the trip was a nice pace and we saw a lot in our time there, considering we were towing my almost two year old along the whole time. I have to say, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better internationally traveling twenty two month old than my son. I will give this kid props for the rest of my life for being such a rockstar on our trip. hours and hours and HOURS in a planes and trains and taxis with jet lag and luggage to lug and language barriers is never fun. it's hard enough for grown adults to keep their shit together under those circumstances and I knew that expecting my toddler to was insane. I also knew, however, that if any kid could do it, it would be my kid. were he not such an adaptable child, I would never have thought to bring him halfway across the world on vacation. somehow I just had a feeling that he could pull this off and he totally did. he is such a champ. he is the best.
our first five days were spent in FLORENCE. beautiful, beautiful Firenze. on our last trip I wanted to sob as our train departed Florence because I already missed it. I wonder if as I see more of the world if I'll still regard Florence as my favorite place. I really, really, really love it there.
highlights of our Florence stay:
- our old world, adorable rental apartment, with it's view of the duomo from the windows
- the food! including a new trattoria across from where we were staying. the owner was so sweet to van and gave him complimentary biscotti both times we ate there.
- taking a night walk with tony only to find the coolest cover band in the world was playing a small club right on our same street. I was lured in by their cover of "stay with me" by rod stewart and stayed long enough to hear them cover wilco! so crazy. they were adorable.
- watching van chase birds around the boboli gardens.
- our dinner at café academia on a recommendation from an old friend. van pinched his fingers between the table and his high chair and the whole restaurant about stopped functioning. the wait staff rushed to bring him ice and kiss his hand! they brought him a bowl of strawberries and a cookie, and later gave him a cup of juice with a little straw. as customers filed out after their dinners (and long after van had stopped crying) they came by to pet his head and make sure his hand was okay. it was the sweetest display I've ever seen. Italians LOVE babies.
- a day trip to pisa and lucca, where I had the best bruschetta of my life.
next up was ROME. my italian family lives 5-6 hours south (by train) from rome. if we didn't have to essentially pass it to get to my family i would not have chosen to visit there again. i liked rome last time, but once was enough for me. i feel like i saw everything there was to see there in 2010. it's a great city, but it's really big and really busy. it's the opposite of quaint.
highlights from rome:
- our beautiful apartment! it was located in a neighborhood pretty far from any tourist attractions, which is probably why it was so affordable. we didn't mind though, since it was literally only steps away from the metro station which takes you anywhere you need to get to. the apartment was decorated beautifully and the owner was so sweet and accommodating. we adored her and her little son silvestro, who is only a month older than van.
- the collosseum and the roman forum. it's such a trip to be somewhere so old!
- the capuchin crypt. just, wow.
- the trevi fountain - van probably threw 5 euro in there.
- dinner at da mario. my cousin nicola's cousin works there with his brother. we had the best meal there on our last trip and knew we had to go back. marcello hooked it up once again with course after course of delicious food. my favorite part was the tempura battered zucchini flowers.
after three busy days in rome we headed south to the region of calabria. my family hails from a rustic little village outside of cosenza called TORANO CASTELLO.
highlights from torano castello:
- the spectacular enormous moon that shined over the village the first nights we were there. it was gigantic! i've never seen anything like it.
- getting to meet little angelo, my cousin's baby. van loved him too. he was a friendly little thing, and has the best head of thick black hair.
- speeding around the village streets in nic's tiny car, going from house to house to greet family members. every place we stopped a relative attempted to give us something...wine, beer, coca cola, cookies, cake...
- dinner at my granddad's cousin elena's house. we had salami, bread, olives and peppers first. next was the rigatoni in tomato sauce with short ribs. then out came the breaded cod, broccoli rabe, roasted potatoes and risotto balls. last was salad, followed by fruit and coffee. ridiculous! so much food, and everything was fresh and delicious.
- dinner at my granddad's cousin sante's house. getting to meet sante's grandson and namesake who is just a little older than van. his wife prepared a huge meal similar to Elena's, only with home made pasta and meatballs instead of ribs and cannolis for dessert. nic translated sante's wife's recipe for these really delicious pickled peppers everyone there makes. I can't wait to try do it myself! we ate and drank and passed around old letters, cards and photos that my great grandfather had sent to his Italian nieces and nephews that they saved all these years!
- on our last night in the village our family threw us a little pizza party at my granddad's cousin's bar/restaurant. a friend of the family came with his son and brought two accordions and a guitar! they all took turns passing the instruments around and playing songs.
- a vacuum packed sopressata my cousin sidaro handed me as we were leaving, for me to enjoy back home in California. :)
we left torano castello via a 5 hour train to rome. we boarded our plane that evening and arrived in PARIS!
while our apartment's location was fantastic, the actual dwelling left a lot to be desired. it was up four flights of stairs that smelled like the water from a carnival ride. the apartment was itty bitty - smaller than it appeared in the photos on air bnb, and with lots more clutter. oh well. we were only going to be there for two nights and one day. we'd survive.
here our my highlights from my day in Paris:
- literally turning the corner past our apartment and seeing the top of the Eiffel tower.
- the Eiffel tower! duh! we went and saw it first thing and it is amazing.
- the store fronts. Parisians take such care in making things look beautiful. the baked goods look so pretty lined up in the windows of the patisseries. the dry cleaner displayed a vintage dress form with a chic coat. the florists fill the windows and street outside the shop with flowers organized by color. the cafes and restaurants are each decorated in their unique way, with big signs out front in cool fonts. you can tell just by taking a quick jaunt around the neighborhood that beauty and style play a big part in Parisian culture. I appreciated that very much.
- our funny waiters at the café where we had our first French meal. I had bœuf bourguignon. the bread it came with was SO good. probably the best bread ever, and i'm a lover and eater of bread so I feel pretty qualified to make that judgment.
- taking a walk in the 9th and stumbling upon block after block after block of music stores! a store of guitars next to a store of recording equipment next to a store full of pedals next to a store of drums...it went on and on forever. tony was in heaven.
- dinner at chartier, on a recommendation from my boss. he goes there every time he is in paris, and i'm so glad he told me to make the trip out there. I guess it's a bit touristy and doesn't offer anything mind blowing, but the atmosphere is fun and the building that it's in is totally charming.
- taking van on the carousel at the Eiffel tower after dinner and watching it twinkle with lights for 5 minutes at the top of the hour. it was literally marvelous. I could stare at it forever.
we arrived at SFO last Wednesday afternoon. my brother in law took us to get Mexican food on our way home. you can take the Stizzos out of California, but you can't take the California out of the Stizzos.