Our southernmost destination was Rome and it's hard to fathom that you can get there in about 6 hours, as much time as it takes to cross WA state. Here's the day by day in a nutshell, because it was a whirlwind!
May 30- Florence. We only had one night there, but the highlight was walking around in the pouring rain, with the streets all shiny and the umbrellas brighly colored, taking pictures of everything notable. The lowlight- walking around in the pouring rain with the streets all slippery, broken umbrella and raindrops on the lens. It was a good day overall, and much inspired by one of the hundreds of Davids, Vivian drew her first (graphic) nude. Yikes. :)
May 31 - June 2- Orvieto and the Umbria area. The rain followed us south another hour+ to the Umbria area which is known for its beauty, old walled hill towns and vineyards. We stayed at a great "agritourism" farm called La Locanda Dell'Olmo just outside the walled city but surrounded by fields and rolling hills and... puddles. Did I mention the rain? We bought some cheap plasticbag coats and prowled through Assisi and Orvieto- two gorgeous, old hill towns with so much history. Emiliano, our host at La Locanda, was very cool and has always wanted to go to Seattle to see his favorite band (Pearl Jam). It was fun to brag about our home town and eat some home cooked chicken cacciatore (made by Lorella, his aunt).
June 2 - 6- Rome. OK, still in the top 3 favorite places ever (among Istanbul and of course Seattle). I still swoon over Rome. Eric loves it, but doesn't need to go back for a long time. The first night there Miles puked and had a high fever, so that put a hiccup in our plans, but led to 2 days where Eric and Vivian had a day and V and I had a day. Vivian of course lucked out and got to see some things twice, but we each had a really special time with her. We crammed in all the major sites, but our favorites are still the Forum, Pantheon and Trastevere in general. It was surreal to be back in that neighborhood 4 years later with a grown up girl and 2nd kid.... wish we could have shown her and Miles off to Gino and Giamma- the coffee shop owners from before who we loved, but the new owners didn't know where they had gone. We got to do the Coliseum this time, which was new and fun. The kids both loved thinking about lions, wolves, tigers and ostriches running through the tunnels to be lifted to the stage for their fights with each other, or gladiators.
June 7 - 8- Siena. Sweet, old, sleepy, lovely. The Il Campo plaza is so vast it was impossible to capture without a panoramic lens. We fed as many Sienan pigeons as possible, continued our daily dose of gelato, and witnessed a random little parade. And standing smack in the middle of the Il Campo, Vivian's 3rd loose tooth just jumped right out of her mouth! How fun! There is an Italian tooth fairy, in case you're wondering.
June 9 - 10- Pisa, in route to San Terenzo. Pisa ended up being enroute to San Terenzo, so what to do but stop?! It's not such a great overnight place, but for a couple hours to see the Tower, it was well worth it! Vivian did her best to help push up the poor tower, but no such luck. And we never knew the Tower was just part of a stunning complex called Piazza del Duomo with a gorgeous cathedral and lawn all around. I have no idea why I envisioned it standing solo in a Forum-type dusty lot, but it isn't! We continued on--
San Terenzo is along the Italian Riveria... We totally lucked out in NOT getting stuck in the dump of a hotel in Lerici, so we pulled a Rick Steves moment and asked at a cafe if anyone knew of a room nearby. What luck! We landed in the downstairs apartment of a gorgeous B&B home of Malcom, his wife, and 2 year old, curly haired son, Milo. :) San Terenzo was a dreamy little quiet town and we had a couple great beach days there while Eric worked from our room. In the mornings we hung out with Malcom and Milo and played in their backyard. Vivian even joined them (er, invited herself) upstairs for breakfast one morning.
Here's Vivian chatting a bit about Pisa:
June 10- 14- Corniglia, Cinque Terre- Gorgeous, dramatic, bright blue, bright green, bright buildings. The 4 days there were really special, and a great way to end the trip. Corniglia is the highest of the Cinque Terre cities, so not nearly as pillaged by tourists and trinket shops (fewer people want to hike the 380+ stairs to town from the train station). It's TINY as far as a town goes, but we had probably our best dinner there at a little wine shop and our apartment had a rooftop terrace with views out over the vineyards and ocean. Admittedly, this was tough terrain to have a 2 1/2 year old crazy boychild, so he spent a lot of time in the pack while we hiked between the towns- which are all connected via rustic pathways / trails that cling to the cliffsides by their fingernails. We managed to take in Monterosso (the beachy town), Vernazza, Corniglia (ours) and Manrola (most beautiful playground site ever). We missed Riomaggiore, so there's a reason to go back! On the way home, we stopped at Garda Lake with a picnic. The water was beautiful and it was hot out- so we stripped down the kids and I got to jump in with my clothes on to go for a quick swim (darn that mis-matched granny underwear I had on....) Great way to top off the trip! For a fun view of our drive to Corniglia, check out this doubletime video- if you get carsick, you might not want to. :)
Overall, a fantastic albeit exhausting time, Eric got his work done despite some connection goofs, and we ate gelato and drank fantastic red wine daily. Much love for Italy. We'll be back.
Favorite things said lately:
Miles: "Chicken Serena" We don't know what this is- it's a name "There's Chicken Serena." A verb "I'm going to chicken Serena you. BAM BAM." AND a food (every food). "Mmmmm. Chicken Serena."
Vivian: "I can't get a job- so I'll pull out more teeth!" (in response to "you can buy that, when you get a job...")
Here is the slideshow! Lot of great ones in here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8611188@N02/sets/72157619741938915/show/