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Call Me Crazy - I went to Italy with a Toddler , and Loved Every Moment (almost...) A Trip Report: Rome and Tuscany

Call Me Crazy - I went to Italy with a Toddler , and Loved Every Moment (almost...) A Trip Report: Rome and Tuscany

May 21st, 2006, 08:38 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,190
Great trip report - would you return to Italy in November? weather pros and cons? Thanks...
dorkforcemom is offline  
May 23rd, 2006, 08:09 AM
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Tana - you are crazy and and inspiration. I will help you with any questions you have, and I hope you post your own trip report!

dorkforcemom - that's a good question. It's hard to plan a trip around weather. In general, we had wonderful weather but I think we may try for a week or two earlier, like late October. But - prices are cheaper after Novermber, and the smaller crowds are worth a little rain. Plus, I don't like traveling in heat...Yes, I would go in November again.
mebe is offline  
May 23rd, 2006, 08:14 AM
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I am thrilled you are enjoying our trip. It's been fun putting my random memories into words. I hope to post some pictures soon.
Here's some more!

Day 8: Ahh…Tuscany

We woke up at dawn to the sound of chirping birds and a burgeoning blue sky. The three of us agreed to take it easy, unwind and let Ada run around. After breakfast we explored the grounds and Ada discovered the cat Antonio. We stepped out our door into neatly trimmed green grass, patios with pots of red geraniums and borders of rosemary and lavender, Olive and Cypress trees, and a forest of Pine and Oak the crept up the hill behind the resort. We walked up a gravel road that divided the wild forest from the rows of olive trees. From the top of the hill, you can see the outline of Pienza.

Ada took a long nap, I read a John Grisham novel in front of the fire, and DH volunteered to go back to the supermarket. (He wanted to test out his sports car on the curvy roads without his white knuckled wife yelling at him to slow down.) By 3:30 our traveling spirits were refreshed and we jumped back in the car to drive somewhere. Our drive took us through hills, several shades of green, some deep brown from freshly tilled soil, others had fresh sprigs of grass dappled through out, and the grape vines were golden yellow. It reminded me of home.

We ended up on an extremely curvy road that made zigzagged down a steep hill. DH took this opportunity to show off how well our car hugged the road as we zipped around each turn. Once at the bottom, Ada expressed her displeasure with her father’s driving by throwing up her snack of yogurt, and calmly declaring “all done.” We parked the car at the base of little hill town and I gave him the pleasure of cleaning her and her car seat. I took pictures of Ada’s road, was recognized it at once as one of the famous cypress lined road constantly photographed.
(I read about it on www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/cypress_roads.htm)

The town was Monticchiello. The streets were clean, the stone houses decorated with green shutters and red doors, geraniums cluttered the window sills and yellow grape leaves spiraled up the doorways. There was one restaurant full of locals on siesta. The town was almost empty except for a few tourists. There was this one old woman who walked by and looked as old as the stone in the walls. We smiled and she gave us this horrible scowl, until we passed and she saw Ada on Aaron’s back. She stopped walking, a smile burst across her face and she cried out “Bella! Bella!” and continued on her way.

We left after an hour of wandering and enjoying the view of the Tuscan hills at sunset. We made it back to our little home in time for dinner, some CNN International and another late evening of drinking wine and reading in front of the fire.

Day 9: San Gimignano and Lost at Sunset

Aaron wanted to go to San Gimignano after we watched the movie “Tea with Mussolini.” Recharged from yesterday, we set off for our next adventure.

I studied my Touring Guide Italiano Driving Atlas, and decided the trip would take us forty-five minutes. I was wrong. I hope someone can explain how anyone navigates through the area. Most of the roads don’t have names or numbers, but numerous signs all pointing to different towns and their distance down that particular road. If your destination isn’t on the sign, you have to quickly scan the map and pick on the mentioned signs nearest your route. Mixed in with the town signs are other signs for wineries, spas, hotels and restaurants; it’s a confused mess for someone who isn’t familiar with the area. However, I will admit I am not the best navigator, by foot or car, so perhaps my complaint has more to do with my own abilities, rather than Italy’s infrastructure.

