Posts filed under florence

My Florence | Cafe Gilli

I, like many other people, spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy. It changed me. What can I say? I was one of those annoying girls who corrected their aunts pronunciation of bruschetta upon returning home, as if I, really did, absorb the entirety of the Italian language and culture during my three months away from home.

I go back now and the city is much the same. Though I realise that I am very different. For starters, I don’t feel excited at the prospect of waltzing around the cobblestone streets of the city in gold, glittery stilettos like I did then at all hours of the night. Now, I’m very happy to work around the city in normal people hours and wear very comfortable (but still very cute) shoes. 


Another thing that has changed is the places that I go. Now, the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, Piazzale Michaelangelo… those are places for everyone. But the cute restaurants and hotels that I was far too grungy and young to wander into as a 19 year old student now draw me in like a moth to a flame. Gold-gilded cafes with doormen and fresh flowers? Say no more. I’m on my way! 

One of the places for me is Caffe Gilli- as a student I was terrified of the rumours I had heard of their “incredibly expensive coffee,” but as a well-traveled adult… well, I just saunter in and head straight to the bar to order one. (Also, because now as an adult, I know that an expresso basically anywhere isn’t going to bankrupt me. I’ve yet to see one over €6 anywhere in the world.) The restaurant is over 270 years, and is not only pretty- but a historical landmark perched in Florence’s prestigious Piazza della Republlcca. Just look for the famous carousel in Florence, then you’ll find Caffe Gilli beside it.


And why stop at a coffee when it’s warm out and you can get a crema caffe. Imagine if you will, a tiny, espresso sized cup of an espresso flavouried Frosty. It’s the smoothest drink that is frozen… and there aren’t any ice scales or chips to be found in it. Most often, they’ll also drizzle some dark chocolate around the inside of the glass before it’s poured in. Italy, you do me right. Everytime. It’s a perfect little treat on a hot day. Oh, and they’re cheap. So go on into the prettiest place you can find. If they have the crema caffe machine, lucky you. If not, grab a regular espresso and drink it like the well-groomed adult you are.


And while you’re there, can you please pick me up some of their gorgeous gift bags of homemade biscotti and say hello to the cute waitstaff in their uniforms? Grazie mille.

CAFFE GILLI | Via Roma, 1r, 50123 Firenze FI | @caffegilli

Find more of my favourite places in Florence here in my Florence guide.

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy by Grant Schol

Posted on January 28, 2019 and filed under florence.

My Florence | Breakfast at Villa Cora

As our schedule seems to typically fall, we are often traveling over my birthday. Because of an early August birthday, I’ve been able to celebrate birthdays in some pretty lush places. Being the good man that he is, Tyler knows that the thing I love to do most when ushering in a new year of life is to find the prettiest breakfast possible to celebrate. It just feels like the biggest treat to me. 

While there may have been many fine hotel beds and bathtubs that made me swoon, what really seems to stand out to me in thinking back on great hotels is the breakfast. There’s just nothing more indulgent than waking up in a pretty room and wandering down to a pretty table and pretty, homemade food and hot delicious coffee. Its in those moment that I feel my brain get the warm fuzzies of complete travel bliss. 

For my 34th birthday (34!!!), we headed to Villa Cora below Piazzale Michaelangelo in Florence. We passed it a few nights earlier driving with a friend: it glowed on the hillside with pretty lighting and had an ambiance that made me wish I had a slinky ballgown to go dance on the terrace in. When I asked her what it was, she replied that it was called Villa Cora and was a gorgeous hotel. Call it fate, call it destiny.... but I knew then and there that was the place we needed to try this year.


And I can’t say that it disappointed in anyway. The service was incredible, the setting was Florentine posh in all the best ways, the food was a mix between the Italian finest and made-to-order requests. (I mean, goodness, they serve their fruit on columns of ice.) The terrace to eat on overlooks the fountain and gardens and it just feels.... decadent.


We for a couple of hours- no kids, no problem- enjoying every bite and sipping coffee and fresh cold press juices and any other item we had a whim to try. The staff was so sweet and didn’t rush us one bit.


Afterwards, we were invited to explore the villa and gardens, enjoy a takeaway coffee and felt like we were actual hotel guests. 

