Mum and dad in Florence

We were lucky enough to have mum and dad drop in on us while they were holidaying in Bella Italia last week. It is no surprise really, since we are holding the majority of their grand children hostage on the other side of the world. The boys were pretty excited to see them again and to tell them all about life in Italy…whilst eating gelato of course!

Nanny and her oldest grand sons

Nanny and her oldest grand sons

Being February the rain did try to set in for the beginning of their stay, however, with a stroke of luck it didn’t seem to last very long and we were able to stroll through the neighbourhoods and see parts of Florence they did get to last time they were here.

A sunny February afternoon 2014

A sunny February afternoon 2014

You don’t really realise how much your own kids have grown until you see them up against someone you haven’t seen in a while. Max was hoping like mad he had grown (he has) and now he is even more excited to go home and see his auntie because he believes he may be taller than her now (I think he might be).

Streeter's in Tuscany

Streeter’s in Tuscany

Walking with mum and dad through the beautiful hills of Settignano was a real treat, something I never thought possible and yet here we were. Mum and dad instilled the idea of travel into my sister and I at a very young age and here we are standing on the cusp of the Tuscan hills over looking the city of Florence together. An adventure that started for them over 45-years ago was alive and strong, while Nic and I still have so much to see 14-years into our travelling life wondering where the next destination will be (I’m thinking a holiday in Vietnam might be on the cards for 2015).

One thing I know for sure is, no matter where we choose to live, be it Sydney, Chicago, Italy… one thing will never change and that is the pleasure of sharing our home with our friends and family and celebrating the adventures of life…one Spritz at a time.


Spritz on the patio

Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici parade, Firenze


Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici in 1743. She was the last direct descendant of the ruling branch of the Medici family, whose will bequeathed the art collection now housed in the Uffizi to the city and stipulated that it could never be removed from Florence. Having found out this information from my lovely husband, I thought it quite fitting that there was a parade in her honour.

Max did ask me yesterday if he could take the day off school to see it, which I blew off as his attempt at skiving off. However, when I met up with mum and dad in the centre of Florence yesterday and stood amongst the beautifully bright costumes of the paraders I had a pang of guilt. Here I was enjoying the festivities, costumes and atmosphere while my kids were at school ‘learning’. I had to ask myself, wouldn’t this be a learning experience for them as well? After all it isn’t everyday you get to enjoy a Renaissance pageant re-enactment in a city that draws your eye and heart back to the days that had been. I was sorry for my abrupt answer and will actually think about the question next time before being so dismissive.

Thanks to dad’s handy work, I have these beautiful photos to share. Something that stung a little when showing Max.



The streets of tourists and locals alike paused in their pursuits to take in the beautiful colours and arrangement of this 40-strong parade slowly marching down the streets of Florence. It was a sight to behold and even better when you had no idea what was on the horizon, all you could here was the beat of the drums and the slow roll of the march.


Guys with very cool guns in leather…my boys are drooling

It was my guess the participants costumes were handed down among the families for generations and showing enormous pride in the occasion. I also had the feeling that my dad would have loved to be a part of the procession too! (In fact the guy with the moustache in the photo below looks a bit like dad.)

I loved this guy with the moustache

I loved this guy with the moustache

Italy and me

It’s the beginning of October, which means we have been in Italy for three months. In this time we have had a wonderful holiday in Rome, moved to a small house in the foot hills of Florence, the boys have been home schooled in English, they then started Italian school, we have walked at least 80 km and counting, and we’ve even gone on a couple of day trips in the country. I think it is fair to say we have jammed quite a bit into the past couple of months and I thought I needed to give an honest account on how life is right now….something for me to look back on.

Whenever we decide to move countries, and we’ve done it a few times (Australia-Chicago-Italy-Chicago-West Virginia-Chicago-Sydney-Italy) I get all excited about the fabulous idea of the move and the excitement about eating new foods, walking new streets and meeting new people. Yet every time I move, once I’ve actually done the hideous flight, I feel the weight of reality on my shoulders and think ‘Shit, what have I done….again!??’

The reality hit was masked this time because it’s the first time we have taken a family holiday before moving into our new life and I really like this approach. We eat more gelato, drink more wine and relax on holidays so what’s there not to love? However, once we strip away the fun times and get down to the reality of everyday living, this is when you start to wonder why the hell you made this decision in the first place and secondly why the hell didn’t you study more Italian before you arrived!!

