Snack Around The Plate (+Birthday Party & Italy Recs!)

We’re back today with a brand new Snack Around The Plate installment, and today’s post features details on Eliza’s fifth birthday (a flamingo pool party), a few new key purchases, loads of reader recommendations on Italy, and more!

What is a “Snack Around the Plate”? Growing up, this was the phrase my mom called meals she would assemble with random favorites when scouring the pantry and fridge. And, while each item didn’t totally go together, assembled as one collective, I loved them! Basically, “Snack Around the Plate” posts are just a smorgasbord of randomness — “a little of this and a little of that” from all things lifestyle. It’s a mish-mosh highlight reel from a favorite recipes to favorite finds.

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1. Eliza’s Fifth Birthday Flamingo Pool Party

Most of Eliza’s birthdays have been celebrated with a special experience (trips to zoos, Jurassic World, etc.) but since she was turning FIVE this year, we decided it would be a fun time to celebrate with her first pool party with friends. Fun fact — my fifth birthday party was my first pool party, too, and it’s one of the only home videos we have 😉

After reining in her “creativity” and theme concepts a bit (haha) we ultimately went with a flamingo motif — Eliza was born in Florida and flamingoes have always been special. Also, super simple for a pool party.

I used THESE lawn flamingoes among the boxwoods (and saved one for the mailbox) and had THESE tropical leaf tube floats, and THIS large inflatable flamingo in the pool as a surprise the morning of the party. I also tossed in a flamingo beach ball we bought years ago, along with THIS pink and gold glitter beach ball. We decided ahead of time not to bring out additional floats and toys because we didn’t want to hinder visibility of the kids. I waited too long to order THIS brilliant, tiny, rechargeable air pump to inflate (and deflate) the new inflatables, but next time, we’ll be set!

Flamingo Pool Party

Stone Planter (X-Lg) | Flamingo Float | Palm Leaf Pool Rings | Lawn Flamingoes

Aside from some of that simple lawn decor, we didn’t go overboard. I added a regular white linen tablecoth (and a few black and white striped runners (from THIS game night post) and a flamingo runner (from THIS luncheon post) I had in my arsenal) to the food table (I dressed the storage box on our deck) and I ordered balloons. Not balloons for an elaborate arch, but the classic bunches of balloons we tied around the deck and pool. I ordered THIS big pink mylar ‘5’ balloon and THESE big mylar flamingo balloons but the rest were standard latex from Party City. They actually lost our balloons, and then brought us someone else’s order, and then tried to pass off some of their balloons as the ones I ordered independently and it was an overall pretty ridiculous experience. But, we rolled with it and for our simple party purposes, was fine.

Steel Rocking Chair (currently on sale!) | Woven Wall Baskets (similar) | Deck Box (similar)

We had THIS bubble machine set up in the back corner above the pool and it did a great job churning out bubbles throughout the party.

Flamingo Pool Party -- Kids Birthday Decor and Ideas

We also kept the food simple — pizzas, a basket of individually packaged snacks (Pirate’s Booty, Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies & Grahams, etc.), frozen fruit bars, and coolers of juice boxes and waters. The most “elaborate” effort, if you can call it that (haha) was this platter of grape “caterpillars” that went pretty quickly. I used skewers to thread on grapes, and used a bit of canned frosting as adhesive for THESE candy eyes.

Kids Birthday Party Food Ideas

Pull-apart cupcakes from the Publix down the street, for the win! We went with one vanilla and one chocolate, but they offer a combo if you’re only doing a single flamingo. We used THESE palm frond paper plates and THESE fun flamingo napkins and to simplify, I actually used the same napkins and plates for all food, dessert, and drinks (no beverage napkins or small plates).

Flamingo Birthday Cupcakes

Swim parties are just easy, in general because you don’t have to come up with a bunch of extra entertainment. We did have corn hole boards set up and water balloon fights (away from the pool) in the backyard — not necessary but the kids loved them. Some of the adults had never seen the easy-fill water balloons we use (HERE) and while I was dreading the next-day clean-up, it honestly wasn’t that bad!