We wandered down into the garden and sat on a white couch and Tyler obliged me by spending the next hour doing one of my other most beloved activities: financial planning. Ha! How fun of a date am I? But seriously, I love having time to chat through big picture ideas and after a a nice, relaxed morning- it was the perfect time to go through it.


Would I recommend going to Villa Cora for breakfast in Florence? Yes! It’s €35 per person and a great option for a celebration or girly morning out. I’d recommend calling before you go to get a table reserved on the terrace, as that really is the best seat in the house and seating is quite limited.

VILLA CORA | Viale Machiavelli, 18, 50125 Firenze FI | +39 055 228790

Find more of my favourite places in Florence in my travel guide.

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on September 25, 2018 and filed under florence, italy, marriage, my florence.

Under The Tuscan Sun... and Just By The Olive Trees

When I was 19, I spent a semester in Italy. Just outside of Florence on a hillside of a sleepy suburb in a 15th century villa. In this villa, we had class, we had little Italian women cook for us and we stayed up way too long every night. I'm not sure anyone can spend three months at that villa and not have those moments stay with them forever. There really is something magical about "the villa," and I am so glad that I got to share it with my family this summer.

While we were there, my friend Grant snapped some pictures of us around the house. He, literally, took out his camera and starting clicking away after breakfast one day. (And from the lack of Tyler and/or group photos, you'll see that it was so casual that he went in to change out the laundry about two minutes into taking pictures and we had given up by the time he had come back out.)

I have to say, I love them. Not just because I can now appreciate the gift of having us all four in the same photo... but especially so because they're a reminder of a normal day that made up this gorgeous holiday.

There are so many memories that I have from the villa- visiting with my family in high school, arriving with my best friend and a huge suitcase to live out of for the spring whilst in college, saying goodnight to friends in the driveway during the summers in college, eating lunch with Tyler as newlyweds in the dining room, laughing on the terrace with Oxford friends after graduation, and now... well, with my sweet babies toddling around the yard.


I love Florence and the lifelong friends that we have there... and, well, now I have some pictures to add to the others we already love from this same special place.



*images by Grant Schol


Posted on September 9, 2016 and filed under italy, kids, family, everyday living, florence.

Florence | La Menagere


Once upon a time, I was a camp counselor and had a hilarious camper named Grant. We would sit in the craft shed- me, a fresh college graduate, and him, a quick-witted 14 year-old, laughing and talking throughout afternoon in the Arkansas heat. Fast-forward 10 years. Grant has recently moved to Florence and works as a colleague of mine in our Florence program.

While we are here this summer, we get to see Grant everyday and he has been giving us a fresh look at a city we love so much. We get great facts along our walks through the city, funny translations of Italian and, most importantly, the great new spots to go to when in Florence.

La Menagere is a place that Grant picked out for us to try long before our arrival. When we ventured into town one day, the mood felt right and we scurried over that way. Walking up to it, I knew that- 100% sure- this was a place I would love. (I am pretty sure that you will, too!)




When you first walk in, you're going to notice the amazing design of this space. The interiors are very cool- almost as if built as a set for a Nancy Meyers movie.



Then, you'll notice the chic army of waiters quietly scurrying around the restaurant. From their denim aprons to their perfecty-groomed facial hair, they somehow match the setting as if an interior designer worked them into her plans.



Now, for the important part: the food.  Expect traditional items with a twist for the menu. We started with the Insalata Caprese- hot & cold. It consisted of a tomato soup with basil croutons and an island of mozzerella ice cream. It was a fun version of something that I've had a hundred times before... but in a way that didn't feel sacreligious.



For the mains, we all tried something different. Toasted gnocchis, cocoa raviolis and a candied lemon and poppyseed risotto with salty cheese. The combinations were unlikely, but the execution was perfect.


We made it a real party and brought our friends, Mat & Kelsey + their kids. I wouldn't say this restaurant is best enjoyed with kids, but I will say they did an awesome job taking care of ours. They had high chairs and offered to make simple options for them that weren't listed on the menu. Plus, there is a lot of space to walk around and explore while you wait for food without feeling like everyone is staring at you.


