Ciao, Firenze; Hello, the entire country of Italy!

We had one more magical day in Florence- Nancy’s birthday!  In the “morning,” we got up and had breakfast with Robby (who kept it open just for us).  Lizzie came as well, and it was great to see her.

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Then, the kids and I went to Ponte Vecchio, while Nancy and Nik went to the Da Vinci exhibit.

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The separation worked out well, as it gave us time to search for a present for Nancy.  We got her a necklace pendant of the symbol of Florence.  It was fun to walk back and forth across the bridge looking at all the beautiful jewelry shops.  Sophie particularly enjoyed all the sparkle!

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Eli also found a tie store that Simeon recommended, and he bought himself a really nice tie (Simeon, you will be proud).  We met up with Louise and Meredith on the bridge, and then strolled back towards the hotel for a lovely lunch.  Robby told us it had the best lasagna in the world, and it definitely did not disappoint.

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We did some packing afterwards, and then the whole group of us journeyed back to the banks of the river Arno.  It was like an outdoor club (complete with VIP section for Nancy’s birthday).  They had an all you can eat buffet (do NOT think Golden Corral) plus a DJ.  Whole bunches of Nancy’s friends arrived, and we had a great night.

One of the best parts of this trip has been reconnecting with people that I knew almost 30 years ago.  I definitely hadn’t kept up with my Italian, so I didn’t expect to be able to communicate much on this trip.  However, two lovely things happened.  One, I have been surprised at how much my Italian has come back to me.  I certainly can’t speak sentences, but a lot of the time I can follow conversations and understand people in shops, etc.  So with my mix of broken Italian and quality gesticulation, I have found myself able to communicate much more than I thought.  Two, Italians are the best.  All of these people that I knew when I was in my early 20s have treated me like a close, long lost friend.  The genuine care that I have felt from them has been so wonderful.  They are warm and generous and fun and still playful after all of these years.  It has really made this trip far more than about tourist shops and ancient sites – it has [once again] been about the amazing people of Italy (particularly Florence).

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Here are Sophie and Alessia toasting her [hopeful] trip to see us in Evanston later this summer!

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It was a great evening, and Humpty got in on the action.  He took over as DJ for a while, and even cut up the dance floor with Sophie (housequake!).

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We headed back into the city center and said goodbye to Louise and Meredith – so great to reconnect with them as well.  We were up early the next day to pick up rental cars and head to Puglia.  A bunch of my old BC friends were planning a trip, and I cajoled them to go to go to Italy (so I could mush the two trips together).  They rented a villa in Puglia (far south, heel of the boot of Italy).  It basically meant driving across the entire country of Italy!  We crossed over to Bologna, and then headed down the Adriatic coast.  It was an incredibly beautiful journey with little towns popping up along the coast and endless vineyards.  We even caught the end of the Italian victory in EuroCup against Spain at a gas station.  At the end of the trip, our directions got a bit sketchy, and it ended up taking us longer to get to our place.  I got pretty tired (11 hrs of driving), and the kids were usually asleep or watching a movie.  Luckily, I always had company!

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It is beautiful, set back in a grove of trees- a real country villa!  The owners were nice enough to lead us to the BC villa (which is great because there is no way we would have found it otherwise), so we ended the day with a great dinner with great friends. (No pics as I left the camera in the house.)