We didn’t have driving problems until we reached Siena. On my map, the bold red line that indicated the main road we were driving dissipated into a squiggly yellow line cutting through the heart of Siena. We spent a few minutes driving around Siena until we found the turnoff onto another red line that led in the general direction of San Gimignano.

Our next mistake was to ignore the map and use one of those handy road signs that said San Gimignano with an arrow. Just because it mentions the town it doesn’t mean that’s the most direct way to get to the town. But it was a lovely drive on a littler road that cut through more hills dotted with villas and cypress trees. We saw the town in the distance and were relieved we made it, an hour later. We pulled into the empty parking lot, next to what I believed, from my Rick Steves map, to be the Rocca, an enclosed park. It had thick stone walls, an empty moat, drawbridge and turrets.

When we entered through the lowered drawbridge, we did not find a grassy field, but an entire town. What a shock! We kept walking with our jaws dropped, totally befuddled. This was not the Rocca, this was not San Gimignano. Back in the car, looking at my map, I discovered we were in Colle di Val d’Elsa, a different hill town, and south of S. Gimi. The town was lovely, and a perfect example of hill town completely hidden by massive stone walls.

Finally, we made it to S. Gimi and thankfully, we loved it. The town felt open and relaxed and it immediately transformed us from frazzled drivers into tranquil tourists. Still a lot of people, so I imagine it’s quite congested during “tourist season”. Our first stop was lunch, which we ate at an outdoor café next to Piazza del Duomo. While DH ordered us more paninis (these ones were exceptionally good) and coffee, I followed Ada around who found more pigeons to chase in the square. We sat next to another family, from England, who had a baby near the same age. Our children made spit bubbles s at each other while we all ate; people watched and absorbed the laid back ambiance.

We did a lot of trinket buying (salt and pepper shakers, wine stoppers, postcards of the road Ada erped on, and other knickknacks). I lusted over all the beautiful ceramic bowls and platters I couldn’t afford while DH and Ada wandered the streets. We also did a lot of gawking, at the towers, the arches, down the well and at those faded murals.

After a few hours we sadly headed home; our goal was to make it to at least Pienza before dark. Once again, the roads signs fooled us we lost our way in Siena. Instead of a marker with E78 on it (which is on my map) they listed three choices: Florence, Grosseto or Rome. Grosseto was too far east, Florence too far north so we chose Rome, guessing we would be shot back to the A1; a round about way to get home, but at least we would get home.

Big mistake came when one of those devious signs with a town name that looked similar to a small town we drove through that morning lured “quick thinker” off the road before I could utter a navigators protest. Yes, it was the wrong town, and the turn back to the main road was closed for construction. We took the “detour” through the lackluster town and ended up on a single lane road that paralleled the major road. This continued for a few miles, until our little road slowly drifted away into the Tuscan countryside, away from our needed road and civilization. Suddenly our road, which went straight into the horizon that blended in with the dusty, yellow fields surrounding us, and the pale yellow sky in front, took a drastic left turn. DH locked the brakes and made the turn, barely. When I looked at him to say one of my typical smart-ass comments, I noticed he looked ill. It was a close call.

The next half-hour we toured the green rolling hills of Tuscany, on a single lane road, behind a very slow student driver (our luck to be stuck behind a student driver in the middle of no where), with a setting sun and thick band of ominous fog creeping towards us in the horizon. I decided we would end up spending the night in our car, the future looked so bleak. But finally, we came into a town with a sign that said “Montepulicano” and my atlas agreed. By the time night hit and the fog smothered the valley, we could see our hill town in the distance. We pulled into the driveway, laughed a bewildered laugh, ate dinner and of course, drank more wine.

