A Birthday Miracle

I’m not really a birthday person. I don’t really get overly excited about it, but this year James gave me the best present ever.

Today we drove from Montalcino  to Barolo.  I’ve sort of been dreading this day because it is about a 5 hour drive and James typically doesn’t do too great on long car rides.  Our “plan” was to drive 2 hours to Pisa, get out the car, walk around, and have lunch.  Then, we were going to finish the 3 hour car ride.  As we have gotten further into this trip, we always laugh when we talk about our ” plan.” The truth is, James make the plans.  If he’s not happy, there is no point in forcing some sort of schedule.  But today, everything went according to plan!

We left Montalcino around 10:30 after a good breakfast and coffee and headed out on the road.  James stayed awake for the 2 hours until Pisa, and he was really good.  Our hope was that he would stay awake for the first half of the ride and then he could sleep the second half.

Once we got to Pisa, we parked and saw the Tower.  We were amazed at all the tourists and hawkers.  Pisa is obviously a hot spot to visit.  We walked around.  Yep, the tower surely does lean.


We found a restaurant and had a quick margarita pizza for lunch.  I did another miracle diaper change in the bathroom, and we were back on the road.


James fell asleep pretty early on the ride.  Justin and I held our breadth hoping that he would stay asleep.  The car ride was very quiet.  I was afraid that if I said anything that he would wake up.  We drove through lots and lots of tunnels and more winding hills.

About 30 minutes before we got there, James woke up.  But…..he didn’t cry and fight to get out of his seat (miracle).  He drank his milk, and we made it to our destination.

In Barolo, we are staying at Le Torri.  It is more of a traditional hotel than we have been staying in.  It’s very nice.  It overlooks all of the vineyards, and it is so beautiful!


We drank some wine from Uccelliera (the vineyard that we visited) and celebrated a successful day….. and my birthday.  We got some food from the restaurant on the property and had a nice quiet evening.

Tomorrow, we visit some vineyards in Barolo


A Vineyard Visit

Today, we started out with a great breakfast provided by Castel Brunello.  It was mainly meats, cheeses, bread, fruit etc.  But it was nice to have something easily accessible.  I guess that’s the downside to staying in apartments rather than hotels.  James really enjoyed a banana yogurt, but by the end of breakfast both he and I were covered in yogurt so we had to change clothes before going out.  Just in case anyone was wondering, we currently have no dirty laundry! I’ve really been trying to stay on top of it.

So, the plan was to go to an 11:00 wine tour and tasting and then lunch at 1:00 at Il Lecchio, and we actually did it!  Usually, we start out with a loose plan and let James’s mood guide the day.  He actually let us do everything that we wanted!

We went to Uccellliera vineyard and had such a nice time.  The owner/winemaker’s wife gave us a tour and tasting.  Everything was great.  When we first pulled up, their 6 month old German Shepard puppy greeted us, and James loved her.  When we were in the cellar doing the tasting, their 4 year old daughter played with James and kept him entertained.  The wife, Paola, spoke good English and the daughter is taking English lessons.  Paola’s husband, Andrea, is the winemaker.  They were all very sweet and make great wine!

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Lunch at Il Lecchio was great.  I loved the fact that there were alot of other kids in the restaurant.  One table looked like a big family with about 5 young children.  There was a baby that looked like she was about 2 weeks old.  It was fun to watch them, and it was also good to know that James wasn’t the loudest one in the restaurant.  He has been eating great.  He’s had veal, pasta, fried zucchini, frittata, and eggplant!

After James took a nap, we headed out to see the main town of Montalcino. It is a very cute, quiet town with lots of wine tasting bars! We didn’t go in any but they all seemed really nice.  It was very windy and quite a bit colder than it had been on the trip so we didn’t stay out long.  We got back to the apartment around 7:30 and had a quiet night.




Aaaahhh Tuscany

Yesterday, we left Florence and headed to Tuscany.  We took a cab from our apartment to the car rental place.  There was an unexpected very long line at the car rental place.  Justin left James, me, and the luggage to go stand in line. It took about an hour and 15 minutes.  Uggghhhh.  We all held it together pretty well, thankfully.  One highlight of the wait (for me) was watching a middle-aged German couple inspect their car for damage before driving away with it.  I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.  The two of them probably spent 20 minutes and took over 100 pictures of every single inch of that car.  At one point, the woman took out a flash light and meticulously looked at that interior of the car. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they also used a magnifying glass. Y’all, I’m taking about a Fiat, not a suburban.  It should not have taken that long! I’ve never seen anything like it.

We have an Audi hatchback.  Justin said that it was several upgrades from the standard rental because we needed something to fit all of our luggage and a car seat (and we still barely fit).  We got the full insurance.  No inspection necessary.  We can beat the hell out of this thing.

