I Tatti harvest

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I have been waiting for the last two months to get the go ahead from Nic that Villa I Tatti needs volunteers to help pick the grape vines before the rains come. Last Thursday was the day. I had been feeling a bit blah lately and missing adult company so this was just the ticket for me to get out and do some physical exercise while chatting (in English, yes!). I totally forgot to bring my camera and was very excited when I saw Kate (another fellow of I Tatti) with hers snapping away. Kate was happy to shoot me over some pictures from our morning of grape picking and so I thought I’d do a little photo diary as the grounds of I Tatti are grand and beautiful. I couldn’t believe it when I heard some people would rather lock themselves away in offices instead of getting in amongst it all, it’s a once in a life time experience picking grapes on a farm in Italy for this Australian.

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The morning started at 8 am with a couple of early risers (actually Guy was jet lagged and Kate, well she just made an excellent effort!). Nic and I rolled up around 8.30am just after we dropped the kids off to school. As you can see the fields are all turned up (I am sure there is a technical term for that?) and it was a bit unsteady under foot but once you started, you got the hang of it. The four of us and the professional farmers all got to work picking, analysing (looking for rotten grapes) and eventually dumping loads of beautiful grape bunches into our designated red bins. Kate was in full steam ahead mode and managed to finish her first container before the crowds arrived.

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Seeing how well she had done I thought I had better get cracking and see what I could come up with. Lucky for me the farmers tip half picked bins into other half picked bins to make full ones, otherwise I would of been competing against everyone! At first you really study the grape bunches and make sure they are 100% perfect before you place them in your red bin…….that is until you look into your red bin and see you are quite slow and have only filled a third of your bin rather than the full bin your mate further down the vine has picked!

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Clearly the container was super full as I had to drag it on the ground…..well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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Grape picking in this fashion is quite therapeutic and satisfying. You get to hold bunches of grapes that look like they were painted rather than grown; when you taste them they are so sweet your mouth fills with the juicy rich flavour of the grape and if you happen to stand up straight to stretch out your back you can be lucky enough to see beautiful Tuscan views all around you….

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and the best part about harvest time at I Tatti is the added touches they provide, for example, just when you think you might need a break or a drink of water, a tractor pulls around the vines and you’re called down for a panini and refreshments, I mean completely civilised really!

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The amount of brain matter in amongst the vines on this day is quite staggering, there were not a lot of questions about Desperate Housewives amongst this group! Anyway, after our little break, it was back to the vines and Kate in full glory showing us how it’s done while another professor’s baby looks on in comfort.

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It was a great morning hanging out in the fields picking grapes with a great bunch of people. I am also happy to know that now the grapes are picked (actually I think they had another 3 fields of vines to pick but you can’t ask too much of your visiting fellows…and their partners!) we will soon be enjoying the fruits of our labour in a few months time in the way of bottled wine, well I may be invited back up to the villa once or twice before we go back home if I’m good!

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2013 I Tatti grape pickers

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AFL Grand final day in Florence

The alarm buzzed at 5.15am this morning and I was woken by a very excited husband and son because we were going into Florence to watch the AFL Grand final where their favourite team, Hawthorn were playing Fremantle. 

Simon who owns the only Irish pub in Florence and Rome run by an Irish man was kind enough to open his doors at 6.30am to let a bunch of Aussies watch the big game.

Of course it wasn’t all smooth sailing (bloody cycling!!) We strolled down to the bus stop to catch the first 6am bus and Alex and I really were trying hard to be enthusiastic at this time of morning.

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Thankfully the bus was on time and we were on our way into town to watch a great game of footy….all before 7am!

It must be love. Simon was friendly and very welcoming at such an ungodly time of the morning and Nic supported the cause by having a pint or two of larger to get into the grand final spirit, I on the other hand wasn’t so stoic and had orange juice seeing as I wasn’t fully awake or some may call it being a bit soft! 

