Growing up, I always spent the summer in Italy (July) and France (August) visiting my relatives, since almost all my parents' families are still in Europe.
|Our newly renovated beach house in Santa Marinella.|
I tried to avoid taking it for granted--recognizing that it was indeed an incredible privilege not only to get to travel every summer, but to get to spend so much time with my loved ones--but when I moved to Italy after college, it became a little less of a summer adventure and more of my day to day life.
|The mini lemon grove in the back yard|
When I left three years ago I had no idea I wouldn't be back for three years. But with my grad school internship taking me to Mali in the summer of 2011, and having to spend the summer of 2012 getting my shit together for the post-graduation job search, three years slipped by and all of a sudden I hadn't seen all of those people in forever!
|Ancient Roman ruins, covered in kitties!|
It was imperative that I go back this summer, especially since my cousins' children are growing up so fast and some of them are even new (born in the last couple of years) that I hadn't even met yet!
|Spiaggia di Santa Severa.|
|Il Castello di Santa Severa.|
So I bit the bullet, bought a prohibitively expensive multi-destination flight to Europe in the peak of the summer season, and finally got to spend some much-needed quality time with my families in France and Italy.
|Kids playing on the rope swing I used to play with as a kid.|
It was an absolutely spectacular vacation that felt much longer than it actually was (that never happens!). By the end I was tan, rested, and even with all the food I ate, in much better shape than when I left!
|Ada playing with a toy cash register that's been kicking around since the 1970s!|
Italy is just so therapeutic :)
|Strumming some tunes after dinner.|
|A watercolor sunset on the way to Civitavecchia|
I got to see almost every single one of my cousins (which is super rare, since there are 15+ of us!) and a bunch of friends I hadn't seen in years.
|Waiting for our pizza!|
|A giant statue of The Kiss in Civitavecchia.|
I didn't make it to Rome, but this vacation was more about reconnecting with people than re-visiting a city I already know really well.
|The most giant mojito in all the land!|
|The view of the garden from inside the veranda.|
And thanks to a rigorous marathon training schedule I had to stick to, I actually discovered a lot more of my beach town that was totally new to me!
The town is so small that I had to run around it and zig zag across it just to finish a 10 mile run, so it was kind of a fun adventure to go run-exploring all around, seeing the beautiful 1920s beach villas.
We even took a couple of mini road trips to have dinner in neighboring towns and do a little bit of country site-seeing in Lazio and Tuscany.
|The cousins are starting to add up!|
My cousin Paolo's family name is Ceri, and we discovered a little medieval fortress town called Ceri, so we went to have dinner there.
|The altar in an old church in Ceri. It seems to be glowing!|
The restaurant had this amazing balcony overlooking the valley below and they set up a huge table so we could have dinner al fresco. It was splendid!
|A big family dinner on the balcony overlooking the valley around the medieval town of Ceri.|
We had a lot of giant family dinners at home--eating on ping pong tables, which are the only tables big enough to fit us all!
|Another big family dinner.|
|Trying to mount a sheet as a screen for the projector.|
My aunts and uncles even managed to get us in a group for a couple of group photos, which we surprisingly have very few of.
|Once more, with feeling!|
Another evening we took a little mini road trip to Tuscany, for an evening in Orbetello, a darling beach town on l'Argentario.
|Sunset behind l'Argentario, in Tuscany.|
|Streets of Orbetello.|
But Santa Marinella wasn't without its own excitement! The Friday before I left there was a soccer tournament in which some of my cousins and friends were playing.
|Santa Marinella Soccer Tournament!|
|ALL the gelato!|
And another family dinner and group photo, for good measure!
|Another group photo, for good measure.|
Italians aren't big drinkers, but a sacred tradition is the Aperitivo--a drink and some snacks before dinner. I definitely enjoyed a lot of Prosecco and olives while I was there.
|5 Euro glasses of Lagavulin 16. Practically giving it away!|
And I managed to sneak in a little bit of Whisky too :)
Having my cousin with her adorable children meant lots of time splashing around in the water playing with them. But I also managed to get in a few long swims, which was oh so relaxing!
|My cousin's adorable children.|
I've been gone for less than a week and I already miss it so much!
|Our house, from the garden.|
There's no way I'm waiting another three years to go back!
p.s. Stay tuned for photos from France!