September 12. Exploring Pisa.
We woke up early and decided to head to a local park which happened to be on the grounds of an old palace. There were several children playing and Mylan and Sienna had a ball and made a few new Italian friends. Afterwards, we headed into the city center and walked up the Market Street towards the ponte centrale (center bridge). We were in search of a new camera and soon came to the realization that there are literally NO camera stores in Pisa! We settled down at a café that had WiFi since our apartment did not have it to let the family know we were alive. We crammed as much as we could into the little ones tummies and into the 30 minutes of free WiFi that we had. We succeeded and headed home to let them take a nap.
During naptime, we managed to get the camera working again, so that was a relief. While Mike was out at an internet café responding to students, I tried using my cooking skills to make a nice pasta dish for dinner. That way it was already made by the time we got back to the apartment and did not have to worry about cooking. I succeeded and even had enough time to edit some pics and have a beer with Michael on the terrace and relax in the sun. We even tried using the washing machine! We figured out the big secret to making it work….plugging it in…. The best part was when all the water started coming out from a random hose from the wall onto the terrace. We didn’t know what to do so we grabbed a broom and started pushing the water towards a drainage spout at the base of the terrace wall which apparently went over and onto a neighbors terrace..Sorry! It was A LOT of water. In any case, the clothes were washed and we hung them on the clothes line.
We got the kids up and headed back to central Pisa and the leaning tower-another 45 minute walk (one way) through town, to let the kids play in the grass. A Russian orchestra was playing at the basilica and the children got to hear and see it. We had a snack picnic and then headed back home for dinner. All in all, it was an action packed and fun filled day. We decided to take a chill day in that we thought the kids might like a day of rest. Rest time over kiddies! Tomorrow: The Beach at Viarregio
September 13 Viarregio
Our first encounter with the unbelievably…not so perfect train system in Italy. We went to Viarregio, supposedly only a 15 minute train ride toward the coast from Pisa. Well, about 1.5 hours later due to frequent stops at local train stations, and us going extremely slow due to other trains being delayed we finally made it there. It was a short 5 minute walk to the beach, but on arrival we realized the water was (icky – Sienna’s exact words). It wasn’t that bad actually, but when Cierra waded in and had a piece of toilet paper wrap around her foot, that was pretty much it for swimming for the day. So we decided to just play in the sand, make sand castles, zen gardens and the highlight of the day was when Daddy (the human metal/money detector) spotted a $20 Euro Bill floating in some seaweed. He picked that up, Sienna deemed it our treasure for the day, prodded by Daddy of course and we used it to pay for lunch ($7), a pair of sunglasses ($3) that Daddy lost / Mylan flung on the train ride back, and a new watch ($10). Traveling in Italy = Priceless! Another stroll down to the Leaning Tower and the kids running around ended our day. The kids zonked out and so did we. We did have a nice romantic dinner on the veranda however why the little ones slept. We also made plans for tomorrow’s stop, one of our true loves, Cinque Terre!
September 14 Cinque Terre
We headed for the beach! It was crazy busy with tourists ( college students and cruise ships ). We walked from Riomaggiori to Manarola. Sienna got to walk most of the Via de Amore which is a walkway that hugs a cliff over looking the Mediterranean with beautiful views. A musician serenaded us in the tunnel o love with his accordion and Sienna got to give him a Euro for his music. He was playing Frank Sinatra ” My Way “. We took the train from Manarola to Monterosso because the trail to the next town was closed almost halfway there. We bought a towel and rented 2 chairs and an umbrella and had a fun day at the beach. Sienna ran everywhere and picked up several different color rocks. She loved playing in the surf. The water was crystal clear and warm. Mylan decided to just run around and flirt and try to go to all the places he should not be going to. He and daddy soon took a nap in the shade of the umbrella while Sienna and I played in the water. We had lunch and then took the train back to Riomaggiore to go to the little cliff side restaurant that we discovered last time. We stopped in for some vino, caprese, fresh bread, salame and cheese and just enjoyed the view (all for under $20). Afterwards we stopped and got some gelato and headed back home. Upon our last trip to Cinque Terre we ended up being trapped, so with little ones in tow, we decided this time it might be a good idea to head back a little earlier. Due to the crazy crowds and time running short we had to settle for a train side view of Vernazza, in our opinion the most beautiful of the 5 towns. We are saving that stop for next time for the little ones. You always have leave something to come back to!
