Italy Revisited

Our friend was engaged to an Italian woman and they decided to have the wedding in Italy. Aw shucks, twist our arms.

Day 1
After about 13 hours of travel we arrived in Bologna. We went straight to the car rental place and found that Thrifty couldn’t give us a manual shifting car, we had to settle for a brand new automatic Fiat 500 which had only had 5km on it. Ok, fine. We found the car and got SIM cards then started driving to Fiesole where our friends had rented a renovated old church. On the drive I discovered that IMG_5310this automatic car was clueless when it came to shifting. It was so bad that Steve said it shifted like a 14-year-old trying to use a clutch for the first time. It was so jerky and hard to adjust to, none of my driving techniques meshed with this car. The car would eventually earn the rightly deserved nickname, “Stupid”.

We arrived at the church where our two friends, their two kids (a girl, Keksi, 3.5 yrs and a boy, Duder, 1 yr) and nanny were already settled in several days prior. Keksi was so excited to see us, she exclaimed, “Hi Auntie Steve!” Which we all got a huge kick out of. Later she put some flowers in his hair, rounding out the whole idea.

Before the trip, Steve had read an article about how to beat jet lag: power through the day/evening and stay up until a normal local bed time, then eat something for breakfast to reset your clock. This new method worked well and I think we managed to avert jet lag. I only had one problem during the night when a mosquito buzzed me. Other than that, we slept very well. And it surprised me that the kids didn’t even wake up until 9am!

IMG_5361Day 2
We went into Firenze (still don’t understand why we call if Florence) and walked around. I was pretty hungry so we had lunch and after we saw the duomo again. It was pretty much everything I had remembered, very ornate and beautiful on the outside. We toyed with the idea of going to the top of the dome until we saw how long the line wrapped around the building. Neither of us are big fans of lines. So we called it a day and headed back to the house.

Parents already know this, but kids are a lot of work. After watching them run around I was out of energy and I didn’t even have to take care of them! Keksi is super cute though. Half of the stuff that comes out of her mouth is hilarious and the other half is adorable. I suppose there are bad things too, but I didn’t hear any of them during our stay.

That night we went to dinner with Alex and Adrian in Fiesole. I drove us into town and we told them about the terrible shifting, well, we didn’t have to say much they just witnessed it whether they wanted to or not. Alex asked what I named the car, I said “stupid”. We found a place to eat where we could sit outside on the terrace and enjoy the warm evening.

IMG_5442Afterwards we walked around a little and found a fantastic view of Firenze and the surrounding valley. We also ended up playing with the shutter speed on my camera and took some neat night photos.

That night we had more mosquito trouble. As soon as I heard one buzz in my ear I pulled the sheets over my head, which sucked because it was very warm. I’d start to drift asleep again and there it comes, “zzzz..zzz…zzzzzzzzz..zz”. After several drive-by buzzinings to make sure I didn’t fall asleep Steve got up to go to the bathroom and I took the opportunity to turn on the light and kill that mother f-er. I believe that I killed one that morning, but the process woke us up so much that it was hard to fall asleep again. I remember hearing the birds wake up before finally reaching a slumber.

Day 3
We slept in a little, naturally. I mean, we like to do that anyway, but after the tough night of sleep we got I think we deserved a few extra Zs. When I got out of the shower Alex made a comment to Keski about showering and IMG_5464getting beautiful, clearly a ploy to get her into the shower. Later we learned that Alex also asked Keksi if Steve got beautiful from the shower and she said “yes, Steve came beautiful from home!” Alex laughs and says, “what about daddy?” Keksi, “daddy needs to wash his hair.” Holy crap, what a cutie! I think someone has a crush on Steve 🙂

We just had lunch in Fiesole and were planning to drive to Piza, but decided that it was too late in the day. Instead we headed back to the old church and took a short hike on the property. The path was full of butterflies, it was like walking in wonderland. It was so hard to capture how special it was on camera. That night we ate with the whole family and got to see just how difficult it is to eat at a restaurant with two little ones.