As the morning rolled on more Aussies popped in to see the game and it was great to see and hear fellow country peeps enjoying the game- Alex kept asking me if they spoke English, he couldn’t quite grasp the concept that there would be so many Aussies in one bar at one time in Florence!

Victory was won by the Mighty Hawks and Nic and Max couldn’t of been happier…

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Alex was ecstatic to be leaving the pub (not so much a lover of watching the game) and I was looking forward to a cup of coffee, alas, it wouldn’t be quite as much fun if we caught our regular bus back home now would it!?

As luck would have it, we can win the grand final but missed the last bus up to our town (it left at 8.30 am) due to the cycling, so it was another detour to Campo de Marte (meaning another 4km walk home) which wasn’t as bad as it sounds because we caught sight of the lead racers as we were walking over the station bridge.

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Really it has been a very productive morning and all before 10am!

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We watched the Hawks win a fantastic grand final; we finally got a glimpse of the cycling that has turned us into excellent walkers (if only by default) and managed to make it home before the crowds gathered. Now I have had my coffee it might be time for a quick nanna nap before lunch- I’m exhausted!

 

How was your morning?

It’s 4.30pm and I finally get to sit at my computer and contemplate our ‘quick trip’ downtown. Well right there, thinking it was going to be a ‘quick trip’ really set me up for complete and utter failure. Now I know I have blogged beautiful scenic photos and made a lot of you green with envy so this is a blog post for all of you who think I’m ‘living the dream’ 24/7.

For anyone who has lived in Italy for longer than three months, you’ll no doubt roll your eyes and understand when I say I lined up to get my Permesso di Soggiorno this morning. Basically it is a card to say that in fact, yes, you can come and go whilst living in Italy as you have paid extra money, stood in multiple lines, been kept waiting for several hours on several occasions just in case an Italian police officer wants to check your papers….whenever.

We arrive at the questura at 9am, grab a ticket (lucky number F80!) and then proceed to wait with hundreds of other people trying to do the right thing. (I have also heard there are literally 1,000s of people without i.d in Italy so this is a good thing…..waste of money and time, but a good thing!?) I looked up to see the number on the screen and it lit up number F15! Get your books out boys, it’s going to be a long wait……

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Right, well that is one and a half hours gone and wasted, how about a game or ten of chess to keep morale high? What is that you say?? Why are all the windows empty? Hmm good question, is it a coffee break or just nobody there? Yep ding, ding, you got it, just nobody there…..!!

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Anyway 3 and a half hours later I am happy to say I now have my permesso and happy to be ‘legal’ and living the dream!

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We got out of the questura and ran to the nearest cafe for a coffee hit and pastry before we headed back up the hill for home. If anyone is living in and around the Florentine area then you will of experienced the madness of the European bike racing and no doubt also trying very hard to love it. I was loving it until today that is.

You may wonder why the boys were with us today, being Friday and all. Well the reason is because of the bike racing, I guess the council decided they didn’t want to block up all the roads with parents doing the drop off or pick up runs (bikes aren’t even coming close to our school) so they closed all the schools in Florence for Friday, hoping the event would run smoothly. This is of course brilliant for the boys, however, I think they would of preferred something a bit more interesting than a trip to the questura!

After pastries and coffee, we whizzed around to pick up some coconut milk from the Asian store and then off to catch the bus back home. We had just missed the cut off for our bus! That’s right, no more busses run to our neck of the woods until 3-4pm…argghh!!

So, we caught a bus to Campo de Marte where we then proceeded to walk 4 km home along blank, clear roads. Roads that were ready and waiting for hundreds of cyclists to carve up and perform…..in about 2 hours time. We managed to get home around 2pm and thankfully I had a jar of ragù in my fridge thanks to Max’s friend’s mum who gave us some to try (Ohh I’m liking her more and more!!). I cooked up a bit of pasta, ragù on top and lots of grated parmesan just in the nick of time before Max was about to chew his arm off.

Happy Friday.

