Thursday, August 23, 2012

Italy Break

It’s hard to believe the kids are back in school. We had a whirlwind summer, starting on the last day of school. The kids got out of school at noon and we immediately went to the nearby lake. Continuing our long standing tradition of jumping a body of water in our school clothes (we miss you HKIS friends!), we jumped in the Starnberg See to celebrate the end of school. Then we got in the car and started driving. On one of our first long car drives with the kids, we headed for Italy.

Surprisingly to those of us who don’t use maps and really on our car navigation device, we were in Austria within one hour and then in Italy after only two. Somehow knowing that Italian food/coffee/life are only two hours away improved all of our moods. We drove through the Alps with the kids pointing out castles on either side. After that we hit the rock slab Dolomites and then the flat agricultural part. We stopped in Modena, marveling at its Central California familiarity; a hotel easily reached off the major highway, harvest festivals advertised here and there, olive trees. Modena is known for balsamic vinegar, which has been made there since the Middle Ages. Now the EU recognizes Modena vinegar as a “product of origin,” meaning it must come from there. Needless to say, balsamic vinegar was featured prominently on our dinner restaurant’s menu. The kids even order- and loved!- balsamic vinegar over vanilla ice cream.
We travelled on to the sea, reaching Ancona, a port city in the Marche Region. With our good friend, we rented a villa in the tiny town of Cupramontana. We had a pool, we had sun and we had the beach a short drive away. For folks coming from cold London and Munich respectively, Cupramontana was a welcome change. We took a tour of a local winery, learning a bit about the local bubbling wine they produce there. (Never fear, the kind winery manager kindly brought the kids bubbly grape juice.) We read about but did not find Holy Grail, possibly hidden there. And we ate lots of pasta and pizza. Even Tori, the one with the smallest appetite, repeatedly said she was hungry in Cupramontana.
On the return trip to Munich, we stopped in Verona (about half way home). After our time in the countryside, it was odd to be back in a city but what a lovely city. We walked around looking at the old churches and plazas, following the summer time crowds but happy. We wandered down to the Arena (built in 30 AD and the third largest coliseum in Italy) and saw an opera series was underway. We read Shakespeare and stopped by Juliet’s balcony. Her last name, Capulet, obviously I suppose, comes from the word cap/hat. Seeing  the family's cap symbol in the stone above the archway, not to mention a wedding taking place on site, really made the history come alive. Even our kids, who usually hum over any romantic parts in books we read or close their eyes at an onscreen kiss, were impressed.


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