Dinner in the park

In between vacations, we tried to make the most of our proximity to Villa Borghese during our last summer in Italy. One one sunny, summer night, this meant a picnic dinner in the park.

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A pretty place to stay

The agriturismo where we stayed was really great. Right on the beach but they had a pool too. We had our own apartment with two bedrooms and a small kitchenette–which I’m happy to report wasn’t used even once. Instead we had all of our meals at the hotel’s restaurant then bounced between the swings, pool, beach and bed. Even though it’s complicated to get all the little guys lathered up with sunscreen, suits and all the safety equipment, it’s still a fun way to spend a week.

And even though we had a few mealtime meltdowns with our late dinners, starting at 8pm especially “early” for us, the kids all said CIAO to everyone else in the outdoor dining area as we headed off to bed. It reminded me of the party scene in The Sound of Music. Very cute. When we left, we got compliments on the kids’ behavior, especially their willingness to eat new foods. Guess whose heart skipped a beat at that one…

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Day trip to Gerace…confusing but still pretty fun

We were the only Americans at our hotel in Calabria, which is usually the case wherever we are. But we were also the only ones with three small children. They actually made a sweet effort to accommodate us and our schedule for wee ones, arranging for our dinner at 7:30 pm instead of 8pm like the rest of the guests–since our kids go to sleep at 7pm most nights. But they also went to great lengths to inquire about whether we wanted to join a group day trip to a hilltop town called Gerace. Of course we couldn’t figure out what they were saying for the first couple of rounds but finally we put together enough of the pieces that when another guest pitched in her broken English, we understood that a tour bus was in our future. And off we went.

First a tour bus picked us up, along with half a dozen other hotel guests. Together we joined an already amassed group, headed for this ancient little walled city. Once we arrived, there was a little tourist train to take us to the top. None of this was clear to us ahead of time. Or really as it was happening…but still turned out to be fun. (Which pretty much sums up our experience in Italy as well.)

Also, the train played really loud Italian folk music, which everyone else immediately recognized and clapped to.

At the top, everyone got off and when we weren’t exactly sure where the tour guide said we’d meet up again, or when, three ladies from our hotel chimed in and confirmed. So, off we went to explore the town. We couldn’t find any Nutella crepes.

At the appointed meeting time (I’d actually set my iPhone alarm 15 minutes ahead of time to be sure) we were there. So was one familiar looking Italian family. But no one else. And no bus. So the girls ran around with a couple of Italian kids and showed us how to really spend 20 minutes.

Finally we slogged back up the hill to find the bus and climbed in. At which point the bus drove down the hill and stopped at the appointed meeting place. To pick up the other Italians–just 35 minutes later. This is called “Italian Time” and I can’t believe we hadn’t accounted for it after all this time. The bus ride home was a little dicey; people were tired but eventually everyone found their happy place.

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Scenic Calabria by PM

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Playing on the beach

Then we arrived at our hotel, an agriturismo which is a hotel that also produces some sort of food product. This one sold olive oil, jam and a few other lovely Italian specialties. It was right on the beach and had a pool on site too. We enjoyed both but these guys definitely loved getting their feet down and dirty while George and I mostly soaked up the shade.

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Staying on the beach

Thinking that at least Phoebe is getting old enough to appreciate it, we drove to Castello Aragonese on the way to our next hotel in Reggio Calabria. I’d say she was underwhelmed but that could be because she had to wait half an hour to go see it, while I fed George. Nursing in the car: not glamorous but at least it’s semi-private. Anyway, it was pretty neat when we climbed up.

Then we had lunch. And I had to laugh when Paul leaned over and said, “I really thought we were just going to make a quick stop to take a few pictures. Now it’s been a few hours.” Like I said, this was our first trip as a family of five. I have a feeling there will be few “quick stops” in our future from here on out.

Our second night on the road was less fancy than the cave but much more sandy. Our hotel was right on the beach, which actually reminded me a lot of Nice, where we stayed last summer, because lots of tiny pebbles lined the shores. There weren’t many people there but the nightlife was totally on! Even the restaurant of our decidedly family-friendly, budget-minded hotel had bass-thumping music playing by dinner time. The hotel next door had a band! Luckily, amazingly, we heard none of it from our room at night. We did hear wind though. This room had two adjoining bedrooms…but only one AC unit. George and I were in the AC, Phoebe and Estelle shacked up in the other room and poor Paul, as is his usual custom these days, got a few winks in both places.

Just to back up…there was another late dinner, the second of many to come, and eventually we ended up at the hotel restaurant. With extra babies. At least Paul and I didn’t have to take care of this one.

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Also on this trip…

George started smiling.

And if this chair looks familiar, that’s because it is!

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