Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Florence, Playoffs, Home...Oh My!

I hope it's safe to say, Spring has sprung in Alleghe! It's been in the high 40's/low 50's this week and the sun has been melting away all of our snow. When this time of year rolls around, we find ourselves ready to get home and jump right into Summer!  Soon:)

At the beginning of Feb, Gino had a break from hockey so we decided to take a little vaca to Florence.  We took advantage of the 4 days off and made a quick stop in Pisa (hour west of Florence) on the way and also spent a day in Siena (45 min southeast of Florence).  We had a plan for Pisa...get there...park...walk straight to the Leaning Tower...snap a few pics...and leave.  Since having Lily, most of our "plans" never really turn out or we end up adding an extra hour or two.  Well, this one actually worked!  The Leaning Tower was pretty cool. We spent probably 45 min or so walking around the courtyard outside and the market across the street.  Since Pisa is on the coast, it was very warm, considering it was Feb 4th.  People were walking around without coats, laying in the sun and having picnics in the courtyard.  It was great!  We snapped a few pics and went on our way. 
Gino and Lily playing

After Pisa, we back tracked to Florence for the night.  Our hotel was in the historic district of Florence and if it wasn't for the GPS we borrowed, we would have NEVER found it.  We were literally driving down alleys that were no bigger than the Punto and as with most European cities, the street signs were basically non-existant.  Luckily, it only took us 45 min of driving in circles and a call to the hotel concierge to find the parking ramp! We spent the night in the hotel and decided to drive to Siena the next day (Tues). We read that on Wednesdays Siena is full of people enjoying the outdoor market, which would have been fun to witness but we also read that parking anywhere near the city was impossible.  So, we opted to enjoy the city on a less hectic day.  Driving to Siena was gorgeous. We took a back road instead of the highway which added a few extra minutes but ended up being totally worth it.  There's nothing like driving through Tuscany...even in February!
Gino at one of the entrances into the city

View of Tuscany from the gates of Siena
We'd been told by numerous people to visit Siena if we ever traveled to Florence.  Its a beautiful medieval city in the heart of Tuscany surrounded by a huge brick wall.  All the buildings are a burnt orange color.  Fun Fact: Crayola has a crayon named after this city that called "burnt siena".  Its beautiful and my pictures just don't do it justice.  The city itself dates back to 100 BC but most of the buildings and structures we saw were from the medieval days, 1200's.  We walked around for a few hours, just taking in the scenery.

One of the main sights to see in Siena is the Piazza del Campo.  It's listed as a World Heritage Site and is now used twice a year for the  Palio di Siena. We spent an hour or so roaming around the Piazza chasing birds....No Lily can't walk/run yet.  Gino was chasing them and Lily was amused.


Next stop, was the Siena Cathedral. This was by far one of the most beautiful and intricate cathedrals both of us had ever seen.  Not surprisingly, it's considered one of the most ornate cathedrals in all of Europe. The outside was just as incredible as the inside, when it came to detail. 

Every square inch was covered in some sort of design. The floors were covered in hundreds of  marble murals depicting various biblical scenes. Again, the pictures just don't do it justice!

Stained glass window of the Last Supper

It was pretty chilly the day we went to Siena, so it was hard to keep Lily outside for long. We  strolled to one end of town to snap a few pics of the famous burnt orange buildings and then made our way back to Florence for the evening.

We loved Siena and would recommend it to anyone visiting the Tuscany/Florence area.  It's truly a hidden gem!

We rolled into Florence at about 5:30. Just in time to take a walk around our hotel and find a dinner spot. I had originally planned to not eat any Italian food on this trip..we're a little "Italianed" out.  Don't get me wrong, authentic Italian food is delish! But after 6 months of eating it every time you go out to eat, all you want is a big burrito or some cheap chinese take out.  Unfortunately, we needed a fast meal in order to get Lily back to the hotel for bed, so we settled for a Pizzeria. 

View from our hotel room of the Cathedral St Lorenzo Dome
Some of you know the bath issues we've had with Lily this year, so you'll find this entertaining.  For those of you that don't know our issues... you will also find this entertaining.  Our apartment in Alleghe only has a shower. When we first arrived, Lily was 2 months old and too small for the baby bath we recieved from the team.  We ended up using the bumbo seat in the shower to bath her up until she was about 6 months old.  After that, we were able to use the baby tub.  In Rome we didn't have a bath tub so we bathed her in the sink which was luckily large enough to fit her. Well, surprise surprise, the hotel in Florence didn't have a bath tub either and the sink ended up being WAY too small for our now, 7 month old.  So, we bathed her in the next best thing....the bidet.  Don't worry, I cleaned it first:)
After she was bathed and in bed, Gino and I drank wine and played family fued on the Ipad in the dark...whispering. Oh the joys of traveling with a baby! Honestly, those will be some of my fondest memories of traveling with Lily:)  Gino and I have a ball!

