A Travellerspoint blog

Festa della Mamma

A day in Monopoli

may 9th
Yesterday was "Festa della Mamma" in Italy, party for Mamma. I like that wording better than Mother's Day; and in Italy, they do throw family parties for this occasion. We took our car and drove out of Alberobello, destination: the sea. We drove to Monopoli to check it out, and mainly, to get out and smell the fresh, salty sea air. I plugged a random point into the GPS and we arrived forty five minutes later, at a park on the coast. We got out to stretch, while Bodhi was still sleeping in the car, and I instantly loved this place. It is ancient with its fortress of light stone walls seeming to hold up the city against the green foamy waves. It looks like an acropolis, a hodge podge of ancient Roman ruins, Greece (or what I imagine Greece to be), Hawaii with its dramatic rocky cliffline, and South America with its rectangle block apartment buildings and newer city beyond. There is graffiti all along the park walkway by the city, and I imagine it is the teenage hangout for the region. I see young couples kissing on benches, families, and old Italians strolling. Everyone looks at us with odd expressions. They do not know us. We are not from here. We try not to stand out as Americans, try to blend in, but this town is small and so we are foreigners nonetheless. We try our Buon Giorno's... then they know we are not Italian tourists, but some other kind. I hear people calling to others on the beach, Ciao Maria, Ciao Beppe. Everyone is known here. We walk to a bed and breakfast called Bella Vista. We ring the buzzer. No answer. So we decide to try out our new Italian prepaid phone and dial the number. Chris attempts: "parla Inglese? Si. Do you have a room for tonight? Yes, I am here, yes, we will wait." He gets off the phone, and the man is coming down to show us the room. It is expensive, but maybe a splurge for tonight, if it's worth it. It IS Mother's Day after all. He sees the room while I am walking Bodhi around the cobblestoned old town. It's beautiful, he says, we will take it. I can see in Chris' eyes that it's a good one. The owner helps us haul in our bags, and I gasp at the view. There is one open window in the room, the view is all sea. I see aquamarine waves and cloudless sky. It is a perfect day, full sun and warm, like I imagined Puglia would be. We settle in and then set off for lunch at a recommended place directly on the sea, called Lugo Bianco. It smells of salt and fish and moist wind. I love it here. The menu is in Italian, "I am sorry for that" the waiter says. The fish and shellfish are all out on display, freshly caught right outside the window. Chris picks frutta di mare (mixed shellfish) all raw with nothing but lemon. They are amazing. We order prosecco, and Chris takes Bodhi for a stroll to take a nap while I sit and enjoy on Mother's Day. It is such a festive atmosphere. The restuarant is humming in a literal roar with people, families, big groups ordering food, wine, dolci, and sitting for hours.
A perfect Sunday, all day spent eating, talking, all dressed up after church. I watch them for a while, trying to decipher bits and pieces of conversations, and make friends with a boy nearby. We talk in sign. He asks, 'where's the baby?' 'Going to sleep', I mime. Then Chris is back and we have fresh pasta with fish and vegetables, then a tomato soup-based fresh fish. Then sorbetto. Everything is wonderful and indulgent. We leave the restaurant somewhere around 4pm. We stroll the old town and the main piazzas, seeing people out and about everywhere, eating gelato, having espressos, talking animatedly. We venture into a cafe for some aqua, since no stores are open on Sundays. Everything is shut down so Italians can spend their family day. We will have to make due for dinner at the apartment. We eat up on the terrace after I get the baby to sleep. The waves are glistening and pale. I can hear them rush against the rocks. It feels so romantic, and I know this already will become one of my favorite places we stay. Wonderful, magical day.

Posted by globalmomma 07:53 Archived in Italy Tagged food beach day italian mother's monopoli Comments (0)

The Necessity of a Cellphone

Some nights of travel are perfect, where you have a nice meal at a cozy restaurant, trying local specialties and wine, soaking up the ambiance with a content baby eating puffed cereal in his seggiolino (high chair). Other nights can be like this one. I am waiting for my husband Chris to arrive home at the trulli apartment, after a long trek by train and bus to pick up a rental car for us, while the baby and I stayed behind. It's 9pm, and I am fixing whatever we have at the apartment for dinner, which happens to be baby food size pasta (tiny pasta alphabet!), canned white beans, olives and pesto, with salad. We won't starve but it won't be good.