Put La Menagere on your list for your trip to Florence. Whether you are stopping by to pick up a small item from their cool boutique, a coffee from their bistro or a formal lunch- this is a great stop for any foodies & design-hounds headed to Italy.


LA MENAGERE | Via de'Ginori 8r. Florence, 50123. +39.055.0750.600. Open daily from 07:00am - 02:00am. 



*images by Grant Schol


Posted on August 22, 2016 and filed under eat, italy, travel, florence, my florence.

Tuscany Day Trip | San Gimignano


Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and came to finish this post... but realized that I had actually posted it live yesterday half finished. Oops! Well, the notes are now removed and the actual links and comments are available now.


The last time we spent August in Tuscany was our first summer living abroad- nearly five years ago! That summer, Tyler & I spent our days here bumping around the hillside roads in a beatup FIAT Panda and loved to venture out into all the small villages and towns nearby that we could get to in the day.

Not only did I make this video of our trips (that I watch on bad days far more than I'm proud to admit), but I also started a little blogging series on Tuscany Day Trips. Since I won't be making a video this time around, I thought the least that I could do is continue my day trip series.




If you're staying in or around Florence, San Gimignano is an easy place to go for a day trip. You can either venture out to this small medeival town through a bust tour that leaves from Florence, like this one or drive yourself in a rent car. The drive from Florence is just about an hour.

I'd go early in the day, as parking is limited and the sooner you get there- the less time you'll spend going up and down the roads around the town in search of a spot to park. (We went at lunch time and it took forever!)

Regardless of the limited parking and the hot sunny August weather, we had a marvelous day. This charming town is the perfect mix of Italian culture, history and ease put into one spot. It's location between Florence and Siena make it an easy destination regardless of where you are staying. So whether you spend the day exploring some of the 14 medieval tours that are still standing or simply wandering from eatery to eatery to find the best scenic views- you'll be inevitably charmed by San Gimignano.




RICCAPIZZA | Since it took so long to find a parking spot, by the time we reached San Gimignano, the natives were fairly restless. We decided to forgo the trauma that would come from us all enduring a long lunch somewhere and, instead, jumped in the quick-moving queue at PizzaRicco and grabbed a giant box of pizza for lunch.

GELATERIA DONDOLI | This gelateria, convienently placed in Piazza della Cisterna, is a famous stop for most tourists to pass through San Gimignano. With creative flavors like olive and champelmo (champagne and pink grapefuit) make it more than your normal ice cream stop. It's definitely worth waiting in the quick-moving line to try a cone for yourself.

TRATTORIA CHIRIBIRI | If you're looking for perfect Tuscan dishes- think big plates of Tuscan meats and cheeses, white beans cooked for hours in a stew-like tomato base and thick bowls of riboliita- all in an atmosphere that fits the 14th century village surroundings, look no further. This place won't disappoint.



PIAZZA DELLA CISTERNO | This main square in the town is named after the well (or "cistern") that sits in the middle. You'll find this is the main deposit of visitors from the town that have entered through the main city entrance, Porta San Giovanni. From Piazza della Cisterna, you'll be at a major axis point for reaching the rest of the city.

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Has anyone stayed in San Gimignano? Would love to hear some recommendations for great places to spend the night there to get the full experience.... after all the tourists like us have left for the day!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy



A Welcome Home | Return to Tuscany

If you have followed this blog before we became parents, you might remember a former version of ourselves. Not just ones that were less crazy and a bit better looking.... but a couple that LOVED Italy so much that we couldn't help but jump there as often as possible. When I was pregnant with the girls, I went three times, but since kids....

Well, we have been so busy traveling for work and to see family, that our sporadic and frequent Italian jaunts have ceased.... until now. This August, we decided to spend it on a family holiday for just the four of us. We are staying at the same place where I have spent so many great days making memories and it feels like a warm homecoming to be back here.

We are staying outside of Florence surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. To city-dwellers like us, it seems as if we have our own country. To city-dwelling kids like ours, it seems like we have our own planet.

