See what happens when 7 strangers are sent to live in a villa in the Tuscan hills. The Real World: Tuscany.
The Cast: from left to right.
Leah Pauline– My 23 year old sister. Fashionista extraordinaire. Soft spoken, Uganda living, smart (IB grad), so happy she came, cutest thing ever lady.
Pat Pauline– My ma. Where to start? Hyper, smiling, singing, dancing, opinionated, super energetic, lovely lady.
Ross– he rocks.
Geno Pauline-My pa. Italiano. Soft spoken, unless some red wine involved, laughs to the point of tears at his own jokes, cute, cuddly, lovable, pure daddyness.
Dave Parsonage-Ross’s dad: Thick British accent (like his mum), absent minded professor type, GPS/map obsessed, whisky drinking, self-proclaimed “logical” character. All around a good man.
Rosemary Parsonage– Ross’s mum: a sweet, cute, opinionated, animal crazy, super patient, and all simply lovely lady.
It sounds like the storyline from a Shakespearean comedy. A week in a Tuscan villa. Two families from different countries brought together by the love of their children. And Leah, the key ingredient to a week of fun, the young hip icebreaker. We have to admit that we were worried about how our parents would react to a full 7 days cooped up in a villa in the middle of the Tuscan hills. Does it not sound torturous? Meeting the parents of your son or daughter’s significant other for the first time is a feat in itself let alone spending a full week with them in the same house.
The upsides? A super luxurious home with spectacular classic Tuscan vistas. The villa was GORGEOUS and totally spacious with more then enough spots to hide away and lounge around in peace, plus a pool. We also a prime location complete with 2 cars. Our first evening there we arrived around 5 o’clock. We made a quick trip to the local co-op where we bought ravioli and tomatoes to make some homemade sauce. That night we waited up for Ross’s parents who arrived after midnight in a total lightning storm. It was beautiful and actually a really “electrifying” way to start the week. The highlights of the next week are as follows and illustrate the best way to spend a week in this beautiful region of Tuscany.
Day 1: Our first day in Tuscany was a total chill out day where we recovered from the previous crazy 4 days of site seeing in Rome, and then the emotional hangover of visiting our family in Italy. It started perfectly with a giant rainstorm. Such a perfect way to see the Tuscan hills, with some pajamas, a giant cup of coffee and a good book. Mom cooked up some hot sausage to make homemade sauce to have with spaghetti for dinner. Basically all day long we ate antipasta, lounged by the pool, and read.
Day 2: Florence! We decided to not drive to Florence but instead, take the bus… Kind of a crazy experience. Here is where the map carrying men first revealed their “super powers”. It was market day in San Casiano, where we caught the bus, so we meandered around shopping before heading to Florence. I bought a golden hat, and then we hopped on the bus. Once we arrived we immediately got sucked up into the amazing touristy atmosphere. We went straight for the giant duomo in the main square and wandered around the church listening to the audio guide. From there we had a small lunch: salads, pizzas, pastas, and desert.
We bought tickets for an open-air bus tour of the city and really enjoyed it. Wowza. Such amazing buildings and scenery. Again, seeing my parents soak it all in was totally amazing. We headed home and had an amazing outdoor dinner at a hillside restaurant. We were there for 4 hours and by the time we made it to bed it was nearly midnight. Pure bliss.
Day 3: We were “knackered” and decided to take another rest day… At midday Leah, my mom and I decided to walk around the hills a bit. Really beautiful, and hot. We got lost. Very scary for about twenty minuets. We found our way home and started to make a birthday cake for Dave, Ross’s father who celebrated 65 a few days before the trip. It was a disaster so we turned it into a lion cake and totally saved it! He made a big meaty barbecue and we enjoyed the reprieve from pizza and pasta as the sunset.
Day 4: We made an early start for Sienna, to see the famous market there. Little did we know how difficult parking would be. Drama struck the group when we got separated form my parents and Ross, which gave Leah and I ample opportunity to shop seriously. Lipstick made it Italy. Check. Dress. Check. Scarf. Check… Naughty, naughty we were. We met back up with our parents for lunch in an ally at a super cute cafe. The best Lasagna ever. Next we headed to San Giamono to enjoy the cute cobblestone streets. A quick stop at Monteriggioni, a tiny old totally walled in city. Amazing.
Day 5: Big road trip! Imagine trying to get 7 people to happily follow a plan of any sort, and then put them in 2 cars. 1 with a GPS system from the 90’s. Ohhhh Funnnn. Gorgeous though. We hit many amazing places. Especially Luca. Leah and I had a riot hanging around the main statue in the square and photo bombing* innocent unsuspecting tourists. This was by far my biggest laugh of the trip. La Spiza, and the most wonderful little cliff town Monteroso…We didn’t make it back till 9:15 p.m. There was a wonderful full moon and clear sky waiting for us above our villa.
Day 6: Rest day. Hahaaa. Sounds like we rested a lot, but the villa was so wonderful we didn’t really want to leave it! A bit of lounging by the pool, a bit of yoga, more cooking and eating of course. Another stroll around San Casiano for a gelato dinner and we picked up a big pizza for dessert (yes, gelato for dinner and pizza for dessert). Simple yet perfect day.
Day 7: Bye bye Tuscany. Off to Rome we go and where we are now We had such a fun day wandering around Rome again. The weather was so much cooler then it had been even a week before. We spent the night in Trestevere. Cleary the coolest area to stay in Rome. One tip though, DON’T WEAR HIGH HEELS ON COBBLESTONE!
Our last dinner completed the Italy trip on an amazing note. If I thought serendipity would find us here, I didn’t know it would also send us off. At dinner we sat next to an Italian pediatrician working for UNICEF in New Delhi, along with his Indian wife. Guess who is going to India next month for 10 weeks?! We are. He gave us loads of travel and health tips. The plot thickened when he gave Leah some amazing UNICEF contacts working in Kampala, a few hours south of where Musana Community Development Organization www.musana.org is in Iganaga, where she lives and works.
To summarize the trip. The best ever. I think that the cast of 7 would make a weak television series as we got along pretty well all things considered. Of course we annoyed each other severely at certain points (any time involving GPS, maps, cars, or picking where we were going to go and the speed in which we were to go… some of us were slower… (the girls), and some were quicker (the men). We sucked in our grievances pretty well and simply enjoyed our time. Ross was totally on point the whole time. He said at the end though that a week was just the right amount of time and I pretty much agree. I have to say THANK YOU so much to him for 1) renting the villa and 2) being ballsy enough to actually make it happen. Both my parents said before they left that over all it was one of the best trips they had ever taken. I know for my dad especially, a 2 weeks trip to Italy was special beyond measure .
When they got in the taxi this morning to leave, I teared up (of course) and sobbed a bit as my mom, Leah, and daddy pulled away, leaving Ross and I alone in the drive way… Why the tears? It was a perfect and super meaningful trip. I’m sad such an amazing experience is over. It went too fast! Such is life I suppose. I gave myself some time to reflect on what a huge gift and blessing to have the time together, the time in Rome, the visit to Campotosto, and then our Real World experience in Tuscany. Looking ahead (dangerous but necessary) at the things to come next? Germany, England, China, and then the big doozy of the year… 10 weeks in India. The blue print for 2013… Mexico, Africa, and South America.
Is this the Real World? I think not.
*Photo Bomb: A photo bomb is when a person unknowingly inserts themselves into someone else’s picture, preferably a stranger, only to be discovered later upon further examination of the shot.