Our summer so far has been intense, in a very good way. We hit the ground running just two days after the kids got out of school with a family trip to Maui. We were home for just over a week, and then M and I delivered the Princess to a friend’s house and the boys to my brother while we flew away to Italy for ten days. We got home yesterday morning. I’m dead tired. I’ve had so many thoughts, blog posts floating through my brain frequently over the last three weeks.
Italy was simply incredible. I’ve never been to Europe before. I was a little anxious, but also beyond excited. You hear so much about the pickpockets and scammers, especially in Rome. Honestly, we remained aware but it wasn’t near the issue I worried it would be – granted we did see a guy two metro cars down get pick-pocketed as he boarded the train. But we were never accosted by the gangs of kids we’d been warned about. We were, for the most part, treated respectfully. The few incidences of rudeness were quickly overlooked. Americans do have a reputation, and we are visitors in their home country.
Rome was huge, crowded, loud, and yet breathtaking with its ancient history. I loved just walking down the street and suddenly coming across a building or wall that was over 2000 years old. Sights I’ve only seen in books, movies or tv shows were right there before me. I touched a wall of the Colosseum and got the chills. We walked through the Forum and could just picture how bustling it must have been way back when. We stood, triumphant, at the top of the Spanish Steps. I cried when I saw the inside of the Sistine Chapel. I was in awe at the size of St. Peter’s Square. Trevi Fountain was all it was purported to be. And yes, you do take your life into your hands when you step off any street corner. Lane lines and signals are merely suggestions for drivers and pedestrians alike. We must have walked twenty miles in three days, if not more. We shopped the Fashion Triangle through a thunderstorm, and watched as the wall of rain came at us along a small street.
Tuscany…..I fell in love. The hills, the vineyards, the sunflower fields, the castles, the olive orchards, the beautiful stone houses, the food, the wine. We stayed in the little hilltop town of Montalcino. At least once a day. we climbed the steep steps up the hill to the piazza for food, shopping, cappuccino, gelato, or wine. The view was beyond description. I vow to go back someday and stay much longer so I can completely take it in. The area of Montalcino is best known for its Brunello wine, made from Sangiovese grapes. There are over 200 wineries, each following the strictest of rules to make official Brunello. The wine sits in barrels for three years, and bottles for two years before it can be released. And it is worth it. I loved the pace, the smells, the sights of Tuscany. We took in Siena, and the small town of Pienza. I can see why so many books are written about Tuscany, why it is so romanticized. I can’t wait to go back someday.
We took the train from Florence to Venice for an overnight stay. Venice is all it’s cracked up to be. It was jammed the day we arrived as there were three cruise ships in port. Narrow passageways were jammed with people. Bridges were full of tourists taking photos. The Grand Canal was, well, grand. We walked to St. Mark’s and were overwhelmed by its size. We popped in Harry’s Bar for a bellini (Harry’s Bar is one of the top bars in the world. Tiny in size, huge in atmosphere and history, the bar opened in the early 30’s. The bartenders and waiters wear white tuxedo jackets. And the drinks are pricey, but it was worth it). We wandered, and wandered and wandered, frequently “lost” but loving it. We sat along the Grand Canal for a snack and glass of wine. We took a gondola ride at sunset. We squeezed through the crowds to get across Rialto Bridge. We wandered, frequently lost but loving the experience of seeing all of Venice. We breakfasted at a cafe in a square full of locals, listening as they greeted each other over tables full of espresso and pastries. We were surprised at the extreme quiet of the city after 11pm. We took in the reality of moving goods around a town with only pedestrian walkways and canals.
On our way back to Rome from Tuscany, we of course missed the turn to get on the “big” Auto Strade, and ended up on a small, two-lane road that landed us by a gorgeous lake. The view alone from the top of the hill overlooking the lake was worth the extra hour it took to get to Rome.
I am home, and can’t believe the trip is behind us. We are both struggling with exhaustive jet-lag. We are so happy to be back with our babies, who had their own adventures while we were gone. I am desperately trying to get back to some sense of normal, while severely lacking any motivation. There is a huge sense of culture shock in the size of our shower. Seeing big semis, SUV’s and minivans was overwhelming Saturday night as we drove from San Francisco to my brother’s house. I have twice tried to plug my cell phone charger in with the European adapter. I have a coin purse full of Euro coins. Gifts have been delivered. Laundry done, but unsorted and sits on my bed. I find myself missing the crazy bustle of Rome and Venice, and the beauty of Tuscany. I am so thankful for the experience. I have inspiration to revisit the history of Rome, Tuscany, and Venice, fictional and otherwise. I am glad we are home now to begin our traditional part of Summer.