As daily life progresses, Nic goes to work, kids go to school (Italian) and I go……nowhere, that’s when I start to think about what am I doing, where am I going? The house work is done, I’ve walked a few km to do the shopping and yet I still have half a day to fill. Back at home, in the comfort of my own language and environment I had it all sorted out: this was going to be my year to do something new, find a new interest, maybe even change careers and do as many foodie things as I can….live the dream!

Three months into my ‘dream’ I have had more anxiety attacks that you can poke a stick at and I have asked myself more questions about me than anyone really needs or wants too! You see my WORKING life back home was full on: it was chaotic, busy, not enough hours in the day to do everything and yet what I now realise is that I have nothing in my day except what I do for my family to keep us ticking along. Don’t get me wrong this is important but what is more important for a healthy mind is not losing who you are and what you do in the world and I kind of feel that is what I have done.

Daily I have a freak out about not being good at Italian and feel everyone is judging my progress. I’ve taken classes, I have apps on my phone to teach me and the daily emersion with school and shops etc but I am pathetic at keeping it in my brain, it goes in and then straight out again. I’m starting to think I am not built for this, by the time the year is up I’ll be one step up from basic beginners!

The question is, what am I going to do about my anxiety? I can’t go through life letting it control me, especially not this year.

I’m actually sick of feeling hopeless and useless so I have decided to find some volunteer work around the city, surely some organisation can put my skills to good use?? Another choice I have made is to stop drinking coffee (not happy Jan!) until I feel more like myself again (insomnia is a bitch!). Coffee is a stimulant and I have noticed when I drink coffee it increases the chances of a freak out. Much to Nic’s disgust I haven’t had coffee for 5 days and I also haven’t had any major anxiety like I did the previous weeks. I’m not saying this is the cure but it sure makes me feel better and I don’t feel like my nerves are on high alert……a week ago was a dark place and not somewhere I intend to stay.

This week I feel good, I have finally talked about how I have been feeling with Nic and some friends instead of keeping it all within and trying to be strong (this doesn’t work….you just feel like you’re going mad!) and it has made a difference to me. There is nothing wrong with me, I just need a purpose for being here, something for me to offer or give back to the community and when I find it, living in Italy is going to become the reality I want it to be for me. Who knew working myself into a stupor all these years was the only thing keeping me together? I just thought I had bad management skills!

Nic’s Commute

The whole reason it is even possible for me to wake up every morning under the Tuscan sun and look out through the skylight at the busy morning birds flying over head is because I married well, lets face it.

Next month is our 13th wedding anniversary and it is the second time we will be celebrating it in Italy- in my book this is pretty awesome!

A little under thirteen years ago I fell in love with a student who was taking time out to live and work in the crazy world of hospitality. Nic was fun, loved to dance, thought I was fabulous and loved to travel…what was there not to like? Within the year we started dating, he was working full time as a bar manager/server and finishing off his Masters degree. I was studying massage part-time and working full time in a very busy restaurant. Nothing was stressful or exhausting because we were 20-somethings who were falling in love, working, having fun and hungry for more. We were engaged within 6 months, wed by 11 months and heading back overseas by about 13 months- WOW!

My student has a brilliant mind (lucky he doesn’t have control over my blog otherwise he would disagree) and with that mind he applied to one school in the USA with a Professor he truly admires. He put all his eggs in one basket and manage to get a full scholarship to study history- Italian history.

A baby was born, then bags were packed and we headed over to Chicago for the next seven years while he studied like a mad man and I began to try working out how to raise our son on a student stipend (this is a whole other story!). We met some fabulous people along the way and I even tried my hand at working in a few great kitchens. In this time we managed to find time to have another baby, pack more bags and fly to Italy for eight months. Nic lived in the archives of Florence while I met more fabulous people in Italy; cooked some delicious meals on the cheap and wondered what or where this was all going to take us?


Villa I Tatti has always been on Nic’s radar. It is a Harvard University research centre that gives fellowships to scholars of Renaissance Italy. Fifteen such people each year have the privilege of being accepted as a fellow and to come over and live in Florence and have full access to this amazing institute; Nic just happens to be one of them this year.


Am I proud? Words don’t convey how proud I am of him.

So here we are in Florence… the dream! I know he has to go to work each day but if you loved your work as much as he does (and all the other fellows I have met thus far do) then work is exactly where you want to be. Nic told the boys and I in the beginning that family wasn’t allow to come to the Villa unless it was a planned ‘family day’.

Mmmmm, OK.

