How to Pack for Italy in December

Hi friends! Today I am changing up my usual gluten-free-food focused travel blogs to give you tips on packing for Italy in December. I wrote this post prior to the start of the COVID-19 quarantine, but didn’t get around to posting it. Although I am not sure when traveling will become a normal part of life again, I thought I would share this post with you all to save for one day in the future. This was a trip of a lifetime with our best friends. I am definitely looking forward to the day when we can safety travel again!

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Prior to our trip, packing for Europe during the winter seemed like a daunting task. I think I did a pretty good job, so I thought it would be helpful to share my top packing tips with you. For most of our trip the weather was in the 40s-50s. There were a few days with very chilly mornings and/or evenings, but for the most part I was pretty comfortable. Speaking of comfort, with the amount of walking we did in Italy, I am happy I prioritized comfort over fashion when it comes to shoes. Achy, cold feet are not what I wanted for this trip. When it comes to clothing and jackets, I recommend planning to dress in layers. It’s also okay to re-wear outfits on your trip. If you’re traveling during the winter months, you will most likely have a coat on most of the days anyway. Another great way to get more wear out of what you pack is to stick with one color scheme {similar idea to wardrobe capsules}. I packed my go-to colors, black, beige, grey and a few piece of army green. This approach allowed me to mix and match tops with bottoms and also narrow down my shoe selection.

I LOVE the Columbia jacket I bought for this trip. I brought a JCrew Factory wool coat (similar coat here) as well, but consistently reached for my Columbia jacket. It’s light weight, warm and waterproof. I think the length is perfect and it has a great hood. It is also a bit longer in the back which I really like. I have used it a ton since we got home for our trip too. It was probably my best Black Friday purchases of 2019.

This outfit was pretty much my travel uniform for trip

Another great purchase that has gotten a ton of use are my Keds Scout boots. I wanted to make sure I had waterproof shoes for this trip, so these were a great find. I usually wear size 8 or 8.5. For these boots I went with the size 8. Originally I planned to wear foam inserts (click here) in the boots for extra comfort, but they didn’t fit well. Thankfully these shoes only took a day to break-in then were very comfortable. I should also mention that these boots are a little though to get on and off. If you have a high arch, I definitely recommend sizing up. I also can’t rave enough about my Adidas sneakers; I think they’re a must have. I wore my tan/white pair all over Italy and my feet never hurt. I think the sizing of these sneakers varies a bit between colors. I have a size 8 in the tan/white and 8.5 in the grey/white. On this trip I definitely learned the importance of good socks. Make sure your socks don’t move or slip around inside your shoes. If they do, your socks can actually be the reason to blame for blisters. In a photo below you can see all of the shoes I packed for this trip. I did not need this many; my keds, 1 pair of sneakers and slippers were really all I needed. I did not wear my black flats, suede booties or need a second pair of sneakers. For most of our trip I also wore my Quay Australia Aviators (click here).

Quay Sunglasses

For handbags and luggage, I kept it very simple for this trip. A great piece of advice a friend gave us while planning was to only bring once piece of luggage. Since we weren’t using a tour for our trip {tours usually transport, move and watch after your luggage} that meant we would need to travel across three cities with our bags. Our travels included walking through each city with our luggage, taking the train and getting through airports. This tip was a home run. Each of us had one check-on luggage and a backpack – that’s it. Limited bags made our travels much easier. The check-on luggage I used for this trip was 28 inches (good options: here or here). Packing cubes (click here) are a game changer. They helped me to keep my bag organized and neat the entire trip. I also fit a ton of stuff too. I also found a great cosmetic bag (click here) that fit a ton of toiletries. As far as handbags go, I brought a thin, light weight crossbody bag with me. It was thin enough that I could wear it under my jacket. Having my bag concealed made me feel more secure in crowed areas. My exact bags are out of stock, but this is a similar style (click here).

I think there are a few things you can bring on your trip that will make your plane ride more comfortable. A cozy blanket scarf (click here or similar here) or small light weight blanket are great for keeping you warm and snuggling up a nap sans plane freebies. Although of flights did have in-flight entertainment, I love to have a few good books on a trip. Lately I have been loving the suspenseful thrillers by Shari Lapena and A.J. Finn. Both writers created story lines that are total page turners which help the flight fly by. I am the worst when it comes to drinking water, but I know that hydration and removing your make are extra important for your skin when flying. For our flight to Italy, I decided to bring all of my skincare (click here for that blog) and makeup remover wipes. Before takeoff, I removed all of my makeup and applied a heavy moisturizer.

