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…
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.
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.
We took our first Italian road trip as a family of five!One of Paul’s goals for our 4 years in Italy is to see every one of this country’s 20 regions. Now that we’ve just spent a week touring Calabria and Basilicata, there are only 2 more to go (they’re in the north and we’ll be there at the end of the month!) We drove to the southern tip of Italy for this trip. Over two days, with a casual 3 or 4 hours of drive time each day, we reached the toe of the boot. In the first 10 minutes however, we had our first bout of throw-up from the backseat. At least Estelle slept it off for most of the morning from that point on.
For our first night, we were headed to Matera, a town that was once an embarrassment to Italy because it’s full of caves and in Mussolini’s day, people were still living there in slum-like conditions. It’s actually an ancient city and as you can see, there’s nothing to be shy about these days. It’s amazing.
Perched on a hill is this incredibly restored place where people have lived for thousands of years. And across the ridge are more caves, part of a national park.
Amid the ruins and gorgeous scenery, it’s all spas, restaurants and luxury hotels. Paul outdid himself with this hotel find; Phoebe was beside herself that we were staying in a cave and kept asking about bears. (I’m pretty sure we can thank the book, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” for that!) Our room was really carved out of the rock, and had been for quite some time! All the furnishings were in the rustic style, except the super sleek tub.
We spent our afternoon exploring, up steps, into fountains…then we made our way to dinner. A pretty late dinner, starting at 8pm. One hour later than the girls are typically in bed every night.So there was a little of this.
And a little of that.
But mostly this.In the morning we had breakfast in the hotel’s gorgeous dining room, with other guests from France, London among other lovely spots. (The English guys talked to us; the French did not.) Then made our way to our next hotel. This one was on the beach which meant fewer steps and more waves coming our way.
While Paul and I were touring historic houses and farmettes, Phoebe and Estelle spent time with “Ginga and Papa”. Crafts, tea parties and bubbles ensued…
Then there was trouble. Everyone got sick. Except my mom and Paul’s dad. But after a couple of days of R&R we were back at it. Paul, Phoebe, Estelle my mom and me all piled into our rented SUV to see a historic plantation. With a big house, a separate kitchen (lest a fire burn the whole house down), a well house where old timers tried to keep dried and fresh foods slightly cooler, slave quarters, live farm animals still on hand and actors dressed in period clothing to show us the ropes, it was really a neat experience. But I’m still glad that our future farm will have a few more creature comforts. At least I hope so.
Eating out with four grandparents, two jet-lagged parents and two girls under three had its ups and downs. Ups: food comes in many different flavors here! And you can eat dinner as early as you want! Downs: Even if you start early, it’s not always easy to get the whole crew into car seats and off to a destination that’s actually found in the GPS. But we did our best with BBQ near the hotel and ice cream in downtown Charlotte.