Italy - 2 Weeks
YELLOW ICON: FOOD
RED ICON: WHERE WE STAYED
BLUE icon: PLACE TO GET UNIQUE SOUVENIRs
GREEN icon: NOTABLE ACTIVITY
BLACK icon: PHOTOGRAPHY LOCation
Maroon Icon: Museum
PURPLE ICON: DESSERT
This was a big family trip that took a lot of planning since we were traveling with grandparents. We both always plan our trips by ourselves, but the logistics to travel to several cities with a group ranging from 25 to 82 years old became quite challenging. That is why we teamed up with Canvas Travel Company! This is in no way sponsored lol. They were just so amazing in making our grandparents super comfortable on a highly active trip. They made planning this trip for 7 people so easy and everything was perfectly planned for us so that we could have a seamless vacation!!
Fly into Venice. You have to take a taxi or arrange a car to take you from the Airport to the water taxi area of Venice. After that, hire a water taxi or arrange a boat transfer to pick you up and take you to your hotel. Aside from water taxis, they do have public water ferries that you can use the rest of your stay, but we would suggest navigating the ferry routes when you aren’t tired and hungry!
(Ask your hotel’s concierge about how to use their public transportation boats or to call a water taxi for you; their concierges are incredibly knowledgeable and friendly)
Venice: 3 Nights
Hotel: Londra Palace
Take the train to Florence.
Florence: 4 Nights
Hotel: Hotel Gallery Art
Day Trip 1: Hire a driver or take a taxi (the hotel can give you the most affordable option) to Scarperia. For more than 600 years, several knife-making families have been manufacturing and selling some of the world’s finest knives in this town. To purchase a truly one-of-a-kind souvenir item from Italy, this is a must visit. It is about an hour drive one-way and the boys spent about 4 hours round trip.
Day Trip 2: Lucca and Pisa (we hired a private driver for the day).
Car Transfer to Tuscany. We would have rented a car if it was just us two traveling.
Tuscany: 3 Nights
Hotel: La Corte Dei Papi
Day Trip: We did one full day of Cheese and Wine Tastings. La Corte Dei Papi helped us tremendously with getting this day finely tuned for our group.
We did a cheese tasting and farm tour at Podere Il Casale in Pienza. This was a highlight of our trip!! It was a beautiful family-ran farm with an abundance of friendly animals to pet, food to eat, wine to drink, incredible views, and so much knowledge to gain. We learned so much from the sweet owner!!
Rome: 4 Nights
Hotel: Hotel 47
Fly back home out of Rome
TOTAL: 14 Nights
We aren’t big planners when it comes to food so we never pick out restaurants in advance unless we need reservations or it’s a holiday. This trip we were traveling with 7 people so we did more planning than we normally would.
La Bottiglia - Huge sandwiches made with amazing focaccia! We had them make us a variety of their favorite sandwich combinations and they were all to die for! A glass of wine was also very cheap. Great spot for lunch!
Rossopomodoro - Great place for big groups. This was the biggest restaurant we ate at in Italy. Also, Pizza was absolutely delicious!
Trattoria alla Rivetta - Great authentic Italian food. The waitstaff was so much fun and made and the original owner made us feel like we were family.
Scalinetto - Small place tucked away in a quiet alleyway that had great Gnocchi and Ravioli. Reservation might be needed.
Trattoria Giovanni - We had Christmas Day dinner here. They had AMAZING truffle pasta!! Probably the best pasta we had all trip. Be sure and make reservations.
4 Leoni - Quaint restaurant. We made reservations in advance.
Ristorante alle Bandierine - Very good restaurant within walking distance to the leaning tower of Pisa. Reservation needed.
Wheat, Fruits and Flour - In Italian it is Grano, Frutta e Farina. Best pizza EVER! They make rectangle sheets of pizza behind a counter where you can have them cut small squares of however many types of pizza you want!! We recommend the potato and truffle pizza.