The kids wake up in the middle of the night and point out to the garden. "There! There!" Harrison yells out to the pitch dark outside begging for more time to wander around the crunchy rain-starved grass in search of rocks and sticks.

dress by olive juice

But when the daylight finally arrives, we walk out to the garden and start the day. We spend the mornings sitting on a swing together with coffee and brioche. The pre-packaged kind because all the local bakeries are closed for August and we kinda love the crunchy sugar on top.

cosy jammies by baby mori


At lunch time, we typically venture out somewhere nearby- like San Gimignano or Lucca- to squeeze in a casual lunch with a view... and, of course, the obligatory afternoon gelato.

By the time it's late afternoon, we are back to the villa with enough time to play and crank out some dinner.


After that, the kids take a bath, go to bed... and Tyler & I sigh a big sigh of exhausted relief as we head up to the terrace to watch the sunset together. By this time in the day, we are half-asleep and half-pinching ourselves of the day we just had.


 *       *       *


It's one of the laziest vacations that I know of, but it's also, without a doubt, our very very favorite. It feels so good to be back here and I'm not sure I'll ever loose that place in my heart that beats for Italy.

Does anyone else feel the same way about Italy? I'd love to hear your favorit pare here and why it is special to you!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy


Posted on August 15, 2016 and filed under italy, travel, florence, family, kids.

Buon Viaggio! Visiting Italy

It's that time of year. Everyone is starting to plan their spring break travels and begins to dream of a summer vacation somewhere fabulous. I love that we all have this in common. One of the most common places people want to visit is Italy.

Duh. It's incredible. I get a lot of questions asking me logistics about traveling to this amazing place...and I'm flattered to have you associate me with such an amazing place. I'm happy to answer specific questions for your planning, but general "advice" for an entire country or multi-day itinerary is a little tough for me to field at the moment.

There's just so much to say and because it's such a loaded question, it takes me about an hour to reply to each email. In efforts to help make my travel posts a bit easier to find and to prevent you from waiting weeks for a reply while planning your own trip to Italy, I thought I'd put them all here in a central location.

Look at these sexy blogger husbands (liz's corey , my tyler & megan's stephen in florence.)

So if you aren't sure about my opinion on training somewhere or if you are looking for a particularly special souvenir,

email me and ask! For the rest of it, I've put down most everything I know in these links in efforts to help you out.

Happy Planning!



Other great places you might be dreaming of are:



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy & Liz Denfeld

**if you saw the original version of this post, sorry. it was written before delivery.

Pack Your Bags | Florence, Italy

Its probably been said on this blog {one too many times} how much I love the city of Florence. For a long time, it was a city that captured my heart and had me constantly dreaming of return. I studied there in college, returned for summers to visit my college boyfriend, and eventually, all of that time spent during my young adulthood, endeared me to Florence in a way that is still difficult to articulate. I didn't know I could feel that way about another place until we moved to Oxford. While there are some smaller, more local places that I never miss when I'm in Florence, (or in the surrounding suburb of Scandicci where I escape to spend quieter time with local friends) the places I want to share with you now are spots in downtown Florence that are guaranteed to make your first or second visit really special.


SAN LORENZO MARKET |  In between the train station (Santa Maria Novella) and the famous Duomo of Florence, this sprawling market is a must for visitors. Pick up your leather goods, your souvenir t-shirts, any type of scarf imaginable, or a slew of (completely decent) silk ties for a couple of euro a piece. It's more than okay to haggle fact, it's expected when you buy multiples of anything or higher ticket items like leather bags.


In a large piazza in the market, is a large building, The Central Market, which is a really good food market that can quickly endanger your limited suitcase space. Gorgeous olive oils, spices, pasta mixes, truffle spreads, chianti wines are all there waiting for you. There are small stalls in here that give locals & tourist alike an affordable- and delicious- option for lunch. Look for the stands where old Italian men linger around nearby tables with small tumblers of's a tell-tale sign that the food is good.

PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO | Go here for sunset for the most stunning view of Florence setting in the valley of the Arno.

Either hike the walk, take a bus (which can be a bit complicated), or splurge for the taxi up to this famous look out.

Regardless of how you arrive there, when you see the amazing view before you... you'll be glad you did.

THE ACCADEMIA | Go see (one of) the massive masterpieces of Michelangelo, David, here. Lines can get pretty terrible in summer months, so save the trouble and book online. You'll be glad you saved your time for sitting in a cafe instead of along the crowded street in the hot sun.

