Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ciao, Bella!

For the second time in less than a year we packed up the car and headed off to Tuscany. We were meeting college friends Palm, Hanna, B, & E at Al Gelso Bianco, the same beautiful place we stayed last year the hills of Barberino between Florence and Siena. We were not disappointed.

Checking out the weather forecast in the weeks leading up to our trip I was increasingly nervous. Highs were over 100F with evenings still hovering close to 90F. This did not sound ideal for exploring country villages with 2 kiddos - we would melt. As luck would have it we arrived with a cold front, but that also meant rain. So for the first few days we enjoyed long (as in 3 hours long) lunches, and managed to explore the countryside without getting caught in the rain once - never even opening an umbrella. We even had a few peaks of sunshine. For the last few days the sun came out in full force, and we slowed down and enjoyed some time by the pool, haven gotten our fill of walled villages and cathedrals.

As a traveler I have noticed that I rely less and less on guide books. Don't get me wrong - I love to page through them to get ideas of where to go (as in big picture - as in Italy or Spain), but I don't use them to guide my day-to-day. At Al Gelso Bianco, the staff is incredibly helpful in suggesting what to do. Each morning we would wake up, check out the weather, and ask Irene or Chiara for some ideas and help making lunch and dinner reservations. I think that now I am more into experiencing a place, as opposed to checking all the major sites off the list. It's an especially practical way to travel with kids, as you have to remain flexible.

When people travel to Italy, no doubt food is at the top of their list. And we were not disappointed. We tried all the local specialities, including pappardelle with wild boar sauce, homemade noodles with rabbit sauce, steak florentine, gnocchi, and....oh yeah....GELATO! So much gelato. I would say that E took the gelato business most seriously, ordering the same flavor whenever possible (nutella) so that she could compare it to previous gelatos. We did eat at 2 world champion gelaterias - and we were not disappointed. I think her rankings were:
  1. Gelatería di PiazzaSan Gimignano
  2.  l'Antica Delizia - Castellina in Chianti
  3. Other place in San Gimignano, maybe E has a picture with the name?

She had an eye for authentic gelato, and was not fooled by fancy displays covered in fresh fruit. She sniffed out the real stuff and we loved her for it. Oh - and I should add that our gelato aficionado had her wedding dress fitting the day after she got back from Italy for her wedding in less than a month. Seriously. E =Awesome. (So sad to miss their wedding!)

At night, after putting the kiddos to bed, we entertained ourselves by drinking wine and grappa while playing the Swedish card game Plump, which is essentially what I know as Up and Down the River. Turns out B is a card shark. The ultimate risk-taker. It worked well for him most of the time.

And the kids. As always, I have to make a comment on traveling with kids. DO IT! I am constantly amazed at how adaptable and flexible children are. Annika - who turns one next week - was an amazing traveler. She immediately adjusted to her new time zone, took naps when she could, ate when we ate, etc. Traveling with 2 kids no doubt means you have to adjust, you move at a slower pace, etc, but it can be done. Restaurants don't start serving dinner until 7 or 7:30 - no problem! We'll just put the kids to bed at 10 or 11. I know it was a lot of work for them, but they were so stimulated by their new environments that they both did really, really well. And I should mention that B & E were amazing with the kids. They get props for traveling with 2 couples with kids and helping to make it all work!
Want to see more pics from this amazing adventure? Click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment