An exciting day! I was meeting my family for a wonderful holiday in the mother country. We live all over Australia and I was really looking forward to being altogether again.
We picked up hire cars at 10am from Rome airport after meeting my family – Walter (dad), Gina (mum), Susie (sister), Ben (bro-in-law), Indi aged 5 (niecelet), and Sam just 3 years old (nephew). Our hire cars were beautiful new black c-class mercedes benz. Happy. Driving two in convoy in rural Italia, one would be forgiven for confusing us for mafiosi!
The drive to our rented villa in Umbria would have been a direct drive of an hour and a half if we chose to go directly there. We couldn’t check in until 4pm – so we decided to drive off the main autostrada to a half-way-ish town, Virberto and stop to have a look. Mum, Dad, and I visited Viterbo back in 2007 and remembered it being a gorgeous medieval town where we had an awesome lunch.
Today, Viterbo was still a gorgeous medieval town that was steaming at 35 degrees. The poor little kids were so tired from flying from Singapore the night before and tired from being in the car for two hours.
Our mission was to find a restaurant for lunch. By this time it was 1pm and the whole town was closing for siesta. The restaurant we found could accommodate eight of us inside and in we piled. The service was as slow as a Galapagos tortoise. I had to almost tackle the waitress to ask her to bring some bread – poor little Indi and Sam were almost passing out from low blood sugar levels.
Finally bread and water came out, an hour or so later our food came out and we wolfed down a mix of parmigiana di melanzane, pasta, and beans. Lunch was nice, but we had more pressing matters to deal with. We were keen to get going and find our home for the next week, get settled and get out of the heat.
Our drive onto the villa started off straightforwardly. The GPS that Walter brought with him from Australia was programmed with the villa’s address and off we went. As the front seat passenger, I was a nervous wreck in the car and doing all I could to hide it. So scary with other mad fast drivers, my side of the car veering close to the barrier / wall / other traffic, and narrow narrow roads. Zorba did a great job driving and Ben did a good job following us in the other car – well, most of the time – besides the moment when he went to over take a truck about 300 metres before we had to take the autostrada exit. It was only a little sudden swerve that he did that made us all shriek in the other car.
Finding our villa Laguscello was a challenge. The directions from Rome were very clear. However, we weren’t coming from Rome on the autostrada. And we were relying on the GPS. When we finally heard the GPS announcement, “you have arrived at our destination”, we knew we had not arrived at our destination. We were in a little rural suburban village that had dirty looking kids playing soccer on the street, and the picture of Laguscello that we had all fallen in love with on the internet was no where near to be seen. The black mercs rolling up to this little place made the locals peer out their windows in curiosity.
We stopped, consulted the GPS and consulted the written directions which were a bit useless given that we had come from a different direction on rural roads. I wandered off to see what I could find and to see if there was anyone I could ask for direction. I found a friendly enough family sitting on their front verandah. The directions they gave me did not sound quite right as they had no idea of the villa I was looking for. Whilst I was doing that, Gina found someone else who did seem to know the location of our villa and gave fairly precise directions.
Off we went. We turned off the main rural tarmac road up three different gravel roads that were all wrong. The kids were getting restless, Susie was getting cranky, and we all stopped laughing at how funny it was to get lost in Umbria. The worst thing of all, we did not follow the directions that Mum had been given. We went the total opposite way. Why? I have no idea! By that stage, I was keeping out of it. Too many chefs and all that.
Eventually, after the fourth gravel road and fourth time of Susie getting out of the car being tetchy, Mum rang Roberto, the manager of the villa. He said he would wait for us in his blue 4WD on the main tarmac road and gave us directions to come and find him. We were so close it only took us two minutes to find Roberto – IF we had followed the directions Mum had been given in the rural little town an hour earlier, we would have been there an hour earlier! Susie said we were like the Griswalds. No no no no please no. But looking at it, maybe she was onto something.
From the main tarmac road, the gravel road that lead to the villa was about 500 metres and a little bumpy, nothing the mercs couldn’t handle. When we pulled into the gated driveway we collectively gasped. It was a gorgeous sight and the exact vista of what we had fallen in love with on the internet. Rolling Umbrian hills, a huge stone farmhouse style villa and colourful flowers in the well-kept garden. Yep, this was the picture we were all looking forward to seeing in real life.
When we walked in, we could not believe how stunning it was. A massive down stairs living area that has a formal entrance, formal lounge, kitchen, dining, informal lounge, games room with fuzball table and table tennis table, laundry, bathroom, and second laundry / kitchen area. Massive! The walls are all about 50cm thick and the inside of the villa is lovely and cool even if it is 35 degrees outside.
Upstairs, the four bedrooms were ginormous and all with ensuites. The massive main bedroom has a little balcony overlooking the back garden and pool as well as bath tub in the bathroom. The main bedroom was bigger than my entire Craven Terrace flat in London (Lancaster Gate) that I shared with two other girls for 18 months! We were delighted and just thrilled to be able to call this place our home for the next week.
Outside we had a large in-ground pool complete with deck chairs, a hammock, beautiful fragrant bushes of lavender and flowers dotting colour all around, two BBQs and the old fashioned wood-fired pizza oven. There’s no wood for the pizza oven, so that is something we’ll have to find in the next couple of days because Gina (mum) has been instructed to give us all a cooking class on making the best pizza dough. It’ll be fun to make pizza with the kids.
Zorba, Dad and I drove to the nearest town, Castel Giorgio, to pick up some supplies for dinner. The little town is fairly nondescript, although the butcher served us well with unbelievable homemade salami, tasty proscuito, smokey pancetta, and some freshly cut veal scallopini. The small roma tomatoes I bought from the little supermarket in a packet were some of the tastiest I’ve had so far this trip. Walter was of course in charge of the alcohol and bought enough to keep a small army inebriated for several days. At those prices, why wouldn’t you?
With an eventful day travelling, jet lag that the family was suffering, and a big lunch we enjoyed in Viterbo, everyone decided to get a good night’s sleep and turned in fairly early. Except me of course. I just had to write to you to keep you up to date with all the shenanigans. There’s bound to be more, so stay tuned!
Thanks readers for taking the time to read this post. Knowing you are there is all the motivation I need to stay up late and tap away on my adored MacBook Air.
A domani – til tomorrow x
The best pizza I ever had was in the main piazza in Siracuse, Sicilia, some years ago. The second best pizza I’ve ever had was in Taormina on this trip. I can’t wait to taste the third best pizza!!!
Sounds like You might need to another trip to Sicily for your third best pizza! Miss you xx