The night brought more mosquito trouble. Pretty much the same as the previous night. Every time I started to fall asleep one would buzz me. We turned the light on again in the middle of the night and tried to kill them, but there was always another one. We were so glad to leave them behind!

Day 4
On the way to the wedding venue, Gargonza, we stopped at Siena. We walked around and went into the duomo again because we loved it so much last time. Steve, once inside, said “I remembered wanting to come again and now I remember why.” The church is so imposing and ominous, with the black and white stripped pillars and popes looking down on you in disdain, you can’t help but feel compelled to be pious. After Sagrada Familia I think this is my second favorite church.

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We decided to try using Trip Advisor to find a place to eat and ended up at Osteria Titti and finally had a noteworthy meal. I wanted to eat everything on the menu.

IMG_5552Finally, we headed off to Gargonza. Right when we arrived we heard Darius and Priscilla (the bride and groom) chatting, so we found them and exchanged big hugs. We settled in and walked around a little, as it turns out the village is quite small. Cars can’t really go in, you park on the outside and walk in. A small, loud and smoky golf cart-like vehicle goes around inside but that’s about it. We were staying in a house that had a shared living room and kitchen with about six bedrooms. It was cool to see all these people we know arriving and sharing our cottage or the house across the way with us.

IMG_5746It was pizza-making night. I didn’t really participate because I had already learned how to make pizza, so I just enjoyed taking pictures and catching up with our friends. Ivan and I thought that Michael would end up throwing flour at Steve at some point; instead he ended up tossing pizza dough back and forth with Darius across the table. Then Michael tossed dough to Priscilla all the way down the table – and she caught it! Remarkable!

We stayed up pretty late drinking and chatting with all of our friends, what a great time! Thank goodness there was no mosquito trouble to deal with. I was so relived about that!

Day 5
Breakfast was awesome, as is pretty normal in Italy I think. There were eggs, meats, cheeses, cakes, fruit… I want that breakfast everyday! Everyone was free to hang around for the first part of the day, by the pool, on a bike ride or just exploring the village. We tried to hang out by the pool but it was cold-ish and kept threatening rain.

We gave up on any warmth happening and headed in to shower then went on a tour of the village and learned a little about its history. The man who runs it now inherited it from a long line that goes back to the 1600s! Its officially on the list for historic places Italy, as is most of the countryside (news to me!). The village consists of a church, the check-in office, several houses and a couple gardens. On the outside of the village you find a restaurant (where the pizza-making was) and the pool.

Finally time for the festivities to begin. Before the ceremony we had aperitifs in one of the gardens. It was here that Steve realized he had to give a speech at dinner. So he started trying to figure out what he wanted to say. Michael wanted him to roast Darius in the British tradition, but Steve wasn’t really interested in doing just that.

The ceremony was in the lemon garden, and was very beautifully done. I loved Priscilla’s altar props, a globe to signify how far apart they were when this all began and to all the places they may travel together, and a bicycle to signify how they might do that traveling. Darius’ vows were very touching — a portion of them were in Italian followed by “I love you” in French.

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Then on to dinner outside at the restaurant. It was a bit cold for this, but we managed. Steve gave his speech and it sounded well planned (not at all like it was put together in the hour preceding it). I learned later that Darius loved it.

Once dinner was over we changed into warmer, more comfy clothing, donned our tutus (it was tutu Tuesday) and danced the night away! Well, I did anyway — Steve’s a talker, though he did dance some. All I remember is drinking, dancing, taking a LOT of pictures and laughing with my friends. It was so wonderful, I wouldn’t mind doing it all over again!

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Day 6
I woke up massively hung over. Same glorious breakfast again. Man I love that stuff! We said farewell to most of our friends then went on to the next portion of our trip.

Ivan came with us to Borgo Panigale for the Ducati Museum, a two hour drive away. Upon arrival we discovered that we needed a reservation — I thought that was only for Saturdays because the web site was very confusing. Luckily we were able to make one for the next day. Unfortunately that meant I had to drive one and a half hours to Cancabaia, our B&B, then back again the next day, then two hours back to Milan. This all amounted to a lot of driving for me that I hadn’t quite planned on. In retrospect we should have added Steve to the car rental agreement.

