In Venice, the timelessly glamorous Belmond Hotel Cipriani did not disappoint.  The concierge was amazing and helped me schedule a photo shoot before we arrived.  Their pool is gorgeous and heated all year.  While my husband and I were still at the pool, our kids were seated for dinner at their gorgeous restaurant terrace by the lagoon.  The staff treated them exceptionally well.  To welcome us, they brought by a bottle of champagne and non-alcoholic champagne for the kids.

My mother-in-law rented a perfect villa in Tuscany called Villa le Ginepraie.  I loved the owners. Valerio is a yogi and travels to India for three months every year.  He is happy to host private yoga lessons for his guests every morning. The decor is rustic country, but there is plenty of space for a couple of families and the bathrooms are clean and newly renovated.  The property is expansive and beautifully manicured, and the pool is immaculate.  It is perfectly situated in between two medieval walled towns, Siena and Volterra. The gothic architecture from the 1200s was incredible to see in person, especially the stripes duomo di siena.  There is a wonderful winery and five star hotel, Borgo Pignano, just down the street within walking distance.  We hiked to an incredible natural waterfall nearby. Gretchen found a porcupine quill, and we saw a jack rabbit the size of a fawn.

In Rome, we loved Hotel Vilon. It is a small luxury hotel in the most amazing location just a few blocks from the Trevi Fountain but hidden off the main streets.  We loved the rooms, the showers, beds and restaurant.  The staff was amazing.  We stayed there when we arrived in Italy and the night before we returned to Dallas. I don’t think I would stay anywhere else in Rome; it was perfect both times.


In Rome, we walked from Hotel Vilon to Alfredo Alla Scrofa, where fettuccine alfredo was born.  It reminded me of old school restaurants like The Palm in New York or Javier’s in dallas – lots of old celebrity photos adorned the walls and traditional white cloths covered the tables.  The fettuccine alfredo was buttery and simple – much better than American versions.

Paola, the owner of the Tuscan villa was an amazing chef.  She cooked traditional Tuscan dishes like guinea fowl, lasagna with boar and ravioli with asparagus and freshly dug-up truffles. Everything was delicious. 

We met our friends in Florence at Trattoria 4 Leoni, and it was packed and lovely.  It definitely seemed like a local favorite.  They also love Osteria Santo Spirito, but we didn’t have time to try it.

See & Do:

I highly recommend getting a couple short private tours if you plan on showing your kids rome for the first time. We had an amazing guide named Irene through Flaminia Travel.  I think it is perfect if you only book the minimum amount of time for the guide and driver.  Flaminia got us fast track/vip tickets to the coliseum and the Vatican museum to the sistine chapel, so we didn’t have to wait in any lines.

We wanted to show the kids art in Florence, so we booked our Uffizi tickets online the day before we wanted to go.  The Accademia requires a few days planning in advance to see the statue of David.  We went on a short private boat ride down the Arno River under the Ponte Vecchio at sunset which was a fun way to enjoy the scenery and learn some history about the city.

In Venice, we just wanted to walk around with the kids and show them the unique feel.  We went on a gondola ride so they could boat around the city too.  One night in Venice was plenty of time in the magical city. I recommend getting business class train tickets in advance so you can be sure to sit with your kids.  As you might already know, the trains get assigned about 15 minutes before departure, so there is no need to arrive too early.


I wasn’t going to drag my family around shopping, but I did find an amazing square bag made of straw with a leather strap on the street in Siena just outside the duomo.  We also grabbed a handful of alabaster wine stoppers for friends in Volterra, since they are known for the stone.  The kids picked up some bracelets for their friends in Murano at a glass factory.  Finally, I stopped for a Bottega Veneta cross-body bag at their Rome airport duty-free shop.  I had forgotten that every major Italian luxury brand has a store in the airport.