Time Goes by so Fast

Ciao,

I know it has been a couple of weeks but I did warn you that with my daughter and her family in town I was going to be ultra busy.

And I was.

So busy I even neglected my house for two weeks, which, if you know me says a lot. I spent the last two weeks hanging out with my daughter (A), her other half (Z), Will, and the most adorable, and might I say, highly photogenic, grandson (Finnrito or F) anyone could ask for. It was a wonderful treat to have them here and it went by way too quickly.

We did so much I am just going to give you the highlight reel and it will still probably end up as a long post (Roll your eyes A!)

It took Finnrito about 2 days to shift his body clock to Italian time zone. It took A and Z a little longer. The first night after their flight we took them out for some excellent pizza with our local friends. Then we went for gelato at one of our favorite local places, Gelateria Rigoni. With that pizza and gelato as the ones to beat we began our adventures of sightseeing and lots of food.

On Saturday we took them to Malcesine Castle in Lake Garda. It was unfortunately hazy but we still had beautiful views and the kids enjoyed their first taste of Italian sightseeing. And F enjoyed dipping his toes in the lake!

I should have prefaced this with A has been to Italy before, in 2016 she came with Will and I on a 10 day whirlwind trip of sightseeing in Florence, Naples, and Rome. This was Z’s first time across the pond and also Finnrito (being only 9 months old) hasn’t made it over here before. Honestly, I am not sure how much F cares other than his new found love for gelato. However, I did try and take his picture in front of several notable places so he could say he has at least been there (even if he won’t remember it.)

We tried for several down days, as anyone who has done extensive traveling with a baby knows your time schedule is much different than when you are on a marathon “see all the sights, eat all the food, drink all the wine” trip. Your marathon days get pushed to nap time, which is okay. I also want to say that Finnrito is seriously the best, most laid back, easy going, happy baby I have ever dealt with. I have already told the kids not to have any more children as their next will most certainly been the devil’s spawn. Heck, even if he missed nap time his melt downs were nowhere near as bad as mine are when I am hangry.

I did try and make yummy treats on our down days, cinnamon rolls one day and fresh croissants another. Got to keep up that “I am a good mom” image!

Monday we went to Asiago, Z has an interest in WWI history and Asiago is home to a beautiful WWI memorial that is the final resting place for 50,000 soldiers. We managed to stop for some cheese but our plans to head up to Monte Zebio to walk the trenches was a bust because of road construction, then we tried to go to Fort Corbin but it was closed on Monday. (Totally my fault for not checking the open and closing times and dates) The same held true for the WWI memorial and I finally admitted defeat. The area of Asiago is beautiful and we did get to show them a little of the town so it wasn’t a total loss but I had made grandiose plans in my head of all the things I wanted to show Z, so my disappoint probably outweighed his.

Tuesday we went to Verona, I had promised A that we could go to Juliet’s wall. They have been doing some clean up of the area but it is still covered in colorful messages, bubblegum, and band-aids (which sounds much grosser than it really is.) I had Z & A rub Juliet’s breasts for luck, then while F slept they took a turn on Juliet’s balcony. They also explored the Verona Arena (much like the Coliseum but smaller, however, still used for performances. But not the gladiator or lion eating people type.)

Finnrito and I hung around outside and I got his picture in front of the Arena, just in case he had to prove his visit to Verona.

Thursday we took a trip up to Marostica and made the kids hike to the castle. It was a warm day but they made it to the top. (It is a pretty steep climb) This is the city with the giant chess board but Finnrito only hung out with chess pieces his own size.

On Friday we left for Cinque Terre. A drive to La Spezia to catch a train into Riomaggiore. We stayed at a great Airbnb in town (though a lot of stairs to get to it.) After a fantastic dinner we called it an early evening because we were going to try and go to a bunch of towns the next day.

