny clowns- this is a perfect place to waste an afternoon.... or just for grabbing a great coffee to go on your way to the Boboli Gardens. 

DITTA ARTIGIANALE | Via dei Neri, 32/R, 50122 Firenze, Italy | Open 8AM-10PM


Looking for more great places in Florence? Check out my guide here and my Italy posts here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 6, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, italy, life, travel.

Tuscany Day Trip | Montepulciano

I convinced Tyler and our friends, Geraldine and Grant, to go to Montepulciano for the day while we were lounging around the villa one day. I had gone years ago and was itching to show them what a cute town it was. After they relented to my less-than-subtle nudges, we hopped in the car and drove an hour and a half. When we got there, I soon realized- I had actually been to Montelcino and had never been to Montepulciano before. Oops.

The good news for all of us was that this town was WAY better than I had expected to show them. Lucky for them (and me!), we got to spend a wonderful day exploring this charming town once run by the Medici family and still known today for its world class wines.

Plus, rolling the word "Montepulciano" off your tongue is one of the funnest things ever said.


MONTEPULCIANO
 

GETTING THERE

To drive from Florence (which is the best way, since it's really complex to reach otherwise), you'll take an easy 90 drive south, past Siena. Park in one of the paid lots and wander in through one of the various city gates. We parked in lot #1 and it was a great starting point.

You can walk straight from the parking lot and into town. From there, it was a windy and colorful stroll up through into the city center. Along the way, expect fruit stalls, tiny artists' shops and touristy stops full of leather purses and ceramic goodies.

 

WHAT TO DO

This isn't going to be a day-trip that has a big bullet-point list that comes with it. Your main objectives for the day are to relax, catch some great views from the endless alleyways and vistas, and eat/drink well along the way.

You can make it up to the Piazza Grande (admittedly, a tiresome endeavor with a baby stroller) and enjoy the piazza life from there. Grab a cup of (delicious artisan!) gelato from the tiny cafe right in the square for a real treat. Or if you're feeling more energetic, you cna pay €4 to climb up to the top of the Terrazza del Palazzo Comunale for sweeping views of the Tuscan hills surrounding you.

 

WHAT TO EAT

If wine is your game, then you've got countless vineyards surrounding the town you can visit as this is the home of the famous vino nobile. The larger vineyards offer amazing lunches in gorgeous settings... along with pricetags that pair well with such an opulent experience. Some of the most famous vineyards in the Montepulciano area are Avignonesi and Contucci Cantine.

 

C’era Una Volta is a restaurant that sits outside the historic city walls. If you don’t have a car, it’s not for you, but if you do have a car (and especially if you ha e kids!), go here. It looks non-descript from the road- but as you walk up, a tiny little restaurant will open up. Opt for a table in the outdoors, if it’s nice. If you have kids, they’re welcome to play in the tiny little kid barn- complete with a play pen stocked with toys! Dream scene. The food is delicious- the homemade eggplant parmigiana is the best started you’ll have for a while. Don’t miss the chance to order the kid the “Peppa Pig” pizza- complete with pointy ears, olive eyes and a prosciutto nose.

 

Where to Stay

Villa Nobile is a private house- actually, a family friend's house that we rented. However, its location in Montepulciano and its amenities (Hello infinity pool overlooking Tuscan hillside!) make it a relaxing home during your stay in Tuscany. The owners will help coordinate meals, cooking classes, wine tasting and a cleaner, but to be honest, you’ll feel just as spoiled simply having dinner on the patio with its sprawling views. If you go, make sure you look through their list of local recommendations for helpful local suggestions.


Tuscany is a great place to take day trips- really for any type of traveler. If you're young and looking to explore- these small, friendly towns are nearly fail proof adventures. If you're a couple looking for some romantic spots and lonely cafes, these towns offer it. If you're a family craving some culture, but feel exhausted by big cities- small towns like Montepulciano are a great middle ground. (Plus so many of the streets are pedestrian only, you don't have to worry about cars. Let those kids run free!)


 

Find more of my Italy posts here and my series on Tuscan day trips here.