A few weeks ago a new colleague of Nic’s came over for a glass or three of vino in the evening hours when the heat finally died down to a reasonable temperature that didn’t have you sweating every time you moved. It was then that I found out the true facts about families on I Tatti’s grounds. It is true, kids are not really welcome, however, you can go and have a quick look if the need arises.

The need arose! I am far to nosey to sit back and wait until ‘family day’ so with that bit of information tucked away the boys and I insisted on picking Nic up from work a few weeks ago. I can completely understand why kids and partners are not welcomed with open arms, the place (or you could quite easily mistake it for a palace) is devoted to serenity, calmness and tranquility- I’m actually surprised Nic does in fact come home!

ImageHe has one year to soak up this beautiful place, and put his research into material he will one day turn into a book; or perhaps write a few papers/articles for History journals. Whatever he decides to do we support him 100% and along with all our friends and family, we can’t thank him enough for an awesome holiday destination!

To bad he has to walk to work everyday, that traffic can be a bitch…..


Schooling Abroad

Where do I begin? Perhaps a photo diary will help bring it all together….

We have started the Australian schooling hours in the morning seeing as that is when the boys are alert, focussed and looking for something to do….Image

Their teachers in Australia have sent us parcels full of readers, math tools, work books and CD ROM’s for them to work from, alas, they haven’t turned up yet. When we went to the Italian post-office to see if the parcels could be traced, our lovely assistant shrugged her shoulders as if to say we were insane and then proceeded to tell us that if we didn’t have a ‘delivered when your out’ docket then the parcel hasn’t arrived.

Hmmmm….. After explaining it was sent at the beginning of June and that maybe was a long time to wait?? We were told ‘not so long……NEXT!’

So the joys of home schooling thousands of miles from home without 80% of the materials needed to teach isn’t as much fun as I had hoped (I think I had steam streaming from my ears at one point). I seem to be doing a lot of trolling on the internet to find work for the boys to do while waiting for their teachers to send through the work digitally…..


The boys seem to think this means it is time to do a bit of classroom activity and cannot understand why I start losing the plot when they don’t do what I ask them. The first week was completely challenging for both them and me. Being told by your mum to do school work that she has never even looked at before doesn’t install a great amount of confidence in them, especially Alex who apparently knows all there is to know. To put it bluntly, the first week was hell on legs and I am so happy it is behind us. 


We are half way through week two and I am happy to report we have had a shift in attitude. No longer do the boys run wild in ‘school time’ and I no longer wish aliens would beam me up to take the pain away. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a lot of work and I get sick of pulling them into line (I might have to have a shot of Botox when I get back to hide all the creases on my face), but we seem to have a nice flow happening with our Aussie teachers and each other. It also helps that we bought a printer/scanner the other day, so we can send work back without the use of the postal system!

Max has decided this is actually the real deal so has started working brilliantly which seems to of rubbed off onto his brother who is getting much better at listening to me; as I am getting better at listening to them too.

The boys will be starting Italian school in mid September when the rest of the Italian kids return from holidays so that will be another barrier to break through. However, I am extremely happy to be there for the boys when they COME HOME from school instead of home being school (and yet, they will continue their Australian work?! What am I saying??). If you think this sounds a little harsh then I suggest you take your kids out of school for a week and try to ‘teach/supervise’ them, then get back to me with your feedback.

I love the little chitlens but I much prefer sending them to school than being the school.


Summer lunches


We have been in our place for two weeks now and I have noticed we are eating like royalty. Obviously we all have our own opinions on what we think is a specialty item, however, when I use to buy the tight, tough little balls of mozzarella back home for $8 a piece and think that was well worth the $$$, you can only imagine the delight when I go shopping here an buy a packet of three buffalo mozzarella balls for a third of the price I pay for one back home. I have to add prosciutto, tomatoes and faro to this list, not to mention the flavour bursting melons, nectarines, peaches and strawberries.


I did think I needed to watch what I ate before arriving in Italy as I didn’t want to turn into a mozzarella ball myself. However, now that I’m here I’ve discovered I have to walk a round trip of 2km to the nearest grocery shop, and I’ve decided that is a perfect amount of walking for me to eat whatever I want when the need arises without any guilt trip.