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Italy Travel Guide: Gluten Free Rome

Hi friends! Welcome back for another recap of our trip to Italy. Today I am sharing our amazing trip to Rome; highlighting all of the gluten-free details you need to know. We took this trip at the end of 2019 with our best friends. It is so special that we can share these memories with them. One of our friends is also gluten-free/celiac {I call her my GFF; gluten-free-friend}, so together we found a lot of GF spots in Italy. In this post I am going to share where we stayed, the places we ate and how we filled our days. For my gluten-free readers, I am happy to report no gluten-tummy aches on this trip.

At the time of our trip, COVID-19 was not yet part of our everyday lives or being reported by the media. Little did we know that our world would enter a pandemic a few months after we returned home. I am so thankful we were able to go on this trip and I am looking forward to traveling again one day. By sharing this post today, I hope you can tuck it away for your future travel plans. Be sure to check out my How to Packing Guide for Italy in December (click here) and Italy Travel Guide: Gluten Free Florence (click here).

Rome

Where to Stay

During our time in Rome we stayed at TriviHo Hotel which is in the Trevi area. We were able walk to all major must-see sights on our list with the exception of the Vatican and Colosseum area (keep reading). When booking a hotel in Rome, our focus was on comfort of the room and its proximity to areas we wanted to visit. Unlike our stay in Florence and Tuscany, getting a good view from the room was not a priority. Although our room was tiny, it was clean, comfy and had all of the amenities we needed. The staff at the front desk was also very accommodating and helpful. I recommend booking directly through the TriviHo website to get the rate.

After we both booked our rooms, I emailed the hotel and asked for tour recommendations; they quickly responded and suggested Grayline Rome. Upon arrival, we asked the concierge at the front desk helped us coordinate a taxi pickup to take us to the airport on our last day. It gave us peace of mind having this squared away off the bat. At this time we also asked the concierge for general tips on navigating the city. He gave us notes on a map which we used throughout our time in Rome. As a side note, I also paid for mobile data on this trip. In a group of four, only one of us needed to have it so we could access maps a needed. Although its not totally necessary, it did come in handy. It is not a good idea to use public WiFi especially highly touristy areas, so I avoid it at all costs.

Where to Eat

The first place we stopped for food in Rome was at Pizza in Trevi. It is literally a few steps away from the Trevi Fountain. We all opted for pizza and of course, wine. Pizza in Trevi is where we learned about Associate of Italian Celiacs (AIC). My understanding of the AIC is that it is organization that advocates for the research, education and awareness of celiacs disease. Restaurants, such as Pizza in Trevi, can earn an AIC certification that is displayed in their window and on their menus. This means that the restaurant is certified gluten-free. At Pizza in Trevi, my plate was different and my utensils came in a sealed paper pouch. These precautionary measures were so comforting to me and my GFF.

We went to Enoteca Barberini twice while in Rome. Once for a late light lunch and again for dinner. Here we enjoyed delicious meats, cheeses, pizza and a good selection of wine. This was the only place we ate at on our trip that had live acoustic music.

After our tour of the Vatican we stopped for lunch at Mama Eat. Everything here is gluten-free. If you haven’t caught on by now, I was on a quest to try as much pizza as possible in Italy. Naturally, I ordered pizza for lunch at Mama Eat along with Mama Crocchè (fried potato croquettes) and a gluten-free Peroni. Yes, you read that correct. Gluten-free Peroni. I am usually more of a wine girl, but I could definitely make room for this beer in my life.

We had the most amazing gelato Fiocco di Neve which is also AIC certified. There were so many flavors, toppings and delicious cones. This gelato spot is fairly close to the Panteon. It was so nice, we stopped there twice.

Where to Play

When we were in Florence, we opted to not signup for any tours, but for our visit to Rome, we felt that tours would make the most of our short stay. At the recommendation of our hotel concierge, we signed up for through through Grayline Rome. Through the Grayline website we were also able to arrange to be picked up at our hotel and dropped off at the starting point of the tour. However, transportation back to our hotel once the tours ended was not available. We were in Rome for just less than 3 full days, so we had a lot to see in a short time.

The first day we quickly settled into our hotel then when sightseeing on our own. A few areas that we visited on our own were the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Panteon and Piazza Navona. All were a reasonable walk from our hotel. I would recommend stopping by the Trevi Fountain and the Panteon both early in the morning and at night. They’re equally as stunning at both times of the day. If you want to toss a coin into the Trevi, this is also the time to do it. It gets really crowded mid-morning through the dinner hour. Also keep in mind, that some mornings (possible every morning) the Trevi Fountain is cleaned out, so you won’t be able to get super close at during the cleaning. We also visited the Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps very early. I suggest grabbing a cappuccino and walking around these areas before the crowds.