CLIMB THE DUOMO | Yes, it's a haul to climb all the 463 steps up to the "cupola" of Florence's landmark church...but when you see the city of Florence sitting in the gorgeous Tuscan valley in the glow of the late afternoon sun {yes, you should go in the late afternoon}'ll know why this lethargic lump of a woman would ever recommend such an outing for you. {FYI: The last time I climbed, it was  €8.00. More info here.}


TRATTORIA ZAZARead more about this popular eatery specializing in Tuscan cuisine and perfectly situated in the San Lorenzo Market here. Recommended dishes: the bruschetta, the ribollita & anything with truffle that you see on their menu.

Dinner reservations recommended.

GROM | Some people love it. Some people think it's overrated. Regardless, you can't argue that gelato is delicious. I happen to fall in the camp that loves GROM. Their monthly rotation of seasonal flavors like peach, raspberry & sicilian orange win me over. Though to be fair, it's now a rapidly growing chain that even has locations in Manhattan.

GOLDEN VIEW OPEN BAR | This place is special to me. I've spent many epic nights here...along with way too much of my money. But it's always worth it. The four cheese ravioli introduced me to the truffle long before I even knew of it's existence. I didn't know what the flavor was, but could only explain it as "an explosion of magic in my mouth." {Editor's Note: Maybe I wasn't the most articulate 19 year old.} I've been back countless times since and seen the restaurant evolve into a favorite of tourists and locals alike. Call ahead to make a reservation on the window for the best view of the Ponte Vecchio in town. 

LA RINASCENTE CAFE | This cafe is a gem. It's discreetly tucked at the top of the busy department store, La Rinascente, located in Piazza Repubblica. Up, up, up you go in the store all the way to the home section at the top. When you get there, go up the stairs into the cafe...then up the small set of stairs onto the balcony. Pay too much for a cup of coffee and enjoy a magnificent view of the cupola of il duomo.

VIVOLI GELATERIA | While locating this legendary gelateria was the catalyst for a near-divorce between Tyler & I, it's hard to say that it wasn't worth the trouble. The gelato really is fantastic and if you can put up with crowds of people, a great place to try Florence's "best gelato."

LUNGARNO SUITES | Owned by the famous Ferragamo family (yes, that Ferragamo) this swanky boutique hotel sits pristintely adjacent to the Ponte Vecchio. If you can't splurge on staying in their apartment style hotel, go for a pre-dinner aperitivo and pretend you are living the fabulous life. {Which, if you've found yourself in Florence, is not really pretending.)


For 12 euro, you'll get a fancy cocktail followed by well-manicured antipasti such as crab cakes and bite-sized cured meats.



Medium: AirBNB apartment rentals. {Seriously, I'm a fan.}

Budget: AVANTI ITALIA | Ok, so this is an out of the normal option, but it's so affordable and helps out an awesome ministry. At only $15 per person per night, it's a pretty decent option. It's about a 20 minute bus ride out of the center of town, but it's actually really simple to get in & out of the downtown to Avanti. I've stayed there countless times when visiting Florence with a small budget.


Florence is an amazing city that captures my heart every time I visit...and I know that I'm not alone. What are some places

and things that have enchanted you while visiting Florence?

Was there a special place that made your trip to Florence special?

Post it below so the rest of us can make sure to hit up the fun!

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy & Liz Denfeld

Posted on March 8, 2013 and filed under "Italy", "Jet Setting", "florence", "travel tips", "travel", florence, italy.

Florence, Italy | Trattoria ZaZa

There are so many wonderful benefits to traveling. If you've ventured out much into this vast world of ours, you'll know what treasures await you in new cultures: quirky sayings...interesting style...unique approaches to religion, family, dating, and every other facet of life that our home cultures view so differently. While I love discovering those in every place we go, I also really just love to go for the food. There, I said it. When we went to Florence the other week, I was a bit determined to take everyone to Trattoria ZaZa.

Will I be bold enough to claim it as "the best restaurant in Florence?" No.... because, unfortunately, I haven't eaten in all of the restaurants in Florence. Though it's a goal I hope to accomplish.

I can say it is a place that is always delicious, well-located to a day's trip to the city, and a crowd-pleaser.

