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Italy Packing List 2022—-The Clothes

Now that we have all the other things out of the way, it’s time to strategize the wardrobe. It’s a daunting task to pack for a three-week trip that includes everything from the big city to the quiet countryside. There are a lot of considerations, but for me, the top priorities are looking stylish, feeling comfortable, and not overpacking. I also have to consider what will launder well and what will look fresh after multiple wears. It’s not always easy to get a place in Europe with laundry facilities on site. I try to book lodging in the middle of the trip that has a washing machine, but other than that, it’s sink laundry or sending the laundry out to a laundromat.

So, here are the basics.

Obviously, the time of year you are traveling is going to be quite influential. Given that I have school aged children, most of my European travel occurs in the summer. So consider this your definitive Italy summer packing guide. (I’ll probably get to fall, winter and spring once my children are grown!)

Swimming suits! I highly recommend finding a pool, beach or both when in Italy for the summer. Nothing beats the heat like a dip in the water. Well, gelato and Aperol spritzes also help, ideally enjoyed poolside. You can get by with one suit, but I prefer two. No one likes to shimmy into a damp suit. You should also bring a cover-up. While swimsuits in Europe are definitely more revealing (and sometimes absent altogether), it is customary to wear a cover-up when moving between your beach chair and the restaurant or the pool and your room. Go figure.

I like to keep up with my running when I travel so I always bring two sets of clothes that I can run in. These are also great for hiking or any other physical activities I might choose to do.

One set of pajamas, five pairs of underwear, two bras, one nude and one black. One of those you can wear on the plane.

Now to the meat of the matter. The outfits. I tend to prefer dresses when traveling in Europe. They are super versatile, look chic and keep you cool. One black maxi dress can go to the museum in Florence, out to dinner in Rome and then look perfectly amazing at a beachside resort. A just above the knee fitted dress can look equally at home while shopping, lunching or wine tasting. Since you are taking relatively few clothing pieces with you, they have to pull double (or triple) duty.

I love this black maxi dress I snagged at Nordstrom. It got a lot of play on this trip. It dresses up or down nicely with accessories and the material is nice and light. It also is just the right length so that I can wear flats with it, a definite must since I’m not going to be traipsing around in heels.

https://www.nordstrom.com/s/loveappella-v-neck-jersey-maxi-dress-regular-petite/3965546

Two short dresses made the cut. This one, also from Nordstrom, is more casual and was great for wine tasting, shopping, lunches, drinks, and museums. I got it in black and white but this blue/grey combo is fun, too.

https://www.nordstrom.com/s/michael-stars-eliza-tank-dress/6801952

Athleta is another of my favorite sources for travel worthy dresses. The fabrics are very forgiving and hold up really well. This little black number also saw lots of wear time on this trip. It is a little more sophisticated so worked well for day to evening dressing.
https://athleta.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=5311680020002&locale=en_US#pdp-page-content

Finally, one midi dress, also from Nordstrom. This one was a bit of a splurge but I love how versatile it is. The fabric is incredibly soft and so light, yet somehow not sheer. This was also in heavy rotation!
Here it is, in a Tuscan vineyard, looking chic with wedges and a straw hat.

https://www.nordstrom.com/s/frame-le-muscle-organic-pima-cotton-t-shirt-dress/6624947

In addition to the dresses, I like to have one to two pairs of shorts. I brought one pair of denim shorts that was more casual for wearing down to breakfast or for a quick trip to market. I also practically lived in these during down time in our apartment. The other pair was a dark green linen pair that was perfect for shopping, museums and casual lunches. I brought two basic tanks to wear with the shorts. These are made with great material and fit nicely. Flattering, but not too snug. They are also great basics that see lots of wear in my usual clothing rotation. I brought one in white, one in black. (If you want to pack lighter, just bring one pair of shorts and one tank.)