 



 

*images original to aspiring kennedy by grant schol

 

Under The Tuscan Sun... and Just By The Olive Trees

When I was 19, I spent a semester in Italy. Just outside of Florence on a hillside of a sleepy suburb in a 15th century villa. In this villa, we had class, we had little Italian women cook for us and we stayed up way too long every night. I'm not sure anyone can spend three months at that villa and not have those moments stay with them forever. There really is something magical about "the villa," and I am so glad that I got to share it with my family this summer.

While we were there, my friend Grant snapped some pictures of us around the house. He, literally, took out his camera and starting clicking away after breakfast one day. (And from the lack of Tyler and/or group photos, you'll see that it was so casual that he went in to change out the laundry about two minutes into taking pictures and we had given up by the time he had come back out.)

I have to say, I love them. Not just because I can now appreciate the gift of having us all four in the same photo... but especially so because they're a reminder of a normal day that made up this gorgeous holiday.

There are so many memories that I have from the villa- visiting with my family in high school, arriving with my best friend and a huge suitcase to live out of for the spring whilst in college, saying goodnight to friends in the driveway during the summers in college, eating lunch with Tyler as newlyweds in the dining room, laughing on the terrace with Oxford friends after graduation, and now... well, with my sweet babies toddling around the yard.

 

I love Florence and the lifelong friends that we have there... and, well, now I have some pictures to add to the others we already love from this same special place.

 



 

*images by Grant Schol

 

Posted on September 9, 2016 and filed under italy, kids, family, everyday living, florence.

Florence | La Menagere

 

Once upon a time, I was a camp counselor and had a hilarious camper named Grant. We would sit in the craft shed- me, a fresh college graduate, and him, a quick-witted 14 year-old, laughing and talking throughout afternoon in the Arkansas heat. Fast-forward 10 years. Grant has recently moved to Florence and works as a colleague of mine in our Florence program.

While we are here this summer, we get to see Grant everyday and he has been giving us a fresh look at a city we love so much. We get great facts along our walks through the city, funny translations of Italian and, most importantly, the great new spots to go to when in Florence.

La Menagere is a place that Grant picked out for us to try long before our arrival. When we ventured into town one day, the mood felt right and we scurried over that way. Walking up to it, I knew that- 100% sure- this was a place I would love. (I am pretty sure that you will, too!)

 

LA MENAGERE

 

When you first walk in, you're going to notice the amazing design of this space. The interiors are very cool- almost as if built as a set for a Nancy Meyers movie.

 

 

Then, you'll notice the chic army of waiters quietly scurrying around the restaurant. From their denim aprons to their perfecty-groomed facial hair, they somehow match the setting as if an interior designer worked them into her plans.

 

 

Now, for the important part: the food.  Expect traditional items with a twist for the menu. We started with the Insalata Caprese- hot & cold. It consisted of a tomato soup with basil croutons and an island of mozzerella ice cream. It was a fun version of something that I've had a hundred times before... but in a way that didn't feel sacreligious.

 

 

For the mains, we all tried something different. Toasted gnocchis, cocoa raviolis and a candied lemon and poppyseed risotto with salty cheese. The combinations were unlikely, but the execution was perfect.

 

We made it a real party and brought our friends, Mat & Kelsey + their kids. I wouldn't say this restaurant is best enjoyed with kids, but I will say they did an awesome job taking care of ours. They had high chairs and offered to make simple options for them that weren't listed on the menu. Plus, there is a lot of space to walk around and explore while you wait for food without feeling like everyone is staring at you.

 

Put La Menagere on your list for your trip to Florence. Whether you are stopping by to pick up a small item from their cool boutique, a coffee from their bistro or a formal lunch- this is a great stop for any foodies & design-hounds headed to Italy.

 

LA MENAGERE | Via de'Ginori 8r. Florence, 50123. +39.055.0750.600. Open daily from 07:00am - 02:00am. 

 



 

*images by Grant Schol

 

Posted on August 22, 2016 and filed under eat, italy, travel, florence.

Tuscany Day Trip | San Gimignano

 

Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and came to finish this post... but realized that I had actually posted it live yesterday half finished. Oops! Well, the notes are now removed and the actual links and comments are available now.