Day 10: Montepulicano

Another easy day, our only goal was to visit Montepulciano, and stock up at the grocery store. I should point out, we still don’t have a stroller. I strongly recommend a stroller when touring hill towns, because they’re hilly. A backpack was fine on the flat streets of Rome, but walking up hill on uneven cobblestones is exhausting, and puts a damper on the idea on exploring. Montepulicano was especially steep so we stuck to the main road. I regret not taking the time to wander off down the narrow allies covered by delicate arches that connected the buildings. Many such passages led to the edge of town with what looked like spectacular views, but like I said, we were (alright, DH was) weighed down and wasn’t eager to dilly-dally around. The backpack also prevented us from exploring the wine caves (cantinas), where they sold wine, had wine tasting and tasty munches to eat. DH’s profile was too wide to maneuver around the towers of glass bottles. However, despite these setbacks, we enjoyed the little town and all their shops. We bought presents for family (olive oil bottle and wine bottle opener), came upon a flea market in Piazza Grande, which sold “antiques” and products from Guatemala, including CD’s of traditional Guatemalan music, one of which they blasted through their radio and down the streets. At sunset we took pictures of persimmon trees heavy with orange fruit, marveled how the stone building turned apricot in color, and shivered uncontrollably from the penetrating wind. We left soon after, but not before the church bells rang, and Ada imitated with “bong… bong… bong…” My heart skipped a beat with pleasure at the thought she will always love the sound of church bells because they will remind her of Italy. I know, a bit far fetched, but perhaps the sound will remind her of a happy moment in her childhood.

Day 11: Abbey Tour, Mean Man and Pienza

We had hill town fatigue. Each town was beginning to blur together, and we were uninterested in trudging up steep hills to look at stone buildings, amazing vistas and buy more touristy junk. I searched my guidebook, and determined a route for visiting two abbeys.

High light of the day: WE NEVER GOT LOST!

The day began with a crisp, fall wind and the threat of rain. It was beautiful drive from Montepulciano to Montalcino, hills various shades of green and brown, villas dotting the tops with cypress lined driveways, and road signs every ten feet. DH and I joked that the “sign Union” must be powerful, because we saw signs for rockslides, deep ditches, the constantly changing speed limits, and all their variations depending if the road is dry, wet, covered in snow or hidden by fog, or just to warn you that speed limit will change but it will in a few kilometers. Plus, the massive clusters at all intersections for hotels, restaurants, ectera.

We drove right by Montalcino (no hill towns today!) on our way to Abbey Di Sant Antimo. No tourists, gravel road, quiet except for rustling leaves. No backpack needed since Ada could freely run ahead. The Abbey looked just as the guide book pictures promised, except the inside was completely covered in scaffolding. DH, who used to put the stuff together in his carpenter days, studied its construction, while I tried to peak around it. It turned into a short and sweet visit but also rejuvenated our urge to explore, so we set off Abbey Di Monte Oliveto Maggiore.

We traveled north and the rolling hills turned steeper and rugged, with exposed white ravines. This abbey was hidden within a cypress forest; obvious tourist spot with large paved parking lot, gift shop and restaurant. We hit the gift shop first and bought some Grappa (I was clueless that monks made alcohol) and small jars of honey. I also visited the dirtiest bathroom of the trip. I had to use a squat toilet; with all its mounds of you-know-what and I honestly believe it has never been cleaned. No toilet paper, or paper towels, and years of grime covered the sink. Top that off with a wet floor, and I was repulsed, and decided I needed to educate myself on Catholic Monks. I thought cleanliness was next to Godliness? Were women less Godly? DH debunked my theory when he told me that the men’s bathroom was just as gross.

We walked to the monastery down a charming, uneven brick lane surrounded by cypress trees. We saw many signs in Italian requesting visitors to be respectfully quiet, so we did our best to muffle Ada.

Exploring the monastery with Ada was impossible and I had an epiphany (about time!): why don’t we tour the inside separately? (all the cathedrals in Rome I missed…) I went first and enjoyed every peaceful moment – alone! The inner courtyard was covered in exquisite pastel murals. I didn’t bother looking at what the painting represented; I just blurred all the people together and drank in the soothing color. I shared the mural with a German couple, and the woman had the nerve to answer her cell phone and spend the next five minutes yelling a one sided conversation. If I can leave my child outside, she could turn her cell phone off - unbelievably rude.

