Il dolce farniente

It wasn’t all sunshine and gelato in Rome. Some days were tough. Really tough.

I knew it would be hard. But I knew it in the sort of way where I really don’t think I expected it to happen. I had these very idyllic images of the kids and I whiling away our mornings at the market, sharing long, lazy picnics and chasing pigeons in the piazzas, you know – the way it would be in the movies, right? But none of it has been easy. Shopping, which I love, is an overwhelming task. There are no shopping carts to contain the kids, they touch and grab everything while I am just trying desperately to find a loaf of bread or the right kind of pasta but nothing looks the same as it does at home. And frankly, the Italian nonnas in the grocery store have no pity for me – they want me to hurry up and get out of their way. These ladies don’t mess around. Then, we have to carry every home for blocks and blocks, which of course means I carry everything while also trying to hold  hands so no one gets squished as we cross the crazy busy streets. So much for my shopping fantasy.

I also had to face the reality that I’m just not a city kind of girl. The constant noise, the crowded buses and subways, the navigating from one place to the next . . . it wears on me. I want green space. I want to be able to let my children run, but instead I have a death grip on their wrists most of the time. That isn’t good for my sanity or theirs. And so sometimes it is important to just get out of town.

We took several wonderful day trips from Rome, just the family. The first was to Orvieto, a hill town in Umbria about half way between Rome and Florence. It was stunningly beautiful, and we enjoyed it in a stunningly lazy fashion. We rode a funicular from the train station up the hill to the old town, we strolled the streets, had a very long, incredibly delicious lunch (wild boar ragu, fried zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and anchovies), did some window shopping, found a playground and ran around for a bit . . . there was a lot more we probably could have done. But sometimes it is more important to just be someplace. The Italians call it Il dolce farniente, the sweetness of doing nothing.

The second trip was to Anzio, a seaside town about an hour’s train ride from Rome. I can’t tell you how much I needed to breathe some salty air and feel sand between my toes – or how much the kids needed to be allowed to run and splash and play without restraint. On the way there, Lola Gray turned to me and said “Mommy, do we need to be quiet on the beach?” Ouch. Too many shushings in museums, obviously. Fortunately, no such problems on the beach!

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