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Entries about italy

Determination, Purging, and a goodbye to Italy

July 1st

Our baby is now officially walking. He has been testing the waters for almost three months now. Walking two steps, then eight or ten, then pausing for reflection. Then a fall and no walking at all for a few days, then back again to take a few attempts. But he has never felt any urgency, no matter how I coax and encourage. He is taking it all in his own time. I have to respect that. He walks until he feels it is unsafe, and then he quietly kneels down and commences crawling to his destination. I have to contemplate that perhaps this has been my arpproach to life as well...very careful, with intention and some small inkling of perfectionism... But his favorite thing has been to reach up for two willing hands and proceed to guide them were he wants to go. In fact, now Momma is not enough. I gab hold of his hand when he wants to walk, and he looks back over his shoulder and expectantly says, dada? As if to say, "you ARE coming, right, Dada?" So we grasp hold of either hand and the three of us go walking down the ancient cobblestone streets. He doesn't let you lead though, no no, you hold his hand and you follow where his mind is set on exploring. I have to say, it is a pretty fun ride. This kid amazes me everyday. His determination is astounding, and is something I could really learn from. We have been staying in a villa on Lake Como for three days. He did his evening ritual walk-around exploration when we checked in. I swear the kid thinks it is Disneyworld the way he explores every nook of each new hotel or apartment, like a daily adventure. Well, here he found a radiator in the kitchen. An old water-filled radiator like many old houses here have. He tried twisting the knob, which has worked for him in the past. He learned to unscrew the cap that turns the radiator on and off. When saw him struggling with the cap that first night, I told him, "honey, it's too hard, it won't turn, just leave it". He looked up at me innocently and moved on to something else, but every once in a while he came back to that radiator cap and tried to turn it. Well, wouldn't you know at six this morning, when he got up, I was in the kitchen boiling water for tea, and I glanced over at him where he was "working". I saw him grinning and holding up that little radiator cap to me, like a present he wanted me to take. I was overwhelmed. I reached down and saw that he had indeed gotten the little cap loose after several times a day of working on it, and I am amazed at his persistence and determination already. That he would continue to try to get that little cap off the radiator, not to give-up in the face of adversity, but to go back and keep trying, I realize how much more babies know about the world than we do. How much more they can accomplish and become. He was so thrilled with himself when he was holding up that radiator cap to me it was heartbreaking. He holds it in an outstretched arm and grins wildly, saying, "dat, dat, dat", like 'hey, look at this!' And when he does something he is rprroud of, or gives you something, he pats his stomach. It is his way of saying, "Prego" in Italian, or "bitte" in German: please, go ahead, take it. He knew what an accomplishment it was, to have wedged that tough cap off, and still he was openly offering it as a gift. I wouldn't have given the damn thing a second thought. I would have called maintenance, or ignored it, and moved on. I wouldn't have spent three days working toward that simple goal, but he did, and it was amazing. So here begins another lesson in a long line of lessons I will humbly be learning from my son. 

