August 15, 2012


We are home. We got home on Monday night and spent yesterday going back to work, doing laundry and settling back in.

The trip was fantastic and quite a cultural experience for all of us, but in particular my kids. They absolutely loved most of it, hated none of it, and missed only a few things from home. Some observations:

- Ice. They don't use ice in Italy. By day 5, my eldest said, "I think I would do just about anything for a glass of water with... ICE in it." On Day 9, my kids convinced me that we should go to the Hard Rock Cafe Venice for lunch so they could get a glass of iced tea or ice water. I'm serious. They only wanted to eat there so they could get ice in a drink. Then they gorged on hamburgers.

- I banned all American food while we were there. We ate what the locals ate hence the freakish nature of my kids when they got a hamburger on Day 9. They acted like they hadn't eaten ... in... forever. Honestly, they'd have been good for another 9 days then. It was just something they missed.

- If we never saw another panini, it would be too soon. We are done with paninis.

- They don't eat turkey or chicken in their sandwiches. It is all cheese, ham or salami. Lettuce and tomato are included, but there are no condiments. We came home on Monday night and the boys had me go out to Publix and buy turkey. They were fantasizing about turkey sandwiches on the airplane. We went through a pound of turkey yesterday....

- Condiments... back to that. They don't use them. It's odd. But you get a huge appreciation for the meat and cheese when you don't use them. We stopped at a little town for lunch one day on our way to Florence and we ordered a proscuito and cheese sandwich. A piece of thinly sliced ham and a thick piece of a hard cheese like parmesan was laid on top. That was it... on a rustic roll. I threw away the top of the roll (too much bread) and ate it open faced and my taste buds were just overwhelmed with the flavor of the meat and cheese. It would have probably been fantastic with a good wine...

- Water is an odd thing. They don't serve it in a glass when you sit down to eat. You have to buy it. So every night at dinner we probably went through 3 or 4 liters of water. Water was probably close to 3 Euro a bottle, so tack 9 to 12 Euro on our dinner bill every night. (We all only drink water with dinner. We don't drink sodas and we'll have tea during the day.)

- Water... more on the odd... when you order it, whether in a plastic bottle from a food vendor or at a restaurant they will ask, "Gas or no gas?" Gas is sparkling water. So by Day 4 when we completely got it, we'd say, 'We'd like a bottle of water... no gas". They also call it Tap Water, something they must've picked up from Americans although it insinuates that they pulled it out of the tap for you in your bottle... they just mean flat water.

- Nutella. It appears to be a major food group. Bones informed me he never wants to eat Nutella ever again. In Rome, it was stuffed in croissants and used all over desserts. We walked into a local pizza shop, I mean local as in they looked at us like, 'what are Americans doing here?' and nobody spoke a lick of English. We'd been referred there by a restauranteur we'd met. It was fantastic. Anyway, on the back counter was a big jug of Nutella. I didn't know they sold it in Gallon jugs. It was that way at all the small food vendors. So the bonus is that this coming school year, Bones will never beg for a Nutella sandwich. He said he is permanently off it.

- They don't drive in Italy. They slalom. I would stand on the street corners trying to make heads or tails of their driving methods. There was none. They may sit on the same side of the car as we do in America (left side) and so you assume they will drive on the right side. But they don't. They drive all over the road in complete chaos, making their own lanes, all merging into each other, like some psycho car ballet. Vespas, busses, cars (smart cars rule) all weaving in and out and going literally all over the road. I absolutely could not figure out the logistics of it all.

- Small cars and vespas rule. They have mini-vans that sit 8, which was very cool. But small cars and vespas are the norm. The cars are so small, they remind me of those little cars our kids play with where you pull them back and let them go and POOF, they run all over. Like toy cars.

- Their cars are all diesal driven... so they are all so quiet. I thought they were electric for awhile.

- All their cars are manual transmission. As America goes more and more automatic, Italy is dang close to 100% manual. I don't think we saw one automatic car and we looked. We'd go down the street and look in the windows. Small cars, expensive cars... all of them... manual. I hammered home the importance to my boys to learn how to drive a stick. (Ringo already knows and my next car will be a stick so my other boys will learn.)