We got all loaded up and headed out.  The plan was to stop at a couple vineyards and have lunch on the way to Saint Angelo in Colle outside of Montalcino.  Well, the plan changed. 30 minutes into the trip, James fell asleep.  And he slept, and slept.  In the meantime, I was in the backseat under a pile of luggage, nauseated as shit.  The Tuscan hills are quite winding.  So, as plans continued to change because we didn’t want to wake up James,we ended up driving into Siena to possibly have lunch.  At this point, James has been asleep for over 2 hours.  Well, people suggest that you don’t drive into any big Italian cities for good reason.  The streets are very narrow, it’s hard to find a place to park, and it’s very tricky getting around.  We got into the city and then we got out. Total Fail.

After we left Siena, James woke up.  He was pretty angry about being in the carseat, and he let us know about it.  It was an hour to Saint Angelo in Colle, and we just powered through it.  By this time it was about 3or 4 pm (I can’t be sure because I’ve already tried to block out the experience) and none of us have eaten pretty much anything all day.  To say we were frazzled when we got here is a vast understatement.  And then we looked around.

It is so amazingly beautiful and just what we needed.  We are staying at a place called Castel Brunello.  It is not exactly a hotel and its not an apartment.  It’s in between, and it is perfect.  We are overlooking vineyards and the Tuscan Hills.  The property has lots of places for James to run around.  It is quiet, and we all relaxed as soon as we got here.

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We let James run around and play while we got settled in, then we went into the small town to buy some milk.  The little store was so cute with a couple of old Italian Nonnas in it.  They just all fawn all over James.  We bought 2 bottles of wine, 1 liter of milk, and some mozzarella cheese for 16$.

This is definitely a family town.  We have seen a lot of kids and it is so nice to be away from the crazy cities.

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For dinner (yes, we actually got to go out to eat!), we ate at a place called Il Pozzo.  We had a delicious antipasto plate.  We also had some veal and pasta.  It was a good night.



Impressions of Florence

Florence is gorgeous.  There is no doubt about that.  The art, history, and shopping are unbelievable.  However, I still don’t think it is the easiest place to bring a baby James’s age.  It is true that it is slightly less crazy than Rome, but SLIGHTLY (in my opinion).  I still didn’t feel comfortable letting James run around much.  There may be less scooters, but there are still alot of cars/buses and ALOT of people.  The couple that we rented from in Florence said that tourism is up 25%.


Also, there is no green space or grass.  We actually looked on a map to try to find some grass for James to run around on, but when we got there there was a fence around the grass, and you weren’t allowed to walk on it!!!

Oh well.  Florence is definitely a place that I would love to revisit for about a week.  I don’t feel like I got to experience all that it has to offer.

Until next time, Ciao Florence!

P.S. In case anyone was worried, we bought James a new pair of shoes.  Also, you may have noticed that he has a red mark on his forehead in all of the pictures.  On the first night in Rome, he got bit by something (mosquito?) and it really got inflamed. It’s going away now, but I just wanted to point that out.


Also, please excuse all the frizzy haired pictures of me.  I have a blow dryer and straightener but no voltage adapter.  The apartments had blow dryers, but I couldn’t make those work either, and I figured that it just wasn’t worth my time.

And last thing…scroll down as we posted multiple posts today.

Dining with James

One night in Florence, we ate at a restaurant called Natalino.  It was about half a block from our apartment, which was perfect.  We ate outside and everything was delicious!  We had liver pate, porchini salad, veal, and cuttle fish and shrimp stuffed in squid.  James was in a good mood, but he didn’t want to sit still.  We let him run around the street, and he did this for about 2 hours straight.  He was very entertaining to the other diners, although Justin and I were exhausted from chasing him the whole time!


As I may have mentioned in previous posts, dining out with James can be a bit unpredictable.

What mood is he going to be in?  Will he be happy and content like he was at Roscioli in Rome? Will be a wild man like he was at Natalino? Or will he just be over it and overly tired like he was Sostanza?  We never really know what the mood will be. He’s been somewhat unpredictable and as a result, I am HUNGRY! That’s one thing that I never thought I would say on this trip.  Those who have read this blog on it previous trips know that we love to eat.  I may be small, but I can put away food like a Sumo wrestler, just ask my father-in-law who has been embarrassed by our orders on many occasions.