Plus, it's really sentimental to me. I spent time there in college with my friends (now sister-in-law), I went on dates there (with my then boyfriend), I've eaten many meals with my family there throughout the years...and now Tyler & I have our own handful of special memories together there. The bruschetta is great.

The truffle ravioli is fantastic.

The ribollita is a Tuscan treat that I never miss. Ribollita = minestrone soup with bread cooked into it. It's a hearty soup that Italian farmers would make to use day old bread...I'm not going to lie, it's fantastic.

the crew: stephen, megan & corey (liz's main man)

So there you have it: One solid recommendation for a very tasty meal in Florence, Italy. {Editor's Note: Reservations for dinner not required, but highly suggested!}

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 4, 2012 and filed under "Italy", "delicious dish", "florence", "travel", florence, italy.

Pack Your Bags | Cinque Terre

Last summer, I posted about Cinque Terre and gave my recommendations for a trip to this gorgeous chunk of heaven that sits dotted along the Italian coast. This time I just want to hit a few of the highlights and show you some gorgeous pictures from the rebuilt town of Vernazza. You might remember that last year the Cinque Terre was more or less wiped out by severe flooding that swept down from the hillsides. My cousins visited Vernazza in June and described it as a ghost town compared the vibrant place that it used to be. Mi non piaci. The idea of going back was a little scary to me...I wasn't in the mood to see one of my favorite places in deserted shambles. But we had a free day with Megan & Stephen before our flight and decided to give it a go.

Besides the 45 minutes of sun-tannings & relaxing that we had on the pier, I was so glad to go and see that life was, basically, back to normal in the Cinque Terre. The people of the 5Terre have worked tirelessly and, to my delight, rebuilt the town.

The same places have come back and are now freshly standing where they once were.

For those that asked if the Cinque Terre is worth visiting after the floods, I can now say, yes!

I give my blessing for you to go back to Vernazza...because you were all, obviously, waiting for that, right? It's alive! {And ready for some tourists to get it back in business!}


*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Beginner's Manual for Staying In An {Italian Villa}

When we planned this blogger hen-do, we knew it had to have a supreme backdrop. With us all coming from different places in Europe, we knew that most any decent place within the reaches of Ryan Air was our play ground. So we settled on Tuscany. Megan, our bride-to-be, had never been, and as a wedding gift to her, I thought she should experience the greatness that is Italy. And, as you may be realizing, I have issues with spending any free time I have there. Really bad issues. So Liz found us an amazing villa on *AirBnB, we paid the deposit, packed our bags, and away we went. If you are looking for an affordable place to rent in Tuscany, this might be your spot. It has four bedrooms,

two and a half bathrooms, large common areas,

an updated kitchen perfect for making big meals,

and, most importantly, a pool set among an olive grove.

It took a lot, I mean, a lot to post a picture of me in a swimsuit next to tiny Megan. The other great thing is that it's about 15 minutes away from my favorite place in the world, Lucca. I have highlights from Florence & Cinque Terre to come,  but for now, enjoy the quick trip to our temporary piece of heaven.

To read the more tragic & real start to our trip, head over to Liz or Megan's blogs for the recount. They wrote out the stories so well, I'll leave it up to them to give you the full picture. {Read my review for renting an affordable house in France here.}


*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

**if you haven't used AirBNB, use this link. We both save money. Win-win.

Posted on September 29, 2012 and filed under "Hotels", "Italy", "travel", italy, florence.

Tears for Cinque Terre

This week has brought horrific flooding to the Italian coast. Towns throughout Liguria have been washed away, homes have been destroyed, six people have been killed, and nine people are still missing. Along Italy's brilliant coast sits a rare jewel of splendor-Italy's beloved Cinque Terre.

The five coastal cities have been a really special place to me for a long time. I visited there in college and attempted to ignore the cold by laying out in the sunshine in a bikini during the beginning of March. After finishing a buying trip in Milan, Tyler met me here to tell me about his GMAT score and the possibilities of where he might could study. And it was the setting for a really sweet time with dear friends this summer.