I am sick with nerves waiting for Chris. Always when we travel, we travel together. But with a baby involved it got complicated...do we both shlep to the rental car place, causing issues with naptimes, etc, or does he do the horrible errand while I stay behind for the nursing and naptimes? So, he went ahead while we stayed at the apartment.

I walked up to the 'new' section of Alberobello this afternoon and bought a prepaid cellphone after he left, and I realized, good God, I have no way to reach him to know if he is OK. Nor he, us. At least he knows where B and I will be, but it is still nerve-wracking and entirely senseless. We didn't exchange numbers. He may not remember the address of our place. I don't know which rental car place he was going to. We were entirely too nonchalant about the whole thing.

I now humbly understand a little of how my mother feels about this situation. She feels uneasy when she doesn't know exactly where I am going to be. At least what city I will be in. Now that I am alone in one city, and my husband is two hours away in another city at night alone, I understand that feeling of helplessness and insecurity. What if? What if something were to happen and I couldn't find him? I don't care anymore how much it costs, just get a phone so there is a way to be in contact. I have heard my mom tell me this time and time again. This time, I get it, and I spent 70 euro today just to prove the point. No cost is too much for this security of being able to reach the ones you love. OK, now I get it.

Ahh, and just as I am writing, and starting to reach a level of panic (He has been gone exactly one hour longer than I predicted it would take him)... a knock on the door. Yes, my heart can relax, he is home. Time for baby pasta pesto zuppa, made with amore.

Posted by globalmomma 13:23 Archived in Italy Tagged travel rental car phone cell separation alberobello Comments (0)

Our time in a trulli

sunny 32 °C

I have begun writing this blog about our time here for a summer in Italy...in hopes that it will evolve into a book or something wonderful. Also to interest anyone who wants to know Italy, as we will be traveling the country from heel to crown. I have noticed with traveling already that we are a rare breed, venturing 'on the road' indefinitely with a one-year-old. I guess it never struck me as odd, or that particularly adventurous. It was just something we wanted to do, or more like it, felt it was something we had to do.

People look at us with some mix of admiration, confusion and sometimes pity, when they hear our developing story. We left all of our things in storage in Seattle. We booked a ticket to Rome. We plan to stay for our allotted 90 days to the dot, or more, if the authorities let us. Some think we are crazy. Some days we wonder what we are thinking, or what the next stop will be. But so far, it is working for us. An adventure worth taking.

Today we sit in a magical little town filled of Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with ancient pagan Trulli homes. They are cone-shaped dwellings that are only in this particular region of Puglia. The cutest things, they are all white houses with cone-shaped stone roofs. We are staying overnight in one of these little trulli in the old town called "Rione Monti". Absolutely one of the most unique places I have ever 'dwelled in', and certainly a one-of-a-kind and uncommon place, that is surely worth a day or two on your itinerary to Italy.

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Posted by globalmomma 12:51 Archived in Italy Tagged town houses white stone old trulli monte puglia alberobello alpha apulia Comments (0)

Arriving in Bari

May 5th

Today we flew from Rome to Bari. Let me put it very simply: Bari is ugly. There is nothing much to see except for the amazing sea views you can catch and the olive trees lining the roads. Other than that, the buildings are rundown communist-looking structures. Plain square buildings with small windows in pale tones. It's not inspiring or quaint here. If feels more like Spain or South America than Italy, but I cannot describe it's essence. Only that it is sunny, dry, dusty and there is only tan stone and cream colored buildings. And arriving here from Roma, everything seems utterly SILENT. In comparison, it's peaceful and slow. Puglia, here we are. We have no idea what to expect, but I think, once we get out of the larger port city, we will like it here.

