Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pleasant suprises

It has been a busy weekend and week…..On the weekend we had a pleasant supprise visit from our beloved friends…Giulia e Andrea, whom I met at work over 2 years ago.  They have since moved back to their “hometown” of Lucca and have since had their first bambino “M”.  It was such a delight to catch up and finally get to see and hold the new addition.
I have to admit until I met G e A, Lucca had not hit my radar…. It was not until I started talking with Giulia about coming to Italy with the children that she suggested that I consider Lucca as a place of residence due to its many endearing virtues…. The rest was history!!! I am soooooo pleased that I met Giulia and Andrea for many reasons… I feel like I am living in a dream…. Grazie mille G e A!!!

One other reason I am pleased to have met G e A, is their extended family welcome…. Andreas brother Giovanni, has also become a dear and valued friend of our family….. He made our transition from Roma airport to Lucca a very smooth and safe journey. As if this was not enough…..he has also decided that during the summer he does not need his car so much so left it here in Lucca for us to use until he needs it back in a few months……… I mean really … c’mon… when does my luck dry up??? 

So yesterday I decided it was time to hit the roads of Italy and seeing as though it is summer… hit the beach!! We took off to Viareggio, in a general direction at least… pleasantly…supprisingly we took only 20mins to get from Lucca to Viareggio. It was initially daunting driving on the wrong side etc, but, as always, you adapt to the opposite direction rather quickly…. It was a beautiful drive and we all got ridiculously sunburnt!! Sorry mum, forgot the sunscreen, I was too preoccupied thinking about how the hell I was going to stay alive on the roads!!!
The beach was packed, so completely different to Australian beach culture, some things are much better and some worse (but I am not here to compare so I will leave this). 

With my confidence up, I decided to hit the road again today.  We had an open invitation from our land lady to visit her mothers (unoccupied) villa (with a pool) in the countryside only 15 mins drive from our house. She has asked us to frequent to pool to make it look lived in, and we were happy to oblige…twist my arm!!! So we followed Erico (the husband of the land lady) up to the villa by car… this is what films are based on … tree lined roads, cobble stone roads, gigantic stone walls, olive trees, pear trees, vineyard’s, winding up the mountains until finally we reached “Paola’s villa”.  It is everything an so much more you could dream of a tuscan villa to be.  Beautifull (enchanted – as the children said) gardens,  textures, colours, living areas sprawling but intimately defined into various areas.  We were all so thrilled to be a part of this surprise and felt like this was a true adventure…. Erico advised us that if we kept walking up the road we would reach a local bar that sells “some food”….. so after a swim induced hunger we rambled up the road to the bar….. again like walking into a dream or a movie.. it was 12 md and the family owned and run restaurant was quiet but the  owners/family were sitting down together having lunch…. With two big platters of pasta, with unavoidable infectious aromas we knew we had come to the right place J

It was another glorious unexpected moment, we were ridiculously spoilt…. Malachy was having a moment and was demanding that he wanted honey with lunch… So I said to the waitress (who did not speak English – no-one did) he is being fussy he just wants honey (miele)…. Disregarding his ridiculous request. But she came out with the quaintest little honey pot just for him. And when Gabby got sad about not getting pasta, she delivered some gluten free chips instead… Needless to say the pasta was so fresh and delicious I could have married the cook their and then but his wife and 3 daughters may have been perturbed so I resisted….Malachy and I counted no less than 20 varieties of salame in this shop just in the back block of seemingly nowhere.  With three children who consided salame a treat for dessert….. we will definitely be heading to this bar every time we visit the villa!!!

As we headed back to town it started to rain so I decided that I was feeling confident with my newly purchased tom tom navigator and hit the “Garfagnana” region. So though the mountains and riverside we drove. A spectacular drive along the river to Castelnuova di Garfagnana, we walked through the medieval streets through the castle and over some bridges while partaking in the delight of the local gelati.

On our way home we fumbled through the back roads and also visited Barga too…. We have so much to see, beauty, character, art, culture, creativity is in abundance in every corner….. I am inspired to do and see so much more… the seed is planted and I am now thinking  I would like to do some driving through Italy with the children to many places….. suggestions / routes / tips welcomed…
Until next time.. ciao e amore

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vigili del fuoco!!! The fire brigade…

We set out for adventure from the start and each day refuses to disappoint us… This morning the kids and I set out to climb two of the town’s most significant towers Torre delle ore (time tower) and torre giunigi (a tower with some ancient trees on top).  Again …..all three kids got themselves all the way up and down by themselves….it is such a beautiful thing to see their jubilation on reaching the top and seeing just how far up they have climbed (especially when they are rewarded with a lolly at the top ;-)
Our siesta was warmly welcomed and after a feast of local delicacies for lunch we hit the sack with conviction!  In the afternoon, it was arranged to meet up with our land lady, to go through yet more official paperwork…. Instead we diverted and met up with her daughter and three grandchildren. The oldest grandchild is just 7 days younger then Gabby. All of the children got along famously… the two oldest were teaching each other how to say things in Italian and English…. They even angled off into Spanish at one stage ….very cute to see. Children are wonderful how they can mingle regardless of language barriers….
We continued to meaner through the streets meeting a pet turtle family in a very stylish ladies fashion boutique, eating everything that temped our taste buds…. Strawberry gelati (wild strawberry’s from the woods nearby), focaccia……and just as Gabby was starting to feel left out not being able to have the regular focaccia, just around the corner we found a pizzeria with some chickpea flour focaccia just out of the oven….she was in heaven and I was happy to continue my focaccia guilt free. J
After a long afternoon rambling through the streets with our warm welcoming land lady and family we were starting to make tracks back to the apartment when Ceci called saying the key was stuck in the front door and she couldn’t get in…. we got home shortly after to see that this key was going nowhere. After an attempt with WD-40 (love it when the same stuff is available here- who would have thought..WD40) we knew the solution was well and truly beyond us! Luckily my land lady was still with us, profusely apologizing the whole time,  but she knew exactly what to do….. call the fire brigade!! The Vigili del fuoco came to our rescue, about 6 men to be precise! Running up our stairs, banging on our door…ultimately using a mobile crane to get through the boys window to get inside.  In the end they had to chip away the mortar surrounding the lock to open the door…. In the mean time we became friends with  a really nice couple next door with a little toddler. The kids were happy raiding their new friends toy stash and being pampered by the mamma.
So all in all an adventurous day with challenges providing positive outcome and new discoveries…. Fragola (strawberry) gelato, ceci (chickpea) focaccia, and new friends next door…..
Who knows what tomorrow could possibly bring J

