La vita è un sogno

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That means “Life is a dream” in Italian. And ain’t it?

On our first night at our farmhouse, we went to the local supermercato where they have plastic gloves for produce selection (love that!), which a nice Italian man handed to my husband after Zoe was fondling the Eggplant… I love grocery stores in other countries, trying new things and “living local”.

We bought fresh pasta to make for dinner, along with Italian burro (butter), tiny green beans, fresh blueberries and watermelon, local wine, and a big hunk of parmesan cheese. Oh, and Zoe insisted on a box of chocolate croissants (when in Rome, buy croissants?).

While Bart took the kids for a dip in the pool, I prepared dinner (I can boil water all by myself) and we had our first at-home Italian meal, sitting by an open window overlooking the Italian countryside. Buona sera indeed.

For the next day, we decided to head to Pisa to see if that tower was still leaning. On the way out of the apartment, Ella fell down the OTHER short set of stone stairs to the tile below (yes, there are 2 staircases AND a step down right outside both bedrooms to a small landing that opens to the steep stairs). This was not a big fall, but you can imagine not so fun for Ella (or me). With no visible issues, other than tears, we headed out to Pisa.

Bart did a fabulous job driving in Italy. There, I said. I even put it in writing. Drivers here are aggressive, likely they’d say “assertive”, and jockey for position any time there’s a merge – in fact, pedestrians do exactly the same.

We arrived at the Leaning Tower of Pisa around 10:30 am and it was already blazing hot – and filled with tourists. We still had fun wandering around, though it just kept getting hotter. So hot in fact that we did the most American thing that I think one can do in another country (other than offer them dollars, Mom): We ate at McDonalds…

Now, in our defense, it had to have been over 90 degrees, with little shade, and McDonalds was a) close to the tower, b) FANCY with a large touch-screen ordering system and c) air-conditioned…Don’t judge. If I had closed my eyes, I would have thought I was in any McDonalds in the US (though we don’t go to many). Now that’s a brand.

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We also tested out some perspective pictures, alongside tons of other tourists trying to come up with the right way to “hold up the tower” (let’s just say we need practice):

After Pisa, we came back to the farmhouse for a quick snack then hopped on a train to Florence for our cooking class. (PLEASE NOTE: This was MY brilliant idea.)

First of all, we agreed to not take the stroller, not knowing what the cooking space would be like, and decided to take a taxi from train station to meeting place. Of course, the taxi line was long, so I popped Ella in the carrier and we headed out for a 0.4 mile walk (“just a 7 minute walk”, says Google). By the time we arrived at our meeting place, I was drenched in sweat and we’d navigated narrow (though lovely!) uneven streets with jarringly sudden appearances of cars and motorbikes driven by impatient Italians.

Check in? I was still glad not to have brought the stroller.

Our meeting place was beside the (air conditioned) Apple Store. I have never loved an Apple Store more in my life, and I really love the Apple Store.

We checked in and our chef/guide informed us we’d have a “just a short 10 minute walk” to the place where we’d make Pizza and Gelato… 10 minutes later (even MORE soaked in sweat) we arrived at a cute space for a cooking class, with marble topped tables, already setup with a pile of flour for each of us, and high top stools to sit at those tables.

I know I’m a nervous mom, seeing danger everywhere, but in this case, I was not wrong. Not 3 minutes into the chef’s talk about what would happen next, Ella fell loudly to the floor as 20 of our classmates gasped in unison and Bart rushed to pick her up. Let’s say I did not have my best moment just then.

All I could think was “I KNEW IT!” Toddlers are not meant for hightop stools. They are just not, and my obsessive Mommy instinct had told me to build a cocoon around her on that chair and not move a muscle. I am not blaming Bart – it was an accident that could have just as easily happened to me. But I felt responsible.

One of the two chefs left to get ice (they had no ice in the venue) as we took Ella outside to assess damage. Amazingly, there was not even a bump forming but she was crying profusely (with reason), and what seemed like a lifetime later (maybe 2 minutes), I was sitting on the ground in a hallway holding ice to her head and turning on the Trolls movie on my phone. God Bless the Trolls.

My kind husband, who could have navigated this accident with grace without me there, checked her eyes for dilation and took her for a walk to check her motor skills. They came back with two leather elephant keychains and a very happy Ella. He had also found a second bump on the top right side of her head (likely from the morning’s fall), though when asked she still said her fall was on the front of her forehead at the hairline (which made more sense given how she ended up on the floor) and only slightly pink. God Bless Italian Ice.

In the meantime, Zoe was quite upset that her sister had fallen but MORE upset that Ella got “all that attention” when she got hurt… (must everyone cry in Italy?) Flashing forward to a future Zoe faking injuries, I quickly assured her that injury attention was NOT the best kind. After some cajoling, she refocused on making pizza, and we rolled out (with our hands!) dough for 4 pizzas and began adding toppings while Bart and Ella were on their walk.

And so, all’s well that ends well?

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After another “short walk” back to the train station, during which Ella fell asleep in the carrier, Bart remarked that the GOOD NEWS was that there were train tickets available back to our car in Sieci. The BAD NEWS is we’d have to “wait for 15 minutes” – ha!

Turns out the bad news is that it’s not super intuitive to find the right kiosk for buying tickets back to Sieci, select the right tickets, figure out where on the tickets the train number is, then figure out which track it was on – OH OH and THEN figure out where that track IS and RUN to the train (remember 6-year-old, dad with backpack, mom with backpack on one side of body and sleeping 29-pound toddler on other). Zoe was a trooper, and Ella didn’t wake for a second in that carrier. We made it on that train.

Best part? The train was delayed for 15 minutes after that, during which I fell asleep after reassuring myself that Ella was indeed alive after her head trauma(s) since she literally did not move a muscle while I ran awkwardly, gasping for air, to that train.

BEST BEST PART?! We have more days abroad to see what happens next.

I will remain optimistic. On the bright side, both children now understand the perils of falling down stone stairs and not sitting appropriately on hightop stools (Zoe got to watch Ella fall both times). So there’s that.

Stay tuned, folks. Today, it’s already 11:11 am and as I type Bart is napping on the sofa. We’ve done nothing but eat a lovely breakfast, play a few games and have a hot chocolate. Come on, it’s Italy. La vita è un sogno.

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4 thoughts on “La vita è un sogno

  1. I’m exhausted just reading about your adventures! I suspect this trip will be like childbirth: painful in the moment and yet you’ll only remember the good stuff. Sounds like you are troopers!

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