I followed the wafting smell of lunch into the dining hall, and watched a monk set the tables. Next, up a staircase into a library covered with bookcases, the doors covered in glass, then onto the pharmacy, shelves lined with ceramic jars of medicine. There was also a painting of a mother and child and the woman’s deep eyes penetrated me. She was looking into me, as a mother. It was a beautiful moment that still brings tears to my eyes. I will never forget her.

DH took his own tour; while I followed Ada around the little court yard, desperate to keep her reasonably quiet. One monk that passed smiled and another frowned.

Starving, we went back up the brick road to the restaurant. It was dark and cozy inside, one large Italian family eating lunch and an American (or Canadian) couple in the opposite corner. Our waitress (who was apart of the Italian family) got up and offered us a table, and the “grandmother” also stopped eating and brought us a high chair, followed by a long sentence in Italian; I only recognized “bella bambina” and her warm smiles. I was nervous about eating inside (remember Rome?) but Ada did exceptionally well, and entertained herself with her toys and sugar packets.

However, the man half of the couple did nothing but give me looks of disgust. His eyes despised me for having the nerve to bring a child into a restaurant and ruin the end of his quintessential Italian lunch. It was the type of restaurant one hopes to experience, loud Italian family included. And I would understand his annoyance if Ada was running around the restaurant screaming, but she was sitting peacefully – so what was his problem?

The malicious glares continued and I was getting ticked off. I was trying to relax and enjoy my anti pasta but his rudeness hit a nerve. Thankfully, DH had his back to him, or there would have been an unpleasant confrontation. Instead of making a scene, (because it really did call for one of my rarely uttered “excuse me, a**hole, what’s your problem?”) and spent my time mentally mocking him for his shockingly white sneakers, jeans that were too short, button up shirt covered in brilliant tropical flowers and his unwillingness to say “thank you” or any other simple phrase in Italian. Who doesn’t at least say “grazie”? And, for a cherry on top, I watched his squirm with impatience when after the waitress took his plates, and he didn’t ask for his check, she sat back down to continue her meal with her family. He couldn’t believe it! And I loved it. He finally got her attention, paid, and thankfully, left. I continued my meal: pasta with bacon and tomato, DH got pasta with meat sauce, followed by an amazing berry tart, full of local berries that burst in your mouth. Best meal yet. An Italian man sat down near us, and entertained Ada with smily faces and peek-a-boo. We made pleasant conversation with the waitress who was warm and delightful, asked for our bill, paid and left totally satisfied and in love with Italy.

Even though we swore to skip hill towns, we couldn’t resist Pienza. Not only was it flat, but DH was obsessed with seeing the Duomo’s altar sliding the down the hill. (DH loves anything that involves construction). The altar was noticeably lower, and DH gawked in amazement and studied their methods of stabilizing it. We arrived during siesta so the streets were empty and shops closed. Faded murals still dotted stone walls, streets were flat so we took time to explore. Once the shops reopened, we bought some biscotti, fancy soap, postcards an stamps. Our goal was to buy Pecornio, but that goat cheese smelled too much like rotting mushrooms and sheep dung. I simply couldn’t get myself to taste it – a bit of a disappointment because I rarely meet a cheese I don’t like. We ended our visit with a romantic stroll along Via dell’ Amore, enjoyed another view of Tuscany at dusk; more spectacular than before, due to looming rain clouds.
mebe is offline  
May 23rd, 2006, 10:00 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 174
I love your description of your "Mean Man" encounter... don't you just love people like that. Ugh! And I like your mental mocking of him. Maybe you should have complained to him about his uncomfortable squirming, "excuse me, sir... would you mind keeping it down over there... you are disturbing my daughter!"

