Aaahhh… it is so nice to sleep in my own bed and snuggle up with my kitties. It is pouring down rain and so it feels great to just stay inside and drink hot tea while I work. Our last day and half was really lovely in Ostia, a beach resort community about 10 minutes south of the Rome airport. Mark chose it so that we could be really close to the airport, since we had to be there by 4:45 am, and also because there was nothing there that we had to do. We could just relax and enjoy the sea from our hotel balcony, and we also had the option to get into Rome easily if there was anything left that we just had to see before we left. Thank Goodness there was not! After 3 trains and a taxi we got to our hotel, which faced the street and also the Mediterranean Sea. It is a very old hotel, though it did the trick, and luckily there was a huge shared balcony that we had access to so we could sit out and read, drink wine, enjoy the view, visit or not, as we wished. It was an extremely touristy spot (mostly Italian tourists) and there was nothing that I cared to see while we were there. We enjoyed a nice dinner the first night and a not so great dinner on our last night (mostly it was the lack of ambiance and horrible service, though the food was not great either) and mostly just relaxed. It was sunny and there were 2 great sunsets to see, lots of fishing boats to watch, and I even went down and walked barefoot in the sand. It was nice to sleep in (and we all did) and when that 3:45 am alarm rang on the last morning it was not the worst thing in the world.

The line was very long at the airport, though we got on the plane (poor Sandy was not feeling well at all, and luckily she got better over the first couple of hours, or it could have been the worst trip ever for her!) The plane rides were long, and unfortunately Don’s luggage did not make it back with us. We got through passport control, customs, Mark’s brother picked us up and took us to our cars and we bid our farewells. When we got home my parents were here with some wonderful soup and a wrap from the bakery and it was really nice to spend some time with them. Mom was nice enough to bring a few groceries and pull a chicken out of the freezer for me, so we did not have to go to the store right away. Mark and I managed to stay up until 7 pm (the 24 hour mark) and then we sleeeeeeppppttttt. I started work right away the next day, trying to organize a ton of paperwork that Sharon brought by, emails, prioritizing what to work on next, etc…

It was two days ago that I began that entry. The one souvenir that I brought myself home has slowed me down: bronchitis and tonsillitis (I have never had either). I was pretty sick during the tour, though I suppressed it as much as possible, and it has caught up with me. I went to the DR on Monday and she confirmed it is viral and I am no longer contagious, though it is kicking my butt quite nicely. We have lots of catering at the end of this week and I need to be able to perform so I decided to go back to bed yesterday morning (Tuesday) around 11 am. I had been up working since 4:30 and I felt like the rest could wait…again. I just got up about an hour ago at 7! I slept off and on, and I did get up to check emails and make a few calls to get orders in for the week, but mostly I rested and drank water. I feel better today, and it would make me crazy to stay in bed another day anyway, but I can feel that I need to take it easy. So I will… until tomorrow when I have to hit the prep work hard. I will go in for a couple of hours only today and run the errands to get the things I need for myriad dishes I am making, and get back here to rest early. Good times.

So a few final thoughts on Italy. So many random things go through my head so here they are in no particular order: Mark’s parents, Sandy and Don, were a delight to travel with. We all got along beautifully, they were easy going when we got lost (which happened a lot, but really not that much considering how often we had no idea what we were doing), wanted to try everything and they totally submerged themselves into the trip. It was so much fun to be with them and we are very lucky to have built those memories that we can cherish the rest of our lives. Sandy now has an Italian accent now and Don has even talked about ‘the next time we go’, and both of those things, along with other clues, tell me they had a great time, too. I suppose that is my only fear on these trips, that anyone in our group would not have a wonderful time, and after this trip I can confidently say that if they don’t, it is by their own choice.

I love Tuscany the best still, though Piedmont was amazing and I want to explore the rest of Italy even more than I did before, because of it. We will go a couple of weeks earlier next year, it is just better for daylight and weather and general purposes. We are changing quite a few things next year, from one of our residences, eliminating the olive mill tour, adding in a proper olive oil tasting some how, and Doumina is going to work hard to find us some more intimate and homey venues in Piedmont. I was nervous about stopping at Podere Ciona to see the Mamas, because I knew it was a longer drive, and when we actually went I discovered it was longer than I had anticipated. And yet it is so worth it and everyone loves it so much that we must keep it in, we just have to approach it a bit differently.

One of the things I have learned is that not everything will be the same year to year, and that is ok. There are so many great experiences to enjoy and it would be silly to get in a rut and cut ourselves off from any of them! Which is true for every day life and we live here by that credo, so of course it makes sense for our travels as well. We will remember that for our day trips around here as well, and keep looking for new great experiences to share with you. In the cafe, too, we are always looking for fun new things to try and you have enjoyed that about us, and we will continue doing those things and finding those fun surprises.

It is good to be home and I can’t wait to feel better so I can really enjoy being back at the cafe as well! A couple of days and I am sure I will be back 100%! Thank you for sharing our travels with us, I hope that you enjoyed it as well. We can’t take everyone so we will find some things around here to do with you and of course our Italy Party is this Saturday, the 6th. We will make some of the foods we have learned in Italy and offer samples, plus we will have you taste some of the wines from Italy and show you the pictures that Mark took. A few of our fellow travelers will be joining us and you can talk to them as well. So come on down and have some fun on a rainy Saturday, we can’t wait to see you!

Ciao for now!