We had 2 full days in Florence, which was just enough.  Day 1 we started early and strolled around the entire city...which, for those of you who have been there before, know that it doesn't take long to walk the entire city.  I won't go into the long boring details but the highlights of that first day were touring the Duomo, enjoying the street life, walking along the famous Ponte Vecchio and LILY CUTTING HER FIRST TOOTH.  Great... Lily had to pick this one, 4 day trip to get her first tooth! It made for a very interesting day...lots of joy, tears, and screaming by all 3 of us. 
Duomo from the side and also part of St. Johns Babtistry which is connected.
Front of the beautiful Duomo Cathedral- the outside was nothing like the inside.
If you know Gino, then you know that he has a thing for European churches and cathedrals.  They're pretty amazing but he loves to tour through and take in all the beauty! The outside of the Duomo was a site to see. It was made up of different colored marble that dates back to the early 1200's.  If we hadn't been warned by my parents, that the inside was bare compared to the outside, we would've thought, the interior may have been even more spectacular!  Even though we knew, it was still a little disappointing.

The one cool area of the interior was the Domes.  They must have put all their energy and creativity into those!!
The Last Judgement
***This was about the time Lily got her tooth... and after 30 min of crying and screaming, she was sleeping.***
Standing near the Arno River

After the Duomo, we walked straight to the Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") along the Arno River. It was built in the mid 1400's and was the only bridge in Florence that wasn't destroyed by Hitler during WWII.  There are a number of shops along the bridge that are ALL JEWLERY shops.  When it was first created, these shops had more of a variety (Butcher, etc).  It wasn't as big as I had anticipated but very pretty with all the colored plastered shops!


That evening we found ourselves a sushi restaurant to eat at and called it a night.  We wanted to start driving back to Alleghe mid afternoon on our last day so that gave us the morning/afternoon to finish exploring the city.  We took a walk to the otherside of the Arno River and up to the Japanese Rose Garden.  We'd wanted to hike up to Michelangelo Park for the beautiful view of the city, but by the time we got to the rose garden, with a heavy stroller and crabby baby...we wern't about to push our luck. 

The ose garden, itself, wasn't anything special to look at in February but the view was really nice!

Walking up the stairs to the rose garden...while carrying the stroller:/

After a few pics, we hiked back down for one last walk over the Ponte Vecchio and took a family shot.  We would've loved to take Lily out of the stroller for this one, but she would've never let us put her back in!  These days, she's pretty independent and likes to do everything on her own and doesn't like to be confined for too long.  I shouldn't complain. She's let us tool her around alot of cities this year and hasn't given us much grief:)  What more can you expect out of a baby! The trip was a good one, buuuuuttttt we are more than ready for a relaxing beach vacation in a few weeks.

Now for more pressing news....WE'RE COMING HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Gino's playoff run wrapped up this past Saturday in Val Pellice (6 hours from Alleghe).  They ended the regular season in 4th place and ended up losing out in the first round of playoffs. 
They were two evenly matched teams but it didn't help that they had such a long road trip every other game.  They played the best 4 out of 7 games. So back and forth every 3 days.  It got to be a long series in that sense. I never could understand why they do that.  Why not play 2 games away, 2 games home etc. Whatever, I guess I don't make the rules....but I should:)  I hadn't been taking Lily to the games since they start over an hour past her bedtime but decided to try and keep her up for what could have been the last home playoff game. 

Arrived nice and early!...we're never early to anything anymore!

We went for just the first period but Lily did pretty well and got to see her daddy score!  It was nice for both of us to see him end the season on a good note.  Although, Lily freaked out when they blew the air horn after the goal and started crying.  A little too much stimulation for one late night! I'm glad we made it because it DID end up being their last home game. 

We're unsure of our plans for next season and only time will tell if we end up making it another year in Europe or settling back in MN for good.  It's been a very interesting year with hockey and our little Lily but given the ups and downs of the season, we still feel very grateful and humbled for this experience.  The places we've seen, people we've met along the way, and the friendships we will continue to have through this "hockey world" are a total blessing.  We realize that we've been living a pretty special life for our first few years of marriage and given an unbelievably priceless 6 months with our daughter that we will always cherish.  I will never ever regret that...
So for now, Arrivederci!

The last 3 years