Give pecorino another chance... some of the aged ones have a strong scent, but there are also fresh pecorinos which are very mild. My kids love these, & I guarantee that you will too. Oh, and just so you know... it's a sheep's milk cheese, not goat.
amarena is offline  
May 23rd, 2006, 10:49 AM
Join Date: May 2006
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Thank you so much for this wonderful post! The stories made me smile, and even more excited (if that is possible!) for my first trip to Italy this summer! Thanks!
cherrytomato is offline  
May 23rd, 2006, 11:32 AM
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amarena - yes, sheep milk. My journal also corrected me, it was the smell of wet wool, not goat dung, that killed my appetite. Thanks! I will give Pecorino another try.
mebe is offline  
May 23rd, 2006, 11:39 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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such a nice thread, and a nice account about bringing your daughter. I ran into a couple in Corniglia who had their 4-month (!) old child with'em. They decided to use her maternity leave and venture out with the baby, including the hike from Riomaggiore to Vernazza... incredible! Perhaps Rome on the next trip to Italy...
ronin is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 01:14 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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Great trip report! I love your descriptions of the towns, the people (good and bad), and the driving -- they really evoke a sense of place. Keep 'em coming!
MB_Photog is offline  
May 30th, 2006, 11:49 AM
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Warm weather, an almost two year old and a great book have kept me from the computer.

Here is the last installment. Enjoy!

Day 13: Rain, rain and more rain…oh well.

We woke up to rain. At first it felt romantic: rain blanketing the hills around us, a roaring fire, and engaging books to read. By the afternoon, we had thundershowers, blustery wind, unrelenting rain, and the gloom set in. Our trip was a few days from ending, and all I could see in our future was soggy sightseeing, if we were lucky to anything at all. Thankfully, the clouds broke by nightfall and we went to slept gazing out our window at the moon and a few stars.

Day 14: I think we are in Assisi…

The rain left and heavy fog took its place. We could barely see beyond the cypress tree 50 feet out our window. But we were determined to get out and a little fog was not going to get in our way. We picked Assisi. We drove in dense white for two hours. We assumed Assisi was high enough that we would be surrounded by fog, but definitely not in it. We were wrong.

The fog was a novelty, at first. The narrow, curved streets were lined with white stone buildings that beautifully blurred into the horizon of heavy mist. We were transported back hundreds of years into a period film. We were little kids eager to run down the roads just to peak around each corner.

But our dreamy moment ended quickly with the strong urge to find a restroom. Our mission was hindered by massive roadwork. They tore up the main access into town; a steep, stone street was reduced to a two foot wide metal plank. We carefully walked down behind an older woman who was very nervous about falling into the massive pit (once road) and took her time. She took a very, long time. By the time we reached Piazza Comune, our restroom situation was dire. We followed the signs for Basilica St. Francis assuming a restroom was sure to appear along that route. As always, there are many paths to one destination, and we took the one that went up hill into a residential area - no bathrooms. Ada is whining and DH and I are crotchety and about to burst.

We made a hairpin turn and there it was: a neon sign flashing “café” with loud music and warm light pumping out the open door. DH headed straight for the toilet sign, and my rumbling stomach gazed at the pizza. My turn in the toilet, I return, and DH has ordered pizza and hot chocolate – unusual combination, but very tasty. It was the first time Ada had tasted hot chocolate and there is nothing like Italian hot chocolate. To celebrate we left her chocolate mustache on for the rest of day.

We continued our trek to the basilica, in the fog, and stopped at a small church on the way to the “real deal.” At least it looked small in the mist. I took the first tour, stared at the turquoise and blue ceiling, and then gave DH his turn, which took forever. He returned and informed me it was actually the Basilica of St. Francis (the literature in the basilica gave it away).The fog reduced this massive landmark into quaint church, eliminating the towers and arches. Since he saw both basilicas and the tomb, I went back to see the rest. The lower basilica was dark and muted and the tomb was quiet and solemn; you could feel that the walls were nine feet thick. (On a very frivolous side note, I received a lot of “male attention” while touring St. Francis’ tomb - a strange place to hit on a girl.)