Flamingo Birthday Party IDeas

Stone Planter (X-Lg) | Chaise Lounges (currently on sale!) | Umbrellas (currently on sale!) | Umbrella Stand & Weight (currently on sale!) | Flamingo Float

In lieu of goodie bags, we gifted THESE glittery full-size swim rings to the guests upon their departure. We set them up in a large tray basket next to the gate toward the end of the party — I didn’t want anyone grabbing them, opening them, and leaving them behind in the middle of the party 😉

Stone Planter (X-Lg) | Terry Cloth Skort | Pink Slide Sandals | Swimsuit

Eliza had a fantastic time and is already talking about what she wants her next party to be… another pool party with a “cheetah theme”. We’ll work on that closer to time, haha.

Flamingo Kids Birthday Party Decor and Ideas

She and I had our own pool day, the following day, and despite the hoards of kids piled on the big inflatable flamingo, he withstood all the abuse!

Flamingo Pool Party Essentials

Flamingo Float

2. Tinted Face Sunscreen

I went to the dermatologist several months ago and a few things happened… 1. she easily confirmed I have rosacea, 2. she prescribed a daily topical gel compound that has worked wonders, 3. I dialed all my face products back to the most basic, boring things ever (literally, just THIS soap and THIS moisturizer), and 4. she recommended THIS tinted facial sunscreen. I was blown away — it is basically impenetrable. A little goes a long way and despite regular pool days and vacation, I know one bottle will more than last the summer. If you want really good coverage and protection/have sensitive skin, I can’t recommend this enough. Seriously so so good.

Sunscreen my dermatologist recommended

Tinted Face Sunscreen

3. Amazon Raffia Earrings

I wanted a couple new summery earring sets that were 1. lightweight, and 2. inexpensive. I ordered a bunch of pairs off Amazon and these two were winners! My favorite are the top pair and while they’re a great deal at under $10 right now, a few of the colors are currently under $5 HERE! (as always, prices are subject to change)

June 2024 Amazon Favorites

Round Raffia Earrings | Raffia Hoop Earrings

I have a similar pair of hoop earrings that I purchased from a boutique at the beach and I always get asked about them. I was so happy to find such a similar pair that comes in so many colors! Most of the colors are around $10-$11 right now, but the turquoise is on deal for 50% off right now HERE.

Round Raffia Earrings | Raffia Hoop Earrings

4. Motion Sickness Glasses

I have really intense motion sickness and typically have to drive everywhere we go. I started seeing these motion sickness glasses posted in some of my reading groups — people saying that with these, they’re able to READ in the car for the first time ever. And I thought, if it’s that effective for reading, surely it will help without reading. On my birthday, I took them for a test drive since we were driving an hour away for dinner and I wanted to be a passenger princess 😉 I didn’t restrict my activities, looked at my phone (typically a big no no for me) and while I had a smidge of unsettlement when we arrived, it would have been WAY worse without the glasses. I still need to test without looking at anything and then also actually reading but so far, I’m convinced. I also shared them on IG and received feedback from readers that they worked for them, as well. They’re currently under $10 HERE.

Amazon June Favorites

Motion Sickness Glasses

It’s worth noting — the glasses are designed to be smaller around the rim so your eyes can pick up on the leveling fluid. It’s not that they’re too small — they just aren’t supposed to fit like “regular” glasses.

5. Beis Luggage

We are starting to plan more of the Italy trip specifics and I’ve had my eye on Beis luggage for a long while. We are staying several nights in each hotel so we won’t be constantly running all over the streets and I’m not up for challenging myself to packing us exclusively in carry-ons. Our larger suitcases are more “medium” sized and the feet on one of those have come off completely at this point. So, we decided that our birthday gift to each other would be a new set (large roller, medium roller, carry on roller). But, when I was ready to purchase, the maple brown color (HERE) I was hoping for was out of stock in two of the sizes. So, I waited. And as soon as it was restocked, I took the plunge. They offer discounts if you bundle two or three pieces of luggage, so we got 15% off by bundling our three HERE.

Luggage for Italy

large roller | medium roller | carry on roller

We haven’t used them for travel yet so I can’t speak to personal experience of durability and usage, but they’re lightweight, the wheels seem to move fabulously, there’s a cushion under the handle, the 50lb weight indicator is awesome, and there’s so many fun extras all over these pieces!

