Visiting Florence with your Dog- Part1 | Dog Travel Italy

Ah Florence!

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I’m on vacation!

Our first city adventure with Tikka in Italy finally arrived as we rolled into this beautiful Tuscan city late in the afternoon on a warm September Day. Tikka, passed out in the back of the car, was again of no help with navigation so we found ourselves doing a few loops around the old city before zoning in on the exact street that took us to our hotel. Confession: we did have an ‘oh, crap… we are going down a one way street the wrong way’ moment. Glad we got that out of the way early on in our vacation, we knew we’d do it at least once!

After a quick check in at the hotel, we unloaded our bags and we were off with Tikka by our side to get our bearings before the sun went down. Florence is everything people write about in poetry, paint in pictures and sing songs about. Gorgeous, inspiring and welcoming… even for dogs.

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View of the Arno River and Oltrarno district at Sunset

Our first night took us down to the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) for a fantastic view of the setting sun. With it being our first night around any major tourist attractions, we were surprised at just how crowded the streets were for late September. Quick note to selves that our city walks would be best early in the day to beat the masses and this plan paid off our entire trip. By going out early we not only had the city and views to ourselves we also saw the buildings and landscapes in the fresh warm glow of sunrise.

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Look closely to find Tikka and her Dad on Ponte Vecchio

And that’s just what we did on our first morning. Up at 7am to walk Tikka across the Arno River and climbed the stairs to Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square) for the view of all views over Florence. Tikka enjoyed the early 45 min blood pumping walk after all the driving the day before and seemingly enjoyed the panoramic view as much as we did.

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This is what early mornings are all about, just look at that view!

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Sunrise at Piazzale Michelangelo

On the walk back we made a typical Italian breakfast stop at the bottom of the hill, close to the river at Cafe Rifrullo. We could get used to this! Fresh flaky pastries and top notch espresso to get our day going, all while our dog could have a quick nap beside us. The best part was watching all the locals with their dogs come and go – clearly Italian baristas are the bartenders of the morning, getting to know their regulars with quick chats as they came and went.

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Our favourite little dog friendly cafe in Florence

We made our way back through the Florentine streets to our hotel, stopping along the way to wonder at the numerous statues at Loggia dei Lanzi and the elaborate designs of the Florence Duomo. Crowds were still light so navigating the streets was easy with Tikka on the end of the leash.

After chilling for a few hours in our room we ventured out again for a meal at Fishing Lab Alle Murate with Tikka under our table. Yum! Highly recommend the Sea Bream and Tuna appetizers..Incredible!

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Late afternoon and a lot of walking later, we decided to leave Tikka at the hotel and walk up the 400+ steps of the Palazzo Vecchio to take in the vista and explore the battlements and prison cells of the tower. Arriving late in the day there was zero line up and the light was beautiful over the rooftops. This was one type of place where dogs weren’t allowed, a lot of museums won’t let dogs in. She wasn’t complaining…all the walking and new sights, sounds and smells left her completely crashed out in the room.

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Let’s get climbing

 

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View from the tower of Palazzo Vecchio

We finished out our busy day with an amazing dinner at a little restaurant called Trattoria Sostanza. We made a reservation ahead of time and let them know a dog would be in tow which was no problem. When we arrived, they couldn’t have been more accommodating or dog friendly. We were at a table where she could lay out of the way of any waiter’s feet and there was already a full water bowl ready for our arrival. It was just an introduction to how dog friendly the rest of our trip was going to be! 

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Read the second part of our visit to Florence with our dog where we visit parks, explore Oltrarno and check out the Mercato Centrale.

This post is part of the Vandoggo series of traveling around Italy with your dog.

 

 

 

Tikka in Germany and Austria | Dog Travel Europe

Our big adventure travelling through Italy with our dog Tikka begins here – A flight into Germany and then off to Austria for an overnight night stop before continuing into Italy to visit Florence, Tuscany, Rome, Ravello and Venice.