San Gimignano take two

Just a little over 8 years ago my friend Jo asked me to go on a day trip with her and her then 4 year old daughter to a town I had never herd of, San Gimignano. In fact a town I couldn’t pronounce without falling over the g’s! Max was 4-ish and Alex must have been 8-10months?? Anyway, I loved hanging out with Jo so it was an instant ‘yes’. Eight years ago we were poor as church mice (Nic was a student doing his Phd) and Jo being a fabulous friend recommended we take a packed lunch and just enjoy the views, so with sangos and fruit packed we headed to one my all time favourite towns in Italy. The medieval town blew me away the first time I laid eyes on it and again the second time around, eight years later.

With Jo I remember pushing strollers up the somewhat steep streets and letting the kids run around the square chasing whatever they could find, namely each other! We took lots of photos, picnicked under trees on the outside of the town’s medieval walls and soaked in the surrounds while devouring our sandwiches. I was so excited to tell Nic about this wonderful town and hoped I would be able to show it to him one day. Sadly all my pictures of eight years ago have gone when the bastards stole our computer a few years ago when our house was burgled, however, last Sunday we got to take a whole lot more photos and with Nic included.

I couldn’t help but think of Jo as we were strolling around, we didn’t go into any of the free churches (saw them last time) but we did go into the Palazzo Comunale and have a look around at the frescos and climbed the tower (actually I have to confess, Nic and Alex made it all the way to the top of the tower and took some amazing shots while Max and I only made it three quarters of the way up the stairs before we turned around and looked out of a window a little closer to ground level).

We had a wonderful day together but in all honesty no more so than when I went as a much poorer mother of two 8 years ago: I would have to say each time was as enjoyable as the other. So really the company you keep is much more memorable than the money you spend. It is an easy drive from Florence, straight up the autostrada, very well signposted and very easy to park. I know you can also catch buses to San Gimignano so really there is no excuse not to see this beautiful town for yourself when you plan your trip to Italy, and if you need a little incentive check out the scenes below….

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Looking out from somewhere up in the tower taken by Alex on his way up Image

This is a back end view as we were walking into town, the towers are so striking and to see them like this you have to walk to the end of town (which will take you all of 10 minutes at a casual stroll).

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This is my favourite shot….see how high up they were? Woo!

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Pretty happy with himself…and rightly so!

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Alex loves taking ‘selfies’, however, this time he wanted one with all of us…..come to think of it, this could be the first family shot in months!

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This was inside the Palazzo Comunale, so beautiful to stand in on a warm day and look upImage

 

What is there to not love about this place?

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The boys were super happy to eat pizza as they haven’t had any since Rome. Nic and I managed to find a deli that made us some delicious porchetta and marinated eggplant rolls (thank god we both ate them as the garlic breath was fairly intense afterward!)

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Come on guys, just ONE serious shot for your grandparents??? 

 

Social Butterflies

I am lagging behind on my blogging reading and writing this week due to the boys’ social schedule…..who would of thought it?

Last weekend started with play dates being organised by friends in their classes followed with a birthday invitation for the coming Friday- WOW I thought, I’m not sure I’m ready for so much attention (code for shit, I will have to speak Italian and I don’t mean, Ciao!). Our first ‘play’ was on Tuesday with a lovely Italian girl from Max’s class. Her mum wrote the note in English so I was semi-confident I’d be able to string a few words together with an Italian mum. 

Max’s first long day of school on the Monday before didn’t go as planned (wheels came flying off the “Italian school is cool” bus) and I was wondering if he really wanted to go to the play date on Tuesday seeing as he told me he was never going to Italian school again!

With no pressure applied I asked Max what he wanted to do (and secretly I was hoping for the ‘let’s wait a while’ answer) but he said ‘let’s go.’ So after school Monday the boys and I jumped into the car of our host and had our first ‘play’ with a new Italian class mate. I got on like a house-on-fire with the mum and managed to speak about half a dozen words of Italian before she confessed she was dying to speak English to someone as she was missing her English life; while the kids were in the other room trying to figure out how to play Monopoly in Italian plus sort out the comfort zones of 11 year-old boys and girls!