A quick side note – Not only is Finnrito a good baby, completely photogenic, and a great adventure/traveler but he is also a ridiculous flirt!! Seriously, I think he makes it a mission to seek out every woman in a 2 mile vicinity and turn them into grinning idiots! We used this shamelessly to our advantage in every restaurant we visited.

Early-ish the next day we jumped on the train at Riomaggiore and took it to the top of Cinque Terre. The farthest town on the Cinque Terre tour is Monterosso al Mare. As suggested by the name it is a beach town and even at the end of September tourists and locals alike were baking themselves in the sun. Brightly colored beach umbrellas and beautiful scenery prevailed and there was nowhere to look that wasn’t gorgeous.

It was supposed to be a town of shopping and beach laying and though the beached people were very much in evidence the shopping was not so much. After taking in the views we called it and headed back to the train station to hit the next town on the list, Vernazza. This is a much more narrow town, nestled into a valley and pushing its way down to the ocean. The beach area is very small (though F managed to dip his toes in the water) the little stores and shopping were much better than in Monterosso. With a patient Will, Z, and F my daughter and I wandered in and out of many shops looking for treasures. We found just a few but it was fun to look. The views of the ocean were great, the rocky shore adding a dynamic that wasn’t the same as Monterosso. We enjoyed our time there but all too quickly we were hopping the train to the next town, Corniglia.

Before I talk about Corniglia I should mention two things, first F weighs roughly 22 pounds and secondly Corniglia sits on top of the bluff. It is 365 steps up to the town. I was the one carrying F in the back pack carrier at this point. I huffed my way up all those steps, F just enjoyed the ride. Corniglia was also spectacular but different than the first two towns. It sat away from the water so you looked down into the ocean. Made up of narrow winding streets that were really meant more for pedestrians than cars. Little shops and trattorias are everywhere. We stopped at one of these places at the last moment to get some lunch and they very kindly served us even though it was 3 in the afternoon. Will and I had pesto pasta with beans and potatoes. It was out of this world tasty! 

After eating we wandered around a bit but decided it was getting late so we headed back to the train and Riomaggiore to spend the evening in. (At this point F had only taken two micro naps, less than a half hour each time so he was also done for.)

Saturday evening we ate what might have been the worst takeout I have ever had in Italy (or ever.) Greasy and not heated all the way through,  none of us made it through our food, opting for yogurt from the fridge instead.

The next morning (as if to make up for the previous evening) we got a great takeout cappuccino, some donuts and muffins and headed to the train for La Spezia.

We had decided to take a detour on the way home and show the kids Pisa (courtesy of Z pointing out how close we were and some Google calculations that said it wasn’t really too far out of our way.) They enjoyed the sites and we all had a good time rolling our eyes at the tourists angling for the perfect picture “pushing” the tower back up. I gave them the Campo Santo tour (it was one of the main research points on my last college paper and holds a place near and dear to my heart). We took F up to the top of the Basilica but wouldn’t let him climb over the railing. 

The next two days were down days but then, as must happen in all visits, we went to Venezia (Venice.)

Z and A really enjoyed Venezia. I assume F did too by the waitress he made goo goo eyes at while we had lunch. The only disappointment of the day was the loss of the hands. A sculpture titled Support  was put in place on the Grand Canal by artist Lorenzo Quinn. Will and I were lucky enough to witness the sculpture first hand (haha pun intended) in February but it was removed, to A’s great disappointment, in May 2018.

Despite that heartbreak it was a great day and we returned home to prepare for the kids leaving.

How did the time go so fast??

On Thursday we drove back to Milan and got one last hurrah in before the trip was finally over. We were able to experience The Last Supper, a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci in the late 15th century. It has suffered much damage, starting with Leonardo’s own decision to paint it as a dry fresco using experimental paint and pigments. It was also damaged by the humidity of the kitchen it abutted and the decay of the church due to wars, Napoleon’s sanction against the churches, and its use of as an armory and then a prison. In WWII it was almost destroyed when bombs caused the collapse of walls around it. Through all of this the painting remains but in such poor condition that they only allow so many visitors in a day for a fifteen minute peek at the famous work.