They’re so beautiful in person and I’m so happy we ordered them for our trip.

6. Go-To Little Girls Birthday Gift

I think I shared this girl gift idea in an earlier KN email but we’ve continued to gift these cute little belt bags throughout the summer to Eliza’s friends (and she asked for one for her birthday, too 😉 ). They are miniature in size, so they’re perfect for little girls, and you choose the colors, patches, etc. I’ve been really pleased with each bag the shop owner has crafted!

Etsy Kids Favorites

BeltBag/Fanny Pack | Converse Sneakers

We’ve also put a few goodies inside the bags 😉 She’s actually gifting a little purple one this weekend!

Kids Monogrammed Belt Bag

BeltBag/Fanny Pack | Sunglasses | Travel Hair Brush

7. Italy Reader Recommendations

We booked hotels and air for Italy a while ago but I need to start booking tours and logistics. Per usual, I asked for, and received tremendous reader feedback and suggestions in terms of personal guide/company recommendations. I seriously can’t tell you how much I appreciate each of you who take time to weigh in! Since many of you are also planning a trip to Italy in the future, you asked me to share…

I’ve also included the previously published suggestions that were made when our Italy trip planning was in its infancy at the beginning, so that we can all have the great recommendations in a consolidated list. If you were one of the many that provided feedback, Thank You!

  • We toured Poggio Amorelli in Tuscany and fell in love — family owned vineyard, so kind and fun.
  • We used Vicasso/BellaRome for our trip and LOVED! They coordinate all PRIVATE tours and transport!
  • was superb!
  • Just used Adri at florencecustomtours and she is great!
  • Don’t do a group tour for the Vatican…spend the $$$ and do a private tour!
  • Must eat at ZaZa in Florence. It’s the best!
  • Opera in the Kitchen in Tuscany for cooking class!
  • Chiara Antonelli is the best tour guide!
  • Book thecatholictraveler for best tours in Rome, he gets entry into EVERYTHING.
  • San Gimignano
  • Viator — they have wonderful day trips — we used them for our winery tour in Tuscany.
  • The ferry that starts in Rapallo and takes you to Moterosso and other towns in Cinque Terre.
  • Cooking class in Rome; Vatican, skip the line; Cinque Terre; horseback Tuscany day.
  • We did all our tours through Viator and had a great experience!
  • Stay overnight in Levanto when doing Cinque Terre. It’s on the train route and so relaxing and pretty!
  • Walks of Italy. Day trips to Positano/Pompeii and Colosseum tours.
  • Walks Inside Rome has fabulous tours and cooking classes.
  • Cook With Us In Rome cooking class was one of our favorites of any trip ever!
  • Vatican tour booked same day through tour company that was open selling in crowds. Same $ online.
  • Definitely book tickets ahead online for Colosseum and Forum access.
  • Lauren at Katie Bean Travels was perfect for tours, transport, hotels.
  • Viator has good tours.
  • Download the Trenitalia app for trains.
  • Roman Roads Golf Cart Tour of Rome — loveeee!
  • Nissan Dorma in Manarola, Cinque Terre — skip the line, sign up for the pesto class.
  • Lovexfood cooking class near Florence — at Luca and Lorenzo’s home! It’s incredible.
  • Book the Vatican beforehand, otherwise you have to wait in line to get in.
  • Elevate travel booked the best tours and restaurant reservations.
  • Mama Loves Rome Tours for Vatican/Colosseum.
  • Scavi — it is a tour under the Vatican…St. Peter Basilica.
  • Family Twist does some amazing tours which focus on kids/families.
  • Skip the line tour of the Vatican or any other touristy spots.
  • Vatican Scavi Tour and a restaurant recommendation is Tonnarello in Trastevere!
  • Viator Tour! Did in many countries, including Rome, Vatican City and other areas of Italy.
  • We were very happy with Walks of Italy tours.
  • Italy Limousine has great English speaking drivers. We’ve used them in Amalfi and Tuscany.
  • InRome cooking class was amazing!
  • Argiano Winery in Montalcino. Ask for Beatrice as your guide.
  • Late lunch/early dinner in Manarola. Download Nessun Dorma app.
  • Cooking class in Montalcino. Locanda Demetra Cooking.
  • Tuscany driver: We Drive You.
  • Rome guide: Maria Laura Giorgi.
  • Giorgi Car Service, Tuscany.
  • Florence, go see Nino at Goccia Shoes Firenze and his leather goods store, Noi Firenze.
  • Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy and Il Libra Paperie.
  • City Wonders Vatican Breakfast Tour. You are some of the first in and get breakfast.
  • Visit Siena — beautiful town.
  • It’s wonderful to drive around the Tuscany area. Easy to rent a car in Florence.

