Exploring Italy with a toddler (Part 1/3)

La Dolce Vita

After 2700km of driving our Fiat Panda, over 25 places visited, too much pizza, pasta, white bread and gelato, we feel confident to have had a ‘taste’ of Italian culture and its land. And yes, we fell in love with the Moka pot (named after the pun on the Italian for cow, “mucca”), found in every household that delivered delicious espresso every morning.

Here is our interactive map of our trip in Italy with our kid:

Every region in Italy had a special feel to it with its own beauty, uniqueness and history. The 2500 year history is very apparent on our journey eluding to the fact that for centuries it was a centre of Western civilization during the Roman Empire reign. Beautiful landscapes, amazing infrastructure of highways, bridges and phenomenal mountain tunnels confirm the richness of the country and why it remains one of the most developed and beautiful nations in the world.


Italians are very expressive and very proud of their heritage if you can judge that by the number of Italian made Fiats and Vespas on the roads. You also see the nations’ colours (green, white and red) everywhere; on buildings, flags and moped drivers’ helmets.


Italians struck us as expressive and courteous but not too effusive. We were positively shocked on a couple of occasions. One time, Niko had a small tantrum when he refused to leave a beach in Atrani (Amalfi Coast) and as part of our discipline technique, we decided to leave him to ‘cry-it-out’ while watching him from a safe distance. An older, Italian woman felt compelled to comfort him (as he is just a little “bambino”) while we tried to explain to her (in body language) our modern parenting technique. The other time, while trapped in Sorrento by thunder showers, we took refuge in a restaurant and as we were leaving, a man approached us to offer us a ride to town.


One thing for sure, Italians are insane drivers, and we discovered many new multilingual cuss words on the road. As much as we believe many Italians would disagree with us, the great number of scratched and dented cars tell a tale that confirms our opinion.


As we took over 1200 photos, an hour of video footage, too many observations to share at once, we decided to post 3 parts about Italy rather than just one. In this one, we cover Bologna, Florence, Cinque Terre and Pisa. The second will cover Tuscany and Rome and the third installment Amalfi Coast, Tivoli, San Marino and Rimini.

Here we go: Bologna

We arrived in Forli, a town located an hour drive from Bologna. After a 40 min. train ride, we were in Bologna in the evening and managed to enjoy the best Italian meal we had during our whole trip in Italy … breaded jumbo shrimp, thin crust Pizza Margherita and Insalata Caprese. Bologna is at times called the Medieval red city, some call it that because of its many red roofs while others believe it’s due to a communist government history.

Rain in Bologna

The city overwhelmed us with its heavy medieval grandeur and welcomed us with unexpected rain (as it rarely rains during this time of year). As we explored the city during the rain the facades (trattatoria) provided us with much welcomed cover. Italians apparently love to come to Bologna … for the amazing cuisine and lack of tourists:) Oh, and one thing … there is no such thing as Spaghetti Bolognese, this dish is served with egg noodles not spaghetti pasta therefore make sure to order Ragù alla bolognese served with tagliatelle pasta, if that’s your expectation.

Florence

We left rainy Bologna to be welcomed by touristy Florence. The drive proved challenging as it gave us with the first, real taste of driving in Italy. Scooters passing cars in invisible lanes, four cars on a road designed for two, are just a couple of examples.


If Bologna feels heavy and slightly overwhelming, Florence is the opposite. It is the root of the Renaissance and birth of glamour, colour and beauty.


Florence with Niko

Florence is the capital of Tuscany, World Heritage Site and a birthplace of such genius minds as DanteBoccaccio,Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli. It’s a definite source of the historic art scene in Europe. Hence, the insane number of tourists in lineups to all major attractions. The prospect of waiting for hours with a toddler was too daunting, hence we decided to explore the city from the “outside”.

The highlight of the visit was a reunion with our great friends; Aneta, Rafal and their son, Kuba from Toronto. We were super excited to see them and as a result planned to explore Tuscany’s country estates together. Thank you guys for a fantastic time together!

Cinque Terre

One day, we decided to take a longer day-trip (after receiving many recommendations from our friends) to visit Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre (meaning five lands) is a rugged coastline on the Italian Riviera. It’s five villages are hard to reach by car by one of the windiest roads we have ever encountered.

Martin with Niko in Cinque Terre

Even though, the distances between villages were relatively short, it was still a surprising “adventure”. Some of the roads go from the sea level to as high as 500 meters overlooking the beautiful coastline. We opted to focus on small villages some considered to be most interesting, including Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza.

Pisa

On the way back from Cinque Terre, we decided to see the famous leaning tower of Pisa. Pisa is an amazing symbol of what we are all about … we are always fascinated by uniqueness. What would Pisa be without its abnormal leaning tower … well, it would be just another town with a straight, boring, tower … which would never have become one of the most visited places on this planet.
Leaning tower of Pisa travel


So what can we learn from Pisa? It pays to be different and unique … it worked for Pisa, I’m sure it will work for us too:)


Our pictures, more to come in the upcoming part.

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To see other pictures from Bologna, Florence,Cinque Terre and Pisa please go here

If you have any comments or suggestions please let us know in the comment section below. Thanks!

New and Old Warsaw

We had a great time visiting our good friends in Warsaw, Poland.

Considering that over 85% of Poland’s capital was leveled by departing German troops during WWII, it is quite amazing that majority of its historical buildings have since been rebuilt. The determination of the Warsaw people is clear. Warsaw is now home to over 2 and half million people, and since entry of Poland into the EU in 2004, it’s becoming a force to be reckoned with. It astonished us with its variety and multitude of its historical, cultural and artistic themes that ought to attract the world. Based on the variety of languages spoken on its streets it is clear; it’s succeeding.

It will also ‘hopefully‘ be home to the opening match of UEFA Euro 2012.

Here are a few pictures from our trip.
Just click on any of the thumbs to see full images.
Enjoy:

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To see all other pictures from Warsaw please go here