https://www.nordstrom.com/s/michael-stars-paloma-cotton-tank-top/5597649

Two other pieces rounded out the lineup. This wide-leg jumper from Cloth and Stone (purchased at Anthropologie) is a dream! Yes, I know, it’s pants. And it’s hot in Italy in the summer. But hear me out. First, it is linen which makes it light and super breathable. It wears, travels and launders like a dream! The top is full enough that I could go braless (amazing!!) and it has two nice, deep pockets. This quickly became my go to travel day outfit. I wore it every time we hopped on a train to change locations. The pockets were awsome for holding random necessities (change for the bathroom, phone, train tickets, etc), it was uber comfortable, and it kept my other clothes clean and sweat free for wearing the rest of the time.
https://www.anthropologie.com/shop/cloth-stone-smocked-wide-leg-jumpsuit?color=081&type=STANDARD&quantity=1

Last is this breezy, white button up, also from Cloth and Stone. This brand tends to be a bit more expensive, but the fabrics are divine. Like the jumpsuit, this shirt always looked fresh and was so breathable. It was also really versatile. This worked well with either pair of shorts or to slip over a dress for a little more coverage. It could tuck in fully or partially, or sport a sassy tie front. It was also fabulous as a coverup over a bikini top on pool days. This is one of those hard working pieces that you really want in your suitcase.

Now for shoes. My advice? Keep it simple. I brought one pair of Birkenstocks, my running shoes, one pair of Tkees for the pool and one pair of Dr. Scholl’s wedge sandals. I know, Dr. Scholl’s. It sounds so old. But I have to tell you, these are comfortable and stylish. They made it through cobblestones, olive groves and Pompeii. And they are a great value! They are worn above in the Tuscan vineyard with the grey dress.

Link here: https://www.drschollsshoes.com/product/dr-scholls-womens-sheena-wedge-sandal-5260347/black-smooth-60704

Finally, finally, the last category. Accessories. I keep it minimal so I don’t add a lot of extra weight to my baggage. I also keep it meaningful. A well placed accessory can really elevate that same old dress you’ve been wearing for weeks.

Here were my faves from this trip: One small pair of stud earrings (these, from Mejuri, are worn all the time in my daily life: https://mejuri.com/shop/products/pave-diamond-round-studs), one pair of bigger, colored jewel studs, one pair of statement earrings (these, again, from Mejuri: https://mejuri.com/shop/products/bold-pearl-hoop-earrings), one pair of fancier studs (you guessed it, Mejuri: https://mejuri.com/shop/products/mini-pearl-topaz-climber-studs).

One “statement” ring, something fun and meaningful. The one I brought this time was a large, rough pearl ring I had picked up on my last trip to Italy. I also wore my daily gold and diamond stacking rings from Mejuri. Although, to be honest, most days it was too hot for rings. So these mostly got worn for dinners when the temperatures were cooler.

Last piece of jewelry was my everyday favorite necklace that is understated but sophisticated. This elevates anything you wear it with. https://mejuri.com/shop/products/diamonds-line-necklace

I was lucky enough to score a long strand of pearls in the early days of this trip. I had been looking for some for quite awhile and stumbled across the perfect ones in Florence. They were the perfect addition to my dresses for night time events. They will definitely make the cut on future trips and are a nice reminder of my time in Italy.

Two last things, and you can zip up your suitcase. You definitely want a hat of some kind. It keeps your face protected from the sun, and can really elevate your outfit. You also want to throw in some kind of light weight wrap or scarf. Occasionally, an evening can get chilly. Also, when you go into churches in Italy, especially the Sistine Chapel, your shoulders must be covered. (How I feel about the Catholic church imposing modesty requirements on women is an entirely different topic for an entirely different day). When in Rome……

That’s it. All packed. I’m glad to report that everything fit in my bag and my bag was over any weight limits at the airport. I did have to use a second bag to bring home my treasures from Italy, however. Still working on that packing light business.

Italy Packing List 2022

I’m on an eternal quest to pack light. Seriously, I’m tired of schlepping my heavy bags all over the place! Spoiler alert: I’m not there yet, but I made some progress!