Thursday was Alex’s turn for a play date and he was super excited as it was with his ‘best mate’ from his class (whose mum’s American and dad’s Italian….see why he was excited!?) The boys frantically played with toy guns, knives and swords in ENGLISH while I again babbled away in ENGLISH…….Yes I know, there is a pattern forming and it isn’t a good one but have no fear I still have one birthday party to go!

Friday zoomed around and the Italian birthday party was playing on my mind. It was for two girls in Max’s class and although I had a lovely time speaking English to one mum, I knew it was a one off because I had met a few other mums and no English was spoken; 4pm was coming around to fast! We were picked up by our new class friend just after 4pm (something Max couldn’t understand as it said on the invite it started at 4pm…..time sensitive kid 🙂 ). As we were whizzing up tiny streets of tiny towns with cars flying towards us at break-neck speeds I am informed that in fact the house we are going to isn’t much of a house, more like a villa! As we hook a sharp right up the steepest hill I have driven up in a while, I am shoved a little into the window by the sharpness of the turn (my new Italian friend laughing at my reaction- see why I like her!) but the view was breath taking.

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We parked the car across the road from a very intimidating stone wall and I was directed to take the kids over to the gate in it. At this stage I had my heart in my throat and no memory of any Italian words whatsoever!! It was at that moment that a very friendly and handsome man came out to greet us. Some how I managed to introduce myself and the kids to him in Italian, tell him we are from Australia and thank you for the invite but I had nothing else……He let me talk, welcomed us all in Italian and then spoke beautiful English to me. Wow I thought how nice is he. We entered through the side garden (yes I said side garden!!) and proceeded to walk down to what looked like an enchanted garden- mind blowing!

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( I wouldn’t mind this in my back yard!)

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I could hear a crowd gathering in a small clearing and as we got closer I felt sick….ok deep breaths. I asked Max how he was doing and he looked at me and said ‘feeling a bit nervous’, I knew how he felt. However, I am happy to say all the worry and stress was for absolutely nothing as we were invited into the crowd with the warmest of greetings in Italian and English and genuine smiles on peoples faces eager to meet us all. I wasn’t expecting this at all!

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Food was laid out and the boys went off to graze though not yet mingling. I was talking to the host’s wife who was a delightful lady and who I am sure spoke better English than me. I was encouraged to speak Italian, however English dominated seeing as I can’t yet have a conversation in Italian. I looked behind me after 5 minutes and the boys had vanished into the beautiful gardens, and I didn’t really see them again until more food was brought out.

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Cakes for the birthday girls…..I like cakes!

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A week of socializing was wrapped up with a beautiful party, Alex even came up to me at one stage and said it was soooo much better than he thought it was going to be. There were no computer games, bowling allies or laser tag; it was a beautiful back yard where the kids could run, chase, laugh, spill their drinks, eat yummy food, play ping pong and just enjoy being kids. The best part about it for me was that I met a mum with no English who wants me to teach her English and she’ll teach me Italian, I couldn’t ask for more than that!

Settignano…..Best views of Florence

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I know I have talked about our family walks a few times, however, one of our favourite places to wonder around would have to be Settignano. I could go on and talk about the winding roads and picturesque views of rolling hills and breath taking views of Florence, OR, I could just show you! For anyone visiting Florence for a few days and eager to head out of town and away from the million other tourists for a couple of hours, then I suggest you go on down to Piazza San Marco, jump on the number ten bus and enjoy the ride up to Settignano (which will take about 25minutes). The bus drops you right in the heart of Settignano and from there you can stroll around the town and up into the hills for breath taking views of the Italy I am sure you really want to see. Don’t take a map, just walk and enjoy the views, you won’t get lost, however, you could just fall in love with the place.

Another great feature of this town are the wonderful cafes you can visit and rest your weary legs at and for the gelato lovers, there is a gelateria there as well! Take a moment to feast your eyes on this beautiful part of the world and start planning your next trip to a mountain village near you……fresh country air does you the world of good!