Lunches seem to be our favoured meal of the day so far. I am trying all the different types of bread offered in our local bakery from schiacciata to Toscana bread (made with no salt) to pane con sale (made with salt). I’m even more pleased with myself that I have actually put my language skills to the test at our local bakery and ordered our daily bread in Italian from start to finish AND she understood! This is a highlight for me thus far as I usually walk into a shop, freeze, smile and then do some kind of mime to get what I came for. Usually by the end of the transaction I always walk out with something, just not what I always intended to buy. Despite my Italian teacher’s despair of me talking here in Italy, the tiny bits of Italian I did learn in Sydney are actually paying off and working for me!!


As you can see from the photos I have uploaded there is a pattern with our lunches. Tomatoes feature most frequently, along with bread and mozzarella and prosciutto. Alex has turned into a massive fan, if he had his way he’d be quite happy sitting down to a whole tomato and mozzarella ball and taking alternative bites until they were devoured! This is amazing coming from a boy who didn’t really like tomatoes back home and only wanted mozzarella on his pizza, melted.


While the sun sits high in the sky and keeps my basil plant flourishing, we will keep devouring as much cheese (OMG, I haven’t even mentioned how fabulous the pecorino cheeses are…..I’m slowly working my way around the deli!), prosciutto, tomato and anything else that looks delicious until the weather starts to cool and I venture into the kitchen and turn on the oven.

I can’t see that happening for quite a while, funnily enough I am absolutely OK with that. The only thing I have neglected to eat more of is gelato and thankfully we just discovered a great looking gelateria down the hill this morning as we meandered down for coffee and a pastry at the most fantastic pasticceria we walked past the other day, so that will be next on the list of shops to visit.

Firenze = Home


After saying goodbye to our lovely holiday in Rome we have finally made it to the beautiful hillsides of Firenze, our new home for the next year.

It’s summer in Italy and I now know why Italians pack up and leave to go on holidays in August- it’s HOT!

Born with pale, freckly skin and a very low tolerance for heat (I use to pass out when I was a kid while mum blow dried my hair!!), summer isn’t the best season for me and yet I don’t have a bad thing to say about the scorching 38 degree days that don’t cool down until about 8.30pm each night.


We arrived at our villa and were greeted by our landlords who couldn’t be more friendly, kind and warm. We were welcomed with cold glasses of iced tea and a beautiful air-conditioned room to relax in while we heard about the region, our house and lots of other things that I didn’t really understand- this is a work in progress!

I find myself smiling a lot, nodding and saying ‘si’ more than I possibly should but it feels better than saying nothing at all……I think this is called Game on Baker!


Although our house is much smaller than I thought it would be….quite a lot smaller in fact; it is very modern with high ceilings (it use to be a stable to a Strozzi villa), lots of air flow (plus a back up a/c for those still, steaming hot nights) and the most beautiful view all around us- nothing to complain about at all!!

Our place has a trail meandering straight past our gate that gets used as the local running track and when I set off on my own run/explore, it only got better with the bends and pot holes in the road. I have since been told it is an actual road but I find it hard to believe as I have never seen a car up this end of the ‘woods’ (this is the name Alex likes to call the path).

ImageLife is feeling pretty sweet right about now. I will start the Distant learning schooling in a day or so and I am sure that will whip me back into reality, but until then I am going to sit back and smell the roses I have growing in my front garden…


Watch the boys soaking up our new outdoor living space (we lived in a apartment with a tiny balcony in Sydney) and pretend I am still on holiday while Nic goes off to do his research in the beautiful grounds of Villa i Tatti.


Please note, this could be the last post where I sound relaxed and tranquil so let me enjoy it while I can…….home schooling has always been something I have never wanted to do and I do not understand why anyone would choose to do this unless it was the only possible way. Yes, I am feeling nervous about it!

Our Roman Holiday

It has felt like an eternity since I was able to sit down at my computer and see what the rest of the world is up to. Since we arrived in Florence just over a week ago we have had no internet connection until about 5 minutes ago!!!

Please enjoy my quick rendition of our family holiday in Rome before I bombard you with the day to day working of life in Firenze…. and just so you know, it feels so, so good to be here, life IS good x

Buon giorno!

It feels like an age since I last posted, but as I look back at the calendar and see our Roman holiday has been and gone in just over a week, and before that we packed up our lives and moved to the other side of the world- a wee break from blogging seems appropriate don’t you think?


The flight over was comfortable though hideously long, however, it had to be done. Alex managed 6 hours sleep out of the 18 hours of flying time, which isn’t too bad at all. Max on the other hand is extremely stubborn and only allowed himself 2 hours for the whole flight!! To say he was a bit of a mess 24 hours later would be an understatement.


