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).


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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Italy Travel Guide: Gluten Free Florence

Hi friends! Today I am recapping our amazing trip to Florence and Tuscany highlighting all of the gluten-free details you need to know. We took this trip at the end of 2019 with our best friends. 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 Rome (click here).

This blog post contains affiliate links. For each purchase made through these links, I may make a small commission.


I am not sure I can fit my feelings about Florence in a single blog post (but I’ll try my best). It was one of the most beautiful and charming places I have ever been to. I really hope to visit Florence again one day. From the cobblestone streets to the food, wine, history and people we met, it was all a dream come true. I honestly could have walked around for weeks admiring the buildings, enjoying the food and soaking in the atmosphere. It is a walkable city (in comfy shoes), and the best way to experience the city, so plan your days ahead of time and see as much as you can.

Where to Stay

I highly recommend staying in a hotel along the Arno River. It was a useful central location for sightseeing and steps {or a window view} away from the scenic river and the Ponte Vecchio. For lodging during our entire trip in Florence, we stayed at the Palazzo Alfieri. This hotel has beautiful décor throughout the lobby area, main hallways and guest rooms. Our rooms were nicely decorated, spacious and clean. Our room had an awesome bathroom with a rainfall shower. There was also a room safe and fridge which also came in handy. Keep in mind not all rooms have scenic views. Speaking of views, be sure to check out the rooftop at this hotel. We brought a bottle of wine upstairs and soaked in the beauty of Florence overlooking the river. From here you can see the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio in the distance.

The staff at the front desk were helpful in planning prior to our arrival in Florence via email as well as onsite during our stay. Take advantage of the knowledge of hotel staff regardless of which hotel you are at and ask for help when planning activities, traveling to other areas or making reservations. Other helpful resources we used and recommend for planning our sightseeing spots were Rick Steve’s Florence and Tuscany travel guide (click here) and Google Translate. The Palazzo Alfieri is walking distance to the train station {keep in mind most of the walk is cobblestones}, the Ponte Vecchio and most must-see attractions. I would recommend this hotel to friends and definitely envision staying there again in the future. To get the best rate, I suggest booking directly through their website.

Glimpse of out Hotel Room at Palazzo Alfieri
View of the Ponte Vecchio – Steps away from the Hotel

Where to Eat/Drink

Overall, we had a really positive food experience in Florence. Gluten-free options were fairly easy to find and most waitstaff had an understanding of gluten-free sensitivity. Senza glutine means without gluten in Italian. This phrase will come in handy when you are ordering. As far as drinks go, water is not served unless you ask for it. Everywhere we went there was a large selection of wine and we happily took advantage of it. For around $20 you can get a great quality bottle of wine to share with friends and family. To make the most of enjoying a glass of wine while in Italy, plan to stop for a drink during aperitivo; a pre-dinner custom where restaurants serve complementary snacks or light food.

Something to keep in mind (at least if you’re from the States) is that dinner is served later in the evening and is not rushed in Italy. Restaurants are not looking to “turn” tables over the way we’re use to in NY. In Italy, dinner is meant to be thoroughly enjoyed. The waitstaff doesn’t rush you along or stop-by to check on you constantly, so if you feel that they’re ignoring you, that’s probably not the case at all.


Our hotel stay included complementary breakfast every morning at the Foody Farm restaurant which is located at the entrance of the Palazzo Alfieri. We took advantage of this every morning for a healthy breakfast to start the day. It was a money saver and there were a lot of gluten-free options such as eggs, fruits, meats, cheese and vegetables.

Pastries & Dessert

Starbene is a MUST for gluten-free pastries. It was honestly a gluten-free foodie’s dream. They offer a huge assortment of croissants, cookies, Danishes, muffins, breads and stuffed pastries – think ham and cheese inside a warm flakey crust. I have never come across a gluten-free bakery quite like this. The quality was amazing. I am still dreaming about Starbene.

For dessert we stopped at GROM for gluten-free gelato and gluten-free cones. Everything they serve is GF which was such a wonderful treat to look forward to after dinner. You can also find GROM in other cities across Italy.

Wine & Appetizers

Tosca Nino is a great place to stop for rooftop views and wine in the heart of Florence. We stopped there after climbing to the top of the Duomo. One of our favorite places in Florence was Signorviono. It is great for wine and food right on the Arno River overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. It’s a must visit! We were lucky enough to score an outdoor table. It was a bit chilly, but definitely worth it for the views and atmosphere. They actually had blankets and small outdoor heaters which we appreciated in December. Another favorite for a glass of wine was Il Burro Tuscan Bistro. It was in close proximity to our hotel which made it a convenient stop. I wish my house had the decor vibe of Il Burro. It was beautiful and so cozy.

Il Burro Tuscan Bistro

Lunch & Dinner

Le Botteghe Di Donatello is right in the vicinity of the Duomo. It’s a great place to stop before or after you do some sightseeing. I had a gluten-free pizza there for lunch. Although that pizza in particular was amazing, the best pizza and my most favorite meal of the whole trip was dinner at Pizzeria Lorenzo De’Medici. A friendly host greeted us at the door and made our short wait enjoyable. The gluten-free menu had so many options to chose from. I ordered pizza, pasta and tiramisu. I literally have not stopped talking about it! Hostaria Il Desco is a small, cozy restaurant with a lot of gluten-free options. This restaurant had a lot of positive reviews, so I made a reservation a few weeks in advance. We had lunch at Mattancena which for me consisted of meats, cheeses and warm gluten-free bread. This was the first place we tried pecorino fresca which is a soft pecorino romano cheese. It was delicious! We continued to look for this cheese on menus for the rest of our trips. Sadly it is not a cheese I have seen in NY.