Sept 15 Florence
We woke up very early and took the first train out of Pisa for Florence. We beat most of the tourists and got some great shots of the Duomo. Sienna and Mylan got to visit all of the artists and help pick out a painting for back home. She said, “Oh, this one, this one is beautiful, they are all nice…but this one…this one….is beautiful! It’s gorgeous!” They got to see the horse carriages and loved running around the famous piazza known for it’s statues. Sienna asked if the lion statue with the ball was a meat ball. Mylan said CIAO for the first time at a restaurant that we were at for lunch. He said Ciao to our waiter. We circled the Duomo and crossed the ponte vecchio into the Palaza de Pitti and then headed back for lunch. After lunch we stopped for gelato and then headed back to Pisa. The kids took a nap and then we took the kids to the local park at the palace. We saw Mylans little friend, Andrew, again with his mom. The kids ran around and played before we headed home for dinner. The kids went down and Mike went out for some pizza, wine, and chocolaty goodness from a local bakery. Needless to say we had a good night! We found a camera store, however, the cameras were overly priced and since Mike got it to work again, we decide to hold off on buying a new one. Obstacle: changing a monster poopy diaper of Sienna’s on a dirty train on our way home from Florence. My wine buzz from lunch soon wore off after having to rise up to that challenge. Thank you Arm and Hammer for your scented diaper bags! The best part is that Sienna is already starting to pick up some Italian. She says Ciao, Como sta, and va bene.
Sienna: 9/16 Happy 6 Year Anniversary!!!
We woke up early, as usual, and headed into the heart of Tuscany, Sienna. Mylan has perfected the art of blowing kisses. He was waving and blowing kisses to all the ladies, young and old, on the train and in the train station. He loves the attention. What we did not realize is that the train station was quite a ways from the town. You have to either take a taxi in or take a bus. We decided to bus it to the city center. After walking across the train station to what we thought was the bus station ( but ended up also being a mall?? ) we came across an electronics store. I started to inspect camera’s for us since our’s was on it’s last leg and camera stores are few and far between in this part of Italy. After setting off a security alarm on accident I found the camera we wanted and headed out. It is pink and I am pretty sure that is why it was on sale. Oh well-it will do the trick. We hit the city center and came across the famous basilica in the heart of the town and also stumbled across a street artist and a gigantic chess match…literally. We did a quick walk around and then went straight for the Piazza Del Campo. We let Sienna and Mylan have at it and run around the piazza. They had a great time. We even got to witness our 3rd wedding of the trip! Sienna said, “Why is everybody getting married?” We found a little restaurant tucked away on a hill off of a side street and decided to have our anniversary lunch there. We had a bottle of wine, Mike had a seasoned pork roll and I had a pasta with a cheesy cream sauce and truffles and peices of bacon! I was in HEAVEN. The kids did well and afterwards we decided to try and find a place to stay in the city for the night. We stoped at an information center where a man advised there were no rooms left but we could try an agroturismo if we went across the piazza. So we did and were able to get a room at Il Canto De Sol! We ordered 2 pizza’s to go, bought Sienna and Mylan t-shirts for us to wear the next day, and took a taxi to one of our favorite places. As we pulled up Luciano came out to greet us and to his surprise found us, three years later to the exact day, with 2 kids! It was a great welcome and he showed us to our room which was perfect for the kids. He kept his promise and had saved a bottle of the wine we helped him make 3 years earlier when we were there pregnant with Sienna. Luciano told us that his district won the Palio this year after 22 years and that Marco, his son, and Laura, were in the district getting ready for the evening dinner. Apparently they have a huge dinner for 48 days in the district after your district wins the Palio. This means feeding 800 people every night for 48 days! GOOD LORD! Luckily they take shifts cooking and this night it was Laura’s turn. The Palio is a famous horse race that has been going on for hundreds of years in the Campo of Siena. We would not be seeing Laura until the next day. Luciano preparred us a plate of salame, prociutto, bread, and mozarella to go along with our pizza and a whole bottle of his wine from 2011. No doubt that it was delicious! Before dinner we put the kiddies in swimmies and let them play in the pool for a little bit. After the pool we let them walk around the farm and see the chickens, horses, sheep, donkeys, dogs, cats, etc. We walked along the vineyards and then let them play in the front yard which had a swing set and a play house. They also had a blast chasing Alba and Luna around the yard ( their two dogs ). After dinner we gave the kids a bath and put them down and enjoyed a bottle of wine in the living area before turning in for the night. Buona sera, Siena.