With flights out of the way and the intense summer heat piercing our white winter bodies we set off into the streets of Rome to blow the boys minds. We stayed in the heart of the centro storico which is close to a lot of Rome you really want to see. This is a first for me as I am usually in a run-down pensione up by the station, so to have a little apartment in the heart of Rome was a dream come true.  As promised, gelato was high on the boys’ list of things to ‘do and see’ and we ticked that off the list in the first hours of arrivingImage

 After a wonderful night’s sleep (and really enjoying stretching out) we started the day with sight seeing, pastries and a little walking…actually a lot of walking. The complaints were minimal as the boys were both eager and wanting to see more of the city. Image

Stopping for lunch was most welcome and with a trusting look at the ‘Lonely Planet Guide’ we found a wonderful restaurant out of the tourist trap with fantastic pizza and icy cold beers.

For dinner we decided to make a yummy salad at home as the ingredients were so cheap compared to Sydney food prices, plus I was dying to eat fresh tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella!

I would love to tell you the evening was an affair of laughter, fun and a bottle of wine, however, it was not to be. I added some deli tuna to our tomato and mozzarella salad for an extra boost and soon discovered it did not agree with me. For whatever reason I seemed to have an allergic reaction to the fish and ended up with a beetroot red body, heart palpitations, headaches, vomiting and welts!!


Woohooo, oh what a night!


Nic only managed welts, redness on part of his body and a headache, however, woke up feeling fine the next morning. I on the other hand wasn’t so fine and the worst thing of all it was Alex’s 8th birthday!!


 Thankfully by morning the heart palpitations were gone and the headaches were controlled by panadol so I wasn’t a complete mess. Alex woke up to a few presents sitting on the table; so bursting with excitement he ripped into them and thus began a wonderful day for him. He put on a nice shirt, put gel in his hair and greeted the day with enthusiasm as any 8 year old would on their birthday!


Pastries we polished off in the morning and delicious panini were eaten for lunch while standing it a thunderstorm (a welcoming relief from the intense heat). By the afternoon all I could think about was bed so Nic took the boys to a ‘time elevator’ where they learnt about Rome in 5D and then ate more gelato!


 Ice cream cake was Alex’s birthday request so we popped into the corner shop, found a Vienetta, whipped off the wrapping then Alex proceeded to ‘dress it up’ with beautiful sweet local strawberries (thank goodness). A wonderful birthday was had, he was totally excited with his very own ice cream cake, eating two slices while watching Transformers on dvd and I was even happier to wake up the next morning feeling 100% better.


It was time to get on with our holiday!


Take two is just about to take off

With 90% of the packing accomplished and all of the little bits and pieces finally finalized in Sydney I am happy to be able to say….I think I’m ready to go.

With only a few days left in Sydney a calm seems to have washed over me, I am looking forward to what next week will bring. I always love that about travel- one day you’re in Sydney complaining about the cold snap, the next your trying so very hard not to fall asleep at 1pm on the Spanish Steps in Rome!!

Alex, my very loving 7 year old is having a struggle as time ticks on. Today he almost looked sick with anxiety, we hug A LOT and just when you think there could be no more hugs he has one waiting to pounce on you. I’m trying to explain the beautiful smells, sounds and sights of Italy but it is really hard to put it into words that a 7 year old can comprehend, sometimes I think I make it worse!

My new approach is ‘relax, first we will holiday in Rome, you will have your birthday and then we will think about the rest….’ This is working!

We lost just about all of our photos from Italy due to being robbed when we moved back to Australia a few years back and I blame this on why my memory is so fuzzy, however, thanks to my sister and our beautiful friend Jo we took a trip down memory lane to the Italian life we left behind almost 8 years ago. After looking at these photos I am happy to tell you there are a few things we have changed this time around.

On top of my list is the furniture in our new accomodation!!

ImageAs you can see from the above photo, we only had outdoor seating indoors!

The first thing I noticed in our new furnished home was the beautiful, comfy leather couch- perfetto!

And while I don’t have these ratbags to entertain this time round……

ImageI am looking forward to showing the grown up version of these two monkeys the delights of living in another country where food and pride in family take first place. They are already talking about what we will be eating for dinner when we arrive in Rome, but I just need to get them off the ipad/pod/tunes blahh,blahh to see there are better things than electronics, however, hugs from their newly arrived cousin will be muchly missed.


See you all when we begin our year in Florence!!

Ciao a tutti!