So why aren’t we starting in Italy? We chose to fly direct into Munich on Lufthansa with Tikka in mind. AirTransat had the only direct flight to Rome from Vancouver, but they have a no dogs in cabin policy, so that was a non starter for us. Lufthansa was brilliant, fussing over Tikka making sure she was ok. After a comfortable 10 hour flight with our dog snoozing in the cabin at our feet the whole way, we landed and we were out of the terminal in 30  minutes with bags in hand looking for a good place for Tikka to have a long pee. No holdups in customs  – it was a breeze and you can read about the process of getting a dog ready to go from Canada to the EU in this post.

Grass was within a 2 min walk outside Terminal 2, so super easy to find a place for relief.

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Tikka eyeing our currywurst lunch outside Terminal 2 –  Munich,  Germany.

Before jumping in our rental car, we took a minute to stretch our 8 legs, give Tikka some water and grabbed a quick bite in the outside square – lots of options for something to eat and all dog friendly. Currywurst was our choice, a local street food of sausages with curried ketchup, and a personal favourite of my huband’s.

When we were checking out options for what car rental company we wanted to go with, we asked about having a dog in the car with us and the reply was ‘no problem’. Although Tikka is a low shedding dog, we brought a towel with us anyway, to try keep the dog hair mainly isolated to her sleeping spot. And we picked up a new travel tip when travelling with your dog. As we were on an international flight, we were given blankets on the plane and we held onto them  – they are a good size and thin so easy to pack and we’ve been using them in the car as well as over any furniture that Tikka wants to curl up on.

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Let’s go! Packing up the trunk before getting TIkka into her travelling spot in the front of the rental car.

Ok, time to get on the road! Easy drive out of the airport and we were on our way to Austria. This vacation is all about driving around Italy however, to make it easy on ourselves we only wanted to do a two hour drive after our flight so stayed in the charming Stubaital valley in Tyrol, Austria, just south of Innsbruck.

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Tikka in front of our stop for the night – Aplenholtz Hotel, Mieders Austria

Major note to self for another trip, to stay in this area for a few weeks. So gorgeous and heaven for any dog that wants to hit the trails. It’s all about enjoying the views of the mountains, exploring meadows  and winding your way through the little towns. There is even a handy planner for Austria that you can map out your hike.

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View of the Serles Mountian on our early morning walk in Mieders, Austria.

We chose Mieders to stop overnight, booked ahead of time, and the Alpenholtz Hotel couldn’t have been better. It’s slow for travellers at the end of September, as it’s in between the summer tourist season and the upcoming ski season, so we enjoyed the fresh air and how quiet it was. A perfect stopover for travelling with a dog and a big paws up from VanDoggo!

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Little cozy pub in the Alpenstotlz Hotel

Dinner was at a local restaurant and we enjoyed our first meal with Tikka under the table before we crashed in our bed and our little travel dog snuggled in for the night. Sweet sleep…we were tired and looked forward to a nice long sleep after traveling so far. Of course our eyes sprung open at 1 am. A couple hours of watching Austrian TV in German finally got us back to sleep again. Tikka seemed unaffected, snoring on the sofa. So jealous.

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Tikka making new friends.

 

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Handy poop bags along our walking path.

We all ventured out the next morning for a healthy wander around Mieders before our drive to Florence and Tikka made some new friends. Just like big dogs but they moo instead of bark and you need much larger poop bags. We wandered through the paths and fields, and feasted our eyes on all the amazing views, the reality of actually being on vacation started to set in.

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Local house with a full September bloom in Mieders, Austria

And we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore when we stumbled across a cute vending machine on the side of the road that stocks fresh eggs.

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Never run out of eggs again!

A quick breakfast put on by the hotel brought us back from our morning stroll and after we repacked the car, gave Tikka the map to navigate and we were off to Florence!