The first step in packing is planning. I do all my planning in my dedicated travel Bullet Journal, one for each major trip. The pictures below show the various categories I use to organize my list. Yep, my list took 4 pages in the journal. Not all trips require this much planning, of course. I promise I can pull of a long weekend without even making a list at all. Three weeks in a foreign country, however, is another story. The goal here is to keep it simple, keep it streamlined, and bring the things that will really be functional and will save us money on our travels.

I start with clothes (the most fun) which includes shoes. There is a separate section for the outfit I plan to wear on the plane. I’m getting this one perfected, so maybe I won’t need this too much longer. Then toiletries, kitchen supplies, and miscellaneous. Finally, a category for items I want to ensure are in my carry-on.

My carry-on always has my computer, camera, chargers, and an adapter for the country I am traveling to. A deck of cards, a travel cribbage board, and my Kindle provide entertainment. I also make sure I carry any paper vouchers or confirmations that I might need once we arrive. WiFi can be unpredictable and I never assume I can access my email for all those confirmations. Next to those, I slip in my travel journal and writing implements. Final items are anti-nausea travel bracelets, Gin Gin candies, gum, a few snacks, compression socks, and a week’s worth of medication.

Kitchen items might seem kind of weird, but when you are spending three weeks on the road, staying in a variety of lodging options, you want to have a few essentials. First, coffee. I always bring my AeroPress and my Porlex coffee grinder. I throw in a bag of beans from home and procure more along the way. This is a life saver when you wake up that first morning in a hotel that features mediocre coffee options. To be fair, I love going to local coffee shops and will buy a coffee (or two or three) every day while traveling. But I love the convenience of being able to get up wherever I am, make a quick AeroPress, lounge in bed read, and sip coffee, before I have to venture out in the world.

I also throw in one reasonably good paring knife, one dish towel (comes in handy all the time), a simple corkscrew, a wine sealer, and two toppers for wine bottles. I don’t want to be forced to drink the whole bottle just because I don’t have a good way to reseal it. I throw in a few Ziplock bags to store leftover food in as well as a small stainless cup for taking drinks to the pool. I love this one from my local wine store.

Perfect cup for poolside drinks

The miscellaneous list is rounded out by a shopping bag for market runs, a clothesline, travel laundry soap, a Tide pen, and a basic canvas bag to take to the beach and pool. I’m starting to figure out why my bag is so heavy! Seriously, though, these are the things I have used over and over again while traveling. I have certainly packed other random things over the years, but they haven’t made the cut as being enduring or worth their weight. Literally.

Next up, clothes. They deserve their own post!

Hallway Musings

Standing in the hallway at our home a few days ago, I realized that a change was coming.

I was bustling around, doing whatever it is that mothers do in those hours between the end of the work day and bedtime, when I was hit with the most delicious realization that change was afoot. Well into year three of a global pandemic, the prospect of change, any change, is reason to pause and reflect.

It’s been hard to plan or hope or dream too big during the past few years. We’ve all had too many times when anticipated plans have changed, events have been canceled and disappointment has set in again. Humans are a resilient bunch, though, and in that spirit of resiliency, my family and I hatched a plan.

Nearly a year ago, we began talking about a trip to Italy. By “we”, I mean myself, my daughters, my sister, my parents and my brother. My parents were interested in a trip to Italy but weren’t really up for a self guided tour. My girls and I were dying to return to Europe and were only too happy to play tour guide. My sister was easily convinced to join us. We talked and schemed and dreamed. And about six months ago, we cautiously started making definitive plans. We made reservations and put down deposits. We bought travel insurance. We watched Covid ebb and flow locally and around the world. We made contingency plans and figured out what our risk tolerance was.

We bought clothes, packed suitcases, updated passports. I secured car rentals, lodging, dinner reservations, wine tastings and cooking classes. We downloaded maps and made lists of all the places we wanted to go. I created an extensive Italy travel BuJo (more to come later).

