In Florence, we had a system.
After we took care of Ezra's many ailments – including obtaining antibiotics for his growing and infected callous or wart or god-forbid-Lyme-disease (our pharmacist kindly allowed a text from my pediatrician father-in-law to act as a prescription) – we all settled comfortably into Florence, and Florence obliged like a bean bag chair.
With our medical issues behind us, we woke in the mornings to the polite orange light and took our time as we made a plan for the day. The boys familiarized themselves with the routes we took to the center of town and to our favorite restaurants. They had squirt gun fights in the shady, tree-lined alleys of the Boboli Gardens and in the late afternoons they played with the kitten from the downstairs apartment while I hung the laundry out to dry. Every night we walked to Gelateria La Carraia to enjoy ice cream that has no equal ON THIS ENTIRE PLANET.
The boys were even having more fun together and communicating better – I heard Ezra say to his brother, "I don't like the way you're behaving," instead of his usual "I hate you!" I saw Ezra learning to be more flexible, Maxon acting kinder.
Then we left the Tuscan tranquility on Thursday afternoon on the high speed train to a high speed city, Rome.
Each city has its own personality. Barcelona is a good buddy who sometimes drinks too much. Paris has a short fuse and can be a bit of a bitch. Florence is like an adoring aunt who loves funky scarves.
Rome? Rome is a taskmaster. Rome makes us work.
In the apartment, things are leaking and disconnecting and malfunctioning and falling off and not where they should be and not opening and not staying closed. We've had to problem solve and MacGyver and improvise. I just used a discarded piece of paper as a napkin.
I'm so happy to show the boys sights like the Sistine Chapel, which we saw today, and the Trevi Fountain, even though I didn’t realize it was closed, empty and being restored. But we're constantly maneuvering around bait balls of tourists and thwarted by absent signage, cryptic bus routes and other travel obstacles. I think Hal lives inside the automated ticket vendor at the Quattro Venti train station.
What are you doing, Dave? Are you trying to get to St. Peter's Station? I can't let you do that, Dave.
Our destinations are always further away and harder to get to than we imagined. Steering the kids through and around a mobbed St. Peter's Square and Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel took its toll today. I lost my bearings in the Square and had a quiet panic attack as it filled with people like a sinking boat fills with water. Then once in the Vatican Museum, it was an Inception dream journey through its many narrow rooms to the Sistine Chapel.
I wanted them to see that ceiling, those walls, and I hoped it would be worth it. Maxon seemed to appreciate what he saw above and around him. Ezra may have too, but he fought it hard.
At the end of it the boys' legs were filthy, their cheeks were pulsing and their brows were soaked.
But they were laughing. They chased each other through St. Angelo's Castle afterwards. They made jokes about how I always start off in the wrong direction. They kept going even though they were whipped.
The days are armpit hot, fat with activity and full of unexpected hurdles. On this trip, the boys have been working a little harder, pushing themselves more, showing me some grit.
Tomorrow we're doing the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. I'm going to try and sneak in the Synagogue after, cause it's sort of not really on the way home. I have a feeling Rome won't make it easy. But she will make it interesting.