As with many other pieces of art and architecture that we have gazed or stood upon in our European adventures I was awestruck and admittedly a little teary eyed to be in the presence of something that was created almost 500 years before I was born. These moments speak to the historian in my soul and I continue to treasure them.

After that phenomenal experience we had to get some food and sleep so the kids could fly out the next morning.

It was with a heavy heart and tear filled eyes that I hugged Z one last time, gave Finnrito last minute snuggles and wrapped my arms around my daughter not wanting to let go. Too quickly they turned and headed for their gate and Will and I took our leave to drive home.

Though I am always and eternally grateful for the adventures and experiences provided by the choices Will and I have made in our lives my heart breaks to be 5,000 miles away from my family and no matter how long we spend together it will never be enough time.

On the bright side, the kids have seen where we live and can picture our lives as we describe them and I will continue to taunt them with pictures of my gelato every time we have the tasty treat.

Until next time

Ciao miei Amici

Nove, Venezia, and Caprino Veronese & Chickens, Gondola’s, and Italian 4’th of July

Ciao,

I did it again! Booked us beyond adventure full! Will and I have been so busy I am unsure of how to fit our lives into a blog. I mean, ya’all shouldn’t worry too much, next spring I go back to school and then my posts will become much more boring. So, I guess that means we should soak up all this craziness while we can!

I think I can (somewhat) safely say that we are in a lull until September, but I have thought that before and it has come back to bite me.

Let’s start with where we left off, for it certainly seems like our lives blend one week into another, never stopping.

Will’s high school friend (B) and her partner (M) came back to stay a couple of days. (I have to start identifying our friends by initials because we actually have a bunch of them. Seriously, how did that happen?) They had a whirlwind trip through Cinque Terre, Florence, and Sorrento before we picked them back up at the airport Monday night. In between good food and lots of drinks we managed to make it to Bassano del Grappa, Marostica, Venezia, and Nove to grab a ceramic chicken pitcher.

What?! you ask, why would anyone (apart from those who decorate with chickens) want a chicken pitcher. The short answer…so assassins don’t sneak in and kill you and your family.

Sounds confusing right? Who has to worry about assassins?

Well, apparently Giuliano Medici, though I am guessing thanks to their wealth most Medici’s had to keep a vigilant eye. The problem was that in 1478 Giuliano wasn’t as interested in keeping a vigilant eye as he was in throwing a lavish party. The Medici’s strongest rivals, the Pazzi’s used Giuliano’s playboy ways to their advantage and waited until he threw an epic party. So much wine was imbibed at this hoedown that everyone passed out drunk. The Pazzi’s knew this was the time to send in their assassins. Too bad they had hired themselves some discount assassins. The fools made so much noise sneaking up on the partiers that they roused the suspicions of every chicken in the courtyard. Now, anyone who has had chickens as pets, egg layers, or future stew knows that chickens are a bunch of busy bodies that can’t keep their mouth shut. (I mean, who hasn’t read the story of Chicken Little?) So, these suspicious chickens took to making a racket, like a bunch of old biddies woken from their slumber while they waited up with their shotgun for their daughter on prom night. The racket caused by the chickens was enough to wake the previously passed out guards. Giuliano’s guards were still better at their jobs drunk and hungover then the cheap assassins the Pazzi’s had hired and they killed all the would be killers’.

Giuliano’s was so pleased with the chickens that he threw another epic shindig. For this frolic he had the local artisans make wine pitchers that looked like chickens. He then handed them out to the local populace stating that the chickens were a sign of good luck when warding off assassins. I notice none of the credit was given to the guards, that still managed to save Giuliano’s butt while still intoxicated. It was probably this exact lack of favor shown to the guards that allowed the Pazzi’s to make good on their assassination attempt in April of 1478. Nowadays, chicken pitchers are given to friends and family to ward of danger and trespassers. (FYI there are some major problems with the story as a whole, because of the timeline and the city where this was all purported to have taken place no longer existing, but all in all in makes a charming reason to buy a pitcher that looks like a chicken.)

