Hmmm. I haven't written for a while. Oh yes! We dashed over to Italy for a jiffy. We had a whirlwind trip full of ups and downs. The most shocking bit came at the beginning when we crossed the border and realized for the first time that our GPS is only for France and we hadn't brought any maps nor had any other method to find where we were going! We are so dependent! The first afternoon and one other morning consumed several hours trying to find a SD card for Italy, but to no avail. We found one Renault dealership that would sell us one out of a new vehicle for 160 euros, but I was quite confident that we were intelligent enough to find our way in the same manner that millions of people have done for years. I have since begun to doubt that. In our defense, Italian road signs are terribly confusing ~~ full of inessential information whilst lacking the essential (like where WE needed to go). We had lost our dearest and most helpful companion and were sadly left to our own incompetent devices. This, of course, made the trip far more interesting, seeing back alleys not meant for visitors and seeing other sites twice, thrice, or even more times as we drove in circles and zig zags. Another surprise that awaited us near the frontier of Italy was snow -- and lots of it! We wound through the mountains of northern Italy with Ferrari's whizzing past on one side and large trucks lumbering along the other.
The weather cleared up as we approached Venice, but the one day we had there dawned dark and drear. We huddled at the bus stop for 30 minutes, took the water bus into town, arrived at St. Mark's square and lo and behold it started snowing again! I asked a Venetian how often it snows in Venice and she replied, "Not often." I looked it up and it (wikipedia) said that it isn't supposed to snow there on the coast. I mean, honestly! (We ran into lots of Brits at each tourist stop saying, "I mean honestly!" over and over as they complained about their spaghetti and whatnot so it has now become our family motto). We froze as we toured the drafty Doges Palace and other sites, warming up only as we were snookered over lunch. Then some more wind whipped walking, but the kids were great not complaining and just enjoying. We even all sat outside on the water bus as we left the city so that we could enjoy our last views of Venice unencumbered by the windows. One thing about traveling in January, (besides the unpredictable weather), that I hadn't considered, is how early it gets dark! This plagued us at each of our destinations. At any rate, we loved Venezia!
The next day as we drove to Florence it was sunny and clear. A beautiful way to see Tuscany and Umbria, leaving us with high hopes for the rest of the week. The mountains just past Bologna (baloney!) were covered with fluffy snow and it was so lovely. We had hoped to go to a museum or something in the afternoon, but it took us so long to find our hotel that we had to settle for some evening strolls. Our one full day in Florence was gray and freezing again, but a lot of it was spent inside and the lively city kept us warm. The kids made it through all of the Uffizi gallery and walked to the top of the Duomo bell tower. They loved looking in all of the shops and we even saw a marble statue and column workshop with people carving away. We loved Firenze!
The next day as we drove to Roma was sunny and clear with an amazing side trip to Tivoli (once we found it) and the fountains there. We all decided that we would be quite content to settle there permanently. In the gardens. We had hoped to go to a museum or something in the afternoon, but it took us so long to find our hotel that we had to settle for seeing some things at night. Our one full day in Rome dawned gray and freezing -- Wait! Am I repeating myself? Why yes I am! Every travel day was sunny and beautiful and every tour day was dark and horrible. And every hotel was relentless in being cryptic and hidden. Oh well. So in Rome it rained and it rained and then it poured and then it stopped for a moment and then it rained some more. A lot of things in Roma are outside so that it makes it really nice. It brought back warm and fuzzy memories of my one other visit to the Roman ruins almost 20 years ago, trudging through the mud and seeing everything within the frame of a green umbrella. Poor baby's feet got very wet and never could really warm up the rest of the day, even being wrapped up in the "real pashmina wool from India with the label 100% cotton on it" scarf bought on the street. We walked a lot and enjoyed the plazas, fountains, churches in every possible nook and cranny, the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, with the coliseum and Trevi fountain being the favorites. We loved Roma!
The day we left I wanted to stop at a little town on the way home, but after not finding it and driving all sorts of different directions for 2 to 3 hours, we gave up. Then having two different people give us change for 10 euros when we gave them 20 euros and them insisting that we were wrong just left a bad taste in my mouth for Italy. I know that it could have been worse with someone brandishing a gun and stealing everything we had, but still! We are trying to be so careful, only eating bread and cheese and then just losing money like that.... Most people were very nice. The last stop was in Pisa with two hours extra for finding and exiting and a desperate stop at McDo's for a bathroom (with a seat!) and a snack.
A beautiful drive along the coast with the full moon reflecting on the Mediterranean and every village with their church and campanile lit up for us to enjoy wrapped up our journey. It was definitely an adventure. Pictures soon.
I forgot how cold our house is. And it was certainly pleasant taking warm showers.