10th Adventure: Easter visit from Grandmas

1 Nov

Your mother & grandma fly in to Italy the day before Easter for a 10-day stay.  Since they arrive in the afternoon, you decide it is best to get them home for a simple dinner and resting up that first day.  They both sleep until woken up the next morning, an attempt to break them of jet lag which barely works for Joyce and doesn’t ever seem to quite shake Connie of the grogginess.  But there’s nothing quite like a newborn baby’s slobber in the face to get your mom out of bed.

Your first full day with the family is fairly laid back.  You begin with a quick trip up the local “mountain” Monte Berico.  The weather is cold and the smog is thick, but the view is still fairly lovely.  After driving down past a few vineyards, you go to Il Fauno’s, a restaurant with your favorite: a menu prezzo fisso – a fixed price menu for a set lunch with a few options.  Next you stop by a friend’s house for an Easter egg hunt.   The grandmas are wonderfully outgoing at the party, despite the fact that Joyce spends the majority of her time there playing with the dog.  You swing by the nearby winery on the way to dinner – a taste-as-you-buy place with 15- and 20-foot tall vats of wine and super cheap prices.  Connie and Joyce are very pleased, and it definitely cuts down on the wine bill at dinner.  Dinner is at Ada’s, a huge restaurant with tree branch columns and delicious food.  You all eat well, the children make a huge mess, and you leave happy and full.

Easter morning is laid back.  Kirby and Frankie dye eggs with you, while the grandmas crack into their special chocolate eggs with surprises inside.  Apparently inspired by the festive colors, Nicole has Connie dye her hair into pink stripes.  It looks fantastic and lasts about as long as the hard-boiled eggs do.  For an exotic Easter dinner treat, you decide to take out the grandmas and boys to the DFac (or mess hall).  There’s no special menu, but it actually is very decent food and it’s nice to not have to prepare a big feast, especially since the next day is your big trip to Tuscany.

You set out on your journey on a completely different route than you initially plan.  Upon closer inspection of the map, you decide that you would be going hours and miles out of your way if you take your first path, so you choose to start the vacation with a visit to a town in Cinque Terre.  You go to the small village of Manarola, and drop off the family as far as cars can drive, then park at the top of the cliffside town.  You enjoy a quick run through a pretty vineyard back down to the others, and view the incredibly blue sea.  After a short walk through the city, you find a playground for children where you spend the majority of the visit.  You all get delicious gelato, then drive to find the agriturismo.

An agriturismo is like a farmhouse bed & breakfast that serves locally harvested or raised food.  This one you find through a Groupon online and hope it’s good.  The winding roads through the mountain get you hopelessly lost, but some helpful locals jump in their car and let you follow them till you are close enough to find the agriturismo.  You are the only guests that night, and although you may have only needed one apartment, you have two.  Each has a living room, mini-kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom downstairs, plus a loft with two beds upstairs.  It is lovely and the boys think it’s a blast.  Your private dinner is served to you in courses.  You have never felt so pampered, and it is quite fun to have a private chef and waitress.  The grandmas love the waitress, and even get photos with her.  Precious Daisy enchants her, of course, as she does everybody.  You head to your rooms after your delicious dinner, very pleased and very tired!

The next morning you wake up early to eat breakfast before heading out for the busy day.  You all sit down to another private meal, and the same sweet waitress delivers you a variety of shortbread cookies and coffee and juice.  An hour goes by before you and the family figure out the cookies were breakfast.  Connie’s in disbelief that a breakfast could even exist without including bacon & eggs. Kirby and Frankie seem perfectly delighted by this, however.  On the way out you pay the remaining bill – less than $200 total for the entire family including 2 rooms, dinner, breakfast, and 2 goodie baskets!  You choose to take advantage of Groupon agriturismo deals whenever they pop up!

Your first stop this day is the Lucca wind caves, a nature park way up in the mountains.  The slim road is twisty-turny and you admire wildlife and lovely forests along the side.  As it continues to snake back and forth, Frankie seems to get a little uneasy.  You figure he is just bored, so you continue to hurry to the caves along the snaking road.  Then Frankie pukes.  After a stop to clean him and his car seat up, you get back on the road, driving a little slower this time.  You find the caves fairly quickly and without any backtracking – quite a goal in Italy!  Grandma Joyce decides to sit this trip out, and you opt for the shorter cave trip – a one-hour tour with electronic guides in English so you can actually understand.  Kirby receives his own audio tour and feels very grown up as he skips to the next number for the different locations within.  Frankie admires the cave formations and says, “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe all the mud.”  Once through, you all peruse the tiny museum/gift shop and pick out some fun gemstone souvenirs, before your hunger gets the best of you.