 

The last time we spent August in Tuscany was our first summer living abroad- nearly five years ago! That summer, Tyler & I spent our days here bumping around the hillside roads in a beatup FIAT Panda and loved to venture out into all the small villages and towns nearby that we could get to in the day.

Not only did I make this video of our trips (that I watch on bad days far more than I'm proud to admit), but I also started a little blogging series on Tuscany Day Trips. Since I won't be making a video this time around, I thought the least that I could do is continue my day trip series.

 


 

SAN GIMIGNANO

If you're staying in or around Florence, San Gimignano is an easy place to go for a day trip. You can either venture out to this small medeival town through a bust tour that leaves from Florence, like this one or drive yourself in a rent car. The drive from Florence is just about an hour.

I'd go early in the day, as parking is limited and the sooner you get there- the less time you'll spend going up and down the roads around the town in search of a spot to park. (We went at lunch time and it took forever!)

Regardless of the limited parking and the hot sunny August weather, we had a marvelous day. This charming town is the perfect mix of Italian culture, history and ease put into one spot. It's location between Florence and Siena make it an easy destination regardless of where you are staying. So whether you spend the day exploring some of the 14 medieval tours that are still standing or simply wandering from eatery to eatery to find the best scenic views- you'll be inevitably charmed by San Gimignano.

 

 

EAT

RICCAPIZZA | Since it took so long to find a parking spot, by the time we reached San Gimignano, the natives were fairly restless. We decided to forgo the trauma that would come from us all enduring a long lunch somewhere and, instead, jumped in the quick-moving queue at PizzaRicco and grabbed a giant box of pizza for lunch.

GELATERIA DONDOLI | This gelateria, convienently placed in Piazza della Cisterna, is a famous stop for most tourists to pass through San Gimignano. With creative flavors like olive and champelmo (champagne and pink grapefuit) make it more than your normal ice cream stop. It's definitely worth waiting in the quick-moving line to try a cone for yourself.

TRATTORIA CHIRIBIRI | If you're looking for perfect Tuscan dishes- think big plates of Tuscan meats and cheeses, white beans cooked for hours in a stew-like tomato base and thick bowls of riboliita- all in an atmosphere that fits the 14th century village surroundings, look no further. This place won't disappoint.

 

DO

PIAZZA DELLA CISTERNO | This main square in the town is named after the well (or "cistern") that sits in the middle. You'll find this is the main deposit of visitors from the town that have entered through the main city entrance, Porta San Giovanni. From Piazza della Cisterna, you'll be at a major axis point for reaching the rest of the city.

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Has anyone stayed in San Gimignano? Would love to hear some recommendations for great places to spend the night there to get the full experience.... after all the tourists like us have left for the day!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

A Welcome Home | Return to Tuscany

If you have followed this blog before we became parents, you might remember a former version of ourselves. Not just ones that were less crazy and a bit better looking.... but a couple that LOVED Italy so much that we couldn't help but jump there as often as possible. When I was pregnant with the girls, I went three times, but since kids....

Well, we have been so busy traveling for work and to see family, that our sporadic and frequent Italian jaunts have ceased.... until now. This August, we decided to spend it on a family holiday for just the four of us. We are staying at the same place where I have spent so many great days making memories and it feels like a warm homecoming to be back here.

We are staying outside of Florence surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. To city-dwellers like us, it seems as if we have our own country. To city-dwelling kids like ours, it seems like we have our own planet.

The kids wake up in the middle of the night and point out to the garden. "There! There!" Harrison yells out to the pitch dark outside begging for more time to wander around the crunchy rain-starved grass in search of rocks and sticks.

dress by olive juice

But when the daylight finally arrives, we walk out to the garden and start the day. We spend the mornings sitting on a swing together with coffee and brioche. The pre-packaged kind because all the local bakeries are closed for August and we kinda love the crunchy sugar on top.

cosy jammies by baby mori

 

At lunch time, we typically venture out somewhere nearby- like San Gimignano or Lucca- to squeeze in a casual lunch with a view... and, of course, the obligatory afternoon gelato.

By the time it's late afternoon, we are back to the villa with enough time to play and crank out some dinner.

