Wow, what do we say to being able to spend 10 days in Italy with our son Jason and his family. They arrived tired and bedraggled after the overnight flight from Boston to Rome.
We were so happy to see them and they were just ready to eat and sleep. They slept for a few hours and cleaned up for dinner. The nearby Taverna Barberini which was going to be our go to restaurant is closed for renovations until sometime in December. Our second choice close restaurant was unable to accommodate seven people so we went to an empty restaurant on a side street where we received great service from a very accommodating waitress and the food was quite good.
As we have learned from our grandson Jack, jet lag is quite an issue for kids as they are unable to get to sleep early and unable to get up early in the morning. Their first full day in Rome was to sleep until noon and take a late afternoon trip to the Giardino Zoologico which is the Rome zoo located in the Park villa Borghese.
On the way home we stopped in front of the Borghese Gallery and Museum for a little football for Jason and Nico.
So forget about us being tour guides for our family in Rome, Jason and Catarina had their own itinerary all planned out. Jason wanted to see and experience Tuscany and Catarina had already reserved and paid for a villa overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea in Positano on the Amalfi coast. Jason researched and booked a farm house in Tuscany and Jim rented a seven passenger van. The seven passenger van ended up being a larger nine passenger “bus” which is just what one wants for negotiating the narrow streets of Rome, Tuscany and the Amalfi coast.
Jim elected to drive into Rome’s restricted area to pick up la familia and their luggage which will result in an unknown amount of Euros charged to the credit card some time in the future if the traffic cameras are working. We hoped to escape Rome easily but one wrong turn while following Waze plunged us into the very center of Rome’s narrow winding streets. Jim did an amazing job of getting us through impossibly narrow passageways but he made one error in turning too sharply and scraped the side of the van on the rear end of a delivery truck. We didn’t bother stopping to survey the damage. Jim elected to take the longer coastal route into Tuscany hoping for some beautiful sea views. We were able to see the Tyrrhenian a bit but it probably was not worth the extra time. The kids were either sleeping or buried in their devices and were disinterested in views anyway. On the positive side there was absolutely no complaining about the long drive, they are great travelers in the comfortable bus. Our Airbnb host is the owner and manager of a very small winery Poggi del Chianti, which is where we met him. The winery is on the top of a ridge with olive orchards and beautiful views over Tuscany.
The owner treated us to a wine tasting of all of his wines while the girls stayed in the van and Nico ran around and had races with both Grammy and Grampy .
Our farm house Airbnb was across the valley on another ridge with beautiful views. We were in an area called Montaio and the little town about one mile away was Cavriglia.
Jason’s other agenda item was to eat, and eat we did. In Cavriglia our group of seven was alone in the restaurant as it is very off season. We had numerous antipasti, three pizzas, pasta primi piatis and Jason also ordered steak as a secondi. We took a lot of food home and had the steak for breakfast.
Our one full day in Tuscany we visited Radda and Volpaia, two cute mountaintop towns of Chianti.
One of our best meals of the trip was our second night in Tuscany when our host had his chef Luca prepare us a meal at his winery accompanied by his Chianti wines.
Jim further damaged the scraped right side of the van by taking a sharp right hand turn and hitting a low rock wall not visible from the drivers seat.
On returning to Rome Jim ditched the large van and asked for a substantially smaller seven passenger VW van before continuing the road trip on to the Amalfi coast which is also known for its narrow roads and tortuous hairpin curves which are shared with full sized tour buses, bicycles, scooters and all of the other sports cars and Smart cars. There were no further auto incidents with the smaller vehicle.
The Amalfi coast is spectacular and the weather was perfect with a beautiful blue sun filled sky. Catarina had found a spectacular two level villa with five bedrooms and five bathrooms and a large kitchen equipped for entertaining large parties. Positano is perched on a steep hillside running from high up down to the rocky black sand beaches of the Tyrrhenian sea. We had to park the van in a parking garage and haul all of our luggage down narrow passageways and numerous stairs to our villa.
