Visiting Family in Italy


Venice from our flight

Ah, Italy!  A country rich in beauty and culture.  I had been to Italy before on a Euro Trip back in 2006 with a friend.  We had a good time, but that was a party-oriented trip.  This would be different.  This time I would be visiting my brother and his family.  They are stationed in Italy and had our days filled with things to do while we'd be there.  Well, actually my brother's wife had a lot planned for us.  I'm glad she did.  The long weekend we were there would prove to be a very fulfilling one.

Bash exploring
 The House
We had seen the place on an Oovoo session when my brother and his family first moved in.  It was amazing then, but to see it in person was even better!  It was obvious that a lot of thought and personality was put into this home by the person who built it.  There is beautiful wood throughout the place, sliding doors, shutters, plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms and a huge garage in this three-level home.  Bash was having a blast running around the place.

The place was partially furnished when they moved in.  It was cool to see the contrast of style between the American and Italian items.  With the place being so big there was plenty of room for our family to be comfortable.  We had the bottom floor to ourselves.  Bash was in love with the stairs, so I had to be on high-alert with him.  He would B-line it to the stairs and start climbing.  The stress of that alone took a few months off of my life!

Everything was beautiful in Venice
Venice
The plan for the first day was to see Venice.  We were very excited about this.  Everybody knows about the romantic city of Venice.  The city is on the water and is rich in beauty and history.  We parked in the city and took a boat taxi to get around.  That's right, a boat taxi!  I had never heard of such a thing.  I can't imagine hopping on a boat every morning to get to work.

At first we walked the streets of Venice.  Tourists were everywhere.  We were acting touristy as well with our phones out taking pictures of everything.  You can't help it though.  It was almost impossible to take a bad picture!

One thing that threw me off was the apparent explosion that is the selfie stick.  When did selfie sticks turn into a street hustle?  I blame Japanese tourists.  They're the ones that take pictures all the time.  The selfie stick hustlers were out and about like drug dealers.  They were selling selfie sticks for three Euro.  That's cheap! I thought the device was relatively new.  How can it be so cheap on the streets already?  I was baffled.  Then I looked around and saw that about half of the tourists in the big square were walking around with selfie sticks pointed in the sky like a bunch of confused gold hunters.

We tore that food up!!!
Naturally the food was good.  I had to get a real deal Italian pizza.  The crispy, thin crust and warm deliciousness made me want to stay there forever.  I also tried this sweet shot called a Limoncello.  The waiter liked us so much he gave us another one on the house.  Nice!  Just what I needed to forget about all the walking we would be doing around all of these islands.

Italian pigeons fascinated Bash
And boy did we walk!  I have a pedometer on my phone that tells me when I reach my goal of 10,000 steps each day.  I had reached my goal before noon.  That may sound exciting to you, but I wasn't happy about it at all.  I almost doubled that goal in Venice.

Bash was having a good time.  He's not good at following us in a direction just yet so it was fun watching him mosey around in whatever unplanned direction his little brain wanted to go in.  He didn't want to be in his stroller or carried so at times we just had to let him lead us on his little adventures until his baby legs got tired.

Vineyard Tour and Tasting
One of my favorite parts of the trip was a trip to a local winery.  First of all, I felt like an adult.  That was the overall theme of the trip.  Jason and I are finally all grown up.  He has his lovely family and I have mine.  Us getting together used to be about partying and drinking and playing video games.  On this trip there was not even a mention of a night out.  As a matter of fact, I only stayed up past midnight once on the trip!

Some of the barrels
Was I a little tipsy?
I knew wine is a special thing with a very specific process, but going to the winery was an eye opener.  The guy there was a very nice and patient guy.  He put up with all of my silly jokes and antics.  I said I was an adult, not mature.  We started with a tasting of sorts.  The guide explained the differences in the wines and what goes into making them.  It's amazing that somebody came up with all of this!  Different woods and aging and mixing.  I was fascinated.

Then we went through the warehouse and saw all of the huge metal tanks that hold some of the wines.  The guide told us about the press machines and the different processes that the wine goes through.  It's pretty neat.

Wooden barrels full of wine

We checked out the wooden barrels as well.  Of course Jason and I inquired about taking home an empty barrel as a keepsake.  I think it would be a cool card table or something.  Swedie didn't even entertain the idea.  A man can dream though.

We checked out the vineyard as well.  It's cool to see how it all starts.  Grapes.  Lots and lots of grapes.  The tour guide was the third generation in this wine family.  He took pride in the wine.  The whole thing was cool.  I would love to come back in the fall and see the vines heavy with grapes.  That's definitely in our plans.  Going to the winery made me want to become a wine snob.  They act like they're better than you because they know they are.  We bought a few bottles so we can get started on our own snobbery.