Chicken pitchers purchased we also took our M & B to Bassano del Grappa and Marostica but I told you about those places last week so I will skim ahead to the next day (which happened to be July 4th). The four of us went to Venezia (Venice) for the day. We started the whole day with a gondola ride. All four of us were gondola newbies, so it was a new adventure for all. Our guide, Cristiano, explained all about the history and construction of Venezia. I learned some really neat things about how to date the age of the buildings and how some canal passages are only accessible at low tide. It was a fun tour.

We spent the rest of the day milling around, looking for masks (it is what Venice is known for), eating and drinking (I don’t know if my liver will ever recover from their visit but I plan to flush it with good old fashion water for the next month or so just to be safe). We ended the evening  back at our place on the front patio eating typical Italian fare. Mozzarella, tomatoes, salami, fresh bread, olives, and more wine. We said a fond farewell to our friends Thursday, and prepared for the weekend.

Another set of friends (E & W) were hosting a Fourth of July party Italian style. What does that mean you might ask? It means BBQ with copious amounts of Prosecco, guitars played by locals (and Will) featuring music we knew and music we didn’t. Tongue twisters in two different languages, lots of laughter, more food, dessert, food, and did I mention Prosecco. (I’ll tell you a secret, I just kept filling my wine glass up with water so I didn’t have to worry about anyone adding Prosecco to it). There were only about 7 of us that spoke English, we were definitely outnumbered by the Italian speakers (who mostly only spoke Italian) but we made it all work and had a wonderful time.

We stayed the night in a charming b&b with a gorgeous view of a church on hill. Our hostess served us breakfast that included her husbands first place winning salami. Now, you all know how I feel about salami but I must have eaten close to a dozen slices of this homemade wonder. After breakfast we headed back down the hill to W & E’s place and then went on a hike with them through the woods close to their place.

 

There was an art in the woods event where local artists (I am assuming local) have created displays for one to happen upon as they hike along. Some we liked, some we didn’t but overall, it was really a neat display.

Finally we headed back home to try and get some sleep to mentally prepare for the coming work week. Honestly, I don’t know how Will balances the adventures I keep dragging him on with being so good at his job but he does manage and for that I am grateful.

It’s thanks to him that we get to have these wonderful adventures!

This week promises to be a little quieter (I think/hope) as I try and figure out how to harvest lavender seeds and try and decide on what kind of composter I want to build. Not as exciting as Italian Fourth of July but I do need some recovery time before our next guests arrive!

Until next week

Ciao miei Amici

48 Hours Part 2 – Where did the Week GO?

Ciao,

This week and weekend went by in a flash, like zip, smack, blam, oh heck it’s Monday morning already?!

I assumed (apparently incorrectly) that this week was going to end up being pretty mellow and I would get to tell you all about my last Sunday’s trip to Maristoca and Bassano del Grappa. And I will give you the highlights but dang, it is getting crazy up in Italy for the summer. I am going to need a summer to recover from my summer if we don’t slow down soon. (Hopefully, that will happen in another two or three weeks and then I can catch a breather before we have friends and family start showing up for the fall).

When I left you last week we had just experienced our first Italian block party and we had a good time. Sunday we grabbed another one of our friends and headed towards Marostica and Bassano del Grappa.