Where to Play

I think the Duomo is on everyone’s must-see list in Florence and I can see why. We purchased our tickets online prior to our trip, including a climb to the top. The climb is definitely worth it for the amazing views. I got really nervous before our climb, but it was not as bad as I anticipated. Keep in mind it is a long, very narrow climb with a lot of steps, so this activity probably isn’t for everyone.

The Basilica of Sante Croce was personally one of my favorite churches to visit. We were able to purchase tickets on-sight and there was no line. It was fairly early in the morning, so the church was also empty. It is the resting place of many well known historical figures such as Michelangelo and Machiavelli. While we are on the topic of churches, another we visited was Church of Saints Michele. My husband is a history buff and this was on his must-see list. This church has Baroque-style architecture and is beautiful.

I found The Statue of David to be one of the most impressive sights we visited. Who knew David was so tall? Not me! It is amazing how David, along with much of Italy, is carved from marble with simple tools. For this stop, we purchased our tickets online and picked them up at the ticket office. We didn’t do a full tour; just got tickets to see David.

The Uffizi Gallery is a must for lovers and students of art-history. We purchased our tickets online and picked them up at the ticket office. Although many people advised me that a tour was necessary, we felt that for this gallery, a tour was not for us. I enjoyed walking around the gallery to see the various forms of art along with the view of the Arno River. I suggest going to the Uffizi Gallery early in the day because it does get crowded.

Michelangelo’s Piazza and the Ponte Vecchio are both walkable areas that should be on your list of must-sees. The view from the top of the Piazza is beautiful; it looks over all of Florence. The Ponte Vecchio is full of shops and connects one side of the city to the other. I HIGHLY recommend stopping at The Gold Market if you’re interested in Florentine gold jewelry. The shop is located on the Ponte Vecchio. Fadi oversees multiple locations throughout Italy and he made our experience buying jewelry so memorable. I cannot wait to go back here one day! I purchased earrings and a bracelet from their diamond cut collection, and have honestly worn both almost every day since then. You can follow them on Instagram.

View from the Top of Il Duomo
Basilica di Santa Croce
Arno River


While planning our Italy trip I really had my heart set on staying in the countryside of Tuscany. We opted for an Air BnB for this part of the trip. Our selection was based on Air BnB reviews as well as ease of travel between Florence and Rome. We settled and agreed on a small town called Castiglion Fiorentino. It is about a 1 hour train ride from Florence to Castiglion Fiorentino (and later on in our trip, about 1 hour 45 minute train ride from there to Rome.) We did not have to transfer trains for either trip. When we got to Castiglion Fiorentino I quickly realized we in the true Tuscan countryside.

Our specific Air BnB was about a 20 minute walk from the train. However, we did not know this walk would be almost entirely up hill. The walk was totally do-able for us but may not have been for everyone. We couldn’t figure out how to get a taxi, but I do think they were available. The walk definitely caused us to stop for few belly laughs along the way. It was probably comical for locals watching us trek up the hill with luggage that morning. The Air BnB was very nice and had all of the amenities we needed.

This timing of our stay in this area made our planning a bit tricky. We were traveling Christmas day through the new year, so with the way our travel plans turned out, we were in Tuscany for NYE. Unfortunately, this meant a lot of businesses were closed and restaurants booked during our visit. Although our planning definitely could have been better, I enjoyed this part of our trip. We had a couple mellow days to recharge before heading to Rome.

In Castiglion Fiorentino we had an incredible dinner at Ristorante Da Muzzicone – known for its Fiorentine steaks. We saw our steaks chopped directly off the rack and then brought to our table (raw) for us to inspect (similar to how a server will show you a bottle of wine). It was really cool to experience an authentic Tuscan steak house. The staff was friendly and did their best to accommodate language barriers. Our dinner was one for the books.

The highlight of this stay was the afternoon we spent in Cortona. It is nearby town that was only a train stop or two ride away. From the train we took a bus (thanks to some info from our Air BnB host) up a windy mountain to Cortona. The views from the top were unbeatable. Although Cortona is similar in size to Castiglion Fiorentino, there was much more to do. The town had many shops, restaurants and local street vendors. Cortona is actually where the movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed. I highly recommend adding Cortona to your travel plans if you will be staying or visiting in this area. If we ever visit again, I think I would prefer staying in Cortona than Castiglion Fiorentino.

Tips for Tuscany

When you travel to Tuscany, I definitely recommend doing your research and having a pretty good plan but remember to be open to suggestions from locals. An area like Castiglion Fiorentino is a bit off the beaten path which has its limitations. I would recommend being aware of holiday schedules and how this may impact your stay. It is also a good idea to make all of your reservations (dining and tours) well in advance. If you’re staying in an Air BnB, I would also recommend stocking your kitchen with food upon arrival. This will come in handy if your plans change or you’re not able to get a dinner reservation. You can find amazing meat and cheese in these small towns along with wine tasting and tours. If you visit the Cortona area they are known for their Syrah. My last tip is to be prepared for locals to speak little English if you visit a small town. You should bring a book of Italian translations or use Google Translate (planning ahead will also help).

Tips for Train Travel

If you’re traveling by train in Italy I definitely recommend packing light (My Packing Guideclick here!). The train platforms are at ground level, so you will need to quickly hoist your luggage up and down. We found it helpful to buy our tickets ahead of time. Our hotel staff helped in explaining tickets too. Some tickets must be printed and others must be validated at machine. Be sure you know what type of ticket you have before getting to your train. Once you’re on the train, familiarize yourself with the name of the stop before your destination. The trains do not wait at each station for a long time, so you may have to act quickly to gather your luggage. And my last tip is of course to bring snacks for long train rides!

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