Like a lizard, I am shedding pieces of myself everywhere we go now. A stained t-shirt last night, a broken watch the week before, a pair of socks, some old tea bags. All the old and unused begin to fall away. Some are replaced, or recycled. I like to think other people find them out of the trash and use them. An old chewed book... maybe another child is reading, practicing his English as Bodhi is practicing his Italian with new books we have bought. It can be difficult, this shedding process. It is most definitely cathartic. You leave it all behind. You won't come back for it. You don't know what happens to it from here on out, and you move on. It forces you to be absolutely in the moment of what you need right now, and not save anything for later, or for a rainy day. Being a pack rat by nature, it takes me weeks, or even months to get to this point of clarity wherein I being to realize that everything that we own has a life cycle. Things must be put to rest in order for new things to begin, to be purchased or garnered. Without throwing away, you leave no room for the gathering process. As with physical belongings, so with the mind and your stockpile of thoughts and attitudes. To make way for the new, you must strip away the old and unused...especialy the ones that never quite worked for you or never quite fit. This weekend was a real expulsion. Now we have two total bags (one being the crib!), and one carry-on, plus the stroller. Not a lot for two adults and a small child that demands most of the space. It feels lighter. We will see how much further we get before the next purging must take place. It is a constant process, reducing and rebuilding. When you only have so much space, you only expand to fill that much space, so everything is a real test - do we need it or do we not? Can we get by without it? What can be replaced? What can be eliminated? What can we make room for in our lives? How do we simplify and keep ourselves buoyant? By lightening our physical load maybe we can also lighten our experience... At least we won't sweat as badly as we drag our belongings through 90 degree summer heat in the train stations and through the airport. Tomorrow we leave for Prague. A new destination, away from Italy, which is a bittersweet goodbye. It will be nice to have a new perspective, but hard to leave; and after two months here, there is much I will miss... at least as much as I am glad to leave. I will miss the absolute kindness toward babies, that even as we are in airport hotels with American guests, I miss. I miss the Italian national appreciation of babies. The way you can expect everyone in a restaurant to smile, to reach out, to engage. No unfriendly glances, no irritation. Only room for babies to be how they are here. I will miss the limoncello, amaro, aperol, homemade pasta, caffe, the warm sun, the scent of the ocean, the warmth and approachableness of the people. The ability to understand the menus. The landscape of grapes and cypress trees and hay and corn and sky and ocean and wooded hills. The old old buildings and worn out cobbles, the smell of age, and the gold coloring all around. Most of all, I will miss the Meditteranean sea and the slow pace of life and the constant snacking. It has been an amazing two months in Italy, where our little boy gained the confidence to walk. See you in the Czech Republic and onward!

Posted by globalmomma 12:30 Archived in Italy Tagged walking italy packing bags missing luggage heat radiator determination belonging Comments (0)

My husband, Mario, and Montalcino

Today we are on top of the world in Montalcino!  After a long day of driving, we are tasting 6 of the finest Brunello di Montalcino's ever made in a castle at the top of the Tuscan countryside with a view that even Baccus would envy.  How do we find these treasures? I am not sure we even know, follow your nose I guess...our mantras used to  include "if it smells good" and "go toward the pretty buildings" but that was then...we are now guided by "find a place for Bodhi to eat" or "go buy something so we can use the banyo"... Such are the differences when traveling with a 1 year old.  The castle?  Simple dumb luck...could have turned to the right, but chose left and there we were...wine, castle, English-speaking staff member...there really is a heaven and we are happy to be together in this moment(s) of bliss.  Then there was the ride home...

No, I did not have more then a few ounces for all of you with a guilty conscience...I have a GPS.  Yes, we are staying somewhat off the beaten path on an olive oil farm near Pari, but heck, we do not intend to go offroading in a Fiat Punto with seating for 4 (ish) and about 3 inches of clearance...Bad enough we have to navigate a dirt road for 2 KM getting to the farm, but getting back once we set the GPS to take us somehow ends us up somewhere across the valley where we can clearly see our bedroom window but are powerless to reach it.  Despite the sleeping baby in the backseat the GPS is, in a clearly defiant tone, telling us to go offroad to reach the previously entered waypoint.  "Navigate offroad to your destination", she snides, but I see a driveway and a terrace with people eating al fresco. Does the dirt road go any further? We are hesitant to find out...I am calling Garmin in the morning to report the attitude of our computer generated guide voice for being overly persistent.  Luckily a local guy who spoke English (and whose backyard dinner party we literally drove into) told us the error of our (her) ways and directed us to go back around.  "GPS is dangerous" were, I think, his final words...

