Monday, November 3, 2014


Eight months ago when we moved to Sweden I mentally pshaw'ed well-meaning friends who assumed we would spend our time here as a jumping-off point for European travel. Had they ever traveled with preschoolers?! Certainly no fun can be had, especially when dealing with high chairs and cribs. But now we are past that gear (!) and have done plenty of comfort-zone-booting activities in Sweden with the kids and had a restful beach vacation, so it felt like time to try a "see and do" trip outside the country. Olivia's school has mid-term break the last week of October, so I figured Italy wouldn't be hot like it can be in the summer. Admittedly there were moments of panic leading up to this trip when I wondered what we were getting ourselves into (Italy seems more foreign to me than Sweden), but it rained in Gothenburg for three solid weeks before we left, so I was at least eager for some sunshine.

The last time I dared post about an upcoming vacation (starting in the same city, no less) we couldn't make it due to the 2010 Eyjafjallaj√∂kull volcano eruption.  We sadly drove home from Dulles after our flight was cancelled, and when I showed up at my friend Reid's yard sale she was all like, "What are you doing here?!"  I'm thrilled to report that we finally got to see Venice and have much more time to explore it than the half-day we would have had before that cruise.

Plus, Reid is still our dear friend and it worked out for her to meet us for a week in Italy!  Honestly I was just as excited about catching up with Reid as seeing beautiful sights. The kids adore her, having another kid-friendly adult along was tremendously helpful, and she brought us a heck ton of candy corn which we used for bribes all week.

San Marco Campanile... with candy corn
Sidebar: When I was a kid my parents took me to wonderful places like London, Alaska, and Banff, but for many years I was bitter about wondered why they didn't wait until I'd actually remember the trip.  After becoming a parent it became apparent (heh, see what I did there?) that it wasn't about what my brother and I would get out of it or whether the destination was kid-friendly. My parents just traveled when they could, often to see people they knew, and we were just along for the ride.  Now that I have kids that philosophy really resonates with me. (And for the record my parents did take us to Disney World and plenty of other places I loved and can remember well, like Brazil and Switzerland).

We started in Venice, just wandering around the back streets. I realize this is clich√©, but Venice is impossibly gorgeous and just around every corner was yet another quaint waterway lined by slowly decaying houses and colorful boats.  Laundry was drying on clotheslines, gondoliers were taking passengers to and fro, and I couldn't get enough of the doors, ironwork, verdigris patina, and bridges.

We're used to having playgrounds all over Gothenburg so the kids were disappointed not to find one in Venice, but they made their own fun and many candy corns were eaten.

Bowen driving a Lamborghini

Capturing a butterfly

When we got tired we hopped on the vaporetto (water bus) and rode down the Grand Canal. With all the walking around the kids were worn out by the afternoon, so we'd head back to the hotel for naps.  And post-nap gelato was used as an incentive to lay down and let their bodies succumb to rest. And after gelato we'd walk around some more, eat dinner, go to bed, and do it again the next day.  There was pizza (and we ordered it) at every restaurant, so the kids were good eaters even after a late snack. Forgive me if we didn't follow the guidebooks' suggestions for art galleries and museums. I'm sure they're lovely, but we do try to take into account what the kids can and can't handle. We did take the boat over to Murano, but stayed on the boat as it's an island full of breakable things and few railings along the lagoon.  I love glasswork, so that just gives me an excuse to come back to Venice another time.

Next we hopped on the high-speed train for Florence. I had to admit I didn't know that much about Florence (spinach=Florentine?) but the map told me it's close to other places I've pinned so I included it when planning the Venice trip. Highlights from the second half of our week...

Outdoor market in Florence
Ponte Vecchio
Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking Florence

Cinque Terre. It was every bit as charming and beautiful as I expected, and we had the most incredible fried calamari in Riomaggiore.  Don't try to see it all in one day, especially if you're staying in Florence.  Buy yourself some limoncino.

Vernazza, looking toward Monterosso

Riomaggiore at Sunset
More of Tuscany...
Yellow shirt day

Siena's Duomo

Well, we have to buy something if we want to use the potty, right?

Siena's Piazza del Campo
Lunch at an organic farm/winery

Olives on the tree
Saffron grappa with contucci

Chasing pigeons in San Gimignano

Field of Miracles, Pisa
Obligatory forced perspective photo

We had a great time!  Nobody fell in a canal or got run over by a Florentine, so I consider it a successful trip.  The weather was gorgeous (6os F, sunny) but it took me until about Thursday to realize I didn't need to wear my rain jacket like in Sweden.  Breakfast was incredible, with the typical Euro deli meats and yogurt, fresh fruit, unlimited cappuccinos, pastries, and even bruschetta and tiramisu in Florence.  

Cream filled croissants and a barista in Venice

The savory table, just part of the buffet in Florence

Our dinners were good, but not mind-blowing.  I was more focused on getting things the kids would eat instead of being adventuresome, and they did eat pizza or pasta for every meal, so to them that was the best thing ever.

Now where do we go?!


Molly Cahill said...

Beautiful!! I am so glad you were able to go and connect with Reid. Also, I love yellow shirt day, the very best day of the week.

Cassie Collins said...

Oh man your pictures are gorgeous!!! How wonderful!