 

After that, the kids take a bath, go to bed... and Tyler & I sigh a big sigh of exhausted relief as we head up to the terrace to watch the sunset together. By this time in the day, we are half-asleep and half-pinching ourselves of the day we just had.

 

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It's one of the laziest vacations that I know of, but it's also, without a doubt, our very very favorite. It feels so good to be back here and I'm not sure I'll ever loose that place in my heart that beats for Italy.

Does anyone else feel the same way about Italy? I'd love to hear your favorit pare here and why it is special to you!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on August 15, 2016 and filed under italy, travel, florence, family, kids.

Mediterranean Blues


Is there a place on earth more heavenly than the Mediterranean?

 

The salty sea air mingling with the scent of lemons...

Ahhhh....

I just can't think of a place on earth that is more serene.

 

We had plans of EasyJetting down to Italy this summer

before we ditched our game plan

and landed in Texas for 3 months.

 

Life may be pretty fun here in Texas,

but I think it is safe to say:

la vita isn't nearly as bella as it is 

on the shimmery blue waters of the Mediterranean.

 

 

So in the meantime,

I'm wearing strappy sandals around Kroger,

eating copious amounts of ice cream, 

and pinning my Mediterranean Blues away.

 

 

Do any of you have grand summer plans on the horizon?

 

Go on. Tease me with your glamorous itineraries....

I'll swap you for tales from the public library and snow cone stand.

 


 

 

Also, THANKS for the excitement over THE HUNDRED.

We were blown away with the registration the first day!

There are spots still available. We hope you'll be able to be there, too.

 

 

 

*image via

Posted on June 26, 2014 and filed under fashion, travel, italy.

Buon Viaggio! Visiting Italy

It's that time of year. Everyone is starting to plan their spring break travels and begins to dream of a summer vacation somewhere fabulous. I love that we all have this in common. One of the most common places people want to visit is Italy.

Duh. It's incredible. I get a lot of questions asking me logistics about traveling to this amazing place...and I'm flattered to have you associate me with such an amazing place. I'm happy to answer specific questions for your planning, but general "advice" for an entire country or multi-day itinerary is a little tough for me to field at the moment.

There's just so much to say and because it's such a loaded question, it takes me about an hour to reply to each email. In efforts to help make my travel posts a bit easier to find and to prevent you from waiting weeks for a reply while planning your own trip to Italy, I thought I'd put them all here in a central location.

Look at these sexy blogger husbands (liz's corey , my tyler & megan's stephen in florence.)

So if you aren't sure about my opinion on training somewhere or if you are looking for a particularly special souvenir,

email me and ask! For the rest of it, I've put down most everything I know in these links in efforts to help you out.

Happy Planning!

ROME | FLORENCE | VENICE

CINQUE TERRE | TUSCANY DAY TRIPS | MILAN

Other great places you might be dreaming of are:

LONDON | ENGLISH TOWNS & DAY TRIPS |  EDINBURGH | IRELAND

PARIS | FRANCE DAY TRIPS

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy & Liz Denfeld

**if you saw the original version of this post, sorry. it was written before delivery.

Pack Your Bags | Florence, Italy

Its probably been said on this blog {one too many times} how much I love the city of Florence. For a long time, it was a city that captured my heart and had me constantly dreaming of return. I studied there in college, returned for summers to visit my college boyfriend, and eventually, all of that time spent during my young adulthood, endeared me to Florence in a way that is still difficult to articulate. I didn't know I could feel that way about another place until we moved to Oxford. While there are some smaller, more local places that I never miss when I'm in Florence, (or in the surrounding suburb of Scandicci where I escape to spend quieter time with local friends) the places I want to share with you now are spots in downtown Florence that are guaranteed to make your first or second visit really special.

DO

SAN LORENZO MARKET |  In between the train station (Santa Maria Novella) and the famous Duomo of Florence, this sprawling market is a must for visitors. Pick up your leather goods, your souvenir t-shirts, any type of scarf imaginable, or a slew of (completely decent) silk ties for a couple of euro a piece. It's more than okay to haggle here...in fact, it's expected when you buy multiples of anything or higher ticket items like leather bags.

