We did it! Between COVID and cancer, I wasn’t sure we’d ever successfully pull off our European family trip. We did it though, and we’re now somewhere over the Atlantic on our way home. Everyone is still on speaking terms, which seems like about the best possible outcome.
No play-by-play entries for this trip, but I wanted to jot down a few memories to help us remember in the future.
Our travel day went smoothly, with an easy flight from MSP to CDG and on to FLR. We were met at the airport by a driver who dropped us at our Airbnb. Our host, Salvatore, gave us a tour and tipped us off about local restaurants, then left us to stew in our jet lag. We made a run to the grocery for provisions, had some pasta, and went to bed.
Our first full day was spent catching up on rest and exploring the city a little bit – the duomo museum, gelato, and a gorgeous dinner down the street. Tuesday was our first scheduled day, with tickets to San Marco, lunch at the Mercato Centrale, and an afternoon at the Accademia. We had another lovely meal across from our apartment, including an overwhelming meat platter.
Wednesday was a big day out, with a wine tour for the grownups and a gelato tour for the kids (and me). We learned how to make gelato, and the kids managed to get through six cups of gelato (plus some canoli and chocolates) before throwing in the towel. We cooked up some fresh ravioli at home – you don’t need to make a special excursion to find great ingredients in Florence.
Thursday was another big day out – Kat took Eleanor on a horseback riding excursion around an agroturismo vineyard in the Tuscan countryside. Afterward they explored San Gimignano and tried the World Champion winning gelato – twice. They topped off the day at another vineyard where they enjoyed fresh pasta, chocolate mousse and Chianti wine tasting (for Kat of course).
I took Henry mountain biking in the hills around Florence, starting from Fiesole. Our tour guide Giovanni met as in the main square and got us on our electric mountain bikes, and we set off. Giovanni knew that Henry was serious about biking, so didn’t wait around – within minutes we were tearing down hills at 65kph, skidding to stops for hairpins, and dodging cars on notionally two lane roads. The ride was a mix of twisty road, gravel, stone, and dirt. We managed to do 55 or 60 miles before Giovanni threw in the towel – his normal tours don’t keep up the same kind of pace, and his battery (and his legs) were exhausted.
Thursday was also Kat’s birthday, so we went out for dinner to another local place with a seafood-heavy menu. I was super thankful to have learned about TheFork before our trip, which makes it easy to book big group tables.
Friday we dragged the kids through the Uffizi, then did some solo activities before meeting up to hike up to San Miniato around sunset. It was great fun to get the whole group up to the spot where Kat and I got engaged, and we had a gorgeous view of the city. Then we went on to our dinner at a very funky restaurant – Vaia Concept is a restaurant / clothing store, which the owner was inspired to open after visiting Brooklyn. I wanted to find us something a little different from the ordinary classic Italian places we’d been eating. Our table was in an old wine cellar in the basement, our menus were printed on t-shirts, and the food was stellar. No regrets. We even bought some t-shirts, which had to be custom printed.
For our last day in Italy, Kate took the kids to Lucca, while Kat and I took the parents to pickup our t-shirts, then to a fantastic lunch and a tour of Santa Croce. We ended our outing with a visit to Biblioteca Delle Oblate, a semi-hidden-gem with a rooftop cafe and a great view of the Duomo. We’d taken Kate and the kids earlier in the week, but it’s a great place to return to on a gorgeous day. Our last meal was takeout pizza and all the meat and cheese left in the fridge.
My goals for this trip were to keep things relaxed and give the kids a chance to experience a new slice of the world. Hopefully some seeds were planted for future trips – who knows where life will take them.