Tuesday, 26 April 2016

An Italian Adventure | Our First Family Holiday | Rome


It seems incredible that it's already over a month since we took our son Theo on his first holiday.

Life has been a little crazy since them with him teething and us renovating the family bathroom and planning a christening. It never stops!

So I've been meaning to take the time to sit down and share a snapshot of our time away, as well as my tips for any new mums who are nervous about taking their baby away for the first time.

Waiting to fly off on our Italian adventure


We had such a marvellous time on our Italian babymoon in 2015, where we visited Venice, Verona and Lake Garda, that we decided to go to Italy again this year.

The food, lifestyle, history and climate all appeal to us and we needed to choose somewhere in Europe as I wouldn't contemplate a long haul flight with a six month old baby!

Italy- and especially the area we visited this year- feels familiar and quite comfortable to us.

We stayed in Trevignano, a beautiful lakeside town about half an hour from Rome. It's an area my husband’s family used to live and work in, and that he spent a lot of time in as a child, so he feels he knows it well.

I've also visited before, way back when we first got together, so I have happy memories of the place. Plus, Italy is so very family orientated that all together it feels like a safe place to take a first holiday with the baby.

The view from our lakeside villa in Trevignano
The wraparound terrace made our holiday really outdoorsy and relaxing

We rented the most beautiful villa with sweeping lakeside vistas. I was honestly in awe of how amazing the view was. The light and sky were ever shifting over the lake and waking up to look out over it every morning was something special.

The villa had lots of nice family space including two bathrooms, generous bedrooms, a well equipped kitchen and a sweeping terrace that surrounded three sides of the house, so you could very much love the outdoor life.

Staying here was much more suitable for a young family than in a hotel. If we had chosen a hotel, after Theo had gone to bed at 7pm we would have been trapped in the room with him trying not to wake him!

Renting a private villa meant we had the additional living space and once Theo was in bed we could relax and have a glass of wine on the terrace or watch some Netflix without disturbing him. It's not actually as expensive as you might think, and if you get a larger group together you can rent some absolutely stunning places at less individual cost than a hotel.

Paddling in the lake at Anguillara

We were able to fly from our local airport to Rome as well, which made for a much less stressful first experience than flying from somewhere that needed a long car journey to get to.

I was so worried about flying with Theo. For years now, I must shamefully admit that I was very intolerant of people taking their children on planes. I was that person who would be rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath as soon as I spotted someone coming on board with a baby, praying they wouldn't be sat near me.

So now that the shoe is firmly on the other foot, I figured that my karmic payback would be to have Theo screaming and wailing the whole flight while my fellow travellers glared at me. I was just so stressed about this happening.

However, Theo turned out to be an extremely good little traveller. He pretty much slept solidly while we were in the air. As soon as we boarded, I gave him a bottle of milk, to keep him occupied and because the sucking motions can stop babies ears from popping with the pressure change.

Once we were stable and I was allowed to unclip both our seat belts, I shifted him into a lying down position on my lap, covered his head with a thin cotton shawl and fed him myself, which got him to sleep. When he was awake, he was so transfixed by the unusual scenery and other travellers around him that he didn't make much noise.

It was a massive relief, and the nicest part was that lots of strangers were so kind, from the bearded hipster guy who offered to help carry the pram as we were struggling with the bags and the car seat, to the lady who switched seats with Seb on the way back so we could all sit together. 

These gestures meant so much and they really gave me a dose of humility. It doesn't cost anything to have a little compassion and kindness, and it can mean the world to someone.  Lesson learnt!

Theo's first taste of gelato
This holiday was a very relaxing one, so we took it easy exploring the little towns dotted around the lack. These include Bracchiano, which has a lively central marketplace, great cafes and a stunning castle (which is where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes got married). We had a car, so it was easy to explore a bit more and make easy day trips, then get Theo back in time for his afternoon naps.

We also went into Rome itself, and here my Boba Air baby carrier really came into its own. I felt much safer with Theo strapped to me than in a buggy with all the crowds, and it meant he was calmer. The carrier is so lightweight even though its comfortable to wear, and had a pull-up ‘snooze hood’ so he could nap as well.

I did find visiting the city a little stressful though as it's just so busy, and finding any quiet nooks to discreetly try and breastfeed is extremely hard as with a lot of the cafes and things most of the seating is out in the open. Plus with a baby in tow browsing the shops is a bit out of the question, so I had to very regretfully leave Sephora for another time.

We were able to show Theo around the Vatican, the Pantheon and some of the famous Roman landmarks that we find so inspiring though. One of my big wishes is that he grows to have a love for global culture and an appreciation of the classical world, so there’s nothing like starting early!

Visiting the Pope at the Holy City
My favourite times were actually more the low-key family memories though, like taking Theo paddling in the lake and giving him his first taste of gelato...amarena, limone and pistachio!

We found going out to dinner in the evenings too much of a struggle with the baby, but we found we could go for nice long, leisurely lunches at restaurants instead (Italy is king of the lazy al fresco lunch) and then in the evenings we just cooked and stayed in. This doesn’t seem like too much of a hardship with the fabulous views across the lake we had.

Theo tried all sorts of food, and let’s face it, the food is very much the star of the show. He tied lots of Italian cuisine like risotto, arancini, pannacotta and a wild boar tagliatelle and loved it all.

Once we’d found our new rhythm with how a family holiday works, which admittedly is quite different from the breaks we’re used to taking as a couple, we began to really relax and enjoy ourselves. 

And of course, there was a little haul. We loved exploring the local bodegas and finding some great Italian treats to bring back. As we only took hand luggage (see my guide to packing for a week’s holiday in a carry-on bag here), we were a bit limited, but we managed to bring some treats back. 
Our Italian goodies
This little Panna Cotta con Caramellato dessert making kit - Ive never tried making it and I really wanted to give it a go - some Kimbo Classico nice strong Italian ground coffee, some Sale Nero, or black salt, that I thought would be really cool for dinner parties, a little block of gorgeous smoked prosciutto, some Perugina Cacao - a dark chocolate powder for use in puddings and making wicked hot chocolates, these Vicenzi Millefoglie fancy little biscuits to go with the coffee and finally these flat patisserie spatulas. 

Ive wanted some of those for ages as I always see chefs using them on TV to finish cakes and scoop bread doughs and things.

We made some fantastic memories and I know we’ll be back in Italy many times in the future.

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