Waking up in Tuscany: 9/17
Wow, nothing is better than waking up in Tuscany, especially this place. This is by far one of our most favorite places. It is tucked away in the country but not too far from the city of Siena. Mike and I really think that next time we should just stay here for a week and relax…maybe two! Maybe we can work out a deal with Luciano and Laura and offer our free labor to help with harvesting the grapes and making wine again! We can put the kids to work too! Since we had absolutely nothing to wear besides what we came to Siena in and the touristy SIENA t-shirts we purchased, we all rolled out of our room and into the breakfast area rocking our SIENA t’s. I am sure we looked like super tourists but oh well. We told Luciano and Laura about it and they laughed but at least we had clean shirts! They commented that Mike’s Italian was much improved from 3 years earlier and that the next time we come, they are not going to speak in English at all, since his Italian is improving so much! The breakfast spread was amazing. I had to take a photo of it. We had an endless flow of cappacinos, pastries, eggs, salame, cheeses, pies, tarts, yogurt, you name it, it was there! Laura and Luciano asked us if we would like to have lunch with them but we knew that we needed to be heading back to Pisa. We let the kids run around and play again in their yard and visit all of the farm animals again before getting our hugs in and saying farewell to Il Canto Del Sol. Luciano dropped us off at the train station and he advised that if we want to come next year in September to contact them for a reservation in June or July. Hopefully we will be able to go back! Laura and Luciano were so happy to meet the children and look forward to seeing us again. We headed back to Pisa and hit the park one last time with the little ones before having dinner and packing up to head out the next day for Venice. We saw Andrew and his mom one last time and said good bye.
We woke up at 4.30 in the morning to get on the 6.54am train to Venice. We arrived at 10.30. I must say that I am perfecting the art of changing diapers in cramped spaces. We were not sure if the person who was renting us their apartment would be meeting us at the train station or at the apartment. Either way, they never showed or we somehow missed them. Thankfully, we were able to check BIG RED into the baggage check while we were searching for the apartment. They don’t like to make it too easy for you to find things here. Directions are very bleak: Cross bridge, walk 150 meters, make a right ( no street signs mind you ) you will end up on Calle Foscari. Well, we somehow ended up there but we did not have an apartment # nor any idea of exactly where it was we were to meet. We crossed at least 8 bridges with stairs carrying the children in their strollers, the ergo backpacks, the Gremlin, our newest addition, 2 peapods and my purse. After the 8th bridge I threw Mylan on my back and he fell asleep. We waited for about 45 minutes for the lady and her father to come but never saw them. The kids needed diapers, we needed food, it was hot, we were far from the train station and needed a place to stay. Mike took charge and decided we were going to get a room for the night. We found a vaporetto stop but it would not give you change for a ticket and it would not take any of the credit cards. Instead of going on a wild goose chase trying to find change by going store to store we thought it would be best to walk to St. Marks Square. Alleys and bridges and miles later we arrived. Dodging cruise tour groups along the way. Once we arrived to the square ( which we knew had an i = Information Point ) we realized that it was partially flooded and we had to wade through the water to get to the i. Sooooo, we did. When we got there the lady advised that she does not take reservations for hotels and we needed to find an Internet point. There is only one thing to do at a moment such as this…and that my friends…is have lunch and drink a beer, o.k. a few beers! Mike and I decided to get a beer and get the children some food to reassess the situation. While we were there Mike went to the hotel we stayed at a few years ago and booked the last room they had left. A sweet suite! The kids were running around and screaming and having fun. We felt like Johnny Dep in The Tourist in this room, it was ridiculous! We unpacked, let them take a nap, had a bottle of wine to chill out, and then got them up to hit the square. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and finished up with gelato, of course. We snapped a few pics and Sienna got to run around and chase the birds, which she LOVED! Mylan would have too but he lost a shoe along the way so tomorrow we will be shoe shopping in Venice in addition to sight seeing. We headed back, gave them a bath in the gigantic swimming pool sized bathtub, and put them to sleep. Tomorrow we hope to take them on a gondola ride and find a cheaper place to stay. Buona notte Venezia!