After the Basilica, we literally wandered around for another three hours. We peaked in a few tacky trinket shops, and found nothing to buy. We also discovered St. Claire’s church, which was closed, but the outside was stunning. The church was constructed of perfect white and pink stripes, and white and pink checkers, bordered on one side with ice blue pools. We tried to find the Rocca Maggiore, the “big castle;” but those tricky Italian signs pointed us into a car lot, (I swear!) with no castle in sight. Assisi is very steep and even though DH and I took turns carrying Ada, her weight combined with the heavy moisture turned us very cranky, very quickly. We gave up on seeing any Umbrian vista, or any other significant sight, and decided to head back to the car and back home. The lowest point of our trip was driving down the hill, away from Assisi, and seeing the fog begin to clear from the town we just spend half a day wishing to see. We saw St. Francis’s entire Basilica, for the first time, from the back window of our car. The entire valley cleared within minutes, but I was too defeated to enjoy the view.

In hindsight, we should have shed our American need to “keep moving” and absorbed more of the Italian “just sit, wait awhile, it’s no big deal” attitude. If we had taken the time to sit, unwind, take a break, we would have enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day and Assisi in all its glory.

Day 15: Our last chance…Siena

This was the last day before we packed up and drove back to Rome and then on to home. We woke up to fog (will it never end?) and thought if we waited awhile it would dissipate. So we waited all morning, and still, thick, awful fog. We gave up, went to stock up on going home supplies at the store and then head off to Siena. The store was incredibly full of unperturbed people and their shopping carts, once again clogging up the aisles. DH and I bickered on what type of candy to bring home to all the nieces and nephews. We returned to the car, Ada was hungry, so DH fed her yogurt, and she flicked her spoonful on his pants. Now he had to go home and change (oh brother). When leaving, we stopped at the stop light on a steep hill and DH left it in third gear. He stalled three times, rolling back a little bit on each stall into the line of cars behind us. “Honey, you’re in third gear.” He went into first, moved into the intersection, then the light turned red, and he stopped. “You’re in the middle of a roundabout, you can’t stop!” He stalls again. I’m hysterical (I’m still giggling). He finally remembered how to drive and we set off for home.

My light mood is quickly weighed down by DH’s desire to take his sweet time eating a bowl of cereal while I anxiously passed the floor. An HOUR later, we FINALLY leave for Siena. Doesn’t he realize we have only one day left, and he just wasted a precious hour eating cereal? I could have killed him. But, he is the father of my child, and the driver, so I needed him to get us back to Rome.

When we reached Siena it was mid-afternoon. We simply didn’t have the time to fully enjoy this wonderful town. Alright, I was also horribly annoyed at DH and feeling rushed since it was our last day, so my mood partly spoiled any relaxed “Italian” experience. We toured the Duomo separately (the façade was completely covered in scaffolding). It was the first time I paid to see a religious building. I bought just the single ticket, and DH bought the more cost efficient ticket that also paid for the Duomo Museum and Baptistery.

I loved the Duomo. My favorite view was to stand in the front, on the side, and look across at the green and white stripes blur into each other. Plus, the Piccolomini Library was also worth a long visit.

Next was the museum, which we had to visit since DH got the special ticket. I complained that visiting a museum was impossible and that he wasted his money with a combo ticket. Thankfully, DH ignored my pessimism, grabbed Ada in the backpack, and a bite of sandwich, poked it in her mouth, and pulled me along into our first museum. We did a quick tour (sculpture doesn’t do it for me), giggled at all the shocked looks at a toddler in a “quiet place” and headed up to “Panorama del Facciatore.” DH barely fit up the spiral staircase and Ada stopped eating to comment. Since I stopped to admire a tapestry, I was at the bottom, while DH climbed his way to the top. I opened the door to the staircase and laughed a mother’s laugh at the happy sounds of her daughter and her husband having a conversation that echoed down an ancient stone staircase. Thank god DH forces me to look beyond my pessimism and enjoy myself.