An incredibly generous reader, Faith, sent a comprehensive and detailed email with so much incredibly information (thank you again, Faith!) Here were some of her recommendations…

  • and have been the most helpful tools when helping us plan our trip.
  • Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in Rome is free to visit.
  • Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome.
  • Trevi Fountain/Spanish Steps — go early for a more private experience. The McDonald’s close to the Spanish Steps is super fancy inside and has very unique menu items.
  • Villa Borghese — a pretty park with a lake.
  • Gelato making class.
  • Cheese making class in Tuscany.
  • La Rocca di Castellani — Restaurant in Tuscany with amazing views.
  • Day Trip to Leaning Tower of Pisa.
  • Fiat Tour.
  • Brunello Cooking Class in Tuscany.
  • Civita di Bagnoregio — Very scenic town on a hill that you can only get to by foot.
  • Cascate del Mulino-Hot Spring –There are numerous thermal hot springs in the area but this one is the most popular and prettiest by far.
  • Bagno Vignoni Thermal Bath Old Town — There is a large thermal pool in the center of the town which is just for aesthetics but I believe I read you can go to one just outside of town to enjoy that tends to be less crowded then the one above. Somewhere I read the hotel in town offers fantastic spa treatments.
  • San Galgano Abbey — Former monastery with the aerial shaping a cross.
  • Grotta Giusti — Upon looking into Italy the first time I came across the Grotta Giusti hotel and was in love. It has thermal grotto underneath the hotel accompanied by a thermal spa. Unfortunately, after all my research on where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do it seemed far away from everything. If you are doing less traveling to and fro I would certainly recommend staying there if you are able.
  • Iconic View of Tuscany:
    Agriturismo Baccoleno
    Val d’orcin
    San Gimignano
    Canonica hill Park (park with views of San Gimignano)
  • I would recommend seeing the Dolomites mountains. There are many day trip tours from different regions.
  • One last thing I HIGHLY recommend is having a photoshoot done. Flytographer is very popular these days but there are many affordable options Viator or getyourguide (they also have apps). In mind mind it is the best souvenir you can get to commemorate the occasion.

Travel Guides recommended by Faith:

And I absolutely loved that she included a list of movies that take place/inspired by Italy!

  • Dream of Italy
  • Eat, Pray, Love
  • Italy Unpacked
  • Under the Tuscan Sun
  • A Room With A View
  • When In Rome
  • Italy Love It or Leave It
  • From Italy with Amore
  • Taste of Italy
  • Letters to Juliet
  • The Tourist
  • Life Is Beautiful
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Gladiator (there is a shooting spot that you can go see in Tuscany)

