In the days leading to our departure to Italy, I worried about whether it could ever be as magical as the trip we took to Pienza two years ago. Thankfully, I discovered on our first day in Rome that my concerns were unfounded, as we revisited favorite pizzerias and discovered hidden gems. Below are some of my highlights from a truly unforgettable trip*:
We stayed at the Hotel de Russie in Rome, which is right in the thick of things, a short walk from the Spanish steps. Everything from the rooms to the butterfly-filled courtyard in the back was equal parts charming and hip, without being too much of a scene. We started each morning with breakfast, and it felt like we were sitting in an enchanted garden.
Our first night, we went to Roscioli, a recommendation that came from some of our favorite chefs, so we knew it was going to be good. It was a cheese and meat shop, turned restaurant. It felt authentic, delicious, and really unfussy. I either had the Carbonara or the Amatriciana—in Italy, you can never go wrong with either, so I alternated between the two for much of the trip.
We had a delicious lunch at Pierluigi, a seafood-based restaurant. We started with a lovely raw plate, and I got a beautiful asparagus and burrata pasta, though our friends got a seafood salad-y pasta that they said was amazing.
Trastevere is our favorite neighborhood in Rome. It's a darling and quaint area, which is where I'd envision myself grabbing drinks or a little dinner if I lived in Rome, and where we had our all-time favorite evening, just the three of us, at a pizza place so many of you had recommended on social (thank you!!!), Dar Poeta Alla Scala. It was a tiny pizza spot in what seemed like a little cobblestone alleyway with white paper tablecloths. My pizza was my favorite I've ever had in my life, with tomato sauce, mozzarella, artichokes, and olives, and in addition to shaved Pecorino on top—which is now something I'll forever be doing when I make my pizzas. We walked along a bridge on our way back to the hotel, where I felt so overwhelmed with happiness I began crying (and of course ran into a reader at that exact moment!). An evening gelato stop where G and I had gone on our honeymoon, Giolitti, didn't hurt either.
We had another amazing meal at Roma Sparita, where we sat outside overlooking a plaza. As a general rule, anytime a restaurant offered prosciutto and melon, I ordered it—their melon was unreal this season. I also ordered the Cacio e Pepe they're known for.
It was so magical to return to the same villa where she shared such magical memories with friends two years ago.
The villa was so gorgeous and filled with family-friendly activities, like a pool and tennis court, that we rarely left. The moms would play Mah Jong and drink Aperol Spritzes and read by the pool most days, and we had a week-long family competition where we could earn points through competitions (in case you're wondering... Fuller Throttle won!).
We only went to dinner once in Tuscany at La Bandita Townhouse Hotel, which was as delicious as I remembered it being.
In terms of shopping, we went to a flea market an hour away, which was against the most stunning backdrop of what felt like a medieval town with beautiful antiques. I found some incredible art there that I now treasure, and relished eating a sandwich at a small restaurant that overlooked the town square. We also returned to the outlets we visited in Florence last year, where I bought a pair of sandals.
A trip highlight included touring Podere Il Casale, a farm that makes fresh Pecorino, a Pienza specialty that you can't get in the States. Getting to see the animals, and eat there, was one of my favorite experiences (talk about farm to table).
*It's worth mentioning that we took COVID precautions incredibly seriously on our trip. Any travel comes with risk, but at the time we took our trip, we took all necessary precautions. The adults all had vaccines, and we took regular PCR tests, which are readily available in Italian pharmacies. We all practiced social distancing, wore masks indoors, and stayed in the house with friends we've been in pods with over the past year. We went back and forth on whether to reschedule last year's trip and made the decision that was right for our family.