{Ironically, I just finished the video last week... if you're interested.}

The Cinque Terre is just an ordinary & amazing place. I was devastated to read this quote by Angelo Betta, the mayor of

Monterosso... {the first of the five towns creating the Cinque Terre}... "People are getting into their houses from the terraces, everything is flooded. Monterosso doesn't exist anymore." This clip of the flooding rushing through the streets is unbelievable. Apparently, the favorite city Vernazza is the same... (A favorite of mine & most other tourists.) It's going to take a long time & a lot of rebuilding to bring this amazing place back to it's full reopening the doors of local businesses...

to being a place where children can play...

and to reforming the community that it once was.

Please keep these cities in your thoughts & prayers as they work through the damage, loss, & pains of starting over.

Posted on October 27, 2011 and filed under "Italy", "sweet charity", florence, italy.

Tuscany Day Trip | Lucca

For all of you dreaming & planning a trip to Italy, here is the continuation of my favorite day trips from Florence. This one, though, is my favorite. Tyler & I call it "our" town...which it, obviously, is not, but whenever we walk it's sleepy streets drenched in sunlight, it feels like it was built just for us.

Lucca is about an hour and a half northwest of Florence, and- in my completely insignificant opinion-represents all that is wonderful in the world.

Clean, rich, romantic...this walled-city offers the best in dining, relaxed days riding bikes along it's ancient walls, and evenings with Puccini's famous operatic tunes floating through the windy towns idyllic streets. (Puccini was born in Lucca and nightly concerts are consistently available.) If you go to Lucca, please let me know. I would love to hear how you spent your day in "our" town.


ANFITEATRO | Lucca's uniquely shaped Anfiteatro. This oval-shaped piazza now serves as a social base for restaurants, shops, and prestigiously priced apartments, but it was once home to the town's small coliseum.


Set centrally in the city, the main church in Lucca shows off the city's unique architecture. Most days, the piazza is full of daily markets selling clothes, honey, and meats.


TRATTORIA DA GIULIO | I first found this restaurant through an article in Virtuoso Life, and since then- it's a guaranteed stop every time we are in Lucca.

Though the restaurant sits near the city walls, and almost as far away from the tourist zone possible... once you see the wall of celebrities that have dined there, you'll know you've come to the right spot.

With first and second courses ranging between 5-7 euro, you'll be happy to have moved out of the city center for this local gem that serves Tuscan (and Lucchese) classics like tortelli Lucchese (a rich tortelli filled with veal, beed, and pork) salsiccia e fagioli (don't be fooled by it's simple look- this is tasty!) or mixed antipasti full of polenta, vegetables, and meats.


Lucca has great shopping, but for a local find-look out for the copper bakeware and pots. Made in Lucca, these are

gorgeously hand-crafted and reasonably priced around 40 euro each.


Rent bikes near the walls of the city {these should cost you around 3 euro per bike per hour) and take the path around the city on the walls. This is a popular route for locals and tourists alike, as this high walls offer an easy path set along the Tuscan hills.

{You're gonna love it there.}

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 31, 2011 and filed under "Italy", "Tuscany Day Trips", "travel tips", florence, italy.

Tuscany Day Trip | Cinque Terre

Ok... another day trip that isn't technically in Tuscany,

but is easily do-able from there...

so, don't fret about it.

Thanks to

Rick Steves,

this hidden paradise has become a hot spot

for American tourists over the past decade.

While Cinque Terre may be loosing a bit of it's secret charm,

it's definitely not shedding any of its beauty.

We went with friends for the day,

and decided to take it easy.

As the five towns 

("Cinque Terre" = "Five Lands")

are connected through a hiking trail,

you can spend several hours taking the gorgeous walk

along the sparking Mediterranean sea.

However, if you are feeling a bit lazy,

like we were,

you can also take the train. 

It's about $1.50 to take the train between each town,

and takes about 5 minutes to reach the next spot...

which means, it's a great option if

 you're ready to relax.

While each town has it's unique charms,

my favorites are Manarola & Vernazza.

Manarola wins for it's amazing swimming right off the marina

and Vernazza shines for it's perfect sunsets and idyllic dining.

Liguria (the region that the Cinque Terre is located)

has a few famous dishes that are great companions

for your time in the Cinque Terre:

Foccaccia & Pesto!