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It was a soaring hot day as you can see by the heat haze but hiding in the shade made it painless.Image

I am never sure if we are just way to embarrassing to be seen with or just really slow walkers but Max will always be strides ahead of us.

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The other side of town, I could sit and look at this view for hours….

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and if you decide to jump off the bus a little earlier this pic is taken from the bottom end of town and also includes a good butt workout!

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Oh, we must of been really slow here!Image

I love this peek a boo shot of the city….Image

A cheap, cheerful and extremely relaxing way to see a little bit more of this glorious city!

Porcini love

I was doing the grocery shopping on Saturday, nothing exciting about that, BUT when I went over to the mushroom section I found these!!!!!

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500 grams of sweet, sweet love for the low price of 7euro. 

After drooling and carrying on like a pork chop, I whizzed the trolley around to the rice aisle and grabbed some riso superfino ROMA, it was time for risotto!!!

We haven’t gone down this road yet for two reasons a) It hasn’t been cold enough and b) Alex hates risotto. I know this shouldn’t be a reason not to buy it but sometimes you need to fight the battles you know you have a chance of winning and other times….you just wait for a sleep over. 

I love porcini mushrooms but to be honest I can’t remember the last time I had fresh ones? I’ve softened bucket loads of the dried variety but fresh? Saturday night was going to be an adults only dinner that much I knew. Max would of loved the  risotto, however, I knew he would love a bowl of noodles with a fried egg more!

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I didn’t want to shadow the flavour of the porcini so I made a porcini, pancetta and spinach risotto with a hint of lemon (it cuts through the spinach beautifully removing that fury taste you can get on your tongue). I don’t have much to say except it was delicious; the delicate porcini flavour was paired beautifully with the sweetness of the pancetta not to mention the perfume when cooking this dish, I thought my nostrils were going to be sniffed into the back of my head at one stage. The rice was creamy and I also used a pecorino cheese instead of parmesan. The flavours melded beautifully letting the porcini shine and rightly so.

I think everyone knows how to cook a risotto and if not I bet you have a recipe book on your shelf that tells you how, however, if you are needing a recipe look here and omit the flavours with mushrooms and bacon-easy! 

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The porcini love didn’t stop there, oh no!

I knew we had people coming over for a late Sunday lunch and I wanted to use the rest of the porcini. I was driving with my friend Sue on Sunday morning just outside of Florence when I rang Nic and directed the way I wanted the potatoes done. I know that sounds very bossy but I had my mind wrapped around this dish for a while and I knew he wouldn’t mind. Basically Nic sauteed the sliced porcini mushrooms with butter, garlic, salt and pepper then peeled and sliced potatoes into chunky slices and tossed them in with the sauteed mushrooms. He then put them in a baking dish, poured over warm chicken stock not quite covering all of the potatoes and baked it in a preheated oven (180 degree) for about an hour or until potatoes are soft. This is a very easy and tasty side for any meal, we just happened to serve it with BBQ meats (ribs, sausage and chicken), pesto beans and a radicchio and soft cheese and tomato salad (the cheese was a mystery….I was trying to buy a goat cheese but??). Sadly I have no photos of this lunch as the Prosecco came out in the beginning and life was a little relaxing, so make some of your own and let me know how it goes (the potatoes will work just as well with dried porcini soaked in the chicken stock).

I consider this a massive Italian treat and am truly loving this year……now I just have to go to the truffle festival this coming weekend and I’ll be in heaven!

 

My Italian life…so far

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Well I can hardly believe we have been in Italy for two months already. Weeks seem to fly by at an uncontrollable rate. The kids tell me it feels like FOREVER when they are at school (all of 4 hours a day this week), but talk to anyone over the age of 30 and we all wonder what happened to the previous months?

I thought I’d jot down a couple of events I have engaged in around the neighbourhood thus far. The small things are always the bits that make a stay anywhere most memorable, for example I love walking down to the local baker lady who doesn’t bat an eyelid when I order my bread in Italian…well what I would call Italian but who knows if I am really asking for salted (con sale) bread or sun (sole) bread…..some days I wonder what actually falls out of my mouth and yet she gives me my bread, wishes me a pleasant day until we meet again- I love that.

