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Open my heart and you will see…

17 Apr

Italy, and the Spring, and first love – all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy.
– Bertrand Russell

 

It was late morning on New Year’s eve day as our high speed Trenitalia, which was traveling at over 220 miles per hour, came to a hault.  We had arrived in the romantic and iconic Florence, Italy – also known as Firenze.  It was a cold and sunny winter day, colorful graffiti decorated the walls and tunnels of the train stations, representing the most brusque and modern art that adorns this fine historic city.  I should mention that Kai was completely in awe just from the train ride.   The Tuscan landscape is like none other.  Much delightful Chianti Classico and divine tuscan cuisine also awaited us.

Graffiti in the train station

We exited the train station and made a dash for a taxi to take us to our hotel.  We were determined to make the most out of our first day in Florence, and ensure that we had a chance to find our way through the romantic streets of Florence before the New Year’s celebration began.  After checking-in and getting settled in our hotel, off we went back into the center of Florence.  Our first stop – the Basilica di Santa Maria de Flore – the main church of Firenze.  And was it grand! The exterior is faced with marble panels in varying shades of green and pink. It’s duomo soars above all of the historic buildings and defines the Firenze landscape from all the hillside neighbors that surround city center.

 

Duomo view in Firenze

We spent hours that afternoon walking the streets, getting lost, and simply having the time of our life savoring all Firenze had to offer on New Year’s eve.  Nightfall came alive in this bustling city. Artists painted the streets (literally) while musicians carried on.  Vendors were everywhere, selling all the little light-up gadgets one can imagine.  Eventually we found our way to a great little place for an early New Year’s dinner – Ristorante Toto – and it was amazing.  Course after course of pure Italian indulgence: Antipasta; insalata verde; fried artichoke hearts; calamari; house made ravioli; perfectly grilled t-bone; and of course dessert… traditional profiteroles.  And how can I forget to mention the champagne and bottle of Chianti Classico that we washed it down with.  We spent a couple hours in this quaint little place.  At the table next to ours was a kind Russian couple who were absolutely in love with Kai.  They insisted on playing with him and holding him in between courses of food.  And Kai was of course entertained by their friendliness and new voices.  It was a wonderful dinner that marked the end of 2013, one of the best year’s of our life.

Street artists

T-Bone steak

Antipasta cart

After dinner, we continued to walk the streets of Firenze.  Then we stopped into a small shop, grabbed a bottle of wine, and headed back to our hotel.  From the fifth floor of our hotel we watched the New Year’s eve fireworks that lit-up the Florence skyline at the stroke of midnight while sweet Kai slept peacefully next to us.  It was a New Year’s eve we will remember forever.

Punto Vecchio at dusk

Fireworks over Florence

Welcome to the Dolci Vita!

27 Jan

This is the first post in the series – Kai’s Travel Adventures.  More to come!

Some 10 hours after we departed cold Washington, DC we felt the plane hit the tarmac in none other than Rome, Italy.  It was a cool December day and the sun was shining.  Kai was bright-eyed and excited as he peered out the airplane window and marveled at the vista, he had no idea what lay ahead for the next 10 days.  In fact none of us knew what would lie ahead, this was our first real adventure to an unknown land since Kai was born just 10 months ago.

Just getting off the plane, I got a sense of the food that Italy had in store for us.  There was a picture perfect antipasta bar with fresh buffalo mozzarella, plump red tomatoes, white bean salad, and perfectly grilled fresh artichokes dressed with lemon.  A food lovers dream come true!  And this is just airport dining.

We travelled light (which made it so much easier!) with one backpack for each of us (which included Kai’s stuff), plus Kai’s car seat & diaper back pack.  So in no time we met our driver and headed across Rome to our hotel.  The hotel (Villa Morgagni) was great, historic and very accommodating to families – we’d stay there again. Despite the jet lag, we were so excited to be in Rome and were operating on adrenaline, so off we went by foot walking the streets of Rome.  First we stopped for lunch at this amazing local restaurant that became our favorite eatery in Rome.  We feasted on a plate of house made meatballs in marinera, giant prawns (with the head on! Yum!) cooked in garlic and sherry, and of course a caprese salad – simple and completely delicious!  They don’t call Italy the ‘Dolci Vita’ (Sweet Life) for nothing!

Rome Day 1 by Foot

Our journey continued on foot towards city center, Kai was mesmerized by the all the new scents, people, new language, and really everything that we were just as equally fascinated by.  It made me realize that we really aren’t any different after thirty than we are at just 10 months.  We wandered and wandered, found ancient city walls dating back before Christ.  Ancient stone churches in every niche of the city that are still operating today, with centuries of family tradition still attending weekly mass at the same churches their ancestors did.  We made our way to the train station, got our Roma Pass’ and spent some time checking out the map and subway.  Kai and I found a little kiosk selling nothing better than authentic gelato, and there in the chaos of the train station we devoured out first (of many) real Italian gelato.  Yes, we literally ate our way through Italy… more to come on the food.  Then we headed to the iconic ancient Roman Colosseum right in the heart of Rome.  In all its grandeur and magic.  All its windows and crevices were lit up against the indigo sky just after dusk.  This is Rome…  We were all breath taken.

We strolled around the grounds of the Colosseum for a while, admired the Arch of Constantine, and a few of ruins in Palatine that were within sight. We knew the day ahead so much yet to be discovered.  We headed back towards our hotel, grabbed a couple of glasses of Chianti and our first authentic Pizza, which was also divine!

It occurred to me that evening as we found our way back to the hotel via subway that travel has a different meaning now than it had before baby Kai.  Now traveling is more about showing Kai the world, its about guiding him in truly experiencing the world.  He is also teaching me how to look at the world differently.  I pick-up on the very things he marvels at, and in turn marvel with him at things that would otherwise be unseen.  And with that, it was time to rest.  More on Kai’s Italian Adventures to come!

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