You choose to have lunch at the woodsy, rustic cafe right beside the caves.  There are just over a dozen seats and they are all taken, but you don’t have to wait long.  Interpreting the menu at the tiny restaurant is more complicated than navigating the caves.  You end up with some pretty delicious food, but the marmelades that accompany the cheese dish end up being onion jam and tomato jam.  Nicole enjoys them far more than you, and even though you agree they are tasty, your brain just can’t quite wrap itself around the concept of vegetable jelly.  You choose to let her finish eating them.

You next drive a couple hours to Pisa, which you heard was a little boring, but is actually quite interesting.  Sure, there’s not much to do except in the vicinity of the leaning tower, but the duomo and the surrounding wall provide more beautiful architecture to admire.  And the boys love playing in the grass and running around with you…and eating gelato, of course.  In fact, your whole family loves eating gelato.  After some miscommunication and a few brief tantrums, you drive to your next stop: Florence.

Upon arriving in the beautiful town, you waste an hour trying to find the hotel.  You finally locate it and unload the whole family, dropping off the van in a crowded parking garage with a promise to pick it up the next evening.  You and Nicole head out to retrieve dinner for the family: McDonald’s for the grandmas & kids, and kebaps (like gyros) for you two.  You consider going out for a drink or dancing, but you have a busy day ahead of you and opt to just head to sleep.

But the next day is rainy.  Like old-man-is-snoring pouring down rain.  The Uffizi museum with the incredible statue of David is just 8 blocks away, but Grandma Joyce admits she would be miserable walking it, and after a long consideration you agree.  Florence will be there another day and you decide to head back home, making it in plenty of time for an easy-going dinner at the house.

The rain lets up long enough for a nice trip to the market in downtown Vicenza, one of the highlights and “authentic Italy” parts of your town.  The market fills the public square, and the women spend lots of time perusing the clothes, purses, food, and knick-knacks.  You are done in about half an hour, but you humor the ladies by staying the extra couple hours with them.  Connie is fascinated by the older women riding their bicycles in high heels, and Joyce likes looking at all the other interesting shoppers.  You choose to go retrieve the car and miss the amusing exchange between Connie and a vendor arguing about the definition of “one-size” leggings.

You go to Venice the next day, choosing to take the train.  You buy tickets for the cheap, slow train, but unknowingly get on the more comfortable fast train.  The ride goes smoothly and you meet some nice women to talk to (who admire the baby, of course), and you get away scot-free with your crime.  Venice is beautiful as usual, but the rain never lets up.  You begin the day with lunch, and spend the rest of the time darting in and out of stores while the grandmas do their souvenir shopping.  Eh, Venice will be there another day too, like Florence.  You catch the proper train home, which arrives eventually, and after the kids go to bed you and the women watch a movie and eat popcorn.

With just a couple days to go, you check out two nearby towns: Nove, known for its ceramics, and Marostica, home to 2 beautiful castles.  The ceramic shops are pleasant, but with their suitcases already stuffed full, the grandmas don’t buy very much.  Right around the corner are the castles, and they just happen to be having a fun street fair that day.  You are wearing running shoes, so you make the run up the hill to the high castle to take photos, while the others stay down at the lower one and the fair.  There are plenty of nice local items for sale, and you all find something you desperately needed but didn’t know about till now.  Before heading back to the house you stop at a milk machine – like a vending machine with fresh milk in it.  The milk is creamy and cold and you and the others choose to finish it up that night.

Your last day with the grandmas is spent just relaxing around the house and post, but after all the adventures of the previous week, you need it!  You take them on the shuttle bus to the airport the next morning and see them off.  Just a couple months after this, you know you will be off to war.  The date looms closer and closer, but will the Army actually send you on 29 June as planned?  You choose to trust them on this one and go to your Next Adventure.

One Response to “10th Adventure: Easter visit from Grandmas”

  1. Sonja November 1, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    Thanks for sharing! Fun to see the photos. LOL with Daisy face-down on one of the grandma’s laps. (Sorry, not sure which one is Connie and which one is Joyce, although perhaps I would have met them at your wedding.)

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