I sit here in my winter jammies and slippers in my own lounge (it’s winter here in NZ) dreaming of our trip and wondering if it was in fact a dream…
Our last few weeks of travel in Italy went by so fast that I kept procrastinating on updating this blog. I guess I was trying to soak up the last days of our travel experience before leaving it all behind.
Plus, by this time the girls had reached their ‘travel limit’ and required a lot of hands-on-parenting (read, driving us slightly crazy!)
However, since my blog posts just stopped mid-trip I guess some people might think we’re lost somewhere in the Italian countryside (how nice does that sound!).
Don’t worry, we’re not lost. We’re home safe and sound in New Zealand.
But I don’t like unfinished stories, so I’m going to do some post-trip blogging about our last few weeks on the road and what it was like coming home.
Wherever we’ve been on this trip, we inevitably always get asked “Where are you from?”
When we first started out we’d um and ah and reply with some long winded ‘Well, he’s from Wales, I was born in New Zealand, but lived my whole life in Australia, and our two kids were born in New Zealand and that’s where we live now.’ It actually sounded all a bit dodgy and like we were on the run.
So, we decided just to stick with “We’re from New Zealand”.
After the big smiles, the first response is always amazement accompanied with rounds of ‘mamma mia!’ or ‘oh la la!’.
“New Zealand! It’s so far way! With two small kids!” (You really know they were also want to say “Are you crazy?”)
Once the astonishment dies down, the next response soon follows.
“New Zealand. The All Blacks! The best team in the world! I love them.”
For such a small country, it’s nice to know New Zealand has the ability to elicit such a warm response from people.
So thanks New Zealand and thanks Richie McCaw.
No, only joking. We aren’t in the Greek Islands but it sure does feel like it.
After four weeks in northern and central Italy, we crammed all our stuff into the car and piled the girls in and set off for the ‘South’. A different time and a different place we had been told…
As we drove over the boarder into Puglia (the ‘heel of Italy’), it got flatter and hotter and dryer. Almost like outback Australia. It truly was a different world to the rolling countryside we’d just left.
Our destination was the Gargano Penisula, a National Park with amazing beaches and whitewashed seaside towns.
And that is exactly what we’ve found. White villages with blue painted doors and windows. Lazy cats wandering the alleyways. Lots of fisherman selling their daily catch. Pebble beaches with crystal clear blue water. We feel like we’re in Greece.
It’s been great to just relax in the long-overdue sunshine (Italy has had the coldest and wettest late Spring in 30 years!)
In Le Marche, the province on the east coast of central Italy, there’s no grand cities, no major huge touristy monuments and no frantic sightseeing. Thankfully.
What we enjoyed most about this part of Italy is the immense pleasure we got from the small simplicities of daily life…
– Sitting at a sunny cafe in the main square of the small hilltop village of Monterubbanio and having every single person say ciao to us, complete strangers, as then entered and then left again.
– Sitting on our terrace with a glass of wine watching the sunset over the vineyards and the snow capped Sibilini mountains in the background.
– A serendipitous meet-up with the head of the local tourist board and having a personal tour through the monuments of the local town, Petritoli, that we were staying in.
– Eating seafood on the waterfront with our toes in the sand and a view over the Adriatic.
– Playing and picnicking in the local kids park right at the tip-top of the mountain village of Amandola with views over the gorgeous countryside.
– Swimming in the ocean on a hot summer day while looking at the snow capped ski mountains in the distance.
– Having our holiday house hosts take us on a little jaunt around Petritoli to see what houses were for sale ‘off the books’.
– Getting stuck in the narrowest alley in Italy in the village of Ripatransone.
We really fell in love with this beautiful area for all its simple rural pleasures.
The drive was steep. The dark clouds were gathering. We had two small children in the car. We kept looking at each other and asking ‘should we turn back?’. But no, we pressed on. And up and up and up.
When you follow your sense of adventure, sometimes it leads you into trouble and sometimes it leads you into a ‘that was amazing’ moment.
Thankfully for us, it as the latter.
After painstakingly winding our way up the mountain with the rain pouring and wind blowing, we rounded a bend and the majestic Piano Grande spread out below us. A vast valley high in the mountains between Umbria and Le Marche, the Piano Grande is one of those places where mother nature makes your heart stop and take note. In late May onwards this mountain meadow is covered in a carpet of wildflowers.
With the cold winds whistling through our hair and snow still on the mountain tops, it felt as if Genghis Khan himself would ride into the valley with a troop of warriors in tow. Very ancient Mongolia, not modern day Italy.
What a way to farewell Umbria.
We’ve just spent a lovely week with Ty’s family in Todi, Umbria.
Although it was a bit cold, we still managed to do lots of eating (back to the same restaurant four days in a row!) and sightseeing.
Day out to the Todi Flower Festival
Lemon tree with lemons the size of Seren’s head!
Day out to the highest waterfall in Europe – “Marmore Falls”
and just hanging out at the villa
I know it’s a cliche, but Italians really do like children.
Everywhere we go, Seren and Gwenna are the star of the show. It makes for easy travelling and an easy ice-breaker with people.
So far, they’ve been given lollies, cakes and free ice cream. Waitresses squeeze their cheeks, shop keepers give them little snacks as I ‘um and arh’ over what I’m going to buy. The girls lap it up. Seren and Gwenna have learnt to turn on the charm.
But they seem no worse for wear…