Tag Archives: italy

Gratefully Grateful *25*

23 Sep

Despite the sadness of losing my children’s only great-grandfather this past week I can’t help but feel so grateful for the time we all had together. We have been so fortunate to know and spend time with this amazingly dynamic man who put family in the centre of his life.  His enthusiasm for everything from art to travel to the goings-on of his very large immediate family was contagious (as well as his famous giggle).  We’ll miss him dearly but have many lovely memories to remember him by.

Some images that made me smile despite the sad news this week:

IMG_9922The best reading corner in the house on a sunny day.  Also perfect or a sun-spot nap. 
IMG_9884Last days of summer hats and dresses.

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Trying to paint a kitchen with a large clumsy cat in the middle of it all actually makes it much more fun.  For me at least.IMG_7827

I run into Idyllic little scenes such as this every single day.  I love living in Italia.

Have a great week!

Gratefully Grateful
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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…

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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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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 *9*

9 Mar

It was another great week with sunny beautiful weather. I managed to finish up some fun sewing projects. I introduced the Days For Girls project at a local Women’s Day event and received lots of interest and support. I went fabric shopping with some of my favourite fellow sewers and ended finding some really gorgeous materials.  I spent the week-end catching up with an old friend and his sweet kids (and laughing a lot). I got to eat my favourite garlicky pizza at our local pizzeria. And I actually ticked a lot of items off my to-do list.  Nice.

I’m grateful for…

IMG_5825…sunny days in my living-room.
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 …my daughter’s washi art projects to be found around the house.
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…the fact my kids still want me to wipe the sand off their feet after a day at the beach.

Wishing you all a great week ahead.

Gratefully Grateful *1**2**3**4*, *5*,*6*,*7*,*8*

Gratefully Grateful *6*

14 Feb

This has been a particularily strange week.  Besides the schizophrenic weather (one day gloriously sunny and the next with torrential winds and rain) things have just been a little wonky this week.  On Monday a little 6 year old girl at my kid’s tennis club kept asking me if I was her father’s girlfriend (and refused to believe me when I said no).  On Wednesday I received an indecent proposal (and I mean INDECENT) from an 80 year old man who lives down the street from me.  On Thursday I accidentally ate three lunches (oops).  And today my pilates teacher played only Christmas music during the entire one hour lesson.  Was there by chance a full moon the last few days?

But luckily in between all the weirdness there was lots of beauty and happiness.

This week I’m grateful for…


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… this bounty of green vitamin K packed vegetables that I picked up at the market this week.  Look how gorgeous that Romanesco Broccoli is!

IMG_4438… these colourful little scenes that I come across so many times a day.  I didn’t even mind that her sneakers were on the bureau and not in the shoe rack like they were supposed to be.IMG_4361… the fact that my kids get to grow up having the kindest, calmest and most generous and loving father around (sorry for the sappiness but it is Valentine’s Day after all!).

Have a great week-end everyone!

Gratefully Grateful *1*, *2*, *3*, *4*, *5*

Gratefully Grateful *3*

24 Jan

This week, I am grateful for…

IMG_3940-001…this little fur-face named Birdie who spends his days attacking my ponytail.IMG_3888… colourful little sunny spots such as this that are to be found all over my house.IMG_3055…yellow striped guitar cases and the little guitarist who carries it around with pride.

Have a great week-end everyone!

Gratefully Grateful week *1* , week *2*

Gratefully Grateful °2°

17 Jan

Is it Friday already?  Did this past week fly by for anyone else as well? The week was a blur of activities, appointments, organising the house, long chats with friends and even a shopping trip to check out the sales (which only happen twice a year in Italy…in January and July).  I love being busy and having lots to do but I’m looking forward to a nice quiet week-end with my family.   Our traditional Friday night ritual of curling up on the couch under a thick blanket with the fireplace burning and a big bowl of popcorn just might be my most favourite thing ever.  Add in a little Master Chef and I could stay there forever.

It’s week 2 of my Gratefully Gratefully series for 2014.  I love how doing this series makes me look for all the wonderful people, places and things I’m surrounded by.

I am grateful for…

DSC_0160…colourful washing lines on grey days.

IMG_2857-001…that I can wait in places like this while my daughter does her guitar class.IMG_8642…my kid’s love of Pasta Con Broccoli.IMG_3892…my daughters’ taste in shoes.

Anything that you’re particularly grateful for this week?

(Gratefully Grateful °1°)

Mangia Bevi Bici

11 Sep

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As a family we love biking.  And we love food.  So when we saw that some local businesses were organising a day of cycling with gastronomic stops along the way we were immediately on board.  Mangia Bevi Bici is an event that has been going on for three years and is slowly gaining popularity by many people living in our small region.