Once there, it was wonderful with spectacular views and gorgeous sunrise and sunsets. Getting around this little town challenged even Jim’s incredible navigational skills initially. We asked our hostess for dinner recommendations and we opted for Ristorante il Ritrovo in the neighboring town of Montepertuso as they would send a driver to pick us up and return us home after dinner. We still had to walk back up to the parking garage but at least we weren’t walking miles of hills, alleyways and steps in the dark with three cranky hungry kids. This meal was one of the top two that we experienced during their ten day stay and is highly recommended by us.
The first morning Jim was up early and had coffee on the terrace alone and then explored the beach below our villa. He found that there were 380 steps down to the beach with warm calm waters.
Later that morning we all went to the beach and Jason and the kids all went swimming and hung out at the beach as the sun was very warm even though the air temperature was only 65º. Sandy, Catarina and Jim walked along the beach paths to the downtown shopping area where Sandy and Catarina found some lovely Positano outfits.
The second and last evening in Positano we tried another chef’s dinner at home on our large terrace veranda by candlelight. The food and presentation was not nearly as good as we experienced at the winery in Tuscany but it did allow for a relaxed family meal at home. Jason’s final itinerary item was to visit his paternal grandmother’s home in Italy, Alanno Scalo in the Province of Pescara. Not wanting to torture everyone with an extra three hours of driving he elected to rent a car and drive there by himself after we returned to Rome from Amalfi. Jim and Jason set out for Alanno Scalo at 3pm and arrived at this tiny hamlet, just 20 miles from the Adriatic coast, a short time before darkness. Jim loved the drive through Abruzzo and the Apennines which is reminiscent of the Colorado Rockies. This tiny hamlet had a café, beauty shop, vaping store and train station but not much more. Jason was just happy to be there and have a cup of coffee and felt no need for further exploring or research as to where his grandmother had lived.
Once it was completely dark Jason drove the two hours back to Rome. Final full day in Rome was completely planned and financed by Catarina. Everyone had to get up early on this cold morning for a virtual reality tour of the coliseum which took place just outside of it. We stood in a circle wearing VR goggles and got dizzy turning around to see the virtual reality tour of the outside area, coliseum floor and then the subterranean areas.
After the VRT we all ran inside to see the real thing and to take some pictures before hailing taxis and going down the old Appian way to gladiator school. We enjoyed an hour of educational history, warm up workouts and gladiator training before we were all thrown into combat. Some of us did much better than others and eventually Katia and Jim were the big losers as they lost their gladiator games and the crowd did not show them mercy which condemned them to death. It was quite sad losing those two, but oh well life goes on.
After our very full morning we took them to our now favorite restaurant, Soro Margherita, in the Jewish ghetto for a large late afternoon lunch. The waitress had to force feed a few of us when we did not finish our meals.
Jason and family took a taxi to the Vatican to see St. Peter’s Basilica while we walked home. Our last night was spent the same way we spent most evenings, playing UNO and consistently getting beaten by our grandchildren. When asked about favorite things in Italy, answers were: seeing the Vatican, riding in the van and getting better sleep than at night, swimming at the Amalfi coast, good Wifi in Rome as compared to Tuscany, Luca’s dinner at the winery in Tuscany and the zoo. This was definitely not the typical tourist families visit to Rome as they had no desire to see most of the tourist venues but instead were here to enjoy family time together which we really appreciated although we did force them out of bed early one morning for a family run to Trevi fountain and the Spanish steps while things were still quiet in Rome.
Everyone was up before six and out the door by seven for the long flight home to Boston. We so appreciate Jason, Catarina, Katia, Natalia and Nico taking time out of their busy lives to come and visit us in Rome. It is so rewarding as parents and grandparents to get to spend significant time with such a loving and generous family. We look forward to seeing them again over the Christmas and New Year holidays.