My adventures into Motherhood
We recently got back from a trip to Italy. It was fab, the weather was amazing, Sof learnt to walk, and Italians everywhere love babies! Our itinerary was Venice for 5 nights, Florence for 3 nights, Pisa stop-off, Monterosso for 2 nights and Milan for 2 nights. We used the very reliable and frequent TrenItalia to get around, and stayed in some centrally located apartments found via holiday-rentals.co.uk. I can’t recommend self-contained apartments enough for families! They are no more expensive than hotels, in handy locations and have all the facilities you need for young ones. This makes it much easier when packing light because you’re travelling on easyJet. And when your husband has an “only pack what you can carry” rule.
The flight out was fine, we entertained Sofia for the two hours with snacks, looking out the window and letting her destroy everything in the seat pocket in front. First stop – Venice! It doesn’t disappoint and everywhere looks just like a postcard. We stayed right in San Marco by La Fenice Teatro which made it very easy to navigate to and from our courtyard when we went exploring. The first night we arrived we ate at a wonderfully friendly restaurant close to the apartment. Sofia was hungry and tired after a long afternoon travelling, so she wasn’t on her best behaviour. But the waiters waved and smiled and played peek-a-boo games with her and Sof loved it! This was our first experience of how much Italians love babies, and we appreciatively ate our meal and desserts knowing that our baby was being entertained. The remaining days were spent exploring a certain site a day, having siestas in the apartment with Sofia and relaxing. Travelling with a toddler who has their own agenda and routine means you have to take things a bit slower, but we’d planned plenty of things that Sofia would enjoy as well. We went to the Lido and had a beach day where I lazed on a day bed all afternoon reading a magazine while Nath and Sof swam in the ocean and played in the sand. When we went to pack up, I inadvertently left Sof’s one and only pair of shoes behind. We didn’t realise until we were on the vaporetto back to San Marco, and I felt terrible! It was nearly 5pm and I raced around like a headless chicken on a mission to buy shoes. The department store Coin didn’t sell kids shoes in their bambino department, but luckily they pointed me in the right direction. I ended up getting Sof a cheap pair of canvas sandals with soft rubber soles which she wore to death on the remainder of the trip. Not as good as her cushion-soled ankle-supporting properly-measured pre-walkers….. but they’d do.
Next stop was Florence, and I’d cleverly pre-booked our tickets to the Uffizi and the Accademia Gallery. When we got to these places and saw the line, I was so glad to have paid the extra to breeze in, pick up my tickets and go straight in. Sof would never have lasted standing in line on those hot days, and probably I wouldn’t have either! Both of these galleries are well worth seeing, even though I personally couldn’t tell any difference between the real David and the copy David in the Piazza della Signoria. But the two museums that I loved the most were the Gucci Museo and the Ferragamo Museo! The first was a retrospective of the Gucci brand, it’s popularity over the decades with iconic merchandise and explanations. The evening gown exhibit was so stunning I had more of a feeling of religious fervour than I did looking at all the religious art in the Uffizi. The second is a shoe lovers paradise. Ferragamo was the original shoemaker to the stars and he has the shoe lasts and prototypes to prove it. After the excess spending in Venice, we found Florence much more reasonably priced and the best find was a little takeaway restaurant called La Mangiatoia, just down the road from the Palazzo Pitti, where we picked up takeaway pastas, contorni and roast chicken to have back in our apartment.
The trains between Florence and Pisa, then Pisa to Monterosso were the least palatial that we rode on all our trips, but luckily the distances were short with Florence to Pisa only being an hour, and the remainder of the trip one hour twenty minutes. Pisa was underwhelming, but the best bit was getting off the non-air-conditioned cramped train to let Sof run around on the grass beside the Leaning Tower. We had a good restful afternoon there before heading off again and Sof wore herself out so much she was asleep in her pram on our approach into Monterosso. Which meant that we got to eat late in the restaurant downstairs owned by the same people who had rented us the apartment upstairs. It was at Ristorante da Ely that we had the best Italian food of our whole trip. There was also a playground less than 5 minutes from the apartment and instead of trekking the Cinque Terre, as most tourists do who visit that area, we just spent all our time at either the playground or the beach where Sof got to swim in the ocean again and play in the warm sand.
Sad to leave picturesque and relaxing Monterosso, we trained on to our last destination, first class to Milan. It was well worth the oodles of cabin space as Sof had fallen asleep in her pram and remained asleep for the first 40 minutes of the 3 hour train journey. When she woke up we had train cart lunch (a dry proscuitto panini with soda and pringles…urgh) and then she entertained our fellow cabin passengers and walked up and down our carriage. Milan was a cosmopolitan breath of fresh air as the first restaurant we spied was NOT an Italian one, but an Asian restaurant called Whampoa. After 10 days of mainly pasta, I was ready for some rice! We vowed to make it there to eat at some point and headed to our last apartment a mere few minutes walk from the Milan Duomo. We were down to our last few euros by the time we hit Milan, so we had dinners from Billa (supermarket) which had a nice deli selection and yummy ready meals. We did make it to Whampoa for an amazing (and cheap) lunch of Japanese-inspired dishes and some sushi. There’s not much to see in Milan apart from the Duomo, because the rest of the city is shopping! Usually this is right up my alley, but I couldn’t afford all the designer label price tags and all the chain stores were the same as we have on the high street in London. So after some window-drooling, we took Sofia to the public gardens where we ate ice cream and played on the swings all afternoon. Sofia’s other favourite thing to do was chase the pigeons in the piazza in front of the Duomo, so on the morning before we left, we took her back there for one last run. She’d become quite speedy over the course of the trip, and unlike her Mum, was not scared of a few hundred thousand birds.
On the way home while waiting for Nath to drop our bags at the airport, Sofia practised walking up and down Milan airport lobby between all the easyJet barriers. This went on for such a long time that as soon as we took off into the air, she promptly fell asleep across my lap and stayed asleep the whole flight home. The other passengers thought she was a dream baby, and frankly – so did we!