We were so excited to head to Florence – the place Florence Nightingale was born and named after, close to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and in the region of Tuscany (aka wine region). Being the Aussies that we were we decided to just walk the short 900 metre distance to the hotel, after all…’she’ll be right!’ Of course this is Italy and the streets are not a simple pathway like in Australia. I dug my heels in (literally), and we bobbed over the cobbled streets and tiny footpaths all the way to the hotel, in fact I think there is a definite gap in the market for 4WD suitcases for European vacationers, and I will be the first in line to buy them – just take my money lol.
We arrived at our hotel and were warmly greeted once we lugged our suitcases up the stairs to reception. I was already concerned by the clearly dodgy area the hotel appeared to be in and already felt unsafe, when another alarm bell rang for us in that we were required to leave our room key in the pigeon hole when we are out despite the fact that there was no available safe and the pigeon holes were open and within reach of anyone walking through there. The deal breaker for us though was getting into the room – which was quite nice and modern – and greeting the overwhelming smell of bleach. It was so strong and although we tried airing the room out with the one available window and the door to the hallway, nothing was making the smell go away and mummy ended up having an asthma attack and feeling like vomiting. We had to leave immediately, although we were still stuck with the three days of city tax and our already paid for bed and breakfast for three days – they were quite annoyed but meh…our well being comes first.
Lucky we managed to track down a lovely resort in the hills of Tuscany that could take us for the three days, and we jumped in a taxi to get there. Cost was really not a factor by this stage, after all mummy was at the end of her tether with an attitude filled teen and an overwhelmed sensory kid in tow. Hubby and I agreed that a time out away from the hustle and bustle of any city centre was just what we needed to recharge for the rest of our trip.
We arrived at The Florence Hills Luxury Resort amongst grapevines and olive trees, in a very small town called Pelago. The hotel was modern, tastefully decorated, and spacious, which added to us feeling pampered with a breakfast of eggs, (meats…which we don’t eat being vego), fruits, pastrys, and fresh breads….oh and of course nutella! We had our dinner customised to our needs each night and it was mostly quite delicious, with Mackenzie even trying some new things. Our only gripe really was not enough seats and no table on our balcony, very firm mattresses and pillows, not enough bin space for rubbish, and lack of communication about no dinner service for our last night when we had already discussed this on our arrival. To their defence however, they did order in pizza for us and they covered the cost of this to make up for the miscommunication.
The hotel staff organised for us a tour of a local winery and castle which was over 1000 years old. We had a guided tour followed by a wine and cheese tasting accompanied by another couple from Denver USA that were just delightful to spend time with.
The vineyards were beautiful and were also surrounded by olive trees ready for harvest, and the grapes were actually in the middle of being harvested when we arrived, so it was cool for both us and the girls to see this process.
I do believe the Europeans have got something right in how they introduce alcohol to their children, alcohol is not taboo in Italy and children can legally drink at 16 with their parents but are often allowed a taste younger when not out in public. I felt this was the perfect situation to allow my children a controlled taste of alcohol in an appropriate setting with food and family, so Lauren was allowed a proper tasting and Mackenzie was allowed a sip of mine.
Let me say straight up that my kids so far HATE alcohol. They both think wine is the most disgusting thing in the world, so although they appreciated the opportunity to participate with the adults, I don’t think they will be guzzling down the booze anytime soon. Hubby and I both enjoyed it though and although we were not drunk at the end, we were certainly happy so to speak and grateful we had a driver (phew…thought we wouldn’t since there was a taxi strike that afternoon.
The hotel also organised a masseuse to attend for Lauren and I to have a massage on our second day there which was total bliss, and the last day we were there we did absolutely nothing and just watched movies on the laptops all day…again – bliss. We did have a bit of a wander around the town of Pelago on our first day though and found it to be very small, quaint, and the fold certain did not speak english…so we had to wing it to get lunch and buy anything there. It was an old town complete with washing on retractable lines out the windows, a tiny little church, and a very old bell that rang each day. Honestly I’m not a bit disappointed at not getting to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Now that we are rested up, its time for us to head off to Rome. Being that it is only a hour and a half train trip I am feeling the sheer speed it is travelling at as we speak – so fast our ears pop the whole way. I must say this whole homeschooling gig with Mackenzie is doing my head in and she only has to do a diary each day and some reading and maths. It is painful and I really do think her teachers deserve a medal for doing so well with her. I do wonder whether it is just worse because of all the sensory input she is having, so I am trying to choose my battles, but I do think the girls are going to be grateful for the everyday routines, mummys vegetable filled food, and early nights again when we get home.
NB…we are told that 2015 is going to be a great year for wine too so keep your taste buds at the ready. (Please note we are always an advocate for the responsible use of alcohol – although it is a legal substance, it can also be a source for addiction, alcoholism, and may impact wellbeing both physically and emotionally – seek help if this impacts you)
Stay tuned – Rome is up next….