Posted by globalmomma 06:08 Archived in Italy Tagged italy puglia bari Comments (0)

Roma

Our first day in Roma was wonderful, crowded, tiring - like the city itself.

We ventured onto the city bus from our rural apartment near the Vatican, and rode it downtown without any particular agenda. We got off at the final stop, the end of the line. We had no maps, no pre-read lists, no clues where to begin. We only have our memories from our last trip here 9 years ago. Oh yes, the gated ruins with all those rescue cats, the colisseum, a big palace, a group of teenagers on a bunch of crowded steps.

We walk and observe the signs pointing tourists to their most likely destinations. Spanish steps (piazza di spagna), Piazza Navona, Fontana di Trevi, St. Peter's Basilica, the Colisseum and Roman Forum... It all begins to come back into awareness as we traipse around the city. We navigate the small streets and cobblestones pretty well with our junky battered Graco snap-n-go stroller, but I wish I had a better equipped stroller with big jogger wheels as I begin to get blisters on both thumbs from gripping too tightly. Part of this gripping is due to the bumps of the cobblestones, and the other part due to the extremely narrow sidewalks which come entirely too close to motorists zipping past.

Funny how the noise, the energy, the commotion, does not seem to bother me here. In fact, I like the hum. Meanwhile, I am sorry New Yorkers, I despise New York City. I don't like the grime, how dirty everything feels and looks, the frantic energy, the traffic sounds, the headaches, the cramped spaces, crowded streets, the busy unhappy people... but here, the energy feels different to me. More alive, more positive. I don't understand WHY this girl who tends to like her peace and quiet likes it here, but I like Rome.

It is especially crowded here this week, as this weekend was the beatification ceremony of Pope John Paul II. Please excuse my lack of knowledge on the subject, but I have absolutely no idea what this is, except that it causes a massive pilgrimage of Catholics everywhere. I wouldn't have known that event was here (I did NO research, remember?), but there are calendars, t-shirts, mugs in every souvenir shop window commemorating the event. So there are millions of people here now, from many countries, and it feels charged, alive. We aren't here for that event, obviously, and we are not typical tourists, so I feel somewhat like an outsider looking in, observing the coming and going of all the tour buses and groups snapping pictures.

Rome eludes me, as it does all its visitors. It chews most up and spits them out wearily. For me, I feel there is an underground Rome that is the real Rome, and all of this you see in the streets in the center of town is a masquerade, like some strange old west movie set. It is filled with kitschy souvenir shops that the local people rush past on their way to work but do not even see. Fake Louis Vuitton purses, touristy restaurants with pictures and English menus. Where is the true Roman food? Where do the Romans shop and eat? As we were wandering the city today my husband asks, all these people who live in these downtown apartments here, where do they go to shop for groceries? I answer that they probably take a bus outside town to a Costco. It is a funny world, this tourist scene. Such a marvelous illusion. One I do not like, it makes me feel foreign and inauthentic to be a part of it. I want to experience the real Rome, but this city isn't easily permeated. Rome always feels to me as if it has secrets that are thousands of years old. And that we are all just scratching the surface of its depth and knowledge. I feel here that I am missing many things it has to offer. I have no guide book, no tour, as I walk through the Pantheon and just soak up the history in this place, and admire the building once again. I just wander through to appreciate the space. Raphael was buried here, so is Vittorio Emanuelle. Italy's first king, and the second king, and his wife as well. Other important people have been here and are buried here as well, but to me it is just amazing to wander into a place with so much of a past, such uniqueness. And it is just another building in a long line of antiquities that belong to this city.

I remember some of the things I both love and detest about Italy all on our first day here, our first day into a ninety day tour of Italy. Italians are a loud, bold, daring people. And that's just the driving. I try to fit in, but my demeanor is opposite. I try to bravely shove my stroller with my precious infant inside out into oncoming traffic, inches from the next car, knowing they have the wits to stop, and if I don't I will be here all afternoon waiting for someone to kindly let me pass. It is a process of gaining comfort and familiarity in a new place. Just a day here and already I feel different. More alive, less restrained, more impulsive, less timid, more tranquil, less anxious.