Living in a rural setting is simply divine and really when you have lived in a small apartment in North Sydney for a few years, anything with a gravel road running by and birds tweeting really is rural; forget the cows and sheep, we have wild birds of some kind running about kicking up the dirt and the occasional deer popping out to say hello. I mean Nic thought he saw a boar when he was out on a walk the other morning.

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Actually talking of walks, we take a lot of them due to the fact we are not getting a car. Every Sunday we like to take a family walk and find out a little bit more about the area we live. I say ‘we’ but really Nic and I as the kids seem to cringe and carry on when it is mentioned, but kudos to them, they get onto the subject of Pokemon and really don’t notice the distance until it is too late.

The daily trip up to the local bins (trash cans) is always funny to me. I feel like the locals are checking out my daily rubbish output….almost like a walk of shame some days!

I have actually started doing a survey on my morning runs this past month and one thing I have noticed is VW drivers seem to have a problem with people walking or running on the roads. I run at about 6.30am three mornings a week and then walk with the boys down to the grocery store about three days a week also, so I feel I have some authority on this. The first time I had a VW station wagon veer over closer to me was on a morning run and I just put it down to the driver starting the day without a coffee. I did the side step so I didn’t get side swiped, no biggy. The second, third and fourth time I was walking with the kids doing our regular shop and I had to really start thinking hard about what the hell was going on?? Each time a vehicle got close enough for us to read the time on the dashboard clock I’d look back and low and behold they were driving a VW station wagon, golf or SUV thingy. Granted the roads can be tight here but to have every car come within inches of knocking us into the next century at speeds higher than the speed limit was starting to get a little freaky, especially when 99% were all driving VW’s!!

Last week I put my foot down and stopped being so polite and making excuses to the kids about them veering over toward us. One guy in an caddie van VW (I can only imagine he didn’t approve of our mode of transport?) started speeding up and moving closer to the boys and I. I mean the kids even commented on the fact that he was getting very close, so close in fact that Alex threw himself into a blackberry bush just as I was feeling the breeze of the side mirror brush against my arm!! You know I yelled at him and did the gesture of “I’m pissed off with you mate!” daring him to see me in the rear vision mirror and perhaps even stopping the car- I was ready and waiting!. He didn’t stop the car (probably doing a belly laugh at the sight of our faces) but he saw me all right.

I mean what the hell is going on VW drivers?? Is the car set to swerve to hit pedestrians in Italy?? OK, so you may think I am going nuts but just to back up my survey I was out this morning on on run; I’d waved to my guy who looks about 80 riding his bike to work, he always gives me a big smile and a “Salve!”, I saw the milk truck rushing to get his deliveries done and I passed about 5 cars on a strip of road that is much wider than two cars (and I know this because frequently I see young Italians dragging off the oldies behind the wheel who are sticking to the speed limit) and on this strip are white lines for parked cars. At 6.30am there are no parked cars so it is nice to cruise along in the ‘parked car’ area and take in the scenery, however, this is when the VW drivers must lose it. I successfully passed three cars, two of them even moved over to avoid me but the one car that decided to drive closer and closer until he (and yes it was a he) was well over the white lines was…..A VW DRIVER!!!! I saw red, so in a split second I decided to play a game of chicken (mum it’s ok it wasn’t dangerous I promise!) Every time he came over I ran out onto the edge of the white line (quite within my right I thought) and it wasn’t until he was about three metres away that he finally moved back onto the main part of the road!?

OK so I know it wasn’t the most sensible thing to do but I just had had enough already….if you own a VW perhaps you can shed some light on this crazy occurrence. Whatever the case I promise I won’t torment these peeps but please, please don’t go for the kids otherwise I will turn into the crazy Australian lady and that’s a sight nobody wants to see!!

And right now, the sun is shining, the dog in the house behind us hasn’t stopped barking for the past half an hour so I’m thinking it’s time to pop some shoes on, walk to the bakery and pick up some bread.

