Posts Tagged ‘Pisa’

My beautiful girl who, despite her mother's wishes, continues to grow up too fast...

My dad always used to say that there is never a right time or a wrong time to buy real estate.  When you’re ready, you just go for it because you can never predict what is going to happen two weeks, two months, or two years from now.  He said the same thing about having children – if you wait until all the conditions are “perfect,” you’ll just never do it because perfect conditions are impossible to achieve.  (I’m leaving out the, “You’re no spring chicken anymore,” statement he made when I was all of 29…).  In other words, both are acts of faith – and no small amount of bravado.

I’ve found the same to be true of traveling abroad with children.  Phil and I debated about the “right time” to take the kids abroad, and before this Italy trip came into conception, we both assumed it would be when they were at least adolescents.  Younger kids, we thought, can’t appreciate the history, art, architecture and culture enough to make it worth the expense.

What happened in the interim was a perfect storm of events and considerations that landed us here in Italy this summer, but I must admit that the primary factor was that I was desperately missing Europe and didn’t want to stay away any longer.  Europe is a big part of both of our lives, so I figured we could find a way to fit the kids in to life rather than fit life around the kids, if that makes sense.

The kids have been having an amazing time, but Em asked me a question yesterday that cemented it for me:

“Mommy, how many more years until I’m thirteen?”

I almost choked on the answer – five years.  Then later I realized it’s really 4 and a half.

FOUR AND A HALF YEARS, PEOPLE!!!  How is that possible?!?  I have always joked that she was zero going on sixteen coming out of the womb, but now it’s just not funny anymore.

What is my point?  Well, it’s true that the kids don’t always appreciate the history, art and architecture as much as an adult or even a teenager would.  Perhaps they think it’s just as big of a deal to be given a whole can of Coke on a hot day than to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa or to see the big fish in Portofino harbor instead of the harbor itself.  The significant upside is that they are also still interested in their parents.  To them, the sun still rises and sets with us, and they actually want to spend almost all of their time in our company.  All too soon, that will change.

Monterosso beach

I took the kids to the Cinque Terre today.  The experience was vastly different from the day I went by myself and hiked from village-to-village.  This time, we spent most of the day on the beach in Monterosso.  We rented a paddle boat that had a slide built right onto it.  The slide curved around the boat and landed us right into the sea.  It was goofy and ridiculously fun.  It was also probably something Em wouldn’t be caught dead doing once she gets self-conscious about her looks and about boys.  Unfortunately, I know from whence she comes and that those days are not so far in the future.

But for today they were just kids on the beach swimming, building sand castles, searching for sea glass and eating gelato.  Also, we happened to be in Italy.

Best of both worlds if you ask me.


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Kids with the Baptistry, Duomo and the Leaning Tower as backdrop

That is what Em called The Leaning Tower of Pisa, which we visited on Monday.  Truth be told, this was one of those sights that I just wanted to “check off the list.”  If the kids hadn’t wanted to go so badly, I probably would have skipped it.  Given that the major sites are outside of the town of Pisa proper, I knew it would be loaded with nothing but tourists, which, even though I am one, is not my favorite way to travel.  As with most things that we make an effort to do, however, I ended up being glad we made the trip.

The funny thing is, I think the kids were nearly as excited about being permitted to have a whole can

Em "holding" the Tower

of Coke as they were to see the Tower.  Jay is still talking about it.  You can tell how often I give them soda.  But this was a special case because after a two-hour train trip, a lunch that took longer than expected, a 20 minute wait on the curb for a bus and then a 15 minute bus ride in an non-air conditioned bus, they were tired, thirsty and crabby.  The soda was the perfect pick-me-up.

We spent a couple of pleasant hours touring the sites and then retraced our steps to get back home.  At first I didn’t think the kids got too much out of it, and I started wondering how much of an impression Italy is going to leave on them.  Would they just remember the sea?  Would it not feel as different or as foreign to them as being in Paris did for me the first time I went as a teenager?  Then two things happened that surprised me.  The first was Monday night, when we asked the kids what their favorite part of the trip to Pisa was.

Jay's mosaic

Jay said, “My favorite part was the Duomo (cathedral).”  Honestly that was the very last thing I expected him to say, but when I asked him why he said, “…because I loved that huge mosaic.  It was amazing.  I can’t believe they made that whole thing from tiny little stones.”  Turns out he has very good taste.  The mosaic was the last work executed by Cimabue before his death in 1302.

Then, during our stroll yesterday evening, Em said, “You know Mommy, the Leaning Tower has been making me think a lot about the mistakes I make with my art.” (I should interject here to give the context, which is that she had a fit on the train home yesterday because she thought her sketches were terrible.)

It turns out she had been reflecting on the fact that the reason the Tower is so famous is because it leans, which was the result of a mistake.  “It’s most famous for its greatest failure,” she said.  “You never know how a mistake might turn into something great.”

And that is where the phrase, “Out of the mouths of babes…” comes from.

Where, or from whom, have you received a piece of unexpected wisdom?

Jay "holding" the Tower

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