We had such a special holiday. A mixture of adventure and exploration, soaking in the culture, and plenty of time to relax. This last is unusual for us, as we tend to be “doing” people, and even spend our holidays being fairly active. However, we knew we needed time to reflect, talk, read and pray more than most years, so were intentional in this.
We did, however, visit Pisa and Florence. Both breathtaking in their different ways. The leaning tower was such fun! And we enjoyed wandering the narrow streets, lined with their terracotta and red roofed houses. We ate ice cream and then pizza, both delicious. As we sat on the grass outside the Duomo, swallows swooped around us. Their design is so amazing….we couldn’t help thinking that, even man’s most spectacular creations can’t compare to God’s.
We travelled by bus and train, which was a good experience for the boys. My uncle had planned a walking tour of Florence for us, which was fantastic. And we had lunch in one of the quieter Piazzas, so the children had the challenge of decoding a menu in Italian, and the delight of eating their mouth watering food. Coming upon our first vista of the huge Duomo was truly breathtaking. Photographs simply can’t do it justice. It is magnificent in both its beauty and design….and yet even it is too small to hold our God.
Sparkly Eyes, who is mischief prone, avoided any major calamities, though had a few near misses. I tied a ribbon to her rucksack when we were out, with the other end karound my wrist. It worked, and meant she couldn’t go for a wonder by herself!
One expedition which didn’t turn out as planned, but one which we laugh at now, was our 6k hike to Lidl! We were told it was 1k away, so set out to buy food for the week….and it turned out to be a bit further! We subsequently did our shopping at the delightful local store, where we had a chance to practice our very minimal Italian amidst much encouragement and hilarity, and buy delicious, fresh food. They were so kind to us; maybe it was Sparkly Eyes’ inherent charm, but they often added extra bits of meat and cheese to our package.
We have so many highlights, but the people and culture of Italy rank top. They were so friendly and welcoming. A natural hospitality and pride in their region shone through. I think the Italians have an appreciation of children and family which we don’t always seem to have here. It was lovely to see the town close down on Saturday lunch time, till Monday morning. Shops shut their doors, buses stopped and it looked like a good proportion of the town decamped to the swimming pool.
So, what lessons will I take away from our time in Tuscany? I think their love of children, emphasis on family and hospitality, and, maybe tied in with this, allowing employees when possible, to have Sunday free from work. One of the “ancient pathways” we felt God speaking to us about while we were there, was observance of the Sabbath. We try, but often fail to have a day a week for rest and restoration , and then wonder why we are always so tired.
It was also lovely not to feel I had to be apologising for my children the whole time. While I know part of our role as parents is to teach our kids how to behave appropriately in different situations, I felt a sense of freedom and acceptance in Italy, that people were generally more likely to look with smiling eyes rather than critical eyes at us. Having children was a definite plus! I’m not sure where my sense of having to apologise for my kids all the time comes from, but I would like it to change! I know that children are a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3), maybe a reason why the pain of infertility is so acute, and I feel so hugely blessed by our children. So, from now on, I will try to assume that others would also be blessed by them!