Soon, we were less than a week away from our scheduled departure. Excitement was building. It felt surreal to me, this possibility of real travel, real escape, after all this time. I didn’t have a lot of time to sit and dwell on the magic of this, though. I was busy, tying up loose ends at work, getting the house into shape, doing laundry, unpacking and repacking bags. But all the emotions about this were marinating in my subconscious mind. Because as I stood in that hallway that day, preoccupied by my too do list, I realized that a change was coming.

Travel means that we will be changed. Every time. At the onset we don’t know how. But we will be. And that is part of what I love about travel. Yes, I love the adventure, the exploration, the discovery of new places, food, people, customs. And I really love that I come home changed. I come home different, and better, than how I left.

So I stood for a minute in that hallway and relished the prospect of the change ahead of me.

Featured post

The Cost of Doing Business

Most of my travel posts will include a section at the end entitled “The Cost of Doing Business”. This is a list format reporting of the costs associated with that trip, or that segment of the trip. I will attempt, where applicable, to indicate how many people are included in the costs.

Travel costs can, of course, be significant. Additionally, we all have different values when it comes to how we spend our dollars. You might be a bare bones traveler for whom the experience is everything and not dependent on any luxuries. Likewise, you might find your self splurging on some things while controlling costs on others. Very few will travel with reckless financial abandon (no judgment here if you can swing that, though!).

You will likely ascertain my style after a posting or few. I like to think of myself as a traveler with high standards but endless patience for finding the very best value. I am very discerning about where I choose to lay my head at night. I will search and search for a good bargain but rest assured, I am willing to pay for quality lodging. I also love good food and good wine. That doesn’t mean they have to be expensive, but sometimes they are and that’s okay by me. I make up for my occasionally expensive restaurant meals by almost always eating in for breakfast and picnicking frequently for lunch or dinner. Experiences are of high value to me when traveling but this is where I feel I can also find the most savings. I will definitely shop the bargains, find the free passes, take advantage of extended hours, obtain the discounts that apply, make the calls for the coupons. Where applicable, I will try to note these in my posts. If absolute bargain travel is your thing, I may not be the resource for you. But I like to think that I provide insight about good value, high quality travel.

Buon viaggio!

Piedmont to Genoa or Getting Lost and then Found Again

Some travel days have themes.  Some of these are fun, others, not so much.  Almost all are amusing in retrospect.  Our third full day in Italy was apparently designed to test my navigational skills.  I basically failed but I had a lot of fun doing it.

I started the morning by waking early and decided to get in a run before we traveled to our next stop.  I set off on the winding country road, sure I couldn’t get too lost with a simple out and back route.  I intended to run 3 miles so after heading down the road 1.5 miles, I turned around.  After about a mile or so, I realized that the scenery didn’t look all that familiar.  I was in a foreign country, though, so maybe that was it.  After another half mile it was pretty clear that I wasn’t back at the agriturismo.  Luckily, I had brought my phone with me and pulled my map which indicated that somehow, on my simple out and back route, I had taken a wrong turn and ended up WAY off the beaten path.  Perhaps some day I will learn to embrace this type of situation but at the time all I could think was that my children were expecting me back at a certain time and I had no way to call them and that we had a train to catch in Genoa and a pretty tight time schedule.  Damn.

I thought through my options, hoped and prayed that my Google Maps were actually going to be accurate this time in a foreign country, and began hiking up a rustic trail through an orchard.  Eventually I came to the top of the hill and from there navigated my way back home.  Phew.  We ate breakfast, loaded the car, and set off for Genoa.  However, the navigation system in the car decided to be a bit finicky and had us going up and down a rural path multiple times.  We were hopelessly turned around, going in circles and getting later and later for our train.  I had about lost my mind when fortuitously, the correct road appeared.  It would seem that it was always there and I just didn’t see it, but who really knows?

After getting on the correct road we enjoyed a stunningly beautiful drive through mountain passes and along the coast to the seaside town of Genoa.  Total time in the car was about 2 hours.  I was anxious about finding the car drop off at the harbor in Genoa but it turned out to be really easy thanks to my eagle eyed backseat navigators who spotted it immediately after getting off the autostrada.  We dumped the car and hiked 20 minutes to the train station where we met my husband who had purchased train tickets for us.  We had a few minutes to wait and then boarded our train to Monterosso.

