We took the train from Zurich to Italy last Tuesday. We all make mistakes as parents, but thinking we could manage two young children and ALL OF OUR CRAP as we went from train to train to station to rental car was the tip of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. To all parents looking to travel with small children anywhere, take the EASIEST WAY THERE. Who gives a crap about “cool experiences”, vistas, views, saving money. NO. Fly direct. Save yourself. Wear a life jacket!
The train ride that should have been fun was horrible. You see, we had forgotten rule number one of parenting. Okay, rule number two behind always brush your teeth before the kids are even out of bed or it won’t get done. We forgot that children will throw a tantrum REGARDLESS of their location. Kids act the same whether they are on a train to Milan, in the aisle of a grocery store, or in their own living room. Now we know and we will never again forget. PTSD is real, people.
We did make it to the hotel, eventually. It was around 7:30pm so we dropped our luggage and headed to the restaurant next door for our first Italian dinner. Vance was not a good dinner companion, but JW I shared an amazing bottle of wine, some regional specialities, and looks of utter exhaustion. Then, we headed back to the hotel and went to bed, thus ending our first day in Italy.
Since arriving, things have gotten better. We are getting used to the “Italian way” which means expect to wait forever for anything to get done. But these people are genuinely beautiful inside and out, enjoy life, and they have been helpful and overwhelmingly kind to our children. I am in love with the language and actually have been able to converse reasonably well with locals. And any bad moments we have had are always cast aside when we sit down to a wonderful lunch or dinner.
Speaking of food, it is everything I have heard it would be and more. The tiny towns we are visiting have the most exquisite, handmade pastries, pasta, meats, cheeses, Etc. Italy knows how to do it. The other night, we went for authentic Italian pizza with JWs colleague and his wife and children. They just returned from a 3 year stint in Paris so they understood the challenges we were facing. What wonderful people and what a fun dinner, especially for Vance who loved their 6 year old daughter. They didn’t speak the same language but they played nonetheless.
Last night, we went up into the mountains to a restaurant that JW frequents because he knows the owner. To say the meal was good is a horrible understatement. Sara, the owner, treated us like family. You can tell that these people prepare food mindfully and with lots of love and skill handed down by generations of cooks. We decided to go back at least once a week.
Today, we journeyed to the laundromat, went looking for apartments, and toured Reggio Emilia. We were forced to speak Italian all day which led to some great learning experiences and a few difficult moments. We also tried some unusual traditional foods such as pork cheek (the kids LOVED it), tosone (baby Parmesan fried between two pieces of pancetta), and a pickled red cauliflower inside of some baked phyllo dough. All was amazing of course.
So, Italy so far is full of ups, downs, passions, beauty, and grit. Much like its wonderful landscape. I am missing home, but at the same time there is so much to learn, see, and do here. We are venturing to Florence tomorrow, a city I have wanted to visit since I was in high school. We are not taking the train. Pictures to come!