Below are reader tips that I shared previously, in case you missed them…


  • We did horseback riding in Tuscany through Viator and it was wonderful!
  • Cinque Terre is a must!
  • We stayed at the Elizabeth hotel in Rome and absolutely loved it!
  • Florence is stunning! So is Bellagio, Lake Como!
  • Cinque Terre, take the train up and walk the sheep trails down!
  • Sorrento was amazing and we will go back!
  • We used Viator for all our excursions. Loved the wine tour in Tuscany!
  • Look at and the Dolomites in Italy!
  • Great cooking class Cucina Giuseppina near Florence and Tuscany.
  • Take the high speed trains, they’re awesome.
  • Scuola del Cuoio is a must in Florence for leather goods, esp bags.
  • Volpetti is a cheese and meat shop in Rome — their samples are amazing!
  • Everything in Florence is closed on Sundays. May be that way in other cities too.
  • Bring good walking shoes! It’s pretty easy to walk around and see a lot in Rome.
  • Public transit is user friendly. Some hotels also have shuttles.
  • Trains are easy to get tickets right at the station, it’s like public transit there!
  • Get a travel agent. They can arrange transport.
  • Buy business class train tickets. It allows you to keep your luggage with you.
  • Book tours for the popular sites — the Vatican, Colosseum, etc.
  • Perillo travel agency planned our trip — they specialize in Italy vacations. Highly recommend!
  • Must do: food tour in Rome, they take you to the non-touristy parts and it’s incredible.
  • Watch out for pickpockets in Rome, they’re all over the tourist areas.
  • We used a travel agency based in Italy called Cultural Italy — highly recommend!
  • Check out It’s a private driver who takes you from one city to the next!
  • The Edition Rome is everything. If you don’t stay there, please visit their rooftop bar!
  • I’ve been to Rome twice and it’s not my favorite. Spend more time in Florence for sure do the foodie tour.
  • I’ve been to Italy three times and Florence and Positano were my favorites.
  • Yes, book ahead for trains. Two weeks?
  • Get your own tour guide.
  • Book trains ahead of time. Leonardo express from FCO.
  • Do: learn bais phrases/words in Italian and use them!
  • Bring reusable water bottles, fill them from the drinking fountains. It’s clean!
  • Def do colosseum and Roman forum tour!! And Vatican/St. Peter’s! Book through Viator.
  • Rome: stay within a mile or less of the Trevi Fountain (the city center)! Walk everywhere.
  • Toured Vatican City, museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. We did and awesome walking tour of Rome and loved it!
  • Look up for Dinner with Barbara in Rome. Highlight of our trip. So fun.
  • The Duomo in Florence is stunning. Make sure to wear comfy footwear. There’s a lot of cobblestone.
  • Go to the top of Pisa, views of the Basilica roof are stunning. Skip Naples. Take boat to Capri!
  • We’ve never booked trains in advance and it was fine. You need enough time for the physical tickets to arrive to you before you leave if you do that. You can get chaper train passes if you order ahead, if you are certain of dates and times.
  • Comfy shoes are a must! Plan out your days to get your highlights in.
  • Italy is a major pickpocket capital of Europe! Keep everything locked up, even in hotel!
  • A friend stayed on a family’s farm in Tuscany for weeks for cooking classes. Amazing!
  • Wear waling shoes — 15-20k steps per day!
  • Carry passports in a holder inside your shirt that goes around the neck. Pickpockets.
  • Must: four classic Roman pastas! Carbonara, Amatriciana, Cacio E Pepe and Gricia!!!
  • Friend had a private driver for Cinque Terra — spent most of the day stuck in traffic! Hike instead.
  • Must visit the inside of the Colosseum, not just the drive-by.
  • MUST see th Sistine Chapel. Extraordinary experience.
  • Civita di Bagnoregio — soooo worth it!
  • Would spend more time in Florence than Rome. Give yourself the option. You’ll fall in love!
  • Totally easy to book night before trains to/from any city, makes it a lot easier to “wing” it!
  • You should make dinner reservations months ahead of time.
  • Liv Tours. Book a private Vatican tour as well as a golf cart tour of Rome.
  • Daytrip is a great car service and they will stop to sightsee if you wanted to add.
  • Book trains ahead. No direct into Florence. I’d fly direct to Rome then train to Florence.
  • We used Gate One Travel for our honeymoon and it made everything so easy.
  • Get super comfortable walking shoes.
  • Do not go in August. It’s hot! I live in Georgia but took at least two showers a day.