The train ride was less than an hour and deposited us at the train station in the new town section of Monterosso.  From there it was a 10 minute walk to the old town where we were met by our Air BnB host and showed up five flights of steep stairs to our apartment overlooking the neighborhood square.  The apartment was ideally located in the center of old town.  It was a bit noisy, though, and without AC we had the windows open all night and the noise of the town was definitely noticeable.  The long hike up and down the stairs was a bit of a pain, too.  We knew about it ahead of time and weren’t surprised but I think next time we will find somewhere a little more peaceful (which in Monterosso would mean moving only a few blocks up the street).

We had lunch at Belvedere (good pesto pasta) and then met our friends at the Monterosso beach.  One of the luckiest parts of our Italy trip was convincing our good friends to join us in Monterosso for nearly a week.  The girls had friends to play with and the adults had good companions for a variety of activities.  If you’ve read my earlier posts you know I love traveling with friends and having our friends with us on this trip was indescribably amazing.

Anyway, I digress.  The kids hit the ocean, we lounged on the chairs and drank prosecco and soaked up the Italian sun.  Life is good!

At the end of the day it turns out that we got lost a few times.  But we also got found.  And at the very end of it all we found ourselves with our dear friends on a beach in Italy, enjoying the good life.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

A few logistical details: the main beach in old town Monterosso is a pay to play operation.  You rent lounge chairs for the day.  You can also rent paddle boats which were a big hit with the girls.  There is a small walk up restaurant and you can order at the counter or from your chair.  There are sandwiches, salads, etc as well as snacks and drinks.  Beach loungers with umbrellas were 20 euros for the day, lower cost for a basic chair.  The food and drinks were very reasonably priced

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Seaside in Monterosso

 

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End of the day

The cost of doing business (4 people):

Rental car (4 days): €450

Wine: €49.50

Lunch: €71.50

Dinner: paid for by our friends

Groceries: €17.85

Train tickets: €29

Beach: €20

Gelato: €8.80

Piedmont Day Two

The day dawned sunny and peaceful which was more than I could say for the night prior which saw me awake for 3 hours wrestling with the jet lag demons.  We enjoyed breakfast at our agriturismo then hopped back in the car to journey to our second winery, Ceretto.  Ceretto is a family run vineyard located just outside of Alba and produces glorious Barolo wine in addition to Barbaresco and a lovely Arneis. They offer typical wine tastings as well as a wine trek which allows you to explore the entire property.  I was intrigued by the idea of wine trekking so booked the experience months in advance (absolutely necessary).  This turned out to be a very enlightening, educational experience both for myself and my children.  We toured the vineyards, hazelnut orchards, and greenhouses which provide produce for the family owned restaurants in Alba. We received a rich history of the land and family as well as the wines that are produced there.  An absolute experience of terroir.

Side note: bring comfortable, closed toe walking shoes.  The paths are dusty.  If the day is hot, also bring along a water bottle, sunscreen, hat, etc.

The trek lasted for approximately an hour and was followed by an hour long wine tasting in the air conditioned tasting room with magnificent views of the vineyards.  The staff very graciously accommodated my children who enjoyed the views and the snacks of grissini and hazelnuts.  We tasted a variety of exceptional wines during the tasting and before leaving I purchased a multitude of bottles.  A few to keep and consume during our trip but many, many to send home.  The Arneis was a crisp, refreshing white, perfect for summertime drinking.  Cases of Barolo were also sent home to age in the wine cellar.  I also purchased two special bottles of Barolo Prapo.  This was first produced by Ceretto in 1976, the year I was born.  These bottles will kept and one will be opened on each of our daughters’ 21st birthdays.  (They will be ruined for mediocre wine!)

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View from the Ceretto property.

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View of the gardens and greenhouses.

