"What is the fatal charm of Italy?
I believe it is a certain permission to be human..."
I wrote about the night we arrived to Portofino on my Instagram: I don't even have pictures of the evening, but the night we arrived to this old port were a few of the best hours we've ever spent together. It was drizzling after a day of heavy rain, *just* about fully dark with street lamps and globe lights shining on the empty, glossy streets. We parked higher on the hill and rumbled down with our suitcases through three-foot wide walkway alleys between sorbet colored buildings. After finding and checking into our hotel we went out into the night to choose which ocean-side, candlelit atmosphere we wanted to wreck, I mean, eat at ;) The first place we tried was booked solid for the evening, but the host recommended a nearby pizza cafe. We ate the best cheese and bread of our life while drinking a bottle of Prosecco (the best of our life). Pizza and pasta finished off our meal, and once the bill was paid we sat on a bench watching the kids play tag and splash in puddles on the plaza, mischievously daring us with their eyes as they made fake-attempts to run into the Mediterranean Sea. Aside from the "glug" of boats bouncing in the water, extremely murmured clinks and conversations, and noise of our children at happy play, it was completely quiet. Mountain quiet. Misty moon in the sky. Caleb and I sat on a bench, head leaned on head. "These are the moments." "We'll remember this forever." "What could have been more perfect?" "How is this real life?" "We've been dreaming of this."
We woke up the next morning to blue skies, perfect temperatures, and a breakfast of mimosas, croissants, butter, fruit, and meat on the patio. The groups of taxi-boats, cruise shippers, and trains of day-travelers hadn't arrived yet. It was another nearly empty experience of the town. I've seen the timeless photographs of celebrities in the Clark Gable/Vivien Leigh/Elizabeth Taylor Era, when the town had a new revival as the luxurt vacation destination to the stars! I read a number of travelers prefer Portofino to even well-loved and beautiful Cinque Terre. We were not disappointed. The sorbet colored buildings, the cleanliness, the service, the charm, the old wooden boats, the gasp-worthy trees and plants, the yacht boats framed by mountains... oh it was delight every moment!
After our morning we headed down the road a bit to another delicious town in the Genoa area, Santa Margherita. We had driven through it to get to Portofino the night before and we actually made a game day change to the line-up so we could stop and explore it more! I don't remember reading about it, or hearing of it ever before (though I'm sure I did... it just didn't "compute"). But wow!! A slight architecture change, a much bigger city than the small port of Portofino (say that ten times fast), food food food options galore, the canals running between mountains and the shore, an seemingly unending paths to walk to go into the heart of this town, or line it in gold, or see it from afar. We stopped for lunch first and we were serenaded with church bells! The rumor we heard was that they were out of the church steeples for cleaning and upkeep, and they were displayed on a closed-to-cars road where bell-ringers performed every hour. It was remarkable and magical! Then a BAND came marching down the street! Dare I compare such a place to Disney? ;) But the bright colors, perfectly time and dreamy music, the landscaping... what a place! And a real city at that!
Summer lost her mind over this daisy she found on the ground. My mom's favorite flower <3
And our social Roo. He was a little "buddy" starved... he mustered up the courage to go play with the Italian children across the street. I loved it. Different languages, being strangers, and being nervous doesn't matter when you're a child playing tag. I was proud of him and tried to learn from him. "Just step out there and do it."
I'm planning to do a whole food post because it felt like an entire stand-alone experience! And I'm already writing more on these posts than I meant to! But hot dang. Everyone was right. THE. FOOD.
I love this picture because I feel like it could be from 50 years ago or yesterday. Our favorite travel buddies.
The kids had eaten two meals, played hard, and were ready for naps! We snuggled them into the stroller and with the sounds of the bells in the distance they were both asleep in minutes. This gave way to one of our best memories as a couple. We spent almost three hours wandering the city, hand in hand (sometimes stroller-in-hand/camera-in-hand ha!), talking and admiring and feeling all alone for a bit. Caleb couldn't believe the little old castle right in the bay, we shook our heads in wonder at the curb appeal on every single building, and repeated our gratitude. Dear memory.
The last stop of the day! Our hotel for the rest of the trip: The Grand Hotel in Montecatini Terme!
This will always be a favorite Rowdy freeze. Skipping ahead, probably talking (definitely talking), and thrilled for the next adventure. We spent most of our trip going on a bear hunt, or narrowly missing dragons thanks to him.
We loved our hotel! The service was everything in keeping with the country's tone: warm, quirky, and very intentional. There was an old-fashioned elevator that might have been the best part of the whole jaunt for Rowdy haha!
After settling in we went back out to the downtown to find dinner. If Santa Margherita reminded us of Disney, Montectini had a Dr. Suess vibe! Playful, happy, and inspiring!
Summer is really in the "Do Everything Big Brother Does Stage" (that's like a decades long stage, right?) She threw her first little coin into the wishing fountain!
A continued moment of candor: To give substance to what was a very happy, kid-friendly, adult-pleasing, better-together trip I feel like I have to acknowledge Summer's night. She had done so well all day, playing in the streets! napping in the stroller! exploring the town square! pal-ing around with Roo! But her strength wore out at dinner. She was like a piglet who binged on Halloween candy. All of it. It was definitely our "worst" meal of the trip as far as behavior goes haha. Caleb scarfed his food, then spent most of the meal outside with her, and I helped Rowdy focus and finish eating while I ate too. Every 15-30 seconds for ALL of dinner she just... screamed. It was a mess. We blew out of there as fast as we could! Sorry Ricciarelli Pizzeria and patrons! Haha! We walked back to our hotel assessing the evening, and making plans to avoid that kind of "fall apart" again. One major mistake was to be somewhere crowded. We went there because, duh!, crowded places are generally the best! But we learned we had to eat ahead of crowds, or just find second-best so Summer could have room to roam around. 13-23 months really are probably the hardest age to travel with. We can't just give her a show on our phone to get through the meal (like we can with Rowdy if we need to). She's mobile and curious, but can't talk or communicate well. She has such a short attention span, and such an explosive "end of her rope." And this age is just a plain busy one. Move move move, buzz buzz buzz, wiggle, grab, climb!
All that to say, we did it! And being one step ahead of her most of the trip really made for a wonderful vacation. She was a happy girl having our attention and being able to run around and play often. The couple blips came to an end, no damage done, and we were all the more prepared for the remainder of our travels. Which! Was exciting to us when she really didn't have another meltdown like that the rest of the time. Normal tired-fusses or hungry-demands, but those were quick, easy fixes. I'm proud of her and so happy we were able to get through her rough hours together. And I'm most happy that she was one of the best parts of the memories of this trip.
For example, once back at the hotel her and Rowdy walked through the foot-stones in the garden over and over and over.She was laughing at everything he did, in that delirious-hilarious point of tiredness. Rowdy's closed-lip smile and peachy cheeks when he made her laugh were to die for. The night ended with their sweet play echoing in the courtyard. A moment I'll always treasure.
Up next! Florence!