My recipe for the perfect day in the "5Terre:"

Hit the beach in Manarola first.

The earlier you get there, the better position you'll have for the day.

Grab a slice of (cheap) pizza from the shops above the natural marina.

One should never lay out on an empty stomach...

heaven forbid your tummy look flat. :)

The theme of Italian beaches is to wear as little as possible...

so be prepared to see a lot of skin.

The Mediterranean sun is very intense, 

don't forget your sunscreen & a hat

or you may end up looking like an Italian meatball...

In case you're in need of good sun protection,

I personally use

Susan Posnick's ColorFlo.

{Brush-on powder, foundation, sweat=proof, &... SPF 26!}

There is a refreshing shower at the marina

 that is nice for washing off salt water stickiness

that you'll be feeling after your (glorious) swim in the sea.

When you've had enough sun for the day,

head to Vernazza 

via the train

and for the evening.

Many of the small groceries will provide you 

with anything you could dream of having 

at a seaside picnic

along the town's iconic rocky harbour...

....olives, fresh mozzerella, meats, fresh bread, sun dried tomatotes....

It cost us $15 to get drinks & (a lot) of salty goodies

to enjoy between the four of us.

I just love cheap pleasantries like that.

For the rest of the daylight,

we just lounged and watched the cutest Italian kids swim

by us in the harbour.

It was one of those moments that makes Italy... Italy.

If you're looking for a good dinner,

head to the middle of the main drag in Vernazza

and try

Trattoria Da Sandro.

It's a staple spot for us,

and the owners are just so nice.

The local special, fresh anchovies, are pretty amazing...

even for those of us that would typically be a bit squeamish at the thought.

I would definitely recommend hiking at least one of the trails-

after all, it would be a shame to go all that way 

and miss out on 

the area's scenic views and lush landscapes.

The path between Riomaggiore & Manarolo is the most famous,

and probably the least difficult. :)

Whatever you decide to do while you are there

or which town you decide to spend your time in,

the good news is:

you'll still most likely have the time of your life!

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Tuscany Day Trip | Civita Di Bagnoregio

For anyone looking to experience Tuscany, and I mean the real Tuscany (not just downtown Florence), this weekend I'm happy to share my favorite day trips with you. Maybe you have been here earlier, or are planning a trip there soon, or maybe- it can just serve as inspiration for a "someday" trip. Either way, these are all very obtainable -and budget friendly-day trips you can take from Florence that seem to provide consistent enjoyment.

CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO is a visual feast. From it's dramatic position situated in the middle of Tiber river valley to it's

scenic views, this town is a pleaser for both the men & the ladies.

the tiber river valley. at the edge of bagnoregio, at the start of the crossing to civita. To be honest, "Civita" is technically not in Tuscany, it's in Lazio...but as it is easily drivable from Florence, as well as totally stunning, I've added it to our list.

The city was founded by the Etruscans over 2,500 years ago but like another beloved Italian literally disappearing gradually over time. Though unlike Venice's problem of sinking, Civita loses its city from landslide and shifts. Beyond the shrinking city, the town's population is also shrinking. In the winter, the town population sits around 12 people. In the summer, it explodes to almost 100.

To get to Civita, you'll have to head to Bagnoregio. You can either drive there or take the train to Orvieto and take a bus to Bagnoregio. Once you arrive in Bagnoregio, you walk across an amazing bridge into the tiny town. It is definitely an experience!

There isn't much to do in this small town other than gawk and eat, but it's absolutely perfect.

The streets of Civita are quiet & lonely, with only a handful of Italian tourist sharing the city with you.

Visiting Civita is ideal for the late morning, before the day gets too hot and to allow you the lunch setting of a lifetime.

The local restaurants are exceptionally good and well-priced, which is most towns should be expected. But in Civita is actually quite amazing... after you consider that all food & drink has to be carried in across the bridge, every single day. Once you have walked the town, had lunch in one of Civita's sleepy piazzas, head back to Bagnoregio (where you crossed the bridge) and make your way 30 minutes up the road to Orvieto to complete the perfect day trip.


*images by Aspiring Kennedy & Rob Garey

Posted on August 20, 2011 and filed under "Italy", "Tuscany Day Trips", "europe", "travel tips", florence.