Jaipur - We love Indian food and try to eat Indian at least once while abroad. Everything we had here was delicious! I will say, it was a little bit away from the tourist areas.
Hand Casted Brass Artifacts - Head into La Fonderia Artistica Valese Shop and find the largest selection of bronze products hand-casted in the Valese foundry. They make all the brass accents you see on the gondolas in Venice as well as plenty of other brass items seen decorating doors. If you want to see these products being made, head to the Fonderia Artistica Valese (the actual foundry) where you can watch them make all things bronze. Check with the store front first to get warehouse visiting hours.
Hand Carved Gondola Forcola - Gondola oars and forcolas (fancy steering mechanism) have been made at The Workshop of Paolo Brandolisio for generations. They make the gondola forcolas for all the gondolas you see in Venice. Forcolas are seen as more of a sculpture or work of art rather than for their use and Paolo is the famous artist behind them. Step into his sawdust filled shop and look through the piles of raw wood from all over the world as he carves another beautiful piece of artwork to be used in the Venice canals. Be sure and look for one of his miniature forcolas for sale. He doesn’t make many of them so you have to buy one when they are there!
Custom Made Leather Goods - Find beautiful leather goods being produced by a local family at their shop called Infinity Firenze Leather. If you ask, they will take you to the workstation within the store to see how the products are made, stained, and all the different types of leather they use. Connor got to customize a belt all the way down to the type of leather, the color, buckle, shape and had them size it perfectly for him. It’s now his favorite belt!
Leather Purse from a Local Designer - Another local family produces some beautiful homemade leather purses at their store called Kara Van Petrol. I actually bought a purse from here and it is now my all-time favorite purse!
One-of-a-kind Beauty Products - Started in the 16th century, Officina Profumo - Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is more like a museum than a perfume shop. They have perfumes, soaps, herbal elixirs and gifts.
Scarperia e San Piero
Take an afternoon road trip over to the town of Scarperia from Florence (2hrs round-trip). With over 600 years of hand-making knives, this small village is the home to some of the world’s finest knife makers. The guys especially loved this place.
Beautiful Household Items Made by Local Artisans - One of the coolest stores in Scarperia, Coltellerie Giglio S.n.c. sells knives, handmade copper pots (made by the shop owner’s grandpa), shaving kits, brass scissors, etc. all made by local artisans.
Famous Italian Pocket Knives - One of the original pocket knife makers in Italy, Coltellerie Berti is known for their famous Scarperia style pocket knife. Don’t forget to ask about taking a tour around the factory to watch the famous Berti knives being made by hand. Another one of the original knife makers in Italy is Coltellerie Consigli. Here you will find another wide collection of famous traditional Italian pocket knives.
Copper Products made by Master Coppersmith Cesare Mazzetti - Master coppersmith Cesare Mazzetti’s shop called Bottega del Rame is the best place to find stunning copper products to decorate your house and kitchen with. For couples, if you want one of the most memorable souvenirs, simply visit the Rinomata Rameria Mazzetti Workshop and ask Cesare about making you something special. If you have someone to translate your request correctly (our car hire assisted us with translation) then Cesare will give you a nod, grab a circular copper disc and start pounding away on top of his century old anvil. What you’ll receive is something truly beautiful. It is a copper disc, stamped with your wedding date, the first letter of both of your first names, and flowers representing how many kids Cesare believes you will have. He will then proudly show you letters from decades of couples sending him photos of them holding Cesare’s disc gift and their babies or kids.
Hand Engraved Marble Tile - Stop into Il Marmoraro, hand the marble engraver/owner the phrase you’d like in Italian, pick the the marble piece you want the phrase engraved on, and watch him chisel away. Truly a unique souvenir. The owner and engraver speaks hardly any English so maybe brush up on some Italian before you go lol.
