Saturday, March 22, 2014

a day in the life in pictures

Two for two

Do you know what's scary? Taking your child to the emergency room in a foreign country. Even if you know how to say, "No thank you, I brought my own bag" when the cashier at the grocery store asks if you need one, you may not know how to say, "Make sure you numb the area before you start stitching him up," because according to John's school nurse, apparently this is not a given in Italian ERs.

The first time we visited the ER was when John 's head was in need of the afore mentioned stitches.  The doctor who treated him was wonderful, numbed his head upon request, and even made certain to schedule a return visit during the hours she would be working.

This visit was no less successful. John's clavicle was broken and as we waited amongst a sea of others for someone to return to the front desk, a man who would have been at home leading a gang of Hell's Angels looked at John, who was certainly no worse off than anyone else, and this man made it his mission to have someone see to John immediately, even though this man had been ahead of us in line and John was okay to the point hat he was making jokes.

Another man, who was probably in the same biker gang , gently helped John into his shoulder harness as we waited.

When I went to get John something to eat in the hospital cafeteria, the guy behind the counter forgave my attempt to order directly from him (I shamefully forgot that in Rome, no matter where you are or what you are ordering, you must order and pay from the cashier and then take your receipt to the person behind the counter who will then serve you) and smiled at us and took pity on my floundering for Italian words that had been driven from my mind in the ER and served us anyway, even though he sent a woman behind us to the cashier to order properly. Similarly, the cashier expressed no annoyance as I held up John's drink and panino to be rung up and did not blink an eye at the fact that I did not have correct change and therefore needed to be given change in return ( a problem that can often take 10-17 minutes to figure out as cashiers rarely have change and must ask all the patrons waiting in line if they perhaps have change, which they do not, and then the cashier must dig through his or her own wallet in search of the magical coins and/or just refuse to give you change and/or lower the price of the purchase so that no change is needed).

As Mike pulled up to the curb and I helped John into the small backseat of our car, not one single driver in the line behind us honked their horn (and if you have ever visited Rome, you know that a silent horn in any situation is simply not a viable option). It would seem that when it comes to children, Italians are overwhelmingly kind in a way that I have seen nowhere else. I hope for us to not visit the ER again, but if we do, I know that I can trust in this kindness.

Sunday, March 02, 2014


During Settimana Bianca, we had dear friends visiting from the US. Settimana Bianca is, of course, "white week", the week in which the kids have off school. To go skiing. For a week. This is not to be confused with spring break, as that is a completely separate week off from school. One is for Spring, one is for Skiing. What's that you say? Oh, your kids don't have off school to go skiing for a week? Wow. Sorry dude. That is a real shame.

We spent white week seeing the Italian sights and taste-testing gelato and marveling that we had walked over 10 miles each day. That's right, y'all, 10 miles or more per day. No wonder all our guests get shin splints. Everyone who visits is apologetic about wanting to see the Italian sights, believing that we have surely seen them so many times we can barely stand to say, "Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament! Coliseum! Forum!"

And do you know what, dear reader? I don't get tired of seeing the sights. They are Amazing. I no longer "see" them on a daily basis, so when I do see them, it is  just as awe-inspiring as seeing them for the first time.

Except for the Vatican Museum. Six tours of the halls of tapestries is six times too many. And my sneaking suspicion that the Spanish Steps are a waste of time has recently been confirmed.  I will absolutely take you to see them because of their choice proximity to Via del Corso, but unless you are a step-ologist, they just aren't all that great. And Venice. I will continue to go to Venice in the hopes that I someday "get it", but I don't like it. That's right, I said it. I do not like Venice. I have been to Venice several times during both of its seasons: Not Winter in which it is boiling hot and stinky and you can photograph rats swimming in the canals and Not Summer in which it is freezing cold and rainy in which you have to walk on raised boards because of the flooding. My husband has taken pictures of a Venice that had beautiful flowers and sparkling water and sun-dappled bridges but guess what? I too know how to use photoshop. I'll believe it when I see it in real life. So to review: I will not go to the Vatican Museum again. And let's put St.Peter's Basilica on there as an extension of the Vatican Museum. I will go to the Spanish Steps but I won't feel badly that I think they are Just Steps. And Venice is on my frownie face list. And that was before I ate something that was either squid eggs or cuttlefish eggs. Or both. But the rest of the Italian sights? I am totally on board.

Anyway, we went to see Pompei last week, a place I have driven by but never actually seen. And it was fantastic. I offer to you two pieces of advice: do not buy cappuccino and do take a tour. Cappuccino is a rip-off clearly aimed at tourists. When Mike and I pop into our favorite local bar   where the heavenly smell of freshly baked cornetti fills the air, our due cappuccini costs 1.60 euro. In Pompei, even though it was 9:00 a.m. and an appropriate time to drink cappuccino ( you know about this, right? That in Italy if you order cappuccino after 11:00 a.m. you may as well sit on the floor and start clipping your toenails because public toenail cutting will be deemed less horrifying?), my lone cappuccino was just shy of three euro. Mike's macchiato, however, was a normal price. Because most tourists are ordering cappuccino and not macchiato because who doesn't want to drink cappuccino in Italy? And hence the jacked-up price. And perhaps when compared to Starbucks, a $4.11 authentic Italian cappuccino seems pretty reasonable. But whereas I would be fine with the set pricing of Starbucks in America, I have learned to fight tooth and nail over a two euro rip-off in Italy. I may still think euros look like pretend money, but that doesn't mean I'm going to hand them over like I'm buying ParkPlace.

Touring Pompei, however, is worth every penny. Without a tour guide, we would have marveled at Pompei the way that many of Italy's still-standing treasures are marvels. But with a tour guide ( ours was Fabio from Tours of Pompeii with Lello & Co,, Pompei came to life in a way that I couldn't have imagined. And to boot, Fabio managed to keep our three restless pre-tweens completely interested and engaged to the point that I doubt there is a question about Pompei that they couldn't enthusiastically answer. And this was on Day 6 of non-stop sightseeing that had taken us from Rome to Florence to Venice to Rome to Positano to Sorrento to Pompei. Super fun for the grown-ups, not so fun for the kiddos. So no small feat on the part of Fabio to make yet another bunch of ruins so fascinating.

arrow to the brothel. who knew modern day bathroom graffiti had such an illustrious  history? 

1100 miles (1770 km for the not-Americans) in 7 days

If you were in Italy and traveled 1100 miles over 7 days, it might look something like this:
bold parking choices

uh…street art? 

Il Duomo di Firenze

michelangelo's "graffiti",  Palazzo Vecchio
herd of king charles cavalier spaniels

welcome to venice!

Carnavale is coming

piazza san marco


 venetian  antipasta: squilla mantis, folpetti, e uova di seppie

squilla mantis shrimp

 Prada's take on Teva sandals and/or toddler sneakers. 

most ingenious footwear design since the velco strap. can't wait to see prada's take on it.

do gondoliers ever hit their heads?

winter in rome

original copper doors in the forum

sakura !

the forum

piazza navona

almafi coast



bay of naples. and no, i will not be going to see Pompei:The Movie! Although that title screams for a run as a Broadway Musical, doesn't it?