 

 

 

Paperwork for taking a jet setting dog from Canada to Europe | Pet Travel

Want to take your dog from Canada to the EU but don’t know where to start? Neither did I, but I decided to check out if it was #1) possible? and #2) would I need a PHD in paperwork management? After some research for ‘Non-Commercial Export of Animals’  it turns out it’s not that bad and I lived to tell the tale. The proof being that I’m typing this from Florence with a world travelling dog by my side. And you’ll appreciate the ‘punchline’ at the end of this article…

Order, We Must Have Order

First thing I realized is that there is a very strict order to everything and timing is very important.

Microchipping must be done before vaccinations and only one year rabies vaccines are accepted coming into Europe. Tikka had a three year jab, but alas, had to get a one year before we left. Vaccines must be administered 30 days before travel.  From the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website:’ according to EU regulations, a rabies vaccination is not considered valid unless the animal was properly identified at the time it was vaccinated. The microchip or tattoo number must also appear on the rabies vaccination certificate in order for it to be considered valid.

A certified vet must verify that the vaccination was administered.

Microchips can be different types, however a ISO standard 11784 rated microchip is preferred as the standard for entry to Europe, otherwise if it is any other type you have to bring your own scanner with you. They sell them here.

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Tikka in her travel carrier

Paperwork, Lovely Paperwork

For travelling from Canada to the EU, the paperwork needs to be downloaded from the CFIA and there is lots of information to get you filling things out like a pro. Here is the link for the CFIA – Non Commercial export of animals.

After looking up the country that you LAND in (not your final destination) I downloaded it and printed off two copies. I had an extra in case of any mess ups at the vet. This has to happen within 10 days of travel to the EU. Take the forms plus a printout of the instructions to your appointment, making sure they know why you are there.  You need to do a health examination and tell them you need this paperwork filled out. And here is a fun fact. It HAS to be filled out in BLUE ink…no exceptions!

We also got an International Health Certificate from the vet for the airline in case someone asked to see it.

Everything at Tikka’s appt went well, we were in an out in 30 minutes with a vet stamp in the first space of three (vet, CFIA, customs at destination) on the document and were ready for the next step…the ruler!

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I rule the blue pen

This part felt unusual as I’m not used to crossing out information on govt forms. It’s required to take a ruler and cross out anything that does not apply to your situation, again in that all important blue ink. These sections determine points such as:
Are you the owner of the dog travelling with you?
Do you have more that 5 dogs with you?
After all that was done it was time to take the papers to the CFIA for a pre arranged appointment – List of offices. I took the papers and $20 and was there only 15 minutes while they put their stamp on the back page, in the second spot.

Once back at my office, I made two copies of all the stamped papers so that I had a spare as well as all her vaccination records, tattoo and microchip certificates. Bring everything with you in duplicate – you will save time if anyone needs a copy of something.

And the CIFA have this handy checklist you can reference.

On Our Way

Was that really all of it? … Do we have everything done? … Is it all correct?… Did I forget anything? I guess we’ll find out 10 hours after our flight and we have a customs officer staring at us.

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Waiting to board the plane at YVR

The big test finally arrived. After months of planning, Tikka, myself and my husband were finally airborne and we were cautiously optimistic about what the EU custom officer had in store for us. We eagerly followed the signs to baggage claim at the Munich airport and before long passport control was in front of us becokoning us forward. And what do you think happened after all the previous months of organizing? Not a DAMN thing!!! They couldn’t have cared less and waved us on without a blink when we told them we had a dog.

My husband and I discussed how surprising that was and figured that customs must be different than passport control and we’d have to show the paperwork after we got our bags. That time came in 20 minutes and there was no indication that we even had to declare having a dog with us. We did what we thought was best and went through the red customs channel in to declare her anyways. A very friendlly customs officer took Tikka’s documents and went away to the back of his office. Ah ha! This will be when we get that last stamp on her papers, giving us closure for a job well done. He returned 2 minutes later and said ‘Ok, enjoy your holiday’. We flipped to the last page and that third space still sat empty – not even a whiff of a stamp.