I love a good view, and this one gave you the Duomo, the secular tower and Il Campo, all of the red roofs of Siena, plus the Tuscan hillside with a sky full of scattered clouds and low sun. It was windy (the fog was gone!) and freezing, but we toughed it out for a few photos, deep breaths of invigorating Italian air (which swept out all my ill feelings against DH), descended, toured the rest of the museum, the Baptistry and headed off for Il Campo.

Il Campo felt like a wonderful place to spend an afternoon in warm weather but it was freezing. Ada ran around until her nose turned red and began to run, I bought more trinkets and sampled panforte (the stuff we bought at our supermarket was cheaper and just as tasty) and we found a café with a view of the Il Campo, sat inside and ate pasta and coffee. The sun had set by the time we made our way through the town back to the parking lot. I wished we had an entire day to enjoy Siena’s vibrant energy. Another regret, but also another reason to return.

We sang to Ada for the two hour trip home, made one last fire in our little home, and packed up our bags for Rome.

Day 16: Rome and (sigh) Home

DH loaded Ada and the bags into the car and I took one last tour of our apartment. We made wonderful memories in this little space and I was sad to leave. But Rome called us and I was eager to get the drive behind us.

Because our flight was early the following morning, we decided to stay at the Hilton near the airport. It was expensive, but worth the money for the convenience. We figured we would arrive, unpack, and then leave to see Ostia Antica for the final stop of our trip. “Panicker” did not panic once, and we navigated Rome’s ring road without problems. We arrived at our hotel within two hours.

The hotel staff was incredibly helpful. The “bell boy” drove DH to our car in the parking lot, helped us load our luggage, then drove DH to the airport and showed him where to drop off our rental car. He also told us that since we had a child, the next morning we could request using the shuttle that was reserved only for pilots and flight attendants. We collapsed in our room, and let the last two weeks wash over us. We were exhausted. You know you’re truly tired when lying on a hotel bed sounds better than exploring an ancient sea port covered in volcanic ash. DH returned the rental car, we hung around the hotel, and made a practice run to the airport using the moving walkways. We ate dinner at the hotel (made a huge mess when Ada dumped her water), I called my Mom to tell her when to pick us up and we went to sleep.

Day 17: Going Home…

We skipped the shuttle and used the moving sidewalks without incident. We sat at our gate with other half-awake travelers, and watched the sun rise over the tarmac. Ada ran around gleefully, and I let her. I figured that the weary travelers would prefer her loud in an airport rather than loud on a plane. And I was right: once we took our seats, she fell fast asleep.

One interesting incident: we experienced a bit of “air rage” and yes, it had it be a young American woman causing the ruckus. She came on last and couldn’t find room for her two large bags in the overhead compartment. She complained to the flight attendant, a pleasant English man, that she always had this problem whenever she flew British Airways. He adjusted a few bags, she handed him her bag, and he said it was against policy to put the bag in, but he could assist her, in putting the bag in. Well, she had a fit and whined how difficult it was being a single woman traveling alone (give me a break!) and angrily attempted to shove in her bag. He tried to help but the space was too small. She violently pulled it down, with his hands still attached, ripped it out of his hands and screeched “You bastard!”

Our section of the plane stopped all conversation and stared. The young guy looked like he wanted to pummel her, but very politely replied in his lovely English accent “excuse me?” To make a long story a bit shorter, she gave a forced apology after having a “talking to” by the head flight attendant. When we excited the plane, two security guards took her aside and we never saw her again. She was the only excitement on an otherwise uneventful trip back to San Francisco.

I am satisfied. All expectations met.

Those are the last two sentences of my journal. Of course I didn’t see it all, and some days weren’t as exciting or fulfilling as other days. But that’s life. Traveling isn’t about just the goods times, it’s about absorbing a new experience.