MUST DO THINGS
Fonderia Artistica Valese - Hand-casted bronze statues, door knockers, gondola boat decorations are made in this foundry. Watch the workers sculpt statues and fire them in the kiln. Check with their storefront La Fonderia Artistica Valese in advance to check hours.
Doge's Palace - Iconic Landmark of Venice. Great place to spend the afternoon and explore Italian history. We bought tickets at the hotel in advance.
St. Marks Basilica - One of the most visited sites in Venice. This Basilica was beautiful. If you are traveling in peak season get tickets online to avoid long lines.
Note: They will not let you go inside with a backpack. You can check your bag at their Bag Check that is to the left (when facing the church) down a side street. Ask a guard and they will direct you with exact directions. It is not far at all!
St. Mark's Campanile - The bell tower of St. Mark's Basilica. Take the elevator to the top for a beautiful view of Venice from above. Buy tickets in advance.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute - Huge beautiful Basilica on the other side of the canal. Amazing history. Be warned that there was a gypsy outside this basilica pretending to collect an entrance fee and when we refused she would not let us inside. She actually pushed me as I tried to get by her. The Basilica is FREE. You do not HAVE to pay anyone to get inside.
Galeria Academiei - This is where you will find the famous Statue of David. Get tickets in advance if you are going during the busy season. We went in the winter and it wasn’t necessary. You do not need a tour for this museum unless you want one.
Piazza della Signoria - This piazza is the Renaissance. Fountain of Neptune and other ancient greek god statues.
Uffizi Gallery- Popular art museum located across from Piazza Della Signoria.
Scarperia e san Piero
Coltellerie Berti Workshop Tour - After browsing Berti’s beautiful collection of handmade knives, ask one of the attendants about taking a tour around the factory to watch the famous Berti knives being made by hand.
Montepulciano and Pienza
Rinomata Rameria Mazzetti Workshop - Step into this shop and watch this famous coppersmith show you how his family has made copper items for over a century. If you are a newly married couple, ask him if he can make you a circular copper medallion. He custom makes them in front of you and gives you a prediction for how many kids you will have in the future. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
Podere Il Casale Restaurant and Farm Tour - Take a farm tour in Tuscany to see how cheese is made, pet farm animals and get a glimpse into what life is like on a working Italian farm. After your tour you are treated with an amazing homemade lunch. All the food, cheese and wine served at lunch is homemade from the farm. Advanced reservations are required.
Historical Cellar of Talosa Farm - This wine tour was done in their wine cellar. Great history of the town and how wine is made.
De' Ricci - This was our favorite tour. You sample wine in their great room and then venture into their cellar to look at the big barrels of wine.
Advanced reservations are required for the above wine tours
The land of the long lines.
Colosseum - You HAVE to get tickets with a tour group if you want to get inside the Colosseum. We were under the impression you could just get tickets at a window outside the colosseum….which you can, but you won’t get in. We had bought our tickets online and when we got there, the ticket pickup line was 2 hours long and then the line to get in was about two hours long. We flagged down a tour group and hopped in with them and got right inside. You don’t have to do the entire tour with the group if you are more of a free spirit like us.
Getting the correct tickets for this is really confusing and we don’t even know where to send you online. We would recommend using a travel planner to help you reserve a tour group and not do the online tickets through the colosseum website.
Pantheon - Very long line…but we went in through the exit…normally there is a security guard there so you might not be able to do this. I know we were THOSE people. We were just so over lines lol.
Trevi Fountain- BE AGGRESSIVE. We got to the front by politely pushing our way to the front. Just be sure and say “Scusi” over and over.
Spanish Steps - Walk up to the top for a great picture of the square below. Once again…this is a very busy attraction. Plus, this area is a huge shopping district so that adds to the people, but it is worth braving the sea of people to say you walked on the Spanish Steps.
