Our Italian skills are slowly improving (s-l-o-w-l-y). We try to make a list of new Italian words when sitting around the dinner table. We play games against each other and have little rewards to keep you children interested.
Amellie, you often enjoy coming home with a new word from school and sharing it with the family. Italian school; let’s talk about this – Arriving at the gates on your first day of Italian school, mums insides were a blooming mess! However my dear you naturally weren’t at all bothered in any way, in fact you were very excited and couldn’t wait until you arrived at those doors. Much attention was given to you for the first few weeks and you loved every inch of it. You have been such a little trooper and the school unbelievably accommodating and so very welcoming. They have organised some one-on-one Italian lessons for you and also soon we are expecting a student who will come to the Villa to teach you Italian lessons once a week! All for free, can’t believe how lucky we are! These lessons would normally cost a fortune back home. You have been making some lovely new friends and so have we through the school and the local community. You have been invited to a couple of birthday parties and have already had some play days.
It is, of course, emotionally exhausting at times for all of us, occasionally difficult for you to adjust and you find it extremely frustrating when wanting to either understand or express your opinions or concerns…. I can only imagine how difficult it is for you my sweet who seriously struggles to shut up for two seconds! The teachers reassure me it won’t be long until you have immersed yourself right into the language and culture and one day soon you won’t even notice the words slipping out of your mouth without much of an effort! (hope so). We explain to you that this is all part of the experience and mummy and daddy feel the same way at times. We tell you not to take it too seriously and just try to have fun and make new friends and of course attempt to absorb as much as you can. My little sunflower, you have so much courage to walk through those doors with not one ounce of the English tongue spoken that you are so accustomed too! Sometimes it breaks my heart when I feel you are struggling but it’s not often and it’s incredible to see the improvement already, each day you come home with lovely stories, funny ones and your smile is priceless. When you do occasionally have a rough day, you say, “Mummy it wasn’t the best day today, I just didn’t feel like I fitted in but I know mummy you said that we all have those days in Italy”… On these days I spoil you rotten. My goodness you are such a big girl now!
As for our little prince William, we didn’t anticipate enrolling you in school but everyone insisted we should try and we have and you bloomin’ hate Kinder. Ha!!! You loved it at first and couldn’t get enough of it but now you are over it and I think prefer to hang out with your little bro at home. When I ask you why? You simply reply because I can’t understand what they are saying – Fair enough I say but you are still going back tomorrow! You then ask me, why mum? ! I reply because one day, just one day you may learn to understand what they are saying and this my little Prince is priceless and this will help you make new friends and open up new opportunities for your future….. you look up at me blinking with those big almond shape brown eyes and I know you are thinking “ what is this crazy woman on about?!!!!!” I will say it absolutely kills me dropping you off, you sit on a chair all alone and sometimes the teacher tells me you sit there most of the time and just watch everyone– I only leave you there for a couple of hours but it still breaks my heart. Your eyes tear up and you tell me please be quick with this swiping quick hand action! I walk away thinking maybe I should just go and give you a big cuddle and take you home with me but I just know…. I can just feel….. that things will change, that you will wake up one day and be skipping to school! I hope that day will come very soon. I will persist but not sure how much strength I have left in me!
Dear Fiona, Pete and family
Thank you so much for an absolutely wonderful time. You clearly dropped everything for me and made sure that my brief time in Lucca was as special as it could be. The rides were awesome, the food was fantastic but more than anything, it was terrific to see what you have made for yourselves in Italy. The network you have built, the connections you have made and the experiences you have had will stay with you for a lifetime. I sincerely hope that you are able to maintain a close relationship with everyone you have met and that it is in some way possible to continue to have Lucca play a part in your lives (either for business or pleasure).
Your kids are a credit to you. They are three wonderfully well-adjusted, beautifully mannered and very bright, energetic and enthusiastic little treasures. Well done to both of you and I can’t wait to see more of you when you get back to Melbourne. However, as I said to you, if there is any way at all that you can extend your stay, you most certainly should. I promise that I will come and visit again, next time with my entire family in-tow!