***

In a large piazza in the market, is a large building, The Central Market, which is a really good food market that can quickly endanger your limited suitcase space. Gorgeous olive oils, spices, pasta mixes, truffle spreads, chianti wines are all there waiting for you. There are small stalls in here that give locals & tourist alike an affordable- and delicious- option for lunch. Look for the stands where old Italian men linger around nearby tables with small tumblers of wine...it's a tell-tale sign that the food is good.

PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO | Go here for sunset for the most stunning view of Florence setting in the valley of the Arno.

Either hike the walk, take a bus (which can be a bit complicated), or splurge for the taxi up to this famous look out.

Regardless of how you arrive there, when you see the amazing view before you... you'll be glad you did.

THE ACCADEMIA | Go see (one of) the massive masterpieces of Michelangelo, David, here. Lines can get pretty terrible in summer months, so save the trouble and book online. You'll be glad you saved your time for sitting in a cafe instead of along the crowded street in the hot sun.

CLIMB THE DUOMO | Yes, it's a haul to climb all the 463 steps up to the "cupola" of Florence's landmark church...but when you see the city of Florence sitting in the gorgeous Tuscan valley in the glow of the late afternoon sun {yes, you should go in the late afternoon}...you'll know why this lethargic lump of a woman would ever recommend such an outing for you. {FYI: The last time I climbed, it was  €8.00. More info here.}

EAT

TRATTORIA ZAZARead more about this popular eatery specializing in Tuscan cuisine and perfectly situated in the San Lorenzo Market here. Recommended dishes: the bruschetta, the ribollita & anything with truffle that you see on their menu.

Dinner reservations recommended.

GROM | Some people love it. Some people think it's overrated. Regardless, you can't argue that gelato is delicious. I happen to fall in the camp that loves GROM. Their monthly rotation of seasonal flavors like peach, raspberry & sicilian orange win me over. Though to be fair, it's now a rapidly growing chain that even has locations in Manhattan.

GOLDEN VIEW OPEN BAR | This place is special to me. I've spent many epic nights here...along with way too much of my money. But it's always worth it. The four cheese ravioli introduced me to the truffle long before I even knew of it's existence. I didn't know what the flavor was, but could only explain it as "an explosion of magic in my mouth." {Editor's Note: Maybe I wasn't the most articulate 19 year old.} I've been back countless times since and seen the restaurant evolve into a favorite of tourists and locals alike. Call ahead to make a reservation on the window for the best view of the Ponte Vecchio in town. 

LA RINASCENTE CAFE | This cafe is a gem. It's discreetly tucked at the top of the busy department store, La Rinascente, located in Piazza Repubblica. Up, up, up you go in the store all the way to the home section at the top. When you get there, go up the stairs into the cafe...then up the small set of stairs onto the balcony. Pay too much for a cup of coffee and enjoy a magnificent view of the cupola of il duomo.

VIVOLI GELATERIA | While locating this legendary gelateria was the catalyst for a near-divorce between Tyler & I, it's hard to say that it wasn't worth the trouble. The gelato really is fantastic and if you can put up with crowds of people, a great place to try Florence's "best gelato."

LUNGARNO SUITES | Owned by the famous Ferragamo family (yes, that Ferragamo) this swanky boutique hotel sits pristintely adjacent to the Ponte Vecchio. If you can't splurge on staying in their apartment style hotel, go for a pre-dinner aperitivo and pretend you are living the fabulous life. {Which, if you've found yourself in Florence, is not really pretending.)

lungarno_suites_florence_apertivo_cocktail_aspiring_kennedy.jpg

For 12 euro, you'll get a fancy cocktail followed by well-manicured antipasti such as crab cakes and bite-sized cured meats.

STAY

Fancy: LUNGARNO SUITES

Medium: AirBNB apartment rentals. {Seriously, I'm a fan.}

Budget: AVANTI ITALIA | Ok, so this is an out of the normal option, but it's so affordable and helps out an awesome ministry. At only $15 per person per night, it's a pretty decent option. It's about a 20 minute bus ride out of the center of town, but it's actually really simple to get in & out of the downtown to Avanti. I've stayed there countless times when visiting Florence with a small budget.

