07/28/2014 09:43 EDT | Updated 09/27/2014 05:59 EDT

New York City mayor and his family now live in Gracie Mansion, empty since 2001

NEW YORK, N.Y. - A historic New York City mansion is once again filled with the sounds of family activities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, his wife and their two children woke up in their official Manhattan residence for the first time on Monday, a day after returning from their vacation in Italy.

"We spent our first night jet-lagged," de Blasio joked during an unrelated City Hall press conference. "Coming home to it for the first time was pretty amazing."

No one had lived at Gracie Mansion since Rudolph Giuliani left office in 2001. Mayor Michael Bloomberg remained in his palatial Upper East Side town house during his 12-year administration, though he oversaw extensive renovations to the mansion.

De Blasio; his wife Chirlane McCray; their daughter, Chiara; and their son, Dante had long lived in Park Slope, a progressive neighbourhood that helped shape the mayor-elect's political identity. They spent some time debating whether to make the switch, and the mayor continued to commute from his modest rowhouse during his first months in office.

"Everyone knows my love for my neighbourhood in Brooklyn, for my home in Brooklyn, so it was a little strange to come home to Gracie Mansion," the mayor said.

De Blasio, a Democrat, said the family "continued the Italian tradition of dining al fresco" by sitting outside on the porch to eat a meal of grilled chicken and vegetables Sunday night.

He joked that the biggest improvement to his family's everyday life would be due to the eight bathrooms at the graceful Federalist-style mansion. Their home in Brooklyn had just one, and it is on the third floor.

De Blasio said that the majority of the family's possessions were moved into the home while the family was on its 10-day Italian vacation. He said he looked forward to finding a new favourite coffee shop and bar and said he hoped to still be able to ride with his son to his Brooklyn high school.

He said that he was also considering renting out his Park Slope home while living in the mayoral manse.

The switch to Gracie Mansion is a big change for de Blasio's image. Using the campaign theme "a tale of two cities," he ran as an outer borough candidate in touch with the concerns of working and middle-class voters who felt left behind by what they perceived were Bloomberg's policies favouring Manhattan and the wealthy.

The opulent mansion was built in 1799 by merchant Archibald Gracie in a location that, at the time, was in the countryside more than 5 miles north of the fledgling city. It was seized by the city in 1896 after the owner failed to pay taxes.

In 1942, it was designated the official residence of the mayor. In 1966, the home nearly doubled in size during an expansion. It received a sweeping renovation over the last 12 years. Bloomberg, who dipped into his own fortune to pay for some of the renovations, opened it to the public for tours and events.