Days 11 and 12 – Groundhog Day – Italian Style

tuscania approaching from the east

tuscania approaching from the east

Same day, twice.  With Sophia still sick we decided to take it easy and let her rest in the house.  That meant that Corey took Isabel to the market, to lunch and to the pool.  At one point they also attempted to go to the farm at Casa Caponetti but they missed the turn and never made it there.  Of course the road is completely unmarked, and the farm has no real address, so it’s not surprising that they missed it.  It’s probably a good thing that they didn’t get there because Sophia would hate to miss it.  I’m hoping we get to take a cooking class there before we leave.

Meanwhile Sophia convalesced in front of more Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes and Magic School Bus DVDs.  But it wasn’t all bad.  In truth hanging out at the villa, cooking, reading and planning out the remainder of our stay here wasn’t a terrible way to pass a couple of days.  We also busted out the games and had four action packed rounds of Uno followed by a 500 piece sunflower puzzle that is still only about 1/2 complete.  It was very family fun-time and picturesque playing cards under the grape vines.  I think sometimes its those unscheduled, unplanned easy days that make the summer so special.

For the past two days Isabel has had a blast at the community pool.  Continue reading

Day 9 – Siena – (All About La Famiglia)

sienaWe packed up the car and drove to Siena to meet Mindy (Corey’s sister) and Mark (her husband) and their family.  The drive was gorgeous, through Chianti and the Tuscan hills.  The girls even abandoned their Leapsters instead tuning into When You’re Engulfed in Flames, the audio book by David Sedaris that we were listening to in the front seat.  We had no idea they were listening until they started cracking up from the back seat.  I don’t really think they understood everything he was talking about, but they loved him.  I guess it’s never too early to introduce your kids to sardonic wit.

We arrived in Siena only to spend the next 20 minutes trying to figure out where the hell to park.  We tried following the big blue P signs, we tried to follow the GPS, but inevitably at some point we ended up driving through the pedestrian only area.  I now think that this is just the way of things when you’re dealing with medieval towns that have restricted zones.  We got out pretty quickly, unlike 10 years ago on our honeymoon when we pretty much would our way through the entire walled city looking for a place to park.  Eventually we found a lot outside the walls.  Was it pay or free?  Who knew?  Where were we in relation to where we wanted to be?  Who knew?  We followed the masses of middle-aged tourists who had disembarked from a tour bus until we saw the signs for the Piazza Del Campo and could finally figure out where we were going with some measure of certainty.

This all paid off of course when we arrived in the huge circular piazza and saw our meeting point, the clock tower…    Continue reading

Day 6 – Venice, Venice and more Venice (the tourist throngs cannot spoil this town)

We awoke to cloudy skies and a very decent hotel breakfast.  Even though it looked like rain, and did start to drizzle, the clouds were a welcome sight after so much unrelenting sun and heat.  We had a very ambitious day trying to fit in everything.  We started at a mask making shop called Papier Mache, but they weren’t ready for customers yet so we decided instead to meander the streets of Venice and head towards the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

We took every twist and turn imaginable and stopped in numerous glass stores and mask and costume shops in the girls’ never ending quest to find the perfect souvenir.  They each have 50 Euros of their own from their birthday gift from their Great Aunt.  Its not as fun shopping in Italy anymore now that dollar is so pathetically weak, but kids don’t understand currency conversion so to them its all the same.  I hopelessly tried to indoctrinate them into the art of haggling, but that was no use.  They can’t help but look at something and say, “It’s only 20 Euros and I have 50!”  Try getting a deal after that loud proclamation.

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Day Three – Tuscania and Lake Bolsena (whining sounds the same in Italy)

So we were prepared for the disaster that would be our daughters this morning.  They fell asleep around midnight and woke up hyper and nutty at 7:30.  So much for that red eye flight making the jet lag thing easy.  Friday is market day in Tuscania so we headed out to load up on fresh produce and what I envisioned as stall after stall of meats, cheeses, fish, pasta, everything that the local Italian farmers would have to offer.  I was wrong.  There were two lone produce stands, and the rest was a Florida Bubbe’s flea market bazaar.  Table after table of cheap clothes, shoes, bras and hats.  Not the Italian movable feast I had imagined.   But, we got our tomatoes, peppers, peaches and plums and felt like at least we now knew what to expect from market day.

My daughters also decided that this was the day that they HAD to make some Italian friends.  They each packed a little Italian phrase book in their small purses and dragged us to the playground.  The playground is a sort of 1970s style Central Park playground.  Metal equipment that’s not totally bolted to the ground, two hard flat wooden swings, a basic jungle gym and a slide.  What makes this not so 1970s NYC is the huge gelateria and bar in the center equipped with video games and all of those toy dispenser machines.  The girls LOVE this place.  You’d think they’d never seen a playground before let alone live one block away from a spectacular one.  But…

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Day Two – Tuscania and the day my husband was almost impaled

I thought nothing could be a better sign of great things ahead than my daughters sleeping 12 1/2 hours our first night here.  Still jet-lagged and starving we stumbled down to breakfast.  I put on a pot of hot water since tea is my caffeine source of choice, even here in the land of endless espresso.  Well, not being fancy Italian designers we didn’t realize that the sheet of glass covering the stove top was decorative.  To us it looked like all of those glass top halogen stoves that seem to populate the counter tops of every suburban house we’ve ever visited.

We should have known better.  As soon as my husband sat down at the table there was a huge explosion and glass literally flew everywhere.   The girls jumped out of their seats and away from the stove.  My husband leapt out of the way and I dodge the hot glass that fell on my bare feet and immediately turned off the flame.  The kitchen was covered in hot shards of glass both small and large and we were horror stricken that we had broken something our first day here, and that now had an entire kitchen full of glass to clean up.  It took us about an hour to fully clean the floor, counters, stove, table and assorted corners and crevices.  But the scariest thing of all was the metal strip which had jagged edged of glass jutting out of its center that we found lying about 3 inches behind where my husband had been sitting.  If he had been sitting or standing just a few inches back it would’ve gone right into him.

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Day One – Arrive Rome, Drive to Tuscania!

We had a really good flight all things considered. It was the first time my daughters flew on an overnight flight and I have to say I’m a fan of that 10pm flight. Its late enough that they conked out, and long enough that they got about 7 hours of sleep. (thanks to some preflight Zyrtec too) Our only small hitch was the inexplicably long line at immigration. INSANE, disorganized and all around ridiculously inefficient. The trains may run on time, but the airport has a long way to go.
This immigration line experience made me even more thankful that we took the advice of our generous hosts and leased a Renault through Renaultusa.com. If you’re going to be in Italy for a three weeks or more this is the way to go. You “lease” a car through this French government program and they deliver it to you at the airport. No rental car chaos, no fighting the mobs at the rental desk, no bait and switch when you try and pick up your reserved car – instead you get a brand new car, they pick you up right outside of customs, and you drive off with full insurance, road side assistance and unlimited mileage. In the end you return the car and sign some papers saying you do not want to buy the car after all.
The girls loved the CLIO, though our giant bags barely made it in!
girlswithclio_italy
We took off for Tuscania, Continue reading