My Advice for Other Crazy Parents:

Do what is best for your family. Ignore those people who give you nothing but horrors stories (told to them from a friend of a friend) of traveling with small children. Research well, over pack, keep your options and minds open. Share all child responsibilities with your partner. Sneak in some alone time. Try to relax and enjoy the small moments. See your destination through the eyes of your child. Laugh a lot.

I am already dreaming about our next adventure. Since I am pregnant with our second child, it’s at least two years away, but I figure within that time, I will gather enough nerve to travel with two small children. And I promise to write a trip report.
mebe is offline  
May 30th, 2006, 03:52 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 287
Great report! Brought back wonderful memories of our trip to Tuscany and Rome. We were on our last 2 days this time last year.

Thank you for sharing!
mv_rd is offline  
May 31st, 2006, 02:42 PM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 2,850
Well, the last paragraph brought tears to my eyes. Congratulations and thank you for sharing your family experience. Ada and the chocolate moustache is precious!

Enjoy your little ones while you can. They grow quickly and those memories will mean even more to you then.
LCBoniti is offline  
May 31st, 2006, 04:07 PM
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Thanks LCBoniti. I don't think we will traveling any where soon. We found out today we're expecting twin boys. HOLY COW!
mebe is offline  
May 31st, 2006, 04:18 PM
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Twins! Congratulations!!

I enjoyed every second of your trip report.

AnselmAdorne is offline  
May 31st, 2006, 04:19 PM
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Oh Wow mebe!!! Congratulations, and I sincerely mean it! What a busy but fun life you will all have. I haven't read the balance of your report yet but saw your post and just had to post here to tell you that your news has me smiling from ear to ear. I have had several friends that have had twins..all very happy families.
LoveItaly is offline  
May 31st, 2006, 04:21 PM
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Twin boys?! Congratulations - I sense a lot of nervous pigeons in your future!

We did a trip much like yours when our daughter was 11 months old. Your joys and frustrations brought back many similar memories, particularly the restaurant experiences.

We went to Paris when our children were 5 and 2-1/2. Your comments on ignoring the negative comments about traveling with little ones are right on. I truly enjoyed reading your posts.
laughingd2 is offline  
May 31st, 2006, 04:31 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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Have a great trip. Disneyland Paris is fun, even if you've been to WDW. I don't know why many people think it's odd to go while in Paris if you're from the states. It's only a day, only a short train ride, and it's interesting to see the differences, cultural and otherwise - for example, Space Mountain is MUCH better in Paris, but don't try and line up and wait seperately for the front row once at the ride itself (which is the norm here in the states), they'll think you're nuts!

john127 is offline  
May 31st, 2006, 05:13 PM
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Wow, mebe, what a great report. I loved your trip summary.

Congratulations on your pregnancy times two! We have 2 boys (not at the same time) who keep our lives hopping, but they are such fun. Never fear, you will be traveling again soon - in the meantime, enjoy these special times. Three little ones won't mean no travels, just an accommodation in your planning and attitude which you seem to have already!

Thanks for such a real and personal report.
fun4all4 is offline  
May 31st, 2006, 05:18 PM
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Oops, my previous post was meant for another thread - sorry!
john127 is offline  
May 31st, 2006, 05:25 PM
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THanks for your report and congratulations! Aren't you even happier that you squeezed in your trip to Italy?!!
welltraveledbrit is offline  
May 31st, 2006, 06:58 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
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Hello again mebe, I so enjoyed the balance of your trip report. Isn't the fog terrible? I am use to fog but the fog in Italy is really scary, particularly when one has to drive in it.

I would imagine you and your DH (he sounds like a real great man) will be taking lots of trips with your three children! And no doubt you will return to beautiful Italy. I would also imagine that Ada will be a beautiful "big sister" to your her little twin brothers. They will be a perfect age difference, I bet she ends up spoiling them rotten.

My very best wishes to you and your family. And I hope you will let us know when your two little angels arrive! Take good care and dream beautiful dreams while you await their arrival.
LoveItaly is offline  

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