Alberto, Frederico and Oskar do Italia.

 If sitting through someone else’s holiday snaps is your idea of torture, than I strongly suggest you back away now. For everyone else, hold onto your holiday hats people, this is going to be a big one.

Tama, Ami and their son Oscar, moved to France from New Zealand a few months ago. They are some of our very nearest and dearest pals and since they’ve been on this side of the world, we’ve been gagging to see them.  For a while there though, I was a bit freaked out about Albie’s arrhythmia and found the idea of travelling anywhere a bit worrying. If something happened while we were holidaying, what would happen? But thankfully his heartbeat settled down, and with it so did my fears. We booked a villa together direct from an Italian family who were using Home Away. Excitedly exchanged skype calls with each other. Packed bags. Counted days down.  Set the alarm for 3:45am.

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Queue what turned out to be a rather epic transport voyage: we taxied to Manchester airport in the small hours of the morning (and no, the cheap airfare IS NOT WORTH hopping up at 3:45am for),  flew to Frankfurt, transferred and flew to Naples, caught the airport bus into Plaza Garibaldi, caught the Trenitalia train to Salerno, and then walked to the Concordia ferry terminal. We’d planned to rendezvous with Tama and Ami and Oscar on the pier sometime around 3pm.

As we walked down the pier, laden with baggage and travel sweat, we saw them, standing in the shade enjoying a beer. Oh Happy Day! We boarded a boat together and had a rather ecstatic ferry ride to Amalfi, as we all rabidly chatted to each other about everything all at once. Gee whizz, it was good to see them!

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And then from Amalfi, the journey continued. Emmy the daughter of the lady who owns the villa met us at the bus station and chaperoned us on the local SITA bus to our stop Torre de Vettica, a few miles from Amalfi and then walked us to the villa. We arrived there just after 5:30pm – a big day. The kids were marvellous, but completely spent.

All worth it though, because look where we found ourselves.

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You can never be sure with online bookings what you’re going to get. But the villa was great – massive, spectacular views, a big terrace to sit out on in the evenings to drink some wine and discuss life. These photos are the view from our bedroom window in each direction. Every, very warm, morning, I’d open the shutters on this view and feel crazy blessings.

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Cultures and countries are so jammed up against each other here in Europe. Different languages, customs and ancient histories are a (sometimes not so) short trip in any direction you choose. It’s extraordinary compared to the relative isolation we enjoy in New Zealand.  It wigs me out completely that in just one day we can go from the UK to this. SO. MANY. CULTURES. SO. CLOSE.

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Anyway…….

When we left New Zealand for the UK, Fred was just 12 weeks and Oscar four months older. They were both (very cute) babies that lay about. So, one year later having them up at the breakfast bar each morning, eating their cereal and fruit together with our Albie? Oh my gosh. Heart full to the brim.

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It was a short walk down to the beach from our villa. A staircase was carved into the cliff, with hundreds and hundreds of stairs. At the bottom, two small cafes that hired out loungers and umbrellas. And, thankfully, a boat that would take us from the beach back around to Amalfi.

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Oscar is amazing – he has this natural born confidence which is totally endearing. He’s all-in, all-under, all-on, all-go awesomeness.

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Fred was a bit more cautious and wasn’t too impressed with the whole idea of swimming in the ocean at all. He’d not been in the sea before and was far happier sitting in a dug pool on the beach. Perhaps next time Freddy Pops.

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That’s Marcus’ tattoo. I’ve not told you about Marcus’ tattoo have I? I need to do that – him and Jason got it to remember all the lessons they learnt in August 2012.

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The Amalfi Coast  is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural landscape. Houses on cliffs, medieval cathedrals, crystal clear water, lemon treed terraces. A stunning pocket of the Mediterranean that is for sure, but absolutely no secret, and parts of it do crawl with tourists. Thankfully, it is as easy to get away from the hoards as it is to join them.

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Fred made friends on the beach at Positano with a family from Moldova.

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Well, actually, all the kids made friends everywhere we went. It was truly one of the highlights of the holiday, and why I would go back to Italy in a second. It was the easiest place to travel simply because many Italians love children. It was delightful. Old men, young boys, old women, and young girls would all come up and talk directly to the kids, ruffling their hair and pinching their cheeks.

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There are always going to be moments when you’re travelling with kids where they just get a little fed up. But man, those moments are SO MUCH EASIER, when an old lady simply takes your grumpy child off your lap and starts making them smile. And not in a weird, oh-my-god-someone-just-took-my-baby-off-me-and-I want-him-back kind of way. More like they have as big a crush on your boy as you do – like they were a grandma, just helping a family out. It always felt totally supportive. It was a striking feature of our experience of Italy, totally refreshing, and I wish for more of it.

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And then there is the history.

Back in the day, I did a History/Art History degree and Marcus, a Classics degree so together we were pigs in mud. The Duomo at Amalfi had Byzantine mosaics,  doors from Constantinople, and the remains of Saint Andrew were bought here in the Crusades. Piles of stories and histories built on top of each other, layer upon layer. The sight of which made me completely goose-y.

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We took a hot day trip to Pompeii. I’ve a lot more to say about this, but it’s getting late here now, and I’m fast running out of holiday nostalgia.

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And we spent an afternoon in the hill-top town of Ravello. There was a sweet, cool breeze up there the afternoon we visited and the views. Oh, the views!

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It’s delightful to watch their friendship grow.

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I wore Fred mainly in ring slings or hip carries because it was just too hot to carry him on my back. Fred, who at home has a breastfeed a couple of times a day, used the hip carrying and the heat as a handy excuse to breastfeed ALL the time. Many boob and baby photos.

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On the way back from Amalfi, we’d booked an equally early flight back to Manchester, so we stayed a night in a hotel near Napoli airport. We’d heard and read a lot about Napoli and I remember it being a bit downtrodden last time I stayed there, some 13 years ago. It’s a rough old city, filled with crime, and I think a lot of people lay low and get out of it as soon as they can. We were really interested in the archaeological museum though, as it has one of the finest ancient collections in the world, so we checked our bags  into our hotel and walked to the nearest metro station to get into the centre. It’s fair to say we were staying on the outskirts of the city, and salubrious it was not.

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When we got into the city, we filled our boots with some great sidewalk food and beer, and then went into the museum to fill our souls with incredible sculpture and mosaics from the antiquities. Totally astounding, and absolutely worth the effort.

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So there we are. A bunch of photos from our first European jaunt as a family. There is this really cheesy quote that has always stuck with me –

“Travel is the only thing you can buy, that makes you richer.”

And it was clear to me that this holiday for Albie was filled with ponder and revelation, “Why do they speak Italian?” “Where is England now?” “Why does the wake of the boat look like that?” “Why are the houses all coloured?” “Why are there seats on the beach?” “Why are those candles alight?” “Why did Vesuvius erupt?” etcetera etcetera etcetera. I mean the dude was FULL ON with the WHYS!  But boy, did he grow from it.

We all did.

 

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