Days 26 and 27 – Tuscania Do We Really Have to Go Home?

sunflowersThe last couple of days have been a paradigm of summer laziness.  We’ve done nothing but hang out at the pool, eat, drink, read and for the girls, paint in the garden.  This is it, our final week in Italy and so we seem to living it as low key as possible.  Plus, the girls have basically boycotted getting into the car.  They are so over any sort of excursions and sightseeing, though we may have to rouse them a couple more times just to feel like we’ve covered every inch of this slice of Italy.

None of us really want to leave.  The girls have gone through bouts of homesickness, but both of them have said they would rather stay here.  Even the lure of camp isn’t enough to pull them out of their Italian daze.  And why should it?  Camp right now is the great unknown; they don’t know their bus color, their fellow campers or if they will pass the all important deep water test.  I can see the anxiety starting to build.  Hopefully they will be so jetlagged when we get back to New York that sleep won’t be a huge issue the night before the first day of camp.  (wishful thinking I’m sure.) Continue reading

Day 25 Au Revoir Paris! Finally Isabel gets to the Park

mona lisa catOur last day in Paris was just as chock full as the first three.  We had to check out our apartment early because the next family was arriving by 10.  Actually, they arrived while we were still there, and poor them we made them wait outside until we were ready and the owner had arrived.   We decided to check our two small suitcases at Gare Montparnasse the main train station nearby and the site of the Air France airport bus that seemed like the best solution for us to get back to the airport.

We took a different street than usual and found the block we had been searching for all along – there was the small artisinal cheese shop, the fruit stand, the wine store that seemed to be desperately lacking on our walks.  We bought four different kinds of cheese for later on.  Finally the cool weather was beneficial!  We also discovered an eyeglass store and since the girls’ are in need of a new pair of glasses since they don’t have spare pairs this seemed like the perfect chance to get both a souvenir and something practical.  They picked out adorable frames and with the VAT refund we managed to come out ahead of buying them at home.  Though the dollar is so bad this is barely the case. Continue reading

Day 21- Tuscania, Taking Time to Smell the Sunflowers

stopping to smell the sunflowers

stopping to smell the sunflowers

Today we did our usual day of rest following the insanely packed day at the Vatican.  We walked through Tuscania, still with map in hand, to find some new stores and routes that we hadn’t yet explored.  We then hit Lake Bolsena again for some serious downtime and relaxation.   The nice thing about being here for an entire month is not having the pressure to do everything and see new things every day.  Instead, being in Italy has begun to feel like a normal place to be, as if we had decided to rent a house upstate for the summer.

Of course what makes it extra special is that this house happens to be in a walled city steeped in history of ancient Etruscans, the Roman Empire through the construction of a modern Italy.  There are little old ladies and men hanging out on their benches in the morning and in the afternoon.  They go inside for riposo, I guess because the hanging out together on the chairs and benches qualifies as “work time” – from one to four you have to go inside and eat lunch to chill out.  I love this group of old timers who watch everything and everyone coming up and down the steep cobblestone hills, making sure that you belong there and are not trespassing through.

There is just a completely different rhythm to life here, and it’s hard to adjust initially.  Continue reading

Day 17 Staying Cool in Tuscania

We spent the the day in Tuscania going to the market and trying to stay cool on the hottest day so far.  I spent most of the day planning our field trip to Rome the next day when the heat was supposed to break.  I’m big on planning.  I don’t believe in just winging it when we travel, particularly with kids in tow.  My feeling is be as prepared as possible, and then hope for the best and be flexible when you’re actually at your destination.  So, with that in mind we booked a few things ahead of time.  I bought our Vatican tickets for Monday.  After a ton of research and emails I decided against getting a private tour guide for Saturday’s trip since I didn’t want to be tied down to anyone else’s schedule and figured the girls really didn’t need to be schlepped around according to a guide.  So instead we decided to go all out tourist and book tickets on the double decker red bus that goes around the city and lets you jump on and off all day long.

Now, I have to say as a New Yorker I have come to loathe these buses as they chug through the city, clog traffic and generally make me feel like I’m being perpetually viewed by tourists holding up video cameras as the bus whizzes up Broadway or Central Park West.  Continue reading

Day 10 – It’s not a vacation until someone gets sick

It was bound to happen.  We came prepared.  But still, when Sophia’s skin turned so hot to the touch that it seemed her pajamas gave off steam, it was a serious disappointment and just plain sucked.  So she and I spent the day at home; her on the couch watching Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes cartoons on DVD, and me outside writing in the garden and doing endless loads of laundry.  It would all be sort of pathetic if not for the grape vines surrounding my “desk” and scent of basil, thyme, rosemary and lemons drifting through the air.  There are worse ways to spend the day in Italy.

Isabel and Corey did all the shopping at the market in town and later at the grocery store in order to restock the house.  Here’s what we’ve learned so far about Italian supermarkets.  First of all you weigh and tag all of your produce yourself.  The girls LOVED this.  You put your veggies or fruits on the scale punch in the unique code written on the little price sign and out come your label with the weight and price on it.  You slap it on the bag and off you go.  Another thing we’ve learned is that it’s very hard to find fresh, refrigerated milk.  The Italians much prefer the shelf-stable kind.  When you do stumble upon the cold milk its only sold by the liter which is a very small amount for a family that eats cereal every morning and has kids that actually drink glasses of milk.   We also can’t find mustard anywhere.

My sister in-law hired a private chef to cook at their villa last week.  She asked him why the bread in Italy was so bad.  Continue reading

Day 4 Tuscania and Lake Bolsena again! (Why can’t we make a damn cell phone call?)

We spent the better part of our morning sorting out the mystery of the cell phone.    Before we left Corey unlocked his iphone at a place in midtown.  Now that it was ready for an Italian SIM card we thought we were good to go, but we still couldn’t make a call.  And, since all of the prompts were in Italian, we couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Finally, the saleslady at the cell phone store in Tuscania figured out that our SIM card needed to be refilled with more Euros so Corey got a new one with lots of Euros and finally the cell phone juggle was solved.

After all of that fun we headed up the main drag to the tiny little fresh pasta store to select some pastas to cook for dinner.  They were all beautiful and filled with all sorts of fresh stuffing- fish, meat, different cheeses, porcini mushrooms, spinach, etc.  Each girl chose their own; Sophia got mezzaluna with meat, Isabel got potato gnocchi that looked like little gumdrops, and us adults got ravioli with a fish and ricotta filling.   Then we headed to the pasticceria to get cookies.  And finally to the fromaggeria to get cheese.  Basically life here revolves completely around food which is perfectly fine with me.  We headed to lunch at a local place in a small piazza and then realized that the heat and sun were overwhelming.

So we packed up the car with our beach paraphernalia and headed back to Lake Bolsena for what we thought would be a relaxing end to the day. Continue reading

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