Earlier this year, when my aunt and uncle from California mentioned they would be taking their gang of 8 to Italy to see the rest of our family – my great-aunt, her son and daughter and their families – for the first time and invited us along, we jumped on the opportunity! I love my aunt, uncle and cousins dearly, and chances to see the Italian side of the family have been few and far between in recent years, so it wasn’t a gathering I wanted to miss. And, as Troy was booking my flight, he even decided to jump in on the fun and booked himself a seat, too!
We spent the days touring villages, towns and cities nearby and evenings enjoying the most delicious dinners and company. With the group ranging anywhere from about 15 to 25 people for any given activity or meal, I was repeatedly amazed by the ease and joy with which activities were planned and meals provided. (Believe me, I was taking notes …E alone is enough to wear me out some days, but both Francesca and Julie have five kids – one with a set of twins and the other a set of triplets! – and are such an inspiration to me as mothers, citizens and doers!)
The tours. Lucca, Vinci and Florence. Our first day together was spent in Lucca, a walled city with beautiful architecture and rich history. The group rented bikes to tour the town, starting on the tree lined city walls with gorgeous views and winding back through the city streets. I was disappointed not to join in on the fun as E fell asleep on the way to the rental shop but was elated at the chance to sip frappucinos and catch up with Francesca at a nearby café instead! Within moments of ending the bike ride, a storm hit Lucca with incredible winds and downpours, so what did our team of 19 do? Hide out in a gelateria and eat ice cream, of course!!
Sunday, we took an afternoon drive to Vinci, birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, to visit museums displaying models of his many inventions and see spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside. It’s amazing how many world-changing ideas one man can have! This is the first museum we’ve been to since E was born, and we were quickly reminded how much our world has changed in the last year…she gave us a tour of the models in her diaper! Sorry if we embarrassed anyone in the group…Oops! ;) We finished the evening with fabulous food and a World Cup win for the Germans!!
Monday started with dark clouds and heavy downpours, but we pressed forward with our plans to visit Florence. We boarded the train in Lucca and a little over an hour later found ourselves in beautiful, sunny Firenze. We had a quick lunch and walked the city a bit before splitting in to groups to tour the Cathedral and Galileo Museum. Troy, E and I decided to roam the streets and feed the baby instead and met everyone again in time to walk the romantic Ponte Vecchio bridge.
The food. SO MUCH GOOD FOOD. I couldn’t even tell you everything we ate, but it was all delicious. Authentic Italian pasta, a variety of delicious salads, meats and cheeses, gorgeous tomatoes and melons, homemade ice cream, breads and cakes. The list goes on and on and on. We were happy. Ella was even happier, and I don’t think will ever return to baby food again. While I know it was a great deal of work to feed so many mouths, I am in awe of how easy the Parisis and Franceschinis made the task look! (THANK YOU!) I took plenty of notes and immediately turned around to feed my guests at home a miserable attempt at some of the same mouth watering meals. Cooking lessons are on my list of to-do’s for the next trip!!
The language. Despite all of the time I spent studying Italian through the Instant Immersion language set Julie gifted me for Mother’s Day, we still encountered a few language missteps along the way. Troy’s morning “Latte” was a little more “cold milk” than “coffee,” and the gas station pump was still impossible to figure out without the help of a kind Italian woman who came to our rescue (or just got really tired of waiting on us). On the other hand, it was so much fun to once again see kids of all ages trying a different language and so easily finding ways to communicate despite a language barrier!
The company. We had a wonderful time with all that family. There is nothing quite like activities, conversations and simple togetherness with so many people you love. The joy to be had and knowledge to be absorbed is so great with this group that we didn’t stop smiling, talking and listening all weekend. It is so nice to be a short flight away from Italians again, and we enjoyed introducing E to them as they also spent a good deal of time with me when I was little. We were also very excited to see my grandmother and the Californians as Troy, E and I don’t know when we will be back in the US for now!
Our little family flew out Tuesday morning. We were sad to leave the party early but decided to soften the blow with a very quick stop at the beach on the way to the airport – we were already running late, eek! One thing led to another, and within a minute of hitting the sand, we couldn’t help ourselves but strip E down and let her enjoy the water to the fullest. Less than ten minutes later, we were dried off, making a stop at a fabulous Panini shop for lunch and headed for the airport again. There are worse places to miss your flight, right??
We left feeling like the trip was much too short and are looking forward to another excursion south soon! It’s good to be back in Europe!!