- My husband said to me, "You know, I do believe the best way to get around Rome is by vespa. If we come back, we'll do it by vespa." I did a *blink* and then said, "Are you out of your frickin' mind?! No way in hell would I ride a vespa in Rome!" That would be a suicide pact for me. Holy crap. I can't even imagine getting myself into that dance of vehicles they do. I'd get myself killed. Good Lord.

- We saw a fight break out between two gondoliers. Holy crap. I was looking for the popcorn. We were in a gondolier traffic jam as a bunch of us were coming in from our tour and one guy was coming out and his gondola hit another guys gondola and suddenly there was yelling and cussing and hands thrown in the air like... something out of the movies. Italians were taking sides up on the bank, mostly with the guy who got hit. Everyone was yelling and the five of us sat there thinking, "Holy crap. People pay for this kind of entertainment..."

That's all for now...

Posted by Boudicca at August 15, 2012 06:58 AM

Welcome home! It sounds like a lovely time, beginning to end! :D

Posted by: pam at August 15, 2012 09:52 AM

Glad you enjoyed your trip. Makes me want to go back to Europe again as it's been a few years.

The water thing happens in Germany and Austria as well. I tried unsuccessfully with my limited German to get a glass of tap water on several occasions. Finally found out that you have to either ask for "stillwasser" or water "ohne gas". either way it won't be tapwater but at least it wasn't sparkling mineral water.

Posted by: Calvin A. at August 15, 2012 10:13 AM

"suddenly there was yelling and cussing and hands thrown in the air like"

Dude it's Italy, if there ever was a sterotype for Italians that is it!

Sounds like you had a wonderful time, a little bit jealous.

I don't have much of a desire to ever go to Europe (the US has plenty to keep you busy over a lifetime, in my opinion) but if I did go to Europe, Italy would def be on my list.

Posted by: Quality Weenie at August 15, 2012 02:46 PM

Welcome home. Sounds like a heck of a trip. You didn't miss a darn thing here.

On the condiments, I suspect Americans use them to hide the bland taste of our cheeses and lunchmeats. Turkey or chicken without SOMEthing on it would put you to sleep. I love barbecue and have heard of pitmasters who refuse to serve their food with sauce. They want you to taste the smoky meat instead.

Posted by: George P at August 15, 2012 04:23 PM

So ... how many photos did you take? :)

Posted by: PeggyU at August 16, 2012 04:38 PM

... wow.... Italy is definitely on my Bucket List.... sounds like you had a GREAT time!...

Posted by: Eric at August 17, 2012 10:05 AM

Wow, that sounds like you had a lot of fun. I don't think I could handle the small cars. Althought my wife's new car is pretty small.

Posted by: E.D.B. at August 17, 2012 10:48 AM

What a wonderful time to share with your family...memories for a lifetime, indeed.

(And those drivers are absolutely crazy. When I was there, my cab driver decided to go down the train tracks in a tunnel to go around the slow cars. Crazy, crazy drivers.)

Posted by: Mrs. Who at August 18, 2012 08:28 PM

Hope you got to top of St Mark's with the Horese and could look out on the Square. Yes..The Driving! They are ALL on cell phone! Evreyrone is talking in a car. It was crazy trying to cross near the Victor Emmanuel Monument. Hope you tossed coins in the Trevi Fountain.

Posted by: Quo Vadis at August 19, 2012 12:49 PM

Our trip to Ecuador was similar on the whole ice thing. We had ice once during our trip at a restaurant simpatico to "gringos". It was nice. When our friend picked us up from the airport we requested 4 Route 44 sweet teas from sonic. We needed the ice and the iced tea.

Water was the same. Agua con or sin gas.

We also chose to go to the local eateries and had the best food and experiences there.

We did not get to experience a bidet, but the free wi-fi at the parks almost makes up for it.

Posted by: Amy at August 19, 2012 05:17 PM