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Destined for the restaurant!

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So many choices!

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Vines of nebbiolo.

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From the vineyards looking up to the tasting room.

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Following the tasting we went back to the agriturismo for a lazy afternoon of lying by the pool, snacking and napping.  Dinner was enjoyed on the patio as we snacked on our assorted meats, cheese, fruits and vegetables, played games and enjoyed each other’s company.

The cost of doing business (3 people):

Wine purchased from Ceretto: €1089

Gelato: €4.50

Groceries for dinner: €16

Desserts: €4

Parking: €2

Lunch: complimentary

Lodging in Piedmont for two nights: €336

Piedmont Day One

Following a not so auspicious start to our Italian trip, we woke on our first full day of vacation to clear, sunny skies and improved outlooks on life.  We ate a quick breakfast at our hotel and hopped in our rental car in search of a gas station.  We found one without too much difficulty and I thanked my lucky stars that I had at least briefly skimmed the information in my guide book about gas stations in Europe.  This one was full service (!!!) which was a major plus.  It felt decadent to just pull up and allow someone else to figure out what gas to put where.  After a huge sigh of relief, I entered our final destination into the GPS and we hit the road.

We headed towards the small Piedmont town of Alba.  We had a reservation at an agriturismo in an even smaller Piedmont village, La Morra, and wanted to explore Alba on our way there.  With the help of GPS and my backseat navigators we hit the Italian autostrada.  The roadways were really easy to navigate and traffic was fairly light making the entire experience as stress free as it could possibly be.  We drove through farmland and countryside with occasional glimpses of the Alps towering in the distance.  The drive took us approximately 2 hours and we arrived in Alba just before lunch time.  We parked in a small parking garage and walked to the town center.  From the center there is a pedestrian only shopping area that extends for a few blocks.  We snagged an espresso (and restroom) and then explored the shops.  Hazelnuts and truffles are produced in this region and can be found in many of the shops here.  The village feels very friendly and relaxed and the streets are just the right amount of busy.  We sat briefly at a restaurant intending to get lunch but the service was poor and before we could be waited on we discovered a small food shop a few doors down.  We quickly abandoned our menus and headed to the food shop to snag fruit, cheese, salami and bread.  The Italian woman who was running the store spoke no English and my Italian is quite limited but we managed to figure it out and walked out with a lovely picnic lunch.  We took this with us up the road about 20 minutes to our agriturismo, La Morra Brandini.

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Pedestrian street in Alba.
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So many truffles!
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Nocciole!

At La Morra Brandini we were greeted with warm hospitality, a refreshing swimming pool and stunning views of the valley below.  Our suite featured a main living area, lovely bathroom, and sleeping area in the loft with a large bed plus a couch bed.  There was a common area outside with tables and chairs for relaxing.  There was a garden on site as well as resident chickens, a goat and a mule.  My children quickly made friends with the goat (whom they named Albert) and he became our very own one goat welcoming committee.

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Poolside is a good place to be.

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Albert!

After enjoying our picnic lunch we commandeered chairs poolside.  I read and journaled and the girls swam.  I spent much of the time simply sitting in my lounge chair, taking in the views of rolling hills and green countryside.  There are rare moments in life when I feel fully and completely content and relaxed and at peace.  This was one of those.

Following our respite, we hit the road again to visit our first winery,  Fontana Fredda.  It was located approximately 20 minutes from our agriturismo.  On a side note, navigating through Piedmont requires a sense of humor and a well developed appreciation for adventure.  You must have GPS or an exceptionally good map.  The roads are narrow and sometimes steep.  The speed limits are posted for a reason.  You can easily get lost and sometimes feel like you are going back and forth across the same road fifteen times.  You might be.  But I’ll always advocate that getting there is half the fun.  And sometimes getting lost is all the fun.