The Vatican- We did the private tour that was booked by Canvas Travel Co. and we were PRAISING the good heavens that we did. The line to get into the Vatican without a tour guide was hours long. Like you might not even get through the Vatican doors before it closes for the day long. Our guide picked us up at our hotel, we went inside through a different entrance than the masses and we got right in painlessly. This is probably the only time I will say this, but we actually really enjoyed having a tour guide to tell us about the history of everything we were seeing. Once inside the Vatican, it is VERY crowded. Huge tour groups. Ocean of people. Just be prepared.
Note: Booking tickets on our own was VERY difficult. We recommend having a travel agent or your concierge set up your tour for you.
Rialto Bridge - The oldest of the bridges crossing the canal. Climb the steps and walk to the middle of the bridge at sunset and get beautiful golden shots down the canal.
Acqua Alta Library - This is the most unique book store we have ever been to! The books are piled up in bath tubs and full size gondola boats stretching through the inside of the store. Once inside, walk through the store to small courtyard at the back to take pictures on top of the massive staircase of stacked books.
St. Mark’s Campanile or Any Rooftop View - Go to the top of the San Marco Campanile or your hotel’s rooftop and look out at the sea of orange tiled rooftops.
The Grand Council Chamber of Doge’s Palace - This is a great room for a wide panoramic shot. It’s filled with dark rich tones from the gold crown molding and enormous Renaissance painting covering the walls and ceilings.
Doge’s Palace Archways - Take a walk down the long stretches of marble archways surrounding the perimeter of Doge’s Palace for a really cool minimalist style picture.
Piazza San Marco - Big open area in one of the most photographed areas in Venice. This is a great place to get a family photo.
Note: Venice is truly one of the most unique and majestic cities we’ve been to. Get lost in the narrow alleyways, take photos crossing the canal bridges, riding on the gondolas, walking beside the ocean water at the docks, and so on. You really can’t miss amazing photography spots if you just get lost in this city.
Florence Cathedral (The Duomo) - You literally won’t miss seeing this site. We were awestruck by it the entire time. We were there over Christmas so it was closed but tickets in advance would be necessary.
Piazza della Repubblica - Beautiful archway to take photos around. They have unique vendors set up in this Piazza sometimes.
Ponte Vecchio Bridge View from St. Trinity Bridge - For a great view of the Ponte Vecchio Bridge with glassy water running underneath, spend an early morning on the St. Trinity Bridge down the way.
Note: Similarly to Venice, simply getting lost in all the cobblestone streets and alleyways with beautiful architecture surrounding you at every corner will get you an abundance of amazing photos.
Cortona - You will find plenty of cool pictures from the city’s center courtyard at Palazzo Comunale. Walk the ancient dark alleyways or climb some steps to see the courtyard from up high.
Montepulciano - De’ Ricci wine cellars. You’ll feel as though you’ve entered another world down in this massive cave system. Towering cave ceiling, beautiful brick archways supporting the cave walls, and wine barrels that are twice your height make for some really good photo opportunities.
Podere Il Casale Farm in Pienza - If you decide to book a tour and lunch at this farm that we listed on our “must do things” list then you’ll get some of your favorite photos here as well. The farm is on a secluded hilltop overlooking the rolling Tuscan villages and vineyards. The landscape colors are rich, the farmhouse is rustic, the animals are cute so it’s pretty easy to see why there are some good photo opportunities here!
The Leaning Tower of Pisa - Get tickets to go walk up the steps of the Leaning Tower and head to the top for an amazing view of the city. Try to time your hike with the sunset shining over the city. Such a beautiful view! During the golden hour, the grounds around the tower are also very beautiful and all of the white marble reflects the gold hues really well!
Colosseum - Like we mentioned above, get a guide to take you into the Colosseum because they are the only ones that have access to the actual stadium floor where the fights happened. This is the only way you can get that awesome “standing in the middle of the Colosseum” photo.
Spanish Steps, The Vatican, Trevi Fountain, The Pantheon, The Roman Forum, etc. (so many sites!!)