We arrive at the villa in the country that will be our home for the next three or four days. I call this 'home-ish' now. I used to say to Bodhi, "Only 5 minutes and we will be home" (referring to being back at the hotel if we were in the car or out). Then I would correct myself and say, well, home-ISH.  So now, where we are staying is called HOME-ISH. It fits. He gets it. Everywhere we end up is a new adventure for him. It is like arriving at Disneyworld every few days... he arrives at a new wonderland to explore. He checks the cupboards, opens and closes doors, checks the drain of the bidet, crawls around the perimeter. I love to watch him explore and discover. For me, it helps me to think this travel lifestyle has elements that are good for him.
Our home-ish is now a place called le lapole, a beautiful terra-cotta farmhouse in Tuscany along a dirt road outside of a small village called Pari. We would never have found this place if not for good friends who found it first and recommended we come here. It is so dark and quiet I can see every star. The drive to get here was through the most amazing countryside filled with green trees and rows of vineyards, golden straw, hazy blue mountains in the distance, and old hilltop villages with orange rooftops dotting the horizon. Then there was a steep rugged dirt road and a few poorly marked splits in the road that we happened to guess right, and allowed us to find the place. My husband, Mario, isn't used to the open roads of Tuscany. He has been used to the aggressive driving of Southern Italy on small streets with big consequences... the driving that demands urgency, attention and quick reflexes.  He honks his horn like an Italian, passes on curves and occasionally I feel like we are in a live simulated video game of Mario Cart. He has become, like all other Italian drivers, an incarnation of Mario Andretti.

Posted by globalmomma 01:58 Tagged driving roads italy country villa wine farmhouse tuscany montalcino pari grosseto tastings brunello Comments (0)

The Travel Groove

May 14
I am waiting for it to start. The travel groove. Anyone who has ever traveled for more than a few weeks in a row know what I mean... when things begin to just fall into place, you just know the places to go, and providence moves with you. Until that time, the first few weeks of winging it can be trying. Things just don't work out, places aren't open, finding your way is difficult. You can wander around a city aimlessly... hungry, tired, trying to find a good hotel at your price. We look for those hidden gems of restaurants that we like to find; but sometimes the baby is tired and impatient, and we have to settle for a touristy, overpriced, unsatisfactory experience of mediocre food and ambiance. It happens. But we feel like novices! Because once you get used to traveling, this struggle happens less and less. It happens to beginners, but not experienced travelers. Maybe it is an ego thing, when we have a bad experience with a place we are staying or a restaurant, we blame ourselves for our lack of savvy...
One day we forgot to change Bodhi's diaper for about 6 hrs while walking around sightseeing Rome, not sure where to stop or go. With a child it is that much more difficult because you have to anticipate their needs, and their needs can be very immediate. You can't just press on, knowing the right thing will be just around the corner.

I like to think I give him a few "perfect moments" a week. You know those perfect moments, when everything goes right. You are the perfect temperature, you have everything you need, you are in your warmest flannel pajamas snuggled by a fire watching your favorite tv show. That kind of perfect moment. Or the kind where you are sipping on a glass of prosecco watching the most gorgeous gigantic sun slip behind a bubble of blue and pink clouds, enjoying the breath of the sea, and feeling the warmth echo off of your skin on a glorious summer day. Those kinds of moments are the type I hope I give to my son every once in awhile. When I see him looking blissed out, and feel his muscles relax as a hold and rock him, feel him give off waves of heat as he is falling asleep to the sound of my lullabies and the sound of ocean waves on the iPod, I think: I hope this is a perfect Bodhi moment.

I get really really mad at my little boy sometimes now at night, that he can't sleep. I know he tries, I know we are asking a lot with forcing him to adjust every few nights to a new environment. But I still just really want him to learn how to fall asleep by himself, and to sleep through the night again like I know he can, like he used to do. I hear myself at night rationalizing, maybe if I just sit here he will figure it out. Shhh. I say, be quiet! Go to sleep! Those comments fall on deaf ears. He wants to be held, to fall asleep in our arms. But our arms are becoming less willing as we get more tired. I guess he is also working on his travel groove.

Posted by globalmomma 05:16 Archived in Italy Tagged travel of italy a with baby rome month 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)

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