Sunday, April 7, 2013

Family Comes to Italy

It has been quite a whirlwind since my last post, and although usually I write a new post as soon as I get home, this time I was absolutely too exhausted and needed two days of recovery first. The family (Mom, Dad, Aunt Nora, Aunt Sharen, and Aunt Sharen's mom Kathy) arrived Friday morning and after much difficulty contacting me without WiFi and communicating with the driver who didn't speak any English, I finally made it to the apartment that we had rented for the week. It was indeed a beautiful apartment, though more like house, with plenty of space and lots of interesting paintings. It was a semi-nice day Friday and we took the long way to the grocery store to buy breakfast for the next day. We miraculously figured out how to take a bus into the center for dinner and ate at one of my favorite restaurants in Padova because it has pumpkin ravioli. So yummy. Saturday it absolutely poured all day in Padova, but we had lots of things to do. We visited St. Anthony's Basilica, Prato della Valle, ate lunch at Otium Cafe, and visited the famous Scrovegni Chapel that was painted by Giotto. We popped into this cafe and had these delicious caramel coffee fancy drinks. . We had a lovely dinner of meats, cheeses, olives, apples, carrots, and of course wine back at the apartment and prayed for better weather. Luckily Sunday was much better and we headed off to Verona to visit the Roman Arena and Juliet's House. But by far the best part was our lunch in the piazza, quintessential Italian life - eating outside with Roman Arena and beautiful park right in view, and Italians strolling by with their dogs, families, and significant others. Just a beautiful, relaxing few hours. Upon returning to Padova, we had another important Italian experience - the pre-dinner Spritz, imbibed outside the bar in a little group as Italians do, even when it's cold outside. Monday, we split up. Dad and I headed off to Gardaland, an Italian amusement park!! Once we had to call a taxi because the bus didn't come, I realized the others may never make it into the center of Padova because there was no way they would be able to call for a taxi without knowing any Italian, but there was nothing I could do about that. Gardaland was cold, but a lot of fun, although Italian roller coasters (they call them Russian mountains) are not quite on the American standard of size and speed. We also went on a few 4D rides. One was supposed to be dinosaurs in 4D...but in the movie we were a timber log going through the process of being chopped up and delivered to the power was SO bizarre. Gardaland also has an aquarium so I was beyond excited, although the sea lion exhibit was closed which was so sad! Thankfully when we returned, the women had made out okay and survived the day in Padova, while successfully eating lunch, visiting the botanical garden, and picking up some cookies! Tuesday we headed to Florence. Unfortunately, the electronic train ticket wasn't working properly and never sent a confirmation e-mail to Dad and I had to argue with the Trenitalia people and the woman wasn't listening and we caused a scene and it was so so stressful and finally 3 minutes before our train left, they called some person to let us on the train. It was a beautiful afternoon in Florence and we check into our absolutely adorable hotel, only 3 streets away from the Uffizi. We visited the Palazzo Vecchio and wandered around the markets and Ponte Vecchio. Then we went to this restaurant for dinner. Aunt Sharen and I noticed that the wine-pourer was ridiculously adorable. At one point he put something on the table and I said "Grazie mille" and he explained that I was pronouncing it wrong, and wrote a different word on my place mat as an example. We decided that I should write him a message in response and I asked our waiter to make sure he saw it. Our waiter told me his name was Leonard, and when we got up to leave he made sure he came over to say bye! Aunt Sharen made sure she took lots of pictures. It was SO embarrassing though - he told me to stop shaking but I couldn't because I was so nervous!! Ahh so cute. Anyway after dinner, Aunt Nora, Aunt Sharen and I were on a bar search but all the streets were deserted - thankfully we ran into some drunk Americans that showed us the way! I had an apple mojito - it was delicious!! Wednesday we got up early to hit up the Uffizi (even though Nora and I were first in line at 1:30 pm) After the Uffizi we climbed the Duomo like rockstars. Then we ate lunch outside next to the Duomo, also awesome, and headed over to see the David. Then Mother was very concerned about the train so we went back to the hotel and got our luggage and went to the train station so that we just made it in hour early. We ate dinner in apartment and geared up for our last day. In the morning we visited the BU office and also the University of Padova where I do my research and take my marine ecology class. Quite frankly, I think I could be in their pamphlet: Then we headed off to Venice and explored the streets and all the shops. We checked out Ponte Rialtio, Piazza San Marco, La Basilica di San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, and Il Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs). Then we found this awesome restaurant which was probably one of the nicest meals we had in Italy and our waiter was so awesome. Venice is such a fun city to explore because once you turn off the main tourist streets there are so many cool turns and little places. Then the best part came - my two families got to meet each other over an absolutely fantastic dinner that my host mom cooked. My family brought crab seasoning from Maryland, Bertman's mustard from Cleveland, Blink, our favorite card game, and of course some honey fresh from Albertini Apiaries. Dinner was so much fun - Tommaso was in prime form, and thankfully I had pretty much told my family everything he could possibly say about me!! There was lots of laughter and fun and it was a fantastic way to end a fantastic week. I am so lucky to have two wonderful families!!

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