Baby travel and Italy

Well, we’re back from another successful trip with a baby under one year old.

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Once James was born it was a goal of Cody and mine to get out and about and see as much of Europe as possible. It seems fitting for two people who enjoy challenges and had previously been unconvinced about the merits of traveling with children. So we set about squashing that unwelcome screaming child stereotype, if only to ourselves (because frankly, we weren’t very fair to children before we had one, and we knew this).

Well, guess what. We’re almost to the one year mark of this experiment, and I think we may have saved one of the best locations for last.  In our experience, Italy now outranks Spain as the MOST BABY FRIENDLY PLACE ON EARTH.

I’m not talking accommodations here. Beyond an abundance of high chairs and baby cots and gourmet (cringe) baby food flavors such as rabbit and horse in the supermarket, I can’t speak to the material baby-friendliness. BUT, man oh man do those Italians seem to adore babies.

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And for that, they deserve the MOST BABY FRIENDLY PLACE ON EARTH award.

I mean, I can’t say that with absolute certainty. It wouldn’t be fair to overlook how little James actually cries when we’re out and about. He’s pretty approachable in that way. And we were, after all, visiting the country that homes probably the most cherubs in the world, marble or painted, so with the blue eyes, transparent skin, and cherubic cheeks he does resemble a certain Western ideal. But, I’ll keep my fingers crossed this baby-friendliness applies to ALL babies as I laud it to you as such.

SO….across our four days of travel, James was basically treated like a little prince in our arms. He was literally stopping men and women in the street to exclaim things like “Spettacolare!” and “Delizioso!” (because it’s universally acknowledged that while we shouldn’t go through with the desire, baby cuteness is directly related to their edibleness). It’s also nice for this reason that he comes in a size XL, making it easier on the older folks to see him coming from far away and prepare their reactions.

Between the already friendly servers offering James a shot of whisky or glass of spritz at each patio table, to even the least interested waitress cracking a smile whenever James moved in his highchair to catch her eye, Cody and I felt like we were carrying the winning ticket to all of Italy’s friendliness. And James really knew how to milk it. From wooing an older woman on the plane with quiet hand-holding to breaking into sing-songy reverie on the street in his stroller, we weren’t going to blend in anyhow, so they might as well stop and admire.

Now to the other details (in case you weren’t just here for the baby).

Verona and Milan. These were our destinations and it really felt like opposites balancing out our trip. I give you that they’re both urban and both in northern Italy so we didn’t go that opposite, but there was enough of a difference to make Cody and me need a little pause in between.

Our first stop and two nights on this northern Italy vacation was Verona while our second stop and last night was an hour’s train ride away in Milan. What made them feel like opposites? Let me put it this way: While Verona was all sunlit warm gold on old Roman walls, tiny squares and leisurely milling tourists, Milan was stark building lines, fast moving pedestrians, overflowing wide avenues, and chilly blue skies.

Both locations offered history and thousands of years’ worth of stories, but one’s monuments were accessible and uncrowded (Verona), while the other’s had lines snaking around them even with tickets in hand (Milan). One was all patio restaurants with Aperol Spritz drinkers and dogs loving on each other’s ears, while the other was business, fashion, and less obvious places to eat (i.e. they closed between mealtimes).

Obviously, two days is not enough to garner the true sense of any place. And things could have felt vastly different if we weren’t traveling with a baby or were even just solo travelers (There were of course plenty of places to eat or get a drink in Milan, including a great cafe to get a delizioso chocolate coffee, but they weren’t always open when it was convenient for James.)

I’m so used to cobbling together trips last minute now because of the nature of our travel that I didn’t allow enough planning time to really find what would have interested us in our destinations beforehand. Ideas for Milan became obvious when it was too late to execute them, meaning we’ll have to go back with these options mapped out.  For example, you probably should have your tickets to the Last Supper booked months and months in advance.  Verona on the other hand, smaller and quieter, offered more leeway to figure things out once you arrived, more opportunity for quick day trips or popping into this museum or that arena.

Now, on to what I’m really excited to discuss. Do you know what stood out most on this trip to me? Not the monuments, not the history, not even the countryside (which, hedging here, are all worth their own commentary) but…the people! Oh wow.

The older ladies and gentlemen of Italy, both in Verona and Milan, have presence out on the street. In Verona, Cody and I were first struck by how they were not only dressed well but were embracing it.  For example, one guy looked fantastic while greeting his friends in a low top hat, silk scarf, and silver studded boots. Another sauntered around with a full on pewter embroidered cape.  As for the ladies? The older women were bringing it in terms of presence. Dressed in stately black and interesting silhouettes, they created the perfect canvas for their knockout eyes – goodness those eyes- as they ran their weekend errands. I tried to imagine myself smearing a single color so boldly across my eyelids and completely owning it like they did. Think bright blue with a teal shift or just a solid satin sky grey. This wasn’t 80’s eye shadow or gaudy Instagram makeup. This was REGAL. Here, aging is regal and creative.

Milan was the same but amped up about 100 degrees by super luxury labels. After I saw the 30th fashion ad personified in front of me, I realized I was in one of the fashion capitals of the world. OF COURSE people would be bringing it here. So I took out my phone and snapped pictures for, I don’t know, inspiration? to awe other people the way I had been?

And who were in all of my pictures? For the most part, not the young women or men, but the mature fashion lovers. Fur and long coats, drapey pants and skirts, golden sneakers…I was reminded of that poem my mom shared with me, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple.” This was like that, but with even more self assured-ness in their every fashion-taking step.  Perhaps they read it, too.

Bottom line? Italy is the place to age with grace and power. Look at the monuments they’re surrounded with. Inspired much? Italy is also the place to shovel fresh pasta into your face, order multiple cannolos, and sip decadent coffees.

Oh, and to have your babies fawned over too.

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Oh one more thing. Would you call this the start of an Athena Headache? tee hee.
Mode To and from Overnights Accommodation
Air Sevilla to Verona, Milan to Sevilla Sevilla (1) Verona (2) Milan (1) Catalonia Hispalis, Apartment in Verona, Hotel Sanpi Milano

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