Both cities (maybe they are too small to be called cities…villages isn’t right because they are too big for that, I am going to settle on towns) are within 30 minutes of us. Marostica is known for its living Chess Match, which takes place every other year in September. Yep, I said living! People dress up as the king, queen, bishops, pawns and knights etc. and then are moved around a giant chessboard in the town square. And yes, we already have tickets. Marostica is also known for its cherries. Soooo tasty! We climbed up to the top of the Superior Castle. Ruins where they have a B&B, a restaurant, and I am guessing a venue for weddings. It was a hot and fairly steep grade climb but well worth it. (I managed to hike it in my sandals, if I can so can you). The views were spectacular. After a drink at the top and a hike down (some in our group called it easier but they weren’t wearing sandals) we found a place for some pizza before heading towards Bassano del Grappa.

I am guessing by the name alone you can guess what Bassano del Grappa is known for. That’s right!! Grappa! Many different varieties and flavors. Yeah, I know I don’t like grappa but I still like the idea of experiencing the history of it. Now, speaking of history, the Romans settled in the Bassano area around the 2nd century BC but artifacts that have been found in the town place inhabitants in the area as early as 7th century BC and some suggest people had settled here even earlier than that. The town was originally just called Bassano Veneto named after a 2nd century Roman called Bassianus. Obviously over many centuries it became identified as Bassano Veneto, part of the original name from Bassianus and then Veneto as the region it was located in. In World War I there was a terrible battle on Mount Grappa where thousands of soldiers lost their lives. In tribute to these brave men the name of Bassano Veneto was changed to its present name, Bassano del Grappa in 1928. The symbol of the town is a wooden bridge the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) (yes, there are many old bridges in Italy) or Ponte degli Alpini (Bridge of the Alpini). The Alpini are an elite force of soldiers that are known for their mountain fighting. The bridge was designed in 1569 by Andrea Palladio (the same man responsible for designing the majority of historical structures in Vicenza).

Our friends from Florida showed up Wednesday morning and we spent the day with them before turning them loose at the train station to make their way around Italy. (We pick them up tonight and I am sure there will be some shenanigans over the next three days).

Friday night we accidentally ended up in a Street Fest downtown Vicenza. How do you accidentally end up in a street fest you ask? Mostly because we didn’t know it was happening until we got down there and then tried to look for a restaurant for an hour and a half. After tentative plans to meet friends down there (they had a friend visiting from Germany) we realized there was a lot of music and people (A LOT of people). We finally managed to find food and then I saw a little girl with a balloon that had lights on it. (I have a penchant for balloons). (I know they are bad for the environment but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them). Well, these balloons were plastic not latex so they will be easy to recycle and the string was fairy lights. Will loves me (I mean he loves me anyway but he also indulges my silliness) and for the very large grin he received happily purchased me a balloon with fairy lights. BEST STREET FAIR PRIZE EVER!!!

The next night we went to dinner with the friend we took to Marostica, because he also had a friend in from Germany (not the same German friend, in fact an American friend teaching in Germany visiting friends in Italy) (Yeah, keep all that straight, I barely can)

On the way out of his apartment he accidentally left the keys in the lock inside the door. Locking yourself out of your house actually happens a lot in Europe. I have done it twice, I know Will has done it at least once (but I left a window open that time). The problem this time was the keys still in the lock, so even though he had a spare set it didn’t do him any good at 10:00 at night. Our friend and his friend became our first overnight guests. Ha! The best laid plans and all that jazz. But I had clean sheets for everybody and that was the important part (and new toothbrushes which I think earns me extra brownie points). Seriously, a couple of errands, a nap, some dinner and early bedtime where did my weekend go?

Several loads of laundry and a quick house pickup, floor sweeping madness later, I am ready for the next guests and some more adventures. Oh! Oh! Oh! We also have another party to go to this coming Saturday an Italian Fourth of July party (don’t try and figure that one out, you will just hurt your brain) Italians don’t need an excuse for a party but they will use every one they can. I can’t wait to tell you about this coming week. It’s going to be awesome.

Till then,

Ciao miei Amici

A quick note… this handsome little devil turned 6 months!!! Oh my goodness so much cuteness. I can’t wait until his Mama and Dad bring him for a visit in September! Love my nipote (grandson)!