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Family Travel in Italy

8 Aug

*Not long ago Inghams Italy Travel Site and Tours contacted me about sharing some of my experiences about living and traveling in Italy as a family. Inghams Italy compensated me for writing this post but all experiences, thoughts and ideas are my own.

Over the last 13 years my husband and I have lived  and raised our 3 children in Italy and done our fair share of exploring this beautiful country as a family. When considering travelling to Italy, one traditionally thinks of the wealth of historical sites, the breathtaking art and architecture, and one of the best loved cuisines, all within the stunning natural beauty  from the Alps to the Aegean – a perfect tourist destination.

But, one of the things I love most about Italy, is that it is a family centric culture.  Here, in Italy, family has the highest priority and this shows in how they treat travellers to their country, especially families.

Inevitably, you will encounter kind and generous people who will go out of their way to make your small travellers happy and comfortable.  Italians love the little ones and aren’t shy to show it – usually by squeezing cheeks and loudly proclaiming “che bel bambino!”.  No worries, your kids will get used to it and will most likely return home with an amazing sense of self-confidence.

Living in Italy has given us the inside scoop on the best places to visit, most comfortable accommodations, favourite places to eat out and just about anything else you would need to know about traveling through Italy in famiglia.

Food:  IMG_6382

 

Italy is world renown for its delectable cuisine and luckily it’s also one that most kids absolutely adore.  On just about any menu your kids will find something they’ll love to eat (and recognise).  Some favourites of local Italian kids are Pasta Rossa (pasta with tomato sauce), Riso Giallo (saffron risotto), Milanese con Patatine (breaded pork cutlet with french fries) and of course Pizza Margherita (pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella).  And if you don’t see something your child likes on the menu don’t be afraid to ask – they are usually more than willing to whip up a simple pasta for the little ones.  My kid’s favourite thing to order in a restaurant is a variety or antipasto plates.  You can’t go wrong with sliced meats, cheeses, olives and fresh Italian bread.

Gelato:  

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Of course one of the main gastronomic attractions for kids in Italy (and adults actually) is the iconic Italian gelato.  Gelaterias are found on just about every street corner and are usually made with fresh, high quality ingredients.  A promised gelato will help kids get through the museum visits, the long hours of pavement pounding, the intense summer heat and the over exhaustion of traveling that can sometimes get too much for them.  Look for signs that say Gelato Artigianale for the highest quality and home-made ice cream.  And remember in the hot summer months it’s quite normal to visit a gelateria more than once a day!

Beaches:  

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When traveling with kids you can never go wrong with a beach visit.  And Italy boasts both a myriad of coastlines and beautiful lakes to choose from.  The world famous Costa Amalfitana (Unesco World Heritage Site), the Ligurian coast with it’s famous Cinque Terre villages, the Northern Lakes including Lago Como and Lago Maggiore and the pristine aquamarine waters of Sardinia will be appreciated by the whole family.

Italian beaches are very family friendly with chairs and umbrellas for rent, small beach playgrounds and restaurants just metres from the water’s edge. From here, parents can enjoy a plate of fresh Fritto Misto while watching the kids frolic in the warm waters.  Warning: since one has to pay for a space,  these beaches can end up being quite pricey but well worth it for a few days of relaxing family time.

Read on for more tips for traveling in Italy as a family…

Continue reading

Gratefully Grateful *22*

21 Jul

This has to be the strangest July weather-wise since I moved to Italy 13 years ago.  Usually at this time of year the weather is unbearably hot and humid and all we want to do is eat gelato and swim at the lake.  This year July has offered us cool temperature, lots of rain and even some hail and wind storms.  My kids keep telling me that it just doesn’t feel “summery” at all (except when we decided to head to Milan on Saturday and it was 38 degrees and nauseatingly muggy).

I personally am not complaining because we’ve been able to get house projects done without sweating profusely and we manage to actually sleep at night without the need of fans blowing from every direction (and last night we even needed to dig out a blanket).

But I know the intense heat will arrive and with it that lazy summery rhythm that we all love and look forward to.

Here are a few of my favourite images from the last little while.

IMG_8554Despite the milder temps we still make time to visit the lake on a daily basis.  We love those long lazy evenings with friends on the beach enjoying impromptu aperitivo picnics.IMG_8550My view from the picnic blanket.  I’m not complaining.IMG_8519A little family project that we’ve been working on this summer.  The kids pooled their savings and purchased this vintage camper.  Unbelievable how much it has changed since this photo was taken.  More pics soon.

IMG_8578Colourful walls in Milan.  And long skinny 12 year old legs.IMG_8182I came across this shot I took of Sweet Paul’s Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango and Thai Basil.  Must make again soon.  So good.

Have a great week everyone!

Gratefully Grateful
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Traveling With Kids: Musement Travel App

27 Jun

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of testing out a new Cultural/Travel App called Musement.  It was a great experience and an app that I’ll be using often on my family’s upcoming travels.  Find out what it’s all about and how it can make your travels a lot less stressful and enjoyable over on Classic Play (as well as what we did with it!).  Hint: it involves skipping line-ups at your favourite museums and events!musementclassicplay

Gratefully Grateful *21*

23 Jun

Oh June.  You’re a month that knocks me off my feet.  The end-of-year parties, going-away parties, birthday parties, school parties, bbq parties, recitals, plays, events and just about anything else you can think of have been keeping our days (and most evenings) BUSY.