So, we weren’t able to eat at Sostanza today in Florence.  We had 1:00 reservations, and James was just not having it.  We actually went in and sat down, but I could tell that it just wasn’t going to happen so we left. James’s nap schedule has been very unpredictable so eating has also been somewhat sporadic.  After the Sostanza meltdown, we brought him back to the apartment and he took a good nap.  In the meantime, I sent Justin out for some food.  I didn’t care what it was.  He came home with 2 different pastas and a lasagne.  Most importantly, he came home with a bottle of wine.  It has been a long time since we could kill a bottle of wine so quickly, but it was just what the doctor ordered 🙂

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When James woke up, team Ittmann re-grouped and we were ready to stroll around Florence again.  We spend the evening shopping for souvenirs, riding the carousel, and eating dinner at Mercato Centrale again.  Justin ordered the mixed grill AND a steak for us. The guy behind the counter kept telling him that the mixed grill was for 2 and Justin insisted that that is what we wanted.  We shoveled it in without any leftovers.  James ate some steak, meatballs, and a good bit of cannoli, although most of the cannoli cream ended up on my jeans.

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In case anyone was wondering, James has gotten much much better with going to bed at night.  Usually, at home, I put him to bed in his crib wide awake and he plays for a little while before falling to sleep.  We realized that he didn’t have anything to play with, so we put his leapfrog tablet in the crib with him and the problem was solved.  We have not had to resort to Benadryl in several days.

This is our last night in Florence, tomorrow we leave for Tuscany!


P.S. Sorry if these posts sound like the ramblings of a crazy person! I have to write them quickly while James is sleeping or at night when we are all super tired.  I’m sure they are filled with grammatical errors, but I just don’t feel like proof reading them.  Sorry, dad! I’m sure they are driving you crazy!

Mommy Meltdown

Just so that nobody gets the wrong idea about our trip, I’m going to describe our first morning in Florence.  One of my pet peeves is that some people live in Instagram and Facebook worlds where everything looks like sunshine and rainbows.  The kids are always dressed perfectly, mommy’s hair is blown out, and the makeup looks professionally done.

Yes, I am in Italy with my husband, and baby, and I am extremely blessed that we are able to do this.  But today, I had my first WTF was I thinking taking our 1 year old to Italy.  For me, it starts out with coffee.  Every morning of my life, I have 2 shots of espresso before doing anything. Period.  Since we have been here (4 nights), I think that I’ve had 3 shots total.  If you do the math, I am way behind.  Why? You’re in Italy, espresso heaven? Because, every morning we have been here, except for one, we are in a huge rush to get out the door and do something in the morning.  Today, it was the city tour of Florence.  Unfortunately, when you wake up at 7:45 and have to have a 1 year old awake, diaper changed, dressed, given milk, and everything packed up to be at the tour for 8:30, there is just no time for coffee.  And I am feeling the effects.

Also, yesterday during a classic James meltdown, he kicked off his shoes in the market.  I thought we grabbed both of them, but when I went to put them on this morning, we only had one shoe.  Those are his only pair of closed toe shoes.  No big deal, we can get another pair of shoes, but not before the tour.  Of course, it was quite chilly and windy.  James had on sandals and the mommy guilt set in.  Why couldn’t I keep track of his shoes? Now my baby is going to be cold? Why didn’t I insist that we bring that blanket to wrap him up just in case?


Then, I gave him some of the dried fruit and veggie snacks that I had packed.  Apparently, he had stored up the dried beets in his mouth, because, honestly, they are gross.  Then he spit them out in one bright pink blob all over his shirt.  Great, hopefully the bleach pen that I packed will get this out.  Yes, it did, but I also got bleach all over the non white portions of the shirt as well, and now it’s ruined any way. Aaaaahhhhhhhh

The last couple of nights James has cried a lot going to sleep.  I don’t know if it’s still the effects of the jet lag or the different surrounding, but he went from asking to go in his crib at night (at home) to an hour long process of tears, reading books, more tears, more reading books, now both mommy and James are crying, get out the Benadryl and Motrin, more crying, wait, I think he finally went to sleep.   So naturally, I assume that I’ve screwed up my kid with this trip.

The 3 hour tour of Florence was pure torture.  The tour guide and the actual tour were great, but I’m talking about the James factor.  I’m sure you are thinking, what kind of moron would take a 1 year old on a 3 hour tour? Yep, I’m wondering that myself.  Cue the mommy guilt.  It’s not his fault, of course.  He’s a baby.  He’s a baby that wants to run around in the museum with thousands of people looking at the statue of David, and scream at the top of his lungs in the Duomo, and be wild in the streets where there is so much action.  I started looking at my watch about 15 minutes in.  By the end of the 3 hours, I was stressed to my breaking point.  We got back to the apartment and I cried.  James was happy.  But I cried.



Right now, it’s about 4 pm. James is about 2 hours into a nap.  I took a nap, took a shower, washed some laundry, hung it on the line to dry, and I’m starting to feel better.

So just in case anyone was thinking that everything has been smooth sailing, I like to describe a bit of what is going on behind the scenes.