The long flight is over. We have arrived in our new home. I have only to enjoy my 3 months in Italy, that is all. A wonderful freedom. As we were passing customs in Munich yesterday, the officer asks, "Traveling where?"
"Italy".
"How long?"
"3 months"
"3 months?! Woah, what is your job that you can do this?"
"My husband trades stocks"
"Ahh, aha", he laughs, "Stocks." "Have a good trip"
"Yes, yes, we will". We realize we are of the lucky few who take the time to go integrate into a new place for longer than a few days. It is a gift we intend not to squander. Viva Italia. Grazie, thank you for having us, we are happy to have arrived.

Posted by globalmomma 14:15 Archived in Italy Tagged fountain st. roma city spanish steps rome peters vatican colisseum trevi navona crowded Comments (0)

First Day

Arriving in Rome

After a long, crazy, difficult month, we have arrived in Italy at last. We took the overnight airplane trip on Luftansa from Boston to Munich, then Munich to Rome. The flight was uneventful, except the first hour was definitely rough. Bodhi struggled to fall asleep and the few rows of people around us heard about it. I stood up and bounced him to sleep again and again, trying to focus only on him, and not everyone else around us, to calm him. Hoping to let go of the recent embarrassment I feel at having my life on display, having all eyes staring at me as I sing him nursery rhymes, while I stand and rock him to sleep. Chris was able to sleep a little on the flight, while I was Bodhi's sleeping pillow. We planned ahead, we ordered the bassinet (available on international flights in bulkhead seats if you call ahead to reserve = amazing!). Yet, he would no longer sleep in the bassinet - it is too loud with the attendants bustling about, and the noises dinging and lights coming on and off. Now that he is an alert little guy, he isn't having any of this chaos while he sleeps. I miss those early baby times of good sleep in the midst of a hurricane. He slept on me most of the flight, so I did not sleep a wink, but I have trouble on planes anyway - at least he was resting, so I count it as a victory - we made it!

After weeks of dreading this flight, it was soon over, and we are groggily making our way through the Munich airport to await our next flight to Roma, train from Rome airport to Trastevere, and then a taxi from the train station to our apartment rental near Vatican City.

The rest of the afternoon, we are fighting to stay awake. I had my first taste of Italian espresso for this trip, Chris has his first glass of prosecco as we walked through our little neighborhood bleary-eyed. Our bill came to 3,70 euro. I love the cost of wine here, cheaper than water, almost as cheap as the coffee. You don't have to drop half the price of dinner for two decent glasses of wine.

We made our first venture to the local grocery store. I found the baby food section and think: This IS baby food, right? not dog food? I think I am able to read enough Italian, but the labels all have animals on them. Vitello = veal. Calda = lamb. Tacchino = turkey. They have goat, calf, pig, horse, rabbit, chicken... These are not cute animal caricatures like on Sesame street foods either - they are real animal photos. That can't be right, horse???! It can't be horse meat, can it? I look on the back and with what little Italian I can understand, I read the labels. Yep, it's meat alright. Meat and water. And prosciutto, Italian ham, is available in pureed baby food, as is parmigiano reggiano and mozzarella, pureed and ready to mix. I don't see pastas, which I imagined were all I would see. Shells with olive oil, shells with bolognese or marinara...but maybe that is too easy, something households can make on their own. I soon do find the baby pastas, smaller shaped dried pastas that you do boil and make yourself at home. But no 'ready made' pasta meals. Just straight meats, straight vegetables, straight cheeses all meant for mixing with rice cereal, pastas, etc. Actually a very inventive way to create baby food combinations. I grab a prosciutto baby food jar and a blend of mixed veggies to start our culinary baby food adventure. I also notice a baby olive oil supplement, like you would find baby vitamins here, a special olive oil to add to baby food. Love it. More after some sleep.

Posted by globalmomma 17:18 Archived in Italy Tagged food flight baby rome overnight luftansa groceries Comments (0)

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