Verona
"Two houses, both alike in dignity.
In fair Verona where we lay our scene."

Those are the first words in the most famous romantic tragedy ever "Romeo and Juliet".  I never thought about that "Verona" being the Verona in Italy.  Jason told me we'd be going there and I was very excited.

We checked out a coliseum.  That was cool.  It's amazing how they preserve the history like that. Verona had an old fashioned feel to it, yet it still buzzed with a modern vibe.  There were kids
Beautiful Verona
hanging out by a shop looking cooler than I ever looked as a kid.  Then I'd look down the next block and see an old brick building that had probably been there for centuries.

We started with some food.  Jason told me I had to try a "toast".  He said it's a common food item in Italy and I'd like it.  I was ready to have my mind blown with this toast.  Do you know the toast is literally some damn toast?  The waitress brought me a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.  It was good, but nothing special.  At least I know that I'm capable of making a popular Italian dish.  Then we had probably the best ice cream I've ever had in my life.  If you ever go to Italy, get some cherry ice cream.  Trust me, you'll thank me for the tip.


Next we went to what they told us was the home of Juliet's actual family.  What?!  Romeo and Juliet was really a reality series?  I had no idea that Juliet was a Shakespeare era Kim Kardashian!  Of course, I call bullshit on this.  Some family with a name similar to Capulet had the brilliant idea of pretending Shakespeare was talking about them.  They made a museum out of their home (they have the balcony and everything) and now they're cashing in on it.  More power to them.  They got my money.

We didn't go to the Montague house, but basically some family did the same thing.  It's brilliant if you ask me.

Then we went to a pretty cool castle.  Inside of the castle was a museum.  There were old paintings and sculptures all around.  The highlight for me was the sculpture of Jesus on the
Best Jesus ever.  Pissed off!
cross.  I've seen many Jesuses on many crosses, but this one is by far my favorite.  I think the sculptor had a sense of humor.  This Jesus was aggressive.  He looked like he was pissed off for real!  This is how I can imagine Jesus being.  I told all of you people that I'm a good guy and this is how you repay me?  Hanging me on a cross next to two criminals.  The sculpture was screaming at the crowd.  Bravo, artist!  That's how I want all my Jesuses to be from now on.
Don't know what it says or is
but it's cool looking.

Another highlight was an impromptu freestyle session I had with my niece, nephew and brother.  They beatboxed, made a beat on the glass/wall and danced while I kicked a freestyle.  Gotta love my fam!

A lowlight of the trip was the racist Italian lady that literally followed us around the museum talking trash to us.  We were minding our business and looking at art (this was after the freestyle that she never saw) when she came up to Jason and told him not to touch anything.  We're not here to touch anything!

Of course, Jason being Jason put his face millimeters away from a painting.  I didn't see this happen.  I'm glad I didn't because I would have been laughing uncontrollably.  The old racist lady left her designated area and began following us around the place.  I found it odd, but whatever.  I was enjoying the art.  Then on the other side of the museum I took a seat.  I needed a break from the walking.  Next thing I know, the old racist lady is in my face pointing at me yelling

        - SILENCIO!!!

I went into my "Who the hell you think you yelling at?" disposition that I learned from my lovely mother.  She didn't speak English, but I gave her colleague (that was in her designated area) an earful about her wrinkled, racist counterpart.  She told the lady to leave us alone.  That lady got my adrenaline up.

 The rest of the castle tour went well.  I couldn't help but to wonder what happened within these walls throughout time.  We'll never know, but it's fun to imagine it.

I finally convinced the apparent walk addicts that we had walked enough.  We went to a cafe and had a fika (damn I'm really a Swede now) before we made the ride back home.  I didn't know Verona would be so fun.


 The Best Thing
I had a great time in Italy.  Doing Italy this way - like a family - was loads better than on my Euro trip
when I was 24.  Seeing the sites and drinking the wine was fun.  It's an experience I'll never forget.  But the best parts of this trip happened at the dining room table.  I love my family.  There was nothing better than sitting there and swapping old stories and jokes around some good food.  We talked about some early and crazy memories and crazier family members.

I was already super close to my twin brother, but this trip got me even closer to him and his family.  I could have spent the entire trip at that dining room table and it would have been fine with me (plus less walking!).  I had such a great time with my family in Italy.  I can't wait to do it again.  It's good to be all grown up.  Until next time...

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