I realize that it was just a bad moment and things will get better, but seriously, can I get a dang cup of coffee?




Today was a travel day.  These days are always busy and usually start off early packing everything up efficiently so that we can move around as easily as possible.  Doing that with James is a little more challenging.  As soon as I would pack up some things, he would take them out again and I would have to start over.  Our apartment in Rome was really big (about 1200 sq. ft).  This is good and bad.  Space is always a good thing, but there were alot of little corners for James to hide his things.  Especially his beloved wubbanubs.  All morning I kept an eye on those things. Frog, check, tiger, check, giraffe, check, puppy, wait, where is puppy?  Then picture me running all over to find puppy and the process starts again.

We were taking the train from Rome to Florence.  We had to be out of the apartment by 10:00, but we didn’t have to be at the train station until about 12:30.  So, we killed some time walking around and got a cappuccino.  Justin used uber to bring us to the train station.  It was awesome! No issues at all.

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The train station was very busy and we have a lot of luggage…..2 big suitcases, 2 soft duffle bags, my giant purse with all of James’s stuff, a stroller, Justin’s camera/computer bag, , a 1 baby.  It was a bit crazy navigating everything, especially since there were stairs involved, but we all got there in 1 piece.  I wore James in the carrier and Justin carried the suitcase. The train ride was about an hour and a half.  James was as well behaved as a 15 month old could be.  We were very proud of him.  I was also proud of myself because I was able to change his diaper in the bathroom (without a changing table) without him touching the floor.  And he was wearing jeans and tennis shoes.  Boom. Point for mom.


When we got off the train we planned to take a taxi to the apartment in Florence.  It was raining when we got there. W set out to find the taxi line and we could not believe our eyes it was literally the longest line I have ever seen.  Wait, are we getting ready to ride Tower or Terror at Disney World?  Please tell me that a dancing bear will be jumping out at any minute to entertain my child.  No, the reality was that we were going to have to tough it out in the long line in the cold and rain.  I forgot to mention that it is much cooler in Florence than Rome.  Plus, it was extra chilly due to the rain.  Luckily, James held it together and I pulled out every trick in the book to keep him happy. 1 hour later, we, made it to the front of the line and were in our way to our apartment.

The apartment in Florence is great.  Much smaller than than one in Rome, but I almost prefer it.  Much easier to keep an eye on James.  Did I mention the very steep staircase leading to our bedroom in Rome.  Yeah, that was fun.

This place has everything that we need and the owners were super nice.  They were very accommodating to everything that we needed for James.

After we got somewhat settled in, we walked around a bit and got something to eat.  I could immediately tell that I was going to prefer it to Rome.  It is absolutely beautiful.  I still found it very crowded but at least there aren’t cars and scooters coming through every minute.  The only cars allowed to drive in the city’s center are those with a special permit.

We ate at the Mercato Centrale food market.  We had pizza and gnocchi.  James fell asleep in the stroller, but I woke him up for dinner, and he ate really well (Yay).  He even had some cannoli.


Tomorrow we have a tour of Florence


Impressions of Rome

I realized that I have spent so much time talking about James and chronicling our days that I completely forgot to include what I thought about Rome!  Going to Italy has always been at the top of my bucket list.  Some people may or may not know this, but I am 50% Italian (I know, I know….red hair and fair skin– I don’t exactly look the part).  I have a Nonna (Italian for grandmother), pasta and red gravy was a staple growing up, and we made cookies for the St. Joseph’s Day Alter.  We ate Parmigiano reggiano, genoa salami, and big green Italian olives for as long as I can remember.  Being in Italy is a dream come true.

As we drove from the airport the first thing that I noticed is all the graffiti all over the place.  Seriously? We are in one of the most beautiful, historic cities in all of the world.  How could someone do that?


Another thing that I noticed is that the doorways are very narrow! There can’t be many fat Italians because they could never fit through the doors!  Trying to go through doorways with James in the carrier or stroller was almost laughable.  We could usually make it, but it was a very tight squeeze every time.

The people are all lovely.  They smile and talk to James and call him bello bambino.  If he is fussing, they try to sooth him.  I love it.  They are so warm.

There are alot of scooters in Rome.  The streets are narrow cobble stone and you can always count on a scooter or car to come whizzing by.


There are alot of smokers but not as much as Paris.

Everyone told me that Italians only wore black, white, and grey.  So far that isn’t true.  Perhaps Rome is a more touristy area and things will be different in other cities, but I have seen every color of the rainbow.

One thing that I disliked about Rome is that there wasn’t anywhere for James to really run around outside and play.  There were always too many people or cars/scooters that made it too dangerous to let him be free.

Overall, I enjoyed Rome and especially have enjoyed being in Italy in general.  There is just something about the food, culture, and people that just feels like home.