IMG_6880I needed a break before heading to Parma so we stopped at a cafe and discovered that if you order coffee the snacks are free! How freakin’ cool is that?

We made it to Cancabaia and reunited with Bruno and Simona. We sat and chatted for a while, Simona told us about the African immigrants and how Italy wishes there was more they could do. Steve marveled at how different this attitude is from the US pertaining to immigration. (That’s Stupid in the picture).

Dinner was at Trattoria Capelli, a place we wanted to revisit. Steve was surprised that it was just as delicious as he remembered it. He was afraid that he had blown it out of proportion in his mind. He also forgot how soft and sweet the magnificent Parma Ham is. I did NOT forget and was so happy to be eating it again. I wish I was eating it right now. I also came out as a swino.

Day 7
Another amazing breakfast at Cancabaia, just like the one at Gargonza but with even better versions of the same foods. We chatted with Bruno and Simona some more, then said farewell. It so great to see them again!

IMG_6929Back to Borgo Panigale for the Ducati tour. Unfortunately the factory employees were almost all at a meeting so it wasn’t in motion. The tour would have been so much better if we had seen it in action. The museum part was kind of simple and not that special in my opinion. I was allowed to take pictures there, but the factory would have been so much more interesting for it.

Afterwards we had another coffee at the same cafe then parted ways with Ivan, who took the train to Rome.

I drove the two damn hours to Milan, so much driving, so exhausting. Our rental guy Davide met us at the apartment to make sure we got into the garage properly, which was very nice of him. I’m not sure we would have found our way to the parking spot otherwise. The place was super nice and really big, which I forgot. I meant to see if anyone wanted to stay with us. Oh well.

We settled in and got some late night pizza for dinner then hung out on the awesome terrace and drank more wine.

IMG_6964Day 8
We went off to get lunch but ended up getting pastries instead… Oops! We walked around to the duomo, which was a lot more beautiful in person than it was in the pictures I saw while doing research. The downside is that there were African immigrants who were trying to sell bracelets and were very persistent and pushy. It was really annoying trying to take in the duomo while being harassed to buy something that we didn’t want.

Then we went over to Castello Sforzesco. The admission was free of charge, had mini museums all throughout and was surround by castle cats in the moat area. One of the museums had instruments and another had architectural IMG_6985artifacts. We were so hot and tired, so we called it a day and headed back. On the way back, we got some delicious gelato at Gelateria Wally thanks again to Trip Advisor. Dinner that night was at Ristorante Amarcord, also found on TA. We’re really starting to admire that site.

Day 9
At this point, we realized that we were getting a little vacationed out. This called for a lazy, laid back kind of day. The only thing we did was walk three miles to get sandwiches for lunch at Crocetta Panini d’Autore. They were pretty tasty, but we weren’t sure if they were worth the very long walk. They were definitely worth a cab ride though, but I have to get in my 10,000 steps. After that, we went back to the apartment and just chilled for the rest of the day. Got pizza for dinner and went to bed early because we had to wake up at 4am to begin our long journey home.

Day 10
I didn’t plan this very well. We woke up at 4am to get ready and drive two hours back to the Bologna airport. Once in the vicinity of the airport getting gas was a pain, but we figured it out. Then got to the airport and spent a lot of time waiting: in line to check our bags, to get on the plane, to get off the plane, to get on another plane in Paris and then so many damn hours from Paris to SF. During our layover I made the mistake of thinking that an airport manicure would be mediocre. I don’t know what possessed me to get an airport manicure, but the results were as expected: Not good, the polish ended up with bubbles in it. Bubbles!?!? Oh well.

We got home after being awake for 24 hours. The first thing we did was pick up our lovely doggies — I don’t think the neighbors really wanted to give them back 🙂 After that the only thing we had left to do was stay up another couple hours to combat the jet lag again. Surprisingly, the breakfast trick worked again, and we went to work the next day.

Photos on Flickr

About Nicole

I'm a quiet artist making a living as a web designer.
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