At Fontana Fredda, we were treated to the cellar tour which was rich in historical information as well as wine facts.  The story of the estate is really cool and even my children enjoyed it.  The tour lasted approximately an hour and a half and cost 30 euros for myself while the children were free.  While the tour was great, the tasting afterwards was very limited.  We tasted just two wines.  Not sure why the tasting was so short.  No explanation was offered.  I decided to just roll with it.

IMG_7813After the winery we drove back through La Morra stopping for a few groceries and gelato.  Then back to the agriturismo where we enjoyed more swimming as well as a decadent dinner of gnocchi, pasta, wine and cheese plate.

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Gelato time.
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Appetizer with fresh vegetables from the garden.

Sometimes when you travel you are lucky enough to be with amazing people.  Sometimes you are lucky enough to be doing something you really love to do.  Sometimes you are lucky enough to be in that magical place that just feels right.  Every once in awhile, all the forces of the universe come together and you get all of it at once.  That is what Piedmont was for me.  It was the most amazing, perfect people, in the most amazing place, doing the most amazingly simple yet fulfilling things all at once.  It gave me that warm, full, relaxed, contented feeling that will continue to inspire my travels for years to come.   

The cost of doing business (3 people):

Gas: €80.87

Tolls: €14.40

Lunch (picnic): €27.70

Espresso: 1.50

FontanaFredda wine testing: €30

Gelato: €6

Dinner and bottle of wine: €138

Italy or Bust!

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Goodbye Montana.

We’re off again, this time to spend three weeks touring Italy.  My daughters and I will be joined by a rotating cast of characters during this trip to ensure that we don’t get utterly tired of each other!  Unlike our last European adventure where we spent the majority of our time based in Paris, this time we are traveling around the countryside.  The girls are older and a little more adaptable when it comes to packing up and moving on every four to five days which makes this approach more feasible.  It also allows us to cover more ground and ultimately, find things that appeal to everyone.  The greatest joy for me, however, is that it allows to sample Italian culture in all it’s variety and glory, from the top of the country to the bottom (almost).

First stop…..Milan and Piedmont.  I’ll admit, the first leg of this trip was more about me than anyone else.  I don’t feel even the tiniest bit guilty about claiming a small slice of the trip for my agenda.  First, moms deserve to have a bit of what they want, too.  Particularly as the children get older there can be a bit more accommodation for our wants and needs.  Additionally, in true serendipitous fashion, my girls found plenty to love on this leg of the trip.  Even though there were no beaches or grand tourist sites, we have fond memories of little villages, local farms, good food, relaxation and a goat named Albert.

I’ve long been a lover of European wines and have recently had a particular interest in wines from small vineyards in the Piedmont area.  The family and friend portion of our trip was slated to begin in the Cinque Terre which isn’t all that far from Piedmont (if you’re an optimist with a sense of adventure).  Truthfully, to get to the Cinque Terre in a cost effective fashion we were going to have to fly into Milan.  Once in Milan, you might as well take a few extra days and detour to Piedmont.  It turns out that even a few days is just not enough, however,  and next time I’ll go back for a week or longer.

Our journey into Milan was fraught with difficulty.  When you are traveling thousands of miles via three different flights and one rental car there will almost certainly be problems.  Or opportunities.  Depends on your frame of mind.  Generally I’m of the opportunity mindset but by the end of this particular venture I was of the “get me out of this recurring nightmare” mindset.  I’ll spare you most of the details but I can’t help sharing a few of the highlights.  We were just pushing back from the gate at 6:00 am on our first flight when the crew announced that they needed a physician to come to the front of the plane.  I pretended to be something other than a physician for a nanosecond until my daughters outed me.  I proceeded to the front of the plane where I found a lovely, gray haired, tenacious woman in her 70’s who felt dizzy and nauseated and couldn’t catch her breath.  Given that I’m a pediatrician, this was not really my wheelhouse.  No matter.  It didn’t take me long to realize that whatever this woman was experiencing was not going to be improved by climbing to 30,000 feet of altitude so back to the gate we went for medical services.  After some time, the woman was removed from the plane, evaluated by EMS, put back on the plane (!!!), and we took off for Salt Lake City.  There we enjoyed a little club room access (thanks Delta business credit card) and boarded our next plane to Atlanta.  That flight was blissfully uneventful.  Upon arrival we walked around, stretched our legs, stocked up on some drinks and snacks, and boarded our plane to Milan.