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The lonely third place for a stamp

 

We took the hint…move on and have a great holiday, which is just what we’ll do. Of course for future travel, we will still follow all procedures as you never know when you’ll have to have everything ready to present to customs with a trigger happy stamp.

Read about the first leg of our road trip in Germany and Austria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Packing List for the Dog Gear | Pet Travel

We are counting down the days to our Italian adventure and the lists are well underway. Although it’s a multi week vacation, packing for Tikka isn’t extending too much past our regular planning for a weekend trip. The Transport of Animals paperwork is the biggest addition (I’ll write about this in an upcoming post) and there is also a muzzle and a pee pad going in the bag. Biggest decision is which toys get to come along…!

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Tikka in her Sturdi Bag getting ready for her Italy trip.

Paperwork

This is first on the list as all the careful packing in the world won’t matter if you are turned away from the border with forgotten papers. Along with our passports, Tikka’s paperwork will be in our personal carry on, in duplicate. Read more in this separate post about the paperwork for taking your dog from Canada to Europe.

Carrier

Tikka just fits into the requirements for in-cabin travel and our Sturdi Bag has been our go to carrier. For this trip we are flying with Lufthansa and if she lays off the extra treats she and her carrier will meet the 18lb limit. We use a Large Sturdi carrier and what’s great about this brand is the structure is flexible so the roof will conform to being under the seat without an issue whilst still leaving Tikka plenty of room. And when she is not under the seat, it pops back up to it’s original form.

Crate for Hotels

Although Italy seems more relaxed for dogs not being crated while in their rooms alone, we’ll still bring along one of Tikka’s soft kennels as she likes having her own ‘den’ to hang out in. We have a collapsible soft sided crate that goes up in seconds and fits in the bottom of our bigger suitcase (but takes up a lot of room) and we also have a Sturdi tent. The tent rolls up much as a smaller camping tent does and goes up with two fold-able rods. The floor space is bigger with the tent, so if we need to zip her into it we can put food and water in the corner. Needless to say we will be keeping the amount of time Tikka spends alone in the hotel rooms to a minimum as most of the time she will be touring the sites and eating pasta with us.

Toys

We will be bringing a couple of toys with us as it’s always nice to bring friends along on the trip when your family is driving you crazy. It’s tempting to go overboard but we are limiting to two small stuffies – one with a squeaker and one without. When we are at the airport we usually find a corner away from the crowds so that Tikka can be out of her carrier before the flight and I’m sure the travellers around us appreciate not hearing the repeated squeak of the dog toy. We will also pack a couple of balls for romps in the park  – having an extra with us in case one goes missing.

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Moosey, pack your bags!

 

Poop Bags

Bought a new multipack so that we can put a roll in different places and never be caught without one. In the carrier, suitcase, rental car…

Leashes

Along with packing a spare in case one somehow goes missing, we always put a short leash with no metal on it in the carrier bag. That way when we go through security we won’t get hauled off to another room for a further exploration.

Collapsible Bowl

Love these bowls – they flatten down to a disk and then pop open when you need it for water on the plane. Because it’s flat it neatly stores in the small pouch on the side of the carrier.

Towel

We are going to spend time at the beach after all! If space in our luggage was a huge concern I may pick up a towel in Italy, but we have a fantastic super absorbent towel that is perfect for a wet dog or muddy feet and there is room to bring it.

Pee Pad

To date, all of our air trips have been under 6 hours so Tikka needing to pee mid journey has never come up. We’ll pack a couple pads just in case as she was trained on them very early on as a pup, so she’ll have an opportunity in the airplane bathroom if she wants to go. I suspect she’s going to try and hold it, which would be 12 hours from grass to grass at each airport. Poop wise, we feed the night before the journey and then there are just small treats on the day of travel. This keeps the stomach settled and less chance of a desperate ‘I have to go poop now’!