  • I’ve taken cooking classes and it was fin, but I like cooking.
  • It depends on what you want to see. Beaches, coast, then Positano/Amalfi coast.
  • Italy is not a place to see all in one trip. Focus on areas of the country.
  • Do a food tour in Florence. And take a day trip to Sienna.
  • We traveled by train…so easy and affordable. Didn’t love Rome…too busy but hit all tourist spots. Train to Florence and the Venice.
  • Must go to Zaza Trattoria in Florence. Extensive delicious menu.
  • Please look into Asamina Tours. 100% recommend.
  • Book trains there. It’s easy and cheaper. Food tour in Florence. Rent car for Tuscany to explore.
  • Cinque Terra is easy to move around from the five cities by train.
  • Get the Trenitalia app and book your trains in advance. It was easy to travel by train.
  • Rome cab tours. Pricey but worth it. They say they aren’t tour guides but they kinda are.
  • The hop on hop off “tourist” buses are oddly helpful to sit on to get a lay of the land.
  • Book ahead for trains and arrive at station at least 30-45 minutes early. Can randomly depart early.
  • We stayed at the Pantheon Hotel in Rome and it was amazing. Perfect location, too!
  • We took trains from Rome, Florence to Venice. No car required. Train system is easy. Pre-smart phone era.
  • Restaurant called Paoli!
  • Book tours on visitor, don’t waste your time on tours for a few. Florence and Tuscany are like San Fran and Napa, very close experience. Florence is a must go to.
  • Pompeii is incredible.
  • Roscioli is the best restaurant and needs reservations months in advance in Rome!
  • I booked all our tours via Get Your Guide — super easy and lots of options.
  • Book ahead a pesto making class in Cinque Terra! It was on the side of the mountain.
  • We loved visiting Sienna. Also Lucca and San Gimigiano.
  • to book train between Rome and Florence.
  • Book a tour for Rome! Worth it bc otherwise it’s very overwhelming. We learned a lot!
  • The Amalfi coast is a MUST!!!!
  • If you can visit San Gimignano in Tuscany are DO IT. Hands down one of the best places!
  • I found the Rome city pass very useful! If nothing else, you get to bypass long lines. If you plan to travel by train, figure out your travel dates/routes and buy in advance!
  • Saw an AS Roma soccer game with my boys — such a fun experience!
  • Borgo Santo Pietro is a must stay in Tuscany area. Pricey but sooo worth it!
  • Rome is a busy bustling city! Did a Vatican guided tour which was incredible.
  • Florence can do day trips to Pisa and Cinque Terre. Can buy tickets when get there. Sometimes can hire cabs for day and they will tour you around for a set price.
  • Definitely train between Rome and Florence. They are pretty easy! The Vatican tour is amazing as well as the Colosseum tour.
  • Giada DeLaurentis food guide per city in Italy! Covers all mealtimes. Suggestions where to eat for all meals/gelato. Did NOT have a bad meal and gelato recs were the bomb.
  • Hire a boat on the coast.
  • Walk everywhere. Go into every single church you pass. That’s where the art, history and beauty are.
  • Go as early as possible to any tours. The crowds make it tedious to enjoy.
  • Ristorante Piperno in Rome.
  • Eat at Dal Bolognese in Rome!
  • Rome 4, Florence 3, Venice 2 nights.
  • Train is good transport. Book online to see travel time, lengths, etc. We stayed downtown so walking access everywhere was good.
  • Outside of Florence there are designer outlet malls…like Gucii. Maybe worth a half day trip.
  • Use Google flights!
  • Definitely should take a car to Sienna and as for Florence, it’s walkable. Rome is beautiful.
  • Rome — golf cart tour is a must. So hot in summer!
  • 10 days in Rome, Florence and Venice. All by train. Enjoy those 3 cities and save Cinque.
  • Rick Steeves Italy book is amazing. Literally maps everything out.
  • Go with a tour group!!!
  • We did exact 10 days and same itinerary but Positano instead of Cinque Terre.
  • Fast trains need to be booked ahead of time.
  • Avoid the BIG suitcases. Cobblestones everywhere.
  • Day trips possible from those locations, I’d stay longer in Florence.
  • Wine tour in Montepulciano. The best wines!!
  • We stayed in Rome at the AlephRoma Hotel. Florence was my favorite and not as touristy. Leather making goods class in Florence and Vatican in Rome is a must.
  • Don’t miss Monterossa in Cinque Terre. Do a beach day!
  • Love the Pantheon Iconic Hotel in Rome!
  • Lovexfooditaly — a MUST DO cooking class experience outside of Florence.
  • Must visit Venice!!!
  • I highly recommend renting a car in Tuscany for the countryside, very easy.
