First Loves in Firenze (Love + Gelato – A Book Review)

Love + Gelato
Author: Jennifer Evans Welch
Published: 2016

On Goodreads

Love and Gelato

My Rating: Full boltFull boltFull boltFull boltFull bolt



I made the wrong choice.

Carolina “Lina” Emerson is staying in Italy this summer with her father who she just met for the first time. It leaves her distracted from the wonder and magic of Italy. How did she not know about him until just recently?

While settling into her new home at an American cemetery for WWII soldiers, she tries to understand why her mother sent her here, but more than anything she just wants to go home. Then she meets charming Ren, her neighbor behind the cemetery.

After being given a journal, her mother’s, Lina and Ren begin an adventure to visit all of the places her mom did, experience art, find a secret bakery, all hoping to recreate the best summer of her other’s life as well as understand why she had Lina come here. However, Lina didn’t expect to be shell shocked by its contents that change her life forever and the residual emotions of loss. With Ren, she figures out some things she’s not sure she wanted to know. And as she tours Tuscany, she finds that people come from all around for the art and gelato. Sometimes they find so much more.

Lina, think. You’re alone in a foreign country, a certifiable giant has just stepped forward as your father, and your home could be the setting for a zombie apocalypse movie. Do something.


This book marks 4 out of 25 authors, from my New Year’s resolution, that I’ve never read from before. This isn’t my typical book since I’m really into the Paranormal genre, but I couldn’t help myself because I love Italy.


This book was so sweet and beautiful so so pure. This book began on such a sorrow filled note, but I really loved that it turned into something more, something that could spring a new beginning with opportunities for newness and renewal. Handling the grief of losing a loved one is hard. You’re losing a part of your being, but this isn’t the focus. Lina is given the chance to understand and walk in her mother’s footsteps and keep a part of her close while discovering new things about herself.

Italia. Firenze. I spent Spring Break in Florence during my Senior year in college and I loved every second of it. From The Duomo to the Boboli Gardens to the Ponte Vecchio and SO MUCH MORE. It was all so splendidly placed throughout the story, really creating Florence and the rest of Tuscany. The shared history of the places wasn’t forced at all either. And the bright and lively color from the city to the sunsets to the food and the people of the country truly brought it to life. It was like I was back in Florence all over again and my heart just swelled with longing.


Lina isn’t some rebellious teenager. She’s just a girl who’s hurting, confused and feeling really lost. Ren helps her find her way, which is great because it can be scary being in new place you don’t want to be with no friends. He’s goofy, kind, and adorable that you can’t help but fall in love with him. He introduces her to new possibilities and of course, gelato. And let me tell you, you’ve never had gelato if you’ve never been to Italy. There is a difference between what you find at the supermarket versus what you get at a gelateria. It’s the air and the place and the feeling that surrounds you.

Lina’s adventures with Ren isn’t all that I got to experience during the book. There were also her mother’s adventures from her journal too. The journal entries were sprinkled throughout as Lina adjusted to her new life. Each one pulled me in deeper and deeper and I was completely captured, just like Lina, with how wild and spontaneous the woman was. I really loved getting this peeking at her mother’s life. We always wonder if we’ll follow in our parents’ footsteps and doing so by this journal felt good. Felt right.

Italian Hillside

There were many parts that I teared up at. There are discoveries that will pull at your heartstrings. I didn’t non-stop cry here, but I was feeling pretty shaky by the end. Family triumphs and first love finds always do that to me! Both are so special because they hold such a dear spot in your heart. So, no tears. But A LOT of heart pounding.

Every once in a while, I love reading a book like this. It’s special. There’s a purity and proof that there’s light in life. There are no major plot twists or major danger on the horizon. It’s just growing up and first loves and wonderful innocence.

Do I recommend this book? Si!



“From here on out there will only be before and after today.” (Lina, p. 2)

“My life was about to change. Again. What happened to normal, boring days?” (Lina, p. 272)

“The ring. The denial. The lie.” (Lina, p. 312)

“A life without love is like a year without summer.” (Howard to Lina, p. 376)


Below are a few other photos from my trip back in 2015. Such a beautiful country.  A week in Florence was too short.

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More to come soon…


P.S. Song today? Run Away with Me by Carly Rae Jepson


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