Those of you who have flown through Atlanta surely know that that airport is utterly cursed.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a flight go well from there. This time was no exception.  We were just about to push back from the gate for our 9 hour flight when the captain informed us that there was a “small crack” in one of the panels that needed to be fixed.  No worries.  Within 20 minutes they would have us on our way.  I stand in awe of the optimism that airline personnel must possess.  Because as all of you know, this was not a 20 minute kind of problem.  This was a 5 hour kind of problem.  Five hours!  On the tarmac!  We were given a small bottle of water and bag of Cheez-Its to tide us over.  Thank goodness.

You can imagine the scene on the airplane.  It was all hungry, tired, chaos ridden angst.  People were threatening to get off the airplane, sue the airline, etc, etc, etc.  Apparently water and Cheez-Its don’t quite soothe the masses.  Regardless, at the very bitter end, just before the pilots timed out and the flight got canceled, the crack was fixed and we were on our way!  I was so tired from keeping myself and two children from flying off the handle during this ordeal that I didn’t even have energy to waste wondering about the safety of the aircraft.  Seems like it was just fine, though, because we landed in Milan in the middle of a hot, sunny afternoon, only 5 hours later than planned.

We managed to navigate through customs and immigration, get our passports stamped and grab our luggage.  We muddled our way to the Hertz rental car desk.  I know, I know.  Car rental in a foreign land attracts me like a moth to a flame.  But really, to navigate Piedmont you have to have a car and I wanted to go to Piedmont.  So I got a car.

We waited in line forever.  Literally.  Time is just different in Italy.  When it was finally our turn, the representative gave me grief about being five hours late and said that our car had already been rented to someone else.  Like being five hours late was somehow a choice I had made and now I was suffering the consequences of that choice.  But wait, magic!  A new car was available.  Brand new.  Just perfect for us.  So we hauled our luggage out to the parking lot and waited in another line until someone could direct us to our car.  It did indeed appear to be clean and new.  We loaded our stuff and headed out gleefully for our hotel.  We had made it approximately ten feet out of the parking lot when it became apparent to me that this brand new, clean, good smelling car wasn’t capable of accelerating past 5 mph.  As I merged into airport traffic I checked everything.  In drive, check.  Parking brake off, check.  Evidence of weird European car settings that I just wasn’t aware?  Nope.  So I attempted to pull back into the rental car lot which unfortunately was up a small incline.  This car wasn’t going up a small incline.  In fact, it stopped halfway up said incline.  So, I got out of the car, children in tow and trudged up the hill to the man working the booth.  I explained to him my trouble.  He looked at me like I was an idiot.  I invited him to drive the car.  He tried.  It didn’t go well.

Eventually, there were six Italian men (in full suits, ties and dress shoes, in the 90 degree heat), attempting to push this car up the incline.  This didn’t go well either.  They eventually abandoned that idea.  As far as I know, that damn car is still sitting there.

After much ado and a lot of negotiating I found myself in another car.  This one was definitely not new.  It was definitely not clean.  It didn’t smell all that great.  Come to find out, the gas tank wasn’t even full.  But the car did run and it was beat up enough that I didn’t really worry about inflicting further damage upon the poor thing.  Basically, it was perfect.  We took off down the road to our hotel where we would spend one night before heading out to Piedmont.  It felt like we had surely used up all of our misfortune for one trip.  After a shower, a stroll around Milan, some gelato, wine and pizza (I don’t like to mess around), I was certain that sunnier days were ahead.

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Gelato!
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Hello Italy!

 

The cost of doing business:

Train tickets from airport to Milan city center and back again: €40 (€20 per adult, €10 per child)

Converters (forgot mine at home, ugh) and water: €55

Dinner: €42.50

Gelato: €10

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