  • Tour of Tuscany that includes a farmhouse winery, Sienna and San Gimignano. Skip Pisa.
  • Palazzo Velabro which is a Marriott hotel in Rome. Good location. Nice boutique hotel.
  • Try to do a day trip to Capri (we did from Rome) and limoncello tasting there.
  • Def book train in advance. Pay for upgraded assigned seats. Be early! Trains run on time!
  • You can look at the train schedule online so I found all our routes before we went over there and we bought our tickets at the station day of.
  • Great restaurants to the right of the Vatican. Just pick one. All of the priests eat around there.
  • Book a tour for the Vatican. Private was the best, but group tour is good.
  • Spend as much time in Tuscany and coast as you can! I preferred it to the cities.
  • Stay in Vernazza or Monterosso for Cinque! Bring good hiking shoes.
  • The Edition Rome is a Marriott property.
  • The Vatican is a full day event, so make sure you plant for that. I would book a private tour guid. Make sure you bring pants, no shorts, skirts or bare shoulders are allowed.
  • All hotels wre booked on and tours were booked on Viator. Super easy and you are able to download the apps which are easy to use.
  • In Tuscany, we stayed at Relais Vignale & Spa, lovely hotel in Radda in Chianti, Tuscany. Friendly staff, clean rooms, however the bed was stiff.
  • In Florence, we stayed at FH55 Hotel Calzaiuoli. Staff was super pleasant, smaller hotel, with small European style elevators. Staff recommended a great restaurant called Paoli. It was the most amazing dinner we had in Italy! We did a tour the following day, and although it was great it took all day and we did not get to explore the shops and restaurants as I would’ve wanted to. We toured the Duomo and it was very cool. I climbe to the very top … all 467 steps. All tours were booked on the Viator website and app is super easy. Highly recommend it.
  • I loved Florence and Venice. Rome was my least favorite and I could have stayed in Cinque Terre for Days too.
  • Full Belly Tours — amazing food tour through a local neighborhood in Rome.
  • I’ve made the mistake of booking our return out of Florence and had no idea the airport was so tiny. If they’re getting wind more than 15 mph or so, they can’t take off because the runway is too short.
  • Definitely take the train between Florence and Rome and use a driver to explore the Chianti countryside. Driving in Italy is easy, they have beautiful highways. We did a day trip to Venice from Florence taking the train but it was a close call getting back! You can do a day trip to Pisa from Florence. Drivers are the way to go!
  • Rome is a great home base. We were able to take a bus day trip to Florence, you could stay overnight if you want more days, but also ride the early morning train to Venice, so fun…stay all day and into the evening and catch a late train back to Rome. We bought same day tickets at the train station, but you can buy in advance.
  • Would highly recommend you hire a driver…it’s not worth driving…parking prices in some places are more expensive than what you will pay a private driver. Call hotel you will be staying at and they will arrange drivers for airport pickup and drop off, day trips, etc. Several friends have learned the hard way in being stuck with driving fines they have no idea they have until they got home.
  • Don’t go to sleep when you get there. Stay up, go for a walk, hit one sightseeing destination, eat an early dinner and go to bed by 9. You’ll wake up on Roman time.
  • Watch Bobby & Giada in Italy on Max. Tells you where to eat, how to enjoy, places to walk. Important to try gelato on the Spanish Steps.
  • Make sure to review the tours to see how long they las because sometimes it they take the whole day, that just takes every energy out of you.
  • We got a boat in Venice, which is super easy and we rented a train from Venice to Rome, which was super easy two hours, probably the best thing we did.
  • Misuri Florence for excellent leather goods.
  • We loved the guided tour of the Vatican, but previously did self-guided. Either way, it’s incredible! Be sure to have an outfit that covers your knees and shoulders when visiting the churches or they won’t let you in. At the top of the Spanish Steps, you’ll meet an amazing artist, Walter Pedrini. We’ve bought paintings from him on both of our trips. Get up early to get unobstructed photos of the Duomo. Crowds build up quickly for tours.
  • In Florence, the view from the Piazza de Michalengelo is stunning — it’s a park across the river that looks into the city.
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