road trip: our last 10 days in Italy.
We are enjoying our last few days in Italy, together as a family. James landed a job, then shortly thereafter hopped a plane to soak up the tail end of our 'year abroad.' We have been busy closing up our lives in Florence, driving from Lucca to Parma to Bologna to the eastern coast of Italy until we hit 'beach.' Here is our itinerary:
June 14: leave Florence, visit Lucca, drive to Agriturismo near Parma. (dinner at agriturismo included some of the most amazing cured meats we have ever had!)
June 15: TOUR of Culatello/Prosciutto factory; TOUR of Parmigiano Reggiano factory; drive to Agriturismo near Bologna.
June 16: TOUR of balsamic vinegar factory near Modena (see picture), visit Modena museum, swim at agriturismo---see picture (huge delicious meals at agriturismo).
June 17-22: hotel near Rimini. Go to beach, waterslide park (AQUAFAN), play soccer/swim at hotel, watch World Cup games.
June 22: hotel near airport (James leaves 6am, Janelle/boys fly at noon).
June 23: board plane, return to states.
Quick notes: loved the tour of the Parmesan cheese factory; in the picture the wheels are still being submerged in salted-water (brining process). Later they age in rows, are regularly cleaned and turned and individually tested for DOP stamped-approval. The Modena factory was equally impressive (both tours were in all-Italian which means, the three 'boys' all caught the whole tour, and took turns translating for 'mom'). When else will you taste authentic 12, 25, 33 year-aged balsamic from Modena? Some were aged in multiple wooden barrels (cherry, oak, juniper, ash) while others were aged in successive barrels of the same variety of wood (think: 25 years aged in all juniper barrels). Fantastic.
More notes: we discovered the Po Valley is riddled with bike lanes, so already we are making plans to return. The Po Valley is full of agriculture, bursting with the production of fine meats, cheeses, white wines and more. We drove the stretch of it, and landed finally near Rimini for a spot of sun. It has been both sunny and rainy but we have managed soak up: 2-3 different nearby beaches, enjoyed a large water slide park (we recommend!), and found TV's-in-bars showing the next World Cup Game.
Our adventures will not come to end, even though we are wrapping up this long-planned, fully-enjoyed, worthwhile year abroad. When we land state-side, our re-entry will include sleeping at homes of friends and family, looking for a new home in Seattle, joining soccer teams and a family reunion in Montana.