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The idea of the day is to do a 30km bike tour (or a shorter 18km version for the little ones) and make small stops in various towns and villages at local restaurants, community centres and gastronomic shops.

Along the way there are stops for antipasto, primo piatto, secondo piatto and dolce. The organisers mapped out a perfect tour along picturesque little streets and roads with just the right amount of cycling in between stops.  Usually at each stop there was a choice of several different dishes along with lots of wine and even grappa at the secondo piatto stop.  The tour included a surprise honey tasting stop as well as some gifts for the kids along the way (cycle hats and water bottles!).

Some of our favourite dishes of the day were the Pasta con Pesce di Lago (Pasta with Lake Fish), Gnocchi alla Zucca (Pumpkin Gnocchi), Lavarello alla Griglia con Arancio (Grilled Lake Fish with Orange) and of course the impressive cheese and salami plate at one of our favourite local farm.IMG_6516

I’ll be honest though, eating all that food and then having to hop on a bike was at times challenging.  I made the suggestion to the organisers that they might want to think about installing a nap-tent halfway through the tour next time.

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Even if the sky above was chasing us in between primo and secondo piatto we managed to avoid the storms for most of the day.

Even despite a few steep hills, some fallen off bike-chains and the odd flat tire it was a really wonderful way to spend a beginning-of-fall Sunday.   We’ve already started the countdown for next year.

(all photos were taken with iPhone)


Verona

30 Jul

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We’re just back from a quick two day trip to Verona.  Amazingly enough it was our first time in Verona and we’re kicking ourselves that we didn’t go sooner.  It’s a gorgeous city.  And less than 2 hours from our home!  So many places to visit and so little time I guess.

While there we experienced record setting high temperatures (it got up to 43 degrees at some point in the day).  We stopped for a lot (and I mean a lot!) of gelatos, granita and popsicles.

On Sunday evening we went to see the world famous opera Aida at the outdoor Verona Arena which is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary season this year.  We actually got to see the new production of Aida and we were quite shocked at how modern it was.  I mean, there were acrobats, glow balls and even Segways in it!  A tad confusing to tell you the truth.  But entertaining just the same.

Here are a few images of our time in Verona.  I’ll be writing a more in depth post for my Traveling With Kids column on Classic Play soon.

IMG_0249The city was packed with hot sweaty tourists.  I think the gelaterias made enough money to support themselves through winter. IMG_0255We stopped at a little traditional restaurant for lunch.  My son ordered pasta with a donkey ragu sauce and I ordered the local specialty pasta with duck sauce.  Very tasty! IMG_0278

Outside the arena you can admire all of the opera props.  I guess there’s not enough storage inside to store all these gigantic lanterns, statues and fake pyramid stones. IMG_0311

Luckily there are many little water fountains placed around the city.  On a hot day like this they were all surrounded by scads of people.IMG_0316Many many street artists are to be found in Verona.  On every corner and piazza there are lots of photo ops to be had with armoured gladiators or cleopatra (especially directly in front of the Arena).IMG_0355

And of course you can’t visit Verona without going to see the famous house of Juliette and her iconic balcony.  It’s a tiny little courtyard filled with hundreds of people.  Not for the claustrophobic!IMG_0325The walls around the courtyard are filled with love notes in every language (and tons of chewed gum…anyone know the significance of that?).IMG_0328

And a wall full of love locks with names and dates (which are apparently for sale in the little gift shop located in the courtyard.  IMG_0367

Admiring some Roman ruins along the way.IMG_0370

Best purchase ever to keep these guys happy and content while walking around in the heat.IMG_0381

I think we rested on every bench or stone we came across.   IMG_0508

Arrived at the Arena at 7:30pm to get good seats (the last row…best seats in the house).  It was still hot and sunny and every single person had a fan.  It was beautiful to see. Most people bring along some cushions to make the long evening spent on stone benches a tad more comfortable (but I’ll admit that we were all in pain after 5 hours).

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I swear I didn’t intentionally colour coordinate everyone for our big night out. We were so happy to have that fence behind us instead of thousands of other spectators.  We could stand up and lean back (and enjoy the stunning sunset and views over the city).IMG_0559

Aida, the new production.  The costumes were gorgeous.  The singing…very opera-like.  Can you guess that I’m not a huge fan of opera?IMG_0586

The day after the opera.  After only a few hours sleep the kids hung around like this all day.IMG_0604

Or almost fell asleep while I took photos.

IMG_0618Despite the fatigue we managed to climb up to this castle to get a nice view of the city.  We were so happy to see those clouds and feel the beginning of a big rain storm.

Can’t wait to go back and explore some more!

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