The train was really nice, we had seats facing each other and the first part of the trip was a gorgeous view of the French Riviera. We were on the water all the way to Genoa stopping at every small village and some larger ones- long stops at Ventimiglia and Genoa then a track change sending us through tunnels and mountains toward Milan. It was beautiful. We had a picnic I had packed, played cards, read, did some homework …. all was well until we realized we were late arriving in Milan. We originally only had a 15 minute window to change so the 25 minute delay was a problem.
I made the kids get all the luggage and we were poised and ready to hop off the train as soon as it stopped. Headed to the departure board to assess the damage, we passed a track that had a train to Verona- it gets confusing but at some point I said “run”, Pete full out ran with the 75 lb giant red suitcase full of sailing gear and as I was asking, “este trene a Verona?", the three of us jammed ourselves and 4 suitcases and 3 backpacks into the most crowded train I have ever seen full of stinky people, a fat guy with a bag of Burger King that he warned us not to kick over(it was on the floor). Lots of local hoodlums and street people in what they all thought were stylish flat bills and sagging pants paraded back and forth looking for seats while I held onto all our belongings with a death grip and prayed that we were actually headed in the right direction. Believe it or not, that worked out.
We got to Verona, got a cab and made it to the rental car office. That is where the biggest hurdle appeared. I left my driver’s license in Nice! I don’t know what I was thinking…The rental car guy almost didn’t give me the car, it was only after much pleading and begging and me almost crying and asking” what if it were your wife and children in another country? Isn’t there anything you could do?” that he started typing and said he was giving me his car…we are still not sure if I am driving Lorenzo’s Fiat or some lowest level Europcar but we took it and said Grazie and moved on promising to have my friend and landlord in Nice go to the apartment, get my license and overnight it to Verona.
Then the Italian SIM cards- the sweet guy said what language do you speak and when I said I could speak Spanish, his comment was “Espanol and Italiano sono egual, bene” and we did most of the transaction in Spanish. We immediately had a better cell plan than France for little money, the kids were thrilled to have a little data and free texting between the three of us.
Then the drive which was great. Lorenzo’s Fiat had a USB input so Pete used his Italian cell phone to dj as I old-school navigated down the autostrada with Lorenzo’s hand written directions to Campione(a USB but no navigation). Headed up the mountain, we knew we were missing a view and probably some major heights, knowing they would still be there tomorrow.
I called Denise the landlady at the apartment and she met us in the square, her husband helped with the luggage and they directed us to the only restaurant in town that was open. We finished the day with antipasto, warm pasta in a room with exposed beams and a big fire. The sweet waiter brought us more than we could possibly eat. I had a glass of local wine and exhaled for the first time in 12 hours. So with bellies full and hopes for tomorrow- we went to sleep.
I considered that a good day and a good day's work using almost all my mom skills.
Then Thursday, I dropped the kids at Campione Univela sailing hostel with their German sailing coach, two German sailors, and a Hungarian sailor. It was freezing cold, crazy windy- never would have left the beach in America but they sailed. The morning was challenging, Pete loved it but Camille was overpowered by the wind. I encouraged her to talk to the coach and make an alternate plan for the heavy wind practices. They all ended up sailing until sunset in the afternoon and had a great day, both kids were excited about new things they had learned and gained confidence with the new conditions.
I am positive both kids would consider that a good day and a great day's work(of sailing practice).
When I travel, one of the first things I try to learn or remember in the new language-right after how to order my food politely- is how to say "have a nice day". In spanish, I say "tenga un buen día", in french "bon journée" and in Italian "buona giornata". This serves no purpose other than for me to connect with the local culture and be one friendly visitor they have come into contact with that day.
Years ago- so my memory might be a little cloudy- while reading Ross King's Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, I learned about fresco painting. The plaster is wet and the painters basically pushed pigment into the wet plaster, a tedious process that required them to work quickly before the plaster dried. The amount of fresco that could be painted in a day was referred to as a giornata- a day's work. The last three days in Italy, as I have wished people buona giornata, I have been thinking. How funny that the country that takes 3 hour lunches and reminds you to relax at every turn, uses the term for a good day's work and having a good day synonymously? I think it may have something to do with a pride in your work, and finding joy in your purpose. Yesterday morning, we had breakfast in a small Bar Ristorante before I dropped the kids at the hostel. The signora behind the bar was more than happy to teach me the Italian word for orange juice- spremuta d'arancia- and spent five minutes making two beautiful glasses of fresh squeezed juice for the kids. A very handsome, well-dressed young man came in put an apron on and proudly carried our breakfast to the table. Then a local mechanic, sporting a jumpsuit worthy of a formula one pit crew came in and stood in front of the fire rubbing his hands together to warm up. Even the uniforms in Italy are sources of pride- the police and military look like they were designed by Armani. The bakery in Tignale is only open from 8:30 to 12:30 and when I went in today at 12:15, she was embarrassed to be so low on stock. So maybe my point is- whatever they do...they do it with pride. They choose to make their work meaningful.
I think I need a daily reminder to have a buona giornata- not just a good day, but make each day meaningful and take some pride in it's outcome.