Not to mention the World Cup which is all everyone is talking about over here in Italy.  Usually we’re a family that knows absolutely nothing about football (soccer).  We don’t understand the game, wouldn’t recognise a player if he walked past us nor really ever cared about who was winning or losing.  But somehow that has all changed and my Belgian husband and kids have become crazed.  You should have heard them screaming when Belgium made the winning shot (goal?) in last night’s game.  Hilarious.

Here are a few images to add to my Gratefully Grateful series…

IMG_8356 Test shot for our upcoming photo booth at a local pyjama run in support of kids with cancer.  A few years ago we folded those paper cranes (actually 1000 in total) for a little friend of ours who was diagnosed with a brain tumour.  He’s doing really well at the moment and we couldn’t be happier. (holy top knot!)IMG_8330If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen a similar photo to the one above.  I bought these golden raspberries at a local farm and have fallen head over heels for this fruit.  Sweeter than the traditional red ones but with a with a slightly different taste.  Can’t wait to make an Italian Crostata with Golden Raspberry Jam in the coming days.IMG_8322Happy to have this little guy back after 4 days away from home.  He had a blast in the mountains with his class but was overwhelmed with joy at the Welcome Home banner that his sisters made for his return.  
IMG_8286Last week our new couches arrived and with it 5 huge cardboard boxes.  My kids got out the paints and spent hours playing with and decorating those boxes.  Love that.  Who says tweens are miserable and always bored?  Mine definitely aren’t.

Have a great week!

Gratefully Grateful
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Gratefully Grateful *19*

26 May

It has been a busy and eventful few weeks around here.  My mom arrived from Canada for a long awaited three week visit and I turned the big 40 years old.  Now I just have to get used to writing and saying the word 40.  I’m pretty convinced that this is going to be a glowing and wonderful phase of my life.

I’m so lucky to be heading into my 40s with so many beautiful things in my life: my three incredible kids, my loving and patient husband, the fact that I live in one of the most gorgeous countries, my (relatively) good health, all my amazing family (I still have my 2 grandmothers!), the ability to show my kids the world and my circle of loving and hilarious friends.  How could it not be a great new phase of my life?

Here are a few images of what has made me happy lately.
DSC03251Spending the last day in my 30’s driving around in this old Citroen and dining at the famous restaurant D’O.  The car may be loud and feel like a tin can but the funk factor cancels all that out.

IMG_7762A little visit to a local villa for a lovely rose market and exhibition.  Lots of new rose plants have made it into my garden the last few days.DSC03267The poppies that are in bloom everywhere you look at the moment.  That bright orangey red pop of colour on the green fields is so gorgeous.IMG_7766These stunning rose bouquets.  I would love to fill every room of my home with these.

Wishing you all a lovely week ahead.

Gratefully Grateful
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Goji Berry Granola Bars

15 May


IMG_7693The other day while I was wandering around the charming Orticola Flower Market in Milan I picked up a bag of Goji berries at an organic fruit tree stand.  I think we’ve all heard, over and over again over the past years, how healthy and beneficial these berries are for our health.  To tell you the truth I was actually avoiding them due to all the hype (and the fact that I read you’d have to eat a truck full to reap any sort of special health benefits from them).

In any case, I was hungry and the berries were there at the right time and place.  I have to admit that when I tried them I was pretty disappointed with the fact that they are….tasteless.  Seriously, I think cardboard has more flavour than those goji berries.  I was expecting something sweeter and with a rich flavour (especially since the berries have such a beautiful dark brick orange-y red colour).

So yesterday when I was looking for something to bake for the kids I decided to try and use up some of the berries (in order to make them a bit more edible than straight out of the bag).

Since they were quite dry I decided to soak them in a little bowl of apple juice for about 10 minutes before using them.  And the berries actually came to life.  They became soft and plump and the apple juice brought out a distinctive  flavour that I didn’t taste before.  It’s possible I ruined all the health properties of the berries by soaking them but it was worth it.

IMG_7683Read on for the recipe… Continue reading

Gratefully Grateful *18*

14 May

So much to be grateful for last week.  Especially a surprise week-end away with some of my closest friends.  It involved a famous flower market in Milan, lots of foreign foods, Pina Coladas and some charming little vintage shops.  It’s amazing what a few days away from your daily grind can do to your spirit and energy level.

Throw in a relaxing Mother’s Day on Sunday including breakfast in bed and kid made art and poetry and I was (am) a happy woman.

Grateful to have been able to see and appreciate…

IMG_7618   …carnations in every possible colour.  Gone are the days of them being considered “grocery store flowers”.
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…huge origami cranes and lilly pads in a lovely fountain in front of an even lovelier old villa.IMG_7602 …this little scenario that I would like to re-create in my own garden.  So lovely.IMG_7638…old metal watering cans filled with bright flowers.