***

Florence is an amazing city that captures my heart every time I visit...and I know that I'm not alone. What are some places

and things that have enchanted you while visiting Florence?

Was there a special place that made your trip to Florence special?

Post it below so the rest of us can make sure to hit up the fun!

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy & Liz Denfeld

Posted on March 8, 2013 and filed under "Italy", "Jet Setting", "florence", "travel tips", "travel", florence, italy.

Pack Your Bags: Venice (Restaurants)

As I mentioned previously,

I love Venice

for a myriad of reasons...

but their local cuisine has never been one of them.

Perhaps it was our own fault,

but we have always struck out

when venturing out for food in the sinking city.

This past time,

on our babymoon,

we were determined to do better.

Luckily, we went with our friends Tyler &

Amber

and they helped us source some really decent places to eat...

In fact, 

they were more than decent.

They were delicious.

If you head to any of these places,

you'll be in for a guaranteed treat.

________________

Enoteco Al Volto

Osteria Con Cucina

Calle Cavalli 4081

San Marco, 30124 Venezia

+39 041 522 8945

This place opened in 1936

and has apparently been awesome for a long time.

We went for "aperitivi,"

basically pre-dinner drinks & food...

which is one of the best kept secrets of Italy.

In Northern Italy

{specifically Venice!},

you can't go through early evening

without seeing slews of locals drinking

the pre-dinner drink, a "Spritz,"

which is a bright orange concoction consisting of

Aperol, white wine or prosecco, club soda & an orange slice.

In most

local

bars,

these cost about €2.50-4

and are served with some delicious salty snacks

and nibbles like marinated artichokes and small sandwiches.

{Editor's Note: Don't worry, this pregnant lady passed on the booze

and concentrated her efforts on some calorie consumption outside of the liquid form.}

Enoteca Al Volto gets this time of day down perfectly.

The prices are ridiculously low,

the food & drink are fantastic,

and the ambiance is perfect.

Yes, the most expensive glass of wine is €5. Prosecco is €2 a glass.

Please, please go when you are in Venice...

and tell me how much you loved it.

{Because I'm fairly sure you will.... especially those artichokes. Yum!}

____________________

Harry's Bar

Calle Vallaresso, 1323

30124 Venezia (San Marco)

+39 041 528 5777

This place is a legend.

Literally, it's an actual historical landmark.

The three things you need to know about it:

1. It's the birthplace of the Bellini.

2. Hemingway hung out here.

3. It's super expensive

so be prepared to shell out some cash.

You won't be able to see from the frosted windows

lining this tiny establishment,

but the interior is really low key.

{It almost reminds me of the interior of a boat?}

The staff is decked out in crisp white coats

and are ready to field any orders for Bellinis.

Look around,

it's what almost everyone else is drinking in there.

While the glass may initially seem small,

just consider what it would look like in a champagne flute

and you'll realized that actually-

it's about the right size.

A Classic Bellini is €16.50

If you opt for a pregnant-friendly version, it's €11.50

Yeah, it's a splurge

but you kinda have to do it

when you're in Venice.

And hey, 

at least the Olives are free!

Amber

& Tyler. Thanks for the Bellini, Amber!

Bottoms Up!

*No need for a reservation

if you're just stopping in for drinks.

___________________

Da Mamo

Trattoria Pizzeria

Calle Stagneri 5251

San Marco, 30124 Venezia

+39 041 523 6583

There are many terrible places to eat in Venice.

Pretty much every place that has pictures on their menu

or plasters multiple translations of the menu to their windows

with flags indicating the language

should be completely

avoided...

But in a town like Venice

that is so... "tourist friendly"

{read: tourist trap},

you can find yourself with few options

other than some really expensive options...

unless you go to

Da Mamo.

This is a great pizzeria and trattoria.

Think delicious pasta and pizza...

and incredible dessert.

You have to try it to believe it,

but the strawberries & marscapone drizzled with balsamic

will change your life.

We didn't have reservations

and eventually got a table after a brief wait...

but it was also January and raining.

