Geneva, Florence, and the Tuscan Countryside

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My parents, Ryan, and I have always talked about going to Italy. We dreamed of finding a beautiful house in the countryside and exploring all the neighboring villages. When my parents found an available house through their timeshare, we had to take it!

Since it's such a long flight (7 hours), we wanted to see as many cities as possible. We flew Swiss Airlines straight to Geneva, Switzerland and stayed at La Reserve Geneva - I can't recommend both enough!

They even had breakfast waiting for us in-room after our long flight.

hotel

On property they have five restaurants, a spa, gym, and indoor pool - you honestly don't even need to leave! We ate at Tse Fung the first night and loved it!

After two days of relaxing and getting settled, we ventured out to dinner at La Refuge de Florimont. We had a traditional Swiss meal filled with meat and cheese!

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The restaurant is set on top of a mountain with panoramic views. Definitely go earlier to watch the sun set.

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The next day we took advantage of the hotel's best amenity - a speed boat! 20 minutes later and we were downtown Geneva and ready to explore.

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We wandered through Old Town, toured the cathedral, and had dinner at Brasserie Lipp. On the walk back to the boat, we took in the view and captured a rainbow in the Jet d'Eau. The perfect way to end our stay in Geneva.

genevaview

Our Geneva takeaways:

  1. Transportation is tough. You have to call ahead for taxis (which may be late and stress you out on the way to the train station) or have a private car scheduled which is crazy expensive.
  2. Geneva is actually pretty small. When chatting with the concierge about activities, all of their recommendations were an hour or more away in the Alps.
  3. Would totally recommend a few days at the hotel for a relaxing spa/resort.

The next morning, we took a train to Florence with a transfer in Milan. 6.5 hours later, we checked into the most adorable boutique hotel and couldn't believe this was the view from our room.

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The hotel was in the heart of the city! Everything we wanted to do was within walking distance. Plus, it had a rare rooftop with incredible views!

hotelroof

For our first Italian meal, we headed to Trattoria Cammillo. In Italy, you traditionally have pasta before your meal. The concept of pasta as an appetizer is amazing! Mom and I split the chicken curry and we all ended the night with tiramisu.

dinner

The next day was our only full day in Florence. We went to the Duomo de Firenze and walked all the way around it, admiring how colorful and ornate every detail was.

duomo

The outside of the Duomo was incredible, but to see the inside we would have to wait in some really long lines. We opted to skip the line and head straight to Gelato! Some of my Cincinnati friends recommended Edoardo right next to the Cathedral. It was delicious! (Note: cash only)

gelato

Ryan and I walked off the gelato and headed to the Boboli Gardens. It started raining as soon as we got there, so we ducked into the Pitti Palace for a tour.

The palace tour was nice, but the gardens were phenomenal!

gardens

You could spend hours just traipsing through the winding paths, taking photos, and enjoying the quiet. Plus, there are some incredible views of the city!

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On the way to dinner, we walked along the river, taking in all the bridges and moody clouds.

Fun fact: The Ponte Vecchio is a bridge filled with jewelry venders and fabulous views. The top level is actually a corridor built to connect the palace to the town hall, keeping the rulers safe from the public in the 1500's.

florence

Dinner at Buca dell'Orafo was underground in what looked like a cellar. Dad and Ryan will take every opportunity to split a ridiculously large steak.

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Our Florence takeaways:

  1. Be ready to walk! It's a pretty dense, flat city but you're still walking a lot. You can't just hail a taxi.
  2. It's all about the history. Museums, statues, artists, and more museums. We weren't into that, so we were able to see the city in less than 48 hours.
  3. Would totally recommend a day or two - especially to break up a long trip between cities.

The next morning, we picked up our rental car (note: get your international drivers license at AAA before you go) and drove to the The Mall, a luxury outlet mall an hour east of Florence. I was on the hunt for new crossbody handbags and found two at over 70% off!

After an hour and a half drive south to the house, we unpacked, cooked dinner, and were so excited to finally be there!

house

The house was centrally located which made it easy to check out all the different cities. First up, Siena!

The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was unlike any other city I'd seen before - a maze of alleyways and small corridors, built on a hill.

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After lunch at il Bandierino, we walked up the hill to the Duomo di Siena, bought tickets, and headed inside. Ryan said, "It looks like Henri Bendels!" which made me love him even more!

sienaduomo

We had an hour to kill before our guided tour, so Ryan and I decided to climb the 400 steps of Torre del Mangia for a view of the entire city. It was beautiful to see the Duomo in the center of all the buildings with the the countryside just outside the walls.

sienaview

We met our guide in the city center, went into the Palazzo Pubblico for over an hour, and then traipsed through the city for another two hours while learning the city's history and the way it works today.

tour

We ended our Siena adventure with dinner at Salefino. More pasta, a fabulous cheesecake (that I didn't share), and tired feet.

The next morning was the peek of the trip - truffle hunting! Our guide and his truffle hunting dog, Alba, picked us up and took us to a neighboring town, Casole d'Elsa. We went to four spots to see her in action and learn how they work as a pair.

trufflehunt

After finding one large truffle and several small ones, we went to our guide's restaurant, Caffe Casolani, where he prepared a four course meal using the truffles that Alba found!

trufflepasta

Right under the fjords in Norway, this was one of the coolest things I've ever done!

The next morning, Ryan and I headed out on a hike with our guide Rudy through Monteriggioni. We learned about the wildlife and explored the city's castle.

We picked up Mom and Dad and the four of us headed to an organic Tuscan farm to have lunch with the family and tour the grounds. Such a unique, authentic experience!

farmlunch

After a nap, we were ready to eat again! We stayed in, threw on our PJs, and made pizza in the wood fire oven in the backyard.

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pizza

For our last day in Tuscany, Ryan and I drove up to the Belmond Hotel to workout and enjoy a latte with a view.

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It was finally warm enough to enjoy the pool, so we each grabbed a book, and relaxed!

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That night, the most incredible chef, Sophie, came to the house and prepared a four course Italian meal! As soon as she knew Ryan was interested in cooking, she was explaining every step, sharing recipes, and having him help.

sofie

Our Tuscany takeaways:

  1. You need a car! All of the towns are 20-75 minutes apart. You'll be in the car a lot, but it's worth it!
  2. Plan one activity a day and then relax! It's much more laid back with so much beauty. Enjoy it!
  3. Would 10000% recommend! I would go back again and again. Always more to see and do!

The next morning, we drove back to Florence to catch the train to Milan! There are two major airports in Italy that have nonstop flights to NYC - Milan and Rome. So we spent the last day in Milan to see another city and have a nonstop flight.

Ryan found a cute hotel in the center of everything so we could see as much as possible.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was even more beautiful than I expected! I first learned about it when Chanel had a runway show in the middle of this open air mall.

mall

Once you walk through the mall, you run into the Duomo di Milano. It had a totally different look than the other cathedrals we had seen. Very gothic!

duomo

Even though we had pasta and gelato for lunch, we wanted to end strong with one final round!

Dinner at Risoelatte was divine - especially the berry and gorganzola risotto.

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Even though we were stuffed, we ended the trip grabbing gelato and walking around the Sforza Castle at dusk.

lastgelato

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Our Milan takeaways:

  1. Shopping is definitely the focus - which we didn't need.
  2. It felt like an Italian NYC only stuffier. Lots of suits, everyone is so serious.
  3. Out of everything we saw, Milan was the least exciting. Wouldn't recommend.

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