Ciao from Italy! Meet Alexa Talbot, long-time lover of Tea and Bay Area mama to two adorable little girls, Margaret (2.5) and Evelyn (5). As a Tea Foreign Correspondent, Alexa shares the story of her recent mother-daughter adventure to Italy where she, her mom and her two daughters spent a few weeks exploring Lake Como and Venice. Follow along as she shares their journey with us.
My mom has always been up for an adventure. In the late sixties she took European delivery of a VW Bug and drove around for six months by herself with little more than a suitcase and a camping stove. A few years after that, she moved to Cali, Colombia on a whim to teach English at the American school. On the weekends she would travel to Bogota to see bull fights, Cartagena to sit on the beach and once took a cruise down the Amazon, sleeping in a hammock each night aboard. In her lifetime, she has captained small sailing vessels in the Pacific, Caribbean, Aegean and Adriatic and visited all seven continents. So when she asked me last fall if I wanted to do something special with her and my young daughters for spring break, I knew she was inviting me somewhere farther than Disneyland.
We decided to take the girls to Italy, specifically Lake Como and Venice. My husband and I were married in a small village on Lake Como almost a decade ago and we had some old friends we wanted to visit. And we chose Venice, honestly, because of the children’s books. Before I take my girls on a big trip, I collect kids’ books about that destination so they can learn and get excited about where we are going. Venice, in particular, had so many wonderful stories about it—Papa Piccolo, Gaspard’s Vacation, This is Venice, Guido’s Gondola, Gabriella’s Song, etc.—that the kids felt like they knew the city before we even left California.
The night before the trip, I was feeling a little anxious. How would we manage the bulky car seats? Would we be able to find our Airbnb in Venice given that we had to take the vaparetto (Venice’s version of a subway on water)? How would I do traveling without my husband? We had taken the girls to some tough places including Greenland, Bosnia, Colombia and Cuba, but I had never taken a trip with kids without him. My mom saw my face and wrapped me in a hug. “I will be there. And besides, going to Italy is like going home.”
She was right. Once we arrived and got a good sleep the first night, we all settled into a beautiful routine. We would go out in the mid-morning to explore, have a filling pasta lunch, come home for a couple hours rest and nap, and then go out again for the evening. We let the girls lead most of our explorations. “Do you want to go down this street? What’s around that corner?” We got lost, we lingered, we poked in shops, we sampled gelato, we chased pigeons and we reconnected with old friends.
In Bellagio, we made many a trip to the Gelateria del Borgo, which was just a short walk up to the top of the street where our Airbnb was, on Salita Serbelloni (the most picturesque flight of steps in the old town center). Our local friends who own Quelli Della Pelle, a leather shop on the same street, think it’s the best gelato shop in town. Both girls quickly learned to say Stracciatella on the first day because it was their favorite flavor!
We had a couple of rainy days during our stay in Bellagio, and strolling the Villa Melzi Gardens proved to be a wonderful way to pass the day. We had the whole place to ourselves!
In Venice, we met up with two local friends, one of whom owns an apartment there. She took us to the Guggenheim Museum for lunch. In the sculpture garden, Maggie noticed this sign which reads, “is eternal.” Coincidentally, the last scene of our wedding video has a banner that reads, “Il nostro amore e eterno (Our love is eternal)” so I found it fitting to snap a photo and send it to my husband.
Of course we couldn’t miss the shops around St. Mark’s Square. While Maggie slept in the stroller, we browsed shop after shop. We got a little lost and stumbled upon this beautiful mask store. The entire place was filled with masks for Carnivale… in fact, they were all that was sold there. Evey spent a good twenty minutes trying on masks while the store owners graciously sized each one she chose for her face. She fell in love with this pink one because of it’s glittery feathers. It has made for a whimsical addition to our dress up box.
On our last day, we hired a Venetian photographer named Marta who we found through Flytographer, a Canadian-based travel photography service. She led us down quiet little streets in the San Stae neighborhood and even negotiated a gondola ride down to half price so she could photograph the single attraction that my girls were most excited about. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day—the sun was bright and the air was crisp, just enough to get a little chill when we passed under some of the bridges. This is the best way to see Venice, in my opinion. Once you leave the Grand Canal for the narrower waterways, the city comes alive. Without cars, all you hear is the sound of the gondolier’s oar in the water. It’s even quiet enough to hear the footsteps of people passing by. The girls enjoyed looking up at the windows of the houses we passed by and pointing out the laundry hung on the lines.
When I look back at the images Marta captured, I see the blossoming love of adventure in my girls’ faces. My mother’s curiosity and gumption has effortlessly passed to my children and all I had to do was accept the invitation.