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 16 – Pitigliano It’s So Not (Jewish) Ghetto

pitigliano

pitigliano

There is something about being outside of New York that always makes me feel more Jewish.  I don’t know exactly what that means, but when I lived in London being Jewish was actually something people asked me about.  As if it were somewhat foreign or exotic.  Neither of which I consider it to be.  In New York of course everyone is Jewish – and I don’t mean that literally as in the largest population of American Jews live in New York City, I mean that whether you are Italian, Irish, African-American, whatever, you’ve got a little bit of Jewish in you because that is just one of the dominant flavors of New York.  So eat your bagel, rent Annie Hall, take your kids to the museum on Rosh Hashanah because the schools are closed, vote for Bloomberg, watch Seinfeld, say “Oy vey” as if you heard it in the womb– you’re kind of sort of Jewish if you grew up in New York City.

Outside of New York this is a whole other thing entirely.   Its hard to believe you can be sheltered by living in New York City but this is one of those instances where it is shocking to leave the city and discover what is being discussed or believed in the rest of the country and world.  When people think about the persecution of European Jews they usually think of two major anti-Semitic events – The Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust.  Unfortunately those two major historical events are just part of an insane timeline of legal discrimination, segregation and genocide.  I remember being 15 the first time I came to Spain with a group of teenagers and when they took us to the old Jewish quarter in Toledo one of the kids asked, “Where did the Jews go?”  Without skipping a beat the tour guide said, “They just left” As if one day all the Jews looked around this city they had lived in for hundreds of years, the stores they ran, the schools they attended, the roots they had put down and said, “The neighborhood is really changing let’s move to Boca.” Continue reading

Days 14 and 15 – The Arrival of Granny and a Day in Orvieto

My mom (Granny) flew in to stay with us for the week.  We drove an hour and a half to the Rome airport to pick her up and then an hour and a half to bring her back here to Tuscania.  Between all that driving, making lunch, her jet lag and the girls’ excitement over her being here and all of the gifts she brought the day flew by and before we knew it it was dinnertime and the day came to a close.  Unfortunately so did my internet connection.  I had to call the DSL company, called Alice, which seems so oddly personal.  Between my terrible Italian and their terrible English I managed to get a trouble ticket put through and then prayed that service would resume in less than a week.  It was not fun.

watercoloring for riposos

watercoloring for riposo

The next day we went to Orvieto.  At this point I feel like a person recounting the same story over and over again but the drive was truly spectacular.  Orvieto is in Umbria, perched high above the world on a mountaintop with its Duomo reaching into the sky and visible for miles around.

approaching orvieto

approaching orvieto

The drive from Tuscania takes you around Lake Bolsena through Montefiascone and up the winding mountains.  When you finally arrive in Orvieto you park your car at the bottom of the hill and take a 1950s era funicular up the side of the mountain.  This was a definite highlight of the day for the girls.

Continue reading

Day 13 – Viterbo and The Italian Wal-Mart

viterbo coat of arms

viterbo coat of arms

We finally decided that Sophia’s cough was going to linger no matter what we did so we figured an easy day of lunch in the old town of Viterbo followed by a pilgrimage to the Iper Coop “shopping experience” would make for a good first venture out into the world for her. (And me!)  We called ahead to the restaurant and got their machine.  Since we had no idea what they said on the machine we thought we’d take our chances and head to Viterbo either way.

Again the ride to Viterbo was just as gorgeous as usual.  The girls have become totally jaded at this point, unimpressed by waves of sunflowers and shimmering groves of olive trees. We on the other hand can still not get over that this is where we are spending the month.  As we approached Viterbo it became much more suburban looking, strips malls and looming billboards, of course this was juxtaposed against the centuries old town looming on the hills above.

We parked and climbed up the steep winding road, Continue reading

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 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 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