Ciao!

First day of scuola

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Morning arrived and the boys could avoid it no more- the first day of Italian school.

When Max first started school it was in America and he was bursting to go. We then changed schools for him every year (spread over three countries) of his first 4 years of schooling life; every single time he’d put his backpack on, accept kisses and hugs inside the house and then with his head held high, walk to his new school. As you can see he has had a lot of practice at starting new schools but this morning was the first time I had really seen him nervous and that pierced a hole straight through my heart.  Alex wasn’t as cheery as usual but he wasn’t looking too bad either so I thought we were doing OK.

School starts at 8.30am so at 8.15am they put on their grembuili (the lovely blue overcoats Italian kids wear for school) and I nabbed a photo before the fear set in…I thought they looked pretty relaxed?

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It is literally a 3 minute walk to the school as it is at the end of our street, however, when the time came I think we were all wishing for a few more minutes of walking! First day back at school is always a little crazy where ever you are. New kids, old friends, parents all trying to make themselves comfortable and ready for the day. We weren’t quite sure how the whole ‘start of the day’ worked and pretty much followed the crowd. Thankfully we knew where Alex’s class was so we started there first. I hadn’t really looked at the kids when we hit the school as I was trying to figure out how I’d work in with the crowd, it wasn’t until the crowd swept Nic and Alex up in the flow that I saw the look of pure terror on Alex’s face. He was out of touch, I did have a fleeting moment of me turning into hysterical mum and doing a few commando moves to get past the crowd but thought better of it. I plucked up all the courage I had and gave him a big smile and wave and let him go.

Max was standing next to me and I held his hand, it was accepted and I think we both just stood there for a few seconds trying to wrap our heads around it all. Nic joined us moments later and we forged through the tight and crowded corridor to deliver Max. Our only bit of information on his teacher was “look for a tall, slim woman with blonde hair”……..yeah, that could of been numerous ladies before us. I guess we were looking a bit lost when this beautiful, tall, slim woman smiled at Max and said “Maximilian??…….Ciao!” She was lovely, kind and very friendly, however, Max and I still held hands in the comfort of the crowded room (so his integrity was still intact). Nic spoke with her in Italian, I followed a few words and then with a squeeze of my hand he stepped forward into the new classroom without looking back.

Nic returned to work and I walked home by myself trying to hold back the lump in my throat that wanted to burst forward and cry for the pressure and stress we had just put our kids under…..that three minute walk felt like an eternity, plus I had to whip out a few buongiornos to the parents I passed by. I couldn’t sit at home and whimper for them so I Skyped my sister for a chat, did the ironing, washing, cleaning (domestic goddess I know!) and then before I knew it, it was time to pick the boys up…..actually that is not quite true, I may have done a ‘walk by’ the school to do a rubbish dump just to ensure they weren’t screaming bloody murder from the roof tops- amazingly the school was silent.

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Is that a little head I recognise in the middle of the crowd?

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He made it!! Although that is a little grin on Alex’s face now it did not last very long. The stress of the day kind of got to him and he crumpled in my arms. I was proud of him, he didn’t cry but held it together and just hugged me as I whispered into his ear “It’s ok, you made it through your first day, that is all you needed to do” with that he nodded and just hugged, he was going to be fine.

Max on the other hand was the complete opposite! He managed to meander his way through the crowd before I had a chance to catch him.

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I was just about to ask him how his day went when Nic and I heard “Ciao Max” and we looked over to a pretty girl from his class waving goodbye. The first thing Nic said was “Oh he’s fine, the sly fox!” and fine he was. He had nothing but positive things to say about his class, teacher and the school.

“It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be” he said, “Everyone wanted to speak English to me” and then “Italian kids are really loud but friendly”.

Max bounced home with a grin on his face and I have to say it pulled his brother out of the dark cloud he was under. By the time we got home stories of the day were flowing and Alex started remembering good things that happened in his day so maybe, just maybe it was the best decision we could of made.