Wishing you all a lovely week (it’s already half over!).

Gratefully Grateful

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Bess Top

7 May

IMG_7462A few months ago I wrote all about the 241 Tote purse pattern that I bought online, printed off at home and sewed up.  I loved how easy and convenient it was and have decided that it’s the perfect solution for someone like me who lives in rural Italy where it’s almost impossible to find any decent sewing patterns.

And from what I’ve seen online lately PDF sewing patterns are really gaining popularity amongst the online sewing crowd all over the world.  Just this week I saw that Jenny from The Southern Institute launched the Sew Fab Pattern Sale which is a bundle of 19 (+1 bonus) PDF patterns for $29.95.  For a girl who in the past paid upwards of $15-$20 for one pattern I find that a pretty amazing price.  IMG_7464

So after my success with the 241 Tote I decided to try my hand at another online pattern.  And seeing as I’ve been a Sew-Fan of Imagine Gnats for a long time I ordered her beautiful Bess Top pattern (which is all over Pinterest!).

I love the style of the top and the versatility of the pattern (3 different lengths and sizes 2-20 included).  It’s flattering on just about any body type as well.  Believe me I know, I’ve made all my friends try it on.  

As you can see above I made one blouse/shirt length and the other a tunic length.  I also really love the subtle high-low hem.IMG_7448I used 2 Max Mara linens for the shorter version.  The linen has a lovely drape and will be perfect for our hot Italian summers.  I find that little pleat at the shoulder just the perfect touch as well.

IMG_7431 For the longer tunic version I used a really lovely patterned cotton (again Max Mara) with a solid black for the shoulder/back.  Turned out very elegant and will be perfect with black leggings in the winter.

The pattern calls for jersey knit strips to finish all the edgings.  Unfortunately I don’t have any jersey in the house so I used a thin bias instead and it seems to have worked out just fine.  

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Can’t wait to make up some more Bess Tops in all sorts of fabric and colour combinations this summer.  Now to convince Rachel to draft up a few kid’s sizes… 

**Get 10% off everything in the Imagine Gnats Shop (including the Bess Top and many other lovely patterns for women and kids) with the discount code Jillian10 until Monday May 12th.

Moroccan Snapshots *5*

6 May

Some last shots of our trip to Morocco.IMG_5733Stretching out a little injury.  Afterwards the instructor turned around happily and informed me “Pretty sure nothing is  broken”.  Ummm, okay.

IMG_5728They just looked so cool dragging their surfboards down K17 beach (up the coast from Agadir).  And these were the only clouds we saw during our entire 7 day trip.  Made the Atlantic feel that much colder. IMG_5773While visiting the souks of Agadir we got trapped in a little shop that sold teas, creams, herbs, spices and everything else you could ever imagine to cure any ailment a person could be inflicted with. For me the packaging was more attractive than all the proclaimed health benefits.  And yes, I did leave with a bag full of cactus cream, argan oil, teas and spices.
IMG_5766Mounds of colourful vegetables and striped columns at the Souk El Had in Agadir.IMG_5694

IMG_5763Making sand kasbahs on the beach.IMG_5768One of my favourite images of Morocco is always the pyramids of delicious spices.  I have already gone through half of what I purchased.  Guess that means I’ll have to get back there soon to buy some more.

 Moroccan Snapshots *1*, *2*,*3*,*4*

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Gratefully Grateful *17*

4 May


As I sit here gazing out of the window it looks as though there is a blizzard happening outside.  But instead of snow it’s a flurry of fluffy little poplar seeds (as captured by an IG pal here).  I’m sneezy and have a piercing headache but I have to admit that it’s a really lovely site.

Yesterday I spent the entire day in the kitchen baking muffins for a local market today.  We’re donating all profits from the bake sale to the Bianca Garavaglia Association which helps organise special activities and events for kids with cancer who have to spend months in the hospital.  As some of you know, helping causes like this is something that is really near and dear to my family’s heart.  So you can imagine how happy my kids were to sell every single muffin that we made (close to 100).

Earlier in the week a friend of mine and I organised a “Serata Americana” with our kids (the husbands had organised a meal of intestines and insects so we escaped).  We prepared hamburgers, hotdogs and french fries.  We drank lemonade and Coca Cola.  And then we watched Grease (in Italian) with bowls of popcorn and M&Ms.  My kids loved it and have since asked for poodle skirts and black leather jackets.  Love evenings like that.

So, as you can see I had a lot to be grateful for this week.

And on top of all that I’m (also) grateful for… IMG_7280-001…my first bunch of roses from my garden.  Oh and they smell so so lovely too!IMG_7423…geraniums.  And the fact that they are pretty AND can survive even though I’m a horrible gardner and that Birdie lays on top of them all day long.IMG_7357…our Serata Americana that saved me from eating these cricket kabobs.  See, I wasn’t exaggerating when I wrote about the husbands eating insects.  Blech.

Wishing you all a lovely week ahead.

Gratefully Grateful *1**2**3**4**5*,*6*,*7*,*8*, *9**10**11**12**13**14*,*15*, *16*

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