After being on an incredible whirl-wind tour of southern Italy with mum and Phil the kids and I have arrived in Tuscany and we have a chance to stand still. I will be eternally grateful to Mum and Phil as I had never planned to travel far and wide like we did, and because of them I got to see so much more of Italy than I could have imagined. It was a fabulous month - from Rome to Naples to Pompeii to Matera to Lecce to Minori to Florence. What an absolutely wonderful time.
I know I use the word love a lot. I am in love with so many things. I used to talk often of my love for the Tenterfield Baker with his delectable Turkish Bread. I love my kids. I love my dogs. I love Italian tomatoes. I love Gelati. I love almost every meal I make that is a success. I love Providence and Hope Street. I will always love New York City. Finally I love Italy. I fucking love it. It is a country that has affected me more than any other I have visited and I lived in London for 5 years and I have always thought that that would be my second home if I had to leave Australia. Now I think it would be Italy.
There is something about Italy. The madness of the south and the contrast of the calmer north. The incredible history that can be found on every street and every cobblestone. In Rome when wandering along streets that bordered places that are famous the world over, I was often moved to tears to think of all that had been before me. It makes you realise how completely insignificant we are in the general scheme of things. Which is a good thing when contemplating someone like Trump. I found Florence hard to deal with at times. The Duomo of Florence was a building that affected me more than any other building I have seen in my travels. To walk along cobbled laneways and cross bridges where I knew the likes of Michelangelo. Da Vinci and Dante Alighieri had walked before me was enough to make me stand and stare with a perpetual open mouth of amazement looking like the village idiot.
Italy has moved me. I had great expectations in my head. I always have great expectations in my head. And only one month in Italy has met them all. I want to come back and I have not even left. No wonder I get tired on occasion with so many arrivals and departures in my head.
The kids coped well on 'moving' day. Rissie has an almost pathological hatred of the days that we have to move. She does not sleep the night before and she becomes emotional and fractious. She asks me repeatedly how long the bus/train/plane is going to take and if I know where I am going. What will I do if we miss the bus/train/plane? What will I do if there is a natural disaster? It goes on and on. It is at times like this that I have to look at things through Archie and Rissie's eyes, even though my instinctive reaction is to raise my eyes to the heavens above and screech out, "for fuck's sake!" and then sit in a corner quietly rocking backwards and forwards banging my head against a wall until it bleeds.
It is why we travel slowly and why I am allowing hours now for connections and why I will sit there and answer there questions for what seems like hours just to reassure them that all is ok. It is on our transfer days when I am reminded again and again of exactly how young they are and how huge this trip sometimes is for them. I thought I had talked it through with them how it was ok that Nanny and Poppy were returning home. We would be home in 5 months and look how fast 7 months had flown. Kevin and Rosie were going to Nanny and Poppy's for our last 2 months and everyone would be waiting for them and it would take no time at all. Rissie held it together magnificently until we had said goodbye to Mum and Phil and we were sitting on our train. She then bowed her little head over her knapsack and sobbed and said in her voice that completely encompassed wretchedness, "I am so sick of saying goodbye." Archie bopped up like a little trooper, even though he was on the verge of tears himself, and told Rissie he would run out to the train station of Florence and grab Nanny and Poppy so she could give them one last hug. However, they both agreed that the likelihood of Archie finding Nanny and Poppy was pretty small and sat down with stoic expressions on their faces and got out their ipads. (Thank fuck on occasion for ipads.)
It was so lovely to arrive in Uzzano and to see our apartment and to realise that we were staying put for 2 months. Uzzano dates back to about 1000 a.d when its Castello was in the possession of the Lucca family. The fact that I am staying in a tiny little village that is so historic means that my mouth is agape once more. We have to park our car outside the village walls due to parking restrictions and the walk from our car to our apartment has me inclined to constantly pinch myself as it all feels straight out of a fairy tale.
When I mention the car I have to laugh as when I first got in it I literally forgot how to drive. For starters I was on the wrong side of the car and secondly I have not driven, apart from a fleeting opportunity in the States for 7 months. Initially I could only find two pedals and all sense of reason left me as I ground the gears into a pulp and tried to work out what the hell I was doing wrong. When I was shown that the clutch was for my left foot and I found the brake and accelerator pedal it all became blatantly clear to me and everything came flooding back. Our first drive up the hill to Uzzano was a little bit hairy as I got used to narrow mountain roads and driving on the right. Rissie told me within five minutes, "No offense Mummy but Poppy Phil was a lot better than you." I agreed with her wholeheartedly especially when I thought of the Amalfi Coast Road which he had successfully navigated. It did not take me long though to get the hang of it and it is an absolute treat to have a car at our disposal. We have named her Saffy - short for Sapphire, in memory of Ruby.
I am looking forward to standing still for a while now and slowly exploring an area that has captivated so many. Now is our chance to 'live like locals' for a while and get to know an area that has already captured my heart.