Alas, I am home, safe and sound, from my trip to Italy with the family. Let me preface the storytelling by saying that in no way was I needed on this trip. There was only one instance the whole week when I was left alone at the house with Little Bean, and this was so everyone could watch Nonno (Grandpa) buy two more chickens. Fantastisch. That being said, I actually had a really nice time and felt very lucky to be there. I cannot think of another time when I would have stayed with a family, on their own vineyard, surrounded by miles of other vineyards, where they grow several kinds of grapes to make their own wine, set in the middle of the Italian countryside. It’s opportunities like this when I remember why the dirty diapers and (seemingly) incessant nagging are worth it.
I cannot say that I thought this trip would go well from the start. This thought occurred to me about 3.5 hours into our 5 hour trip, right after the kids had their snack of a granola bar and fruit juice. Traffic was minimal and I was enjoying the mountains and valleys, a stark contrast to the Kansas landscape. About twenty minutes after consuming the aforementioned snack I heard what could only be described as “liquid being poured.” I didn’t remember Rapunzel, who was sitting directly behind me, having anything left in her water bottle, which meant only one thing… A shrill cry broke me from my thought process and I snapped my head around to find Rapunzel covered in her own vomit. It. was. everywhere. Maybe I have made mention of the extreme amount of hair she has (and if I haven’t, then the name should clue you in) but let’s just say it currently had purple highlights. She was completely stunned and had no clue how the contents of her stomach managed to find themselves all over her Hello Kitty t-shirt. After a side-of-the-highway clean-up it was back on the road.
We stumbled into the house and found dinner waiting for us. this was the first of a week full of outstanding meals. Both the Nonno and Nonna are excellent cooks and then spared no expense on filling our bellies. Some of the dishes (all homemade) included: pizza (made in the wood burning oven they built), gnocchi with porcini cream sauce, Italian sausage with asparagus, pumpkin soup, roasted turkey legs with yellow peppers and zucchini, and one indulgence that featured three different kinds of meat– lamb, chicken, and roast beef. What am I, a dinosaur? I don’t need that kind of meat in my life. But, I won’t refuse it. Every meal, including lunch was accompanied by two things: dessert and wine. For the first, featured sweets were: strawberries and cream, layer cake, ice cream, and one afternoon I walked outside to find the family eating fresh-baked pear cake. I had just finished an hour yoga session in my room and was in a total state of zen. I will blame it on my trance that convinced me to have a 45 degree chunk of that cake. I promptly went back upstairs for an hour nap. Waste of space is a phrase that comes to mind. As for the second accompaniment, the Dad’s family (which is whose house this is) makes their own wine, which is fantastic. Now, I can’t sit around a table and dissect flavors and ingredients in a glass of wine. You will never find me saying, “Ahh, yes, I can pull the tar out of this one.” But, I do enjoy a glass of vino. In this case, it’s more like 2 or 3 glasses, which is what I was served each night. That doesn’t include the glass or two I had at lunch, or the apero that occurred in afternoon. Thank goodness I was not expected to watch the kids that much while I was this heavily influenced. Granted, I was extra smiley and rosy-cheeked throughout the week, but I blame that on the sun I got and the bliss that comes with relaxation. What can I say, they love their wine. The Nonnies could polish off a bottle easily by early afternoon. Double bottles were opened each night at dinner and were often supplemented with another single bottle or two. Suffice it to say, all my pants fit a little snugger this week.
The family and I took little excursions to nearby towns and castles in the morning, one of which was the Grinzane castle. The area is located in the Barbera region and that is the prominent wine that is produced. The castle provided information on how this became a high production zone for these grapes and how such production has shaped the economy. We also went into Alba, the nearest semi-big-ish city, and visited a church and some shops. The trip was mostly to make a jewelry purchase for the Mom, but the kids and I scored some gelato out of the deal. Just what I needed, more dessert–at approximately 11:00 in the morning. I was happy to get out and moving as I was not totally sure how to keep the kids occupied at the house. There is of course the vineyard we could wander around in, chickens and ducks to visit in their pen, a toy Jeep for them to drive, and a random assortment of toys, but it’s hard to try to entertain kids when they just want to spend time with their parents, grandparents and aunt and uncle. This is why I feel I was completely unnecessary. I was so aware the whole time that I was a part of another family’s memory-making. I can’t help but wonder if they ever feel weird having a relative stranger apart of their holidays and vacations. I know it’s kind of strange for me. How do they think the rest of us manage on our own? I honestly just played with the kids while the parents sat and watched. Still hard for me to wrap my head around that.
That being said, I was given plenty of time to relax. After lunch I was free to do as I chose. Sometimes I would just lay outside in one of the lawn chairs and read/pass out in a food-induced coma. Everyday, save the last one, I did about an hour of yoga in my room. It was great to practice and stretch, something my body was in need of. I would then read or nap, or do both, usually until I heard 5 o’clock roll around downstairs. A couple times I ventured out for a walk around the land. When I left for my first outing they asked, “Do you know where to go?” Oh yes, I’ve just been Lewis&Clark-ing it up in my room, planning routes each night. No, I have no idea where I’m going, but that’s kind of the best part. I think the best way to get to know a city is by foot and to just go out and explore. So that’s what I did. On one particular day I had been gone for about 25 minutes when I heard the first crack of thunder. It only took 5 minutes for the sky to open and my person to become soaked. I made it back just as the hail began to fall and spent the remainder of the afternoon doing yoga with my windows open and the smell of rain filling the space. Again, another “once in a lifetime” moment.
I wish I could say the ride home went as smoothly (barring the barf episode) as the ride there. I’m almost positive everyone in Switzerland was on the road coming home from holiday. A five hour journey turned into eight. The only thing holding me together was knowing that at some point in my life I would be back in my bed. As we were sitting in traffic, having essential Climbed Every Mountain in detours, I looked out my window to discover, could it be? SNOW! I had to close my eyes and focus on the music flowing in my ears. By midnight we were home, once again safe and sound. Overall, it was a good holiday and I managed to survive. We return again in October for the Truffle hunting season. Count me in!