I think you'd be smart to have your hotel call ahead

and save a table for you to avoid getting stuck without one...

or book ahead through their

website.

_________________

ROSSOPOMODORO

Calle Larga San Marco 404

San Marco, 30124 Venezia

+39 041 283 4939

Our concierge recommended this pizzeria to us

late upon our arrival to Venice.

Tired and happy to hear of a place nearby,

we went...

and remarked how there is also a ROSSOPOMODORO

near my offices in London.

Well, come to find out...

it's the same restaurant.

Okay, obviously not the same,

but it's part of a chain

originating out of Naples.

Tyler was slightly devastated,

but we both agreed

that had we not known there were others

we would really loved it.

{Does that make us hipsters or something?}

The food is great- especially the pizza,

 the prices are more than fair,

the decor is cool, the staff is great with Americans/tourists, 

& the location near St. Marks Square is a win.

Honestly, it was really tasty and I'd swallow my pride

and totally eat there again...

which is why I'm adding it on my list of recommendations.

________________

AT YOUR RECOMMENDATION...

Here are a few places recommended by fellow readers

that made their time in Venice special... and delicious.

Osteria La Zucca

Santa Croce 1762

30135 Venice (San Marco)

"... beautiful canal side setting and I highly recommend the pumpkin flan."

-

Jeff & April

Osteria Antico Giardinetto

Calle dei Morti 2253

Santa Croce, 30135 Venice (San Marco)

"It's a hidden gem, but worth the search. I would ABSOLUTELY call ahead-

we have been to Venice three times and were only able to get in two of the times."

-

Stephanie Lane

 

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 8, 2013 and filed under "Italy", "travel tips", "venice", italy, travel, eat.

Pack Your Bags: Burano, Italy

While it may be a place

that can completely be "seen" in a day or two,

Venice is an absolute must

for planning a trip to Italy.

Maybe you don't have to go your first trip...

but promise me, 

at some point in your life,

you'll make it here.

It's like nothing you've ever seen.

After visiting Venice a handful of times,

I was pretty confident that I had seen all there was to see.

Until my sister pointed me in the direction

of the island of Burano

during a trip there in 2007.

Now

Murano

is the really famous island

where all the gorgeous glass is made,

but

Burano

is the other island,

that's located a bit further out,

where the (somewhat less famous) Venetian lace has it's home.

While it was fairly unknown a handful of years ago,

it has grown increasingly popular

over the past five to ten years.

Each time we go,

the boat has more and more people on it

and the island's main canal

has more people walking down

taking in the gorgeous colors of the island.

Even with it becoming "discovered,"

it's still absolutely worth seeing for yourself.

So why spend your time in Venice

heading out to Burano?

Well for starters,

it's gorgeous.

Each house is painted a different color

that creates an effect that is incredibly charming.

It's also tiny

so it's a perfect way

to fill an afternoon

with walking, picture taking & eating.

{Which are the best parts of traveling, right?}

If it's sunny, you can find warm nooks by the water

and take a little snooze in the sunshine.

Cassie from Hi Sugarplum!

asked if I had ever eaten

at a restaurant that she had seen featured on Anthony Bourdain

located on the (tiny) main canal

with a green & white striped awning.

Umm, nope.

But I was determined not to miss it this time.

We only found one restaurant with a green & white awning.

We walked in to find a really basic restaurant

that was stuffed with Italians.

{This my friends, is a good sign in a tourist destination.}

It was lasagna day

and Tyler made the genius choice

to order the plate of the day.

I only got one tiny corner bite,

but it was incredible...

 Completely worth a Ryan Air flight back

just for plate of my own.

{My soup was pretty tasty, too... but the lasagna won.}

I still have no idea what the name of the restaurant is

but you should be able to find it

if you're on the main drag...

UPDATE: Apparently, it wasn't the same place from the show...

that place is called "Da Romano."

So now you have two recommendations for dining in Burano.

One from me, one from Anthony Bourdain. 

You can pick his over mine, it won't hurt my feelings.

_________________

From there,

enjoy the quiet stroll around the island

and the opportunity to take pictures

and simply enjoy la dolce vita.