Love uncle Andrei
It’s been a little too long since I spent some quality time with my MacBook Pro, sitting outside looking at the Monte Serra in the distance thinking about writing to you children. When I look out to this unbelievably gorgeous mountain I can’t help but think of your daddy. You see this is the famous popular mountain that one must tackle as a cyclist in Lucca. The average local would attempt the Monte Serra Compito only about three times a year; well hubby dear averages this in a week! So it puts a smile on dad’s face whenever this mountain is mentioned, and this of course makes me happy. This mountain also supplies us with fresh water daily and we can also see the top of the mountain from our bedroom window. Dad says on a clear day you can even see the tower of Pisa from the top!
In between settling in and having an influx of guests (which has been awesome!) including nanna and nonno for a month, this place now feels like home. We have made some lovely Aussie friends with whom dad goes cycling with and a few months without any Aussie contact; it sure is nice sitting outdoors having a beer and a good old Aussie yarn. A lovely family with a little boy Zac who spent many hours playing with you all but unfortunately they are due to leave soon, so we will miss them!
Dealing with immigration for the first few weeks was an absolute nightmare, fancy not having one person speak any word of English! It is an immigration office for goodness sakes… Seriously!!! The paper work involved is sheer madness and the bureaucratic stuff behind it all is ridiculous. But as crazy as it sounds I really can only laugh and write about it and the reason behind the laughter is the realisation of how fortunate I feel to be where we are and doing what we are doing as a family. So I walk away, of course frustrated but it only takes me a few minutes to look around and absorb my surroundings. Everything we take literally for granted in Australia, like simply picking up the phone to make an appointment or re scheduling is extremely difficult here. You can’t call anyone, you have to physically go there and line up for who knows how long and at the end of the line there is usually a lady with a pencil, rubber and massive appointment book – it’s hilarious!!!! Lines anywhere and everywhere and boy do you need to keep your eye open for that little nana who will push right in front of you without blinking an eyelid! Ohhhh and the nona’s on the bicicletta…..very impressive, seriously some of them are ready for the grave but jeeeez they just don’t care – off they trot in the middle of the road as slow as a turtle and no one complains, well no local does anyway….arrrghghghg!!!!
However, one unbelievably great thing that has come out of visiting the immigration office is meeting a gorgeous woman named Stefania who is a local and born right here in Lucca and who just happened to be helping out some Aussies with translation. I felt an immediate warmth and connection with this lady and so she has been your trustworthy babysitter and my dear Italian angel. She is gorgeous, very sweet and so very helpful! She has made my transition into this wacky Italian lifestyle bearable and the days I feel overwhelmed with confusion and frustration she somehow makes it all ok. Stefania invites us to her family gatherings (which we love), anytime she goes out for a drink with her friends or dinner she invites me and I accept her offer graciously! She absolutely adores you children and more importantly you all adore her back, including you little Huddy …..normally a hard nut to crack! Ohhh my little man your attempts at speaking Italian – saying goodbye or goodnight – (arrivederci) adecheee mumma or (bounanotte) bun a not!!!! Melts my heart away!!!!
We have been cycling everywhere without any form of a motorized vehicle and it has been sooo much fun! We have these old bikes and new seats for you kids and we just go, go, go……vai vai vai. The weather has been simply perfect. (although one day we did get stuck in a serious storm and it belted down, Daddy and I looked at each other for direction and went arrrrgh bugger it!!!! So we rode through the rain singing!!!! It was magic, something we just wouldn’t normally do and of course you kids loved it! Little Hud you absolutely enjoy sitting up front on the bike and looking around and pointing at everything you find funny or fascinating. Like 20 cats sitting out the front of the one house or a wasp the size of a cow! Seriously we can’t believe the insects here and the mosquitos have literally eaten us alive! They are huge and scare the hell out of us, funny looking creatures that we have never seen before, huge and ugly and crawling around everywhere! The first few weeks, you would hear one of you scream from the top of our lungs after being scared by a pair of googly eyes looking directly at us or buzzing in our ears and you kids scream out du du du du mammmmmmmaaaaa! Dad even had to kill a little scorpion the other day! Think we are immune to them now and these creatures have become part of our daily living in Tuscany, amongst the fruit trees, cornfields and incredibly large mountains….