On day two after we spent the morning on our own were were picked-up for our Grayline walking tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. I believe this tour ran about 2 hours which was a reasonable amount of time for us. Our group move along at a good pace and our tour guide was excellent. I loved the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Everything about this area looked as if I was looking at a painting; stoic and serene. From Palantine Hill, we ended up walking about to the Trevi Fountain area.

Our third day started with an early morning Grayline “skip-line” tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. By the time we arrived at our tour group meeting point, there were already lines wrapping around the entrance to the Vatican. For the reason alone, I highly recommend utilizing a tour service to visit the Vatican. Vatican City is beautiful, but I still cannot fathom waiting outside for hours to get in when you can still the line with a tour service.

Similar to our first Grayline experience, our tour guide in Vatican City was fantastic. He shared so much history with us. This tour was a bit longer than the Colosseum; it ran about 2.5 hours. Both tours included audio sets (with new earphones), so we could clearly hear the guides throughout our tour. Once this tour was over, we stopped for lunch just outside of Vatican City then opted to take the subway home. Knowing that we wouldn’t have transportation back to our hotel, we asked the shuttle drive for recommendations. His tips coupled with what the concierge shared with us gave us enough info to take the subway. These tips were critical because one of the major subway lines was closed. It was really pretty easy to figure out and follow the signs. The hardest part was swiping our tickets, but luckily there were a lot of people around, so we watched what they did.

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Shop Local | Made on Long Island

Hi friends! Over the last year I have discovered a few small businesses that I want to share with everyone. I have purchased multiple items from each local Long Island business, and all are women-owned too. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or for a gift, I think these businesses have something you will love. Let’s get to it!

Love Struck by Two

I first discovered Love Struck by Two a year or two ago on Instagram. This business is run by Sheri-Lea Schultz, who is a wife, mom and teacher on LI. I instantly fell in love with the catchy tees, tanks and hats. The signature statements “Island Vibes” and “Raised On An Island” featured on their clothing totally spoke to the Long Island girl in me.

To date, I have two of each of the baseball hats, tees and sweatshirts. The quality of these pieces are excellent. The t-shirts and sweatshirts are buttery soft and run true to size. Earlier this summer I bought the new denim style hat; I’ve been wearing it constantly. It quickly became a summer staple. The signature styles are always in stock, but I especially love the seasonal pieces “Love Struck by Two” features throughout the year like the summer koozies pictured below. Last Christmas I was able to snag one of her limited additional 631 Christmas sweatshirts – I set a reminder on my calendar to be prepared! Other popular seasonal items include denim jackets, tie dye and flannels. The shop also has really cute tees and sweatshirts for Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day.

Two Bridges Handmade

I discovered Two Bridges Handmade (formerly known as Emily Makes) a few years back at a local market. My husband and I were walking through the market when a burlap clutch caught my eye. Around this time, I had actually been looking at similar clutches online for an upcoming trip. With the clutch in hand, I got my payment out and when I looked up I realized I recognized the gal behind the table. This small business is run by local Long Islander Emily Spada. Emily and I grew up in the same neighborhood and were in the same girl scout troop in elementary school. Emily’s girl scout craftiness is clearly still shining bright!

Two Bridges Handmade features a collection of hand-sewn pouches, bags, yoga mat bags and now face masks. Emily’s high quality pieces are top notch, and both products I own stand out for being meticulously crafted with neat finishes. You can tell Emily has a great skill and keen attention to detail. My mom was equally impressed when I showed her my most recent purchase. I have a envelope style burlap clutch and a pouch with a zipper that I am keeping in my everyday tote bag. I think it is so cool that these pieces are handmade, but even more so because I grew up in the same neighborhood as the woman who created them. Emily’s pouches are a great price point for gifts too. Be sure to keep her in mind next time you need a gift idea!

Madison’s Niche

Madison’s Niche is a Long Island boutique for women’s clothing, home decor, furniture and more. This business is owned by Karen McAvoy and now has stores in Huntington Village, Garden City, Sayville, and Stony Brook Village. You can also shop Madison’s Niche online. I love that Madison’s niche has so many great pieces for the kitchen; from serveware and dining to home decor. I recently purchased really cute wooden salt and pepper mills which I personally think look really cute on my counter. Although it is really easy to run to HomeGoods when you need to grab a gift, I think Madison’s Niche is a great alternative and you can support a local business instead. It’s the perfect place to find a special gift for housewarmings, holidays and hostesses.

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