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The walls...

Well another great sunny happy day here in Lucca.. This morning I spent the morning with my land lady making an attempt to apply for my "permission to stay"... This was my first "Wall" of the day... the italian bureaucracy has not disappointed!  I was warned... I listened... therefore, I am not discouraged:-) I am in no hurry after all, I am here for 6 months!!!!
Bureaucracy is not one of my strong points, so I decided to attempt another wall... the historical wall of Lucca. This was much more enjoyable! After a much deserved siesta, Ceci, the kids and I took some bikes and scooters and hit the wall - it a good way! The wall around the centro storico (historical centre) is 4.2 km long and is not just completely in tact but absolutely stunning. Tree lined, dappled with children's parks, cafes, gelati stops this wall is no ordinary ride. The afternoon was screaming out for us to explore.. and explore we did! There was so much to see and take in along the way, a feast for us all to absorb. The stamina of the children continues to astound me.. not only did we encompass the city walls twice, Gabby and Malachy had climbed 2 towers, walked for 2.5hours then topped it all off with a big bike ride this afternoon.... Needless to say tonights bedtime was a piece of cake ;-)

After the bike ride we rambled through the ancient streets to our home.... the beauty of these surrounds is an involuntary response, I can see that the children and I are in utterly enchanted by this town - she has us under her spell.....

Monday, July 18, 2011

In the beginning....

Wowww!!! The journey has finally begun…but in many ways it began much before our arrival. For me this journey probably first began on a European holiday that Nick and I had in 2003. Ironically our first stop was Firenze (Toscana) which is just 45min down the road from Lucca. I wanted time to stand still when we were in Firenze… could not have been sweeter and I knew it.  But time did go on, and we continued to have many other wonderful moments across Italia over the next few weeks Italia was well established as my most desired dream destination of residence.

So much has changed in my personal life since that first trip in 2003, the most prolific being that of the tragic loss of my husband and the addition of 3 beautiful children. Each of these events in my life deserve blogs of their own,  and may be visited from time to time in this blog but will not be the focus.  However, I have to state that my husband Nick was an inspirational man who was such a big influence in my life, his motivation and inspiration continues to influence my outlook on life and continues to be an inspiration today, for this I am eternally grateful. 

The flight......All three children were surprisingly good during the flight, nothing an abundance of lollipops and tictacs couldn't solve.  Our first stop was Roma (after Dubai) where we stayed at a motel to attempt recuperation  post the flight, then Sunday morning we were Lucca bound, after a not so recuperating recuperation :-) However, the excitement was well and truely overwhelming and the magic of simply being here was more than enough for me to continue on with Gusto.

Lucca bound.....We met our land lady Paola just on the outskirts of Lucca, she was a little delayed as she had just baked a loaf of gluten free bread, packed us an assortment of home made olive oil (organic), tomato sugo (still hot in the jar) and an abundance of other gluten free groceries - all a welcoming gift!!!  I hadn't even arrived to the city and I knew that my whole plan was the right decision. 

The apartment.... so much more beautiful than i could have ever anticipated... the location, the architecture, the textures, the smell, the view, perfetto!!! 

The city... I was worried that their was not many typical playgrounds around but you quickly see that for children, this city is a playground, with statues and fountains, tunnels and piazzas in abundance, it is a feast of fun for them. Our first afternoon here we heard a band approaching, and looked out the window and a procession was approaching. Directly under our window were local people in period costume, musicians and people carrying crossbows - we soon realised their was a local crossbow competition pending just a few blocks away from our apartment. So, just like in a dream, we floated down stairs and followed the procession, picking up gelati for all along the way.... Spencie said "Mum real Roman emperors!!!" It was a blast of a first day and I was literally on cloud nine at that moment. The sweetness of life filling me to the brim :-)

Grocery's... We did our first grocery shop yesterday and Spencie said "Mum are you buying everything in this shop?" ... granted... I did by five varieties of cheese and four varieties of salame and prosciutto, I literally felt like crying I was like a pig in mud in that supermarket - i promise next time i go back I will definitely take a picture of the deli section. 

 Today Tuesday the 19th July....Today the 18th July.... It is 4.30am and i have been attempting to put Malachy back to sleep - the jet lag seems to be affecting him the worst, poor little fellow.  Gabby and Spencer seem to be adjusted to the new time already and we are only two days in - thank god for small graces!! Still much to be done, so I will definitely keep you posted with our goings on :-)

Ciao my beautiful friends and family xxx