Here are few things to know

for your trip to Burano:

Take the Vaparetto #12

from Fondamente Nove...

located on the northern part of Venice,

about a 15 minute walk from the big touristy areas.

This is the quickest boat (about 45 minutes)

and will stop at both Murano & Burano.

If you aren't planning on traveling by boat

anywhere else that day,

you can buy single tickets (€7 each way)

and save some money from purchasing thh 24 hour pass.

The boats run approxiamately every 30 minutes

at 20 minutes & 50 minutes past the hour.

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 29, 2013 and filed under "Italy", "europe", "travel", "venice", italy, travel.

Venice of the Past

One thing that makes Venice

so incredibly endearing

is the old world charm

that sleepily drifts between

each of it's lonely canals.

While it's hard to wander through this city,

see flooded homes that are now quietly locked up

and wonder about the people and days

that used to occupy this now quiet city.

I can't speak for the ornate years

of Venetian splendor,

but I do know that two years ago

we sure did have an awesome time there

while celebrating our anniversary.

While we are back in Venice today

 drifting around

from canal to canal today,

here's a look back to our 4th anniversary...

when I made my first video for a trip

and still didn't really understand

how to erase the background noise.

{We've all got to start somewhere, right?}

Have a great weekend!

*video original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 19, 2013 and filed under "Italy", "TK", "movies", "venice", travel, marriage, italy.

Ciao Venezia!

Buon giorno!

Today, we are off to Venice

for one last adventure

for just the two of us.

While we both hope

that babies won't mean

an end to our adventures,

we definitely won't be

sleeping in late

and staying out at long dinners

for a while...

but that's okay, 

because that will be an adventure, too...

Erm... right?

There's snow on the forecast today

here in London,

so keep your fingers crossed

that the runways are clear

and planes are moving

so that this mamma mia

can get to Italy!

We'll be with our good friends,

Tyler &

Amber

wandering around Burano,

exploring lonely canals,

and eating an obscene amount of carbs & dairy.

{YOLO.}

We've been to Venice a handful of times

and I hav to say...

there's not a single restaurant

that I can remember being amazing there.

Okay, other than Harry's Bar

and while we are living it up this weekend...

we aren't living it up to that extent!

Anyone have a place that you particularly

love to eat in Venice?

And don't forget,

you're welcome to

join our trip

{via Instagram...}

username: aspiringkennedy

____________

PS. I just realized this will be the girls

third time to Italy already

after my trips to

Rome & Tuscany

this summer...

and they aren't even born!

If they keep up moves like this,

they are going to make me look bad. ;)

*image via

Posted on January 18, 2013 and filed under "Italy", "Jet Setting", "travel", "venice", italy.

Florence, Italy | Trattoria ZaZa

There are so many wonderful benefits to traveling. If you've ventured out much into this vast world of ours, you'll know what treasures await you in new cultures: quirky sayings...interesting style...unique approaches to religion, family, dating, and every other facet of life that our home cultures view so differently. While I love discovering those in every place we go, I also really just love to go for the food. There, I said it. When we went to Florence the other week, I was a bit determined to take everyone to Trattoria ZaZa.

Will I be bold enough to claim it as "the best restaurant in Florence?" No.... because, unfortunately, I haven't eaten in all of the restaurants in Florence. Though it's a goal I hope to accomplish.

I can say it is a place that is always delicious, well-located to a day's trip to the city, and a crowd-pleaser.

Plus, it's really sentimental to me. I spent time there in college with my friends (now sister-in-law), I went on dates there (with my then boyfriend), I've eaten many meals with my family there throughout the years...and now Tyler & I have our own handful of special memories together there. The bruschetta is great.

The truffle ravioli is fantastic.

The ribollita is a Tuscan treat that I never miss. Ribollita = minestrone soup with bread cooked into it. It's a hearty soup that Italian farmers would make to use day old bread...I'm not going to lie, it's fantastic.

the crew: stephen, megan & corey (liz's main man)

So there you have it: One solid recommendation for a very tasty meal in Florence, Italy. {Editor's Note: Reservations for dinner not required, but highly suggested!}

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 4, 2012 and filed under "Italy", "delicious dish", "florence", "travel", florence, italy.