I love Italy. I simply adore it. I have only been here for just over three weeks but it has fulfilled every single one of the inarticulate expectations that I have possessed for as long as I can remember. Every place that we have visited I have been sad to leave as I know that I have not spent enough time visiting and exploring. I love the craziness of the south and the contrast of the quieter seemingly more sophisticated north. I love the exuberance of the people. I love the food. Did I tell you that I love the food? God stab me in the eye and send me to heaven. Pizza, Pasta and Gelato. God help me. There are actually bathroom scales in our current apartment and every morning when I have a shower, I eye them gingerly as if they might jump out and bruise me violently in the shins. I step around them and ignore the fact that I have scales in the bathroom. Out damned scales. Out!
For once in my life I am not going to worry about my weight or my muffin top. Or should I say tops? For god’s sake there is Bread and Pasta and Pizza and Gelato to eat. It is so good. I simply cannot explain to you how good it is. The only thing I can do to truly pay homage to the food of Italy is to eat. I am rejoicing in bloody eating. Besides, I seem to spend more and more hours of the day walking so I figure I need to continue to feed my body so I can continue walking and feeding my soul. I simply cannot stop eating.
The other day the kids and I went for a stroll to meet Mum and Phil so we could visit the incredible Duomo of Florence. The kids and I then left Mum and Phil who returned by tram, to go for a wander to check out the other side of the Arno and maybe find something to eat. Somewhere in that process we got completely and irrevocably lost and we arrived back to our apartment some 5 hours later. This was after trudging up hill and down fucking dale in an attempt to find our way out of some sort of secret inner city Florentine maze I had found myself in.
I have books and movies in my head. Depending on the location, the mood or the occasion, stories just come to the forefront of my brain and I become that character in my head. Usually I am incredibly glorious. Since arriving in Italy, A Room with a View and Lucy are constantly swimming around in my brain. The fact of the matter is though, when push comes to shove, I am nothing remotely resembling these female protagonists. It is just that I have a very active and fertile imagination. Whilst the kids and I wandered up and down lane ways that resembled country lane ways rather than the roadways of the city of Florence all thoughts of Lucy left my brain. I was not waxing whimsically about life or waltzing around in floaty summer dresses. I was muttering curse words to myself and working up a sweat in my leggings and runners as the kids and I tried to work out where the fuck we were.
How could you take a few short turns from the Palace Pitti which was in the heart of Florence and then end up aimlessly wandering down a narrow road with high stone walls whilst wondering if one of the villas that you could see in the distance was the home to Hannibal Lecter? As I was imagining walking into the lair of Hannibal Lecter, Archie reminded me of the fact that I had asked them both about an hour’s previously if we should turn around or continue. Naturally both of the children had suggested that we turn around, but I had ignored them and with the spirit of adventure in my soul I had surged forwards. It annoyed me that he reminded me of this, there was absolutely no need to bring up the bleeding obvious.
It amazes me how it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, but as a mother, you are still going to annoy your children and your children are still going to make you scratch your head and ask yourself as to whether you gave birth to aliens. The other morning I woke up to see a note from Archie beside my bed. It read, “I am sorry Mummy, I just don’t trust myself. Love Archie.” For some reason that note made me think of the Shining or that Macaulay Culkin movie ‘The Good Son’ where he plays that really creepy kid who ends up trying to torture and kill his family members. I imagined Archie with a sharp knife in his hand, creepily writing that note and staring at my sleeping form. I got goose-bumps. Then I saw his book and his glasses by the note and realised the poor kid had left his book in my room as he knows I freak out if he gets up and reads before it is time to wake up. I am glad they can’t see what goes on in my head. I had just momentarily turned my son into a psycho-killer.
About an hour and a half after the kids had already made the decision, I made the decision to turn around and retrace our steps. They both had the maturity not to remind me constantly of the fact that the decision had been made by them a long time before I had the sense to make it. Little champions. I was allowed to wander along with righteousness. Florence is that sort of city. It allows you to be all sorts of things.
Rissie has been hankering for a bag ever since we got to Italy. She had in mind a little red number with embellishments that could go with the red tutu and ballet slippers that she wears in her head. (I have no idea where she gets it from). Her second knapsack of the trip had decided to fall to pieces on our way to Italy so I knew I needed to get her a new knapsack. On my morning walk yesterday, I had seen the most amazing river side markets being set up, so after school the kids and I wandered the markets looking for a bargain. Rissie spotted the first bag we came across and she was eager to have it. I now wonder if her eagerness came from the fact that she should strike while the iron was hot as it is not often I buy them things as we don’t generally have the budget for little luxuries. I save my money for food. Glorious food.
So we haggled with the vendor, got a good price and waltzed off with our little bargain. I was trying to ignore the huge number of knapsacks we were now seeing on stalls. Rissie had gone very quiet and I asked her what was wrong. She whispered to me, “I don’t look ‘fancy’ do I mummy?” God forbid. Not fucking fancy. For some reason the word fancy puts the fear of god into Rissie. It is like being ‘awkward’. You just don’t want to go there. If Archie wants to annoy Rissie he says that she is looking a bit ‘fancy’ and she will quite literally explode. To be honest I wouldn’t mind being called fancy but I didn’t let her know that. I looked at her resolute face marching along with her new knapsack that matched her boots. She had on her little jacket and everything was thrown on her tiny little frame with the style that only Rissie has. She looked like the fanciest thing I had seen. So I shook my head and said to her, “Not fancy. Not remotely fancy. Absolutely nothing fancy about you. That would be awkward. You look cool. Like a cool kid. But not a fancy one. I can not even believe you would think that.”
I thought I had her convinced until bedtime. She was using her quavering voice, the one that I know, because it is the one that I use when I am about to fall to pieces. She told me that she loved her bag but when she thought of it she wanted to cry. (Christ almighty). Maybe it was too small to fit all her treasured belongings. Possibly it was fancy. Small and fancy. The kiss of death. So we put all her treasured belongings in it. They fit. We checked out the zip compartments and oohed over every one of them. I exclaimed at how ordinary the bag was and said often how nothing about it was fancy. Then she decided it was ok to go to sleep. I then went and slowly hit my head against the nearest concrete wall.
I was weary from our 5 hour walk the day before and dealing with the issues of a son who left me weird little notes and a daughter with a terror or being fancy. When I went to bed that night I contemplated locking my door, in case Archie paid me another evening visit, but decided that would have been just plain fancy.
I fell asleep that night, trying to work out again I had gotten lost the day before. I still don’t know how we could have gotten lost in the countryside, in the middle of the city, but there you have it. Part of the magic of Florence.