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The ever evolving packing list

Muzzle

A new item on our list and new to Tikka is a muzzle. Italy requires muzzles for all dogs travelling on transit – It does seem a bit relaxed for small dogs, but she hasn’t fussed with having it on and I’d rather follow the rules so that countries will stay open to having dogs live openly among us 🙂

Backpack

Just wait until you see this! Although Italy is incredibly dog friendly, we did pick up a backpack that you can rest your dog in for some of the areas that need you to hold your dog. Also perfect for a short jaunt on a Vespa to visit a local winery.  I can’t wait to get some pics of Tikka and share with you how we liked using it.

Treats and Food

Due to most country’s regulations, meat and food products can be problematic to bring in, so to avoid any hassle we decided to leave these behind. A couple dry treat crumbs may be found at the very bottom of my pocket, for a little reward getting in an out of the carrier in security…

I think we thought of everything but I’m sure we’ll pickup anything we leave behind.

 

Canal to Chalet in Montreal | Dog Travel Canada

We recently took a quick trip to Montreal for the Just For Laughs comedy festival and our furry sidekick came along for some urban exploring. What is so great about traveling with a dog is how it opens up planning decisions on what to do with your day. Instead of driving to points of interest we put on our shoes, clip on the leash  and get walking.

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Lachine Canal, Montreal

After landing on Friday afternoon we launched google maps and planned our route to Griffintown. Destination: a dog friendly brewery  west of the Old Port that we found online through a Montreal Blog. The walk over took us along the Lachine Canal which has a nice wide path for people and bikes. Perfect for a leisurely dog sniffing stroll from tree to tree with no cars to worry about.

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Pathway along the canal

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After our 30 min walk in the sun we were ready for a cold craft beer and some grub, so we settled into the dog friendly patio at Brasseur de Montreal. Unashamed tourists that we were, we jumped on the poutine and steak frites. Staff were incredibly friendly and brought over a water bowl for Tikka and she made the place her own.

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Patio at Brasseur de Montreal. Time for a beer, rest our paws and charge our phones.

We could have stayed for hours, relaxing in the sun but we had to get back to go out for an evening of comedy. The Just For Laughs festival takes over the city, showcasing the art of comedy and there is something for everyone. It was a late night, but next morning instead of sleeping in we went on a 3 hour urban hike. Destination: Place to purchase and eat a croissant.

Urban Forest

Urban Forest Art Installation

First thing Saturday we struck out from our downtown hotel and headed towards Mont-Royal. Our chosen path took us through the downtown streets, through an Urban Forest by McGill University and landed us in a cool dog park called Percy-Walters at the bottom of the hill. After a brief off leash romp and chatting with some locals we headed to Rue Peel to start our climb up to the chalet and lookout.

What’s neat about this park is you can take a gut busting direct route with the stairs or choose winding path that slowly works it’s way up the side of the hill. Guess from the picture and my breathing which one we did…

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Masters of the stairs

So great to see everyone enjoying the city park  – young and old, locals and tourists, dogged and dogless – they all come out on a Saturday morning to battle up the hill. For the less in shape (*cough) just take your time and you will soon be rewarded with a break in the trees and the following view.

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View from Mont Royal lookout

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Chalet at the top of the stairs, Mont Royal, Montreal.

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Looking good at the Lookout!

Took some pics, enjoyed the vista and then we were off for part two of our morning trek. A mini adventure unfolded as we worked our way over the top of Mont Royal and then finding a path to work our way through the woods, hoping we were coming out on the right side and the right road. It took a while tromping through the trees on the spiderweb of trails but we got there!

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So many pathways and trails in Parc Mont Royal

Now in the home stretch we were just 15 min from our flaky breakfast at Fous Desserts. A croissant,  pain au Chocolat, and a couple of teas in hand we walked over one block to Parc Sir Wilfrid Laurier and watched Tikka eyeing the squirrels while we ate our breakfast on a bench. It felt good to rest our paws and take in the local activity from our corner of the park. Time didn’t allow for a walk back so we jumped in a Uber car that was more than happy to have our dog come along.

Thanks Montreal for a wonderful trip and the hike within a city!