Waking the girls is no easier here than in the US, and involves the same exhaustive mix of repetitive requests, opening window shades, removing blankets, and ultimately, threats of having them go to school in their PJs! All of this is fueled by much-needed morning coffee, prepared in a beloved moka – the elixir-producing device of choice for home prepared coffee in Italy.
We usually manage to all be sitting for breakfast by 7’ish, with the girls speeding through their cereale before our rush to get backpacks situated, snacks packed, and grembiule buttoned up. Then it’s the morning climb to school, and into the throng of parents and families gathered in the courtyard for drop off.
Sometimes that’s followed by an invitation for a coffee with a few of the parents, which isn't the leisurely affair that happens in the US. Coffee bars are everywhere, and the norm is to consume your espresso or cappuccino (only ordering the latter if it's before 11am!) while standing and chatting.
Now doubled-up on morning caffeine, we stop at the market and/or local shops to pick up the day's food. Since there are no big supermarkets, each neighborhood is dotted with small grocery stores, fruit stands, bakeries, pasta shops and butchers. It alters the notion of food shopping when it’s a daily process, often with multiple stops. There’s a more immediate connection to what you're buying when the vendors are “specialists,” and when there’s a more personal connection to the person behind the counter. And as with all things in Italy, patience and adaptability are required: you never know what's in stock, which supplier did/didn't make a delivery, or what is considered sufficiently “in season” to be available.
The remainder of the morning through early afternoon is spent in some combination of handling logistics and plans, running errands, Italian lessons, taking care of work, and keeping up with our cyber-selves. Then it’s back to school for pick up at 13:00, sometimes stopping to bring fresh focaccia to the girls (yes, we frequently remind them of their good fortune!) as a way to tide them over during the walk home.
Afternoons encompass making and eating lunch together, going to after-school activities a few days per week (Tae Kwon Do, ginnastica artistica, and singing lessons), occasional play dates, and chores -- followed by the reward of satisfying our a 2-3x per week gelato habit! There’s also the evening slog through homework (compiti) before dinner. The girls are starting to be able to manage homework on their own, but coping with doing everything in Italian is a struggle.
Dinner then happens later here than in the US, and we are still adjusting to the pasta-centric life. (It seems unimaginable that children could tire of pasta, but apparently it’s possible!) Ideally the girls are tucked in by 21:00 (everything is in 24-hour time here), and after cleaning up and clearing out both our physical and cyber-surroundings, we sign off for the night.
We also recently came to the realization that our wine consumption is woefully behind the per capita average in Italy of 50 liters per year (vs. 12 liters in the US). That is a statistical anomaly we intend to remedy in the winter months ahead!
So, there you have it.
Nothing especially remarkable or romantic, and that’s also meant an adjustment to our expectations. “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Eat, Pray, Love” propagate a notion of the expat life that’s not always possible. But even if our experience is more often “Under the Italian Thumb” or “Eat, Play, Lug”, we’re enjoying the adventure!